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Cognition In Hindu Philosophy – Upalabdhi

Upalabdhi is a Sanskrit word and an important concept in Hindu philosophy. The word has severa meanings but mainly cognition. Annambhatta, in his Tarkasamgraha, defines cognition as sarvavyavaharahetuh gunah buddhih jnanam (the quality of which is the cause of all behavior is buddhi, jnana). While defining mind, he says sukhadyupalabdhisadhanam indriyam manah (Mind is the means of cognition of pleasure etc.). From this it is known that buddhi, jnana and upalabdhi are the qualities of the self, and those three are identical. In the definition of mind, the word upalabdhi specifically stands for sakshatkara or immediate perceptual knowledge. That means, the special qualities of the self, such as knowledge, desire, happiness, misery, hatred, etc., arise in the self only by being known. That is, their existence is co-terminus with their cognition. Hence they are called jnataikasattaka buddhi or upalabdhi, which arises in the self through the relation of inherence and, according to the Nyaya School, is not eternal but only momentary. Their momentariness consists in their being destroyed in the third moment of their origination.

The Samkhya School, founded by the sage Kapila (500 BCE), uses the expression upalabdhi in a different manner. It regards the functions of the buddhi as jnana (cognition), darshana (perception), upalabdhi (apprehension), pratyaya (experience) and adhyavasaya (ascertainment). According to the Samkhyas, the process through which knowledge arises is as follows – just as the water of a lake comes out through a hole, passes through channels, then enters into the field and assumes the shape of the field, in the same way, the internal organ, namely, the buddhi tattva, whose tamo-guna, when suppressed and predominated by sattva-guna, undergoes modification in the form of objects. The consciousness, which is the essential nature of purusha, is reflected therein. It is due to the non-discrimination of the difference between purusha and buddhivritti that one has the cognition ‘I know’. This is referred to by the Samkhyas as upalabdhi. In other words, the non-real relation that exists between purusha and the buddhivrittiis referred to as upalabdhi. In rhetoric, the word upalabdhi is used to mean prapti or attainment.