A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

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

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

Part 13 - Knowledge as Revelation

The Buddhists had affirmed that the proof of the existence of anything depended upon the effect that it could produce on us. That which could produce any effect on us was existent, and that which could not non-existent. In fact production of effect was with them the only definition of existence (being). Theoretically each unit of effect being different from any other unit of effect, they supposed that there was a succession of different units of effect or, what is the same thing, acknowledged a succession of new substances every moment. All things were thus momentary. The Jains urged that the reason why the production of effect may be regarded as the only proof of being is that we can assert only that thing the existence of which is indicated by a corresponding experience.

When we have a unit of experience we suppose the existence of the object as its ground. This being so, the theoretical analysis of the Buddhists that each unit of effect produced in us is not exactly the same at each new point of time, and that therefore all things are momentary, is fallacious; for experience shows that not all of an object is found to be changing every moment; some part of it (e.g. gold in a gold ornament) is found to remain permanent while other parts (e.g. its form as earrings or bangles) are seen to undergo change. How in the face of such an experience can we assert that the whole thing vanishes every moment and that new things are being renewed at each succeeding moment? Hence leaving aside mere abstract and unfounded speculations, if we look to experience we find that the conception of being or existence irr olves a notion of permanence associated with change —paryāya (acquirement of new qualities and the loss of old ones).

The Jains hold that the defects of other systems lie in this, that they interpret experience only from one particular standpoint (naya) whereas they alone carefully weigh experience from all points of view and acquiesce in the truths indicated by it, not absolutely but under proper reservations and limitations. The Jains hold’that in formulating the doctrine of arthakriyākāritva the Buddhists at first showed signs of starting on their enquiry on the evidence of experience, but soon they became one-sided in their analysis and indulged in unwarrantable abstract speculations which went directly against experience. Thus if we go by experience we can neither reject the self nor the external world as some Buddhists did.

Knowledge which reveals to us the clear-cut features of the external world certifies at the same time that such knowledge is part and parcel of myself as the subject. Knowledge is thus felt to be an expression of my own self. We do not perceive in experience that knowledge in us is generated by the external world, but there is in us the rise of knowledge and of certain objects made known to us by it. The rise of knowledge is thus only parallel to certain objective collocations of things which somehow have the special fitness that they and they alone are perceived at that particular moment. Looked at from this point of view all our experiences are centred in ourselves, for determined somehow, our experiences come to us as modifications of our own self.

Knowledge being a character of the self, it shows itself as manifestations of the self independent of the senses. No distinction should be made between a conscious and an unconscious element in knowledge as Sāṃkhya does. Nor should knowledge be regarded as a copy of the objects which it reveals, as the Sautrāntikas think, for then by copying the materiality of the object, knowledge would itself become material. Knowledge should thus be regarded as a formless quality of the self revealing all objects by itself. But the Mīmāmsā view that the validity (prāmānya) of all knowledge is proved by knowledge itself (svatahprāmānya) is wrong. Both logically and psychologically the validity of knowledge depends upon outward correspondence (samvāda) with facts. But in those cases where by previous knowledge of correspondence a right belief has been produced there may be a psychological ascertainment of validity without reference to objective facts (prāmāṇyamutpattau parata eva jñaptau svakārye ca svataḥ parataśca abhyāsānabhyāsāpekṣayā)[1]. The objective world exists as it is certified by experience. But that it generates knowledge in us is an unwarrantable hypothesis, for knowledge appears as a revelation of our own self. This brings us to a consideration of Jaina metaphysics.

Footnotes and references:


Prameyakamalamāriaṇḍa , pp. 38-43.

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