Nirvikalpaka Pratyaksha (study)

by Sujit Roy | 2013 | 40,056 words

This essay studies Nirvikalpaka Pratyaksha or “Indeterminate perception” primarily based on Nyaya Philosophy and Bauddha philosophy. Pratyaksa is that cognition which is produced by the contact of a sense organ with an object. It is a direct cognition of reality which is not derived through the medium or instrumentality of any other cognition....

Chapter 2a - Pratyakṣa in the old Nyāya

Gautama (200 B.C) is said to be the founder of Nyāya Philosophy. In Nyāya tradition, pratyakṣa was first defined by Gautama. The Nyāya commentators like Vātsyāyana (400 A.D), Uddyotakara (600 A.D), Udayana (1050 A.D), and Vācaspati (1000 A.D) explained this definition in their own ways. It is Vācaspati Miśra who first clearly divided pratyakṣa into nirvikalpaka and savikalpaka. He claimed that it was not something new but was quite implied theory by the definition of Gautama itself. Another great Nyāya thinker, Jayanta Bhaṭṭa (9th century A.D) of kāśhmīra also divided pratyakṣa into nirvikalpaka and savikalpaka. So I shall start this chapter by the explanation of the definition of pratyakṣa by Gautama and I shall discuss the views of Vācaspati Miśra and Jayanta Bhaṭṭa separately.

Gautama defines pratyakṣa in his Nyāya-sūtra (1.1.4) in the following way “indriyārthasannikarṣotpannaṃ jñānam avyapadeśyam avyabhicāri vyavasāyātmakaṃ pratyakṣam[1] i.e. pratyakṣa is that cognition which is produced from the sense-object contact and which is not due to words, invariably related to its object, and is certain.

This definition of pratyakṣa includes the following terms:

  1. indriyārthasannikarṣotpannaṃ.
  2. jñānam.
  3. avyapadeśyam.
  4. avyabhicāri.
  5. vyavasāyātmakaṃ.

The omission of any of these terms makes the definition ‘too wide(ati-vyāpta). Uddyotakara says that the expressionindriyārthasannikarṣotpannaṃ’ of the definition excludes inference etc., the expression ‘jñāna’ of the definition excludes pleasure (sukha), pain etc., the expression ‘avyapadeśyam’ of the definition excludes cognition derived through words (śabda-jñāna), the expression ‘avyabhicāri’ of the definition excludes illusory perception (viparyaya), and the expression ‘vyavasāyātmaka’ of the definition excludes doubtful cognition (saṃśayātmaka-pratyakṣa). The definition of pratyakṣa is free from all types of over-coverage (ati-vyāpti).[2]

The explanations of each one of the above terms in short are given bellow:

(i) The terms ‘indriyārthasannikarṣotpannaṃ’ means that pratyakṣa is that cognition which is produced from the sense-object contact.

Gautama begins with the statement that pratyakṣa is the cognition resulting from sense-object contact. By way of explaining this, Vātsyāyana[3] apprehended a possible objection against it. Mere sense-object contact cannot produce in pratyakṣa, for according to Gautama’s own view, in the case of pratyakṣa the self first comes in contact with the mind, next the mind comes in contact with a particular sense-organ, and lastly the sense-organ concerned comes in contact with the object perceived. In the present sūtra, however, Gautama does not mention all these and simply says that the sense-object contact results in perceptual cognition. Thus the present sūtra appears to go against Gautama’s own view.

In reply Vātsyāyana says that Gautama here does not really mean that the sense-object contact alone is the cause of pratyakṣa, the purpose of the sūtra being to state the definition of pratyakṣa and not to enumerate all its causes. It rather states the instrumental cause (asādhāraṇa-kāraṇa) of pratyakṣa. That which is the instrumental cause of perceptual cognition is stated here, but it does not deny the cause common to the inferential and other forms of cognition. Actually, Gautama uses this term ‘cognition resulting from sense-object contact’ to exclude inferential and other forms of cognition from pratyakṣa.

A further objection may be raised against this. The contact of the sense with mind is a necessary condition of perception but it is not mentioned in the definition of pratyakṣa.

Vātsyāyana’s reply against that objection is that the contact of the mind with the sense is not necessary in case of internal perception such as perception of pleasure etc. Here the mind as a sense organ is conjoined with the self directly. So the contact of the mind with the sense organ is not necessary for all cases of perception. So it is not mentioned.

The word ‘indriya’ in the sūtra means the six sense organs, i.e. (a) five external senses, namely, olfactory, gustatory, visual, cutaneous and auditory, which Gautama mentions in sūtra (1.1.12),[4] and (b) one internal sense organ, namely, mānas, which he mentions in sūtra (1.1.16).[5]

The word ‘artha’ means the object of perception. The objects of perception are of three kinds: (a) the physical objects, e.g., a table, a chair etc., (b) the specific objects or sensible qualities, e.g., colour, sound, any tangible quality etc., (c) the internal objects, e.g., pleasure, pain etc.

The word ‘sannikarṣa’ in the sūtra means the connection between the sense and its appropriate object which produces the perceptual cognition.

The word ‘utpanna’ in the sūtra means due to that. Utpanna in the sūtra implies that the sense-object contact actually produces perceptual cognition.

Gautama says that all the senses function after reaching the object (prāpyakārin). The senses produce perceptual cognition of the object after actually reaching the object. Thus, for instance, the visual sense or the auditory sense gives the perceptual cognition of rūpa or sound only after rūpa or sound comes in contact with it.[6]

The sense-object contact is of six kinds.[7] These contacts are:

(a) Conjunction (saṃyoga): In the pratyakṣa of substance, the sense-object contact is of the nature of conjunction. Thus, e.g., when we see a jar there is contact between the visual organ and the jar.

(b) Inherence in what is conjoined (saṃyukta-samavāya): In the pratyakṣa of quality the sense-object contact is of the nature of inherence in what is conjoined. Thus, e.g., when we see the colour of a jar, the colour inheres in the jar which is in contact with the visual organ.

(c) Inherence in what is inherent in the conjoined (saṃyukta-samaveta-samavāya):

In the pratyakṣa of universal inhering in quality and in movement the sense-object contact is of the nature of inherence in what is inherent in the conjoined. Thus, e.g., when we see the colourness of a jar, the colourness inheres in the colour which inheres in the jar which is in contact with the visual organ.

(d) Inherence (samavāya): In the pratyakṣa of sound the sense-object contact is of the nature of inherence. Thus, e.g., when we hear a sound, the sound inheres in the auditory organ. Here sound is an attribute and it inheres in the substances ākāśa and the auditory sense itself is of the nature of ākāśa. So the sense of hearing is in contact with sound which sound which inheres in the sense itself.

(e) Inherence in the inhered (samaveta-samavāya):

In the pratyakṣa of the universal sound-ness the sense-object contact is of the nature of inherence in the inhered. Thus, e.g., when we perceive the soundness of a sound, the soundness inheres in the sound which inheres in the auditory organ.

(f) Qualifier-qualified relation (viśeṣyaviśeṣaṇabhāva):[8]

In the pratyakṣa of inherence and absence the sense-object contact is of the nature of qualifier-qualified relation. Thus, e.g., when we perceive the inherence between a jar and its colour, inherence is the qualifier of the colour, or when we perceive the absence of something, the non-existence is the qualifier of its locus.

(ii) The term ‘jñāna’ in the sūtra means the cognition of an object. Pleasure and pain are also produced by sense-object contact, but it is not state of cognition. To exclude pleasure, pain etc. from perceptual cognition Gautama adds the word ‘jñāna’ to his definition of pratyakṣa. But Jayanta Bhaṭṭa offers an alternative explanation about the term jñāna. He says, it is not intended to exclude pleasure and pain from definition of pratyakṣa, such a possibility being already excluded by the word vyavasāyātmaka. According to him, Gautama uses the word jñāna to indicate what is being qualified by the other expressions in the definition, which are all of the nature of adjectives.[9]

(iii) The term ‘avyapadeśyam’ means not due to words. Gautama says that pratyakṣa as that cognition which is not due to words. Vātsyāyana first presented an objection against the inclusion of the term raised by the Śābdikas. Let us here present the translation of the Bhāṣya text:[10]

‘Every object has a word standing for it and usage depends on the understanding of these words as denoting the objects. Thus the perceptual cognition of colour or taste is referred to by the word ‘colour’ or ‘taste’ which is but the name of the object perceived. Since everywhere a piece of cognition is referred to by the word standing for the object known; the word itself is also to be regarded as the object of cognition. Cognition as cognition is same in all cases. But one piece of cognition differs from another because their objects differ. Without assuming that the words like colour or taste are also the objects of cognition, the differentiation of the various pieces of cognition as ‘it is colour’, ‘it is taste’ etc. becomes impossible. These pieces of cognition having such words as their objects are therefore to be considered as but cognition of words. The word ‘śabda’ in the commentary is not to be taken as cognition due to verbal testimony. It is to be taken as cognition having word for their objects.’

In refutation of the view that every cognition is due to word, Vātsyāyana says, knowledge of those persons who are unaware of the relation between the word and its corresponding object is not referred to by the words naming the object. Even if the relation between the word and the corresponding object is known, there is the cognition that this word is the name of this object (i.e. even for those who are aware of the relation between a word and its corresponding object, the cognition of the object is not due to the word naming it). When that object is known, the cognition does not differ from the afore-mentioned cognition of the object (i.e. of the infant and the dumb). This cognition of the object is but similar to that. But this cognition of the object has no other word to name it, being conveyed by which (word) it can be subject to usage, because there is no usage with what is not properly known. Therefore, by adding the word ‘iti’ to the word naming the object known, it (i.e. the cognition of the object) is referred to as ‘the cognition that it is colour’ (rūpam-iti-jñānam), ‘the cognition that it is taste’ (rasaḥ-iti-jñānam). Thus the word naming the object has no efficacy in producing the cognition of the object. But it has use only for the purpose of communication. Therefore, the cognition of the object produced from sense-object contact is not due to word. So the perceptual cognition proper is due to only the sense-object contact rather than the words. Words serve only the purpose of communication or usage.

(iv) The term ‘avyabhicāri’ means pratyakṣa is that cognition which is invariably related to the object. Gautama thinks that pratyakṣa is that cognition which is invariably related to the object and it is not erroneous. For these reason, pratyakṣa must always be correct. But our experience shows that sometimes our pratyakṣa is not correct.

Vātsyāyana explains the significance of this term in his Bhāṣya as thus:[11]

“During the summer the flickering rays of the sun intermingled with the heat radiating from the surface of the earth come in contact with the eyes of an observer at a distance, who perceives it as water”. Here the cognition of ‘water’ is illusory pratyakṣa. But the pratyakṣa is illusory only in its qualifying aspect, i.e. in so far as the rays are erroneously apprehended as being characterized by waterness. Similarly, we have illusory perceptions of a snake in a rope and of silver in the shell. To exclude such forms of illusory perceptions from the category of valid pratyakṣa, Gautama used the word ‘avyabhicārin’ in the sūtra (1.1.4). The cognition of erroneous or vyabhicārin pratyakṣa is that pratyakṣa of an object as something which it is not, while the avyabhicārin pratyakṣa is the pratyakṣa of an object as it actually is.

Vātsyāyana says that ‘vyabhicārin’ pratyakṣa is the pratyakṣa of an object as something which it is not. This shows that the Naiyāyikas subscribe to the theory of anyathākhyāti, implying that illusion consists in perceiving something as something else.[12]

(v) The term ‘vyavasāyātmakaṃ’ means pratyakṣa is that cognition which is certain.

Gautama says that pratyakṣa is that cognition which is beyond doubt. Vātsyāyana[13] holds that this term is meant to exclude ‘pratyaksa in the form of doubt’ (saṃśayātmakapratyakṣa), which are not excluded by the word avyabhicārin. According to Vātsyāyana, avyabhicārin pratyakṣa is the pratyakṣa of an object as it actually is. According to this interpretation doubtful pratyakṣa are avyabhicārin. On perceiving the common characteristic of dust and smoke in a distant object, a person has to be fall in doubtful cognition that ‘it is smoke’ or ‘it is dust’. Such type of an indecisive cognition (anavadhāraṇa-āna) resulting from sense-object contact may be taken for perceptual knowledge. If it is actually dust, the pratyakṣa is non-erroneous in its first part and if it is actually smoke; the pratyakṣa is nonerroneous in its second part. Since the object actually is either dust or smoke, the pratyakṣa is in fact invariably related to the object. In short, according to Vātsyāyana only the illusory pratyakṣa of something as definitely something else are to be considered erroneous. Pratyakṣa in the form of doubt being short of definite cognition is not therefore excluded by the word avyabhicārin. Nevertheless, the instrument of such pratyakṣa cannot be regarded as pramāṇa because definite cognition alone is the result of the pramāṇa. For this reason, Gautama excludes pratyakṣa in the form of doubt by using the term vyavasāyātmakaṃ.

It may be objected that all doubtful cognition is produced by the contact of the self with mind i.e. doubtful cognition is not due to the contact of the sense with the object and as such it is already excluded by the expression ‘resulting from sense-object contact’.

Vātsyāyana answers that it cannot be assumed that doubt is always the result only of the contact of self with mind and never due to any external sense-organ. A doubtful cognition arises only after an object is perceived by an external sense. Just as an object perceived by an external sense can be internally perceived over again, so can one internally doubt the nature of an object after having doubt about it by the external sense.

Vātsyāyana’s real point is that an external object is never perceived by mind independent of the external sense. Whenever an external object like the jar is perceived, it is perceived first by an external sense like the eye and such a pratyakṣa is called vyavasāya pratyakṣa. This is followed by an internal pratyakṣa of the previous external pratyakṣa. And this subsequent pratyakṣa is called anu-vyavasāya or after-knowledge. The previous pratyakṣa called vyavasāya must be regarded as one of its causes. A blind man, who is deprived of the visual sense, cannot have the internal after-knowledge of a visual perception because he cannot have the prior external perception or vyavasāya itself. Therefore, on the evidence of after-knowledge, which is internal, it cannot be asserted that doubt is exclusively internal. So the term ‘vyavasāyātmaka’ must be included in the definition of pratyakṣa to exclude doubtful cognition.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Nyāyasūtra, 1.1.4. Quoted from Phaṇibhūṣaṇa Tarkabāgīśa’s ‘Nyāyadarśana’, Prathama Khaṇḍa, p. 104.

[2]:

Nyāya Philosophy, Part-I, by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya and Mrinalkanti Gangopadhyaya, p. 46.

[3]:

indriyasyārthena sannikarṣādutpadyate yajjñānaṃ tat pratyakṣam. na tahīrdānīmidaṃ bhavati? ātmā manasā saṃyujyate, mana indriyeṇa, indriyamartheneti. medaṃ kāraṇāvadhāraṇametāvat pratyakṣe kāraṇamiti, kintu viśiṣṭakāraṇavacanamiti. yat pratyakṣajñānasya viśiṣṭakāraṇaṃ taducyate,yattu samānamanumānādijñānasya na tannivarttyata iti. manasastahīrindryeṇa saṃyogo vaktavyaḥ? bhidyamānasya pratyakṣajñānasya nāyaṃ bhidyata iti samānatvānnokta iti”.—-Nyāyadarśana, Prathama khaṇḍa, by Phaṇibhūṣaṇa Tarkabāgīśa, p. 104.

[4]:

ghrāṇa-rasana-cakṣuḥ-tvak-śrotrāṇi indriyāṇi bhūtebhyaḥ”.–Nyāyasūtra, 1.1.12.

[5]:

yugapat jñāna-anutpattiḥ manasaḥ liṅgam”.–Nyāyasūtra, 1.1.16.

[6]:

Nyāya Philosophy, Part-I, by Debiprasad Chattopodhyaya and Mrinalkanti Gangopadhyaya, p. 48.

[7]:

The Nyāya-sūtras of Gautama, Vol-I, by Gaṅgānāṭha Jhā, p. 118.

[8]:

Encyclopedia of Indian philosophies, Vol-II, By Karl H. Potter, p. 308.

[9]:

Nyāya Philosophy, Part-I, by Debiprasad Chattopodhyaya and Mrinalkanti Gangopadhyaya, p. 51.

[10]:

yāvadarthaṃ vai nāmadheyaśabdāstairartha-sampratyayaḥ, arthasampratyayācca vyavahāraḥ. tatredamindriyārthasannikaryādutpannamarthajñānaṃ rūpamiti vā rasa ityevaṃ vā bhavati. rūparasaśabdāśca viṣayanāmadheyam. tena vyapadiśyate, jñānaṃ, rūpamiti jānīte rasa iti jānīte. nāmadheyaśabdena vyapadiśyamānaṃ sat śābdaṃ prasajyate, ata āha “avyapadeśya”miti. yadidamanupayukte śabdārthasambandheharthajñānaṃ, tanna nāmadheyaśabdena vyapadiśyate. gṛhītehapi ca śabdārthasambandhehasyārthasyāyaṃ śabdo nāmadheyamiti. yadā tu sohartho gṛhyate, tadā tatpūrvvasmādarthajñānānna viśiṣyate, tadarthavijñānaṃ tādṛgeva bhavati. tasyatvarthajñānasyānyaḥ samākhyāśabdo nāsti, yena pratiyamānaṃ vyavahārāya kalpeta. na cāpratiyamānena vyavahāraḥ, tasmājjñeyasyārthasya saṃjñāśabdenetikaraṇa yuktena nirddiśyate rūpamitijñānaṃ, rasa iti jñānamiti. tadevamarthajñānakāle sa na samākhyāśabdo vyāpriyate, vyavahārakāle tu vyāpriyate. tasmāda śābdamarthajñānamindriyārthasannikarṣotpannamiti.”—-Nyāyadarśana, Prathama khaṇḍa, by Phaṇibhūṣaṇa Tarkabāgīśa, p. 117.

[11]:

grīṣme marīcayo bhaumenoṣmaṇā saṃsṛṣṭāḥ spandamānā dūrasthasya cakṣuṣā sannikṛṣyante, tatreindriyārthasannikarṣādudakamiti jñānamutpadyate. tacca pratyakṣaṃ prasajyate ityata āha “avyabhicāri”ti. yadatasmiṃstadititad avyabhicāri. yattu tasmiṃstaditi tadavyabhicāri pratyakṣamiti..”—- Ibid. p. 127.

[12]:

Nyāya Philosophy, Part-I, by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya & Mrinalkanti Gangopadhyaya, p. 56.

[13]:

dūrāccakṣuṣā hyayamarthaṃ paśyannāvadhārayati dhūma iti vā reṇuriti vā, tadetadindriyārthasannikarṣotpannamanavadhāraṇajñānaṃ pratyakṣaṃ prasajyata ityata āha “vyavasāyātmaka”miti. na caitanmantavyaṃ ātmamanaṃsannikarṣajamevānavadhāraṇajñānamiti. cakṣuṣā hyayamarthaṃ paśyannāvadhārayati, yathā ceindriyeṇopalabdhamarthaṃ manasopalabhate, evamindriyeṇānavadhārayan manasā nāvadhārayati. yacca tadindriyānavadhāraṇa-pūrvvakaṃ manasānavadhāraṇaṃ, tadviśeṣāpekṣaṃ vimarśamātraṃ saṃśayo na pūrvvamiti. sarvvatra pratyakṣaviṣaye jñāturindriyeṇa vyavasāya upahateindriyāṇāmanu-vyavasāyābhāvāditi.” —-Nyāyadarśana, Prathama khaṇḍa, by Phaṇibhūṣaṇa Tarkabāgīśa, p. 127.

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