[Advaita-l] GITA - 2.16 : part 2

Amuthan Arunkumar R aparyap at yahoo.co.in
Sun Dec 25 08:33:18 CST 2005

namo nArAyaNAya!

(continued from GITA - 2.16 part 1)

now, a question may arise : since all that is seen or
experienced fits into the definition of unreality,
does it not follow that there is no reality? 

in order to answer this, we must analyze our normal
experiences more carefully. consider for example an
experience like 'this is a pot'. here, the pot is
experienced as an existent entity. the existence of
the pot is made clear by the verb 'is' in the sentence
'this *is* a pot'. this existence is experienced as
identical with the pot. i.e., we don't separately
experience two such things as 'existence' and 'pot'.
this identification of 'existence' with the pot is due
to avidyA. 'existence' itself is the reality. the pot
is unreal. the destruction of the pot does not cause
the destruction of reality. this is clear from the
fact that whenever we perceive an object, say X, we
say 'this *is* X'. 'existence' is intuitively
understood by the verb 'is' in this sentence. it is
independent of the object perceived. what we perceive
as existing is unreal whereas the existence that we
ascribe to these objects (wrongly) is itself the real.
thus reality (or existence) is present in all our

more fundamentally, 'existence' is intuited in the
ever present notion 'i exist' or 'i am'. this is an
un-negatable fact that is experienced in both the
waking and dream states. the error lies in wrongly
identifying 'existence' with 'i'. while the truth is
simply existence itself, due to avidyA, it becomes
"'i' exist". once this fundamental error is made, all
other erroneous perceptions like "'X' exists", etc.
occur. to put it in other words, the perception of
unreality (i.e. it's superimposition on the real) has
as it's root the identification of 'existence' with
'i'. this is termed variously as aha~NkAra buddhi,
avidyA etc.. when this root delusion is cut down, only
the real exists and unreality (the objective universe
and the subject to whom this universe exists)

one may object that this method of interpretation of
perception is not correct since it involves the
simultaneous perception of two contradictory entities
(the real and the unreal) in the same substratum (the
object perceived). that this is not the case can be
understood by considering the example of a mirage.
here, water is seen as existing, but it does not.
thus, the perception of existence (real) and a
non-existent entity (water in the mirage) occur
simultaneously on the same substratum. our normal
perceptions also have to be understood in this light.

the point is that since we see only the transient
objects, we do not perceive 'existence' itself, which
is identical to brahman - the real. it is only because
we see the unreal that the real is not seen. thus, it
cannot be asserted that there is no reality since
everything that is experienced is unreal.    

the fact that reality can never become or never was or
is non-existent is made clear by kR^iShNa in the
second half, 'nAbhAvo vidyate sataH' - 'the real has
no nonexistence'. thus, that which is real always
exists and that which is unreal (this world of
duality) never exists. put differently, the real is
always real and the unreal is always unreal.  

the above conclusion can also be arrived at by a
different method. BP says that any effect in a
cause-effect sequence is unreal [1]. an effect is only
a temporary transformation of a cause. for instance, a
pot is unreal since it is mud only. in turn, the mud
itself is unreal since it is the effect of it's cause.
the sequence to be followed in inentifying the causes
is given in various upaniShads [2]. thus, knowing that
all effects are unreal and proceeding in that fashion,
we arrive at the one causeless cause (brahman) as the
real [2]. 

thus, we arrive at the meaning of the shloka as
follows: due to avidyA, we superimpose the unreal on
the real. but the unreal has no separate existence and
the real alone exists. this truth has been realized by
j~nAni-s (tattvadarshi-s). for a tattvadarshi, i.e.
for one who knows the tattva (brahman), the brahman
alone exists and there is no other entity. this can
also be interpreted as follows: the fact that this
universe of mulitplicity (including the ego) is mithyA
can be realized only by a brahma j~nAni and not by

from 2.11 to this shloka, kR^iShNa taught the
necessity to patiently bear all effects like heat,
cold, pleasure, pain etc.. in the beginning, he taught
the nature of these as temporary (AgamApAyinaH - 2.14)
and finally, in this shloka He teaches that they don't
exist at all. but either way, he quotes the experience
of j~nAni-s (paNDita in 2.11 and tattvadarshi here) in
order to validate his stand. this is one
characteristic feature of the veda-s also. we find the
veda-s replete with statements like 'brahmavAdino
vadanti'. until we find the 'real' ourself, we have to
rely on the experience of the j~nAni-s. in this
context, it means that we have to firmly bear this
entire world of duality comprising of happiness and
sadness either by noting that these are temporary or
more precisely, by noting that these are only
appearances on the one real brahma and that they do
not exist in reality [3].

this ends the description of the nature of the unreal.
in the next verse, kR^iShNa will teach the nature of
the real. 


[1] '... sarvo vikAraH kAraNavyatirekeNa anupalabdheH
asan.' (G.B. 2.16)

[2] for instance, in the taittirIya upaniShad, we have
'AkAshAdvAyuH. vAyoragniH...'. this gives the
cause-effect sequences. different upaniShad-s give
different orders of this sequence. the order is
unimportant. what is important to note is that the
ultimate cause which is uncaused itself is brahman.
this is apparent from statents like 'sadeva
soumyedamagra AsIdekamevAdvitIyam.' (Ch.up.). 

[3] BP's bhAShyam is quite beautiful here and runs as
follows: 'tvamapi tattvadarshinAM dR^iShTiM Ashritya
shokaM mohaM cha hitvA shItoShNAdIni
niyatAniyatarUpAni dvandvAni vikAro.ayamasanneva
marIchijalavat mithyA avabhAsate iti manasi nishchitya
titikShasva it abhiprAyaH.' (G.B. 2.16)

vAsudevaH sarvaM,

Amuthan Arunkumar R,
Final year, B.Tech/M.Tech Dual Degree,
Dept. of Aerospace Engg., IIT Madras.

Send instant messages to your online friends http://in.messenger.yahoo.com 

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list