Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 40

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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VII - The different types of reality

The distinction between the clay and the pot in their nature of existence makes us recognise them as having different types of reality. If we go beyond the perspective of clay-pot and analyze clay, we find that clay itself is not independent but is dependent on various minerals for its existence. Minerals in turn are dependent on compounds, compounds on elements, elements on molecules, molecules on atoms, atoms on sub-atomic particles and so on, till it becomes indefinable. All these entities are connected to each other through dependence. This is true not only in the case of clay but in respect of every object that we know. It means that everything is a dependent entity. Since the dependent entity is the mithyä attribute of the cause, it is not a substantive. Thus, there is no substantive in the world. The jagat is mithyä.


In this scenario, çruti reveals that the original cause or müla käraëam, which is not dependent on anything else but on which everything else is dependent, is Brahman or ätmä [262]. It exists by itself. It is svataùsiddha or self-established. It is self-evident or svaprakäça. No means of knowledge can testify to its existence since it is itself dependent on Brahman-ätmä for its functioning. It is called päramärthika-satya or the essential reality. It is without a second and is the only päramärthika-satya, as everything else is mithyä, being dependent on Brahman-ätmä for its existence. Hence the statement, Brahma-satyam, jaganmithyä.


To list the features of sat, which is päramärthika-satya, serially:

• It is self-established (svataùsiddham); therefore,

• it is always existing (nityam).

• It is self-evident (svaprakäçam); therefore,

• it is self-validating (svayamprakäçitam); and

• it can always be asserted as existing (abhävarahitam); and

• it can never be negated (bädharahitam).

• It is self-contained and endowed with one’s own nature (svasvarüpam), as it is independent.

• It is single and is second to none (ekamevädvitéyam), as everything else is mithyä.

In contrast, asat (used in the sense of non-existing) is that which:

• is never the object of perception or verbal authority (ananubhütiviñayakam);

• has never any form or nature (svarüpa-hénam);

• is never in relationship with anything (anadhikaraëatvam);

• is never assertible (nirüpäkhyam); and

• is impossible at all times (kälatraya bädhitam).

Apart from päramärthika-satya, we have everything else, which is dependent on that reality and which have mere name, form and function. Even though they have no essential reality, they have transactional or empirical reality and behave within certain laws. We use only these in all our transactions. This is called vyävahärika-satya. This type of reality covers not only everything that is known but also the unknown within the sphere of manifestation. When Veda talks about the ends like the higher worlds and the means for attaining them, it is only talking about empirical reality. The physical body, its organs, the senses and their constituents, the capacity to remember, to love, to think, and to know, are also vyavahärika with empirical reality.


We have also the third order of reality that is mere appearance. It is called prätibhäsika-satya. While the entire manifestation, which is vyavahärika reality, is produced by Éçvara (Éçvara-såñöi), the prätibhäsika reality is our personal creation (jéva-såñöi). When a person mistakes the rope for a snake, the rope, which is empirically real in the world of ordinary experience, becomes subjectively real as the snake for the person committing the mistake in perception. The snake exists only for that person, at that place and at that time. How long it so exists depends on that person. The rope, as rope, belongs to vyavahärika reality, while the mistaken snake is of the prätibhäsika reality. Prätibhäsika means existing only in appearance. It is not available for public perception but is seen only in the mind. The dream belongs to this category. Similarly, when we imagine that someone does not like us, it is a purely personal projection. Any mistaken notion, unknown fears and all forms of personal projection are prätibhäsika reality. This type of reality is the outcome of the limitations of the mind. That is why we do see what is not there in the world [263]. Even though the prätibhäsika reality is eventually negated, like the dream on waking up, we cognize it, take it to be real and react to it. Therefore, it is considered as a type of reality.


Both vyävahärika-satya and prätibhäsika-satya are relative concepts. For example, from the point of the view of the waking state, the dream is prätibhäsika-satya. But in the dream state, the dream is vyävahärika-satya. That is why in the dream, the dream person runs to save himself on seeing the dream tiger, since it actually exists for him. The dream world is real to the dream person. The waking world is also real to the waker only in the same way; it is no different. From the päramärthika angle, the waker and the waking world have no reality of their own and are mithyä very much like the dreamer and dream world.


In terms of the differentiation as satyam and mithyä, päramärthika-satya is the only satyam. Both vyävahärika-satya and prätibhäsika-satya do not have independent existence and are mithyä. At all times, we are confronting the empirical vyävahärika and the subjective prätibhäsika orders of reality, which are mithyä. Even though we call them orders of reality, the only reality is the päramärthika-satya on which everything else is based.

262. Since Brahman is revealed by the Upaniñads, it is called aupaniñidaà brahma.
263. Swami Dayananda, Gita Home Study, Volume 2, pp. 32 – 34

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