Superimposing bodily qualities on the self: āropa in Vedānta Deśika

In his Seśvaramīmāṃsā, Veṅkaṭanātha/Vedānta Deśika discusses the self (ātman) and claims it is different from the body, sense-organs, intellect, mind, etc. However, he also claims that the self is what we know when we grasp ourselves as an “I”. Thus, an easy objection is that we sometimes refer to our body with the word “I” (e.g., in “I am a woman”). Veṅkaṭanātha’s answer is that this is only due to superimposition (āropa) and that one does not seize the difference only because of karman:

ato yo ‘sau pratikṣetram aham ity upalabhyate, sa evātmā pāṇyādes tatsaṃghātāc ca vilakṣaṇaḥ. evaṃsthite, devo ‘haṃ manuṣyo ‘haṃ kṛśo ‘ham ityādidehadharmopaṣṭambhena yo ‘sāv ahampratyayaḥ, sa pītaśaṃkhādinayena nirvāhyaḥ,
saṃsargiṇi gṛhyamāṇe dehe karmādidoṣaviśeṣeṇa bhedakadharmāgrahāt taddharmāropopapatteḥ (SM ad 1.1.5)

Therefore, that which is seized as the “I” in each field of experience (i.e., living body) (kṣetra), that is the self [and] is different from the hands and the [other body parts taken singularly] and from their complex. Such being the case, the apprehension of an I based (upaṣṭambha) of a characteristic of the body, for instance “I am a God”, “I am a human being”, “I am thin”, can be removed according to the principle of the yellow conch (the conch is in itself white, but it seems yellow to one who suffers of jaundice). In fact, it is congruous to superimpose (āropa) the characteristics of the [body on the self] because —once the body, which is the sum [of all the body parts] is being grasped— one does not grasp the characteristic distinguishing (bhedaka) [it from the self] due to the specific (viśeṣa) flaws consisting in karman, etc.

Now, why does he Veṅkaṭanātha adds that this erroneous superimposition occurs once one grasps the whole body? Does he mean to say that one is distracted by the many parts composing the body and thus assumes it extends until the self?

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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2 thoughts on “Superimposing bodily qualities on the self: āropa in Vedānta Deśika

  1. It’s partially the result of the binding problem. What brings together in a unity all the processes/all the sense modalities? What is the self of all the ‘selves’? It is easy to dismiss as false the superimposition of a self on a particular attribute – I am fair, I am black etc. However the real superimposition is on the totality or what binds everything together.

    An amateur question: what is the difference philologically between ‘aropa’ and ‘adhyasa’ ? Are they synonyms (if there are such things?- an interesting philosophical question) or do they signify a different emphasis? I would intuitively say the latter!!!