Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 13 16:47:08 CDT 2000

Thanks to Subhanu Saxena for his lucid article on adhyAsa. One
thing that he mentions is the interpretation of mithyAjnAna
which is the (material) cause (upAdAna) of adhyAsa.

Anandagiri, and GovindAnanda as well, interpret mithyAjnAna
as mithyA cha tadajnAnaM cha, meaning that which is an unreal
ignorance. Consider a stock example of illusion such as the
illusion of the snake on the rope. A person who sees the
illusory snake is ignorant of the rope. But is this ignorance
of the rope a real ignorance? No. Because, the snake is not

Let us analyze this a little further using symbolic logic.
I cannot resist the temptation to use formal logic, because
I  believe that formal logic can be a good tool in
understanding many of advaita concepts in a precise manner.
(Of course, the highly technical language of navya-nyAya
may also be used, but it is hard for a modern audience to
understand.) In fact, advaita is never illogical. Only it
transcends logic. If I have missed some significant point in my
enthusiasm to capture the definition of adhyAsa in symbolic form,
please let me know.

Shankara defines adhyAsa as "atasmin.h tadbuddhiH", the cognition
of something as something else. For example, a rope may be perceived
as a snake. This definition means:

a) there is something, say X, which is a fact, - symbolically fact(X)
b) but X is not  cognized, - symbolically, (~cognized(X)), the
   operator '~' standing for logical negation,
c) instead of X, something else Y (which is not X) is cognized,
   - symbolically, cognized(Y),
d) but this Y is not real, ie. it is not a fact, -symbolically (~fact(Y))
e) X and Y are two different things; they are not the same, symbolically
   (X != Y)

 Therefore, adhyAsa(X,Y), superimposition of X and Y, is defined:

  fact(X) AND ~cognized(X) AND
 ~fact(Y) AND cognized(Y) AND (X != Y)

 1) The first line (fact(X) AND ~cognized(X)) means that even though X
 is the fact (the rope, for example) it is not cognized as such.
 Therefore there is an "ignorance" (ajnAna) of the rope as part of
 the adhyAsa. This ajnAna is removed only by jnAna. It is jnAna-nivartya
 as Anandagiri points out. Understanding X as a fact is this jnAna.

 2)  Again, the second line (~fact(Y) AND cognized(Y) AND
 (X != Y)) means that even though Y, different from X, is cognized,
 it is not real at all. Therefore, there is a mithyA component of
 the adhyAsa in that it has a cognition of something that is not

 Perhaps this is why mithyAjnAnaM can also be interpreted as "an unreal
 ignorance" as Anandagiri and others in Shankara's tradition do.

 In seeing a thing as it really is, fact(X) and cognized(X), there
 is no adhyAsa, no mithyAjnAna. Again, there is no adhyAsa even if
 X is not cognized though a fact, ie. fact(X) AND ~cognized(X), but
 there is only the ignorance (ajnAna) of X. This ajnAna may well be
 real (empirically, of course). There is an adhyAsa precisely when
 A) there is an ignorance of X which is a fact (fact(X) and ~cognized(X))
 AND B) instead there is cognition of something different Y which is not
 a fact (~fact(Y) AND cognized(Y)).


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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