[Advaita-l] A perspective -20

Kuntimaddi Sadananda ksadananda108 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 20 10:32:18 CST 2010

The world is real or unreal?

In response to questions raised by Shree Michael in adviatin list about the
reality of the world, there was an extensive discussion by many including
Shree Subbuji.  In relation to that, I am presenting two of the five
definitions of falsity that Shree Madhusudana presents defending previous
aachaaryas’ positions. Shankara in his adhyaasa bhaaShya uses the world
mithyaa for the world- In his commentary of ManDukya kaarika, he makes a
statement – I see it therefore it is false – dRisyatvaat while the dvaitic
position is I see it therefore it is real – dRisyatvaat, where pratyaksha
pramaaNa or direct perception is given importance for reality. In his
commentary on Shankara bhaaShya, Padmapaada defines the mithyaa as –
anirvacaniiyam, unexplainable, in the sense that we cannot say it exists and
we cannot say it does not exits. This forms the first definition of falsity
that dvaitins in NyaayamRita criticize using Navya Nyaaya arguments. Some of
the arguments of Michael are not different from Purvapakshi presented in the
text and these have been treated exhaustively by our aachaaryaas. Shree
Anand Hudli has presented some of it in the past.

The question is what is this world? Advaita answer is it is neither real nor
unreal or it is mithyaa. Purvapakshi presents - What is mithyaa? In
countering the definition given, the argument is that what is not sat or
real, it should be asat, unreal; and what is not asat, unreal, it should be
sat. It should be one or the other and you cannot have both real and unreal
in the same locus – That is the essence of the argument of puurvapakshi
saying that mutually opposing qualities of sat and asat locussed on one
contribute to self-contradiction, and therefore logically not
acceptable.  Madhusudana
says NO. There is no contradiction here. The contradiction comes only if one
considers them as mutually exclusive. But if one defines the real and unreal
correctly then there is no contradiction. This as I see forms the essence of
discussion between Michael and Subbu. These are definitions:

1. Real is that which is not negated in three periods of time. And by this
definition Brahman alone is real and nothing else. Brahman cannot be seen –
agotram -says the scripture. Hence whatever I perceive cannot come under

2. Unreal is that where there is never a time and place to have a locus for
its existence. This should be actually called tuccham instead of asat –
unfortunately the scriptures use the asat for this also. This cannot be
perceived too –since there is no locus of its existence as in

3. Now there is a third category which does not fall under 1 and 2 – that is
the world – I see it therefore it is not UNREAL(This is also B.sutra 2-28 ).
But it undergoes continuous modification. Therefore it is not trikaala
abhaaditam, that is it does not fulfill the definition 1 or reality. Hence
it is not REAL. Hence it is neither real nor unreal. Hence it is
anirvachaniiyam says Pancapaadika, which Madhusudana justifies as valid
definition for the world where there is no contradiction that dvaitins point
out. Since if it is not 1, it can be 2 or 3 and if it is not 3, it can be 1
or 2 and if it is not 1 and 2 then it can be 3. It is not unreal since it is
experienced and it is not real since it can be sublated. Hence it is only
transactionally real like our good old ring and bangle – vaacaarambhanam
vikaaro naamadheyam – there are there – naamkevaaste – but what is there is
really gold. Similarly what is there when I see the world is Brahman only in
varieties of names and forms – That is what is involve in tat tvam asi
statement too. aitadaatmyam idam sarvam tat satyam – sa aatma – tat tvam asi
– swetaketu. The essence of the whole universe (idam sarvam) is nothing but
the very existence principle – that you are. The discussion automatically
leads to the second definition of mithyaa that Madhusudana presents.

2. This definition comes from Shree Prakaashaatma Yati  who is also known as
VivaraNaacharya, who in further explaining Shankara adhyaasa bhaaShya
justifies the mithyaa aspect of the world using the scriptural statement –
neha naanaasti kinchana – there is nothing what so ever here. Here being
used in terms world of perceptual presence now – that is as I am perceiving
the world right now  – the declaration is there is nothing what so ever real
here since what is real is Brahman which cannot be perceived. Since non
existence thing cannot be perceived, therefore on the basis of the
scriptural statement whatever is perceived is mithyaa only since it is
neither real nor unreal. The definition for mithyaa is: pratipanna upaadhou
traikaalikanishedhapratiyogitvam vaa mithyaatvam’ – in  essence where three
I am seeing now is not really there and what is there really I cannot see. I
am seeing pot there but pot is really not there – what is there is only clay
and not pot. Hence pot is mithyaa. I am seeing the world in front of me,
there where I am seeing the world, it is not there since in this case what
is there is only Brahman that I cannot see. Hence the second definition is
off shoot of the first but comes with scriptural justification for the
mithyaa besides the vaachaarambhanam statement quoted above.

Hence real or unreal question should be really real, unreal or mithyaa. And
the world itself is mithyaa – this applies equally to waking world as well
as the dream world. In that sense there is not much difference. Hence
Shankara says in aatma bodha:

Sakaale satyavat bhaati, prabodhe satyasat bhavet – it appears to be real in
its time but when one is awaken its unreality is recognized. Here the term
is satyavat – meaning it APPEARS  to be real. The similar statement Shankara
makes in DakshiNamurthi first sloka – vishvam darpaNa dRisyamaana nagarii
tulyam nijaatargatam –exhaustive analysis has been provided for these slokas
by Shree Subbuji and is stored in the file section of advaitin list.

Hari Om!


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