Definition by Ram Chandran:
In Vedanta literature there are some discussions
related to the three notions of reality: prAtibhAsika
satya, vyAvahArika satya and pAramArthika satya.
Before the discussions, let us make sure that
we understand that Truth is only one and it is
never threefold. These narrations are just reflections
of our own perceptions at different situations.
prAtibhAsika satya has neither basis, nor any
existence. It is our illusion and a good example
is the reality during dream. When there is twilight,
a little light and a little darkness, we come
by a rope and mistake it to be a snake. Really
speaking, there is no snake there. The snake
is only in our mind and the thing that is really
there is only the rope. This is also referred
as prAtibhAsika satya.
When we stand in front of a mirror, we see our
reflection in it. When we move away, the reflection
vanishes. Therefore, the reflection depends on
the original object and only when it is there,
will we see the reflection. Here, there is one
basis, namely, the original thing. Without the
original, there is no reflection. This is an
illustration of vyAvahArika satya.
On the other hand, pAramArthika satya is an
entity which is present everywhere and at all
times. This is the true and eternal reality.
A number of examples can be provided to illustrate
the pAramArthika satya:
- Gold and golden ornaments - here the form
and names such as bangle, ring, necklace have
changed but the gold remains without any change.
- Clay and pots of different shapes and sizes.
- There are many bulbs with many different
voltages and different colors.
- Even though we see many forms, many names,
many races, many creeds and many castes in
this world, we must know that the God that
is present in all of them, the inner being,
is in reality only one. Those with sama dRRiShTi
and sama bhAva [unbiased, impartial perception
and interpretation] will be able to see "Only
God" with different names and forms.
Everything that we do is at the vyAvahArika
level only and even the description and explanation
of pAramArthika are also at the vyAvahArika level.
No one except Brahman knows what the pAramArthika
level is and even this assertion is only at the
vyAvahArika level. The sages and saints are always
careful and they have avoided making any false
claims. Our problem is the lack of understanding
of what they say and, most of the time, we attribute
our mistakes to them.
They employ a `reference point' to illustrate
the Truth at the vyAvahArika level and they are
aware of our limitations. It seems that we overextend
their assertions and try to go beyond! In the
rope and snake example - the reference point
(rope) is the Truth at the vyAvahArika level.
Due to darkness (ignorance) the rope appears
as the non-existent snake. But with the correct
understanding (torch light) the truth is revealed.
Now reasoning is employed to illustrate the
Truth at the pAramArthika level - the rope of
vyAvahArika became the Brahman of pAramArthika
and the non-existent snake of vyAvahArika became
the non-existent World of pAramArthika. We do
need to recognize that that this illustration
with additional explanation is only at the vyAvahArika
level! This example or analogy does not provide
any clue about pAramArthika or Brahman to those
who determine not to accept any analogy. The
`dream' analogy is another example that is used
to point to pAramArthika reality using a vyAvahArika
The Truth at the pAramArthika level does require
us to extend our understanding beyond the vyAvahArika
level. Any of our claims about the TRUTH at the
pAramArthika level are just further speculation.
TRUTH can't be understood analytically by any
`brilliant mind (intellect)' and that is the
bottom line. This may explain why scripture becomes
relevant for us to accept or reject a `speculated
For Hindus, the `Vedas or shruti - the revealed
truth' became the authority for resolving issues
related to the establishment of the Truth. The
`shruti' is the experience of the `SELF' by the
jIvanmukta. Any documentation of Vedas will not
qualify for the term - `shruti.' All documented
versions of Vedas become `smRRiti - a diluted
form of Truth.' Consequently TRUTH (Self-Realization)
can never be described in words. Everything that
is written, spoken or remembered will fall into
the vyAvahArika level.
Return to the Contents page for the Terms and Definition.