The Perception Maze

Recently we studied Perception. Why Perception? Why something as random as Perception? Well, epistemologically speaking, perception is pretty darn important particularly to the Indian schools of Philosophy. In this case, we were discussing Perception from the point of view of the Advaita Vedanta’s or to be politically correct, Dharmaraja Ardhawindra’s interpretation of the school’s ideology on Perception.

They believe in the existence of a three-fold consciousness, one limited by the mental mode or state which assumes the form of the object (vritti), one limited by the object and finally, one limited by the subject (you& me) itself. Consciousness here is discussed in perspective to the empirical or the transmigratory mind. Consciousness realised for its true self as eternal and infinite is as a result of the realisation of Brahman- the ultimate reality, thus  there is no reference to such a consciousness. Anyway, coming back to Perception, they believe it takes place when Consciousness limited by vritti coincides with consciousness limited by the object. While this may seem very intense, simply put, perception takes place when your mind becomes  conscious of an object. Funny enough, consciousness exists with respect to the object as well, so it is imperative that the two consciousnesses coincide with each other, if that wasn’t made clear earlier.

But what got me really interested was the fact that for a school that can be dated to the 17th century or even later, Adi Shankaracharya was receptive to the idea that perception isn’t something that is limited to the sense organs, it goes beyond that. What we apprehend around us isn’t limited to mere tangible objects such as an apple or a table; we also perceive people, situations, the world, emotions etc. The inclusion of this concept goes a long way in how we understand perception today. Regardless of whatever you perceive or how you perceive, the idea is immediate. Thus our knowledge of God is also immediate. This could be debated, can we really perceive God? And if so, is it immediate? I may not be the best judge of this but with a few incidents that I have encountered, it has gotten my head wired to the idea of a presence of God and the fact that the way I perceived it could be immediate. For example, entering a temple, the serenity that you’re immediately flushed with reminds you of the possible existence of God. Regardless of the hustle and bustle that happens outside the temple or the hundreds of people inside the temple, there’s no other place that I know of that has given me the composure that is yearned for elsewhere. The same idea is resonated when it comes to nature, when you become one with it and realise God’s inherence in it. This obvious perception regardless if it’s through one’s mind or sense organ is immediate. It doesn’t require the existence of another for its apprehension. 

 The Vedantin School has always fascinated me particularly for its far-fetched thinking. While I’m still in a conundrum as to how Perception could, out of the other six, be a means to realise Brahman. I admire its theories and I believe it still holds true even today. There are some theories that have evolved over time, but the Vedantin theories have in my opinion withstood the tests of time. As we progress further into Vedanta Paribhasha, I look forward to reading the Vedantin’s interpretation of the other means of valid knowledge! 

Namrata Kumar


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