Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Professor Daya Krishna and Adhyasa

Daya Krishna wants to deconstruct the concept of adhyasa as proffered.
adhyasa pdf
It is very likely that he is following the standard explanation which in my view misinterprets the confusion (snake/rope) analogy.

The point is that the example on which the advaitin has built his whole edifice is so weak that it can hardly support his case. He has not even thought of the other possibility that one may mistake the snake for a rope and the fatal consequences that may follow on this type of wrong identification. will the Brahman, then, be like the rope and the rope like a snake or conversely. The whole thing is so childish that one wonders how so many intelligent people could have been taken in by it for so many years.

Thus, even if one grants that the foundational identification of the self with the not-self is a mistake, it does not follow that all identifications in the realm of the not-self are bound to be "incorrect" because of this. The criterion of a "correct" identification in the rearm of the not-self is not dependent on the fact whether the whole realm of the not self is itself the result of a "wrong" identification.

But no example of erroneous cognition, particularly if be perceptual in character, can ever establish the "unreality" of either of the objects which are said to be "erroneously" identified with each other. It is, of course, true that only the advaitin draws this conclusion.

These citations establish D.K’s. view which is a reaction from the standard account of adhyasa. Is he correct in this? Perhaps but he proves too much in declaring that Shankaracarya is guilty of a greivous error. Might it not be the fault of the usual interpretation? I propose to go back to the original text and ask what was the aporia that Shankara was attempting to resolve. Classically it has been referred to as the chit/jada granthi – the knot between the conscious and the inert. It presents itself as the fundamental problem facing the pre-theoretic acceptance of the reality of the given. Plato also had that point of departure and it is useful to examine how he cut the chit/jada knot. Reason/Logos had certain powers which had to be accepted because there they are. The immediacy of experience could be faulty yet the universals which allowed us to use that experience were insulated from error. As in the myth of the cave – there were shadows but they were real shadows.

Shankara also accepted the default position of the reality of the given. But how? His solution of this conundrum has some likeness to that of Plato’s. Neither of them are from Mars so that is not surprising. His question was: How is there any relation between the awareness of an individual and the concrete object out there? We must assume that there can be no identity between them. Yet I have this pre-theoretic ‘animal faith’ as Santayana called it. (all Sankara citations are from the preamble to the Brahma Sutra Bhasya)

Accordingly, the superimposition of the object, referable through the concept “you”, and its attributes on the subject that is conscious by nature and is referable through the concept “we” (should be impossible), and contrariwise the superimposition of the subject and its attributes on the object should be impossible.

This should locates the aporia. How is superimposition/adhyasa possible? Is it even a thing? The examples given e.g. rope/snake, shell/silver seem plausible and not much more thought is given to them. We seem to understand what he is on about and as with D.K. we are puzzled by the way this is generalised into maya, avidya and all the other paraphrenalia of advaita.

Adhyasa has two aspects, the activity of superimposing and the superimposition as a finished operation. Shankara is initially concerned with the superimposing as an analogy for the means whereby the concrete object out there comes to be within us as it really is. The analogy has the single focus of attempting to give an idea of how the inert can come to be ‘within’ the conscious through the use of a simple everyday occurrence. He is thus using the ‘transferring’ aspect rather than the transference. Even in Shankara’s time this was not understood as is demonstrated by his dismissal of the importance for his thesis of the various theories of how confusion arises.

From every point of view, however there is no difference as regards the appearance of one thing as something else. And in accord with this we find in common experience that the nacre appears as silver, and a single moon appears as two.

His interest here is ontological not epistemological. How is there a non-numerical identity between the object and the subject’s consciousness of it?

In the extremely compressed preamble Shankara also deals with the apparently completed superimposition of the body and the self. Enlightenment comes when we stop superimposing. This notion of superimposition as a completed operation has no doubt given rise to the sense of the universal compromise of reality which D.K. impugns.

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