The Three states/types of Reality (sattaa-traividhyam)
In His Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya Shankaracharya has made a trendsetting statement:
सर्ववादिनामपि अपरिहार्य: परमार्थ-संव्यवहारकृतो व्यवहारः ।
//sarva-vAdinaamapi aparihaaryah paramaartha-samvyavahaarakRto vyavahaarah// (Brihadaranyaka bhashya: 3.v.i). //in fact, all schools must admit the existence or non-existence of the phenomenal world according as it is viewed from the relative or the absolute standpoint.// (translation by Swami Madhavananda, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad with the commentary of Sri Shankaracharya, published by advaita ashrama, kolkota.)
While commenting on the mantra सत्यं च अनृतं च सत्यमभवत् ”satyam cha anRtam cha Satyam abhavat’ (Taittiriya Up. II.6) Sri Shankaracharya says: satyam = vyavaharavishayam since this is being mentioned in the context of ‘sRishti’ of the world. He adds: this is not paramArthasatyam (absolute reality) since Brahman alone indeed is paramArtha satyam. This vyavaharavishayam satyam is only Apekshikam, relative, empirical.
He explains: when compared to the water in a mirage, the water (that we actually use for drinking, etc.) is real. This is what is meant by ‘vyavaharika satyam’.
That which is not thus real is anRtam, unreal.
सत्यं च व्यवहारविषयम्, अधिकारात्, न परमार्थसत्यम्; एकमेव हि परमार्थसत्यं ब्रह्म । इह पुनः व्यवहारविषयमापेक्षिकं मृगतृष्णिकाद्यनृतापेक्षया उदकादि सत्यमित्युच्यते । अनृतं च तद्विपरीतम् । किं पुनरेतत् सर्वं सत्यमभवत् परमार्थसत्यम् ।//satyam cha vyavahaaraviShayam, adhikArAt, na paramaarthasatyam; ekameva hi paramaarthasatyam Brahma. iha punaH vyavahaaraviShayamaapekShikam mRgatRShNikAdyanRtaapekShayA udakAdi satyamucyate. anRutam cha tadvipareetam. kim punaretat sarvam satyamabhavat paramArthasatyam…//
The above bhashyam brings to the fore that three types of ‘reality’ are admitted
in the Shruti. Commonly these are known as: 1.PAramArthika Satyam which is
Brahman alone, 2. vyAvahArika satyam which constitutes the common world
experience of samsara and 3. prAtibhAsika satyam which is a seeming reality,
actually within the samsaaric experience. This seeming reality of say, the
mirage-water or rope-snake, is corrected in the vyavahara itself and does not
require Brahma jnanam for this. The vyvahaarika satyam, of course, gets
corrected upon the rise of Brahma jnAnam. The Shruti vakyams for this are:
Ekameva adviteeyam, neha naanaa asti kinchana, sarvam khalu idam brahma, etc.
What is worthy of noting in the above bhashyam is the Shruti pramaanam for the
existence of the three types of reality or sattAtraividhyam. The Taittiriya
shruti we took up above is the pramanam for the three types of reality. It is
not the concoction of the advaitins/Bhagavatpada/later Acharyas. Nor is this an adaptation from Buddhism. The Bhashyam uses the two specific names and the third is only implied.
What is the context of this mantra?
The Upanishad is teaching the five sheaths, kosha-s, and how the Atman is pervading all the kosha-s and the entire created universe. In this process, the 6th section of the Anandavalli Chapter of the Upanishad says:
असन्नेव स भवति, असद्ब्रह्मेति वेद चेत् …[He who knows Brahman to be non-existent himself becomes so. ..] Shankaracharya points out that since Brahman is extremely difficult to know, the Upanishad is talking about creation. Since the original pratijnA, promise, of the Upanishad is ‘ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परम्’ (The knower of Brahman attains the Supreme), the Upanishad is proceeding to talk about creation with a view to enable the aspirant to know Brahman. When the universe is taught to have originated from Brahman and pervaded by It, one can appreciate Its existence, अस्तित्वम्, first and then realize it directly, अपरोक्षतया ज्ञानम्. In order to enable this, the Upanishad explains how Brahman has verily ‘become’ everything in the universe. By knowing that everything is Brahman indeed, one can obtain a direct realization of the Cause, Brahman. However, since Brahman is extremely subtle, being without any attributes, It can be known only when shown to be ‘associated’ with something that one can relate to. The most intimate relation one has with is his own mind. The Upanishad says ‘यो वेद निगितं गुहायां परमे व्योमन्, सोऽश्नुते सर्वान् कामान् सह’ (He who realizes the one (Brahman) manifesting in one’s innermost mind, he experiences the fulfillment of all desires ….)
Since the Upanishad had already spoken about the creation of the five elements, आत्मन आकाशः सम्भूतः आकाशाद्वायुः…..in the beginning of the Anandavalli itself, what is now being spoken of in connection with creation is only how the entire created universe is pervaded and ‘occupied’ by Brahman.
तत्सृष्ट्वा तदेवानुप्राविशत् । तदनुप्रविश्य । सच्च त्यच्चाभवत् । निरुक्तं चानिरुक्तं च, निलयनं चानिलयनं च, विज्ञनां चाविज्ञानं च । स्तयं चानृतं च सत्यमभवत् ।…
[That Brahman having created that entered into that very thing. And having entered there, It became the formed and the formless, the defined and the undefined, the sustaining and the non-sustaining, the sentient and the insentient, the true and the untrue.]
It is interesting to note that the mantra has the word ‘sat’ in ‘saccha tyaccha abhavat’. This ‘sat’ is commented by the Acharya as ‘the formed’, gross. And ‘tyat’ is the ‘formless’, subtle. As this exhausts the ‘gross and subtle’, the Acharya, when it comes to commenting upon the word ‘satyam’ occurring first in the sentence स्तयं चानृतं च सत्यमभवत्, quite naturally, gives the meaning as ‘vyavahaara viShayam’, the empirical reality.
Even in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is an instance of two ‘satyam’ words occuring in one sentence: सत्यस्य सत्यम् इति प्राणा वै सत्यं तेषामेष सत्यम् (‘It is the Truth of truth’. The Upanishad itself explains what this ‘truth’ occurring for the second time is: ‘The vital force is truth, and It, Brahman, is the Truth of that.) 2.1.20.
One can easily see that whenever two ‘Satyam’ words occur in the same sentence, the meanings differ. And invariably the one is relative, vyavaharic, and the other is Absolute, pAramaarthic. Bhagavatpada is following this rule and in the Taittiriya Upanishadic passage too His commentary is according to the above Upanishadic method alone.
Sri Sureshwaracharya concurs with the Acharya’s Bhashya!!
In his Taittiriya Upanishad Bhashya Vartika, while commenting, in verse form, the Bhashya of Bhagavatpada, for the mantra: ‘सत्यं च अनृतं च सत्यमभवत्’, the VArtikakAra says:
व्यावहारिकमेवात्र सत्यं स्यादधिकारतः । (सत्यं च व्यवहारविषयम्, अधिकारात्, Bhashya)
पारमार्थिकसत्यस्य वाक्यान्ते समुदीरणात् ॥ 407 (परमार्थसत्यम् bhashya)
[The word satyam which occurs at the beginning of the sentence means empirical truth because of the context and also because of the fact that the absolute truth is spoken of at the end of the sentence.]
It can be seen beyond doubt that Sri Sureshwaracharya unambiguously uses the words ‘pAramArthika satyam’ and ‘vyAvahArika satyam’ to comment upon Bhagavatpada’s words: ‘paramArthasatyam’ and ‘vyavahAra-vishayam’.
It becomes certain that Sri Sureshwaracharya has initiated the use of the two terms: ‘pAramArthika satyam’ and ‘vyAvahArika satyam’ that have been popularly used by the Advaita Acharyas of the Sampradaya initiated by Shankara Bhagavatpada.
In his commentary to the KRShNayajurvediya taittiriya AraNyakam wherein occurs the passage that we are now considering, Sayanacharya says:
सत्यम् – लोकव्यवहारे बाधरहितं शुक्तिरज्जुस्थाण्वादि । अनृतं तु व्यहारदशायामारोपितं रजतसर्पचोरादि । …उपरितनसत्यशब्देन ब्रह्म उच्यते ।
[satyam – that which does not undergo sublation in the common parlance namely shell, rope, pillar, etc. anRtam, however, refers to the cases of silver, snake, thief, etc. that undergo sublation in the empirical state itself. The other word ‘Satyam’ refers to Brahman.]
Thus, we can readily see SAyaNAchArya too considers the passage is about ‘pAramArthika satyam’ and ‘vyAvahArika satyam’.
The ‘VanamAlA’ on the Bhashyam:
Sri AchyutakrishNAnanda Tirtha, the author of the popular and lucid subcommentary named ‘VanamAlaa’ on the Bhashyam of Bhagavatpada says:
’सत्यं चानृतं च’ इत्यत्र सत्यशब्देन व्यवहारसत्यमेवोच्यते न तु परमार्थसत्यमित्यत्र हेतुः – अधिकारादिति । सच्च त्यच्च इत्यादीनां व्यवहारविषयाणामेव विकाराणां प्रकरणादित्यर्थः । किं च ’सत्यं च’ इत्यत्र परमार्थसत्यग्रहणे परमार्थद्वयं प्रसज्येत, ’सत्यमभवत्’ इत्यत्रापि परमार्थसत्यस्य गृहीतत्वात् ।…. किमपेक्षया उदकादिलक्षणस्य सत्यस्य आपेक्षिकत्वमित्याकाङ्क्षायामाह –मृगतृष्णिकादि इति । ‘सत्यं चानृतं च ’ इत्यत्र व्यावहारिकं वस्तु सत्यशब्दार्थः, प्रातिभासिकं वस्तु अनृतशब्दार्थ इति निष्कर्षः ।
The purport of the above passage is:
In the mantra under consideration the reason to hold the word ‘satyam’ as denoting the vyAvahArika reality alone and not the pAramArthika is the ‘context’ in which this word occurs in the Shruti. Any created entity has to be less real than the Absolutely Real Brahman. This word ‘satyam’ occurs in the context of the entities that undergo transformation – विकारः. Further, if the word ‘satyam’ is understood as the ParamArtha satyam (Brahman), then there will be the contingency of two Absolutely Real entities existing since the other word ‘Satyam’ has been taken to be the Absolutely Real. Related to what is the water and the like taken to be vyAvahaarika? It is relative to the water perceived, in a mirage, due to ignorance. In the passage ‘satyam cha anRtam’, the ‘vyaavaahrika satyam ‘ is what is specified by the word ‘satyam.’ The word ‘anRtam’ denotes anything that is just an appearance. This is the considered conclusion.
- The Taittiriya Upanishad teaches that the ‘Satyam’ Brahman/Atman ‘became’ ‘satyam’ and ‘anRtam’.
- Bhagavatpada in the Bhashya comments upon the word ‘satyam’ which is created as relative satyam.
- He reasons that since this ‘satyam’ is a created one, it cannot be the Absolute Satyam, Brahman.
- Bhagavatpada uses the terms ‘paramArtha satyam’ and ‘vyavahAra viShayam’ to denote these two: The Absaolute Satyam and the relative satyam.
- Sri Sureshwaracharya, while concurring with the BhaShyakara, unambiguously uses the terms: pAramArthikasatyam and vyAvahArikasatyam.
- This pair of names has come down in the tradition to denote the two levels of reality.
- Sayanacharya too gives out the commentary for this mantra in tune with what Bhagavatpada has said.
- The ‘vanamAla’ gloss of the Upanisahd Bhashya too reiterates the view of the Acharya and that of Sureshwara. It uses the pair of words used by Sureshwaracharya beyond any doubt and concludes by mentioning the two names: pAramArthikasatyam and vyAvahArikasatyam.
- Nor is the context in the Taittiriya passage of that of teaching the kArya-kAraNa ananyatva; Shankara makes the context very clear: He shows that this prakaraNa is about teaching the ‘Existence’ of Brahman. Repeatedly Shankara says: तस्मादस्ति तद्ब्रह्म. The Upanishad is dealing with the question of what happens to those who do not accept the existence of Brahman. It is in this context the Upanishad talks about the Brahman ‘becoming’ everything thereby proving the existence of Brahman.
- Not a single Acharya of the Advaita sampradaya who has commented on the above passage/bhashyam has ever spoken about the kArya-kAraNa ananyatva. On the other hand, all Acharyas are unanimous on the meaning the passage conveys: Three levels of reality.
- The rope-snake is spoken of as a ‘reality’ in so far as the person under delusion holds it to be real. However, this reality is contingent upon the knowledge of the substratum, upon gaining which the delusion ceases.
Thus it can be seen that the two names: pAramArthikasatyam and vyAvahArikasatyam are used uniformly by the Shruti (semantically अर्थतः not शब्दतः), Bhagavatpada, Sureshwaracharya, SaayanAcharya and the author of Vanamaala (अर्थतः and शब्दतः) giving us no room for any doubt in this regard that these terms denote different levels of reality.