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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 5: Analysis of the Mind and Reality > Apprehension of Validly Knowable Phenomena

Apprehension of Validly Knowable Phenomena

Alexander Berzin, March 2004

An apprehension is a cognition that correctly and decisively cognizes its involved object (‘jug-yul). Let us look at the Gelug explanation.

Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Svatantrika assert that a cognition apprehends (rtogs-pa) its involved object (‘jug-yul) if it is nonfallacious (mi-bslu-ba), which means it cognitively takes its object correctly and with certitude that it is "this" and not "that." Because their definition of valid cognition (tshad-ma) is a way of knowing that is both fresh (gsar) and nonfallacious, these systems assert that not all cognitions that apprehend their objects validly cognize them. Valid bare cognition (mngon-sum tshad-ma) and valid inferential cognition (rjes-dpag tshad-ma) apprehend their objects. Subsequent cognition (bcad-shes), whether of a valid bare cognbition or a valid inferential cognition, apprehends it object, but is not a valid cognition because it is not fresh. It does not establish itself by its own power, but relies on the power of the previous moment of cognition of the same object.

Prasangika rejects subsequent cognition as a way of knowing something. Only if one asserts findable existence established by something’s self-nature (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa, inherent existence) is it possible to cognize the same findable object initially and then subsequently. Since Prasangika refutes this impossible manner of existence that the other tenet systems accept, subsequent cognition becomes a meaningless category. Therefore, Prasangika asserts that only valid cognition apprehends its object – valid straightforward cognition (mngon-sum tshad-ma) and valid inferential cognition.

Inferential cognition is exclusively conceptual. The non-Prasangika tenet systems assert that bare cognition is exclusively nonconceptual. Prasangika redefines the technical term for bare cognition and takes it to mean "straightforward cognition" – a valid cognition that does not rely on a line of reasoning in the immediately preceding moment of cognition. Thus, valid straightforward cognition may be either conceptual or nonconceptual.

An apprehension may be either explicit (dngos-su rtogs-pa) or implicit (shugs-la rtogs-pa).

  • In explicit apprehension, the mind correctly and decisively cognizes its involved object through a mental aspect (rnam-pa) of it.
  • In implicit apprehension (shugs-la rtogs-pa), the mind correctly and decisively cognizes its involved object not through a mental aspect of it.

A cognitive aspect is like a fully transparent mental hologram, representing an involved object of a cognition. Through such mental holograms, we explicitly cognize validly knowable phenomena.

All apprehensions explicitly apprehend one or more involved objects. Not all, however, implicitly apprehend anything.

[See: Fine Analysis of Objects of Cognition: Gelug Presentation.]