A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of theory of perception: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eleventh part in the series called the “the jaina philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 11 - Theory of Perception

The main difference of the Jains from the Buddhists in the theory of perception lies, as we have already seen, in this, that the Jains think that perception (pratyakṣa) reveals to us the external objects just as they are with most of their diverse characteristics of colour, form, etc., and also in this, that knowledge arises in the soul from within it as if by removing a veil which had been covering it before. Objects are also not mere forms of knowledge (as the Vi-jñānavādin Buddhist thinks)but are actually existing. Knowledge of external objects by perception is gained through the senses. The exterior physical sense such as the eye must be distinguished from the invisible faculty or power of vision of the soul, which alone deserves the name of sense.

We have five such cognitive senses. But the Jains think that since by our experience we are only aware of five kinds of sense knowledge corresponding to the five senses, it is better to say that it is the “self” which gains of itself those different kinds of sense-knowledge in association with those exterior senses as if by removal of a covering, on account of the existence of which the knowledge could not reveal itself before. The process of external perception does not thus involve the exercise of any separate and distinct sense, though the rise of the sense-knowledge in the soul takes place in association with the particular sense-organ such as eye, etc. The soul is in touch with all parts of the body, and visual knowledge is that knowledge which is generated in the soul through that part of it which is associated with, or is in touch with the eye. To take an example, I look before me and see a rose. Before looking at it the knowledge of rose was in me, but only in a covered condition, and hence could not get itself manifested.

The act of looking at the rose means that such a fitness has come into the rose and into myself that the rose is made visible, and the veil over my knowledge of rose is removed. When visual knowledge arises, this happens in association with the eye; I say that I see through the visual sense, whereas in reality experience shows that I have only a knowledge of the visual type (associated with eye). As experience does not reveal the separate senses, it is unwarrantable to assert that they have an existence apart from the self. Proceeding in a similar way the Jains discard the separate existence of manas (mind-organ) also, for manas also is not given in experience, and the hypothesis of its existence is unnecessary, as self alone can serve its purpose[1]. Perception of an object means that the veil of ignorance upon the “self” regarding the object has been removed. Inwardly this removal is determined by the karma of the individual, outwardly it is determined by the presence of the object of perception, light, the capacity of the sense organs, and such other conditions.

Contrary to the Buddhists and many other Indian systems, the Jains denied the existence of any nirvikalpa (indeterminate) stage preceding the final savi-kalpa (determinate) stage of perception. There was a direct revelation of objects from within and no indeterminate sense-materials were necessary for the development of determinate perceptions. We must contrast this with the Buddhists who regarded that the first stage consisting of the presentation of in-> determinate sense materials was the only valid part of perception. The determinate stage with them is the result of the application of mental categories, such as imagination, memory, etc., and hence does not truly represent the presentative part[2].

Footnotes and references:


Tanna indriyam bhautikam kim lu ātmāca indriyam.. .anupahatacakṣurādideśeṣu eva ālmanah karmakṣayopaśamaslcnāsthagitagavākṣatulyāni cakṣurādīni upakaraṇāni. Jaina-Vāttika-Vṛtti, II. p. 98. In many places, however, the five senses, such as eye, ear, etc., are mentioned as senses, and living beings are often classified according to the number of senses they possess. (See Pramāṇamīmāṃsā. See also Tattvārthā-dhigamasūtra, ch. 11. etc.) But this is with reference to the sense organs. The denial of separate senses is with reference to admitting them as entities or capacities having a distinct and separate category of existence from the soul. The sense organs are like windows for the soul to look out. They cannot thus modify the sense-knowledge which rises in the soul by inward determination; for it is already existent in it; the perceptual process only means that the veil which was observing it is removed.


Prameyakamalamārtaṇḍa, pp. 8-11.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: