[Advaita-l] RE: rope and snake argument

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Nov 23 16:04:42 CST 2004

>I would like to know how the rope and snake argument
>is used in kevala advaita. I have heard it being used
>in two ways -
>1) That you think of "it" in terms of rope/snake
>because you are still conditioned and you are still
>trying to think in terms of concepts and dualities. In
>reality, it is neither a rope nor a snake.
>2) When you see a rope and think of a snake, you are
>superimposing the concept of a snake on top of the
>reality (rope). Likewise, we superimpose dualistic
>concepts on top of non dual reality.

In the traditional Advaita texts, it is used only in the second sense. The 
rope-snake discussion is used as an analogy. Just as an erroneous judgment 
sees a snake where there is nothing but a rope, an erroneous judgment 
ascribes reality to duality where there is nothing but non-duality.

The first sense is wrong, in and of itself. Duality is never one of rope vs. 
snake, but one of rope vs. not-rope and snake vs. not-snake. In the case of 
the rope-snake, the erroneous cognition is of the form, "this is a snake" 
and the correct cognition is of the form, "oh, this is a rope". Of course, 
there is, ultimately, no duality and therefore, no external object that is 
either a rope or a snake. However, this knowledge comes from a different 
source, i.e. SAstra, not from the rope-snake discussion itself.


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