Author Topic: Mithya:  (Read 1631 times)

Subramanian.R

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Mithya:
« on: January 31, 2016, 02:37:41 PM »
(an article in Mountain Path, Jan.-Mar. 2008)

In Sanskrit mithya means false appearance, illusion, dependent reality, phenomenal reality,
name and form.

*

The entire essence of Vedanta is contained in half a verse: Brahmam Satyam, Jagan mithya, Jivo
brahmaiva na aparah. (Brahma Jnanavali Verse 18). Thus the key to understanding Vedanta lies
in grasping the significance of the two terms, mithya vis-a-vis satyam. The word 'satyam' points to
'that which is not sublated or negated in all the three periods of time, i.e. past, present and future.'

Any illusory appearance needs a substratum on which it can be successfully projected.  It is this base
(adhishtanam) alone which qualifies to be termed as ultimately real, Satyam. The process of inadvertent
superimposition (adhysa) arises from the lack of right knowledge of an object 'as it is'.    Mithya refers
to the object wrongly superimposed upon the substratum, which effectively veils the latter from our vision.

Mithya has two meanings, which are interlinked. One is 'false or unreal' and the other is 'that which
is dependent on something else for its existence.'  In Vedanta, 'the rope-snake' analogy illustrates this.
On a dimly lit night, a rope is seen at a distance is mistaken for a snake, which triggers the consequent
panic reaction.  This is purely a subjective experience confined only to one person who, under the sway
of ignorance, commits the mistake.  In this example. the rope is the substratum required for superimposing
the illusory snake upon it and qualifies as Satyam. The 'snake' is called mithya as it is merely an erroneous
perception.  Without a Satyam basis, mithya cannot be experienced at all.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 

Subramanian.R

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Re: Mithya:
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2016, 10:48:39 AM »
Suppose one says, 'Alright, this world is mithya but where is Satyam, the underlying Reality?
I don't see it, unlike the 'rope' given in the analogy.'  In order to appreciate the world as mithya,
we are not to expect a new object to emerge mysteriously answering to the name Brahman.  The
saving grace about mithya (for all its deluding capacity) is that you do not need to look anywhere
else for Satyam other than the wrongly superimposed object.  The 'snake' alone had to be given a
'hard look' (literally in this case!) to understand that it is just a harmless rope. In the same way, this
'world' alone has to be given a 'hard look' with the help of 'a better light' namely verbal testimony
(shruti pramana), to appreciate that Brahman alone 'appears' as the world. Brahman is that limitless
and formless Consciousness (which is Satyam) seamlessly pervading the world of myriad forms
(which are mithya) and sustaining it.  The scriptures  say, 'Make your vision full of Jnana and see this
world as filled with Brahman.'  (drshtim jnanamayim krtva, pasyet brahmamayam jagat'.   (Aparokshanubhuti
Verse 116). The same physical perception will continue with all its teeming plurality but now undestanding
is entirely transformed.  The mirage water continues to appear but having understood it, one is no
more deluded.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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Re: Mithya:
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2016, 11:29:21 AM »
Can we define Mithya?  Sri Madhusudhana Saraswati in his celebrated treatise Advaita Siddhi
gives three crisp pointers:

(1)  The illusory object which even though is never truly existed at any point of time appears to exist
under certain conditions upon a substratum, is termed Mithya.  The 'snake' was truly present upon
the 'rope'; it was merely imagined due to ignorance of the rope.  The power of ignorance (avidya)
effectively conceals the rope at the same time projects 'snake' upon it. Cosmically Maya, the inseparable
power of Brahman, conceals the vision of Brahman and superimposes the world of infinite diversity
upon the truly non dual Brahman.

(2) That which is falsified totally, along with all its consequences and does not leave any residue with
the arising of right knowledge is Mithya.  Once the 'snake vision' has been negated by 'rope knowledge',
is it possible to feign all over again the fear of snake and its attendant reaction of shock?

(3) Further, Mithya is something which cannot be categorized as either real or absolutely unreal (anirvachaniya).  If it were altogether inexplicable, we would not attempt this examination.  Now if the
world was absolutely real, it could not be negated in deep sleep or dream states.  Also, it should not be
subject to creation, dissolution or mutation.  Above all, it should not be sublated in the vision of Brahman.
Since it fails these criteria, like the 'hare's horns' or the 'son of a barren woman', for it is positively
'experienced' by all.  Therefore, it enjoys a peculiar status that is  intermediate between Sat (pure existence)
and Asat (non existence. Mithya is the ontological term to describe this unique status of the world.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       
       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Mithya:
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2016, 11:24:09 AM »
To solve this baffling conundram, Vedanta employs the 'pot-clay' example which illumines this line
of reasoning, not apparent in the 'rope-snake' analogy.  When a pot is made out of clay, what is newly
added to clay?  Only a form (with a corresponding name) has been added to lend utility in everyday life.
It is not entirely false like the 'snake' imagined in the rope.  It does hold water and clearly is not an
illusory pot.   However, in Vedantic 'grammar', a pot is not a noun but only an adjective to the object,
which is clay because a pot is an object existing by itself, which is clay because a pot is not an object
existing by itself, but needs the substantive clay to exist.  It is the pot which qualifies the clay, not the
other way round.  We should strictly speaking, refer to all clay products as 'pot-ty-clay', 'cup-by-clay',
rather than clay pot, clay cup, etc.,  Vedanta reverses our very linguistic orientation  while appreciating
mithya.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Mithya:
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2016, 12:46:10 PM »
A pot is one among the many forms that clay can assume without sacrificing its intrinsic nature.
In engineering parlance, it is called 'value added product'.  For example, when a metal sheet is
formed into a vessel, it is just 'a value addition'.  It is purely a conversion of form, not a material
addition or creation.  Similarly, when a lump of gold weighing a few hundred grams is fashioned into
an exotic necklace, it costs more, for the same weight of gold. Any ornament is an utterly weightless
addition to the raw gold used.  The weight of the necklace belongs to the gold alone.  What is the reality
of the necklace without the gold? It is impossible to even imagine a golden necklace without gold, a pot
without clay and a cloth without a corresponding fabric.  In all these examples, the product with a name
and form has only dependent existence upon its material cause that can exist independently in its own right.
Clay can exist as clay in the absence of a pot, and gold can exist without manifesting as an ornament.
However, the material cause contains the potential existence, of all the forms that can possibly be shaped
out of it.  The scriptures declare that 'all transformations'  are merely names and forms, resting on the tip of
the tongue;  (Chandogya Upanishad - 6.1.4-6).  All such effects are mithya, for they can only a dependent
and false existence upon the satyam cause which exists independently.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   

Subramanian.R

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Re: Mithya:
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2016, 11:35:21 AM »
Vedanta says this world is nothing but Brahman plus name and form which are not substantial additions.
A mithya addition does not truly count.  One plus any number of zeros is still only one.  Clay is one,
in the world of all clay forms.  So too Brahman plus a myriad forms is still non dual and preserves Advaita
intact.  Sages have gone further and said that this world is indeed a value addition (!)  to Brahman.
They gently whisper a secret counsel to ripe seekers blessed with detachment (vairagya) to treat this
Mithya world as a mere dream without substance. Such a paradigm shift in our world view helps the
mind to turn within and dwell on the Self, the sole Reality!

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.