[Advaita-l] Avidya and Adhyasa

Vinodh vinodh.iitm at gmail.com
Thu May 19 22:54:10 EDT 2022


The discussion on the topic "Are avidya and adhyasa the same?" in the other
thread was fascinating.

Many learned scholars had shared their detailed responses on the topic with
references to various texts of Acharyas and other scholars.

Unfortunately, however, for someone like me, who is neither well-versed in
all these texts nor has a great understanding of Sanskrit, the discussion
was quite hard to follow.

So I had been thinking about this topic to reason about their equivalence
or otherwise and this is what occurred to me thanks to Guru's grace.

*Avidya and Adhyasa*

Avidya literally translates to 'not knowing' or ignorance. Ignorance of
what? In Vedanta, it refers to not knowing the Truth.

Adhyasa on the other hand translates to superposition (placing one on top
of another so that the underlying thing appears as something else). In
Vedanta, it refers to the placing of something other than Truth on top of

>From the above, it appears that Adhyasa and Avidya cannot necessarily be
one and the same.

Let us explore further.

There could be Avidya without Adhyasa.


In sushupti (deep sleep), we all are still under Avidya (not knowing the
Truth), but we do not perceive anything else. Therefore there is no

This is analogous to a rope in complete darkness. Neither a rope (the
Truth) is seen nor is the superimposed illusion of a snake on the rope.

However, there cannot be Adhyasa without Avidya.


If there is no avidya, that is, the Truth is clear, then there is no
possibility of superimposing an illusion on the Truth.

Once the magician's trick is revealed, it is no longer possible to imagine
the illusion because the underlying Truth of the illusion is known.

So Adhyasa requires Avidya, but not the other way round.

Therefore, Avidya is the cause and Adhyasa is the effect of Avidya.

I am not sure how the above aligns with the various references discussed in
the other thread. It seems to me that it should be in alignment with the
traditional view of the sruti and of the advaita acharyas.

I would be grateful for any thoughts on the above. 🙏

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