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Viparita Khyati – Bhatta Mimamsa Theory Of Illusion

Viparita Khyati is Kumarila Bhatta’s theory of illusion, which literally means ‘misapprehension’. There are two schools within Mimamsa system known as Prabhakara and Kumarila Bhatta. Both schools believe in the self-validity of knowledge. The main question these Mimamsa philosophers commonly came across was – if all knowledge was self-valid, how could error arise at all? The Prabhakara School does not admit error in the logical sense, because all knowledge is valid per se. Error is only partial truth; it is merely non-apprehension and imperfect knowledge. Error is due to non-discrimination between the two cognitions. Error takes place when one forgets the fact that there are actually two cognitions instead of one cognition, denoting two separate objects, and further forgets the fact that these two cognitions as well as their objects are distinct and unrelated. This view of Prabhakara is known as Akhyati or Viveka Khyati.

The Bhatta School believes that one has to accept a logical distinction between truth and error. Kumarila recognizes error as such and regards it as misapprehension. It is wrong apprehension of one object as another object, which, in fact, it is not. Error arises due to some defect in the causes of knowledge. For example, the yellowness of bile is related to the shell, due to defect. Similarly, two spots and the moon are cognized by the eye and related due to some defect. The number two (dvitva) of place is, due to the defect, transferred to the moon and there is the judgment ‘There are two moons (Shastradipika I.1). According to this view, illusion manifests a real object in the form of a different object, which, too, is real. In all cases of illusion, it is only the relation between the subject and the predicate elements that is unreal.

The Bhatta School tries to prove that error is not a composite of two imperfect cognitions but is a single psychosis, a unitary knowledge, by giving an example of ‘This is silver’. Sometimes a shell is perceived as silver. According to Bhatta, in such an erroneous perception two things are present. The shell is perceived as ‘this’, benefit of its shellness, and silver is imparted in memory merely as silver bereft of ‘that-ness’, on account of the qualities of whiteness and brightness which are common to both the shell and silver. There is a positively wrong synthesis of two elements – the perceived and the remembered. Here two elements are not untied, however, they appear to be so in error. So, error is not due to merely the non-apprehension of the distinction between them. It is due to a positively wrong synthesis of the two imperfect cognitions, which, though unrelated in fact, are welded together as a unitary knowledge in error (viparitagraha). This view is true to experience; however, it poses a problem epistemologically to the realistic position of Mimamsa. By including the ideal element within the content of knowledge, by admitting that knowledge can misinterpret its object, to that extent the view abandons the realistic principle on which the doctrine claims itself to be based. Viparita Khyati view shows that Kumarila recognizes error as such and hence error can be distinguished from truth from a logical point of view.

Viparita Khyati, the discovery of the mistake, arrests activity and that is looked upon as only a further result, the immediate one being a readjustment of our cognitive attitude towards the object. Thus, Kumarila’s attitude towards knowledge is primarily detached and scientific.