[Advaita-l] mithyaa / anirvachaniiya and asattva

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Mar 14 04:40:35 CDT 2013

On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 3:19 AM, Naresh Cuntoor <nareshpc at gmail.com> wrote:

> The other classical example of vandhyaaputraH is, I think, moot. By
> definition, putravihiinaa vandhyaa. Then to say that vandhyaayaaH putraH is
> asat is to simply restate the definition of the term vandhyaa.

The idea of 'asat' 'objects' was conceived with a view to have examples for
'a knowledge or idea arising out of use of words while the object
corresponding to that knowledge / word is not there'.  Thus, when
'vandhyAputra' word is used one conceives of a barren woman and a person
but when asked to show the person, he draws a blank. There are other
examples that other schools accept: kUrma roma (a tortoise's hair - a
tortoise is not known to have hair in any part of its body), gagana kusuma
and so on.  The yoga sutra ; 'shabdajnAnAnupAtIvastushUnyo vikalpaH' is
about this genre of objects.  So, it is not simply a restatement of the
definition of a vandhyaa; it is much more than that.  The putra is not
possible to be located in the locus: vandhyA, biologically.  The same case
with the hare's horn.

> For something to be mithyaa, there has to be someone who is perceiving.
> Otherwise, how do we say that it becomes a false notion? A rope lying by
> itself will continue to be a rope. It requires a person to see the snake in
> it, and subsequently the rope in it. The snake is mithyaa. Without the
> person mistaking the rope for the snake, there would be no snake.
> From a vyaavahaarika perspective, as long as the false notion is held to be
> true, then its mithyaa status is irrelevant.

Actually the question of the mithyA status of the snake comes up only
after, not before, it is recognized that it is just a rope.  So, the mithya
status is not invoked when the person continues to believe it is a snake.
The example, however, is quite valid in Vedanta to drive home the point
that the samsara that one thinks he experiences is after all mithyA just as
the (rope)snake that is experienced.

> If our cognizer in this example has a morbid fear of snakes, then he may
> have a coronary attack on seeing the 'snake' next to him.

This instance is admitted and articulated by Shankara in the preamble to
the BSB called 'adhyAsa bhAShyam'.  He gives the example of uninformed
persons attributing dirt, etc. to space.  Here it is not akin to a rope
that is mistaken for a snake but 'atasmin tad buddhiH' where space that
cannot have dirt etc. is imagined to have them. So too in the example given
by you, the area 'next to him' is devoid of snake but he imagines one
there.  So, it is a valid case of bhrama.

> In the case of the world, from a vyaavahaarika perspective, isn't its
> existence independent of anyone perceiving the world? Using anumaana and
> arthaapatti, we know that the earth and the stars existed before there were
> any humans to cognize the world, before any life for that matter. So how is
> the existence of the world anirvachaniiya?

Even here Vedanta has an unassailable point.  Who is using the anumAna,
etc. to predicate the existence of the world at a distant past independent
of human or any other being's perception ?  Is it not a human, the
intelligent one?  So, the existence of this world independent of anyone
perceiving it is dependent on an observer who uses anumAna, etc. to posit
its existence then.  It is this crucial 'dependence' on an entity external
to itself that decides the anirvAchyatva/mithyAtva of the world.  It is
obvious that the world does not say it exists; it is someone other than the
world that has to say so.  The (A) lakShaNa of  mithyatva is : the object
(world) depends on something/someone external to itself to validate/certify
its existence/reality.  Such paratantratva is admitted by all schools for
the world.  And that paratantra entity is dependent on a swatantra entity
who does not require any other thing/person to validate its existence.  So,
there can never be an example other than the rope-snake to explain the
phenomenon of paratantra satyatva of the world.  For, ONLY in the
rope-snake type analogy the snake is dependent for its *reality/existence*,
as long as the bhrama continues, on the swatantra existence/reality of the
rope. Since it is the rope that is mistaken for the snake, the rope's sattA
is wrongly transferred to the non-existent snake and the person says /
thinks 'there IS a snake' while what really IS there is only the rope. Here
the rope is the sattAprada for the snake  It is the same case with the
world.  The sattA of, nay, that is indeed Brahman is transferred to the
imagined world and one goes on with vyavahara with the unenquired-into
notion that the 'world IS'.

One aspect of the ekajIva/dRShti-sRShTi prakriyA, in the context of the
present case, is:

That 'the world existed independent of anyone perceiving it before life was
formed' is only a  thought of the present time/moment.  Without this
thought there is no way we can get connected to that world.  Just as in a
dream I see a mountain and think/say 'This has been in existence for a
thousand years as estimated by .....' is a thought occurring at that moment
and dependent on the dreamer person, the thought about the world of the
distant past is an event of the present moment.  That world depends on this
thought and this thought itself depends on the thinker/consciousness which
itself is not dependent on anything else.  So the intervention of a
conscious entity is inevitable/unavoidable in validating anything that is
insentient of whichever period.  And such a phenomenon is called mithyAtva.
In other words since the then unperceived-world which is a viShaya for us
now, is pramANa-dependent, whether pratyaksha or anmAna/arthApatti, it is
automatically pramAtR/draShTR-dependent and therefore has no reality of its


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