Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vedānta Deśika in favour of intellectual intuition

In Vedānta Deśika's Seśvaramīmāṃsā (ad 1.1.4) one finds several arguments in favour of yogipratyakṣa, together with their refutation. To the latter will be dedicated a future post, here I will outline Vedānta Deśika's arguments, followed by some comments of mine.

--out of direct perception:

  • one's perception could be enhanced by saṃskāras, due to repeated experience, like in the case of gem-experts
  • one's intense visualisation could make an existing but unseen object visible, like in the case of the image of an existing but absent beloved person

--out of inference:
  • some people could have sharper sense faculties, because one sees a graduation in the sharpness of sense faculties
  • (specification of the above argument): dharma must be sense-perceptible, because it is a knowable item and all knowable items must, somewhere reach sense-perceptibility.
--out of Verbal Communication (śabdapramāṇa):
  • Maharṣis (in the Upaniṣad) state that they have seen dharma through their inner energy (vīrya).
The first case describes the case of experts of gem, who can see in a gem aspects a lay person would not be able to see. One might argue that one does not see dharma at all (whereas a gem is seen by everyone). But the PP has already assumed that actions, substances and qualities may be referred to as dharma. Hence, one only needs to grasp their being able to conduce to the summum bonum (śreyas). So, experts might be able to see in dharmic actions also this aspect.
Possible reply: experts are made aware of further details in a gem only because of śabdapramāṇa. Someone instructed them about the peculiarities of a gem. So, their 'perception' of the peculiarities of the gem is in fact parasitic on śabdapramāṇa.

The second case refers to the case of a love-sick man, who –due to his continuos thinking at his beloved one– eventually makes her appear before his eyes. Similarly, dharma –really existent, but not present before one's eyes– becomes eventually perceivable by those who meditate about it.
Possible reply: the love-sick knows his beloved one. One cannot visualise something one has never seen. In case this happens (for instance, one is love-sick of someone one has never met and imagines her), what one sees is only imagined and not corresponding to the real object.

The third case presupposes the idea that the graduation must somewhere get exhausted –and that it can only get exhausted because it has reached the maximal possible degree. Hence, (unlike in Federico's suggestion) the point is not that a graduation must get exhausted because there cannot be an infinite graduation –so that it must stop \emph{somewhere}. On the other hand, it has to reach its outmost degree. The idea is similar to the requirement of a primus movens or, I would argue, of the possibility that an indefinite progression towards moral perfection eventually ends up –so that one achieves the bodhi, the nirvāṇa, heaven, etc.
Possible reply: why should the fact that there is a graduation imply its exhaustion? And even more so, why its exhaustion only once its outmost level has been reached?

The specification of the third case is similar: the graduation in the sharpness of the sense faculties means that, for someone, dharma must end up being perceptible.

The fourth argument depends on Upaniṣadic statements to the effect that dharma has been seen by special maharṣis endowed with ascetical powers.
Possible reply: The argument is circular. The maharṣi could only be reliable in stating that they have seen dharma if one already believes in the fact that they have seen it.


VS said...

Although you have yourself discussed the aspects from different perspectives, there is one thought (which I think is interesting)which comes to mind. Conjuring the image of someone by intense visualization is one thing. Is it possible that by intense focus a person can move between two time zones and thus visualize a person who had been there before? I know its sounds far fetched, but then what the expert sees in the gem, the others cannot.

elisa freschi said...

Well, the arguments in favour of the "perception of the yogin" do in fact run like that. Its upholders are sure that a yogin can see objects of the past or of the future (I am not sure about people, but I can't see any reason why it should not be the case) since s/he can move through time. S/he is said to be able to know also the mental content of someone else.

What do you think about it? I don't think that the claim –if only it applies JUST to extra-ordinary people– can be refuted. Nor that it can be definitely established for those who do not believe in it.

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