I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 8
The theory of Nescience cannot be proved.
We now proceed to the consideration of Nescience.--According to the view of our opponent, this entire world, with all its endless distinctions of Ruler, creatures ruled, and so on, is, owing to a certain defect, fictitiously superimposed upon the non-differenced, self-luminous Reality; and what constitutes that defect is beginningless Nescience, which invests the Reality, gives rise to manifold illusions, and cannot be denied either as being or non-being. Such Nescience, he says, must necessarily be admitted, firstly on the ground of scriptural texts, such as 'Hidden by what is untrue' (Kh. Up. VIII, 3, 2), and secondly because otherwise the oneness of the individual souls with Brahman--which is taught by texts such as 'Thou are that'--cannot be established. This Nescience is neither 'being,' because in that case it could not be the object of erroneous cognition (bhrama) and assimilation (bādha); nor is it 'non-being,' because in that case it could not be the object of apprehension and sublation. Hence orthodox Philosophers declare that this Nescience falls under neither of these two opposite categories.
Now this theory of Nescience is altogether untenable. In the first place we ask, 'What is the substrate of this Nescience which gives rise to the great error of plurality of existence?' You cannot reply 'the individual soul'; for the individual soul itself exists in so far only as it is fictitiously imagined through Nescience. Nor can you say 'Brahman'; for Brahman is nothing but self-luminous intelligence, and hence contradictory in nature to Nescience, which is avowedly assimilated by knowledge.
'The highest Brahman has knowledge for its essential nature: if Nescience, which is essentially false and to be terminated by knowledge, invests Brahman, who then will be strong enough to put an end to it?'
'What puts an end to Nescience is the knowledge that Brahman is pure knowledge!'--'Not so, for that knowledge also is, like Brahman, of the nature of light, and hence has no power to put an end to Nescience.--And if there exists the knowledge that Brahman is knowledge, then Brahman is an object of knowledge, and that, according to your own teaching, implies that Brahman is not of the nature of consciousness.'
To explain the second of these ślokas.--If you maintain that what assimilates Nescience is not that knowledge which constitutes Brahman's essential nature, but rather that knowledge which has for its object the truth of Brahman being of such a nature, we demur; for as both these kinds of knowledge are of the same nature, viz. the nature of light, which is just that which constitutes Brahman's nature, there is no reason for making a distinction and saying that one knowledge is contradictory of Nescience, and the other is not. Or, to put it otherwise--that essential nature of Brahman which is apprehended through the cognition that Brahman is knowledge, itself shines forth in consequence of the self-luminous nature of Brahman, and hence we have no right to make a distinction between that knowledge which constitutes Brahman's nature, and that of which that nature is the object, and to maintain that the latter only is antagonistic to Nescience.--Moreover (and this explains the third śloka), according to your own view Brahman, which is mere consciousness, cannot be the object of another consciousness, and hence there is no knowledge which has Brahman for its object. If, therefore, knowledge is contradictory to non-knowledge (Nescience), Brahman itself must be contradictory to it, and hence cannot be its substrate. Shells (mistaken for silver) and the like which by themselves are incapable of throwing light upon their own true nature are not contradictory to non-knowledge of themselves, and depend, for the termination of that non-knowledge, on another knowledge (viz. on the knowledge of an intelligent being); Brahman, on the other hand, whose essential nature is established by its own consciousness, is contradictorily opposed to non-knowledge of itself, and hence does not depend, for the termination of that non- knowledge, on some other knowledge.--If our opponent should argue that the knowledge of the falsity of whatever is other than Brahman is contradictory to non-knowledge, we ask whether this knowledge of the falsity of what is other than Brahman is contradictory to the non-knowledge of the true nature of Brahman, or to that non-knowledge which consists in the view of the reality of the apparent world. The former alternative is inadmissible; because the cognition of the falsity of what is other than Brahman has a different object (from the non-knowledge of Brahman's true nature) and therefore cannot be contradictory to it; for knowledge and non-knowledge are contradictory in so far only as they refer to one and the same object. And with regard to the latter alternative we point out that the knowledge of the falsity of the world is contradictory to the non-knowledge which consists in the view of the reality of the world; the former knowledge therefore assimilates the latter non-knowledge only, while the non-knowledge of the true nature of Brahman is not touched by it.--Against this it will perhaps be urged that what is here called the non-knowledge of the true nature of Brahman, really is the view of Brahman being dual in nature, and that this view is put an end to by the cognition of the falsity of whatever is other than Brahman; while the true nature of Brahman itself is established by its own consciousness.--But this too we refuse to admit. If non-duality constitutes the true nature of Brahman, and is proved by Brahman's own consciousness, there is room neither for what is contradictory to it, viz. that non-knowledge which consists in the view of duality, nor for the sublation of that non-knowledge.-- Let then non-duality be taken for an attribute (not the essential nature) of Brahman!--This too we refuse to admit; for you yourself have proved that Brahman, which is pure Consciousness, is free from attributes which are objects of Consciousness.--From all this it follows that Brahman, whose essential nature is knowledge, cannot be the substrate of Nescience: the theory, in fact, involves a flat contradiction.
When, in the next place, you maintain that Brahman, whose nature is homogeneous intelligence, is invested and hidden by Nescience, you thereby assert the destruction of Brahman's essential nature. Causing light to disappear means either obstructing the origination of light, or else destroying light that exists. And as you teach that light (consciousness) cannot originate, the 'hiding' or 'making to disappear' of light can only mean its destruction.--Consider the following point also. Your theory is that self- luminous consciousness, which is without object and without substrate, becomes, through the influence of an imperfection residing within itself, conscious of itself as connected with innumerous substrata and innumerous objects.--Is then, we ask, that imperfection residing within consciousness something real or something unreal?--The former alternative is excluded, as not being admitted by yourself. Nor can we accept the latter alternative; for if we did we should have to view that imperfection as being either a knowing subject, or an object of knowledge, or Knowing itself. Now it cannot be 'Knowing,' as you deny that there is any distinction in the nature of knowing; and that 'Knowing,' which is the substrate of the imperfection, cannot be held to be unreal, because that would involve the acceptance of the Mādhyamika doctrine, viz. of a general void.
And if knowers, objects of knowledge and knowing as determined by those two are fictitious, i.e. unreal, we have to assume another fundamental imperfection, and are thus driven into a regressus in infinitum.--To avoid this difficulty, it might now be said that real consciousness itself, which constitutes Brahman's nature, is that imperfection.--But if Brahman itself constitutes the imperfection, then Brahman is the basis of the appearance of a world, and it is gratuitous to assume an additional avidyā to account for the world. Moreover, as Brahman is eternal, it would follow from this hypothesis that no release could ever take place. Unless, therefore, you admit a real imperfection apart from Brahman, you are unable to account for the great world-error.
What, to come to the next point, do you understand by the inexplicability (anirvakaniyatā) of Nescience? Its difference in nature from that which is, as well as that which is not! A thing of such kind would be inexplicable indeed; for none of the means of knowledge apply to it. That is to say--the whole world of objects must be ordered according to our states of consciousness, and every state of consciousness presents itself in the form, either of something existing or of something non-existing. If, therefore, we should assume that of states of consciousness which are limited to this double form, the object can be something which is neither existing nor non-existing, then anything whatever might be the object of any state of consciousness whatever.
Against this our opponent may now argue as follows:--There is, after all, something, called avidyā, or ajñāna, or by some other name, which is a positive entity (bhāva), different from the antecedent non- existence of knowledge; which effects the obscuration of the Real; which is the material cause of the erroneous superimposition on the Real, of manifold external and internal things; and which is terminated by the cognition of the true nature of the one substance which constitutes Reality. For this avidyā is apprehended through Perception as well as Inference. Brahman, in so far as limited by this avidyā, is the material cause of the erroneous superimposition--upon the inward Self, which in itself is changeless pure intelligence, but has its true nature obscured by this superimposition--of that plurality which comprises the Ahaṁkāra, all acts of knowledge and all objects of knowledge. Through special forms of this defect (i. e. avidyā) there are produced, in this world superimposed upon Reality, the manifold special superimpositions presenting themselves in the form of things and cognitions of things--such as snakes (superimposed upon ropes), silver (superimposed on shells), and the like. Avidyā constitutes the material cause of this entire false world; since for a false thing we must needs infer a false cause. That this avidyā or ajñāna (non-knowledge) is an object of internal Perception, follows from the fact that judgments such as 'I do not know’, ‘I do not know either myself or others,' directly present themselves to the mind. A mental state of this kind has for its object not that non-knowledge which is the antecedent non-existence of knowledge--for such absence of knowledge is ascertained by the sixth means of proof (anupalabdhi); it rather is a state which presents its object directly, and thus is of the same kind as the state expressed in the judgment 'I am experiencing pleasure.' Even if we admit that 'absence of something' (abhāva) can be the object of perception, the state of consciousness under discussion cannot have absence of knowledge in the Self for its object. For at the very moment of such consciousness knowledge exists; or if it does not exist there can be no consciousness of the absence of knowledge. To explain. When I am conscious that I am non-knowing, is there or is there not apprehension of the Self as having non-existence of knowledge for its attribute, and of knowledge as the counter-entity of non-knowledge? In the former case there can be no consciousness of the absence of knowledge, for that would imply a contradiction. In the latter case, such consciousness can all the less exist, for it presupposes knowledge of that to which absence of knowledge belongs as an attribute (viz. the Self) and of its own counter-entity, viz. knowledge. The same difficulty arises if we view the absence of knowledge as either the object of Inference, or as the object of the special means of proof called 'abhāva' (i.e. anupalabdhi). If, on the other hand, non-knowledge is viewed (not as a merely negative, but) as a positive entity, there arises no contradiction even if there is (as there is in fact) at the same time knowledge of the Self as qualified by non-knowledge, and of knowledge as the counter-entity of non- knowledge; and we therefore must accept the conclusion that the state of consciousness expressed by 'I am non-knowing,' has for its object a non-knowledge which is a positive entity.--But, a Nescience which is a positive entity, contradicts the witnessing consciousness, whose nature consists in the lighting up of the truth of things! Not so, we reply. Witnessing consciousness has for its object not the true nature of things, but Nescience; for otherwise the lighting up (i.e. the consciousness) of false things could not take place. Knowledge which has for its object non-knowledge (Nescience), does not put an end to that non- knowledge. Hence there is no contradiction (between caitanya and ajñāna).--But, a new objection is raised, this positive entity, Nescience, becomes an object of witnessing Consciousness, only in so far as it (Nescience) is defined by some particular object (viz. the particular thing which is not known), and such objects depend for their proof on the different means of knowledge. How then can that Nescience, which is defined by the 'I' (as expressed e. g. in the judgment, 'I do not know myself'), become the object of witnessing Consciousness?--There is no difficulty here, we reply. All things whatsoever are objects of Consciousness, either as things known or as things not known. But while the mediation of the means of knowledge is required in the case of all those things which, as being non-intelligent (gada), can be proved only in so far as being objects known (through some means of knowledge), such mediation is not required in the case of the intelligent (agada) inner Self which proves itself. Consciousness of Nescience is thus possible in all cases (including the case 'I do not know myself'), since witnessing Consciousness always gives definition to Nescience.--From all this it follows that, through Perception confirmed by Reasoning, we apprehend Nescience as a positive entity. This Nescience, viewed as a positive entity, is also proved by Inference, viz. in the following form: All knowledge established by one of the different means of proof is preceded by something else, which is different from the mere antecedent non-existence of knowledge; which hides the object of knowledge; which is terminated by knowledge; and which exists in the same place as knowledge; because knowledge possesses the property of illumining things not illumined before;--just as the light of a lamp lit in the dark illumines things.--Nor must you object to this inference on the ground that darkness is not a substance, but rather the mere absence of light, or else the absence of visual perception of form and colour, and that hence darkness cannot be brought forward as a similar instance proving Nescience to be a positive entity. For that Darkness must be considered a positive substance follows, firstly, from its being more or less dense, and secondly, from its being perceived as having colour.
To all this we make the following reply. Neither Perception alone, nor Perception aided by Reasoning, reveals to us a positive entity, Nescience, as implied in judgments such as 'I am non-knowing,' 'I know neither myself nor others.' The contradiction which was urged above against the view of non-knowledge being the antecedent non-existence of knowledge, presents itself equally in connexion with non-knowledge viewed as a positive entity. For here the following alternative presents itself--the inner Reality is either known or not known as that which gives definition to Nescience by being either its object or its substrate. If it be thus known, then there is in it no room for Nescience which is said to be that which is put an end to by the cognition of the true nature of the Inner Reality. If, on the other hand, it be not thus known, how should there be a consciousness of Nescience in the absence of that which defines it, viz. knowledge of the substrate or of the object of Nescience?--Let it then be said that what is contradictory to non-knowledge is the clear presentation of the nature of the inner Self, and that (while there is consciousness of ajñāna) we have only an obscure presentation of the nature of the Self; things being thus, there is no contradiction between the cognition of the substrate and object of Nescience on the one side, and the consciousness of ajñāna on the other.--Well, we reply, all this holds good on our side also. Even if ajñāna means antecedent non-existence of knowledge, we can say that knowledge of the substrate and object of non-knowledge has for its object the Self presented obscurely only; and thus there is no difference between our views--unless you choose to be obstinate!
Whether we view non-knowledge as a positive entity or as the antecedent non-existence of knowledge, in either case it comes out as what the word indicates, viz. non-knowledge. Non-knowledge means either absence of knowledge, or that which is other than knowledge, or that which is contradictory to knowledge; and in any of these cases we have to admit that non-knowledge presupposes the cognition of the nature of knowledge. Even though the cognition of the nature of darkness should not require the knowledge of the nature of light, yet when darkness is considered under the aspect of being contrary to light, this presupposes the cognition of light. And the non-knowledge held by you is never known in its own nature but merely as 'non-knowledge,' and it therefore presupposes the cognition of knowledge no less than our view does, according to which non-knowledge is simply the negation of knowledge. Now antecedent non-existence of knowledge is admitted by you also, and is an undoubted object of consciousness; the right conclusion therefore is that what we are conscious of in such judgments as 'I am non-knowing,' etc., is this very antecedent non-existence of knowledge which we both admit.
It, moreover, is impossible to ascribe to Brahman, whose nature is constituted by eternal free self- luminous intelligence, the consciousness of Nescience; for what constitutes its essence is consciousness of itself. If against this you urge that Brahman, although having consciousness of Self for its essential nature, yet is conscious of non-knowledge in so far as its (Brahman's) nature is hidden; we ask in return what we have to understand by Brahman's nature being hidden. You will perhaps say 'the fact of its not being illumined.' But how, we ask, can there be absence of illumination of the nature of that whose very nature consists in consciousness of Self, i.e. self-illumination? If you reply that even that whose nature is consciousness of Self may be in the state of its nature not being illumined by an outside agency, we point out that as according to you light cannot be considered us an attribute, but constitutes the very nature of Brahman, it would--illumination coming from an external agency--follow that the very nature of Brahman can be destroyed from the outside. This we have already remarked.--Further, your view implies on the one hand that this non-knowledge which is the cause of the concealment of Brahman's nature hides Brahman in so far as Brahman is conscious of it, and on the other hand that having hidden Brahman, it becomes the object of consciousness on the part of Brahman; and this evidently constitutes a logical see-saw. You will perhaps say that it hides Brahman in so far only as Brahman is conscious of it. But, we point out, if the consciousness of ajñāna takes place on the part of a Brahman whose nature is not hidden, the whole hypothesis of the 'hiding' of Brahman's nature loses its purport, and with it the fundamental hypothesis as to the nature of ajñāna; for if Brahman may be conscious of ajñāna (without a previous obscuration of its nature by ajñāna) it may as well be held to be in the same way conscious of the world, which, by you, is considered to be an effect of ajñāna.
How, further, do you conceive this consciousness of ajñāna on Brahman's part? Is it due to Brahman itself, or to something else? In the former case this consciousness would result from Brahman's essential nature, and hence there would never be any Release. Or else, consciousness of ajñāna constituting the nature of Brahman, which is admittedly pure consciousness, in the same way as the consciousness of false silver is terminated by that cognition which assimilates the silver, so some terminating act of cognition would eventually put an end to Brahman's essential nature itself.--On the second alternative we ask what that something else should be. If you reply 'another ajñāna,' we are led into a regressus in infinitum.--Let it then be said that ajñāna having first hidden Brahman then becomes the object of its consciousness. This, we reply, would imply that ajñāna acting like a defect of the eye by its very essential being hides Brahman, and then ajñāna could not be assimilated by knowledge. Let us then put the case as follows:--Ajñāna, which is by itself beginningless, at the very same time effects Brahman's witnessing it (being conscious of it), and Brahman's nature being hidden; in this way the regressus in infinitum and other difficulties will be avoided.--But this also we cannot admit; for Brahman is essentially consciousness of Self, and cannot become a witnessing principle unless its nature be previously hidden.--Let then Brahman be hidden by some other cause!--This, we reply, would take away from ajñāna its alleged beginninglessness, and further would also lead to an infinite regress. And if Brahman were assumed to become a witness, without its essential nature being hidden, it could not possess--what yet it is maintained to possess--the uniform character of consciousness of Self.--If, moreover, Brahman is hidden by avidyā, does it then not shine forth at all, or does it shine forth to some extent? On the former alternative the not shining forth of Brahman--whose nature is mere light--reduces it to an absolute non-entity. Regarding the latter alternative we ask, 'of Brahman, which is of an absolutely homogeneous nature, which part do you consider to be concealed, and which to shine forth?' To that substance which is pure light, free from all division and distinction, there cannot belong two modes of being, and hence obscuration and light cannot abide in it together.--Let us then say that Brahman, which is homogeneous being, intelligence, bliss, has its nature obscured by avidyā, and hence is seen indistinctly as it were.--But how, we ask, are we to conceive the distinctness or indistinctness of that whose nature is pure light? When an object of light which has parts and distinguishing attributes appears in its totality, we say that it appears distinctly; while we say that its appearance is indistinct when some of its attributes do not appear. Now in those aspects of the thing which do not appear, light (illumination) is absent altogether, and hence we cannot there speak of indistinctness of light; in those parts on the other hand which do appear, the light of which they are the object is distinct. Indistinctness is thus not possible at all where there is light. In the case of such things as are apprehended as objects, indistinctness may take place, viz. in so far as some of their distinguishing attributes are not apprehended. But in Brahman, which is not an object, without any distinguishing attributes, pure light, the essential nature of which it is to shine forth, indistinctness which consists in the non-apprehension of certain attributes can in no way be conceived, and hence not be explained as the effect of avidyā.
We, moreover, must ask the following question: 'Is this indistinctness which you consider an effect of avidyā put an end to by the rise of true knowledge or not?' On the latter alternative there would be no final release. In the former case we have to ask of what nature Reality is. 'It is of an essentially clear and distinct nature.' Does this nature then exist previously (to the cessation of indistinctness), or not? If it does, there is no room whatever either for indistinctness the effect of avidyā, or for its cessation. If it does not previously exist, then Release discloses itself as something to be effected, and therefore non-eternal.--And that such non-knowledge is impossible because there is no definable substrate for it we have shown above.--He, moreover, who holds the theory of error resting on a non-real defect, will find it difficult to prove the impossibility of error being without any substrate; for, if the cause of error may be unreal, error may be supposed to take place even in case of its substrate being unreal. And the consequence of this would be the theory of a general Void.
The assertion, again, that non-knowledge as a positive entity is proved by Inference, also is groundless. But the inference was actually set forth!--True; but it was set forth badly. For the reason you employed for proving ajñāna. is a so-called contradictory one (i.e. it proves the contrary of what it is meant to prove), in so far as it proves what is not desired and what is different from ajñāna (for what it proves is that there is a certain knowledge, viz. that all knowledge resting on valid means of proof has non- knowledge for its antecedent). (And with regard to this knowledge again we must ask whether it also has non-knowledge for its antecedent.) If the reason (relied on in all this argumentation) does not prove, in this case also, the antecedent existence of positive non-knowledge, it is too general (and hence not to be trusted in any case). If, on the other hand, it does prove antecedent non-knowledge, then this latter non- knowledge stands in the way of the non-knowledge (which you try to prove by inference) being an object of consciousness, and thus the whole supposition of ajñāna as an entity becomes useless.
The proving instance, moreover, adduced by our opponent, has no proving power; for the light of a lamp does not possess the property of illumining things not illumined before. Everywhere illumining power belongs to knowledge only; there may be light, but if there is not also Knowledge there is no lighting up of objects. The senses also are only causes of the origination of knowledge, and possess no illumining power. The function of the light of the lamp on the other hand is a merely auxiliary one, in so far as it dispels the darkness antagonistic to the organ of sight which gives rise to knowledge; and it is only with a view to this auxiliary action that illumining power is conventionally ascribed to the lamp.--But in using the light of the lamp as a proving instance, we did not mean to maintain that it possesses illumining power equal to that of light; we introduced it merely with reference to the illumining power of knowledge, in so far as preceded by the removal of what obscures its object!--We refuse to accept this explanation. Illumining power does not only mean the dispelling of what is antagonistic to it, but also the defining of things, i.e. the rendering them capable of being objects of empirical thought and speech; and this belongs to knowledge only (not to the light of the lamp). If you allow the power of illumining what was not illumined, to auxiliary factors also, you must first of all allow it to the senses which are the most eminent factors of that kind; and as in their case there exists no different thing to be terminated by their activity, (i.e. nothing analogous to the ajñāna to be terminated by knowledge), this whole argumentation is beside the point.
There are also formal inferences, opposed to the conclusion of the Pūrvapakshin.--Of the ajñāna under discussion, Brahman, which is mere knowledge, is not the substrate, just because it is ajñāna; as shown by the case of the non-knowledge of the shell (mistaken for silver) and similar cases; for such non- knowledge abides within the knowing subject.--The ajñāna under discussion does not obscure knowledge, just because it is ajñāna; as shown by the cases of the shell, etc.; for such non-knowledge hides the object.--Ajñāna is not terminated by knowledge, because it does not hide the object of knowledge; whatever non-knowledge is terminated by knowledge, is such as to hide the object of knowledge; as e.g. the non-knowledge of the shell.--Brahman is not the substrate of ajñāna, because it is devoid of the character of knowing subject; like jars and similar things.--Brahman is not hidden by ajñāna, because it is not the object of knowledge; whatever is hidden by non- knowledge is the object of knowledge; so e.g. shells and similar things.--Brahman is not connected with non-knowledge to be terminated by knowledge, because it is not the object of knowledge; whatever is connected with non-knowledge to be terminated by knowledge is an object of knowledge; as e.g. shells and the like. Knowledge based on valid means of proof, has not for its antecedent, non-knowledge other than the antecedent non-existence of knowledge; just because it is knowledge based on valid proof; like that valid knowledge which proves the ajñāna maintained by you.--Knowledge does not destroy a real thing, because it is knowledge in the absence of some specific power strengthening it; whatever is capable of destroying things is--whether it be knowledge or ajñāna--strengthened by some specific power; as e.g. the knowledge of the Lord and of Yogins; and as the ajñāna consisting in a pestle (the blow of which destroys the pot).
Ajñāna which has the character of a positive entity cannot be destroyed by knowledge; just because it is a positive entity, like jars and similar things.
But, it now may be said, we observe that fear and other affections, which are positive entities and produced by previous cognitions, are destroyed by assimilative acts of cognition!--Not so, we reply. Those affections are not destroyed by knowledge; they rather pass away by themselves, being of a momentary (temporary) nature only, and on the cessation of their cause they do not arise again. That they are of a momentary nature only, follows from their being observed only in immediate connexion with the causes of their origination, and not otherwise. If they were not of a temporary nature, each element of the stream of cognitions, which are the cause of fear and the like, would give rise to a separate feeling of fear, and the result would be that there would be consciousness of many distinct feelings of fear (and this we know not to be the case).--In conclusion we remark that in defining right knowledge as 'that which has for its antecedent another entity, different from its own antecedent non- existence,' you do not give proof of very eminent logical acuteness; for what sense has it to predicate of an entity that it is different from nonentity?--For all these reasons Inference also does not prove an ajñāna which is a positive entity. And that it is not proved by Scripture and arthāpatti, will be shown later on. And the reasoning under Sū. II, 1, 4. will dispose of the argument which maintains that of a false thing the substantial cause also must be false.
We thus see that there is no cognition of any kind which has for its object a Nescience of 'inexplicable' nature.--Nor can such an inexplicable entity be admitted on the ground of apprehension, erroneous apprehension and sublation. For that only which is actually apprehended, can be the object of apprehension, error and sublation, and we have no right to assume, as an object of these states of consciousness, something which is apprehended neither by them nor any other state of consciousness.--'But in the case of the shell, etc., silver is actually apprehended, and at the same time there arises the assimilating consciousness "this silver is not real," and it is not possible that one thing should appear as another; we therefore are driven to the hypothesis that owing to some defect, we actually apprehend silver of an altogether peculiar kind, viz. such as can be defined neither as real nor as unreal.'--This also we cannot allow, since this very assumption necessarily implies that one thing appears as another. For apprehension, activity, sublation, and erroneous cognition, all result only from one thing appearing as another, and it is not reasonable to assume something altogether non-perceived and groundless. The silver, when apprehended, is not apprehended as something 'inexplicable,' but as something real; were it apprehended under the former aspect it could be the object neither of erroneous nor of assimilative cognition, nor would the apprehending person endeavour to seize it. For these reasons you (the anirva-kaniyatva-vādin) also must admit that the actual process is that of one thing appearing as another.
Those also who hold other theories as to the kind of cognition under discussion (of which the shell, mistaken for silver, is an instance) must--whatsoever effort they may make to avoid it--admit that their theory finally implies the appearing of one thing as another. The so-called asatkhyāti-view implies that the non-existing appears as existing; the ātma-khyāti-view, that the Self--which here means 'cognition'-- appears as a thing; and the akhyāti-view, that the attribute of one thing appears as that of another, that two acts of cognition appear as one, and--on the view of the non-existence of the object--that the non- existing appears as existing.
Moreover, if you say that there is originated silver of a totally new inexplicable kind, you are bound to assign the cause of this origination. This cause cannot be the perception of the silver; for the perception has the silver for its object, and hence has no existence before the origination of the silver. And should you say that the perception, having arisen without an object, produces the silver and thereupon makes it its object, we truly do not know what to say to such excellent reasoning!--Let it then be said that the cause is some defect in the sense-organ.--This, too, is inadmissible; for a defect abiding in the percipient person cannot produce an objective effect.--Nor can the organs of sense (apart from defects) give rise to the silver; for they are causes of cognitions only (not of things cognised). Nor, again, the sense-organs in so far as modified by some defect; for they also can only produce modifications in what is effected by them, i.e. cognition. And the hypothesis of a beginningless, false ajñāna constituting the general material cause of all erroneous cognitions has been refuted above.
How is it, moreover, that this new and inexplicable thing (which you assume to account for the silver perceived on the shell) becomes to us the object of the idea and word 'silver,' and not of some other idea and term, e.g. of a jar?--If you reply that this is due to its similarity to silver, we point out that in that case the idea and the word presenting themselves to our mind should be that of 'something resembling silver.' Should you, on the other hand, say that we apprehend the thing as silver because it possesses the generic characteristics of silver, we ask whether these generic characteristics are real or unreal. The former alternative is impossible, because something real cannot belong to what is unreal; and the latter is impossible because something unreal cannot belong to what is real.
But we need not extend any further this refutation of an altogether ill-founded theory.