Posted by: adbhutam | April 6, 2014


In common parlance we translate the term ‘samsara’ to mean ‘transmigratory life’ or the ‘chain of birth and death’, etc.  ‘Bondage’ is another name for it.

The word ‘jagat’, world, is generally understood as the observed physical world made of the elements.
In the work ‘Atmabodha’ of Shankaracharya we have two verses as below, consecutively placed:
samsAraH svapna-tulyo hi rAga-dveShAdi-sankulaH
svakAle satyavad-bhAti prabodhe satyasad-bhaavet  6
[‘samsAra’ is akin to a dream, full of desire and hatred.  During the pendency of the same (dream/samsAra), it appears to be real.  However, upon waking, it is realized to be unreal/non-existent.]
The next verse is:
tAvat satyam jagad-bhAti shuktikA rajatam yathA
yAvan-na jnAyate brahma sarvAdhiShThAnam-avyayam 7
[The world continues to appear to be real, just as the shell appears to be silver, so long as brahman, the substratum of everything is not realized/known.]
It is interesting to see that Shankara is making no difference between ‘samsAra’ and the ‘jagat’.
We, however, have a parallel/basis for the above non-differentiation of samsAra and jagat in the scriptural texts themselves.  For instance, in the BG 13th chapter, we have the specification of the observed universe ‘kShetram’, which is also known as aparAprakRti, being only a manifestation of it. While defining succinctly this kShetram, the Lord teaches in verses 6 and 7:

13.6 The great elements, egoism, intellect and the Unmanifest itself; the ten organs and the one, and the five objects of the senses;

The bhashya:
13.6 Mahabhutani, the great elements: Those elements which are great owing to their pervasion of all midifications, and which are subtle. As for the gross elements, they will be spoken of by the word indriya-gocarah, objects of the senses.Ahankarah, egoism, which is the source of the great elements and consists of the idea of ‘I’. Buddhih, intellect, the source of egoism and consisting of the faculty of judgement; ca, and; its cause, the avyaktam eva, Unmanifest itself, the Undifferentiated, the power of God spoken of in, ‘Maya of Mine…difficult to cross’ (7.14). The word eva (itself) is used for singling out Prakrti (Nature). The Prakrti divided eightfold The undifferentiated (avyakta), mahat, egoism and the five uncompunded subtle elements is this much alone. The word ca (and) is used for joining the various categories.The dasa, ten; indriyani, organs : The five, organs ear etc., which are called sense-organs since they produce perception, and the (other) five organs-organ of speech, hands, etc.-which are called motor-organs since they accomplish actions. They are ten. Ekam ca, and the one-which is that?-the mind, the eleventh, possessed of the power of thinking etc. (see fn. on p. 173). Ca, and; the panca, five; indriya-gacarah, objects of the senses-such objects as sound etc. The followers of the Sankhya call these which are such the twenty-four categories.Thereafter, the Lord now says that even those qualities which the Vaisesikas speak of as the attributes of the sould are certainly the attributes of the field, but not of the Knower of the field:
Verse 7:

13.7 Desire, repulsion, happiness, sorrow, the aggregate (of body and organs), sentience, fortitude- this field, together with its modifications, has been spoken of briefly.


13.7 Iccha, desire: Having experienced again an object of that kind which had given him the feeling of pleasure earlier, a man wants to have it under the idea that it is a source of pleasure. That is this desire which is an attribute of the internal organ, and is the ‘field’ since it is an object of knowledge.So also dvesah, repulsion: Having experienced again an object of that kind which he had earlier felt as a cause of sorrow, he hates it. That is this repulsion, and it is surely the ‘field’ since it is an object of knowledge. Similarly, sukham, happiness- which is favourable, tranquil, having the quality of sattva-is the ‘field’ since it is an object of knowledge. Duhkham, sorrow-which is by nature adverse-, that, too, is the ‘field’ since it is a knowable.Sanghatah is the aggregate, the combination, of body and organs. Cetana, sentience, is a state of the internal organ, manifest in that aggregate like fire in a heated lump of iron, and pervaded by an essence in the form of a semblance of Consciousness of the Self. That too is the ‘field’ because it is an object of knowledge. Dhrtih, fortitude, by which are sustained the body and organs when they get exhausted-that too is the ‘field’ becuase it is an object of knowledge. Desire etc. have been selected as suggestive of all the qualities of the internal organ.The Lord concludes what has been said: Etat, this; ksetram, field; savikaram, together with its modifications beginning from mahat (buddhi); has been samasena, briefly; udahrtam, spoken of. That ‘field’ which was referred to as, ‘This body is called the field’ (1), and is constituted by the aggregate of the constituents of the field has been explained in its different forms beginning from the great elements etc. ending with fortitude.The Knower of the field whose qualities are going to be described, and by realizing which Knower of the field along with His majesty Immortality follows-of Him, togehter with His attributes, the Lord Himself will narrate in the verse, ‘I shall speak of that which is to be known’ (12). But, for the present, the Lord enjoins the group of disciplines characterized as humility etc. which lead one to the knowledge of That (Knower of the field)-that group of humility etc. which are referred to by the word Knowledge since they lead to Knowledge, and owing to the existence of which one becomes appropriately competent for the realization of that Knowable, and being endued with which a monk is said to be steadfast in Knowledge:

One can see that what is generally understood as the physical world, is also constituted of the jiva’s reactions, emotions, etc. like sukha, duHkha, icchA, dveSha, etc.  which is commonly recognized as samsAra, bondage.
So, even according to the Lord the two, samsAra and jagat, are non-different from each other.  Also, in the scheme of the mandukya upanishat too, we have the jAgrat, svapna and sushupti, the three states where the jiva experiences various things.  Finally, the seventh mantra while negating all this, uses the word ‘prapanchopashamam’ which means: devoid of, free of, the prapancha, the world, in other words, the jagat.  There cannot be any doubt that the experiences had in the three states will be of the nature of joy/sorrow, pleasure/pain, etc.  This is what samsAra is.  Yet, one can see how even the upanishad does not make any distinction between the two: samsara and jagat.
When the Lord specifies the kshetram as the observed, by the kshetrajna, the observer-consciousness, it includes both the world of objects and the emotions / reactions like desire, hatred, sorrow, joy, etc.  Both these categories come under the observed one.
Thus freedom from samsara is freedom from jagat.  Negation/sublation of samsara is the same as negation of the jagat.  When we say jagat is mithyA it only means samsAra is mithya, as specified in the verses of the Atmabodha above.  The primary reasoning being that Shankara uses the dream/adhyAsa analogy with respect to both samsAra and the jagat.  For the cessation of ‘both’ the realization of the Self/svarUpa/Brahman is essential.  There are no two things, but one alone called by two names.
Om Tat Sat


  1. Thank you sir.

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