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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sense perception cannot grasp dharma

satsamprayoge puruṣasyendriyāṇāṃ buddhijanma tat pratyakṣaṃ animittaṃ vidyamānopalambhanatvāt.
Once there is a connection with an existing thing of a person's sense-faculties, the arousal of a notion is sense-perception. It is not a condition [for knowing dharma] because it seizes [only] present things


MS (Mīmāṃsāsūtra) 1.1.4 is not an epistemological sūtra dealing primarily with the definition of sense perception. Rather, it aims at excluding sense-perception as a possible instrument to know dharma.

According to Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, who is probably the most influential author of the Classical Mīmāṃsā and who founded the so-called Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsā, MS 1.1.4 aims at excluding also direct (and non sensory) perception, i.e. yogipratyakṣa (on this sūtra in Kumārila's interpretation, see John Taber, Kumārila on perception, 2005). This is a sort of direct apprehension of an object, non-mediated by inference, etc., nor by the sense-faculties, and which could hence compared to Kant's intellectual intuition. It occupies only a marginal position in pre-Classical Indian philosophy, where it is attributed only to marginal categories (such as yogins and ṛṣis), whereas Classical authors tend to stress its role as an alternative to Sacred Texts as instruments of knowledge or as an integration of them.

In fact, if intellectual intuition is possible, direct perception is no longer limited to sense faculties and can also grasp super sensuous objects like dharma. If this is the case, one can justify, e.g., the Buddha's grasp of the four noble truths and one no longer depends on Sacred Texts as one's only source about dharma.

Can one admit intellectual intuition among the sources of dharma, without endangering the uniqueness of the Veda?

I dedicated several posts to yogipratyakṣa, see for instance here (on its object), here (on its risks), here (on the opposition Veda-sensory perception or yogipratyakṣa-sensory perception) and here (on Vedānta Deśika about it).

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