Vishaya (विषयः)

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Viśayah primarily means – 'the sphere of influence or activity', and also refers to – 'dominion', 'kingdom', 'territory', 'country', 'abode', 'lands' etc., but in Hindu philosophy, it has been used to indicate 'the subject matter', 'the sense-objects', 'the subject of interpretation', 'the area or range of words' or 'the field of experience'. According to the Mimamsakas a complete adhikarana (अधिकरणम्) i.e. main, relation or connection, consists of viśayah (विषयः) - the subject or the matter to be explained, viśeya (विशय) or sanśeya (संशय) - the doubt or the question arising upon that matter, pūrvapakśa (पूर्वपक्ष) – the prima facie argument concerning it , uttarpakśa (उत्तर्पक्ष) or siddhanta (सिद्धान्त) – the answer or the demonstrated conclusion, and sangati (संगति) – pertinency or relevancy or the final conclusion.[1] According to Srimad Bhagavatam (XI.ix.29), viśayah or the objects of sense enjoyment are to be found everywhere, as āhāra ('food'), nidrā ('sleep'), bhaya ('fear - overcoming of') and maithuna ('mating' meaning sensuous pleasures).[2]

Meaning

Viśayah (Sanskrit:विषयः) means – material contamination, possessing as objectives, on the subject matter, objects for sense enjoyments, subject matter, sense objects, the objects of sense gratification, objects of sense enjoyment.[3] In the Bhagavad Gita, this word is used twice in its plural form विषया (Viśayā) while referring to - on the subject matter in Sloka II.45 – त्रैगुण्यविषया वेदा and to the objects for sense enjoyment in Sloka II.59 – विषया विनिवर्तन्ते.[4] Viśayah primarily means – the sphere of influence or activity, and also refers to – dominion, kingdom, territory, country, abode, lands etc.[5] The word viśayah is derived from viś meaning to act.[6]

Application

Anandavardhana defines viśayah as 'habitat', area, sphere or genre; Abhinavagupta defines it as a particular aggregate (sañghā-ta). In Sanskrit Literature, it refers to the area or range of operation, or objects operated upon, and therefore means the area in which the words can serve any purpose as informing us of anything and includes their expressed, indicated, and suggested meanings (objects) and also the facts that can be inferred from using words.[7]

In his Tattva bodhah, Shankara has used viśayah to mean - 'the field of experience' – शोत्रस्य विषयः शब्द ग्रहणम् (of the ear/ the field of experience/ is receiving sound).[8] And, in Sloka 79 of his Vivekachudamani , he has used this word to denote virulent 'sense-objects' – दोषेण तीव्रो विषयः कृष्णसर्पविशादपि that a sense-object is more virulent than the poison of a king cobra.[9]

Viśayah also refers to the area or range of words, including their meanings.[10] The Śabda-kalpa-druma gives viśayah as one of the many meanings of the Sanskrit word – artha (अर्थ); artha as viśayah is defined as that which floats in apprehension (bhāsate) or that which is manifested in apprehension. 'The object', 'the meaning of the word' and 'purpose' are the three philosophical relevants.[11]

An illusion is wrong perception owing to avidya (ignorance), in which case conditions of veridical experience do not obtain; the locus (ashraya) does not figure as any objectivity or content (viśayah), it looks as if it is superimposed. The sky is not a perceivable content and therefore, it is never presented as a viśayah and is not capable of being the viśayah of any perceptual judgment. Shankara speaks of adhyasa ('illicit superimposition') of the viśayah ('not-self') and its properties on the viśayi or the pure self.[12] In the notion – "I know this" – the cognitive activity of the knower relates to viśayah ('object'), and to the Self; the Self reveal itself in the result and in the viśayah as the viśayah through the instrumentality of the experiencing of viśayah.[13]

Significance

All six astika (orthodox) schools of Hindu Thought, which had developed simultaneously, accept the authority of the Vedas and have given us the dynamic interpretations of the classical texts. The interpretations are not arbitrary and the Mimamsikas speak about adhikarana or the procedure of interpretation that consists of five steps – the first step is viśayah or the subject of interpretation capable of having two or more meanings, the second step is samasyā or doubt regarding its meaning, the third step is pūrva-paksā or postulation of some probable meaning, the fourth step is uttaram or the refutation of the suggested meaning and the fifth step is nirnaya or establishment of true meaning.[14] Sriram Śastrī in his Pancapādikavivaranam (1st varnaka) reminds us that - "All things are objects (viśayah) of witness-consciousness, on account of their being either known or unknown".[15]

Both, "this" and "I", are indexicals, non-conceptually referring to the unique reality, both are viśayi, and both combine to commit adhyasa , therefore, viśayah refers to all universal concepts, descriptive words and general meanings.[16] Madhusūdana Sarasvatī adopting the theory promoted by Sarvajñātma Muni, the author of Samkśepa-śārīrika and who had got this idea from Prakāśātma Yati’s Vivarana, explains that Brahman is both 'locus' (asraya) and the 'object' (viśayah) of avidya.[17]

Sadananda explains Visayah:

विषयः – जीवब्रह्मएैक्यं शुद्धचैतन्यं प्रमेयं तत्र एव वेदान्तानां तात् पर्यात् |
"The subject is the identity of the individual self and Brahman, which is of the nature of Pure Intelligence and is to be realized. For such is the purport of the texts."

as the subject which is identification of the Jiva and Brahman after eliminating their respective attributes, and their unity, and Brahman as Pure Intelligence which is the state of homogeinity which is "the goal all the Vedas declare" – सर्वे वेदा यत् पदमामनन्ति (Katha UpanishadI.ii.15).[18]

References

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