[Advaita-l] A vichara on svatantra and paratantra (independent and dependent) realities

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Fri Apr 16 08:53:06 CDT 2010

Dear Subbu-ji,

I wish to bring out the following points in connection with the above
subject on which you have been writing.

According to advaita, brahman alone is real and everything else is mithyA.
This mithyA is divided into two levels, vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika.
Actually these two are not realities at all, but as a concession to our
immature minds they have been provisionally given that status, because we
cannot straightaway digest the idea that the world which we experience with
all our senses does not exist at all. We have to be led to it gradually. The
most important point to be remembered while comparing these levels with the
svatantra and paratantra of dvaita Vedanta is that, in advaita no two levels
can exist at the same time for the same person, while, according to dvaita,
both svatantra and paratantra realities exist at the same time for the same
person and they are both equally real. This is explained below.

 A person sees a snake. As long as he sees the snake, the snake is the only
reality for him. At that time he does not know that the snake is
prAtibhAsika and that there is a vyAvahArika rope as its substratum. The
rope does not exist for him as long as he sees the snake. When he realizes
that it is only a rope, there is no more any snake for him. So it is clear
that only one of the two, either vyAvahArika or prAtibhAsika, can exist at a
time for a person.

Now, shifting this one level higher, as long as I see the world as real,
brahman is as good as non-existent for me. Because I have studied some
Vedanta I can reel off details about brahman such as its eternity, freedom
from all limitations, etc., etc., but it is all only theoretical knowledge
and mere words for me now. Once I actually realize brahman as a reality, I
will find, according to the upanishads, that the world does not exist at
all, it never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future. Thus,
as long as the vyAvahArika reality, the world, exists for me, brahman the
pAramArthika, is as good as non-existent for me. So only one of the
realities can exist at a time for a person.

But according to dvaita, both the independent and the dependent reality, God
and the world, exist at the same time for all and they are both real.
Comparing that to the advaita view of different levels of realities would
tantamount to saying that the rope and the snake can exist at the same time
for the same person.

advaita clearly says that when brahman is realized the world is found to
have never existed. Of course it may continue to appear, like the red colour
of a crystal as long as the red flower continues in its proximity.

Thus there can be no similarity whatsoever between the advaita and dvaita

God being independent and all the creatures in the world being dependent on
Him is a feature common to all religions. According to advaita also, Ishvara
is independent and the world is dependent on Him. But Ishvara is not
paramArtha satyam in advaita. Only brahman is paramArtha satyam. We may say
that the world is dependent on brahman in the same manner in which the
illusory snake is dependent on the rope for its existence. That is not the
same thing as what the advaitins or the dvaitins understand by the statement
that all creatures are dependent on God or on His will. So any attempt  to
establish similarity between dvaita and advaita on this ground is not at all



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