Author Topic: mithyAtva of the Universe Part 2  (Read 1621 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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mithyAtva of the Universe Part 2
« on: February 17, 2010, 11:01:50 PM »
mithyAtva of the Universe Part 2

Establishment of Unreality (mithyAtva) of the Universe through Inference Part 2

In the perception of a snake where there is actually a rope, it is not that I see a snake on top of the rope or as part of rope. I see the snake where the rope is. Thus, I do not see snake and rope together. This error is called adhyAsa or error of superimposition. The error arises only because I do not see the rope as rope. I do not see the rope as a rope because of some adventitious cause (such as poor illumination). I am unable to perceive all the attributes of the object that define it precisely as a rope and not as a snake. In the case of nacre also, I am unable to see all its attributes but only see its partial attribute of silvery shininess.

In the case of Brahman, being infiniteness, there is nothing other than Brahman to differentiate it from. Hence, Brahman cannot have any attributes, since attributes are what differentiate one object from another. vedAnta says that Brahman is pure existence-consciousness-limitlessness. These are not attributes but are its very nature or svarUpam, looking from the point of view of the attributive universe. When we say  that Brahman is the material cause of the universe, it becomes the substantive for all objects in the universe. Since Brahman cannot be seen or known as an object (adreshyam), the substantive of the universe cannot be known or seen; we only see the universe of objects.

We can now use the vyApti that: whenever the substantive is not seen, whatever is seen will be unreal (the unreal gets sublated when one sees or knows the substantive). The example we have discussed is that of seeing silver on nacre. When once we know the substantive nacre, the silver that we saw is recognized as not real. Similarly, once I know Brahman as the substantive of the universe, I recognize that the universe that I see is not real. But, since things are seen, they are not non-existent either since non-existent things cannot be seen. With this background let us examine the VP statements.

VP says we can prove the unreality of the universe, which appears to be other than Brahman. This is because Brahman, though infinite and the substantive of the universe, is not itself seen. Whatever is seen is unreal and this is like seeing unreal silver in nacre. The nature of this error has already been discussed and established before when we were discussing the topic of errors in perception. How can we prove the universe is unreal? How can we prove that silver is unreal when we see it in the nacre? How can we prove the snake is unreal where there is actually only a rope? It is very simple: the fact that what we see is not what is actually there proves that what we see is in error. Similarly, Brahman is the substantive for the whole universe. We are not seeing Brahman but a universe with names and forms. That means, we are seeing something other than what is actually there. It is obvious then that the universe that we see is not real since we are seeing something different from what it is. VP says this argument is simpler than any other.

VP now provides a definition for unreal (mithyA). Unreality is something opposite to absolute non-existence. It appears to abide in whatever is supposed to be its substratum. VP says that the term ‘supposed to be’ is used to guard against absence of any true substratum, and the term ‘whatever’ is used to protect any coexistence of the object and the substantive as two entities. When I see silver where nacre is, ‘silver is supposed to abide in whatever substantive is actually there (nacre)’, as I have no knowledge of the nacre when I am seeing the silver. Similarly, the silver that I see is not separate from nacre so that it can be said to ‘co-exist’ with nacre. Here, there are not two objects – silver and nacre – when I see the silver. It is silver alone that I see where the nacre is. Hence, the silver is mithyA, since what is there is not what I see. Hence, VP uses the definition provided by chitsukhAchArya in chitsukhii (I-7-39) that: mithyA is that which is counter positive (opposite) to the absolute non-existence and abides (or appear to exist) in whatever is supposed to be its substratum. In simple terms, it is sat asat vilakShaNam – since it is seen, it is not absolute non-existence (asat) but neither is it real (sat), since it is abiding in something other than itself (like silver in nacre).

In the case of seeing a snake where there is a rope, we have adhyAsa or the error of taking something to be other than what it is due to incomplete perception of attributive content because of adventitious defects (such as inadequate lighting). Here, the inference involves the vyApti that: whatever (object) is seen is mithyA, if we do not know the substantive of what is seen. Since Brahman, the substantive of the universe is not seen or known, the universe that we see is mithyA. VP next uses another vyApti or concomitant relation to establish by inference that the universe that we see is mithyA. This involves establishing that whatever object has parts is mithyA, since the substantive Brahman has no parts and therefore cannot be broken into parts.

Let us examine the example of a cloth. When we say it is a cloth, it appears to be real, since transactionally (at the empirical level) we use it as a cloth. But, on closer examination, what is actually present are lots of cotton threads, which are together seen as a cloth. The cloth can be separated into the threads from which it is made. Hence, cloth is not a non-existent entity but an entity that ‘abides in the threads’. The cloth is there for us to experience but the truth of the cloth-experience is that it is nothing other than threads, which form the substantive for the cloth. If the threads are removed, the cloth cannot exist independently, whereas the threads can exist independently of the cloth. Thus, by anvaya logic we have: ‘cloth is, thread is’. By vyatireka logic we have: ‘cloth is not’ but ‘thread is’. Thus, the cloth becomes an entity dependent on the threads whereas the threads exist independently of being a cloth.

This is true for all objects that are made of up of parts. They can all be parted or dis-assembled into their constituent entities, which are more real than the assembled objects. All the qualities of objects also come under the same category – they are not absolutely non-existent but exist as abiding in something other than themselves. We cannot say that color abides in color; it abides in the cloth, while cloth itself abides in threads. One can continue this process. The threads themselves are not non-existent but they abide in something other than themselves, the finer molecules, etc. Ultimately, all objects in the universe can be parted since they are made up of parts. That which abides in something other than itself is mithyA. The only ‘thing’ that is part-less and abides in itself is Brahman. Here, we are using a laukika anumAna or worldly inference to say that ‘whatever has parts is mithyA’, since it is not absolutely non-existent but exists abiding in something other than itself. Thus, using inference or anumAna we can establish using worldly examples that the universe is mithyA or apparently real but not really real.