Presentation of the teaching of MithyAtva in the Bhagavadgita
(mithyAtva = unreality)
In the sequel is a translation of the Sanskrit essay on the above topic. The Sanskrit and the English portions appear sequentially and help a reader conversant with Sanskrit to read those portions and also appreciate the translation. Those not conversant with Sanskrit could skip those portions and read just the English version. The translation is also an elaborate explanation of the Sanskrit essay.
अत्र द्वितीयाध्याये षोडशतमश्लोक एवं पठ्यते –
Here, in the Second Chapter, is the verse –
नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः ।
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोः तत्त्वदर्शिभि: ॥ इति ।
[2.16 Of the unreal there is no being; the real has no nonexistence. But the nature of both these, indeed, has been realized by the seers of Truth.]
श्लोकेऽस्मिन् ‘नाभावो विद्यते सतः’ इत्यंशे ब्रह्मणस्सत्यत्वमभिहितं भगवता, तैत्तिरीयश्रुत्युक्त ‘सत्यं ज्ञानं अनन्तं ब्रह्म’ इति ब्रह्मस्वरूपलक्षणानुरोधेन । ‘त्रिकालाबाध्यत्वं सत्यत्वलक्षणं’ इति परिष्कृतलक्षणं भगवत्पादैः तैत्तिरीयभाष्ये अति गहनार्थबोधकतया एवमुक्तम् – यद्रूपेण यन्निश्चितं तद्रूपं न व्यभिचरति, तत् सत्यम् । यद्रूपेण यन्निश्चितं तत् तद्रूपं व्यभिचरति, तदनृतमित्युच्यते । अतो विकारोऽनृतम्, ’वाचारंभणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम्’, एवं सदेव सत्यम् इत्यवधारणात् ।इति। गीतागतब्रह्मलक्षणस्य व्याख्यानतया विराजते भाष्यवाक्यमिदं भगवत्पादीयम् ।
In this verse, in the portion ‘the real has no nonexistence’ the Absolute Reality of Brahman is stated by the Lord. This is in accordance with the Taittiriya Upanishad definition of the intrinsic nature of Brahman in the terms: ‘Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahma’ [Brahman is Existence, Consciousness and Infinite]. The nature of Brahman concisely stated as ‘that which is not sublatable in all the three periods of time’ has been elucidated in a very deeply insightful statement in the commentary to the Taittiriya Upanishad :
//As for satyam, a thing is said to be satyam, true, when it does not change the nature that is ascertained to be its own; and a thing is said to be unreal when it changes the nature that is ascertained to be its own. Hence a mutable thing is unreal, for in the text, ‘All transformation has speech as its basis, and it is name only. Clay as such is the reality.’ (Chandogya Up. 6.1.4), it has been emphasized that, that alone is true that Exists (Ch.Up. 6.2.1)//
‘ब्रह्म सत्यम्’ इत्यंशस्य प्रतिपादनं पूर्वं दृष्टम्, इदानीं ‘जगन्मिथ्या’ इत्यस्य निरूपणं ‘नासतो विद्यते भावः’ इत्यनेन क्रियते । ननु असतः कथं मिथ्याशब्दार्थकत्वं, सदसद्विलक्षणस्यैव तथात्वात् । ननु च असच्छब्दस्य अत्यन्तासद्द्योतकत्वमेव लोके दृष्टं, शशविषाणगगनकुसुमप्रभृतिषु, तेन च कथं मिथ्यार्थकत्वसिद्धिः? इति चेत्, शृणु तत्र समाधानम् ।
In the foregoing, the aspect ‘Brahman is the Reality’ (Brahma Satyam) has been established. In the sequel the aspect ‘the world is unreal’ (Jagan mithyaa) is taken up by analyzing the portion ‘Of the unreal there is no being’ of the verse 2.16.
Objection: How do you say that the word ‘asat’ (non-existent) connotes the sense of being ‘unreal’, ‘mithyA’, since only that which is ‘sad-asad-vilakShaNam’, distinct from both existent and non-existent, can qualify to be termed unreal, mithyA? Further, the word ‘non-existent’ denotes only that which is absolutely non-existent such as the hare’s horn and a sky-flower. Hence how does the idea of unreality, mithyAtvam, become conveyed by the term ‘asat’ of the verse?
Reply: For such an objection, the reply is stated as follows:
श्लोकस्य उत्तरार्धे तत्त्वदर्शिनां ज्ञानं पूर्वार्धोक्तसदसतोरुभयोरपि निर्णयरूपमुक्तम् । यदि ‘असत्’ इत्यस्य शशविषाणादिकं गृह्येत, तत् पामरैरपि असत्त्वेन निष्प्रत्यूहं गृह्यमाणत्वात्, तत्त्वदर्शिविषयकत्वं तस्य अति पेशलं स्यात् । प्रत्युत पण्डितपामरसामान्येन सर्वैरपि स्वाभाविक्या अविद्यया संसारित्वं प्रपञ्चं च पारमार्थिकतया गृह्यमाणे सति, तन्निवारकतया शास्त्रप्रवृत्तिरिति सिद्धे, भगवता ‘ब्रह्म सत्यं, जगन्मिथ्या’ इत्युपदेशः सार्थकत्वं सामञ्जस्यं च प्राप्नुयात् ।
In the second half of the verse, the knowledge/realization of the Knowers-of-Truth is being stated as that which constitutes the accurate understanding of the nature of both the ‘sat and asat’, real and the unreal. If ‘asat’, unreal, is to be taken to mean ‘non-existent’, like the hare’s horn, it would be very trivial to mention it as the realization of the Knower-of-Truth, for even those who are most ill-informed of the higher things of the world would deem the hare’s horn and the like as something absolutely non-existent; they do not have to be taught about this. On the contrary, if we admit that the Scriptural teaching is aimed at removing the ignorance-caused nature-driven notion held by all learned and the lay that the samsara, bondage, is absolutely real, then we can appreciate that the Lord’s teaching of ‘Brahman is the Real and the world is unreal’ is purposeful and quite in order.
‘यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति’ (बृहदारण्यक २.४.१४, ४.५.१५), ‘नेह नानास्ति किञ्चन’ (बृहदारण्यक ४.४.१९), ‘मृत्योस्स मृत्युं गच्छति य इह नानेव पश्यति’ (कठ २.१.११) इत्यादिबह्व्यः श्रुतयः इवशब्दप्रयोगेण द्वैतस्य मिथ्यात्वं प्रतिपादयन्ति, आमनन्ति, बोधयन्ति च । ‘भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च’ (१३.३४) इति भगवतापि सकारणस्य जगतः मिथ्यात्वं ज्ञापितम् । त्रयोदशाध्यायगतश्लोकेऽस्मिन् तत्त्वदर्शिनो लक्षणमेवमुक्तम् – क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोरेवमन्तरं ज्ञानचक्षुषा । भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च ये विदुर्यान्ति ते परम् ॥ १३.३४ ॥ इति ।
Numerous Upanishadic passages such as – ‘where there is dvaita as it were’ (Brihadaranyaka Up. 2.4.24, 4.5.15), ‘there is no diversity here whatsoever’ (Br.Up. 4.4.19), ‘whoever has the wrong vision of diversity goes from death to death’ (Kathopanishad 2.1.11) – by the use of the particle ‘iva’ (‘as though’) establish, proclaim and teach the unreality of dvaita, duality. The Lord too, through the words ‘bhUta-prakRti-moksham cha’ (Bhagavad Gita 13.34), teaches the unreality, mithyAtva, of the world. In this verse the marks that signify knowledge of the Truth are specified – 1. The discriminatory knowledge that differentiates the kshetra, prakriti, the inert principle and the kshetrajna, the Conscious Being and 2. The knowledge of the unreality/nonexistence of the causal and manifested universe.
(अ) ‘नासतो विद्यते’ इतयत्र भाष्यम् – नासतो=अविद्यमानस्य शीतोष्णादेः सकारणस्य न विद्यते नास्ति भावो भवनम् अस्तिता । (अत्र शीतोष्णादेः इति प्रकरणात् – २.१४ गृहीतम्, सकारणस्य इति शीतोष्णादेः कारणं यत्किञ्चिदपि वस्तु अग्निसूर्यादिहिमवातादिकं गृह्यते ।) न हि शीतोष्णादि सकारणं प्रमाणैर्निरूप्यमाणं वस्तु सद्भवति । विकारो हि सः, विकारश्च व्यभिचरति । यथा घटादिसंस्थानं चक्षुषा निरूप्यमाणं मृद्व्यतिरेकेण अनुपलब्धेरसत्, तथा सर्वो विकारः कारणव्यतिरेकेण अनुपलब्धेः असन् । जन्मप्रधवंसाभ्यां प्रागूर्ध्वं चानुपलब्धेः कार्यस्य घटादेः मृदादिकारणस्य च तत्कारणव्यतिरेकेण अनुपलब्धेः असत्त्वम् । तदसत्त्वे सर्वाभावप्रसङ्ग इति चेन्न, सर्वत्र बुद्धिद्वयोपलब्धेः सद्बुद्धिरसद्बुद्धिरिति । यद्विषया बुद्धिर्न व्यभिचरति तत्सत्, यद्विषया व्यभिचरति तदसत् इति सदसद्विभागे बुद्धितन्त्रे स्थिते सर्वत्र द्वे बुद्धी सर्वैरुपलभ्येते समानाधिकरणे । …सन्घटः सन्पटः सन्हस्तीति । एवं सर्वत्र । तयोर्बुध्योर्घटादिबुद्धिर्व्यभिचरति । तथा च दर्शितम् । न तु सद्बुद्धिः । तस्मात् घटादिबुद्धिविषयोऽसन् व्यभिचारात्, न तु सद्बुद्धिविषयोऽव्यभिचारात् । (पूर्वप्रदर्शिततैत्तिरीयकभाष्यपङ्क्तयोऽत्र स्मर्तव्याः) ……..एवमात्मानात्मनोः सदसतोरुभयोरपि दृष्ट उपलब्धोऽन्तो निर्णयः सत्सदेव, असदसदेवेति त्वनयोर्यथोक्तयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभिः । तदिति सर्वनाम सर्वं च ब्रह्म तस्य नाम तदिति तद्भावस्तत्त्वं ब्रह्मणो याथात्म्यं तत् द्रष्टुं शीलं येषां ते तत्त्वदर्शिनः । इति ।
Reproduced hereunder is a portion from Shankaracharya’s commentary on the Bhagavadgita verse 2.16 –
// Asatah, of the unreal, of cold, heat, etc. together with their causes; na vidyate, there is no; bhaavah, being, existence, reality; because heat, cold, etc. together with their causes are not substantially real as they are perceived/grasped by means of instruments. For they are changeful, and whatever is changeful is inconstant. As configurations like pot etc. are unreal since they are not perceived to be different from earth when perceived by the eyes, so also are all changeful things unreal because they are not perceived to be different from their (material) causes, and also because they are not perceived before (their) origination and after destruction.//
(आ) क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोरेवमन्तरं ज्ञानचक्षुषा ।
भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च ये विदुर्यान्ति ते परम् ॥ १३.३४ ॥ इत्यत्र्स्थभाष्यमेवं वर्तते –
क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोरन्तरं इतरेतरवैलक्षण्यविशेषं ज्ञानचक्षुषा शास्त्राचार्योपदेशजनितमात्मप्रत्ययिकं ज्ञानं चक्षुः तेन ज्ञानचक्षुषा, भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च भूतानां प्रकृतिः अविद्यालक्षणा अव्यक्ताख्या तस्या भूतप्रकृतेर्मोक्षणं अभावगमनं च ये विदुः विजानन्ति, यान्ति गच्छन्ति ते परं परमार्थतत्त्वं ब्रह्म, न पुनर्देहमादत्ते इत्यर्थः । इति ।
Given here is a part of Shankaracharya’s commentary on the Bhagavadgita verse 13.34:
//They who in this manner perceive the exact distinction, now pointed out, between Kshetra and Kshetrajna, by the eye of wisdom, by means of that knowledge of the Self which has been generated by the teachings of the shAstra and the Acharya, and who also perceive the non-existence of PrakRti, avidyA, avyaktA, the material cause of beings, – they reach Brahman, the Real, the Supreme Self, and assume no more bodies.//
इदानीं श्लोकद्वयभाष्यगतविशेषांशाः प्रदर्श्यन्ते ।
The special points that occur in the comparative study of the verses 2.16 and 13.34 along with the Bhashyam:
१. तत्रादौ नासतो विद्यते भावः इत्यत्र असतोऽभावो यदुक्तं व्यतिरेकमुखेन तदेव भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च इत्यत्र अन्वयमुखेन बोधितं भगवता । द्वितीयश्लोकभाष्ये भूतप्रकृतेर्मोक्षणं अभावगमनं इत्युक्तिः आद्यश्लोकोक्त-असतोऽभावं परामर्शन्निव द्योतते । एवं च भगवत्पादीयं भाष्यं भगवद्विवक्षां सम्यक् स्फुटीकुर्वद् वर्तते ।
In the portion ‘Of the unreal there is no being’ (2.16) that which has been stated in a contrary manner is indeed stated in the concordant manner in the portion ‘the non-existence of the Prakriti’ (13.34). The word ‘(knowing that Prakriti is) non-existent’ of the Bhashya (13.34) is as if it is referring to the word ‘a-bhAvaH’ of the verse 2.16. In this manner the Bhashya brings to the fore the intent of the Lord with respect to both the verses.
२. असत् तथा भूतप्रकृति: इति शब्दद्वयं समानार्थकम् । तथैव अभावः एवं मोक्षणं इति पदौ समानार्थकौ मन्तव्यौ । द्वितीयश्लोकभाष्यगत परमार्थतत्त्वं इति पदं पूर्वश्लोकगत-तत्त्वदर्शिभि: इत्यनेन निकटं सम्बध्यते ।
The words ‘asat’, non-existent, unreal, and ‘bhUtaprakRti’, the Causal Energy principle, mean the same. So also, the words ‘abhAvaH’ and ‘mokShaNam’ are to be seen to mean ‘non-existent’.
३. अत्रास्मिन् द्वितीयश्लोके मोक्षोपयोगिज्ञानस्य लक्षणद्वयं स्फुटं प्रतीयते – १. प्रकृत्यपरपर्यायक्षेत्रं, दृश्यं, जडं, विषयं, क्षेत्रज्ञात् द्रष्टुः, चैतन्यात्, विषयिणो, विलक्षणतया गुरुशास्त्रोपदेशमनु विविच्य द्रष्टव्यम् तथा २. एतन्मात्रविवेकेन पारमार्थिकाद्वैतसिद्धिर्न स्यादिति भगवान् प्रकृत्याख्यक्षेत्रस्यापि कार्यकारणरूपेण संपूर्णतया अभावत्वमविद्यमानत्वज्ञानमपि क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञविवेकज्ञानस्य पूरकतया उपादिशत् । एतेन नासतो विद्यते इत्यत्रोक्तांशद्वयं श्लोकेऽस्मिन्नपि अवधारितं स्पष्टमुपलभामहे । पूर्वत्रांशद्वयं – सतः ब्रह्मात्मनोऽप्रतिहततया सत्यत्वम्, असतः देहादिप्रपञ्चस्य सर्वथापि अविद्यमानत्वम् च इति । एवञ्च प्रपञ्चमिथात्वसाधने भगवतो तात्पर्यसद्भावे संशयलेशोऽपि नास्तीति स्फुटम्।
In this second verse (13.34) the two-fold aspect of the liberating Knowledge is clearly spelt out – 1. The PrakRti, also known as kshetram, dRshyam (perceived), inert, objectified being, is quite distinct from the Conscious Seer, the Kshetrajna, the Apprehender as is known from the teaching of the Guru and the Scripture and 2. Since by this much discrimination the pAramaarthika Non-dual Truth does not get established, the Lord teaches the non-existence of the Prakriti as another indispensable aspect of the liberating Knowledge. Thus, the two-aspect knowledge characterising the realization of Truth taught in 2.16 is found mentioned, specified, in this 13.34 as well. The two aspects seen in 2.16 are: 1. the absolute Reality of the Brahman and 2. the absolute unreality, non-existence, of the world characterized by the body, etc. By such reiteration by the Lord we conclude that the Lord’s intention is in teaching ‘Brahma Satyam, jagan mithya’.
४. असत्शब्दस्य व्याख्यानतया वर्तते भूतप्रकृतिशब्दः । असदिति सकारणद्वैतस्य परामर्शः । भूतानां प्रकृतिः अविद्यालक्षणा अव्यक्ताख्या इति व्याख्यानं कार्यकारणात्मकसमस्तद्वैतस्य द्योतकम् । (‘अविद्यमानस्य शीतोष्णादेः सकारणस्य न विद्यते नास्ति भावो भवनम् अस्तिता’ । इति २.१६ भाष्ये ।) कार्यमात्रस्य अभावस्तु सुषुप्त्यादावपि सिद्धत्वात्, कारणस्य प्रकृतेः अभावः तत्त्वज्ञानादेव संभवति इति स्पष्टीकर्तुं भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षणं शब्दत उक्तं श्लोके, तथाविधं व्याख्यातं च भाष्ये । कारणोक्तेः कार्यस्याप्युक्तप्राय एव ।
The word ‘bhUtaprakRti’ of 13.34 looks like a commentary of the word ‘asat’ of 2.16. The word ‘asat’ is indicative of the dvaita along with its cause (parakRti). The elucidation of the Bhashyam for the word ‘bhUtaprakRti-mokSham’ in 13.34 as ‘the cause of the beings, characterized by avidyA, ignorance, termed ‘un-manifest’, ‘avyakta’ ‘ is indicative of the entire cause-effect universal duality.
‘नासतो..’ इत्यस्य भाष्यगतप्रपञ्चमिथ्यात्वप्रतिपादकहेतुचतुष्टयप्रदर्शनम् –
Presenting the four-fold reason that establishes the unreality, mithyAtvam, of the world, as stated in the Bhashyam for the verse 2.16 –
१. ‘न हि शीतोष्णादि सकारणं प्रमाणैर्निरूप्यमाणं वस्तु सद्भवति ।’ इत्यस्मिन् वाक्ये वस्तुनोऽसत्त्वे तन्निरूपणे प्रमाणापेक्षता हेतूक्रियते । अत्रेयं व्याप्तिः – यद्यद्वस्तु स्वात्मगोचरे, स्वात्मलाभाय, स्वभिन्नप्रमातृगतप्रमाणमपेक्षते तत्तन्मिथ्या । अन्याधीनत्वात्, स्वाप्नप्रमाणगृहीतस्वाप्नवस्तुवत् । प्रमाणानां तथा तद्विषयाणां प्रकृत्यपरपर्यायक्षेत्रान्तर्गतत्वं भगवतैवोक्तत्वात् – इन्द्रियाणि दशैकं च पञ्च चेन्द्रियगोचराः इति क्षेत्रविवरणावसरे (१३.५) । ‘भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च’ (१३.३४) इति क्षेत्रज्ञयाथात्म्यज्ञानबाध्यमानक्षेत्रकुक्षिपतितेन्द्रियैः ग्राह्यमाणविषयाः कथं वस्तुभूततां अर्हन्ति? अन्याधीनत्वेऽपरोऽयं दृष्टान्तः – रज्ज्वामारोपितसर्पवत् इति । यथा आरोपितसर्पस्य अधिष्ठानरज्जुं विना न स्वतन्त्रसत्त्वं तथा । अथ वा यद्यद्वस्तु परप्रकाश्यं सत् स्वप्रकाशहीनं तत्तत् मिथ्या भवितुमर्हति, व्यतिरेकेण ब्रह्मवत्।हेतुरयं माण्दूक्यकारिकाभाष्योक्त (२.५) ‘दृश्यत्वात्’ इति प्रसिद्ध इत्यपि बोध्यम् । हेतोरस्य बलवत्त्वं भाष्ये द्विवारं ’ प्रमाणैर्निरूप्यमाणं, चक्षुषा निरूप्यमाणं’ इति प्रयोगदर्शनादवगम्यते ।
- // indeed …heat, cold, etc. together with their causes are not substantially real as they are perceived/grasped by means of instruments.//
This is the first reason. In this sentence, the unreality of the objects is determined by the reason that the objects are perceived (by instruments, sense organs). The general rule is: that object which depends upon an external instrument operated by an external knowing agent, for its being known/validation, is deemed to be unreal. Because it is dependent on something/someone else. Just like the dream objects that are known/validated by the dream instruments. The instruments and the objects that are perceived by them are categorized as ‘kShetram’ or prakRti by the Lord Himself (13.5) while detailing in brief the ‘kShetram’. How can the objects belonging to the kshetram that are validated by the organs that are also kshetram be real? In the perceived objects being dependent on something else, there is another example: the superimposed, paratantra, serpent has no independent, svatantra, existence apart from that of the rope. Whatever is paratantra, dependent, for its existence, on any swatantra, independent entity, has to be necessarily mithyA. PrakRti, being paratantra, is dependent for its very being, reality, on Brahman, the Swatantra. The Lord has specified PrakRiti/mAya as ‘His’ power which He resorts to for the creation and managing of the created universe and the jivas (Bh.Gita verses 7.4,5 , 8. 18,19, 9.7,8 Etc.) Hence PrakRti is mithyA. Also, whichever object being devoid of its own sentience is dependent on an external entity for its being illuminated, is mithyA. The contrary example, vyatireka dRShTAnta, is Brahman. Brahman has its intrinsic shine or rather Brahman IS Shine, and is not in need of any other entity for being illumined. But any other entity, object, prakRti, has to depend on Brahman/sentient entity for being illumined and hence mithyA. This reason specified by Shankara is akin to the one He has stated in the Mandukya kArikA BhaaShya 2.5. This is ‘dRShyatvAt’ mithyA, ..unreal because of its being a perceivable entity. Any entity that is perceivable is mithyA, just as in a dream. This reason assumes importance in view of the Acharya stating it twice in this very exposition that we are considering now.
२. ‘विकारो हि सः, विकारश्च व्यभिचरति ।’ सत्यं वस्तु अव्यभिचारितया सत्यत्वलक्षणभाग्भवति । तदन्यद्वस्तु तु जन्मविपरिणामनाशादिविकारं प्राप्य सदैव व्यभिचरद् मिथ्यात्वलक्षणतामेति । ननु विकारवद्वस्तु अनित्यं भवति इत्येव सर्वैरभ्युपगतं, तत्कथं मिथ्यात्वनिर्णयः क्रियते? इति चेदुच्यते – पूर्वं बीजत्वेन निश्चितं यद् तत् इदानीं अङ्कुरत्वेन गृह्यते, पस्चात्सस्यत्वेन, अनन्तरं वृक्षत्वेन इति प्रत्येककक्षायामपि पूर्वदृष्टवस्तु अगोचरतामेत्य सर्वत्र नाममात्रतावसानमेति । तथा बीजादिसर्वावस्थासु किमपि वस्तु न सिद्ध्यति, केवलं नामरूपद्वयमेव वस्तुभ्रान्त्या व्यवह्रियते । हेतुरयं उत्तरद्वयहेत्वोः नातिव्याप्यते । समनन्तरहेतौ कारणव्यतिरेकेण कार्यस्यानुपलब्धित्वं तथा तदनन्तरहेतौ जन्मप्रधवंसाभ्यां प्रागूर्ध्वं चानुपलब्धित्वमिति नातिव्याप्तिप्रसङ्गः ।
- This is the second reason: // For they are changeful and whatever is changeful is inconstant. // The ‘Real’ entity, being free from any changes, qualifies to be called ‘Satyam’, Real. That which is other than this, however, being invariably subject to changes like birth/origin, decay and death/destruction, deserves to be called ‘unreal’, mithyaa. Objection: The changeful/changing entity, being ephemeral, is regarded by all as only anitya, short-lived. Hence, how is it that you label it as ‘mithyA’, unreal? Reply: What was earlier admitted as a seed, for example, is now comprehended as a sprout, later a plant and a tree and so on. In each of these stages of transformations, the earlier admitted object is no longer available for our experience; it vanishes. It has to be recalled only as a ‘name’ with a ‘form’; the substance being unavailable. Take the case of ‘this morning’. I woke up this morning, recognized it as morning, did all things pertaining to the morning. Now I am in the noon time. At this time, where is the ‘morning’? I did experience it no doubt, yet where is it now? Let me apply the rule Bhagavan specifies in 2.16: ‘The Real has no nonexistence’. When I apply this rule to test ‘morning’, if it was real, it should have been available to me now, existing. It should not have become non-existent. So, how can I consider the ‘morning’ real? But why can’t I take the ‘morning’ as anitya, ephemeral? Krishna says in the same verse: ‘The unreal has no being/existence’. To explain, if something has no being, existence, it is unreal. This leaves us with the only choice of concluding that the ‘morning’, even when it was experienced, did not have ‘being’, ‘existence’; it was just an appearance. And that is called ‘mithyA’. Therefore even during the various states of a seed-sprout-tree, etc. and morning-noon-evening-night, etc. there was nothing substantial existing; only some names and forms were handled in the delusion that they are substantial entities.
This second reason, stated by Bhagavatpada, does not overpervade, ativyApti, to the subsequent two reasons mentioned below. For, in the next reason, the non-availability of the effect in the absence of its cause is cited and in the final reason the non-availability of the effect prior to its creation and after its destruction is taken up.
३. यथा घटादिसंस्थानं चक्षुषा निरूप्यमाणं मृद्व्यतिरेकेण अनुपलब्धेरसत्, तथा सर्वो विकारः कारणव्यतिरेकेण अनुपलब्धेः असन् ।’ इति भाष्यवाक्यम् ।
अत्र विकारत्वं (विकार्यत्वं) मिथ्यात्वे हेतूक्रियते । दृष्टान्तः वाक्य एव दत्तः । (छान्दोग्ये) वाचारम्भणश्रुतौ एवमेव व्याख्यातम् । तैत्तिरीयभाष्येऽपि ‘विकारोऽनृतम्’ इत्युक्तम् । कारणमेव पश्यन् ‘इदं कार्यं सत्यम्’ इति मत्वा सर्वो जनः मुह्यति । मृदेव पश्यन् घटबुद्ध्याल्म्ब्य मुह्यति । मृद्वयतिरेकेण घट इति वस्तु नास्तीति बोधानन्तरमेव घटसत्यत्वबुद्धिं त्यजति । नामरूपमात्रात्मकं विकारजातं मिथ्या तथा तदुपादानभूतकारणवस्तुमात्रं सत्यम् । कारणमेव कार्याकारेण नूतननाम्ना च व्यवह्रियते ।
- The third reason given by Shankara is: // all changeful things, such as pots, are unreal because they are not perceived to be different from their (material) causes//
Here, transformation, vikAratvam, is held out as a reason for their unreality. The example is given in the sentence itself. While commenting on the VaachArambhaNa shruti in the Chandogya Upanishad VI Chapter too, this same observation is made. Even in the Taittiriya Upanishad Bhashyam, the Acharya has said: ‘anything that is subject to transformation is unreal’. All people erroneously hold the cause itself as ‘a real effect’. Even while perceiving the clay, people are deluded into thinking/concluding that it is a pot. Only when the realization dawns that ‘there is no pot as apart from clay’ does one give up the reality wrongly attributed to the pot. Names and forms that are what is ‘produced’ are unreal, mithya, and the material cause alone is real. The Chandogya Shruti there says: mRttikA iti yeva satyam. This means: The effect, pot, etc. is real only as clay. This is the meaning of the word ‘iti’ in the passage. The cause alone is transacted in the form of an effect and with a new name.
४. ‘जन्मप्रधवंसाभ्यां प्रागूर्ध्वं चानुपलब्धेः कार्यस्य घटादेः मृदादिकारणस्य च तत्कारणव्यतिरेकेण अनुपलब्धेः असत्त्वम् ।’ अत्रापि माण्डूक्यकारिकोक्त ‘आदावन्ते च यन्नस्ति वर्तमानेऽपि तत्तथा । विथतैः सदृशा एव अवितथा इव लक्षिताः ’ (२.६) इति न्याय एव भाष्ये प्रदर्शितः । भगवतापि द्वितीयाध्याये (२.२८) एव ‘अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत । अव्यक्तनिधनान्येव तत्र का परिदेवना’ इति अयमेवार्थः बोधितः । अत्र भाष्ये ‘अदर्शनादापतितः पुनश्चादर्शनं गतः । नासौ तव न तस्य त्वं वृथा का परिदेवना ॥’ इति महाभारतश्लोक (स्त्रीपर्व.२.१३) उदाहृतः । यत्पूर्वं पश्चादप्यदृष्टं, मध्य एव दृष्टं, तन्मध्येऽपि नास्तीत्येव मन्तवयः; मध्ये तदुपलब्धिराभासमात्रमित्यर्थः ।
- The fourth reason stated by Shankara is: // and also because they are not perceived before (their) origination and after destruction.//
Here too, the famous maxim given out in the Mandukya Karika 2.6 namely: //If a thing is non-existent both in the beginning and in the end, it is necessarily non-existent in the present. The objects that we see are really like illusions; still they are regarded as real. // is alone presented by Shankara. The Lord too has expressed this very idea in the verse Bh.Gita 2.28: // O descendant of Bharata, all beings remain unmanifest in the beginning; they become manifest in the middle. After death they certainly become unmanifest. What lamentation can there be with regard to them? // Here, while commenting, Shankara has cited a Mahabharata (Stree parva 2.13) verse: //They emerged from invisibility, and have gone back to invisibility. They are not yours, nor are you theirs. What is this fruitless lamentation! //The idea is this: Any object/person is perceived to be so only during the manifested state. Only in this state it is possible to have any emotions like joy or grief. In the unmanifest state no object or person can be loved, hated, lamented upon, etc. When the Lord and Bhagavan Veda VyAsa are stating that persons/objects do not qualify for lamentation, etc., what they mean is that apart from the manifest state, there is no entity called a person/object. In the unmanifest state, all persons/objects become one with the avyakta, prakRti. The full import of this verse can be appreciated by looking into the Bhagavadgita verse 2.11: अशोच्यानन्वशोचस्त्वं प्रज्ञावादांश्च भाषसे । गतासूनगतासूंश्च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः ॥ [You grieve for those who are not to be grieved for; and you speak words of wisdom! The learned do not grieve for the departed and those who have not departed.] Here Shankara remarks: //Because, panditah, the learned, the knowers of the Self — panda means wisdom about the Self; those indeed who have this are panditaah, one the authority of the Upanisadic text, ‘….the knowers of Brahman, having known all about scholarship,….’ (Br. 3.5.1)…. The idea is, ‘You are sorrowing for those who are eternal in the real sense, and who are not to be grieved for. Hence you are a fool!.’.// Now, juxtaposing this verse and the Acharya’s commentary with the verse 2.16 and its commentary where the definition of Satya and Mithya are stated, one gets the complete picture: What is visible, perceivable to the senses is not real; it is not just anitya, it is mithya. Knowers of Brahman are endowed with the certitude pertaining to 1. The Real, sat, and 2. The unreal, asat.
ननु व्यभिचारित्वं कथं मिथ्यात्वे हेतुः स्यात्, तस्य अनित्यत्वार्थकमेव सिद्धत्वात् इति पुर्नराशङ्का जायते। तत्र समाधानम् – भगवता श्लोके सदसद्द्वयविभाग एव कृतः। तत्र सच्छब्दः सत्यब्रह्मबोधक इत्यत्र नास्ति संशयः, तस्य अभावप्रसङ्गो नास्त्येव । तदपर-अस्त्-शब्दस्य अनित्यार्थकत्वं नैव संभवति । अतो सद्भिन्नमसत् ब्रह्मभिन्न(विलक्षण)मिथ्याभूतजगत एव सूचक इति नात्र सिद्धान्ते दोषः ।
Objection: How can changefulness be cited as a ground for unreality since it conveys only the sense of ephemerality, anityatvam?
When such an objection is re-stated, the reply is: The Lord, in 2.16 has shown only two classes: sat and asat. Here, Sat undoubtedly refers to Brahman as its going out of existence is out of the question. The other entity ‘asat’ can never be held to mean ‘anitya’, ephemeral. This is because the Lord denies existence, bhAva, to asat. Surely, everyone ‘experiences’ bhAva, existence, with respect to things anitya, ephemeral. Putting these together we conclude, per force, that the Lord is saying that the ‘asat’ is mithya’; there is no such category called anitya, ephemeral, other than Sat and asat. Therefore the asat that is other than Sat, Brahman, has to mean only the universe that is mithyaa. Hence there is no defect of any manner in the elucidation provided in the Bhashyam.
Objection: The changefulness of the material world is not a sufficient ground to hold that it is mithyA. All transformation ends in destruction and lapses into its cause, the mUla prakRti. Hence, as a routine sriShTi-sthiti-laya (creation-sustenance-resolution), the material world inheres, upon destruction, in the causal state, avyakta or simply put, the Shakti. Thus it would be incorrect to say that the material world is mithyA, unreal.
Reply: There is no error in holding the material world mithyA on the said grounds. Even in the pralaya state, the unmanifest or Shakti, is an inert principle, having to depend upon the Consciousness Principle, Brahman/Iswara. No dependent principle, paratantra, can exist, be real, on its own; its dependence on Consciousness, Swatantra, Brahman, for its very reality, makes it an independently-non-existing entity, asat. The Lord has categorically stated in the verse 2.16 that ‘asat’ has no existence. The Lord has said in the most explicit terms that PrakRti has no existence from the Jnani’s realized standpoint in the verse 13.34 as already stated earlier –
// The Lord too, through the words ‘bhUta-prakRti-moksham cha’ (Bhagavad Gita 13.34), teaches the unreality, mithyAtva, of the world. In this verse the marks that signify knowledge of the Truth are specified – 1. The discriminatory knowledge that differentiates the kshetra, prakriti, the inert principle and the kshetrajna, the Conscious Being and 2. The unreality/non-existence of the causal and manifested universe. //
Thus, the paratantra prakRti, whether in manifest, variegated or unmanifest Shakti/energy form has no existence independent of Brahman, the Swatantra, Consciousness, Observer. Consciousness is required to validate energy. Energy is concomitant upon Consciousness only when Consciousness ‘wills’ to take its ‘services’ in the jagad-vyApAra of creation, etc. The Mandukya Upanishad after describing the realm of PrakRti in the first three pAda-s categorically negates PrakRti in the Turiya, Brahman, by the word: prapanchopashamam. The Absolute Swatantratva of Brahman cannot be established unless It is shown to be completely free of the paratantra prakRti. Any kind of reality attributed to prakRti will entail a compromise on the Absolute Independent nature of Brahman. That is the reason for the Lord to make that statement in 13.34 of the Bhagavadgita. It is pertinent to note the word ‘विदुः’ , ‘viduH’, which means ‘know’ in the plural, transitive. The non-existence, mithyAtva, of prakRiti is a matter of knowledge, in the manner of a correction of an ignorance that persisted earlier. In the state of bondage, the world has to be sustained. The jiva has to be provided a material world for his experiencing the samsara born of ignorance. In such a state it is essential that the creation-sustenance-destruction cycle is maintained and an ‘Energy’ state admitted in order to account for the material world. However, when knowledge dawns about the true nature of the jiva that it is in truth Pure Consciousness, the kShetrajna, the conscious observer and not the inert observed kshetram, prakRti, the knowledge of the non-existence of prakRiti becomes inevitable. That is precisely the reason why the Lord makes the verse 13.34 so perfectly fitting: In the first half of the verse He states that the Jnaani is the one who has the clear discriminatory knowledge that separates the observer from the observed. Since this much would not constitute complete knowledge, the explicit mention of the non-existence, mithyAtva, of the prakRti, the observed, is also made. The Jnani not only realizes his distinctness from prakrti (The Lord had stated that the cause of bondage is the erroneous identification of consciousness with prakRti in verse:13.26) but also that there is no real prakRti as apart from the observer. It is this knowledge alone that will render him free from samsara.
It is like knowing that there is no real sun-rise and sun-set although such an illusion persists. For those who do not know that it is only the earth’s revolution that causes the sun’s appearance and disappearance cyclically there is a ‘sun-rise-and-set’ phenomenon. On the other hand, those who know the truth are no longer under the delusion. An unreal sun-set-and-rise is happily spoken of in all circles, of the lay and the learned, as an event to be watched, looked forward to, enjoyed, etc. Nobody says ‘the sun appears to rise at 6.05 AM’. Newspapers publish the timings for sun/moon rise and set every day. People, knowing full well that the sun does not really rise or set, flock to celebrated spots like Kanyakumari and stay overnight to watch the glorious event. They do not report ‘I watched and photographed the appearance of the sun setting/rising’. That it is actually unreal does not prevent people from making it an event for all kinds of transactions, both scriptural and worldly. The Tattiriya Upanishad says: भीषास्माद्वातः पवते, भीषोदेति सूर्यः [‘Out of fear for the Lord, Brahman, Vayu, air, blows, fearing Brahman rises Surya’] It is to be noted that the Upanishad does not say ‘the Sun appears to rise’. In the same vein the Bhagavadgita too talks about PrakRti as if it is a real entity, without using expressions like ‘appears/seems to/ apparently’. But when the Paramarthika state has to be taught, the Gita does not make any concessions and says in the most unambiguous terms: the ‘asat’ (prakRti) has no existence’ (2.16) and ‘the Jnani ‘knows’ the non-existence of PrakRti’ (13.34).
The importance of the word ‘विदुः’ can be appreciated when we recognize that in the world all acquisition of knowledge is aimed at dispelling the corresponding ignorance. Knowledge-gaining or knowledge-giving presupposes ignorance on the part of the recipient. When the Lord says the person fit for Moksha ‘knows’ the non-existence of PrakRti, the implication is that hitherto such a knowledge was not there and, on the other hand, there was the erroneous conception that prakRti really exists. The word ‘विदुः’ shows us that the knowledge of the Kshetrajna, the Observer, as free and distinct from the kshetram, prakRti and that the prakRti is non-existent is what is conducive for Moksha. The conjunction ‘च’ confirms this. The term ‘ज्ञानचक्षुषा’ ‘through/by the eye of wisdom’ is most significant in this verse. It is only when one has mistaken a rope for a snake there is a need for gaining the right knowledge of the rope there with the ‘eye of widom’. Here Bhagavan uses this term to signify that the samsara is caused by ignorance, adhyAsa, of a mix-up of prakRti and puruSha, intert energy/matter and the conscious observer.
Incidentally, this verse, 13.34 of the Gita, could be seen as Bhagavan Veda Vyasa’s authentication of Shankara’s adhyAsa bhAshya. The AdhyAsa BhAshya is positioned just before even the first Brahma sutra: ‘अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा’ ‘Thereafter, hence, a deliberation on Brahman’ commences. ’जिज्ञासा’ means ’ज्ञातुं इच्छा” or ‘desire to know’. There arises a desire to know Brahman only where there is a recognition that Brahman is not already known. And Brahman-knowledge is sought with the aim of eradicating samsara, bondage. If Brahman-knowledge is the panacea for bondage, it is evident that such a samsara is ignorance-caused; ignorance of one’s Brahman-nature. For, only where there is ignorance, the remedy is knowledge. In the Bhagavadgita analysis that was undertaken in the foregoing we appreciate the aptness of Shankara’s positioning the AdhyAsa BhAShya and how the entire Brahma Sutra has come to eradicate this adhyAsa which has caused samsara. Bhagavan Vyasa confirms this in the Bhagavadgita verse 13.21 and 13.26 as well. In 13.23 too the ‘knowledge’ is emphasized by the word वेत्ति (knows) – of the jiva’s true nature and the state/status of prakRti along with its guNa-s. Everywhere knowledge is shown as the means of liberation thereby highlighting and confirming that it is ignorance that is at the root of samsara. And anything based on ignorance has to be unreal. For, it ceases to be once knowledge of the truth arises. In this way it could be seen as Veda Vyasa’s ‘commentary’ on the AdhyAsa BhAShya.
एवं श्रीमद्भगवद्गीतागतश्लोकद्वये जगन्मिथ्यात्वलक्षणं स्पष्टमुपलभ्यते ।
In this manner, one can clearly comprehend the characteristic of unreality, mithyAtva, of the universe by studying the two verses of the Bhagavadgita (2.16 and 13.34).
(अस्य लेखनस्य आङ्ग्लभाषारूपं अत्रैव प्रकाशितम्)
Read the Sanskrit-only portion of this post here: