Author Topic: Example of adhyaasa  (Read 449 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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Example of adhyaasa
« on: March 01, 2015, 02:21:14 AM »
Example of adhyaasa

      For conveying this concept of adhyaasa in Vedanta a well known example is taken as illustrated by Shri Goudapada in his Mandukya karika:

      anishchitaa yathaa rajjuH andhakaare vikalpitaa |
      sarpadhaaraadibhiH bhaavaiH tadvadaatmaaa vikalpitaH ||
      meaning, when there is a rope in front of us which is not clearly visible, then there is a mistake of a snake or a stream of water. Similarly aatmaaa is mistaken for something other than aatmaaa. Hence a snake perception on a rope is an error or adhyaasa. rajju sarpa buddhiH - on the rope the notion of a snake.
      When does the error takes place? If the rope is completely not seen when it is pitch dark, then no error takes place, and there is no fear of a snake.
      Hence it is said that 'ignorance is a bliss', as in deep sleep. In total ignorance, there is no error. Similarly in total knowledge also there is no error, since one can see clearly the rope. There is no fear of snake and hence knowledge is also bliss, as with a wise man. Only when there is a partial light or when the eyes are partially defective, the error can occur.

      When there is a partial light, then we know there is something in front of us. Thus we have some partial knowledge. But what is that something we don't know. That there is something is called 'saamaanya GYaanam' or partial knowledge. That part of the rope (that is the 'thingness' that exists) is called 'saamaanya a.nsha' (general existent part). The saamaanya a.nsha is not covered by darkness since we know that something exists there. Hence it is also called 'anaavR^ita a.nsha' (uncovered part). Since the existence of something is real, it is also called 'satya a.nsha' or real part.

      Since light is dull, that the existent thing is 'a rope' - that aspect is covered, which is the particular feature of the existent object. The 'ropeness' of the object is covered, which is the specific feature of that object. This specific feature of the object, that is the 'ropeness', is called 'visheshha a.nsha' also 'aavRita a.nsha' or covered part. 'There is a rope' is a fact or real. Of this total fact, one part is covered and another part is not covered. Of the total statement, 'there is a rope',  'there is' -, that part (saamaanya a.nsha) of the knowledge is not covered and ' a rope' - that part (visheshha a.nsha) is covered. When the visheshha a.nsha is covered, the mind projects with another visheshha a.nsha - which is 'a snake'. Hence 'snakeness' is the replaced visheshha a.nsha in the place of 'ropeness'. We are not replacing saamaanya a.nsha or satya a.nsha or real part but we are replacing only the visheshha a.nsha, a particular part, with a snake which is mithyaa or anR^itam or not real. Thus when we say 'there is a snake' it consists of two parts - saamaanya a.nsha, which is real and visheshha a.nsha which is unreal or anR^itam.

      Therefore in every error there is satya saamaanya a.nsha and mithyaa visheshha a.nsha. The unreal particular feature is there only because the real particular feature (visheshha a.nsha - the ropeness) is covered. When the light is shown, the true knowledge of the object takes place and we say now 'there is a rope'. The previous saamaanya a.nsha, 'there is' or the real part still remains. Only the previous visheshha a.nsha, the snakeness, which is not real is replaced by the other visheshha a.nsha (ropeness), which happens to be also real. When we say it is replaced, it is not that the snake is now replaced by the rope. Where did the snake go? - the snake was never there to go anywhere. But in the mind of the perceiver who says 'there is a snake', the snake was very much alive and it was a very frightening experience for him. The frightening experience that includes rapid heart beating, blood pressure rising and sweating are all as much real as the snake, for the one who sees the snake. He runs away to avoid the snakebite and that running away is real too. Can the false snake cause so much of havoc? False snake cannot cause any problem if one knows that it is false. Since it is a real snake in the mind of the perceiver, the perceived suffering is equally real in his mind. Thus relative to his state of mind, the snake is real. Only from the point of wise man, snake is mithyaa (for the time being we translate it is unreal) while rope is real.

      The snake appears to be real from the point of the perceiver, and is unreal from the point of the wise man. Thus off-hand there appear to be two realities, one from the point of the perceiver who sees the thing as a snake and the other from the point of the wise man who sees the thing as a rope.

      One is relatively real (vyaavahaarika satya) and the other is absolutely real (paaramaarthika satya). Thus relative realities depend on from whose reference we are discussing the issue. Most of the confusion in discussions arises when we inadvertently switch the reference states without realizing it. The discussion of real and unreal so far is from the point of a perceiver. But from the point of the object, it was rope all the time. It was just an innocent rope lying in semi dark alley, without realizing that it is the subject of so much discussion from Goudapada on! It was rope before any one saw, it is a rope when people are mistaking it as a snake and it will remain as rope even when a torch light was shown on it. Rope never became a snake causing problems for the people. But people saw it as a snake and got frightened. Who created a snake out of a rope? Can we say ignorance created a snake out of the rope? Both questions will sound as ridiculous since there was never a snake where the rope is, for it to be called a created entity. But yet for the person who is perceiving a snake, there is indeed a snake where the rope is. But when we ask him later why he saw the snake there when it is a rope, his only answer is - I didn't know it was a rope. From his point, ignorance of the rope is the cause for the snake creation in his mind. These concepts need to be clearly understood when we apply it to reality of the world, concept of creation and what is the adhishhThaanam or substratum for the creation or the world etc.

      Now when the light is shown, the reality of the object gets revealed by itself, since it is real, and the unreality disappears by itself since it is unreal. The correction is not in the saamaanya a.nsha but only in the visheshha a.nsha. When this correction takes place in the visheshha a.nsha, the fear caused by that unreal snake is also gone. The fears and tribulations are all related to the visheshha a.nsha, which is unreal and not to the saamaanya a.nsha, which is real. Thus when the inquiry is done about the nature of the visheshha a.nsha using a valid means of inquiry, in this case, say a torch light, then the reality of the object in total is known.

      The method of inquiry should be appropriate since the error is due to ignorance of the visheshha a.nsha, the rope, because of the dim light. Hence the means should be such as to eliminate the ignorance by throwing light on the object. No amount of prayers, actions such as jumping up and down, or japa or meditation on the rope ' idam rajjuH, idam rajjuH', 'this is a rope, this is a rope' etc., will help reveal the rope in the place of a snake.

      Hence Shankara say in Vivekachudamani:

      vadantu shaastraaNi yajantu devaan.h kurvantu karmaaNi bhajantu devataaH |
      aatmaaikya bodhena vinaa vimuktiH na sidhyati brahma shataantare.api ||
      Let erudite scholars quote all the scriptures, let gods be invoked through endless sacrifices, let elaborate rituals be performed, let personal gods be propitiated. Yet, without the experience of one's identity with the self or self-knowledge, there shall be no liberation for the individual, even in the lifetime of a hundred Brahma-s put together.

      The problem is centered on ignorance and the solution has to be an appropriate knowledge that removes that ignorance. If I don't know Chemistry no amount of the study of Psychology will help remove my ignorance of Chemistry. Knowledge of Chemistry alone removes the ignorance of Chemistry. Similarly the knowledge of oneself removes the ignorance centered on the self. Hence discussion of any other paths is meaningless from the point of the stated problem - hence the shruti's declaration - na anyaH panthaa vidyate ayanaaya - no other path other than knowledge removes the sa.nsaara. Hence Shankara insistence on the understanding of the nature of the problem, i.e. adhyaasa.

      Thus the problem itself will define the solution to that problem.