[Advaita-l] Why is jagat mithya?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Jan 20 01:05:15 CST 2012

On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 10:26 AM, Praveen R. Bhat <bhatpraveen at gmail.com>wrote:

> Hari Om, Venkateshji,
> Thus far, it seemed that you'd misunderstood advaita vedanta terminology
> of mithyA, mAyA, sat & asat. Now, its clear that you've mixed up several
> issues over and above this! I shall list the problem areas as seen over
> your last mail:
> i) When Advaita Vedanta talks of mAyA, its never isolated from Ishvara
> since it is indeed Ishvara's mAyA. You miss saguNa here and reduce it to
> shunyatA somehow!


It would be a surprise to many or at least those who have not had the
benefit of a traditional teaching of Advaita vedanta to know that
Shankaracharya has not ignored the question: why hold the world to be
mithya while giving out the Vedantic teaching?

In His bhashyam to the Brahma Sutra: तदनन्यत्वमारम्भणशब्दादिभ्यः 2.1.14  by
a lengthy discussion Shankara refutes the opponent who proposes: Let the
duality seen in vyavahara be real and let the unity of the ultimate reality
also be real.

One may patiently read this entire bhashyam to get a first hand  knowledge
of Shankara's teaching.  The gist is this:  When the Vedantic teaching is
'ज्ञानान्मोक्षः' [Liberation is through Jnana, Knowlege alone] the
immediate, logical, corollary is: बन्धः आविद्यकः/आज्ञानिकः [bondage/samsara
is a product of ignorance].  If Jnana is to fetch liberation, bondage has
to have an ignorance-base.  We know that wherever ignorance is the base,
the product of such ignorance is unreal.  For example, when there is
ignorance about the thing in front, the rope, the resultant projected snake
is unreal.  Similarly the taking of the body-mind complex to be oneself and
by extension, the whole world to be real, being the result of ignorance of
oneself, is essentially, unarguably aavidyaka. The world therefore has to
be unreal. Thus there is no room in Vedanta for the theory: let the world
of variety be real (or not be declared as mithyA) and let also the ultimate
reality be One.

With the strength of the Shruti Shankara has established through logic the
untenability of the position proposed by the opponent.

Also, a mere adherence to SaguNa bhakti will not bring about any magic that
will launch one in the Nirguna Brahman.  When one realizes/accepts NirguNa
brahman one has to inevitably give up the reality adduced to Saguna
brahman.  Thus mithyAtva is an unavoidable condition in arriving at the
Nirguna tattva.  This verse of the Kalpataru:

निर्विशेषं परं ब्रह्म साक्षात्कर्तुमनीश्वराः ।
ये मन्दास्तेऽनुकम्प्यन्ते सविशेषनिरूपणैः ॥
वशीकृते मनस्तेषां सगुणब्रह्मशीलनात् ।
तदेवाविर्भवेत्साक्षादपेतोपाधिकल्पनम् ॥

The meaning is:

It is beyond the ken of many to realize the Supreme Brahman that is without
any attributes.  The scripture talks about Brahman with attributes with a
view to help these people, out of compassion.  Once their mind becomes
attenuated by practicing saguNabrahma disciplines, with not much effort the
upAdhi-free Brahman realization comes about.

This is the admitted view of the Advaita Vedanta tradition.  Shankaracharya
has said a lot about this across the bhAshyam literature.  One such
statement of His isthe Sutra bhashyam:

स्यात्परमेश्वरस्यापि इच्छावशात् मायामयं रूपं साधकानुग्रहार्थम् ।

(Ishwara, out of compassion, takes on, by His Maya, a form to grace the
spiritual aspirant.)

Says the Sarva-vedanta-siddhAnta-sAra-sangraha:

जन्मानेकशतै:  सदादरयुजा भक्त्या समाराधितो

भक्तैर्वैदिकलक्षणेन विधिना सन्तुष्ट ईश: स्वयम् ।

साक्षात् श्रीगुरुरूपमेत्य कृपया द्रूग्गोचरस्सन् प्रभु:

तत्त्वं साधु विशोध्य तारयति तान् संसारदु:खार्णवात् ॥ (225)

[The Lord, being pleased with the constant and unflinching devotion and
worship in the prescribed manner, extending over many lives on the part of
the seeker, manifests Himself, in His infinite mercy in the human form of
the Guru, thereby becoming accessible to the shishya for shushrUshA and
vichara which culminate in his crossing over the perilous ocean of samsara.]
It is to be carefully noted that Shankaracharya in particular or Advaita
Vedanta ShAstra in general never underplays the importance of saguNa
brahman and its powers and utility.  The devatAnugraha and its importance
in a sadhaka's spiritual journey is greatly talked about by Shankara in the
Br.Up.1.4.10 bhashyam where the question of 'devata-s hindering the
sadhaka's journey in the moksha marga' is very elaborately discussed.  The
very ability of the sadhaka to take up the nirguNa sadhana is due to the
prasada of the saguNa brahman.  It is needless to say that devatopasana is
also the means to secure the fulfillment of desires, this and other
worldly.  The Gita 8th chapter talks about the upasana of 'other' devata-s
aimed at this.  Shankara repeatedly says in the GitAbhAshya
'jnAnasahitena/jnAnalakShaNena bhaktyA' to emphasize that bhakti will
confer liberation ONLY through jnAnam and it is needless to say that such
jnAnam is only brahmAtmaikya jnanam which is nirvishesha/nirupAdhika.

One has also to remember that the truly feel 'everything is the Lord,
Ishwara' is not as easy as it might seem to be.  Saints, Acharyas and
composers belonging to Theistic schools have waxed eloquence in pointing
out the extremely difficult task of keeping the mind under control and
seeing the divinity in the universe.  The greatest challenge in perceiving
God everywhere is the truant mind.  Raga, dvesha, etc. are the most severe
hindrances in accomplishing Ishwara driShTi in the world.  One has to put
up a tough fight against the sense organs to this end.  The keeping at bay
the world of senses and visualizing the Lord in the place of the world is
none other than bringing in mithyA/mAyaa-vAda through the backdoor.   The
theist's process might look like he is not giving room for mithyAtva of the
world.  But when examined his method can be seen to be  only another way of
'disregarding' the world of names and forms and  'positing' God in its


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