Posted by: adbhutam | March 22, 2011


श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

अनिर्वचनीयख्यातिः (सदसद्विलक्षणत्वम्) in the श्रीमद्भागवतम्

‘anirvachanIyakhyAtiH’ (sadasad-vilakShaNatvam) in the srImadbhAgavatam

In Advaita VedAnta the object superimposed is explained as ‘sad-asad-vilakShaNam’ – something that is distinct from both existent and non-existent.  To elucidate this, this maxim is stated: सत् चेत् न बाध्येत, असत् चेत् न प्रतीयेत (if it is absolutely existent, it would not get sublated upon the knowing of the substratum.  On the other hand, if it is non-existent, like a hare’s horn, it would not have become an object of experience, knowing.) Such a thing is called ‘mithyA’.  One cannot say, describe, account for, explain, such an ‘object’; it is अनिर्वचनीयः. On the analogy of the snake superimposed on a rope the Advaitin holds that the entire universe is of such a category; neither falling under ‘sat’ nor under ‘asat’.

In the srImadbhAgavatam (uddhavagItaa) we have a fine instance of this phenomenon.  In the following verse (11.23.50) –

देहं मनोमात्रमिमं गृहीत्वा ममाहमित्यन्धधियो मनुष्याः |

एषोऽहमन्योऽयमिति भ्रमेण दुरन्तपारे तमसि भ्रमन्ति ||

//Foolish men, coming to look upon the body, which is but a phantasm of the mind, as ‘I’ and ‘mine’ and thinking erroneously, ‘This am I but this other man is different’, wander in a limitless wilderness of ignorance.//

the word ‘देहं मनोमात्रमिमं ‘ is what conveys the concept of ‘anirvachanIyatvam’.  Something that is only in the imagination and not available as an existent entity upon enquiry, and at the same time available for experience unlike a hare’s horn or a sky-flower, is what is termed ‘manomAtram’, a phantasm of the mind.

In the following verse too of the BhAgavatam (UddhavagItaa 17.55) –
अर्थे हि अविद्यमाने अपि संसृतिः न निवर्तते।
ध्यायतः विषयान् अस्य स्वप्ने अनर्थ आगमः यथा॥५५॥

//Even though the sense-world (of objects/subject and perceiving) is unreal, अविद्यमाने अपि, the relative existence of a man who dwells on sense-objects is never at an end, as troubles come in dreams. (Since dreams are admitted to be effects of the impressions of the waking state.)//

the word अविद्यमानेऽपि  with regard to the objects is teaching the ‘anirvachanIyatvam’.  For, though the objects are ‘not there in reality’, they are experienced.  ‘mithyAtvam’ is defined (also) as ‘a phenomenon which appears in a locus where it does not belong in all the three periods of time’.  The word अर्थ: ‘object’ signifies the entire dRshya prapancha, the observed, experienced, world.  These cannot be regarded as ‘asat’, non-existent, for, they are experienced (असत् चेत् न प्रतीयेत). Can they be held to be absolutely existent, ‘sat’? No, for their sublation is also taught by the bhAgavatam itself (सत् चेत् न बाध्येत):

आत्मानमेव आत्मतया अविजानतां
तेनैव जातं निखिलं प्रपञ्चितम् ।
ज्ञानेन भूयोऽपि तत्प्रलीयते
रज्ज्वां अहेर्भोगभवाभवौ यथा ।। 10.14.25

ātmānam evātmatayāvijānatāḿ

tenaiva jātaḿnikhilaḿprapañcitam

jñānena bhūyo ‘pi catatpralīyate

rajjvām aher bhoga-bhavābhavau yathā

// A person who mistakes a rope for a snake becomes fearful, but he then gives up his fear upon realizing that the so-called snake does not exist. Similarly, for those who fail to recognize You as the Supreme Soul of all souls, the expansive illusory material existence arises, but knowledge (realization) of You (Your True Nature) at once causes it (the variegated world of plurality) to subside.//

Thus, according to the BhAgavatam, the ‘prapancha’ that includes the individual, body, the ‘others’ be they objects or other people, entities, all belong to the category of ‘अनिर्वचनीयः’ being सदसद्विलक्षणम्.

The verse


देहं मनोमात्रमिमं गृहीत्वा ममाहमित्यन्धधियो मनुष्याः |
एषोऽहमन्योऽयमिति भ्रमेण दुरन्तपारे तमसि भ्रमन्ति ||

quoted above is also a fine study in the understanding of the adhyAsa bhAShya  (AB) of Shankaracharya. The word ममाहमित्यन्धधियो is reminiscent of the words: ’अहमिदं ममेदं इति नैसर्गिकोऽयं लोकव्यवहारः’  of the AB.  Shankara demonstrates how the fundamental adhyAsa translates into the thinking of the samsAri in ignorance: He is always, inseparably as it were, endowed with the thinking ‘I am so-and-so’ and ‘these are mine’.  Sri PurandaradAsa in his famous song: ಇನ್ನು ದಯೆ ಬಾರದೆ ದಾಸನ ಮೇಲೆ ’innu daya bAradey dAsana mEle’ uses these two terms: ’nAnu-nannadu emba narakadoLage biddu..’ (‘having fallen in the hell characterized by ‘I’ and ‘mine’…’).

The term: एषोऽहमन्योऽयमिति भ्रमेण.. is also interesting.  This can be taken as the Bhagavatam’s refutation of the ‘jiva-jiva’ / ‘jiva-Ishwara’ bheda since it calls it a ‘bhrama’. In the BrihadAraNyaka Upanishad
अन्योऽसौ, अन्योऽहं इति न स वेद (He who knows he is different and the deity is different, does not really know; he is indeed cattle for the Deva-s) (1.4.10) This sentence occurs in the context of the teaching of ‘अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि’, Aham Brahmasmi.
The Briharadranyaka Upanishad 2.4.14 teaches:
यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं पश्यति…..[Where there is duality as it were, one sees something else as different from oneself….]

The Bhaagavatam echoes the above statement of the Upanishad.  By teaching that the vision of difference is ‘भ्रम’, the BhAgavatam makes it clear that भेददृष्टिः is born of ignorance.


It also specifies that knowledge, vidyA, is ‘आत्मनि भिदाबाधः’ (विद्या आत्मनि भिदाबाधः …11.14.40), the sublation/destruction of difference constitutes knowledge.

नेह नानास्ति किञ्चन मृत्योः स मृत्युमाप्नोति य इह नानेव पश्यति (There is not a wee bit of duality/multiplicity here.. Whoever sees duality as it were goes from death to death. Br.Up. 4.4.19 and Kathopanishad 2.1.11)  By using the particle इव ‘as it were’, the Upanishad says in unmistakable terms that dvaita is only an appearance, not the reality. However, the dualistic schools have found it a great discomfiture to handle this ‘इव” particle and give some completely irrelevant, artificial, out-of-context meaning to avoid the straightforward Non-dualistic purport.


In the foregoing the phenomenon of the world being categorized in the nature ‘अनिर्वचनीयत्वम्’ being सदसद्विलक्षणम् was presented with various verses from the srImadbhAgavatam.  The anvaya and vyatireka methods of defining what is ‘mithyA’ was also seen:

  • सत् चेत् न बाध्येत, असत् चेत् न प्रतीयेत (if it is existent, it would not get sublated upon the knowing of the substratum.  On the other hand, if it is non-existent, like a hare’s horn, it would not have become an object of experience, knowing.)This constitutes the व्यतिरेकमुखेन मिथ्यात्वकथनम्. In other words, what is not sublatable, बाध्यमानत्वम्, and what is not experienceable, प्रतीयमानत्वम्, cannot constitute mithyAtvam.  If something is sublatable yet being experienceable  it will qualify to be designated as mithyA. प्रतीयमानत्वे सति बाध्यमानत्वम् मिथ्यात्वम्. The hare’s horn/sky-flower, etc. will never come into this category.
  • Then what is mithyAtvam? The answer to this question is available in the bhAgavatam verse we saw above: मनोमात्रत्वम्. Having no real existence other than being only a mental idea is what qualifies to be mithyA.  This is the अन्वयमुखेन मिथ्यात्वकथनम्.  Clearly, this being मनोमात्रम् is the BhAgavatam’s way of admitting the category of सदसद्विलक्षणम्.  The absolutely non-existent sky-flower, hare’s horn, etc. will never qualify to be मनोमात्रम् and thereby fit to be called सदसद्विलक्षणम्.
  • Most importantly what the bhAgavatam has done is to prove the category of ‘mithyaa’ the way the Advaita system has done: that which is distinct from both ‘sat’ and ‘asat’.
  • It will be impossible for anyone to disprove the above.
  • Like several verses of the BhAgavatam, especially the uddhavagItA portion, even the above verse containing the word ‘मनोमात्रम्’ has several parallels in the GaudapAdakArikA.  The verses 3.29, 30, 31 and 32 are particularly noteworthy.  Even here, verse 31 reads thus along with the bhAShya: मनोदृश्यमिदं द्वैतं यत्किञ्चित् चराचरम् । मनसो ह्यमनीभावे द्वैतं नैवोपलभ्यते ॥ 31 ॥  — रज्जुसर्पवद्विकल्पनारूपं द्वैतरूपेण मन एवेत्युक्तम्। तत्र किं प्रमाणमिति, अन्वयव्यतिरेकलक्षणमनुमानमाह। कथम् ? तेन हि मनसा विकल्प्यमानेन दृश्यं मनोदृश्यम् इदं द्वैतं सर्वं मन इति प्रतिज्ञा, तद्भावे भावात् तदभावे चाभावात्। मनसो हि अमनीभावे निरुद्धे विवेकदर्शनाभ्यासवैराग्याभ्यां रज्जवामिव सर्पे लयं गते वा सुषुप्ते द्वैतं नैवोपलभ्यत इति अभावात्सिद्धं द्वैतस्यासत्त्वमित्यर्थः । [ 3.31: All the multiple objects, comprising the movable and the immovable, are perceived by the mind alone. For duality is never perceived when the mind ceases to act] ‘This duality, as a whole, that is perceived by the mind, is nothing but the mind (note the word मनोमात्रम् in the bhAgavatam verse), which is itself imagined (on the Self)’ – this is the pratijnA, proposition.  For duality endures so long as the mind does (anvaya), and disappears with the disappearance of the mind (vyatireka). For, when the mind ceases to be the mind, when, like the illusory snake disappearing in the rope, the mind’s activity stops through the practice of discriminating insight and detachment, or when the mind gets absorbed in the state of deep sleep, duality is not perceived.  From this non-existence is proved the unreality of duality.  This is the purport.



  1. “सत् चेत् न बाध्येत, असत् चेत् न प्रतीयेत ” – एतस्य मूलं किम्? कुत्र अन्वादेशः भवति?

    • नेदं वाक्यं साक्षात् श्रुतौ वा स्मृतावुपदिष्टम् । परन्तु अर्थतः तत्र तत्र प्रतीयते । तथा हि भ.गी.२.१६ इत्यत्र ’नाभावो विद्यते सतः’ इति सतः अबाध्यत्वमुपदिष्टम् । योगसूत्रे तावत् ’शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः’ इत्यत्र असतः अप्रतीयमानत्वं विपर्ययादपि पृथक्त्वेन प्रतिपादितं दृश्यते । सर्वेषामनुभवोऽपि मानं तत्र । विषयद्वयं संयुज्य अद्वैतिनः मिथ्यात्वलक्षणसंपादने प्रयुज्यन्ते ।

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