[Advaita-l] The Status and Role of Scripture in Advaita - Part 4 (concluded)

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Mon Apr 5 01:20:14 CDT 2010

*A different approach to the above objection (of vyavaharika/paramarthika):*

The difference between vyavaharika and paramarthika is inevitable for a
philosopher. When someone has to speak of a system that has for its end the
attainment of moksha, evidently, a difference between the state in bondage
and the state of moksha has to be maintained. If this is not done, there
will be no way one could tell the state of moksha from that of the bound
state. The difference between the two states is most relevant for the
aspirant:  he has to know how he is now, in the state of ignorance, and how
he will be in the state of moksha, upon gaining knowledge.

*The objection:*

//the notion of vyahvarika satya, or truth from the purely provisional or
empirical level of practical life as distingished from the ultimate truth or
parmarthika satya was first given by the mahayana buddhists and then
subsequently surreptitiously incorporated into their philosophy by the

*is thus answered in the sequel:*

*The three states/types of reality (sattaa-traividhyam) is spoken of in the
upanishad: *

While commenting on the mantra ''*satyam cha anrtam cha satyam abhavat'
(taittiriya up. Ii.6) *the Acharya says: satyam = *vyavaharavishayam* since
this is being mentioned in the context of 'srishti' of the world. He adds:
this is not *paramarthasatyam* (absolute reality) since Brahman alone indeed
is paramartha satyam. This vyavaharavishayam satyam is only aapekshikam,
relative. He explains: when compared to the water in a mirage, the water
(that we actually use for drinking, etc.) is real. This is what is meant by
'vyavaharika satyam'. That which is not thus real is anrtam, unreal.

The above bhashyam brings to the fore that *three types of 'reality' are
admitted in the shrut*i. Commonly these are known as: 1.paramarthika satyam
which is Brahman alone, 2. vyavaharika satyam which constitutes the common
world experience of samsara and 3. pratibhasika satyam which is a seeming
reality, actually within the samsaaric experience. This seeming reality of
say, the mirage-water or rope-snake, is corrected in the vyavahara itself
and does not require Brahma jnanam for this. The vyvahaarika satyam, of
course, gets corrected upon the rise of Brahma jnanam. The shruti vakyams
for this are: ekameva adviteeyam, neha naanaa asti kinchana, sarvam khalu
idam brahma, etc.

What is worthy of noting in the above bhashyam is the *shruti pramaanam for
the existence of the three types of reality*. The Taittiriya shruti we took
up above is the pramanam for the three types of reality. It is not the
concoction of the advaitins/bhagavatpada/later acharyas. nor is the concept
'surreptitiously incorporated into their philosophy by the advaitins' as it
is made out. The bhashyam uses the two specific names and the third is only

*[An aside note*: In his Kannada book ‘Mata traya sameekshA’,  Dr.Anandatirtha
Vyshampayanacharya Nagasampige, Director of the Purnaprajna Samshodhana
Mandiram, Bangalore, A Madhva Research institution,  includes a section in
the Chapter on Advaita darshana, titled:

// ‘*Are the Buddhists only Vaidikas in disguise*?’  .....Therefore, since
the Buddhists have adapted the concept of ‘nirvisheSha (attributeless)
Brahman of the Upanishads and have formulated their theory, they are
‘pracchanna vaidika-s.’// ]

* Here *is a comparative chart that takes into account the Upanishad, the
Gita, the Advaita method and the Dvaita method.

1.       In the mandukya Upanishad we have the delineation of the first
three pada-s, the waking, dream and sleep, both in the individual and cosmic
levels. This is the vyavahara state, of bondage. The seventh mantra (nantah
prajnam, na bahih prajnam…) teaches the paramartha state, the turiya, where
the first three pada-s are negated and the turiya is held out to be free
from them. The word 'prapanchopashamam ' negates the phenomenal world in the
Turiya, the Absolute Reality, Brahman. The word 'Advaitam' teaches that this
Turiya Brahman is One without a second of any kind.

*      A sample of the vyavaharika-paramarthika divide in the Upanishads: *

In the Taittiriya Upanishad the five koshas, the five sheaths, of the body,
the prana, the mind, etc. are enumerated. This is the vyavaharika. One has
to transcend these five sheaths in order to gain the vision of the self that
is ‘located’ beyond the five sheaths, in the innermost recess of one’s
heart. This is the paramarthika.

In the Mundakopanishat the method of gaining dispassion is stated. The
aspirant critically examines the world, here and hereafter, and concludes
that all the uncreated, the natural, is not attainable by unnatural,
artificial means. Here, in just one passage by using the words ‘akRta’ and
‘kRta’ the Upanishad teaches the paramarthika and the vyavaharika.

In the kathopanishad passage ‘anyatra dharmat…’ in just one go the Upanishad
teaches the paramarthika by the word ‘anyatra’ and the vyavaharika through
the words ‘dharma, adharma, kRta, akRta and bhuta, bhavya’.

*In t*he Chandogya Upanishad ‘bhuma vidya’ section the use of the word
‘alpam’ is the vyavaharika and the word ‘bhuma’ is the paramarthika.

*In *the Mundakopanishad again, in the passage depicting the two bird
imagery (dvaa suparna) the vyavaharika is taught and the next passages teach
the paramarthika.

*One* can go on with such instances that are abundant in the Upanishads.

2        In the Bhagavadgita, a sample is: in the 9th chapter, the vyavahara
state is spoken of as: ‘mat-sthani sarva Bhutani’:  all these beings are
inhering in me. The paramartha state is that where no beings inhere in the
lord: na cha mat-sthani bhutani. ‘These beings do not inhere in me’. Another
sample from the gita: the verse no. 16 of chapter two: // na asato vidyate
bhaavao, na abhaavo vidyate satah//. The first portion of the quoted verse
says that the vyavaharic reality, asat, that is experienced, does not have a
true existence. The paramarthic reality, sat, alone really exists; it can
never go out of existence. How do we know that the lord is talking about
these two levels of reality here?  The context of this verse is: the lord is
instructing Arjuna on the nature of the self, human life, death,
destruction, misery, etc. All these questions were raised, in his
lamentation, by Arjuna. The lord takes up these questions and shows Arjuna
that since all these experiences are in the realm of ignorance; they do not
have any absolute reality.  Knowing thus, Arjuna has to go ahead with his
duty in the dharma yuddha (righteous war), Studying the context of the verse
will confirm that the lord does not mean anything else than these two levels
of reality, vyavahara and paramartha, while giving out this teaching of asat
and sat.

3        Advaita distinguishes between the vyavahara and paramartha states
and teaches that the vyavahara (jagat mithya) state stands negated in the
paramartha (Brahma satyam) state and the aspirant who does the sadhana in
the vyavahara state realizes that the paramartha state does not have in it
any aspect of the vyavahara.

4        In the dvaita system, although these two terms are not used, they
speak of two levels of satya: svatantra satya and paratantra satya. Ref. an
article on dvaita Vedanta:


*The f*irst is the independent reality’ and the second is ‘dependent
reality’. The highest, absolute principle is Hari (Harih para-tarah) and is
independently real. The world (satyam jagat), is dependent on Hari and only
dependently real. Now a question arises: is it held by this system that Hari
and jagat enjoy equal status of reality?  Obviously the reply is ‘no’. The
very categorization as independent and dependent realities shows that the *two
are not real on the same footing*. We can consider an example to understand
this phenomenon. There is a rope and a person superimposes a snake in that
locus and thinks there is a snake there. Now, the rope, the actual thing
there, enjoys an independent reality. The illusory snake, as long as it is
believed to exist, enjoys a dependent reality; its reality is dependent upon
the independently real rope. This is because only in the place of the rope a
person imagines a snake. The distinction between the two realities has been
brought out by a song of the famous composer-saint Sri Purandaradasa in a
song: ‘allide nammane, illiruvudu summane.’  This means: my (paramarthik,
true) abode is ‘there’; what is here is only a non-entity, a fake,
insubstantial, the vyavaharika. He goes on to caricature the
worldly-home/body and hearth in words such as: kaLLa mane, suLLu mane, etc.
The difference between the paramartha and vyavahara is finely, subtly and
very effectively brought out in this song. The message conveyed is: all that
you see here now is not (going to be) there in the ‘yonder’. That means, for
the aspirant, there are two levels of reality: the one that he sees and
experiences here, now, in the state of ignorance which is full of misery and
the other: the absolute, independent, free of the dependent, that he will
realize to be his true state. (mukti is naija sukhanubhutih; the liberated
state is the experiencing of one’s innate blissful nature). Surely, when he
attains liberation (only after death, according to dvaita), the world and
its experiences will cease to be; they will not continue ‘there’. So, to
think that the ‘satyam jagat’ is absolute is wrong; it is only relative. To
whom is the jagat satyam?  to the aspirant, after liberation, the world is
not going to be an object of experience. To those in ignorance, the world
will continue, birth after birth. It would be incorrect to hold the ignorant
person’s view of the world as absolute.

Even in the system of Dvaita, the teaching of the means for liberation, the
practice for liberation and getting the liberating knowledge, all take place
only in the vyavaharika (paratantra) prapancha.  The Paramarthika
(Swatantra) Hari is the state of Moksha. Instead of using the terms
'paramarthika' and 'vyavaharika' of the Advaitins, the Dvaitins use the
terms 'Swatantra' and 'paratantra' to denote the two levels of reality.
Only the names are different, but the concept of two-level reality is common
in both Advaita and Dvaita.

Further, the Taittiriya Upanishad says: satyam (jnanam, anantam) brahma.
This it does with a view to differentiate Brahman from what is already known
to us: the world. If the world is also satyam absolutely, this teaching of
the Upanishad would be devoid of meaning.

 In conclusion, it could be stated that the Chandogya upanishadic VI chapter
teaching is: ‘mrittiketyeva satyam’ (the effect, pot, etc. are real only AS
the causal clay. Apart from the material cause clay, the effect pot etc. are
not real.).  This is the meaning of the terms ‘svatantra satya’
‘independently real’ (cause, clay) and the paratantra satya, ‘dependently
real’, effect, pot etc.

Thus, the distinction between two levels of reality is inevitable and
inescapable in the teaching of the transcendental truth. That is what we saw
above in the Upanishads, the Gita, the Advaita and Dvaita schools. If the
Buddhist school too talks of two levels of reality, what is wrong in it?
After all they too can’t escape *this inevitability*.  Quite aptly does Sri
Shankaracharya say:

//sarva-vAdinaamapi aparihaaryah paramaartha-samvyavahaarakRto vyavahaarah//
(Brihadaranyaka bhashya: 3.v.i).

//*in fact, all schools must admit the* *existence or non-existence of the
phenomenal world according as it is viewed from the relative or the absolute
standpoint.// * (translation by Swami Madhavananda, the brihadaranyaka
Upanishad with the commentary of Sri Shankaracharya, published by advaita
ashrama, kolkota.)



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