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Monday, February 15, 2010

Intellectual Perception and Yogic Perception

Until now, I have always assumed that yogipratyakṣa was the same as the ultra-sensorial perception one can reach (according to some schools) at the end of concentrated visualisation (bhāvanā). Now, I find a statement to the contrary. A commentator (Abhinava Deśika Vīrarāghavācārya) on Vedānta Deśika's Seśvaramīmāṃsā (ad 1.1.4) glosses the author's distinction between arguments against the second and against the first because the two are different. As a reader, I rather thought that Vedānta Deśika only distinguished arguments against the possibility of intellectual intuition from argument against the religious assumption that certain people (notably, ṛṣis and yogis) did see dharma etc. On the other hand, the commentator says:
«That perception inherent in ṛṣis and similar people, different from ordinary perception, different from the perception having the form of a distinct memory and based on the topmost level of visualisation reached by them (ṛṣis), having ultra-sensory things as content, produced by the dharma's energy, […]» (ṛṣyādisamavetaṃ laukikapratyakṣavilakṣaṇaṃ tatkṛtabhāvanāprakarṣamūlakaviśadasmṛtirūpapratyakṣavilakṣaṇam atīndriyaviṣayakaṃ dharmavīryaprasūtaṃ yat, tat pratyakṣaṃ tatkartṛkānuṣthānahetur vā, asmatkartṛkānuṣṭhānahetur vā.).
The idea is that through bhāvanā one only 'sees' what one has already known. It is, hence, perception of a memorial content, unlike the alleged perception of ṛṣis, which is able to see something utterly new. In fact, intellectual perception is used in Buddhist milieus only to justify the perception of the Four Noble Truths, which were from the very beginning the content of one's meditation.

2 comments:

Amod said...

I'm interested in this question because I've been reading Plato with some friends recently. Plato has that argument in the Meno that one can only know what one already knows and has forgotten; interesting to think that a rishi could somehow transcend that distinction.

There's another question of interpretation in Plato which is related to the point. He says that within reason (logos), there are two kinds of knowledge: dialectical reasoning (dianoia), which is lower, and something called noesis, which is higher. My friends are Neoplatonists so they emphasize the connection between noesis and recollection, thinking of it as that kind of intellectual intuition (having cleared away the accretions of the mind, in a way that might sound a bit like yogic perception). But I've also seen Aristotelian-Hegelian interpretations of Plato where dianoia is simply dialectical reasoning to the foundations of thought and noesis is demonstrative reasoning from the foundations are thought; both are discursive.

Not really sure what to do with this connection, but I thought it was interesting.

elisa freschi said...

The interpretation of dianoia/noēsis is surely a stimulating subject and it is directly linked with the idea of immediate vs. discursive knowledge as found in regard to yogipratyakṣa. The ones who maintain that yogipratyakṣa is possible claim that it is possible to have a direct (non discursive) access to reality apart from sense-perception. In this sense, their yogipratyakṣa is a sort of noēsis (not in the Aristotelian sense). What is its content? For 'normal' yogis, what one remembers since it has already been learnt, but is now vividly seen (hence, yogipratyakṣa is the passage from discursive to direct knowledge). For even more special individuals, though, there must be the possibility to use yogipratyakṣa as a direct access to the Absolute (whatever it is, for instance, the Four Noble Truths or the Veda –please bear with the approximative rendering), else we would not have any Veda nor any Four Noble Truths.

Obviously enough, Mīmāṃsakas and other down-to-earth philosophers do not agree and rather claim that all knowledge (apart from the first instant alone of sense-perception and including the successive ones) is discursive.

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