When epsitemological issues are taken outside of the context of self-
knowledge or atmavidya, it often ends up spiralling into verbiage,
part of the problem being the very intellect one utilizes in this
exercise, (often of diminishing returns), is a byproduct of the very
ignorance whose scope it seeks to transcend to arrive at an
I doubt I can offer any more clarity than what Sada-ji has been
explaining, but perhaps I can attempt to simply offer a more basic
viewpoint - part of this is in a dialog format to facilitate
First two very basic but extremely crucial points about Vedanta.
The only vastu with absolute existence is the subject I - the
Second, this awareness is a JNAPTI - a know-ING principle and NOT a
JANATI - or a know-ER - another very crucial point.
Now as long as these two points are crystal clear, let us try to
understand this issue of existence of an object a bit better.
I see a tree.
There are three things involved here - a reflected consciousness or
ahankara-saturated "seer" i, a act of seeing, and a object - a tree.
There is a fourth thing, which in a absolute sense is the ONLY
thing, which is the Absolute Consciousness or Knowing Principle,
that enables this whole transaction or vyavahara - which alone IS -
all the other three are only as though being mithya. And
yet "I" "see" a "tree".
Why? Because of beginingless ignorance or avidya - this entity
the "knower" derives "knowledge" about an "object" the tree.
Now let us say in this particular case this jiva is conversing with
another jiva about the age of the tree (to take Michael-ji's
"what is the age of this tree?"
Question is quite simple.
Is it really?
What is the "tree" - "the tree" is a nama-roopa in the mind of the
Is the tree the wood>? yes and no. without the wood there is no tree
but the tree in "reality" is this peculiar "thing" or "object" that
is relevant only to this knower who knows it to be a "tree".
So yes once having known it as a tree one can study the carbon decay
or half life etc etc and say
"based on my scientific calculations the age of this tree is 5
"Now what is 5 million years old?"
"Did you not hear me - this tree."
"Really? Is the tree 5 million years old or the carbon in the form
of the tree? And really the subatomic particles? What exactly is the
tree? Is there are a defined stark supra(-or infra-)sub-sub-atomic
particle boundary between the tree and the non-tree in the Universe
5 million years ago or whenever in an absolute sense?"
OK you say - Why this hairsplitting? Do you agree that this tree is
5 million years old? Yes. Then do you mean to tell me that 5 million
years ago based on my highly reliable scientific evidence that this
tree did not "exist" simply because there was no one to see it?
Well let us analyze it. The only thing with absolute existence is
Brahman. This tree, and any "object" cannot be said to "exist" as a
second thing, - independent of the subject, an observer or knower.
OK - how about this - this tree exists as Brahman - after all if
Brahman is everything and is also never non-existent, then this tree
5 million years ago can very well be said to be "existing" - in fact
it provides a continuity for Existence.
Not so. Brahman is neither subject nor object - it is beyond the
Subject-Object divison - any "object" independent of a subject is
no "object" - subject in potential form - Brahman is, ekameva
adviteeyam. subject resurfaces - so does seeing, hearing, and so do
Where/When Brahman alone Is - there is no avidya, and without avidya
there is neither knower nor a object to be known nor a knowing as in
an act of knowing (Janati) Hence alone it is equally incorrect and
downright absurd to say thet Brahman-knower knows this Brahman-
object or Brahman-tree.
This 5 million year old tree can only exist for me - the avidya-
borne knower-me of today - who knows this tree to be 5 million years
old. That is all one can say about it. The avidya under the spell of
which I label this tree a tree cannot be said to exist independent
of me - it pertains ONLY to me - there is no Absolute avidya which
created a tree suspended at a particular point in time and space,
independent of a observer, a ahankara/jiva, to which the avidya
OK- how about Ishwara? Why cannot we say Ishwara knows the tree
exists? After all Ishwara as Brahman endowed with Its Own Maya-
shakti created this tree. OK
with you - the jiva, Mayasahitam Brahman Ishwara, and this tree. I
think you see where we are going with this again.
What is Absolute is only awareness or Jnaptih. Choiceless,
objectless awareness. What is Relative is mithya and will always
involve a subject, a object and error or adhyasa.
Minus the subject, you automatically minus the error, no question
now of an object- either existent or nonexistent, there is only
Brahman, One, Nondual।
There are certain schools of thought, primarily Buddhistic, which deny existence to any objects - dismissing them as complete illusions in nothingness or just
having a momentary existence based purely on cognition or perception.
Vedanta matter-of-factly dismisses these theories by pointing out the truth
about a vastu, the substratum.
So an object does not borrow its existence from the perception but from the
satyam which is its substratum - so object IS, mind IS and perception IS.
All being mithya and everything that is mithya has Existence which is borrowed
from satyam alone - there cannot be anything in mithya which has existence
depending on anything OTHER than satyam, and hence alone nothing in mithya can
be nonexistent including time and space.
BUT one thing - whenever we speak of mithya we are by default in the realm of
avidya and hence the discussion cannot begin with a perspective which does not
include the jiva. Without jiva/ avidya/ (nonperception of substarum)
agrahana+anyathAgrahaNa (consequent projective perception of "another") / -
without this whole process there is no duality and without duality there is no
object, no mind, no perceiving or seeing or any means of objectification.
Brahman cannot perceive - cannot know - where Brahman IS there is naught else.
As an example, take a cloud in the sky which is shaped like a castle. From the
standpoint of the sky, there is only sky - no castle. But for a person seeing
the sky he is able to see a castle which is 100 feet tall, etc - he may even be
able to study the "castle" and say based on the density, etc it formed so many
days ago, and may burst at such and such time, etc. The existence of this
"castle" in this case is not predicated on the perception of the jiva, in the
sense that its existence is borrowed from the sky alone - but the attributive
existence i.e. the nama-roopa existence, its being a 3 storied castle, and blue
in colour, etc is relevant purely from the observer's viewpoint।
Any "object" can be relevant only in the sphere of a observer,
a subject, i.e a conscious entity, (and by default entails the triputi
of subject, object and the act of congnition itself - all of which
share the very-same substratum of Awareness or Consciousness). Object
is not a self-existent entity in isolation, even if one were to state
that "it is self-existent being Brahman". Only the "is"ness of an
object is Existence, and this "is-ness" does not have any object in
its field - it is namaroopa aspect of an object alone that renders it
"an object" and this aspect is ever-relevant only in the realm of a
conscious subject. In my humble opinion there is a mixing of levels
when one says "Object IS."
Yes, the model of panchikaranam is used to explain the process of establishment
of different categories of objects - both gross and subtle - with their
individual constitutions based on the combination of gunas. Note also the first
part of this sutra which talks about the origin of the subtle bodies i.e. pancha
jnaana indriyas (5 sense organs) in the verysame breath as the creation of the
gross elements. The point being that manifest "creation" which in turn is based
on the accumulated vasanas/karmas/namaroopas of the prior creation cycle entails
the entire setup to be in place - a transactional matrix of gross and subtle
bodies and objects - so as to enable a field for the exhaustion of the
accumulated karmas, in this eternal dance of samsara.
This model helps explain as an example how the lotus flower is endowed with a
peculiar and particular group of properties. Like anyother flower, it is "put
together" in a particular way with a stamen, a pistil, a corolla, sepals, etc.
Each of this is again "names" and "forms". What exactly is a sepal? And so on
and on and on until you get to particles and sub-particles and so on. Certainly
a conscious subject cognizing this flower does not lend either form, colour, or
structure either to the flower or to its consitituent parts . But what exactly
is the "f-l-o-w-e-r"? This cannot be defined or determined except by the
conscious observer. Just a week prior this very same "flower" was a "bud". (Even
in the realm of quantum theory, physicists have difficulty defining an object
because nosooner does one define a object n that it is no longer n but has
become n1.) Only when a conscious entity perceives this particular arrangement
of a stamen, pistil, etc does
the word "flower" assume a "attributive reality" - it is a mithya reality no
doubt - the satyam aspect of the "flower" is nothing but awareness alone. But an
avidya-steeped "as though" entity, the subject, "as though" distinct from this
object, now "as though" projects the word "flower" onto it, and takes the
nama-roopa flower as the sole reality of that object.