The first type is based on perceived attributes – the
object is mistaken as something other than what
it is. Here the problem is one of incomplete
knowledge or partial ignorance. The attributes
are only partially recognized (due to dim light
for example), and we mistake one object for the
other due to similarities in the attributive
content. The traditional example is mistaking
a rope for a snake in which, based upon the perceived
attributes, the object is recognized as a snake
instead of a rope.
Here, partial ignorance is the basic problem. Partial ignorance
means that only partial knowledge is revealed. That 'there is
an object' is definite. The perceived attributes may tell us
that it is five feet long, soft when stepped on, lying in the
alley, etc. These are sufficiently distinctive for us not to
mistake the object as an elephant or a tree but not distinctive
enough to differentiate between a snake and a rope. Here ignorance
partially covers the knowledge and the mind projects a snake
in place of the rope. But the mind that is projecting does not
think that it is projecting or imagining, since it takes the
object as a real snake. The subsequent physical, physiological
and psychological reactions at body, mind and intellectual level
are all consequences of the clear understanding that there is
a snake out there.
The most important point to note here is that the vikShepa, or
projecting of a snake where there is rope, is done by the individual
mind. Hence, when that individual mind subsequently realizes
that it is rope, the snake completely disappears. This is one
kind of adhyAsa – vikShepa by the individual mind – projecting
the illusory snake in this example. And, when the mind sees the
reality of the object there, the false projection disappears.
This example, along with its limitation, has
to be understood in relation to Vedanta. Ignorance
contributes to error in perception of the reality;
adhyAsa occurs when we see something as other
than it is.
There is also a second type of adhyAsa that is discussed in
the knowledge series. In contrast to the previous form, this
involves transferring the attributes of one thing to another.
The classical example is that of a clear crystal appearing
as red due to its proximity with red cloth. A more modern example
is that of sunrise and sunset or stationary trees appear to
move in the opposite direction as the train is moving. In these
cases the attributes of one thing are being superimposed on
the other to give false understanding of the facts. In contrast
to the previous rope-snake example, the error and projection
of the error are not made by the individual mind per se. The
individual mind reaches its conclusion based upon what it sees.
What this implies is that the error is not due to mental projection
at individual level. Hence, not only one individual, but everyone
sitting in the train will have the same experience and everyone
on this earth sees sunrise and sunset in the same way.
Thus, we can regard this as not an individual
creation but the creation of Ishvara since the
error arises from the relative motion and the
reference frame from which the motion is measured.
Here, two aspects are important:
Firstly, the creation or projection is by the
total mind, Ishvara, and the reference frame
from which the observation is made. The implication
of this is two-fold. First, unlike the rope-snake
case, the underlying truth of the apparent movement
of the trees is difficult to perceive while one
is riding on the train and the sunrise and sunset
necessarily appear whilst we are on this planet
earth. This is also one of the reason why self-realization
is rather difficult whilst sitting in the BMI
but we do not have much choice in this! Most
importantly, it requires some knowledge of science
or shAstra to understand that, in spite of the
apparent movement of the trees, the trees do
not really move and it is the train we are on
that is moving and that, in spite of the apparent
sunrise and sunset, the sun does not rise or
set; it is the movement of the earth we are on.
The second aspect of this is that, as long as
we are in the train, in spite of the knowledge
that the trees do not move and that it is the
train that is moving, we will still see the trees
moving. Similarly, we still see the sunrise and
sunset, even after we understand the correct
explanation. Hence, in this kind of adhyAsa,
knowledge does not eliminate the observation
or error. We recognize and admire the relative
mechanics whilst sitting on the train or on this
From these two examples what do we understand?
The correct understanding from both adhyAsa-s
1) As long as the vikShepa or projection is
by the individual mind, as in the case of rope-snake,
then the knowledge that reveals the truth also
eliminates the vikShepa (e.g. projected snake).
2) But if the vikShepa is not by the individual
mind but by collective mind or Ishvara’s
mind, the individual mental knowledge does not
eliminate the collective projection or Ishvara
Individual mental projections normally come
under prAtibhAsika and Ishvara’s projection
comes under vyAvahArika. The first example helps
us to understand that the mental projection of
individual suffering is due to mistaken relationships
at the individual level; i.e. saMsAra is due
to the first type of adhyAsa - seeing a snake
where there is only a rope. asohyAn anya sochatvem
- you are crying where there is no reason for
you to cry.
In the case of individual mental projection, the
cause for the projection is the partial ignorance
that covers the knowledge of the object – that
we call avidyA.
In the case of Ishvara’s projection, we do not want to
say that Ishvara has ‘ignorance’. Instead, we say
that the projection is the result of His power (shakti) of mAyA.
The cause for the projection by Ishvara is the karma of all the
jIva-s, since He does not have any karma of his own for him to
exhaust. Since vyavahAra is Ishvara’s creation, the jIva’s
knowledge that ‘all this is not real and the reality is
the consciousness that I am’ does not eliminate Ishvara’s
projection, as long as he is traveling on the train or sitting
on this earth or has upAdhi-s which are part of the creation
of the Ishvara (the jIva does not create his own upAdhi-s!).
Just as we know that trees do not move even though they appear
to move, the j~nAnI knows that he is pure consciousness but,
due to his upAdhi-s, he sees the projection of Ishvara as jagat
and transacts with the world as long as he is in the jagat! (But
of course with the knowledge that he is not transacting, since
he must have studied the bhagavat gItA, if not all Shankara’s
bhAShya-s; and he knows that prakRRiti alone does all the actions
and he was never a doer (even while he was an aj~nAnI) [prakRityevaca
karmaaNi kriyamaanaani sarvaShaH| yah pasyati tat aatmaanam akartaaram
sa pasyati]. Understanding of this adhyAsa will help us to recognize
the roles of Ishvara and jIva correctly and we will have compassion
for those who are not able to see Ishvara’s sRRiShTi correctly.
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