[Advaita-l] Problems in Rope-Snake Analogy

Praveen bhatpraveen at gmail.com
Tue May 27 12:54:41 CDT 2008

praNAm all,

Hari Om, Suresh-ji,

> A person who doesn't have knowledge of snake wouldn't
> mistake the rope for the snake. So how did this
> knowledge of snake come about, if it were unreal?

An analog to this is the dream entity that comes into being
only from memory of having seen something (similar) in waking
state. But the question doesn't stop at that answer. One may
well ask where did the waking experience come from in the first
place, ad infinitum to the creation story! Similarly, the answer
to the snake-in-the-rope is (something like) the snake seen
elsewhere that is superimposed on the rope. But was the
snake unreal/ real will eventually lead to the question "where did
it come from?" akin to questioning the world's creation. What
the analogy represents is that the "snake was real" only "when
and during the time" it was seen, the "snake is unreal" after
the rope is clearly seen, but the "rope was/ is always real". Since
the snake is unreal as well as real at different times, its neither
real, nor unreal, but both and neither (mithyA). The world is not
created, but its not unreal either. These questions fall into the
domain of mAyA's inexplicable nature.

> This is usually the argument of dvaitins, but these
> questions crop up anyhow, if we are to consider this
> analogy.

I've had this argument with dvaitins many times and then I gave
up since most of the times, the analogy itself is interpreted *too
literally*. It has to be understood that no analogy can give the
exact expression of brahmaN, or mAyA. (yato vAco nivartante
aprApya manasa saha).

How is it explained in advaita?

Above was as per my understanding/ manana.

/* Through what should one know That owing to which all this is known!
--Br.Up. 4.5.15 */

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