advaita-siddhi 10 (Second definition of MithyAtva)

 Continuing with the series on the advaita-siddhi, we will study next the second definition of mithyAtva that is defended by MadhusUdana SarasvatI. Other articles in this series may be retrieved by searching for "siddhi" in the subject line. It is especially useful to be familiar with basic nyAya terminology as explained in the third and fourth parts of the series. Without such  familiarity, the discussion below may not make much sense at all!

atha dvitIyamithyAtvopapattiH

  advaita-siddhi text:

  pratipannopAdhau traikAlikanishhedhapratiyogitvaM vA mithyAtvam.h |

  Alternatively, mithyAtva (unreality) of something is that which is thecounter-positive or absential adjunct (pratiyogin) of an absolute negation(a negation for all three periods of time, past, present, and future) inthe very substratum where it (the thing) is cognized.

  This is the second definition of mithyAtva that is taken up by MadhusUdana in his defense of mithyAtva of dvaita. This alternative definition is based on shruti statements such as "neha nAnAsti kiJNchana", as BrahmAnanda says in his gauDabrahmAnandI, "neha nAnAstI"tyAdishrutyarthe vivadamAnaM prati sAdhyAntaramAha".

  The second definition comes from the VivaraNAchArya, PrakAshAtman, the author of the PanchapAdikA-vivaraNa.

  It is important to understand this definition and the significance of the terms involved. As in the case of the first definition of mithyAtva, what is alIka or a fictitious entity is NOT the mithyAtva that is used to describe the world. The mithyAtva of the world is akin to the illusion of the snake over a rope or silver in nacre. Upon realizing that the snake is illusory, one exclaims "The snake is unreal. The snake was never there to begin with, it is not there now, and it will never be there in the future!"

  This is the mithyAtva (unreality) of the world that is being talked about.

  One important point to remember is that the in order for a thing to be mithyA or unreal according to this definition, it MUST be cognized or perceived in some susbtratum. This is a necessary condition for something to be called mithyA. What is perceived is  mithyA. That which can never be perceived, a chimera such as the horns of a hare, is NOT being called mithyA. Rather it is asat. And Brahman is sat. MithyAtva is different from these two, ie. mithyAtva is sadasadvilaxaNa.

  BrahmAnanda, in his gaUDabrahmAnandI commentary on the advaita-siddhi, therefore, defines the term pratipanna-upAdhi as follows:

  pratipannaH svaprakArakadhIvisheshhyaH ya upAdhiradhikaraNaM tannishhTho

 yastraikAlikanishhedho .atyanta-abhAvastatpratiyogitvamityarthaH |

 pratipanna means the qualificand of the cognition that has the (thing that is mithyA) as the qualifier. Such a qualificand that is the substratumis "pratipanna-upAdhi". The counter-positive of the absolute negation orthe negation for all periods of time in the substratum (is calledmithyA). This definition rules out equating what is mithyA with alIka, a fictitious entity. Yet another type of negation is also being ruled outin the definition. What is fictitious is not perceived anywhere. The other extreme is the negation that is always empirically perceived. For example, a pot is NOT perceived as existing in the threads that make a cloth.There are things in the empirical world that are not cognized as existing in things different from themselves. If the advaitin means by mithyAtva a fact such as a pot's being negatedin the threads of a cloth, he is stating what is already established and therefore open to the objection of "siddha-sAdhana doshha". But this is type of negation is being ruled out by the term "svaprakArakadhIvisheshhya". In order for the definition of mithyAtva to apply to the negation of the pot in threads of a cloth, the pot will have to have been perceived as existing in the threads of a cloth. But no such cognition of a pot in threads of a cloth ever occurs. So the definition of mithyAtva does not apply to such obvious negations.

 ViTThalesha (who comments on the gauDa-brahmAnandI) therefore remarks:

  vastutastu svaprakArakatvopAdAnaM tuchchha-ativyAptivAraNAya

  Actually, the mention of "having it as the qualifier" is for the purpose of ruling out something that is trivial (fictitious entity) and a definition that is too wide (ativyApti).

  Another type of negation or absence is also being ruled out by the insertion of the term "traikAlika" in the definition. This is to counter an  objection as follows. There is an absence of a thing such as a pot before it comes into being, called the prAgabhAva. After the pot is destroyed, there is another type of absence (abhAva) called "dhvaMsa-abhAva." Does the advaitin mean by mithyAtva an absence that is one of these types? Or does he mean the mutual negation (mutual-absence or anyonya-abhAva or bheda) that is perceived between things such as a pot and the pieces of the pot after it is destroyed? In either case, the advaitin is committing the mistake of siddha-sAdhana, proving what is already established. In order to reject this objection, the definition of mithyAtva has the term "traikAlika". The negation that is being described in the definition is traikAlika, that holds for all times. In the case of prAgabhAva, dhvaMsa-abhAva, and bheda in the above examples, there is no absolute negation (atyanta-abhAva), that which holds for all times.

  Therefore, BrahmAnanda says:

  kapAladinishhThabheda-dhvaMsAdipratiyogitvamAdAya siddha-sAdhanaM syAdatastraikAliketi |

  (The opponent may) charge us with "siddha-sAdhana" by taking the pratiyogitva (counter-positive-ness) of the abhAva (absence) to be the difference or posterior negation (dhvaMsa-abhAva) in things such as the pieces of a pot. (To counter this we have added the term) "traikAlika" in the definition.

  In the next part, we will see how the opponent raises an important objection to this definition.