This thought has its genesis in another discussion where a question is raised as to how to provide proof or logic for the knowledge gained by non-direct experience (experience outside the perception through sensory organs), which the scientists demand. This question must have occurred to those who have had a non-direct experience.

Is experience a valid source of knowledge?

Indian Philosophical System accepts non-direct experience as a valid source of knowledge (Sanskrit: Pramana). In fact it further divides it into categories of sensory organ dependent experience and perhaps sensory organ independent experiences. The reason for this confusion is because one of the greatest teachers of philosophy in India, Adi Shankaracharya at one place, in Vivek Chudamani (The Crest Jewel) mentions in the introductory verse 2 itself that human body is the most difficult to obtain, implying that human sensory organs are a must to gain knowledge. It would not be out of place to assume thus that those organs would include the brain, though not explicitly specified.

Yet, in his amazing treatise on experience Aparokshanubhuti (Aparoksha being Sanskrit for non-direct and Anubhuti being experience), in verse 57 he mentions:

The dream (experience) is unreal in waking, whereas the waking (experience) is absent in dream. Both, however, are non-existent in deep sleep which, again, is not experienced in either

This would make both direct and non-direct experience unreal.

It was suggested to me by some knowledgeable friend that to truly understand Shankara one needs OOBE (Out of Body Experience). This is where the dilemma begins.

Why would Shankara suggest the necessity of having a human body if he could only be understood in out of body form? And how real are these out of body experiences. It seems that within the human brain there is a temporo-parietal junction which under normal circumstances generates the feeling of self/others and when stimulated or damaged, produces out of body experiences. This has been tested in several lab experiments.

So, how can one be sure that the knowledge gained by non-direct experience is the correct knowledge?

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Aparokshanubhuti ( Apara = The Others ,Akshi = Eye ,Anubhuti = Experience ) . This is Prathibha as the quote put in by Jessica States. 

In prathiba one knows everything about everything else as it is oneself alone - and so nothing else remains to be known . 

" Yenatmane viliyanthe udbhavanthi cha vrittayah

   Nityavagathaye Tasmai Namo Dhi Prathyatmane "

( I bow down to that Eternal Consciousness , the Self of the modifications of the Intellect, in which they merge and from which they spring).  - Upadeshasahasri  18.1

Thanks James. Welcome back!

The question being discussed here is the validity of experience as a means of knowledge. While external brain stimulation may not be the sole explanation, the fact that it does, itself is pointer towards inadequacy of experience being a means of knowledge. A replicable phenomena in the lab could scarcely be considered divine in our popular belief system. Secondly how does one distinguish that yours or mine experience is real and not a neurological disorder?

"but none invalidate normal or supernormal experience"

but not all normal or supernormal experience is the same for everyone.

Non direct experience as you call it is the only direct experience which is axiomatic and not depending on anything else to prove itself  , This is true knowledge and one becomes "in identity " with it and not "in similis" like in other kinds of knowledge . You will have to rework your notions of the word "Knowledge" as you know it in popular usage and as you use it . Then knowledge will be yours . Knowledge that does not depend upon anything else for it to be known is the only true knowledge . There is no other knowledge . The rest what we mean as knowledge are only "the impressions of sensate perception " and itself depending on a lot of other conditions . If there is defect in the sense organs the so called knowledge will be defective so it just goes to prove that it is not knowledge proper . .


Dear James,

        You are absolutely correct , consciousness or knowledge is contiguous , it "melts" sofltly into the various planes of existence . there are no sharp "cuttings" or "lines" or "divisions" - it is we who assume lines and divisions in mind and intellect , by our conditioning to Names and forms . It is an unconscious and apriori action by which we conceptualize things in a broken manner , with memory supplying the continuity in the background . Without lines or its assumptions (being superimposed attributes or just another word idea) perception of the objects become more "rounded' fuller and more vibrant and immediately continuous with a strange and unearthly beauty reflecting the intelligence behind the object , and as in one so in every object even man made objects , it becomes bereft of memory backgrounds and so time does not exist in perception . It is an endless and continuous flow , which is still there if one looks into space or vacant areas (where objects do not exist) and the transition from such areas of perception to areas of objects are smooth (I cannot even use the word transition as it would imply a difference) . It is the subtle movement of life and creativity and its inherent intelligence and purpose that alone gives the perception , not the eyes or ears or nose or skin or tongue . It is the Divine in the divine .

Thanks James.

Shall we assume that there is only one layer of Maya and once we cut through it, we will find Reality?

No, because reality is everything.  Plato differentiated between what was truely real and physical life which he compared to shadows on a cave wall, if you recall.  Both are real.  Reality perhaps has many levels, but everything is reality.  Divinity resides in the smallest atom (I believe there are substances smaller than atoms now discovered and I am sure Divinity is there also) therefore everything is real regardless of how we classify it.

Thanks Paul.

The point I am trying to make is that just because someone has an experience out of the ordinary, will that experience qualify to be called knowledge? As you say that, "only person who knows is the person who had the experience", then how such highly subjective matter can be called "Knowledge" which one presumes has the connotations of being universal and timeless.

There are other questions too. How to distinguish between a proper OOBE and mere hallucination, as the matter is so subjective. And the big question, even if we consider that experience to be real, how does one know that it is not another layer of illusion?

Paul is absolutely correct- Just to put matters in the proper perspective , If someone else has had an experience  , then its validity cannot be gauged by another person nor enquired into as to its correctness - It is an experience like all physical experiences solely that of the experiencer . Even in the real world if we both see a house , a car or a tree it is still subjective experience of objects . One mans experience of the same object loses validity vis a vis another person . Then we come to the question of agreement and contrariness in knowledge and on scrutiny we can see that - we all assume that the other person or persons have apprehended the same object in the manner that one has . This is the great illusion that makes us presuppose that the world that is seen and the things that you see are same and we are talking of the same thing - but in fact it is not so - what we are agreed upon again (unconsciously) are not even on the understanding of the word but rather the word or sound heard as such (It is only cognition of the sound ). As in the above example Tree , Car or House . It is the sound that is cognized by each of us that is the only commonality and nothing else .

This as far as personal experiences go , then what of science ? Science through a series of presuppositions which are laid out in advance "standardizes" the vision obtained by its study . That is all . It does not make it scientific , it will not explain anything as to why but only describe the process which is used by the application of a set of a priori rules which have been agreed to earlier and the result worked out within those grounds covered by the rules . That is all . The conditioning of a humans intuitive reasoning is a forgone matter if one has to study science .

It can be seen from the above that an experience by one person of anything is not of use to another , so where or what is that which compels another to accept something as knowledge ? It is worth thinking on and so what is Knowledge as we use the word and as it actually is

.In indiam philosophy this is surmounted by the following insight : 

The root of a word is an action - and the root of the word Knowledge is an action meaning "to know'' . Please note that  what has been mentioned is " "is an action meaning "to know" " and not just the direct meaning of the word  Knowledge to be taken as meaning "to know".(this is because we are in consciousness and not inert ).

The import is that when a word is heard an action takes place in the intellect . or a modification of the intellect ensues - the meaning of which is (ie of the action or modification due to sound impinging on consciousness ) to know .  Knowing which(is in the here and now ) has become stale and old becomes knowledge in the inferior sense . Knowledge of things  when it ensues in the present is Knowing itself . (whether seen or heard or felt or recollected ). In recollection also there is experiencing in the now of stale knowing as new knowing . (it is experienced anew though stale - this is the basis of dream ). 

Here the Karma lies in the intellect due to sound . after all "knowing" is also a doing of an action . And its root is that the person wanting "to know" obviously exists and no evidence is required for that . 

In other words sounds provoke an action in the intellect - this is the subtle form of Karma . If a man is so illiterate as not to know his own language still the sound provokes an action in the intellect . but it will be like the general knowledge of a blind man. 

How do people communicate with small children who are yet to understand the language of birth and also pets ? It is the same way we still communicate with each other without an iota of change , only thing language standardizes the sounds that is all and our cadence and metabolism and breathing convey the various nuances of the same sound . eg softly a man utters " you old dog and speaks in affectionate terms to his frien d, if the same word Dog is uttered with a hiher tone and sound and yet again as DOG !!! obviously the reaction is different - what is the difference then between people communicating between people and dogs barking and communicationg with each other of their species - who ever heard of an animal or pet which "understood" the english language or hindi or german as we may presuppose - sounds are cognized and its cadences and the metabolism and breathing of the person who utters it plays a big part in speech and language and understanding. 

This is the great divine comedy or Maya and its aspect in this particular area . 

AMEN!!  What is truth?  We could agrue this for years.  A lovely quote, Jessica.

Actually when the question popped up in my mind the exchange between Christ and Pilate did cross my mind also...Interesting no?  But yes, it was not my intention to bring that debate back to life.  I was think of truth in more general terms. 

Perhaps the questions are really: What do we all agree is real experience and  where does reality originate from?  For example someone who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and is actively experiencing hallucinations (auditory, visual, tactile, olifactory, etc..) is having a real experience.  I work with a client who sometimes becomes very angry at her "friend" and often has heated arguments with this friend (this friend is classified by the psychological community as a hallucination and therefore not real).  I have watched with fascination as my client has theses agruments and curiosity because I can only hear my client's side of the argument and must infer the meaning of the argument by what my client is saying.  To my client this experience is very real, but to the rest of the world it is a hallucination and my client is apparently mentally ill.  Granted there is more criteria require for diagnosis of mental illness; having a hallucination does not neccesarily make one mentally ill, there is much more to it.  My point is that people who have hallucinations, menatlly ill or not, are having real experiences even though we can only experience a small portion of this from the perspective of a bystander.  We can't discount them even if we can't experience the same thing or put it under a microscope.   If we create our own realilty (as I believe we do) then we as a race or speciies must, on some level, must be in agreement on what is real and true and what is not but even so there is a great deal of ambiguity in the world.  I suppose in reality the only thing that we can truely say is true is that most of us agree something is true or not.


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