In cases of Scripture conflicting with Perception, Scripture is not stronger. The True cannot be known through the Untrue.
With reference to the assertion ( that Perception, which depends on the view of plurality, is based on some defect and hence admits of being otherwise accounted for--whence it follows that it is sublated by Scripture; we ask you to point out what defect it is on which Perception is based and may hence be accounted for otherwise.--' The beginningless imagination of difference' we expect you to reply.--But, we ask in return, have you then come to know by some other means that this beginningless imagination of difference, acting in a manner analogous to that of certain defects of vision, is really the cause of an altogether perverse view of things?--If you reply that this is known just from the fact that Perception is in conflict with Scripture, we point out that you are reasoning in a circle: you prove the defectiveness of the imagination of plurality through the fact that Scripture tells us about a substance devoid of all difference; and at the same time you prove the latter point through the former. Moreover, if Perception gives rise to perverse cognition because it is based on the imagination of plurality, Scripture also is in no better case--for it is based on the very same view.--If against this you urge that Scripture, although based on a defect, yet sublates Perception in so far as it is the cause of a cognition which dispels all plurality apprehended through Perception, and thus is later in order than Perception; we rejoin that the defectiveness of the foundation of Scripture having once been recognised, the circumstance of its being later is of no avail. For if a man is afraid of a rope which he mistakes for a snake his fear does not come to an end because another man, whom he considers to be in error himself, tells him 'This is no snake, do not be afraid.' And that Scripture is founded on something defective is known at the very time of hearing Scripture, for the reflection (which follows on hearing) consists in repeated attempts to cognise the oneness of Brahman--a cognition which is destructive of all the plurality apprehended
through the first hearing of the Veda.--We further ask, 'By what means do you arrive at the conclusion that Scripture cannot possibly be assumed to be defective in any way, while defects may be ascribed to Perception'? It is certainly not Consciousness--self-proved and absolutely devoid of all difference--which enlightens you on this point; for such Consciousness is unrelated to any objects whatever, and incapable of partiality to Scripture. Nor can sense-perception be the source of your conviction; for as it is founded on what is defective it gives perverse information. Nor again the other sources of knowledge; for they are all based on sense-perception. As thus there are no acknowledged means of knowledge to prove your view, you must give it up. But, you will perhaps say, we proceed by means of the ordinary empirical means and objects of knowledge!--What, we ask in reply, do you understand by 'empirical'?--What rests on immediate unreflective knowledge, but is found not to hold good when tested by logical reasoning!--But what is the use, we ask, of knowledge of this kind? If logical reasoning refutes something known through some means of knowledge, that means of knowledge is no longer authoritative!--Now you will possibly argue as follows: 'Scripture as well as Perception is founded on Nescience; but all the same Perception is sublated by Scripture. For as the object of Scripture, i.e. Brahman, which is one and without a second, is not seen to be sublated by any ulterior cognition, Brahman, i.e. pure non-differenced Consciousness, remains as the sole Reality.'--But here too you are wrong, since we must decide that something which rests on a defect is unreal, although it may remain unrefuted. We will illustrate this point by an analogous instance. Let us imagine a race of men afflicted with a certain special defect of vision, without being aware of this their defect, dwelling in some remote mountain caves inaccessible to all other men provided with sound eyes. As we assume all of these cave dwellers to be afflicted with the same defect of vision, they, all of them, will equally see and judge bright things, e.g. the moon, to be double. Now in the case of these people there never arises a subsequent cognition sublating their primitive
cognition; but the latter is false all the same, and its object, viz., the doubleness of the moon, is false likewise; the defect of vision being the cause of a cognition not corresponding to reality.--And so it is with the cognition of Brahman also. This cognition is based on Nescience, and therefore is false, together with its object, viz. Brahman, although no sublating cognition presents itself.--This conclusion admits of various expressions in logical form. 'The Brahman under dispute is false because it is the object of knowledge which has sprung from what is affected with Nescience; as the phenomenal world is.' 'Brahman is false because it is the object of knowledge; as the world is.' 'Brahman is false because it is the object of knowledge, the rise of which has the Untrue for its cause; as the world is.'
You will now perhaps set forth the following analogy. States of dreaming consciousness--such as the perception of elephants and the like in one's dreams--are unreal, and yet they are the cause of the knowledge of real things, viz. good or ill fortune (portended by those dreams). Hence there is no reason why Scripture--although unreal in so far as based on Nescience--should not likewise be the cause of the cognition of what is real, viz. Brahman.--The two cases are not parallel, we reply. The conscious states experienced in dreams are not unreal; it is only their objects that are false; these objects only, not the conscious states, are sublated by the waking consciousness. Nobody thinks 'the cognitions of which I was conscious in my dream are unreal'; what men actually think is 'the cognitions are real, but the things are not real.' In the same way the illusive state of consciousness which the magician produces in the minds of other men by means of mantras, drugs, &c., is true, and hence the cause of love and fear; for such states of consciousness also are not sublated. The cognition which, owing to some defect in the object, the sense organ, &c., apprehends a rope as a snake is real, and hence the cause of fear and other emotions. True also is the imagination which, owing to the nearness of a snake, arises in the mind of a man though not actually bitten, viz. that he has been bitten; true also is the representation of the imagined
poison, for it may be the cause of actual death. In the same way the reflection of the face in the water is real, and hence enables us to ascertain details belonging to the real face. All these states of consciousness are real, as we conclude from their having a beginning and actual effects.--Nor would it avail you to object that in the absence of real elephants, and so on, the ideas of them cannot be real. For ideas require only some substrate in general; the mere appearance of a thing is a sufficient substrate, and such an appearance is present in the case in question, owing to a certain defect. The thing we determine to be unreal because it is sublated; the idea is non-sublated, and therefore real.
Nor can you quote in favour of your view--of the real being known through the unreal--the instance of the stroke and the letter. The letter being apprehended through the stroke (i.e. the written character) does not furnish a case of the real being apprehended through the unreal; for the stroke itself is real.--But the stroke causes the idea of the letter only in so far as it is apprehended as being a letter, and this 'being a letter' is untrue!--Not so, we rejoin. If this 'being a letter' were unreal it could not be a means of the apprehension of the letter; for we neither observe nor can prove that what is non-existent and indefinable constitutes a means.--Let then the idea of the letter constitute the means!--In that case, we rejoin, the apprehension of the real does not spring from the unreal; and besides, it would follow therefrom that the means and what is to be effected thereby would be one, i.e. both would be, without any distinction, the idea of the letter only. Moreover, if the means were constituted by the stroke in so far as it is not the letter, the apprehension of all letters would result from the sight of one stroke; for one stroke may easily be conceived as not being any letter.--But, in the same way as the word 'Devadatta' conventionally denotes some particular man, so some particular stroke apprehended by the eye may conventionally symbolise some particular letter to be apprehended by the ear, and thus a particular stroke may be the cause of the idea of a particular letter!--Quite so,
we reply, but on this explanation the real is known through the real; for both stroke and conventional power of symbolisation are real. The case is analogous to that of the idea of a buffalo being caused by the picture of a buffalo; that idea rests on the similarity of picture and thing depicted, and that similarity is something real. Nor can it be said (with a view to proving the pûrvapaksha by another analogous instance) that we meet with a cognition of the real by means of the unreal in the case of sound (sabda) which is essentially uniform, but causes the apprehension of different things by means of difference of tone (nâda). For sound is the cause of the apprehension of different things in so far only as we apprehend the connexion of sound manifesting itself in various tones, with the different things indicated by those various tones 1. And, moreover, it is not correct to argue on the ground of the uniformity of sound; for only particular significant sounds such as 'ga,' which can be apprehended by the ear, are really 'sound.'--All this proves that it is difficult indeed to show that the knowledge of a true thing, viz. Brahman, can be derived from Scripture, if Scripture--as based on Nescience--is itself untrue.
Our opponent may finally argue as follows:--Scripture is not unreal in the same sense as a sky-flower is unreal; for antecedently to the cognition of universal non-duality Scripture is viewed as something that is, and only on the rise of that knowledge it is seen to be unreal. At this latter time Scripture no longer is a means of cognising Brahman, devoid of all difference, consisting of pure Intelligence; as long on the other hand as it is such a means, Scripture is; for then we judge 'Scripture is.'--But to this we reply that if Scripture is not (true), the judgment 'Scripture is' is false, and hence the knowledge resting on false Scripture being false likewise, the object of that knowledge, i.e. Brahman itself, is false. If the cognition of fire which rests on mist being mistaken for smoke is false, it
follows that the object of that cognition, viz. fire itself, is likewise unreal. Nor can it be shown that (in the case of Brahman) there is no possibility of ulterior sublative cognition; for there may be such sublative cognition, viz. the one expressed in the judgment 'the Reality is a Void.' And if you say that this latter judgment rests on error, we point out that according to yourself the knowledge of Brahman is also based on error. And of our judgment (viz. 'the Reality is a Void') it may truly be said that all further negation is impossible.--But there is no need to continue this demolition of an altogether baseless theory.