[Advaita-l] 'asat' also means 'mithyA'

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Apr 9 06:07:23 CDT 2013

We have seen before that the 'sad-asad-vilakShaNa' entity called 'mithyA'
is enshrined in the TaittiriyopaniShad passage 'satyam cha anRtam cha
Satyam abhavat' [Satyam (Brahman) became/manifested Itself as 'satyam'
(vyAvahArika objects) and anRtam (prAtibhAsika objects within
vyAvahArika].  Shankara gives the examples for 'satyam' = the water that we
use for quenching thirst, etc. and for 'anRtam' = the mirage water that we
encounter in vyavahAra.  The ultimate message of this UpaniShadic passage
is: Every experience we undergo in the span of our lives is within Brahman
or to put in more Vedantic terms, 'is superimposed in Brahman'.  Thus the
life consisting of vyAvahArik
experiences/events/objects/persons/animate/inanimate beings, AND the
'errors' that we become subject to in vyavahara like taking a rope to be a
snake, shell for  silver, dirt in space, etc. are all happening to us ONLY
in/with the support of Brahman.  'Outside brahman' is an impossibility.
For, Brahman is the Sat, Chit without which no vyavahAra can take place.
In other words, Brahman is the sattAprada for the vyavahAra.  Thus the
entire sAmsAric experience, including sAdhana and mokSha, are dependent,
paratantra, on Brahman.  And we have to remind each time that there is no
analogy other than the rope-snake to explain the 'reality' (paratantra
satyatvam) of samsAra (consisting the aspects enumerated above).

Now, even in the PrashnopaniShat we find a mention of the worldly
experience consisting of vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika, but shown as
components of a dream experience.  The 4th Prashna mantra 5 is about the
dream state, its contents:

अत्रैष देवः स्वप्ने महिमानमनुभवति । यद्दृष्टं दृष्टमनुपश्यति । श्रुतं
श्रुतमेवार्थमनुशृणोति । देशदिगन्तरैश्च प्रत्यनुभूतं पुनः पुनः प्रत्यनुभवति ।
दृष्टं चादृष्टं च श्रुतं चाश्रुतं चानुभूतं चाननुभूतं च सच्चासच्च सर्वं
पश्यति । सर्वः पश्यति  ॥ ४.५ ॥

5     There, in dreams, that god, the mind, experiences glory. Whatever has
been seen he sees again; whatever has been heard he hears again; whatever
has been experienced in different countries and quarters, he experiences
again. Whatever has been seen or not seen, heard or not heard and whatever
is real or not real—he sees it all. He sees all, himself being all.

Here Shankara says for the words 'sat cha asat cha..' ( real or not real):

sat cha paramArthodakAdi, asat cha marIchyukadAdi. [sat = real = the
real/actual water, etc. and asat = not real = mirage water, etc. ]

So, we have the Upanishads using two words that  denote the
sadasadvilakShaNa category: anRtam (Taittiriya) and asat (prashna).  Thus
we see that the term 'asat' which normally is taken as the non-existent
category (hare's horn, vandhyAputra, etc.) also has the meaning: mithyA
object like rope-snake, shell-silver, etc.  It is exactly in this sense the
word 'asat' is used by Veda VyAsa (Lord Krishna) in the Bhagavadgita verse
2.16 : na asato vidyate bhAvaH..[there is no real existence for the asat].
Here the word 'asat' cannot be the vandhyAputra category.  Why? this is
because the verse says: this knowledge/conclusion/conviction, pertaining to
the nature of asat and sat, is had by the Knowers of Brahman/Atman,
tattvadarshibhiH.  Surely the absolute absence/non-existence of the
vandhyAputra type is known to everyone and to bring it as the subject
matter of the Jnani's realization/jnAna will be trivial.  On the other
hand, the prApanchika mithyAtvam is not known to ajnanis; only
Tattvadarshins are aware of the mithyAtvam of the prapancha.  Therefore it
is apt that Lord Krishna/veda vyAsa puts the sadasadvilakShaNa category,
taking it for the entire world, under the subject matter of the
Tattvadarshin's knowledge.

The above study also confirms the position that was recently delineated in
the post titled 'adhiShThAnam and AdhAraH' : the entire world is adhyasta,
superimposed in Brahman and the 'errors' too are having only those
vyavahArika objects (which have Brahman for their substratum) as their
substratum.  In other words, the 'errors' are founded on Brahman indirectly
whereas the vyavahAra is resting on brahman directly.  Since errors are
within vyavahara, it is quite right for the Taittiriya upanishad to include
them too as products of Brahman.

The special point with the Prashna mantra is: the dream consists of all
experiences that have been experienced in the waking, in this or other
life, in this or other world/loka.  Dreams are admitted as vAsanObdhUta,
produced by vAsana-s and no vAsana can be admitted to be formed unless
without a prior experiencing them, it is quite apt that the Prashna mantra
includes vyavahArika objects and prAtibhaasika objects as contents of
dream.  For, errors that have been experienced too can appear in dreams, as
products of vAsana.

Om Tat Sat

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