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Theories of Self and Cognition: Indian Psychological Perspectives


Anand C. Paranjpe Psychology Developing Societies 2010 22: 5 DOI: 10.1177/097133360902200102 The online version of this article can be found at: http://pds.sagepub.com/content/22/1/5

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In this article, select theories of self and cognition from the Indian tradition are examined and interpreted in light of contemporary psychology. The afrmation and denial of the self in respectively the Upanis .adic and Buddhist traditions of India are explained and are critically compared with their counterparts in the works of Erik Erikson and B.F. Skinner. It is argued that, to properly understand the differing theories, it is necessary to carefully examine what is it that they afrm or deny in the name of self, on what grounds, and to what consequences. A theory of cognition from the Advaita school of Indian thought is outlined and explained to indicate how it enriches the view of transcendental self in the Upanis . adic tradition. This theory is shown to be constructivist in a way similar to Piagets theory. A meditative technique based on the Advaita theory of cognition is briey described, and it is pointed out how its successful practice leads to a deconstruction of the ego and also to important existential benets. It is shown how the technique also provides a means to validate the theory. A brief account of a modern sage who successfully followed the Advaita approach to self-realisation is given by way of a case study to illustrate how it plays out in real life. The article is concluded with a discussion on Indian and Western psychologies and implications for future research.

Theories of Self and Cognition: Indian Psychological Perspectives


ANAND C. PARANJPE
Simon Fraser University

tman, identity, aham Keywords: A ka ra, ego, self-realisation, cognitive construction The purpose of this article is to present theoretical perspectives from the Indian tradition on two topics of psychological interestself and cognition. The emphasis here is on illustrating how certain distinctive aspects of

Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank Prof. Dharm P. S. Bhawuk and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments on earlier drafts of this article. Address correspondence concerning this article to Anand C. Paranjpe, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby B C, CANADA V5A 156. anand_paranjpe@sfu.ca

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theories of self and cognition developed in the Indian tradition. Although language poses a barrier for many in directly accessing the classical works of the Upanis .adic and Buddhist traditions which are in Sanskrit and Pali, virtually all the important works on these topics have been translated into English as well as in many Indian languages. Comprehensive accounts of important issues from the entire range of schools and sub-schools of Indian thought are also widely available. Notable in this context are the volumes by S.N. Dasgupta (1922/1975) and S. Radhakrishnan (1923/1989). More specically, Jadhunath Sinha (1934/1958) has devoted two volumes to bring together English translations of an exhaustive array of references to cognition, emotion and will as conceptualised in the Indian tradition. Such literature generally focussed on philosophical issues, namely ontology, epistemology, axiology and soteriology. By and large, contemporary psychologists tend to focus on empirical studies of psychological processes and phenomena such as cognition and emotion, and are rarely interested in their philosophical implications. Besides, while Jadunath Sinhas (1934/1958) volume on cognition pulls together detailed references from the classical literature, the ideas are expressed in traditional language and idiom without interpretation in light of the discourse in contemporary psychology. As a result, such an account remains opaque to the eyes of contemporary psychologists. The same is largely true of works by psychologists who have presented Indian perspectives (Kuppuswamy, 1985; Safaya, 1976; Srivastava, 2001). The reason for the limited impact of traditional Indian psychology on contemporary psychology is the unmet need for the interpretation of traditional concepts in light of ideas, constructs and concerns dominating mainstream psychology in India, which remains distinctly Western. This article is a modest attempt to remedy this situation. Here I shall try to present traditional concepts in the language and idiom of contemporary psychology. I shall attempt to focus on issues of relevance for contemporary psychology, and point out both similarities and differences between the Indian and Western approaches. The idea is not to attempt a routine compare-andcontrast exercise, but to try to reveal points of contemporary relevance that remain hidden behind differing styles and expressions of pre-modern and current times. A comparative perspective is also expected to highlight the distinctive insights of each tradition that are mutually complementary. The complementary insights should help in developing a more inclusive and richer psychology than is offered by either Indian or Western tradition alone (Paranjpe, 1984; 1998).
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One could raise an objection to this very enterprise by suggesting that there was no such thing as psychology in the Indian tradition. Indeed, the terms like manovija na or ma nasa-s a stra which are currently used to designate psychology, are neologisms constructed from Sanskrit roots but never found in traditional literature. In response to such an objection it may be noted that, although the modern phase of psychology began in late nineteenth century with founding of laboratories by Wundt and James, psychological thought was ensconced in what is called Western philosophyand the same is true about the Indian tradition. Nevertheless, it may be granted that there are no exact equivalents in the Indian tradition to key terms used here, namely, theory, cognition and even self. Besides, the term self is often used in English with radically differing connotations within the Western tradition. The same is true within the Indian tradition of Sanskrit and Pali for terms such as a tman and atta . As such, there is a need for carefully examining what the terms mean in their respective contexts. In Indological literature, it has been argued that systems of Indian thought called the dars anas presented in compendia such as the famous Sarva. graha of Sa dars ana-sam yan dhava (14th cent. CE/ 1978) are not systems . a-Ma of philosophy in the Western sense. It has been recognised that there is a distinctive Indian style of critical reasoning called a nv ks that is different .ik from that of Western philosophy. The differences in these styles sometimes pose difculties in communicating across the Indian and Western traditions. Given such difculties, it would be useful to rst briey explain the sense in which the term theory is used in the present context. The Meaning and Nature of Theory In the present context, what I mean by the term theory is simply a set of concepts that together provide a systematic framework within which attempts are framed to understand a given set of phenomena and to effectively deal with them. In my view, elaborate and sophisticated conceptual frameworks for understanding what we now designate as self and cognition are found . khya-Yoga, in major systems of Indian thought such as the Veda nta, Sa m Nya ya as well as the various schools of Buddhism and Jainism. The roots of the key insights regarding the self are clearly traced to the ancient Upanis .ads, and to the Buddhist reaction to the Upanis .adic orthodoxy. However, the
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discussion of the nature of self (a tman, atta ) was done in the distinct style of a nv ks that is different from styles of discourse in modern psychology .ik and other sciences. To some extent, traditional Indian perspectives, which I would here call theories, are similar to what Thomas Kuhn (1970) has called paradigms, i.e., frameworks for thinking involving concepts, foundational beliefs or axioms as well as values. There are two types of values relevant in this contextrst, values that reect the overall goals in life cherished in cultural traditions, such as in spiritual vs. mundane spheres; and second, values reecting the relative importance of criteria for assessing the validity of truth claims. Of the various elements that constitute paradigms, the criteria of validation such as observation, reason, predictability, etc., are matters of concern in epistemology, or the philosophy of knowledge. In modern psychology, which tries to closely follow styles of thinking in modern science, theory is primarily viewed as a tool for the prediction of hitherto unknown facts or relations among facts. Arguably, psychologys enthusiasm for prediction follows from the highly successful prediction in physics of various subatomic particles. Inspired by the continued success of theoretical physics, modern psychology has committed itself to the hypothetico-deductive model in research, which demands making predictionsoften called hypothesesand empirically testing them. The search for truth in the Indian intellectual tradition has rarely followed this particular model. In the Indian tradition, by and large, the main thrust has been on the development of conceptual frameworks primarily as a guide for living a good life that interested individuals could follow. The test of a theory in this context is not so much as discovery of new facts or pattern of relationships (correlations) among observations, but success in attaining individual human goals of enlightenment and inner peace. This stands in contrast with the goal of prediction and control of behaviour which modern psychology followed within the Baconian tradition of science. It would be useful to note in this context that in the Indian tradition a clear distinction is made between satyam, meaning something that is universally and eternally or absolutely true, and .rtam, which means a repeated pattern of relationships among observable phenomena. It should be clear that modern psychology, following the natural sciences, focuses on .rtam, or repeatable patterns of relationships in data or laws of nature, and shuns the search for absolute truths. This distinction is relevant for the present discussion for, as we shall
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see later, psychology in the Indian tradition looks for what is absolutely true and would never cease to be true in regard to the self. Here we may turn once again to an insight from the recent history of modern science to provide a context in which to understand and appreciate the distinctive perspectives on topics such as self and cognition. The point is that, as noted by Kuhn (1970), theories or conceptual frameworks are part of a broader entity he calls a paradigm, which in turn is ensconced in the life and culture of knowledge seekers in specialised elds of study. There are tacit assumptions (or axioms) unquestionably accepted by members of a community of scholars, and these provide the foundations for the inquiry. Further, the consensually supported values of the knowledge seekers provide overarching goals for the inquiry as well as uphold and rank criteria for the validation of truth claims. To put it in other words, theories and paradigms are ensconced in, and supported by, larger cultures in a manner that Berger (1966), a sociologist of knowledge, calls the sacred canopy. Given that the Indian and the Western psychologies developed in cultures that were centuries and continents apart, there is a wide cultural gap that stands between them. Therefore, for an effective communication between them, there is a need to examine the wider cultural context in which their insights emerged. As such, in the remainder of this article I shall rst present the highlights of selected Indian contributions to the psychology of self and cognition, and then discuss them in light of understanding of the same issues in Western psychology in their respective cultural contexts. Self in Indian Traditions In India, mutually opposing theories of self developed in two rival traditionsthe Upanis . adic tradition afrming the self, and the Buddhist tradition strongly denying it. A closer look at these theories indicates crucial differences in what they afrmed or denied in the name of self (a tman in Sanskrit and atta in Pali), on what grounds, leading to what consequences. The mutually opposing views of the self stem from a basic human dilemma, which is that, while most of us and for most of the time tend to experience an unfailing sense of continuing to be one and the same person, persons commonly view themselves in multiple and varied images that undergo continual change. This is a pan-human dilemma, and it is often called the
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problem of identity (Paranjpe, 1998). Some of the brightest minds over the centuries in many continents have tried to answer this critical question: how to make sense of the unity of self in multiplicity, and sameness despite continual change? Contemporary biology recognises that the cells composing the body are continually replaced and that no single cell existing at the beginning may continue to be in the body till the end. Thus, the continued sameness of the individual poses a serious conundrum.
The Afrmation of Self in the Tradition of the Upanis . ads

Perhaps the earliest systematic perspective developed on this issue was that of 1 the ancient Upanis ran javalkya .ad called the Br . hada . yaka. In it, the sage Ya points out to his two wives on the eve of his retirement from active life that the love one has for children, home, property, etc., has at its root the love for ones self. He goes on to implore that self is the most important theme of inquiry in life. Then he suggests the right way to realise the true nature of the self: rst, listening to, or studying, thoughts about it, and second, deep contemplation on them. The strong afrmation of the self in this ancient source is the inspiration for a sophisticated theory of the self in the long and rich tradition of the Advaita Veda nta system (which may be simply called the Advaita). A guideline for this inquiry was presented in another famous dialogue of the Kat . ha Upanis . ad. In it, Naciketas, a teenager cursed by his angry father under odd circumstances, is stranded at the gates of the kingdom of Yama, the god of death. Yama, embarrassed by having failed to provide an adequate welcome and succour to this unexpected guest, offers him three boons. In return for the rst boon the boy asks for an amicable reunion with his angry father, thereby atoning for his unintended offence that had angered his father. Then in return for the second boon Naciketas asks for knowledge of ways to attain a place in heaven, and this is granted. Now, having secured a place in heaven after death, Naciketas asks Yama to explain what, if anything remains about a person beyond the cycle of birth and death. Yama avoids answering this question saying it is too difcult a question to him to answer and for a young man to understand. Instead, he offers the young lad rebirth on earth and a long life endowed with great imperial power and countless damsels
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For English translation of the principal Upanis . ads, see Radhakrishnan (1953/1994).

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more beautiful than even the heavenly nymphs. Naciketas refuses this offer saying all such rewards could only be commensurate with the good deeds, and as such they must end at an appropriate time. What Naciketas yearned for was a never ending bliss, and not mundane as well as heavenly pleasures that must come to an end sooner or later. As such, his eyes are set on nding something here and now, during the present life time rather than in after life, that guarantees an end to the perpetual cycle of work and rewards. In other words, the point of the story of Naciketas illustrates the most important and persistent theme of the Indian culture, namely the yearning for a permanent solution to the problem of the perpetual cycle of happiness and misery, which follow one another often leaving a negative balance. The solution suggested by Yamas answer to Naciketasand followed and continually rened in the long traditionis to realise the changeless basis underlying the changing images of the self, which keep chasing the ever-receding pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of life. Immortality in this sense is not the continuation of good things in life as known to oneself, but the discovery of that something in human beings, which dees change. The true self underlying the incessant parade of changing images of the self, it is claimed, presents a state of limitless bliss and inner peace that is beyond pleasure and pain commonly brought by successes and failures in the game of life. Once the permanent basis of self is realised, then eternal bliss is guaranteed. In the Advaita system, which follows the lead of the Upanis . ads, a theory of tman) is developed, which claims the self-as-subject as the unchanging self (A basis underlying the continually changing versions of the self. This is a central thesis of the Advaita theory of the self; it is explained in some detail in a medieval text called the Dr s ya Viveka (n.d./1931), which is often . g-dr . . kara (often called S . kara an an attributed to S ca rya), the great exponent of the Advaita system. This system notes that the ego identies itself with an image of a desirable version of self, only to replace it by another in an unending chase of increasingly alluring images of the selfa chase that never ends. It is pointed out that there is unending dissatisfaction with the present in the hopes of something better in the future; this is the dark side of a putative perpetual progress, which often drives us like a hamster in a rat wheel. The Advaita tradition has developed a method of meditation that involves a ruthlessly critical inquiry into the nature of the self guided by a principle that the true self is that in oneself which is unchanging. What is now satisfying but open to change can never ensure perpetual happiness. Any aspect of selfhood
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that identies itself with body, possessions, social roles and reputation, ideas and even values is recognised as open to change. Only the self-as-subject at the centre of awareness remains unchanged throughout life, and that, it is tman). suggested, is the true Self (A Since the time of the Upanis . ads, a clear distinction is made between the self-as-subject (dr s ya). The latter . k), as opposed to the self-as-object (dr . category includes not only body, social roles one plays and other such aspects of selfhood that are open to public observation, but also ones own thoughts, dreams and imagery that constitute objects of thought accessible to a person in his/her own private domain of the intentional mode of consciousness (for a discussion of physical, social and metaphysical selves see Bhawuk, 2005, 2008). By contrast, the self-as-subject refers to the centre of the universe of experience, which is not observed in turn; but can be directly experienced in a non-intentional state of consciousness. The non-intentional state, called Nirvikalpa Sama dhi, is a state in which the subjectobject distinction is said to disappear. Experience in this state is trans-cognitive; we will return to it in a later section on the Advaita theory of cognition.
The Denial of Self in the Buddhist Tradition

Gautama Buddha, who rebelled against several aspects of the Upanis . adic tman as something in tradition, saw a danger in teaching the doctrine of A a person that remains unchanged throughout. The main strategy suggested in Advaita has been to ask a person to make a wise discrimination between what is permanent and what is open to change within oneself. Such a task involves an intellectual pursuit, which is possible to those who either have a natural capacity of abstract thinking, and/or are specially trained for it. The very nature of the true self according to Advaita is that it is discovered in an extraordinary state of consciousness that is beyond description; it can only be indicated by denying the validity of any objective descriptionnot so, not so (neti, neti). It is claimed that abstract intellection is not the only way of attaining the direct experience of the self; there are many examples of individuals without the privilege of education and training who have attained self-realisation. In Buddhas time, the Upanis .adic teachings were accessible only to the tman explained in abstract terms might higher castes, and the notion of A have been understood by only a minority of the privileged class, not to speak
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of the masses. Buddha, who revolted against the elitism of the higher castes, was keen to take his message to common folk. This is clear, among other things, by his use of Pali, the language spoken by the masses, as apposed to Sanskrit, which was the medium for scholarship. So, instead of talking tman, he emphasised the changes in selfhood as they about a changeless A are commonly encountered by ordinary people. It is implied that for the common man, it is necessary to rst change oneself in an ethical manner before starting a search for an elusive inner self. For such persons, asking to search for an intangible self would be distracting. If there was something about oneself that was unchangeable, one could say, why should one bother to bring about self-improvement? Against this background, focusing on the changing aspects of the self would seem to be much better than emphasising that which remains unchanged. In fact, the denial of an unchanging self is an integral part of the Buddhist teaching. Nevertheless, the overall thrust of these teachings is to overcome the negative effects of an ego that identies itself with the changing images of the self, and in this regard the Buddhist denial of the self is essentially consistent with the basic teachings of the Upanis . adic tradition. To help understand how this is so, it is necessary to understand what the Buddha denied as the self, and why. As the famous story of Buddhas life suggests, as a young prince, Siddhartha, he was deeply affected by the sight of old age, sickness and death and thereby led to the conclusion that pleasures of life are ephemeral. When people take good things in life such as health, wealth and life itself as if they were everlasting, it often results in frustration and suffering. In this regard, he was no different from Naciketas of theUpanis .ads, who yearned for a radical and permanent removal of suffering. However, unlike the Upanis . adic seers who presumed an abstract and unseen reality underlying what one encounters in daily life, Gautama Buddha believed in the reality in the changing world of ordinary experience. He concluded that the main cause of suffering was attachment to the desire for pleasures of life. Frustrations result when individuals develop an ego identied with those things they cherish and hopeor rather presumethat they would continue to exist in perpetuity. Stronger the ego-involvement in objects of pleasure, greater is the misery resulting from their loss. A basic conclusion in Buddhas thinking was that impermanence is sorrow, and framing an image of the self on the assumption of its permanence is dangerous.
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Buddhas teachings, which were recorded by his disciples after his death, are voluminous and complex. They are open to differing interpretations, and scholars are not unanimous on the issue of whether or not he admitted something enduring underlying the self. Serious disagreement among followers is surely not unique to the Buddhist tradition; it was true of most . karas Advaita an traditions of the world, including the Upanis . adic and S traditions. Indeed, with regard to many issues that lead to either/or type of answers, and people become involved in endless debates, Buddha preferred to remain silent. One such issue was whether there is something permanent underlying the changing images of the self. Silence was golden in his approach; it avoided getting onto the horns of a dilemma. He was of course aware that the Upanis . ads had declared that true self was permanent and blissful (a nanda). According to Dasgupta (1922/1975), We could suppose that early Buddhism tacitly presupposed some such idea. It was probably thought that if there was the self (atta ), it must be bliss (p. 109). However, as Dasgupta points out, Buddhas conclusion was the converse of this idea: that which is changing is sorrow, and whatever is sorrow is not self (p. 110). Notwithstanding their doctrinal opposition to the Upanis . ads, Buddhist thinkers shared a dominant belief widely shared through the history of Indian culture, namely, the belief that human desires are insatiable, and that it is necessary to curb ones desires. Indeed, that is the moral of the famous story in Buddhas life: that as a young prince he found no happiness despite the availability of all kinds of pleasures through wealth and power. The belief that suffering often exceeds pleasures has found repeated diparva (75.49) section of the epic expression in various sources such as A Maha bha rata and the inuential text Manusmr . ti (2.94; Manu, n.d./1971) where it is articulated in the following way: desires are never fully satised by supplying them with articles of pleasure; rather they keep intensifying like re fed by a constant supply of fuel. The Buddhist perspective is consistent with this pervasive theme of the Indian culture; it is an integral part of a sacred canopy (Berger, 1966) under which both the Advaitic and Buddhist theories evolved. Buddha emphasised that clinging to desires embedded in ones ego is the root cause of suffering. He, therefore, prescribed a life of austerities to curb ones desires, and a way of contemplation for realising the impermanence of the ego. Regardless of their irreconcilable doctrinal opposition, the Buddhist and Upanis . adic theories lead to a common goal: the dissipation of ego as a means to overcoming suffering, and the resulting rise of selflessness and innite compassion.
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To help understand why Upanis . adic and Buddhist teachings end up with the same basic prescription despite opposing positions of the self, it is necessary to recognise that what they afrmed or denied were not the same thing. What the Advaita afrms is an unchanging substratum beyond continually changing images of the self, a substratum that is claimed to be open to direct experience in higher states of consciousness. By contrast, what Buddhism denied is the permanence of an ego that results from clinging to desiresdesires that either remain unfullled or are replaced with other renewed desires when fullled. In either case, satisfaction remains relative to desires; there is no limit to an increase in how much wealth or power one would wish, no matter how large the actual gain. In essence, the common Indian teaching, whether in the Upanis . adic tradition or in that of the Buddhist and Jain rebels, is for people to recognise that the chase of more and more of the good things in life leave an excess of wants over gains. While the Buddhists prefer to convey this by emphasising the despair associated with the changing images of the self and the consequent frustration, the Advaita perspective tries to convey just the same teaching by trying to show that inexhaustible bliss is attainable by discovering the unchanging self behind the changing images. The foregoing discussion of the conicting Indian theories of the self should make it clear that a meaningful comparison of theories demands a clear understanding of what is afrmed or denied, on what grounds and leading to what consequences. Given that Western psychology has also witnessed diametrically opposing views on the nature of self, we would remember the need of a similar critical examination of the prominent Western theories of the self. Hopefully, this cross-cultural framework for comparison would provide an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the underlying principles, a clearer picture on a wider canvas.
Western Parallels in the Denial and Afrmation of the Self

Turning now to Western psychology, the opposition between Skinner and Erikson in theories of self would appear to be the parallels of respectively the Buddhist denial and the Advaitic afrmation of the self. Here, a closer examination of the views of Skinner and Erikson in light of their historical roots and cultural contexts would help understand the nuances hidden behind the supercial similarities. Neither Skinner nor Erikson explicitly recognises
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the historical legacy that may have knowingly or unknowingly shaped their ideas. Yet, there are occasional references to names and ideas that betray the sources on which their ideas about the self may have been founded. A careful reading of their many writings shows that their perspectives evolved out of differing intellectual legacies within the Western tradition. Skinner, for instance, was an ardent follower of the Baconian tradition of science as a means to control nature, and developed a perspective grounded in British empiricism. As such, his denial of the self echoes Humes denial of the self insofar as its existence cannot be afrmed through observation. This is hardly ever explicitly recognised in Skinners writings; we must read it between the lines so to speak. The specic argument that Skinner explicitly offers in denying the self is, however, quite clear in his writings. In About Behaviorism Skinner (1974) declares that [t]here is no place in the scientic position for a self as a true originator or initiator of action (p. 225). He considers such an idea of the self as a vestige of the animistic thinking typical of primitive people that should be immediately discarded by the science of psychology (p. 167). In other words, his objection is mainly to the agentic nature often ascribed to the self. Given Skinners clear and strong intention to develop psychology as a science based on the natural science modelas opposed to the human science modelhis denial of an agentic self is easy to understand. A fundamental tenet of the natural science approach is, clearly, the idea that causal antecedents govern all events in the universe. This implies that human bodies are like machines working on the principles of physics; there is no ghost in the machine. Skinner adopts a physicalist world view in which there is no place for a mind; indeed he turns the word mentalism into an epithet. Taking natural science as the only right way to knowledge, he accepts a view of the world in which the inexorable laws of nature work; there is no place in such a world for either freedom or human dignity (Skinner, 1971). The laws of learning that Skinner endeavoured to dene in detail were supposed to be strictly and equally applicable to all organisms including humans. Moreover, in the true spirit of Baconian science, knowledge of the laws governing behaviour is to be applied to realise a utopia on earth. Indeed, there are compelling parallels between Baconian and Skinnerian visions of an ideal world to be attained by means of science. While all this becomes obvious upon reading his major works in psychology, what is not so obvious is Skinners historical legacy that helped shape not only his views of determinism, but more specically his denial of free will.
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In his autobiography, Skinner (1983) says: Much of my scientic position seems to have begun as Presbyterian theology, not too far removed from the Congregational of Jonathan Edwards (p. 403). He explicitly recognised that his conception of a completely determined system of behaviour is basically a reinterpretation of Jonathan Edwardss view of the doctrine of predestination (Skinner, 1983, pp. 402403). The point is that, granting free will to humans is to assume that there are many power centres in the world other than God. This would be blasphemous, since it would amount to denying Gods omnipotence. Speaking in a similar vein, Edwards (1754/1957) wrote a whole book against the doctrine of free will. Skinners determinism is not much different; he simply substitutes environment for God as the all powerful entity, thus casting the theological doctrine of predestination into a secular form of determinism. Skinnerian denial of the self with an agentic power implies that humans are innitely malleable entities that can be shaped any which way by environmental forces. This image of human nature is consistent with prediction and control of behaviour, which was declared by J.B. Watson, the founder of behaviourism, as the primary goal for psychology. This, again, is consistent with Bacons view that the purpose of science is to control nature for the benet of humankind. In the history of behaviourist psychology it was simply assumed that those in positions of power would use their power in a benign and benevolent wayas parents, teachers or jailers would use to control the behaviour of the children or convicts in their charge. Skinners denial of the self leads to an exclusive focus on someone other than the scientist or the psychologist herself or himself. Indeed, Skinner explicitly considers his type of psychology as the psychology of the other-one fashioned after an early behaviourist text by Max Meyer (1922). We may now turn to the ideas of Erikson (1968, 1982), who followed Freud in admitting an ego as an agency of the id, and further tried to account for psycho-social identity, i.e., the sense of self-sameness and unity in continually changing images of the self across the life cycle. It is important to note that Erikson spoke only of a sense of identity that is commonly experienced by most people, and this is consistent with his view that psychosocial identity involves an evolving conguration of roles, which is forever revisable. In other words, what one implies when using the pronoun I is but the present self-image and not a changeless core. Nevertheless, at one point Erikson (1968) says: [T]here is more to mans core than identity . . . there is in fact in each individual an I, an observing center of awareness and
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of volition, which can transcend and must survive the psycho-social identity (p. 135). Note that this centre of awareness transcends psycho-social identity, which means it must be different from the continually changing images of the self; and insofar it is supposed to survive, it must be lastingor, well, permanent. This is clearly a more emphatic assertion of a self than the sense of self-sameness, which he speaks of quite often in his writings. A closer look at these words against the background of his intellectual forebears indicates that here he is echoing Immanuel Kants idea of the Pure Ego. To put this in the historical context, it may be pointed out that, Kant was deeply disturbed by Humes denial of causality as well as self on grounds that neither is observable. The reason for Kant to be awakened from his dogmatic slumber was that, while the questioning of causality undermined his condence in science, the Humean denial of the self implied non-agentic nature of humansthereby threatening morality. Kant famously quipped that ought implies can, which means that any sort of moral action must imply that humans must be free to choose right from wrong and act on that choicewhich implies self as agent. Historians of Western philosophy have pointed out that Kant tried to rescue Western civilisation by providing rational justication for causality and human agency (Jones, 1975, Vol. 4). In his Critique of pure reason Kant (1781/1966) forcefully argued that science cannot, and need not, expect to empirically demonstrate the universal principle of causality.2 That events in the world are not mere happenstance but determined by causesor necessary and sufcient conditionsmust be taken for granted as an a priori principle (i.e., an idea prior to, or without need of, empirical proof ). For if we do not grant such a principle, the entire enterprise of science in making sense of why things happen the way they do becomes meaningless. Kant argued that, if we do not assume the continued existence of the self as a knower and an agent, the enterprises of knowing anything or acting morally will be meaningless. For, if we assume with Hume that the self changes from one moment to the next, then the self who understands the rst half of the statement will be replaced by another by the time the next statement is heard, and in that case, there will
2 Kants arguments against Humes extreme scepticism about causality are highly complex. He devoted an entire volume to explain his position; it is not easy to locate the crux of the arguments in a few sentences. Nevertheless, interested readers may consult particularly pages 6067 of Max Mllers translation of Kants Critique of pure reason for his explanation of causality as an a priori (i.e., prior to, and transcending any and all experience) category of understanding.

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be no one to make sense of even a single sentence as a whole. Likewise, a continually changing self would not be able to undertake a course of action and take it to its conclusion. In effect, Kant proposed the idea of a Pure Ego that transcends changing images of the self as an inevitable precondition for the pursuit of knowledge as well as moral action. Against this background, Eriksons afrmation of an observing center of awareness and of volition that transcends psycho-social identity is more than an echo of Kants reasoning; it is a virtual translation. A problem with Eriksons afrmation of self is that it is no different than Kants; indeed, Eriksons position reects the same shortcomings as shown by William Jamess devastating criticism of Kant. In Jamess view, Kantian transcendental Ego is not veriable; nothing can be deduced from it; it is ambiguous [since it is thought to be simultaneously an active agent and a passive recipient of sensory input]; and in sum as ineffectual and windy an abortion as Philosophy can show (1890/1983, p. 245). To put it simply, a Kantian type of a transcendental self is not veriable, either empirically or experientially; it remains a mere postulate with no practical applications in real life. At least Kant was a philosopher whose business was to indulge in argumentation; he was not a practicing psychologist interested in clinical, educational or other practical applications. For Erikson, a psychoanalyst and a healer, indulgence in argumentation was not necessary. He could have just mentioned Kant and simply hinted at the rational foundationsbut he did not. However, in one of his later publications Erikson (1981) indirectly offered a different perspective on the nature of the self. He alluded to the Biblical reference to Gods (Yahvehs) response to Moses question Who are you? in the words I AM THAT I AM. In his article on Jesus, Erikson examines Jesuss social identity as a Jew, which is reected in what is known about his life. The historical Jesus was a man born and raised in the Jewish community of Palestine. This community was fractured into a number of small communities; their loyalties were generally restricted to small groups resulting in constricted psycho-social identities. But Jesus was not an ordinary man; he actively tried to unite all Jews and thus transcend the limits commonly imposed on themselves by his compatriots. But Jesus was extraordinary in another way: as a healer he made no distinctions whatever among those who needed healing. He was ready to heal any sick soul, Jewish or gentile. As is well known, Jesus helped even prostitutes and tax collectorspeople who were commonly despised
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and hated by most people in those days. Jesuss compassion knew no bounds; his behaviour displayed an identity that transcended all boundaries. He could not identify his selfhood with anything that was bounded and denable in terms of those boundaries, whether these were dened by group membership, occupation, gender or any other denable characteristic. If such a person were to be asked to dene himself or herself, the answer would begin with I am, but could not be completed for want of restrictive or objective denition of any kind. In alluding to Gods denition of I AM THAT I AM in discussing the life of Jesus, Erikson indicates how a human being could reach level of the Divinewhich implies ultimate transcendence. The Divine, in this sense, is simply Being and not Becoming. Humans are nite creatures that perpetually seek to become something that they are not at present. We continue to be imperfect creatures: always ready to abandon an aspect of selfhood that is less than satisfactory, yearning for a better version of the self that is anticipated. Although Erikson spoke of the passage through life as a journey from abandoned to anticipated selvesa perpetual Becoming, in his discussion of the identity of Jesus he hinted at the possibility of the experience of mere Being. The experience of mere Being implies discovery of that which remains the same in oneself, which transcends change.
Discussion of Indian and Western Theories of Self

There are numerous theories of the self within both Indian and Western traditions. Against the background of the brief accounts of selected theories presented here, a few observations can be made. It should be clear now that what is afrmed or denied by a theory is not necessarily the same; what a term like self or ego means needs to be understood in light of the broad set of concepts that constitutes the given theory. Each theory has its own foundational assumptions grounded in ontological doctrines, whether implicit or explicit. Thus, the Advaita presumes the ultimate reality of an unchanging pure consciousness that is not reducible to matter, while Buddhism presumes the reality of a perpetually changing observable world. By contrast, while Skinner strongly believes in the reality of matter and the epiphenomenal mind that is causally impotent, Erikson believes in three orders of reality, namely, those of the body (soma), mind (psyche) and society (polis). It is clear that theories are grounded in some or other vision of reality that is taken for granted. This makes comparisons challenging to say the least.
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Basic differences exist in terms of the grounds on which truth claims are based. For Skinner, the ultimate criterion for validation is observation, which is the single most important guide for natural sciences that evolved within the tradition of British empiricism followed by logical positivism. Unlike Skinners approach that seeks experimentation in laboratories in the pursuit of knowledge, Eriksons work is shaped by traditions in medicine and the humanities. So he relies on the interpretation of case histories, or that of life histories in their historical context as illustrated in his work on the lives of Jesus, Luther, Gandhi, etc.3 By sharp contrast, both Advaita and Buddhism rely on the validation offered by personal experience that follows from rigorous meditational practices that result in a complete self-transformation. Indeed, the guiding goal of personal transformation is clearly the most distinctive feature of the Indian theories of the self. The search for self in Indian traditions is embedded in a deep personal quest for a self within oneself; the focus is on introspection, and not on looking out at something like an object in the world out there. This approach stands in sharp contrast with Skinners approach, which he explicitly designates as a psychology of the other-one. This is in sharp contrast with famous words from the Bible, where Jesus says: The kingdom of God cometh not with observation . . . the kingdom of God is within you (Luke, 17-21-22). What seems to be implied here is an exhortation to look inward, not outward. It is in nding ways of exploring the inner world that Indian and other Asian traditions are highly specialised. Notwithstanding the roots of Skinners determinism in Presbyterian background, he is more closely aligned with science than with the Augustinian inward looking trend within Christianity. Thus, he is interested more in changing the world than changing oneself. Here the contrast between Skinnerian and Buddhist denial of the self stands in sharp relief. Unlike in Skinners model, the Buddhist denial of the self leads to a life of self-examination, self-control and of emancipation of oneself from the burden of consequences of ones own past actions (i.e., karma). We may now note an interesting difference of perspectives within the Indian tradition. Interestingly, followers of both Buddhism and Advaita were equally interested in making Yogic practices as part of their teachings, but they differed in terms of their emphasis on Becoming vs. Being. However,
3 For Eriksons interpretation of the life history of Jesus, see Erikson (1981); of Luther, see Erikson (1958/1962) and of Gandhi, see Erikson (1969).

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the Buddhists never presented the use of Yogic techniques of meditation (dhya na) as practices aimed at the discovery of the unchanging centre of ones Being. Yet, for both Advaita and Yoga, meditation was explicitly aimed tman or Purus at the discovery of the A .a, a principle of sameness underlying perpetually changing images of the self. What these Indian systems afrm in the name of self is neither unveriable (since ways of directly experiencing it are specied and available), nor without use in real life (as self-realisation is shown to overcome a narrow ego resulting in the expression of limitless . khya-Yoga views of the compassion). In other words, the Advaita and Sa m self escape the shortcomings of the Kant/Erikson-type of transcendental Ego. Nevertheless, regardless of its shortcomings, Eriksons afrmation of a transcendental centre of awareness suggests the possible convergence of perspectives from India and the West. One of the most important discoveries from the explorations of the inner world is the discovery of what is called the trans-cognitive experience, or the experience of pure consciousness. This takes us to the discussion of the next topic: the differing theories of cognition. Cognition in Indian Traditions In the Indian tradition, discussion of the nature of cognition is integral part of most schools of thought. The Buddhist tradition, in particular, offers an elaborate theory of cognition, which has recently started to become well known in the West (Hayward & Varela, 1992; Varela et al., 1991). It will be useful to present ideas from one school of thought, Advaita, that will complement the discussion so far. The reasons for this choice are as follows: First, Advaita is arguably the most dominant school of thought, and its major . kara, provides a theory of cognition that is well worked-out. an exponent, S Second, this theory complements the Advaita theory of self, which was discussed above. Their exposition will provide a better feel for the two theories taken together. Third, as the Advaita theory of cognition can be called constructivist, and it provides a foundation for practical application such that self-realisation is attained through deconstruction of the ego. Fourth, focus on a constuctivist theory of cognition provides an opportunity for a meaningful comparison with some parallels in Western psychology.
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The Advaita Theory of Cognition

It is hard to nd a term in Sanskrit that is an exact equivalent to the contemporary usage of the term cognition. Here I am choosing to focus on two terms, namely nirvikalpa pratyaks . a and savikalpa pratyaks . a that designate two types of perception, without and with the involvement of constructs, respectively. Together they account for certain core features of cognition. The reason for this focus is that I expect their discussion to help bring out some important features of the Indian perspective on cognitive processes. Having chosen to keep the discussion thus focussed, I am avoiding discussion of praja and other such terms that also convey shades of connotations of what we currently call cognition. In the Indian tradition, both Nya ya and Veda nta systems propose that humans are born, like animals, with a capacity for perception devoid of concepts and words (nirvikalpa pratyaks . a), but develop the capacity for the use of concepts and words (savikalpa pratyaks . a) during the course of development. These concepts are discussed in detail by Datta (1932/1972), and my discussion here owes much to his work. As Datta explains, these concepts explicitly recognise the important role of imagination (kalpana ) in human cognition. In my view, there are deep and broad implications of these ideas. I begin this discussion with a sweeping cosmological vision in which the Indian perspectives are ensconced and must be understood rather than with the nitty-gritty details of perceptual processes, which shape the ways in which we get to know or cognise the world. The roots of this cosmological vision may be traced to a hymn of the ancient R sad ya Su kta. In it a sage surmises . g Veda (10.129) called the Na that the universe originated from a single undivided something, which was devoid of fundamental dualities such as existence vs. non-existence, death vs. immortality, open space vs. closed space, etc. Assuming that, where there is only the One without any Other, there would be no reason to be aware of its own existence, the sage imagines that somehow there arose in it an awareness of its lone existence. Subsequently, there arose a desire to be Many as opposed to One. That awareness, it is surmised, became the seed from which a multitudinous universe evolved. But then a question is posed: who could tell if this was indeed the case? The sage rules out that the gods could answer such a question since they, too, must have come into existence sometime later. Rather than dogmatically asserting a particular prime-mover,
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the hymn concludes with scepticism in regard to the question of the genesis of the universe that the creator who might have started it all may be divine or mundane. It should be noted that, rst, there is a suggestion here of something that transcends all dualities and differences of any type whatsoever; and second, that awareness of some kind is viewed as a primordial feature of existence. In this hymn, the seeds of a world view in which a single principle characterised by consciousness is placed in the primordial and central position. The popularity of this vision is clearly marked by the numerous repetitions in the Upanis sad ya Su kta. It is interesting that a .ads of the basic theme of the Na central theme of the principal Upanis .ads is the idea of Brahman as a single principle of reality characterised by existence (sat), consciousness (cit), and bliss (a nanda). Against this backdrop, I would now present some ideas of . kara (788822 CE) that envision living beings as individualised centres an S of awareness that are like distinct waves of the endless expanse of an oceanic single principle fundamentally characterised by consciousness. This vision, I submit, provides an uncanny context for understanding at least one of the most prominent views of cognition in the Indian tradition, namely that of . karas Advaita system. an S In the short introductory section (called the Adhya sa-Bha . s ya) of his highly 4 . celebrated commentary of Ba dara yan as Veda nta aphorisms, Sankara sets . out his view of the fundamental nature of living beings in general, and of humans in particular (Ramachandra Rao, 2002). He views all living beings as individualised centres of awareness that naturally partake consciousness, which is the fundamental feature of Brahman, the ultimate reality from which everything evolved. However, the individualised consciousness that living beings experience is naturally limited by the body in which they reside. It is as if a living being is a centre of awareness entrapped in a sphere with windows on the world, i.e., their sense organs, through which they may transact with the outside world. There are intrinsic limitations (upa dhi) of the capacities of the sense organs and of the other means of knowingsuch as the mindthat are at the disposal of each individual of every species. Although a universal consciousness of the Brahman is the very basis of awareness of each individual,
. karas commentary of the Brahmasu an For the text of S tra I have depended on J.L Shastris (1980) edition published by Motilal Banarsidass, and have greatly beneted by S.K. Ramachandra Raos (2002) useful commentary on the Adhya sa Bha . shya.
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every individuals consciousness is shaped by his or her intrinsically limited sensory and mental capacities. . karas view of cognition is set within an assumptive an As should be clear, S framework presented by his world view. Consistent with the thesis of intrinsic . kara suggests the an limitations of senses and other means of knowing, S idea of the resulting imperfect knowledge designated by the term avidya . Although the term avidya literally means non-knowledge, and is sometimes translated as ignorance, upon closer examination it makes sense to think of it as imperfect or incomplete knowledge.5 Imperfection is identied at two different levels: rst, something that is at the very root of all knowledge (mu la avidya ), i.e., congenital imperfections arising from the in-born make up of a given individual, or endemic to the level of functioning of the human species as a whole. This may be interpreted to mean, for instance, that some individuals are born with limited intellectual capacity, and also that human beings do not have sight or hearing as good as that of eagles, dogs, etc. At a second level, an individuals ways of knowing depend on his or her level of development from birth onwards (tula avidya ); cognitive capacities continue to evolve through the life cycle, but never reach perfection. At any moment, ones cognition must build from a baseline of whatever level of perfectionor imperfectionone may have achieved at a given time. . karas theory proposes twin concepts that are fundamental to the an S psychology of cognition. First concept, called a varn . a, implies veiling. This can be interpreted to mean that the current level of knowledge puts limits on what can be learned and how well it can be learned, thus effectively working like a veil or a lter. The twin concept called viks .epa is translated as projection, which suggests that previously established ways of knowing colour the object in ways different than what it actually may be. It is important to clarify here that cognition lies at the common nexus where the intricately overlapping pairs of self/other or ego/alter, knower/known, subject/object face each other. Cognition is a matter of relationship between the subject as knower and the objects of knowledge; and as such it is coloured by the nature of transactions . kara, an between the individual and the surrounding world. According to S veiling and projection are common processes that pervasively and deeply

5 The exact meanings of the concepts of vidya and avidya are controversial, and are difcult to interpret in Western terms. A discussion of some of the problems in interpretation can be found in Belvalkar & Ranade (1927, Vol. 2, pp. 171174).

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. kara an affect cognition. Being specically interested in self-knowledge, S points out how veiling and projection affect knowledge of the self. We may . karas account in this regard and then turn to a more general an rst look at S analysis of the various implications of his theory of cognition. . kara, the most crucial question regarding the nature of self is: an For S what accounts for the continued sameness of the self throughout the life-long parade of the changing images of the self ? His answer is that the true self tman) is simply the capacity to experience like a passive witness who (or A remains unaffected by, and uninvolved in, what is witnessed. An alternative way to explain this would be to view this capacity like a mirror that reects an unlimited succession of objects; by itself it is forever empty of content like a blank screen on which different images can be projected. Cognition and all manner of knowing is not the function of the self as passive witness; it is the work of the embodied self which manifests in various aspects of the . karas view, the knower is the j an body and mind. In S va, the person or living being as a whole, whose primary functions are: knowing, feeling and acting. The processes of knowing, feeling and acting are ongoing and reect in the tman/Brahman, changing images of the self. Behind all these is the changeless A which provides the illuminating character to cognitive processes on the basis of its purely conscious nature (cit). The common translation of cit as consciousness is approximate; it is more adequately understood as pure consciousness, a trans-cognitive state often known as Sama dhi, or simply the Fourth State in the Advaita Veda nta tradition. This is an extraordinary state without content, somewhat like in deep sleep which is also devoid of imagery or content.6 What one knows understands or cognisesin the ordinary states of consciousness such as wakeful or dream is mediated by the cognitive apparatus: the senses, the bodily states, the processes of thinking or reasoning and is affected by the entire stock of what is learned and remembered from the past. What one
What is called the Fourth State in the Upanis . ads is arguably the same as what has been called mystical experience in Western thought. This topic was in the mainstream of modern psychology insofar as it appears in William Jamess Varieties of Religious Experience. It has been mostly ostracised in psychology since then except for Maslows work on peak experiences and some interest in Transpersonal Psychology. Despite this scant attention in mainstream psychology, mystical experience is returning as a topic of active interest in an interdisciplinary group of scholars who use the Journal of Consciousness Studies as a forum of discussion. It is of interest in the current context to note that in this forum cognitive construction and deconstruction have emerged as main points of debate. See Katz (1978) and Forman (1990).
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ordinarily thinks of oneself is deeply coloured by what is seen or thought or experienced in bodily states and the contents of consciousness. Thus, when the body is tired or energetic, one says I am tired or full of energy, etc. The self images change according to the current state of reasoning so one says I am quite clear, or I am confused, etc. . kara, in ordinary states of consciousness the properties an According to S of the subject and the object are erroneously transferred to each other due to the twin processes of veiling and projection. Thus, although the true self is unchanging, the ongoing states of body and mind get projected onto the I, leading to its continually changing versions. Or, put in a different way, quality-less-ness of the Self remains veiled behind the ongoing states of body and mind. Conversely, one gets an impression of the continued existence of a continually changing body due to the projection of the changeless character of the Self. The processes of veiling thus account for misattribution . karas view, such erroneous an of the Self onto the self, and vice-versa. In S superimposition of properties (adhya sa) is endemic to cognition in all forms of rational and empirical knowledge.7 The inevitable imperfections of the human cognitive apparatus play a constant and unavoidable role in our ways . kara suggests that all an of knowing. Toward the end of the Adhya sa-Bha . sya, S sciences, positive or descriptive as well as normative, fail to reach perfection. He does not discuss this idea at any length. However, given some discussion . karas Advaita (or non-dualist) school of thought on the an in the writings of S . karas an nature of perception (pratyaks .a), the far-reaching implications of S theory of cognition become clear.
Western Parallels in Understanding the Nature of Cognition

At the dawn of modern psychology, William James famously characterised a new born babys experience as a blooming, buzzing mass of confusion. The basic idea here is essentially the same as the observation by Advaita and Nya ya thinkers that babies at birth lack the use of concepts, which provide meaning to what is given in sensory experience. It is only later that they gradually learn
7 It may be noted that the concept of viks . epa expresses pretty much the same as Freuds idea . kara, writing in early ninth century antedates Freud by a millennium. Also, an of projection. S . karas concept of adhya an S sa can be said to be the original theory of attribution, anticipating the prolic development of attribution theory in cognitive social psychology in the mid-twentieth century.

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to use concepts along with the use of words that convey them. While this much is obvious and common knowledge, modern developmental psychology provides empirical evidence. Piaget, for instance, points out how an infants cognitive development begins with sensory-motor intelligence, where she or he is equipped to deal with sensory input and motor coordination, sans concepts. Concepts are learned rst with the aid of concrete operations which are gradually replaced by the ability to use increasingly abstract concepts. It can be argued that Piagets views of cognition are fairly consistent with . karas, which makes it possible to interpret the latter in terms of an that of S the former. Here it would be useful to focus on the vikalpa part of the terms savikalpa and nirvikalpa pratyaks . a. The root in this term is the verb klr . ip, which means mainly to imagine, and also to frame, form, invent, compose, put in order or to construe. The prex vi can mean different things, but here it implies (to construe or imagine) in varied ways. In other words, vikalpa means imagining or construing in several different ways. The term .kalpa is a twin concept; the prex sam indicates the opposite of vi, and sam .kalpa implies putting ideas together, or bringing out similarities thus sam .kalpa and vikalpa are rather than differences. In the Advaita, the terms sam said to be the two processes that the mind is constantly engaged in. Indeed, the mind is dened in terms of these two processes. It makes sense to put this idea in Piagetian terms: mind is that which continually integrates and differentiates; it is that which allows us to imagine things in different ways, and also enables us to see the similarities. By extension of these meanings, to have a vikalpa is to entertain doubt without being sure about which of .kalpa is to be the many possible alternatives is appropriate, and to have sam able to choose and determine which one of the many is the right one under the given circumstances. This means that being able to imagine is a fundamental capacity of the mind. In other words, we are not restricted to what is given in experience to use a conventional expression in Western psychology; cognition often involves something that is added by the mind. We are not restricted to perceptual data, so to speak; we are free to add something to what is given in perceptual experience. What we can add by means of imagination is a variety of fabricated scenarios that suggest as if what is given in perceptual experience might mean this way or that way. Being able to generate several alternative constructs is very important. This was recognised at a very early stage in the history of Indian thought. In the ancient R . g Veda (1.164.46),
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it is suggested that wise men construe one and the same truth in differing ways (ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti). There are several implications of this idea that need to be examined. The ability to construe something in different ways is clearly a very important strength of the human cognitive capacity. It is clearly at the very foundation of scientic thinking; differing constructions are what we call hypotheses in contemporary language and idiom. It is by evaluating the relative merits of alternative hypotheses that science makes progress. In modern psychology, George Kelly (1955) conceives of this fundamental cognitive capacity as the ability to endlessly revise our interpretations of the world. Thus, we need not get trapped into believing that our present understanding of the nature of the universe and our position in it as the nal and only way of understanding. We are always free to construe some other hypothesis, a different interpretation of facts and imagine the implications and consequences if that were true. Such construal opens up new strategies for dealing with ones problems. Kelly called the cognitive capacity to set up alternative hypotheses and interpretations the principle of constructive alternativism. He designed a therapeutic strategy based on this principle. In the Indian tradition, the same idea has far reaching implications. While .kalpa and vikalpa indicate the pervasive presence the twin concepts of sam of construing in similar and diverse ways in ordinary day-to-day thinking, comprehensive systems of thought or philosophies are recognised as but alternative visions (dars ana). Whether it is a single hypothesis such as something I see on the oor could be either a string or a snake, or whether it is a theory of cognition according to Buddhism, Advaita or Piaget, they are but alternative constructions of truth underlying the appearances. And a construction, whether ordinary and concerning a simple object like a piece of string, or a grand vision of reality as a whole, there is an inevitable element of imagination in it. It was widely realised in Indian thought that mere imagining of different possible versions of the current and future states of affairs was not enough; one must have a method of testing which one of the many alternative constructions is correct or the most viable of all. We may call that method a way of hypothesis testing, a basic logical strategy. We may turn here to note some parallels in Western psychology to help understand the relevance and importance of imagination in the Advaita theory of cognition. The most common example is a piece of rope (rajju) being mistakenly perceived as a snake (sarpa). Such misperception is possible only
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when one imagines something to exist where it is not. Another common example is that of a rebrand (ala ta), where the ame of a burning stick when rotated gives the impression of a circle, which one simply imagines to be there. Both these examples illustrate what we may in the parlance of contemporary psychology call illusions; one sees in the world what is not there. The examples are commonindeed, universalalthough in different systems of thought they may be emphasised for different reasons depending on their overarching goal. In Advaita, the rope/snake example is used to convey the importance not only of the role of emotions in causing error in perception, but also of the pervasive nature of misattribution in how we tend to construe the . kara, n.d./1921, p. 173), an world on the whole. Thus, in Vivekacu d man .a . i (S . . sa Sankara says that a persons passage through life (sam ra) is imagined by the mind (manah . kalpita), and further (p. 259) that the world as we know it ( jagat) is constructed on the basis of error (bhra nti-kalpitam). It is possible to understand these views in light of both similarities and differences in viewing universal phenomena of illusions in Indian and Western . kara, the example of the rope/snake illusion is an systems of psychology. For S important since he wishes to convey it as an example of how fear, a reaction of the body/mind, is projected onto the self so that a person would say I am afraid, although the true self is beyond fear and scare. What is important in his theory is that it should be used to help people in overcoming fear and suffering. There is clearly a practical and prescriptive emphasis in his system. By contrast, the Gestalt studies in modern psychology, which focus on perceptual illusions of various types, the emphasis is primarily descriptive, . karas example of the rebrand alludes to the same type of an not prescriptive. S phenomenon that early Gestalt experiments on running lights, both of which create an illusion of a circle by construing motion where there is none. In essence, both the Advaita and Gestalt theories are fundamentally constructivist; both emphasise the element of imagination added to perception in making sense of the world. While the Gestalists follow the emphasis on detailed experimental examination of factors contributing to errors in constructing an image of the world, the Advaita scholars focus on the implications of cognitive construction for ones world view as a whole. The Advaita perspective, in this sense, is like that of the philosopher Nelson Goodman (1978), who presents a thoroughly constructivist view of human knowledge. From the Advaitic point of view, cognitive construction happens on the foundation of previously held knowledge. As noted before, the rock bottom

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of this foundation is what is given at birth. Being at the root (mu la) of all knowledge, it is called mu la avidya , and as previously explained it is called avidya or non-knowledge in recognition of the state of imperfection of in-born endowment of an individual as well as for the species as a whole. Every individual must begin to comprehend his or her world regardless of all the in-born imperfections (upa dhi) in ones sensory and cognitive capacities. Also, one must proceed despite the errors and misattributions arising from the twin processes of veiling (a varan . epa). Nevertheless, one . a) and projection (viks improves ones level of understanding, hopefully moving to a less imperfect level of knowledge. This new level of an individuals level of knowing is called tula avidya . Human cognitive development is thus viewed as a process of . kara, an moving from more imperfect to a less imperfect stage. According to S rational-empirical knowledge always remains imperfect. This conclusion may sound pessimistic, but to understand it properly it is necessary to take a closer look at the Advaita theory of cognition as well as its theory of knowledge at large, i.e., its epistemology. The perpetual imperfection of knowledge does not mean lack of possible progress; indeed, Advaita suggests a sophisticated view of knowledge, its means for development and criteria for assessment of truth claims. At the individual level, it is recognised that the constructs must be evaluated and the appropriate one can and should be chosen, and the Advaita system conceives of this as the task of the intellect (buddhi). This implies the use of reasoning, which is assumed to generally proceed through the twin processes of nding similarities among things (anvaya) and differences among them (vyatireka). The twin processes of nding similarities and differences are not only recognised as common in human cognition, but are explicitly prescribed as the right way to proceed in the pursuit of systematic knowledge ( sa stra). To put it in contemporary terminology, the method of agreement and difference prescribed by John Stuart Mills logic has long been an integral part of Indian thought, although differently implemented than in contemporary psychologys use of the Chisquare statistic. In contemporary psychology, the emphasis is on empirical verication of the degree to which a hypothesis could qualify as a universal law, and the focus is mostly on something outside of the sphere of oneself. By contrast, in the Indian tradition the dominant orientation is practical; the focus is largely on discovering the truth value of an idea and on nding ways of its use in personal upliftment.

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In the Advaita system valid cognition is called prama ; it is dened as a mental state shaped in the image of an object, that has not (yet) been contradicted or falsied (aba dhita) by any other means available.8 In another way of putting it, prama is a cognition that has been tested against appropriate criteria of validation called the prama n . as. Six such criteria are identied: perception or observation (pratyaks a , literally meaning in front of the eyes, . or observation) and reason (tarka or logic) are the two primary means. Here we need not discuss all the six criteria, which are discussed in detail by Datta (1972). For our purpose, it would be useful to note that in recognition of observation and reason as basic criteria for the validation of truth claims, the Advaita approach is fairly consistent with that of modern science. Knowledge claims based on observation and reason are, it is suggested, only tentative; valid only as long as they remain unfalsied (aba dhita). Thus, resistance to falsication is, according to Advaita, the most important criterion of valid cognition. This is explicitly known in Indian thought for at least a millennium; falsication is not a new principle invented by Popper. The issue of verication vs. falsication as the right approach to the issue of validation is an important issue that needs at least some, if not detailed, discussion. In contemporary psychology, empirical verication of a hypothesis is almost always taken as the right way to test the degree of support for a hypothesis. A hypothesis usually stands for a putative representation of a presumably universal law. However, empirical verication must be restricted to only the observed sample or samples, no matter how many studies and data sets might have indicated its validity. No amount of data can guarantee that the hypothesis will be true to unobserved cases of the past and future; there is always a chance that contrary data may show up sooner or later. As such, as pointed out by David Hume (1739/1978) a couple of hundred years ago, it is humanly impossible to observe all cases of any type, such as all apples falling on the ground to prove Newtons Law of gravitation. Against this background, modern psychology has accepted probabilistic support of a hypothesis as adequate proof without insisting on absolute proof applicable to all instances. Should one expect a more stringent proof of a proposition it would be better to test, in a critical experiment, if the proposition is shown

This is my paraphrase of the following words of V.S. Abhyankar (1928/1968): aba dhitavis ka ra ntah .aya . karan . avr . ttirhi prametyucyate | (p. 21).

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to be false. As Karl Popper (1979) more recently pointed out, even a single instance of non-conformity to the putatively universal law can prove its non-universality. An implication of this is that a truth claim is valid only as long as it is not falsied; all rational-empirical knowledge is only tentatively true. To put it in another way, scientic knowledge must be regarded as forever revisable; assuming the universal and eternal validity of any claim to truth would imply only dogmatism. Indeed, this was a crucial thesis that Willard Quine (1953/1964) proposed back in the mid-twentieth century. Quine also pointed out that the unit of understanding is a whole theory, which may be considered valid regardless of lack of few hypotheses derived from that theory. Truth value of single statements does not determine the validity of a theory as a whole as suggested by logical positivists. Hank Stam (1992) has complained, and rightly so in my opinion, that psychologists have been negligent in taking Quines views seriously. He suggests that such neglect is particularly critical in regard to research programmes which presume to say something about cognition, and which operate at the level of collecting lawlike generalities (p. 22). Against this background, it is particularly worth . kara, in his Adhya an noting that S sa-Bha s . ya clearly points out the limitations of all sciences which involve empirical/rational inquiry. It should be noted that the Advaita theory of cognition recognises its dependence on the sense organs and on ones capacities for rationally treating their input (what we may in current parlance call ways of processing of the data and their interpretation); the theory clearly recognises the limitations of cognition due to the inherently imperfect nature of these capacities. The recognition of such limits on all sciences based on observation and reason . kara deserves the credit for laying an follows as a logical conclusion, and S this out in clear terms, and thereby making the theory internally coherent. It may be thought in this context that the Advaita theory does not recognise the limits of empiricism in exactly the same way Hume did, followed by his successors till Quine in the twentieth century. But a quick re-examination of some of the basic concepts of Advaita will show how the conclusion of rational-empirical knowledge follows from those concepts. The point to note in this context is the distinction Advaita makes between .rtam, meaning repeatable pattern of relationships among observations, and satyam, meaning absolute truth. It is well recognised in the Advaita tradition that truth claims based on empirical observations ( pratyaks . a) and reason (tarka) are contingent on
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the conditions of observation (what is observed, by whom and on basis of what prior knowledge). Knowledge founded on these two sources, namely, observation and reasoning, arises from cognitive processes and content (and is therefore called vr na, the term vr . tti-ja . tti implies cognitive processes). There is a fundamental principle of cognition recognised in the Advaita theory that the world as we know it is founded on what we imagine or construe it to be on the basis of prior knowledge, which is necessarily incomplete in some . jagat). If this is to be understood way or the other (aja nena parikalpitam in terms of themes from modern science, here are some suggestions: An oft-repeated principle of modern hermeneutics is that all understanding depends on pre-understanding, and is perpetually open to reinterpretation (Palmer, 1969). The same basic idea more commonly known in psychology is Piagets view that all new information must be assimilated within the cognitive structures and schema thus far acquired in the course of cognitive development. I see no basic difference between this view and that of the role of tula avidya explained in the Advaita regardless of differences in detail. All new knowledge must be shaped by, and therefore suffers from the limits of, prior ways of knowing. Old ways can of course be modied or improved through the accommodation of the necessary improvements. According to Piaget (1954), children construct a view of reality and continue to reconstruct that view in iterative phases of assimilation and accommodation till the end of their lives. Indeed, Piagets constructivist views of cognition led him to conclude that not only cognitive structures of individuals, but science as a whole, are continually evolving, never reaching nality. He suggested that regardless of progress in science, human knowledge remains essentially incomplete, and cites Gdels theorem in support of this view (Piaget, 1970). . karas view about the an Piagets conclusions are uncannily consistent with S incompleteness of rational-empirical knowledge (avidya ). A common problem of constructionist views of knowledge is that they lead to some or other form of relativism, and relativism is unsettling for many; it gives a sinking feeling since nothing seems to be rm enough to count on and hang onto. However, the Advaita system restricts its relativism to rationalempirical knowledge, and proposes a transcognitive view of knowledge which is termed vidya as opposed to avidya . Interestingly, it provides a technique for attaining vidya , a distinct and unusual form of knowledge. Since this technique is based on the application of the Advaita theory of cognition, it will be useful to briey describe it here. It also demonstrates that Advaita
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theories of cognition and self are not merely philosophical ideas but have value for the world of practice and in ones daily life.
An Application of the Advaita Theory of Cognition

A straight-forward implication of the Advaita systems constructivist theory of cognition is that individuals cognitively construct ideas of the world and of ones place within it. Crucial in this are the ideas of me and mine. In the Advaita system, the sphere of me and mine is the domain of the ego . ka (aham ra). The ego manifests itself in experience in the feeling of pride (garva). Ones sense of pride may be legitimately based on well-earned success or false pride based on an overestimation of ones place in the world. In . kara, n.d./1921, p. 139) S . kara presents the idea of an an Vivekacu d man .a . i (S cognitively constructed world and of ones place within it in a metaphor. An individual, he suggests, gets himself wrapped in a cocoon like a moth does by fabricating the cocoon from yarn of its own creation. Once an individual constructs an image of the world and ones place within it, then one nds comfort, succour, protection and pride within its self-dened boundaries. It is clearly a matter of choice whether one wishes to view oneself like a small sh in a vast ocean, or a big sh in a small pond. It also follows that it is a matter of choice whether to stay within this bounded world or look beyond it; whether to preserve what is once created or to change it. . karas account of the ego is essentially in tune with an It seems that S A.G. Greenwalds (1980) account in his well known article titled The totalitarian ego. Unlike the modern style of doing psychology reected in this article, which cites numerous empirical studies to support its theses, the traditional Indian style preferred to emphasise the existential implications of its theses, and developed methodologies for the personal edication and enlightenment for those who wish to uplift themselves. This takes us to methods of understanding the self and of self-transformation, or technologies of the self as Foucault (1982/1988) calls them. . kara and his many followers have built a full-edged technology of the an S .yaka self based on the teachings of the sage Ya njavalkya in the Br ran . hada Upanis . ad. It involves a systematic programme of critical self-examination involving the study of the basic principles of Advaita Veda nta ( s ravana), contemplating the principles in a systematic and logical fashion (manana), and becoming fully absorbed in deep contemplation (nididhya sana) to the
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point where ones mind lapses into a higher state of consciousness called the Sama dhi. It would be useful to briey describe the essential aspects of this technology and indicate how it is built on the theory of cognition explained before. Let us rst consider the rst step of this enterprise involving the study of basic principles of the Advaita system. They include the following crucial points: That there is a single indescribable ubiquitous principle called Brahman that accounts for reality; it is approximately characterised as ex tman) is istence (sat), consciousness (cit) and bliss (a nanda); the true self (A identical with Brahman; it is discovered when all common self-denitions are recognised as open to change, and the self-as-subject is recognised as the principle of sameness underlying selfhood. It is suggested that when one becomes fully convinced about the continually changing character of objective self-denitions, the veil of erroneous self-understanding is removed, and true self, which is Being underlying Becoming, is directly experienced. The study ( s ravana, literally, listening) of such principles is not much different from the study of any system of thought. However, an academic mastery of such principles is not considered enough. While verbal learning in an impersonal fashion would ensure scholarship and be a useful beginning of the path to self-realisation, in itself it may not lead to enlightenment and the direct experience of the self. For actual self-realisation, one must undertake a deeply personal programme of critical self-evaluation, or meditation . khya (manana, prasam na). This programme involves examining each single self-denition conceived or adopted by oneself, whether it be in terms of ones body, possessions, social roles, psychological traits, social standing or reputation, etc. (for a discussion of social self and how it can grow or shrink depending on the material or spiritual paths one follows, see Bhawuk, 2008). In other words, it includes examining all that constitutes what Erikson (1968) calls ones psycho-social identity. Note that, after deeply examining the nature of psycho-social identity, Erikson concluded that it is continually evolving and forever revisable. Finding that each element of ones identity is open to change, it is to be repudiated, looking elsewhere for a permanent basis for ones selfhood. In a well known Advaita text called Veda nta paribha . sa Dharmara ja (1972) insists that such self-examination is a strictly rational (tarka tmaka) inquiry guided by such logical principles as the method of agreement and difference (anvaya-vyatireka). Each and every notion of ones own selfhood is to be examined in light of doubts as well as possible alternatives and contrary positions. This inquiry is guided by
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the main principle that the true self is permanent, while any self-denition that is open to change is a false notion. It is false in the sense that, although serviceable in certain practical contexts, it cannot be true always and at all times; one is a father or teacher, tall or short only in a given context. As noted, when such an exercise is expected to become fully absorbing (nididhya sana), one experiences the state of Sama dhi. It is important to note that in the Advaita literature, this state is called Nirvikalpa Sama dhi. . kara, n.d./1921, p. 344) S . kara explains that such In Vivekacu d a man i (S an an . . a state can only be attained after egoism is completely destroyed; no amount of scholarship can ensure its attainment. What this implies is that, all objective self-denitions having been proven as but differing constructions (vikalpa) construed by the mind, one is ready to consider them as simply fabrications. Such denitions would surely be essential for the practical purpose of transacting ones business in the social world, but they are of no use in attaining the highest possible bliss through self-realisation. The true self is simply the centre of awareness, which remains unchanged like a blank screen on which the unfolding drama of life is projected. The self is thus revealed, i.e., it becomes accessible to direct experience, when all that is written on the blank slate of pure consciousness (cit), is erased, so to speak. As can be easily understood, the erasure of all that one has come to believe about oneself in the course of life, all the self-denitions that have served to full the needs of practical life, is a tough task successfully undertaken only by a select few. The process that leads one from habitual ways of direct perception (savikalpa pratyaks .a) to consciousness devoid of all content (Nirvikalpa Sama dhi) can be said to be a process of cognitive deconstruction of the ego. This is more easily said than accomplished in real life. The rst step in the process involves cultivating a sense of doubt about what one has taken for granted; it involves the suspension of the truthfulness of beliefs that are deeply embedded in the personality of the individual. To put it in terms of concepts available in Western thought, it involves what Edmund Husserl (1931/1962) called bracketing or epokh. Husserl asked us to at least temporarily suspend our strongly held beliefs, such as the existence of the three dimensional space in which we livesomething we all take for granted. Indeed, it would appear to be the onset of pathology if one doubts such things as ones name, membership in family, citizenship of a country and other such aspects of ones socially constructed identity. It is true that ones social identity cannot be wished away; our very social existence depends
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on being able to enact our roles. As is well known, a person in the state of an amnesic fugue forgets his name, address and all social connections and lands in a police station or a mental hospital asking Who am I? It would appear that, if a self-realised person who has erased his/her social identity, would become similarly dysfunctional, would it not? Such a question is likely to occur to those of us who have learned to view that a strong ego is quite essential in facing the challenges of life. Note how Freud, the main architect of the modern concept of the ego, views the ego as the uneasy rider pulled in opposite directions by the demands of the id on the inside and the dictates of the superego installed by the society from the outside. In their clinical practice, many psychologists are likely to see patients who cannot successfully rein in these unruly forces. Thus, the common focus of modern clinical psychology is on the need for strengthening a weak ego. Against this background, the dissolution of the ego through Advaita-type meditation would seem to be a step in the wrong direction. But it is important to note that the focus of psychology in the Indian tradition is on the higher reaches of mental health, not on the removal of pathology. Indeed, only persons who have attained a reasonably high level of dispassionateness are considered eligible to start the Advaitic journey to self-realisation. In other words, an ego strong enough to control ones passions is a precondition for embarking on the Advaitic path to self-realisation. It is only a strong ego that can dare to lose itself. A real-life example of Raman . a Maharshi (18791950), a modern sage known to have successfully practised the Advaita approach to self-realisation, would help explain what is involved in a typical Advaitic practice (Paranjpe, 2008). Raman . a left home as a teenager, and steadfastly practised meditation for many years, living a life of extreme austerities. For years he neglected even his basic bodily needs; he survived only because some kind persons took care to feed him. In early days of his meditative practice, he sat still for hours losing awareness of his surroundings. Curious boys who witnessed his strange behaviour often teased him, occasionally throwing stones at him. But he remained steadfast, ignoring all distractions and privations. Such behaviour indicated extraordinary resolve and remarkable ego-strength. Over the years, Raman . a begged for his daily breadwhich was a common custom among Indians dedicated to a spiritual life. Later, in his teachings he advocated begging as a way of overcoming pridenot as a license for bums to live off charity (Talks with Raman . a Maharshi, three volumes in one, 1955/2003). Accounts
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of the later years of his life (Narasimha Swami, 1931/1985; Swaminathan, 1975) clearly show that his behaviour manifested unlimited compassion indicating extreme selessness and a total loss of egoism. The life history of Raman . a Maharshi presents a concrete example of how a strong ego can effectively be set aside resulting in a complete transformation of personality. In sharp contrast to a patient suffering from a pathological condition characterised by a week ego, the systematic and successful deconstruction of ego leads a person to rmly anchor his/her sense of self onto the rmest possible foundation, and can come in and out of a socially given niche at will. The discovery of the self implies that the self-realised person is free from the boundaries that normally constructed egos impose. Selfrealisation can thus be recognised as freedom (moks .a) from egoism of all sorts. The behaviour is then free from narrowness of the ego; selshness ends and behaviour manifests true love and limitless compassion. Such an account of cognitive deconstruction of the ego may sound outlandish and fanciful to those of us whose vision is shaped by Western psychology. Let me therefore place this account in well known ideas in contemporary psychology so that it becomes at least plausible if not necessarily convincing. As I have pointed out elsewhere (Paranjpe, 1998), the Advaita approach is basically similar to that of George Kelly (1955) insofar as both place cognitive construction at the centre of their theories of personality. Note that Kelly developed a technique of cognitive reconstruction of a clients beliefs that shape his or her social roles to help ameliorate his or her anguish arising from faulty construal of ones position vis--vis an alter-ego. In a parallel fashion, the Advaita technique suggests ways for a total cognitive deconstruction of the ego to help attain radical relief from suffering in life. Also, Advaitas prescription for a strictly rational examination of all selfdenitions is comparable to A.T. Becks (Beck et al., 1985) proposal for the use of a Socratic method of reasoning in his cognitive therapy for anxiety disorders. Further, the erasure of cognitively constructed self-denitions implied in the Advaita technique may be interpreted in the spirit of Derrida (1966/1978), who notes that the deconstruction of a word or a name in a text may cancel out its meaning without destroying its visibility. Similarly, one can say that a self-realised person repudiates and renounces his or her attachment with his or her name and social identity without destroying the ego and making it dysfunctional. Even as a word cancelled through Derridan deconstruction can still be read, a self-realised person can still function in
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society, convinced that the social self-denitions have only transactional value and no ultimate meaning or a compelling force. Assuming for a moment that such interpretations could make an Indian perspective somewhat plausible, its validity can still be questioned. So we need a careful examination of the validity of the cognitive theory on which is based the edice of Advaitas technology of the self.
On the Validation of the Advaita Theory of Cognition

While considering the issue of validity with reference to Advaita, it is important to remember the distinction between vidya and avidya , the two types or levels of knowledge. Avidya is primarily rational-empirical knowledge based on the transaction of a knower with objects of knowledge; it involves the use of sense organs to obtain input and processing its contents by means of rational thinking. The processing involves cognitive construction and produces propositional knowledge, which is open for assessment through systematic observation, critical reasoning and other criteria. When seen from the Advaita point of view, the ways of validation of propositional knowledge is not signicantly different from hypothesis testing in sciences, including psychology. There is a signicant difference, however, in the Advaita view of vidya , which being transcognitive, is not propositional knowledge that can be expressed in empirically testable hypotheses. Insofar as the Advaita theory of cognition proposes a transcognitive state of consciousness attained via systematic deconstruction of the ego, the validation of claims to the attainment of such a state becomes crucial in validation of the Advaita theory as a whole. As noted, the main thrust of epistemology in the Advaita system is on resistance to falsication as the criterion of truthfulness. Knowledge of the self-as-subject, it is suggested, is satyaman absolute truth or truth that is impossible to falsify. This stance is comparable to Karl Poppers (1962) approach to validation: throw out a conjecture with a challenge for invalidation to anyone who would like to test its validity. The crucial point here is whether or not one can attain a state like Nirvikalpa Sama dhi, which provides an experiential proof, not an empirical one. The claim of Advaita is not simply that it is possible, but that it offers incomparable bliss, and leads a person to a life of extreme selessness and compassion. Insofar as a transcognitive state is said to be attainable through specied methods of practice, it opens up a
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distinct way for validation of the Advaita theoryalthough that is not what . kara, for instance, in his introduction an the Advaita literature emphasises. S to his commentary on the Veda nta aphorisms emphasises that the issue of validation arises in all empirical sciences (Ramachandra Rao, 2002). And in his view, the state of self-realisation experienced in Nirvikalpa Sama dhi is beyond the scope of empirical sciences. For, after all, in this state the distinction between the knower and the known is transcendedand there is neither a proposition to be validated nor a knower looking for its proof. What emerges is unselsh behaviour, which is validated in his or her daily life. In Patajalis Yoga (see Woods, 1914/1972), which claims to help attain . praja Asam ta Sama dhi, a transcognitive state much like the Nirvikalpa Sama dhi, we nd a different approach to validation. The states designated by these terms may or may not be exactly alike; and also, the specic ways for attaining them are somewhat different. Nevertheless, the challenges for validation of the two systems face are comparable insofar as the crucial issue is the idea of proof by way of direct experience. Vya sa, an early commentator of Patajalis aphorisms states that yoga can be known by doing yoga.9 What this means is that statements about the nature of a transcognitive experience . praja such as the Asam ta Sama dhi can be validated by direct experience, which is attainable through practice of Yogic techniques as prescribed. The ways of attaining such experiences are clearly laid out, and these are openly available with guides (gurus) available in living traditions, and therefore their claims are veriable just like those of science. The difference is that while verication of scientic knowledge may involve setting up of experiments in a laboratory, verication of Yogic or Advaitic claims would require experimentation with ones own life. To take on such a challenge would not be easy; it would require singleminded effort for years with deep personal commitment. Why would anybody be willing to pay such a price? There are two possible goals that may justify the effort: either to pursue knowledge for its own sake, or for its putative benets in life. For those who are practically inclined, the validity of a theory is gauged primarily in terms of the effectiveness and utility of a technique founded on that theory. But then what is the use, or what is the benet that is promised to follow after going through the arduous task of relentless
9

Vyasas words in his commentary on Patajalis aphorism # 3.6 are: yogo yogena ja tavyo, yogo yogat pravartate.

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critical self-examination prescribed by Advaita? A self-realised person, it is said, experiences an inexhaustible inner peace without being tossed between elation and depression that ordinarily follows from the unending series of successes and failures in practical life. It is this promissory note that has prompted countless people of the Indian tradition to tread the difcult path to self-realisation. The credibility of this promissory note depends largely on traditional exemplars offered throughout the millennial history of the Indian tradition. Here is a case where the sacred canopy under which Advaita and Yoga developed is different from that in which modern science evolved. Bhawuk (2003) has shown how the Indian tradition of spirituality stretches over millennia giving a long list of prominent spiritual leaders from every century. He has also shown how the tradition continues till today, inspiring men and women of practically every generation to innovate and further enrich the tradition. In a globalised world, this tradition is widely accessible, and in recent decades several non-Indians including some American psychologists have taken the trouble to travel to India and benet from its spiritual legacy. But for those who are unprepared to take on such a daunting task for whatever reasons, is there some alternative that would point to the effectiveness and the attainment of the promised benets? The answer to this question is to look for real-life examples of those who followed the prescription for the cognitive deconstruction of the ego in recent times. The Advaita path to self-realisation is called ja na yoga. Successful practitioners of ja na yoga are very rare, and those that might be there right now would hardly announce, let alone brag about, their success. Proclaiming self-realisation is just not done; it is not kosher, so to speak. For, the absence of egoism is the very hallmark of self-realisation. Yet, there are exceptional individuals who are widely recognised as successful practitioners of ja na yoga. Sri Raman . a Maharshi (18791950) is a clear example.10 Biographies of such rare individuals can be viewed as partial test of the effectiveness of a self-technology based on the Advaitic theory of cognition (Paranjpe, 2008). This type of an attempt as a way of testing validation is something like a case study of a theory. Such an approach involves an ideographic rather than nomothetic approach; it demands a qualitative study rather than a quantitative (Bhawuk, 2003).
10 Sri Raman . a Maharshi did not write extensively, but his ideas are expressed in his conversations with numerous disciples and visitors, and these have been reported in a volume called Talks with Raman shramam (1955/2003). . a Maharshi, a collection published by Raman .a

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Discussion and Future Research Directions In this article, attempt is made to describe and analyse the theoretical frameworks developed in the Indian tradition on two topics, self and cognition. Two radically opposing positions have been advanced and debated on the nature of self for centuries, one afrming and the other denying the self. The Upanis . ads strongly afrmed that there is a transcendental self, which accounts for the unity and permanence underlying the varied and changing images of self through the entire span of life. In sharp contrast, Buddha and his many followers have insisted that the self, like everything else in the world, is open to continual change, and that there is nothing to ensure a permanent basis for selfhood. This dialectic of afrmation and denial of the self appears to be parallel to two mutually opposing trends in contemporary psychology: the afrmation of self and identity by Erikson, as opposed to Skinners denial of an agentic self. This article critically examined these differing perspectives with an attempt to clarify what is it that is afrmed or denied by these theorists in the name of self, on what ground and to what consequence. To put it briey, what the Upanis . ads and their followers in the Advaita tradition claim is that, through systematic self-examination it is possible to directly experience an unchanging basis for selfhood at the centre of the universe of experience. Its experience, it is said, is deeply blissful in nature, and it provides a rm anchor to selfhood that makes continual search for a revised identity redundant. As to the Buddhist theory of no-self, it is shown that what is denied is a permanent ego. Buddhist thinkers point out that the ego is formed by clinging to ephemeral things like wealth or loved ones, and that implicit assumption of their perpetual support results in suffering when the loved objects and relations come to an end. Buddhism therefore insists on the recognition of the impermanence of the ego to help avoid unnecessary suffering. A close examination of Eriksons writings indicates that in his early work he suggests a transcendental center of awareness and volition, which is a virtual translation of Kants idea of a Pure Ego that accounts for unity and sameness of the self. However, in the bulk of his writings, he demonstrates only a sense of identity which, as a conguration of roles, remains forever revisable. But in one of his latest essays, Erikson points to a numinous centre of awareness and alludes to a Biblical afrmation of Yahvehs eternal self expressed in the
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words I AM THAT I AM. In sharp contrast, what Skinner denies is an agentic self, which is in his view a mere vestige of animism. Consistent with his thesis of total determinism, Skinner views human as innitely malleable, and thereby implicitly justies the psychologists enterprise of behaviour modication. It is thus shown that apparent parallels are deceptive; what is afrmed or denied in the name of self is different from one theory to another, and these differences lead to differing consequences. In the second part of this article, focus was on a theory of cognition in the Advaita school of Indian thought. The reason for its choice is that in this school, the Upanis . adic theory afrming the self is supported by a constructivist view of cognition. This perspective on cognition suggests that the inherent limitations of the human cognitive apparatus make it inevitable for sensory inputs to be complemented by imagination. The result is that our understanding of the world tends to get constructed or fabricated, and thus remains open to deconstruction. While this perspective is shown to be essentially consistent with that of Piagets, in the Advaita tradition a practical application is developed on the foundations of a constructivist theory of cognition. That application involves a technique of meditation that uses systematic critical examination of the nature of the self. The successful practice of this technique is claimed to lead to a direct experience of a transcendental self at the centre of awareness with great existential benets. It is suggested that the Advaita approach to self, complemented by its theory of cognition, leads not only to a practical application of promised value, but also to a viable, if difcult, method for validation of its theory. It should be clear from the Indian and Western perspectives sketched above that there are considerable differences in the way they approach common issues. In general, the Indian theories begin with a global view, moving from whole to part, complex to simple or in general adopt a topdown approach in theory building. By contrast, some popular Western theories such as those of Skinner and other behaviourists, start with observations of specic behaviours like the reex, and go gradually from molecular units to molar units of behaviour. Theory building in such instances adopts a bottomup approach, following its successful adoption in natural science. However, such differing approaches, although starkly contrasting in specic instances, often require making connection up and down the hierarchy in a graded series of part and whole. Thus, Advaita cannot proceed without connecting from

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the ubiquitous Brahman to the individual living being, and further down to cognitive and other functions within the individual. Reciprocally, having begun with a focus on a tiny stimulusresponse (SR) unit, the behaviourist must try to explain how several SR units combine to form more relatively inclusive units. Indeed, working within the behaviourist framework, attempt has been made to explain how pigeons can learn to play ping pong, and even how chimpanzees manifest self-consciousness and some form of a self-concept (Gallup, 1970)although the issue has remained controversial (Epstein et al., 1981). The twain must meet, not only in terms of East meeting West, but also in terms of a meaningful convergence of diametrically opposing approaches to theory building. There are radical differences in the applied sphere as well. As noted, while the predominant focus for applied psychology in the Indian tradition is on spiritual upliftment and on self-control, a greater part of applied psychology in the West has been on removal of pathology and on controlling someone else rather than oneself. But such features are dominant, not exclusive. Moreover, there is need for all kinds of applications all over the world: While there are numerous neurotics in India who would (and do) benet from psychoanalytic, behavioural or Kelley-type of psychotherapies, there are many in the West who are beneting from Yoga and other techniques for self-realisation that originated in India and other parts of the East. Here, too, the twain must meet. Research in psychology, as it is conceived of in the tradition of modern science, is an enterprise comprising of collecting data and their statistical analysis for assessing the degree of generalisability of law-like propositions. In recent years, as Asian techniques of meditation have found followers in the West, many psychologists have been adopting standard psychological methodology to assess their effectiveness. Some applications of Yogic techniques, in particular, allow fairly stringent objective measures to assess their psycho-somatic effectiveness. But as noted in this article, there is equal scope and need for the use of qualitative methods and a case-study approach. It is neither possible nor necessary to review such research here. Sufce it to say that, with the continuing march of globalisation, an EastWest dialogue is progressing rapidly in many directions. Compared to the past generations, the young scholars of today stand to gain by a combined and more inclusive human legacy. Tomorrows texts should have no need to be books on only Indian, Eastern or Western psychology, but on psychology as such.

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Anand C. Paranjpe is Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Humanities at Simon Fraser University in Canada, where he has been teaching since 1967. His recent work is focused on the understanding of psychological principles embedded in the intellectual and spiritual traditions of India. His academic honours include a Smith-Mundt and Fulbright award for post-doctoral research at Harvard University in 196667, and his election as the Fellow of the Canadian Psychology Asoociation in 2004.

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