Definition - S. N. Sastri
Madhusudana Sarasavati has, in Advaitasiddhi,
given five definitions of mithyA taken from the
works of different AchAryas. Of these, the definition
which appealed to me most is the following :--
mithyA-- "mithyA is that which is negated
in all the three periods of time in the locus
in which it appears". Silver appears on
nacre, but it is found to have not existed in
any of the three periods of time in the place
in which it appeared.
It is prAtibhAsika while
the substratum, nacre, is vyAvahArika. When
it is said that the silver does not exist in
all the three periods of time it is to be understood
that it does not exist with the same level
of reality, i.e., the same ontological status
as its substratum, nacre.
Similarly, the world
appears on the substratum, brahman, but it
has no absolute reality. It does not have the
same ontological status as its substratum. It
is neither real like brahman, nor is it unreal
like the horn of a rabbit. so it is said to be
'sattvena asattvena vA anirvacanIyA',
what cannot be described as either real or unreal.
It is vyAvahArika satya while the substratum,
brahman, is pAramArthika satya.
Both vyAvahArika satya and prAtibhAsika satya
are mithyA. The former is negated only by the
knowledge of brahman while the latter is negated
by the knowledge of its substratum.
When it is said that the world is
negated by the knowledge of brahman,
it does not mean that the world disappears.
The j~nAni continues to see duality, but he
knows that it is not real and is not affected
by whatever happens. He becomes free from the
notions of being a doer and an enjoyer and
free from likes, dislikes, etc., which are
the cause of all suffering.
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