Vedanta Paribhasha [Summary]

Vedanta Paribhasha of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra
A Summary
By S. N. Sastri

The Vedanta-Paribhasha is an epistemological work on Advaita Vedanta as interpreted by the Vivarana school of Prakasatma Yati, the commentator on Padmapada's Panchapadika. The author is believed to have lived in the seventeenth century in South India. In this work he has adopted the method and phraseology of Navya-Nyaya, introduced by Gangesa Upadhyaya in the fourteenth century.

(Epistemology is the study of the origin, nature and validity of knowledge).

The work begins with the following prayer:

I bow to that Supreme Self, the embodiment of Existence, Knowledge and Bliss, by the manifestation of the nescience associated with which thep rojection of the elements and all things made up of the elements takes place.

The first six chapters are devoted to establishing the means of valid knowledge (pramanas) from the standpoint of Vedanta, refuting the other systems of philosophy, particularly Nyaya-Vaiseshika.

The pramanas according to the various systems

Charvakas - Only perception (Pratyaksha).

Buddhists and Vaiseshikas - Perception and Inference

(Pratyaksha and Anumana)

Sankhya and Yoga - Perception, Inference and Verbal testimony (Pratyaksha, Anumana and Sabda).

Nyaya - Perception, Inference, Verbal testimony and Comparison (Pratyaksha, Anumana, Sabda and Upamana).

Prabhakara Mimamsa - Perception, Inference, Verbal testimony, Comparison and Presumption (Pratyaksha, Anumana, Sabda, Upamana and Arthapatti).

Vedanta and Bhatta Mimamsa - Perception, Inference, Verbal testimony, Comparison, Presumption and Non-apprehension (Pratyaksha, Anumana,Sabda, Upamana, Arthapatti and Anupalabdhi).

The Naiyayikas include presumption under inference, but this is rejected by Vedanta on the ground that presumption is based on negative invariable concomitance (vyatireka-vyapti) which Vedanta does not admit, since Vedanta admits only affirmative inference.

Valid knowledge and its means

Valid knowledge (prama) is defined as that knowledge which has for its object something that is not already known and is uncontradicted (anadhigata-abaadhita-arthavishayaka-jnaanam). The qualification 'something that is not already known' is meant to exclude recollection. The word 'un-contradicted' excludes illusion or error, as when a rope is mistaken for a snake.

The Mimamsakas hold that time is also cognised through the organs of sense. Thus, when an object is seen, the cognition is connected with the moment when it is seen. As a result, when an object is seen continuously for several moments, the cognition at each moment is considered to be different from the cognition of the same object at the previous or next moment. In this view, the cognition at each moment is a new cognition and so the qualification 'something that is not already known' applies and the definition is applicable. According to Vedanta, however, a continuous cognition for several moments is one single cognition. The knowledge of a pot, for example, is Consciousness reflected in the mental modification (vritti) in the form of the pot and this is just one throughout the time the same pot continues to be seen. In this view also the definition applies.

Objection: According to Advaita Vedanta, all objects such as pot are unreal, being 'mithya', and so the knowledge of the pot is contradicted and it cannot be valid knowledge.

Answer: It is only after the realisation of Brahman that the pot is contradicted. In the above definition, 'uncontradicted' means 'not contradicted during the transmigratory state'.

Perception as a means of knowledge

Valid perceptual knowledge is nothing but Pure Consciousness.

Objection: Consciousness is without a beginning; i.e. it is eternal. So why should it need the eye, etc as an instrument to produce it?

Answer: Although Consciousness is eternal, the vritti that reveals it arises only through the contact of the organ with the object. It is Consciousness reflected in the vritti that is spoken of as having a beginning. The vritti is figuratively designated as knowledge (though it is by itself insentient).

The mind is a substance with a beginning and so it has parts. The knowledge which is a mental modification (vritti) is an attribute of the mind, just as desire, etc are. See Br.up. 1.5.3-- "Desire, resolve, --- all these are but the mind".

Though desire, etc are attributes of the mind, they are wrongly thought to be attributes of the self, in the same way as it is said that a hot iron rod 'burns' when it is really the fire that burns. The false identification of the self with the mind is the reason for considering desire, happiness, etc as attributes of the self.

According to the author of Vedanta Paribhasha the mind is not an organ. (However, in the Bhashya on Brahmasutra, 2.4.17, Sri Sankara says:-- In the Smriti the organs are counted as eleven, and hence the mind also is accepted to be an organ like those of hearing, etc. The Smriti referred to here is Bhagavad gita, 13.5, second line. In the Bhashya on this it is said, "The five organs, ear etc., which are called the sense organs and the five organs which accomplish actions, and the mind, the eleventh". According to Vivarana, the mind is not an indriya, but according to Bhamati it is an indriya).

Objection: If the mind is not considered as an indriya, the perception of happiness, etc, which is produced by the mind, and not by any of the other sense-organ such as the eye, cannot be considered to be immediate (sakshat), because only perceptions produced by an indriya can be accepted as immediate.

Answer: No, because the immediacy of knowledge does not depend on its being produced by an indriya. If it is contended that only knowledge produced by an indriya is immediate, it would mean that God's knowledge, which is not produced by any indriya, is not immediate, and God would never have any perceptual knowledge. On the other hand, if all knowledge produced by an indriya is considered as immediate, and the mind is considered as an indriya, then inference, which is produced by the mind, would also have to be accepted as immediate, which is not acceptable to any one.

What is perceptual knowledge?

Perceptual knowledge (pratyaksha jnanam) arises when the Consciousness limited by the mental mode (pramana chaitanyam) coincides with the Consciousness limited by the object. In perception the Consciousness becomes three fold-- (1) Consciousness limited by the object (prameya-chaitanyam), (2) Consciousness limited by the mental mode (vritti) (pramana-chaitanyam) and (3) Consciousness limited by the mind (pramatr-chaitanyam).

The process of visual perception, according to Advaita Vedanta , is described in chapter 1 of Vedanta Paribhashathus. Just as the water in a tank, issuing through a hole, enters, through a channel, a number of fields and assumes the shapes of those fields, so also the luminous mind, stretching out through the eye, goes to the space occupied by objects and becomes modified into the forms of those objects. Such a modification is called a vritti of the mind. The same fact is also stated in Panchadasi, 4.27, 28 and 29, based on Sri Sankara's Upadesasahasri, Metrical portion, chapter 14, verses 3 &4. The whole process of visual perception consists of the following steps:--

(1) The mind stretches out through the eye, reaches the object and takes the form of the object. This is called a vrtti or mode of the mind.

(2) The mental mode removes the veil of ignorance that hides the object.

(3) Consciousness underlying the object, being manifest through the mental mode, illumines the object.

(4) The mental mode associates the object-consciousness with the subject-consciousness.

(5) The subject perceives the object.

Consciousness manifest through the mental mode coincident with the object serves as the knowledge of the object. This is known as phala (fruit), being the resultant knowledge.

The mind has three main divisions in this process, namely,

(1) the part within the body,

(2) the part that extends from the body to the object perceived,

(3) the part that coincides with the object.

The first part above is known as pramaataa and the consciousness manifest in it is called pramaata-chaitanya. This is the perceiver. The consciousness manifest in the second part is called pramaana-chaitanya,or the means of knowledge. The consciousness manifest in the third partis pramiti-chaitanya or percept.

The object perceived is called prameya. Since the third part of the mind mentioned above coincides with the object, prameya-chaitanya, the consciousness underlying the object and pramiti-chaitanya become identical. The point to be kept in mind here is that all objects in this world are superimposed on Consciousness, i.e. Brahman. All objects are covered by a veil of ignorance, which has to be removed for seeing the object. It is only consciousness that reveals the objects, since the objects themselves are non-luminous.

The object perceived is but the underlying consciousness manifest or appearing as such. It has no existence apart from the all-pervading Consciousness. That all-pervading Consciousness (Brahma-chaitanya) which underlies the object known, that is to say, to be known, becomes manifest as the object known".

(This matter is dealt with in great detail in Panchadasi, chapter VIII- Kutastha dipa.)

In the case of feelings such as happiness, since the Consciousness limited by happiness, etc., coincides with the Consciousness limited by the vritti in the form of happiness, the knowledge in the form "I am happy' is also a perception (pratyakshajnanam).

Objection: In that case, recollection of past happiness would also have to be considered as pratyaksha.

Answer: No; the two limiting adjuncts, the vritti in the form of recollection and the vritti in the form of past happiness, belong to different times and so they cannot coincide. The criterion is that the two limiting adjuncts must occupy the same space at the same time.

Though punya and papa are also attributes of the mind, they are, by nature, incapable of being perceived. Capability of being perceived is another criterion.

The knowledge in the form 'the hill has fire' is pratyaksha in respect of the hill and anumana in respect of fire. Knowledge such as 'this is a fragrant piece of sandal' is aparoksham (immediate) in respect of the sandal, but paroksham (mediate) in respect of the fragrance. According to Nyaya, such a knowledge is called jnanalakshana pratyaksha (See Bhasha-Pariccheda- sl. 65).

(Nyaya recognises ordinary (laukika) and extra-ordinary (alaukika) perception. Ordinary or laukika perception is of two kinds- (1) internal (maanasa), where the mind comes into contact with psychical states and processes like cognition, affection, conation, desire, pain, pleasure, aversion, etc; and (2) external perception in which the five external organs of sense come into contact with external objects.

Extra-ordinary oralaukika perception is of three kinds-- samanyalakshana, jnanalakshana and yogaja. The first is the perception of the universals. Whenever we perceive a particular cow we first perceive the ‘universal cowness' inhering in it.

Jnanalakshana is the ‘complicated perception through association'. For example, I see a blooming rose at a distance and say, "I see a fragrant rose". Here the visual perception of the rose revives in memory, by association, the idea of fragrance, which was perceived in the past through the nose. It is perception revived in memory through the cognition (jnana) of the object in the past. Other examples are-‘the piece of sandalwood looks fragrant', ‘ice looks cold', etc. The theory of anyathakhyati is based on this kind of perception. Anyatha means ‘otherwise' and ‘elsewhere'. The shell and the silver are both separately real; only their synthesis is unreal. The shell is directly present as ‘this' while the silver exists elsewhere and is revived in memory through jnanalakshana perception.

Yogaja is the perception of all objects, past, present, etc, through yogic power.)

Ageneric attribute (jati) is a distinct category according to Nyaya and is defined as "that which is eternal and inherent in many things", for example, jarhood (ghatatva). Vedanta does not accept such generic attributes. According to Vedanta, jarhood is the sum total of the characteristics of a jar, which distinguishes it from other things. It is not eternal. These characteristics are just attributes.

According to Nyaya, inherence (samavaya) is eternal relation. It is the relation between the whole and parts, jati and vyakti, qualities or actions and the substances possessing them, and ultimate difference (visesha) and the eternal substances-- atoms, ether, time, space, etc. Vedanta denies inherence and substitutes tadatmya, or difference-cum- identity,

Knowledge that is limited by mental modifications in the form of particular objects is a perception in respect of such knowledge, when it is not different from the Consciousness limited by objects that are present and are capable of being apprehended by particular organs.

This is a comprehensive statement about the criterion of perceptuality of knowledge.

The perceptuality of objects

The perceptuality of objects such as a jar (which are superimposed on the Consciousness limited by them), consists in their not being different from the Consciousness associated with the subject (pramaata-chaitanyam).

But in the case of inference, etc, since the mind does not go out to the space covered by the fire, etc, the Consciousness limited by the fire is not one with the Consciousness associated with the subject, and therefore the existence of the fire, etc, is distinct from that of the subject. So the definition of perception does not wrongly extend to such cases.

In the case of an inference regarding righteousness and unrighteousness, though the Consciousness limited by them is not distinct from the Consciousness associated with the subject, they cannot become pratyaksha because they are not capable of being perceived.

Being cognised by the witness alone (kevalasakshi-vedyatvam) does not mean that they are objects of the witness without the presence of the mental modifications corresponding to them, but that they are objects of the witness without the activity of pramanas such as the sense-organs and inference. Hence Prakasatmayati has, in Vivarana, admitted a mental modification in the form of the ego-- ahamakara-vritti. So also, in the case of an illusory piece of silver, a vritti of nescience in the form of silver (rajata-akara-avidya-vritti) has been admitted in works such as Samkshepa-sariraka. The illusory silver is 'sakshi-bhasyam', cognised by the witness-self, since the mental modification is not of the vyavaharika mind, but is a vritti of avidya. (See page 22 of commentary by Abhyankar on Siddhantabindu). Thus, an object is said to be cognised by perception when it is capable of being perceived and is devoid of any existence apart from that of the Consciousness associated with the subject, which Consciousness has for its limiting adjunct a mental modification in the form of that object.

Samyoga - conjunction - when a sense-organ is in contact with a substance such as a pot. This is called samyoga in Nyaya also.

Samyukta-tadatmya- contact of organ with qualities and other attributes of substances, such as the colour of a pot. Here the organ is connected with the pot and the colour, according to Vedanta, is identical with the pot. This is called samyukta-samavaya in Nyaya.

Sound is a quality of ether and is therefore identical with it.

Sabdatva is identical with sound, which is identical with ether.

In Nyaya the conjunction of organs with objects which causes perception is of six kinds:--

Samyoga - contact of a pot by the eye.

Samyukta-samavaya - in the perception of colour of the pot.

Samyukta-samaveta-samavaya- the perception of the universal genus such as rupatva, colourness. In Vedanta this is called samyukta-abhinna-tadatmya.

Samavaya - the hearing of sound by the organ of hearing, which is the ether in the cavity of the ear. Sound is a quality of ether and quality and the qualified are connected by samavaya.

Samaveta-samavaya - the contact in cognising soundness.

Viseshana-viseshya-bhava-sannikarsha- the conjunction in the perception of negation, as in the cognition: ghata-abhavavad-bhutalam.

Vedanta denies the relation of viseshya-viseshana-bhava admitted by Nyaya, as in the sentence "The ground has no jar". For tadatmya Nyaya substitutes samavaya or inherence.

In Nyaya also, sound is a quality of ether. Sinceq ualities inhere in substances, they cannot be perceived apart from the latter, except in the case of sound, which, though a quality, is perceived by itself.

According to Bhatta Mimamsa, however, sound is a substance.

Savikalpaka-pratyaksham- determinate perception, is that knowledge which apprehends relatedness (of the substantive and the qualifying attribute) (vaisishtya), such as, "I know the jar". (Here there is the relation of subject and object). In Nyaya determinate perception is cognition which involves an attribute or an adjunct, such as "This is a Brahmana", "This is black", "This is a cook". See page 163 of A Primer of Indian Logic by Prof. S. Kuppuswami Sastri).

Nirvikalpaka-pratyaksha - indeterminate perception, is that knowledge that does not apprehend this relatedness; for example, knowledge arising from sentences like, "This is that Devadatta" or "Thou art That". In these cases the knowledge arises by ignoring the particular features of 'This' and 'Devadatta' or 'Thou' and 'That'. In Nyaya indeterminate perception is a cognition which does not involve any attribute or adjunct (prakara).

The criterion of perception is not the fact of its being due to an organ. The criterion is the fact of the Consciousness associated with the means of knowledge not being different from the Consciousness associated with the object, when the object is present and is capable of being perceived, i.e., the identity of pramana-chaitanya and prameya-chaitanya.

Hence the knowledge arising from the sentence "Thou art That" is pratyaksha, because the subject itself being the object, the condition about the identity of the Consciousness limited by That and that limited by Thou is satisfied.

There is a difference between perceptuality of cognition and perceptuality of objects. In the inference, 'The hill has fire, because it has smoke', both the hill and the smoke are objects of perception, but not the fire, which is inferred. Hence, if the perception is considered only with regard to the objects, then the knowledge of the fire would not be a perception. But if perceptuality is considered in respect of the cognition, the cognition of fire is a case of perception, since all knowledge is perceptual in respect of itself in Vedanta.

Dream Perception

Consciousness, which is self-effulgent, is the sub-stratum of the chariot, etc, seen in dream. They are experienced as existent; hence it is Consciousness manifesting itself as Existence that is the substratum.

Some hold that the chariot, etc, seen in dream are direct transformations of Maya; others that they are its transformations through the medium of the mind.

Two fold destruction of effects

The destruction of an effect is of two kinds. In one the destruction is together with that of the material cause, and in the other the material cause remains intact. The first is nullification or badha and the second is cessationor nivrtti. The cause of the first is the realisation of the truth of the substratum, Brahman for, without that, nescience, which is the material cause, is not removed. The cause of the second is the rise of a contrary mental modification, or the removal of defects. Hence, although on waking up the world conjured up in dream may not be nullified, i.e., destroyed with its material cause, nescience, in the absence of realisation of Brahman, yet, like the cessation of a pot by the blow of a club, the cessation of the chariot seen in dream occurs as a result of a contrary cognition, or through the removal of the defect of sleep.

Thus, according to the view that the silver seen in a nacre is an effect of the subsidiary nescience abiding in the Consciousness limited by the nacre, there is nullification of the silver together with the nescience regarding the nacre by the knowledge that the apparent silver is only nacre. But according to the view that the silver is an effect of the primal nescience, since the latter is destroyed only by the realisation of Brahman, there is just a cessation of the silver through the knowledge that it is a nacre-- as in the case of the destruction of a pot through the blow of a club.

Perception through or without an organ

The perception of happiness, etc, is not due to an organ, since the mind is not considered as an organ. The nose, tongue and skin generate cognitions of smell, taste and touch, just remaining at their seats, while the eye and ear apprehend their objects by themselves reaching the spot occupied by the objects.

From Methods of Knowledge - p.112:

According to Nyaya, the cognition 'This is a jar is manifested by a subsequent reflective knowledge (anuvyavasaya) in the form of 'I have the knowledge of the jar'. But according to Bhatta Mimamsa, the knowledge of the jar is known by inference. When the jar is known it acquires the quality of 'knownness' (jnaatataa), which is observable. By perceiving this mark of 'knownness' in the jar one infers one's antecedent knowledge of the jar. Thus, while the jar is known directly, its knowledge is known indirectly, by inference. Both Bhatta and Nyaya hold the theory known as paratah-prakasa-vada, according to which the manifestation of a particular knowledge does not rest on itself, but on another knowledge.

Vedanta rejects both the above views. If knowledge is not self-manifest, if one knowledge depends on another for its manifestation, then the second would depend on a third, and so on, ad infinitum.

From Gangesa's Theory of Truth-- by Jitendranath Mohanty p. 3:

The theory of svatah- pramanya:

Advaita, and the Bhatta, Prabhakara and Misra Mimamsa.


Bauddhas and Nyaya.


Advaita, Prabhakara Mimamsa and Bauddhas.


Misra and Bhatta Mimamsa and Nyaya.

Prakasa is concerned with the apprehension of the knowledge itself. It asks the question, how is the knowledge itself known? How do I know that I know?

Pramanya is about how a knowledge becomes true and how is its truth ascertained.


Inference or anumaana is defined as that cognition which presupposes some other cognition. It is knowledge which arises (anu) after another knowledge. It is mediate and indirect and arises through a mark, linga or hetu (middle term) which is invariably connected with the saadhya (the major term). Invariable concomitance (vyaapti) is the nerve of inference. The presence of the linga in the paksha (minor term) is called pakshadharmataa. The invariable association of the linga with the saadhya is called vyaapti.

According to Nyaya, anumaana (inference) is the efficient instrument (karana) of inferential knowledge (anumiti). Anumiti is knowledge that arises from paraamarsa. Paraamarsa is a complex cognition which arises from a combination of the knowledge of invariable concomitance (vyaaptijnaana) and that of the presence of the linga in the paksha -- technically known aspaksha dharmataa jnaana.

From 'A Primer of Indian Logic', page 194:

Paraamarsa is an indispensable antecedent and should, therefore, be treated as the cause of anumiti. It is contended by the Naiyayikas that, in the absence of such a paraamarsa, anumiti does not arise. Paraamarsa is also known as linga paraamarsa or tritiya linga paraamarsa (the third cognition of the reason). The cognition of the presence of the linga in the paksha may be said to be the first linga paraamarsa; the cognition of the invariable concomitance is the second. The complex cognition which arises from these two cognitions is the third.

The Mimamsakas and the Advaitins hold that the complex cognition called paraamarsa is not indispensable for anumiti, though it may actually arise just before anumiti in many cases. They therefore maintain that it would be necessary to treat anumiti as the effect of vyaapti jnaana and paksha dharmataa jnana and to exclude paraamarsa from the causal complement of anumiti.

From Methods of Knowledge, page 146:

According to Advaita, the instrument of inferential knowledge is the knowledge of invariable concomitance, the latent impression of which knowledge is the cause. As soon as a person who has gained from previous experience the knowledge of the invariable concomitance between smoke and fire sees smoke on a hill, the latent impression of this knowledge is revived within him and immediately follows the conclusion, 'The hill has fire'. Hence the interposition of the third consideration of the mark is redundant.

Major term - saadhya - fire - probandum

Minor term - paksha - hill

Middle term - linga or hetu - smoke - probans

Anupaadhi in Nyaaya is an adventitious factor which is invariably concomitant with the probandum and not so with the probans. The relation of vyaapti embodied in the proposition--- "Wherever there is fire, there is smoke"-- is not a necessary and unconditioned relation and depends upon the association of fire with the adventitious contact of wet fuel with fire. Such an adventitious circumstance is called upaadhi. It is called upaadhi because its invariable concomitance with the probandum (fire) comes to be erroneously associated with the probans (smoke), just in the same way as the redness of a flower is erroneously associated with a crystal in its vicinity.

In a statement of vyaapti, the vyaapya (pervaded - smoke) should be first referred to and the vyaapaka (pervader - fire) should be the principal predicate.

Nyaya postulates five component parts in the syllogism:

Pratijnaa - The proposition

Hetu - reason

Udaaharana - example

Upanaya - application

Nigamana - conclusion.

According to Advaita Vedanta only the first three steps or the last three are necessary.

The Naiyayikas classify inference into three different types, as below:

Anvaya-vyatireki- in which the invariable concomitance can be either affirmative or negative, e.g. - 'Wherever there is smoke, there is fire, as in a kitchen', and, 'Where there is no fire, there is no smoke, as in a lake'.

Kevala-vyatireki - that which is based solely on negative invariable concomitance, e.g. - 'Whoever is not omniscient is not the creator'. The inference, 'God is omniscient, because He is the Creator' is based on this negative invariable concomitance. No knowledge of affirmative invariable concomitance is possible in this case, because the co-presence of Omniscience and Creatorship cannot be seen anywhere.

Kevala-anvayi- This is where the sadhya is present everywhere, e.g. - 'The jar is nameable, because it is knowable', because name ability (the thing inferred), is present everywhere. This inference is based solely on the affirmative invariable concomitance, namely, 'Whatever is knowable is nameable'. Here negative invariable concomitance is not possible.

The Advaitins, like the Mimamsakas, do not acknowledge negative invariable concomitance - kevala-vyatireki, because, according to them, knowledge of negative invariable concomitance is not possible without the knowledge of affirmative invariable concomitance. The conclusion derived from negative invariable concomitance is treated as arthaapatti. Both anvaya-vyatireki and kevala-vyatireki are rejected by them and only anvayi is accepted. This includes the type of inference designated as kevala-anvayi by the Naiyayikas. But Advaitins repudiate the latter term as too narrow.

In Vedanta, as in Nyaya, inference is twofold - that for oneself and that for others.

Inference for oneself:

The inferential knowledge, "The hill has fire", arises when one has knowledge of the reason (smoke) being present in the thing (hill) where something (fire) is to be inferred, in the form, "This has smoke", and there is awakening of the latent impression left by previous experience, in the form, "Smoke is a subordinate concomitant of fire". The knowledge "The hill has fire" is inferential only in respect of the fire, and not in respect of the hill, because the knowledge of the hill is a perception.

Inference for others:

This requires the help of syllogisms. The component parts of a syllogism have already been given above.

The three levels of reality

According to Advaita Vedanta there are three levels of reality- absolute (paaramaarthika), empirical (vyaavahaarika) and illusory (praatibhaasika). Brahman alone is absolute reality. Everything in the universe has only empirical reality, i.e. they are real only till the dawn of Self-knowledge. Things such the illusory snake appearing on rope, silver on shell, objects experienced in dream, have only illusory reality.

The unreality of the universe is inferred from the statements in the srutis that there is nothing other than Brahman.