In ?Unit 15, we started with the understanding of Brahman; we reviewed the vishEShaNa , vishEShya relationship.

In ?Unit 16, we reviewed the lakShaNas that help us understand Brahman.

In ?Unit 17, We looked at some of the scriptural statements describing

In ?Unit 18, we understood that Brahman is nirguNa and why so.

In this unit, we will conclude the study of Brahman, by understanding that jagat is a projection (adhyArOpa) and negation of it (apavAda) helps us understand the svarUpa of Brahman.

adhyArOpa and apavAda.

The seeker, in the beginning understands that Brahman is the intelligent cause of jagat and the jagat is different from Brahman. This understanding makes him identify Brahman with attributes only. The shAstras take him from here, closer to Brahman, through the understanding of Brahman as real (satya), consciousness (jnyAna) and infinite(ananta); finally, Brahman being also the material cause of jagat, describes Him as nEti, nEti ( not this, not this logic) and takes the seeker to Brahman. This method is described in the shAstras as adhyArOpa and apavAda. The study of shAstras helps the seeker understand that Brahman is independent of all transactions, even though the creation and dissolution are happening through Him. Without a firm knowledge (without internalizing) that Brahman is the material cause of jagat, the seeker believes that the jagat is independent and its creator is Brahman. adhyArOpa is the process of following this thread of the seeker in attaching creation, vishEshaNa, lakShaNa and transactions to Brahman. Following this, the shAstra, through the discussion of kArya nad kAraNa, helps the seeker understand that the jagat is not different from Brahman - Brahman is the upAdAna kAraNa of jagat. Then the seeker comes to ignore the unreal names and forms and firmly experiences the only Real Brahman. The seeker comes to understand that the jagat, not different from Brahman, cannot be an upAdi of Brahman. Without upAdi, he understands that there are no creation, vishEshaNa, and lakShaNa. Upon this realization, the seeker experiences the svarUpa of Brahman and all the attached transactions disappear. Then, even though he is transacting in the unreal jagat, he does not move away from the experience of the svarUpa of nirguNa Brahman. This state of rejecting the adhyArOpa on realizing the knowledge of svarUpa of Brahman is apavAda.

In summary, adhyArOpa is due to seeing the jagat as a kArya. Once he understands the teachings of shruti, he starts to see jagat from the view of kAraNa. Then he firmly rejects (apavAda) all transactions in Brahman, though the sense organs are transacting with sense objects.

Three Levels of Reality.

We have understood that Brahman appears in different forms in association with upAdhis, though He is not subject to any limitation and can not be described at the speech and mind level. The truth at the supreme level (paramArTha) is the only Reality, while what is observable at the transactional or relational level is not the reality. However the common experience of people is to recognize the body / mind level experiences as reality. Keeping this in mind, the vEdAnta recognizes three levels of reality as follows;

  1. pAramArThika satya or Supreme Reality
  2. vyAvahArika satya or Trancactional Reality
  3. prAtibhAsika satya or Apparent Reality.

These three levels of reality can be better understood through an example. An image of an object can be captured on a screen through a lens. The clarity of the image is dependent on the distance between the lens and the screen, the orientation of the screen, lighting conditions etc. This image is available to everyone's experiences. Under other circumstances, an apparent image of the object (virtual image) can be seen, by a select few in some specific orientation (This will not be the experience of all, as in the lens image above).

It is not possible to capture this image and cannot be a transactional experience, though can be seen (think of a creative artwork, which at an angle, will look something differently). In this example, the object is the pAramArThika satya, the lens image is the vyAvahArika satya and the apparent image is the prAtibhAsika satya. In the backdrop of this example, we can understand the three levels of reality in the philosophical plane.

Brahman is Real is the pAramArThika satya. This is the statement of shrutis. The experience of the sense organs keeps changing from time to time or person to person; what is changing can only be the experiences of the sense organs as Science has demonstrated to us. Even in ordinary experiences this is true - like the change in the musical speed can only be determined with respect to a metronome. Brahman is beyond sense organs and is unchanging and is the Supreme Reality.

The jagat is constantly changing and this change is experienced by the five sense organs. This change is the common experience of all (without defects in sense organs). The knowledge thus established through the sense organs is the basis of all transactional activities. The shAstra classifies this changing jagat experienced by all and being the basis of all transactions as vyAvahArika satya.

A traveler, on a hot afternoon, sees water at a distance. When he arrives at that location, the water that we all have come to know is not to be seen. The water is a mirage. It appears to be there, but it is not there. This experience, dependent on time and space, is called prAtibhAsika satya. This experience is also called "satya", though it is an apparent experience, because Brahman is the substratum supporting this apparent experience - the laws of nature support the mirage.

Though the three levels of reality are conceded by the shAstra, the pAramArThika satya is the supporting Reality for the Transactional Reality and the Apparent Reality. As much as the Apparent Reality is unreal with respect to the Transactional Reality, so is the Transactional Reality is unreal with respect to the Supreme Reality.


Brahman, though is the kAraNa for the jagat, is different from jagat, in that the jagat is jaDa and Brahman is consciousness. vEdAnta's approach in explaining Brahman, obviously, has to be, to take the student from the known to the unknown. jagat is the known, Brahman is the unknown. The vEdAnta takes the seeker from the jagat, through the mAyA to the Brahman. The first experience to the seeker is the Brahman with upAdhis. Then the seeker experiences the lakShaNas of Brahman - satyam, jnyAnam and anantam. Here the seeker understands the Supreme Reality of Brahman. He understands that the Transactional Reality (jagat) and the Apparent Reality are nothing but the Supreme Reality that is Brahman. The adhyArOpa that Brahman is the intelligent cause of jagat, and the jagat is different from Brahman is negated (apavAda) and establishes himself in Brahman, the Supreme Reality, beyond speech and mind.

We will take up the study of jIva in the next unit.

Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace).

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