[Advaita-l] What is the meaning of illusion (according to advaita, obviously)?

Pranipata pranipata at hotmail.com
Fri Dec 26 20:00:48 CST 2008

Hari Om!  Pranaams!
We are trying to understand thro the medium of English what has been 
precisely defined in Sanskrit.
In English knowledge means right or true knowledge only and no false 
knowledge is admitted. But in Sanskrit the word jnana which we translate 
equivalent to knowledge not only mean right but also false knowledge. Right 
knowledge is termed prama and false as bhrama which we generally translate 
as illusion.
Jnana is the knowledge arising from accepted means of knowledge (pramana). 
Different systems accept certain means and even among them give primacy to 
one pramana, vedanta in general admits all six pramanas but gives primary 
importance to sabda which is called Veda or testimony of 
Jnana which is not falsified is termed prama and that knowledge which gets 
subsequently falsified is called bhrama.
Let us call jnana as apprehension, prama as right apprehension and bhrama as 
Hence unless falsified all jnana is prama only. And all experiences gives us 
knowledge so vedanta do not deny any experience.
Certain experiences disappear on their own and hence we dismiss them as 
bhrama like dream. Whereas some are falsified only on right knowledge like 
we get the prama of rope and snake becomes bhrama. (The famous vedantic 
example of seeing a snake in place of rope)
Let us analyse bhrama.  It can be peculiar to one(dream or seeing snake on 
rope) or universal to all(a rod immersed in water appearing as bent). When 
it is subjective we term it as illusion and universal as appearance. Now we 
can understand what we mean by appearance and existence.
When the appearance is universal; we enquire why it appears so. Connection, 
proximity, natural(sahaja or svabhava in sanskrit) are admitted by all but 
advaita, in place of natural says superimposition(Adhyasa) as reasons for 
the appearing differently.
We will see examples: The rod appearing as bent is caused because of 
connection or association, the crystal appearing red is because it is placed 
next to red flower/cloth is for proximity. Sky appearing blue or sun rising 
in east and setting in west  can be taken as example for natural. The 
problem with natural appearance is that it continues to appear even after 
right knowledge. Rope appearing as snake for superimposition.
Any astika-believer of God as creator, sustainer, destructor of world cannot 
accept world as permanent. It is also impermanent like our body.
If that which ever exist is Satya, naturally asatya should refer to that 
which can never exist like horn of a hare. So a term for the thing that 
appear to exist but cannot said to be permanent is termed as mithya.
Hence according to advaita mithya naturally gets assigned to appearance.
In Shri Guru Smriti,
Br. Pranipata Chaitanya

From: "Suresh" <mayavaadi at yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, December 26, 2008 11:58 PM
To: <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Subject: [Advaita-l] What is the meaning of illusion (according to 

> Dear Friends,
> I am finding it hard to understand the real meaning of this word. If we 
> take illusion to mean non-existence, then the latter should suffice. Why 
> the word illusion? On the other hand, if illusion refers to 
> 'impermanence,' again, why the word illusion, when a simpler word like 
> impermanence is enough?
> I'd like to know what it means when we say jagat mithya. Does it mean the 
> world is changing, or does it mean the world is non-existent? If the 
> former, how is it an illusion (it could simply mean things are changing)? 
> If the latter, more explanation must follow as to how.
> I hope learned members can shed light on this.
> Suresh
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