Classical Indian Philosophy Advaita Vedanta Metaphysics for Maharashtra PSC Exam

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The Three Grades of Satta or Levels of Reality

Advaita Vedanta

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  • According to Shankara, the world possesses three different grades of existence;
  • The first kind possesses ephemeral existence or pratibhasika satta.
  • It is also known as apparent existence or existence based on imagination alone.
  • Some of the examples of the ephemeral existence are those experiences in which the mind alone constructs its own reality, like, one՚s dreams and the perception of a rope as a snake, etc.
  • This is regarded to be the lowest grade of existence.
  • The second kind is called empirical or virtual existence.
  • It is known as vyavharika-satta. Vyavharika-satta deals with samvritti- satya or the empirical or the phenomenal truth.
  • It is the sort of existence which is necessary for ordinary life and practices. As a result, it is also known as practical existence.
  • In other words, it deals with existence and truth which is pragmatic in nature.
  • It is ever changing and empirically true at a given point of time only. So, it is not metaphysically true in nature.
  • It is our phenomenal world- the world of experience that we experience in the every-day life when we are awake.
  • In this level, both jiva or the individual soul and the Ishvara or God or qualified Brahman are true.
  • Hence, it deals with the reality of the material world which is incomplete in nature.
  • Vyavharika satta rejects Pratibhasika satta.
  • The third kind is called paramarthika satta or the absolute existence or the supreme existence.
  • This existence is metaphysically and ontologically true and accurate in nature.
  • This is the highest grade of existence and it cannot be sublated by another other grade of existence.
  • It deals with Noumena, the absolute reality, and unqualified Brahman.
  • Paramarthika satta deals with paramarthika satya or the absolute truth and reality (i.e. Brahman) . Paramarthika satta rejects both, pratibhasika and vyavharika satta.
  • The world is hence, according to Shankara is a heterogeneous conception due to which it is indescribable or anirvachniya in nature.
  • It other words, it is neither real nor unreal. For example, in the Vyavharika satta- the world is real only for the practical purpose, more real than the Pratibhasika satta and less real than the Paramarthika satta. And when the world is taken in the third sense, that is the Paramarthika satta, it is eternally real.
  • As Shankara avers, “Brahman does not lack existence at any time, past, present or future, so the world does not lack existence in any of the three grades of existences or three periods of time.”

Four States of Consciousness

  • According to Advaita Vedanta, Shankara accepts four states of consciousness which are experienced by the jiva or the individual being.
  • The four states of consciousness are mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad.
  • The four states of consciousness are;
  • The first state is called the walking state, or the Vishva or the Jagrat state. In this we are aware of our daily world. It is where the jiva identifies itself with the body. it՚s features are birth, old-age, death. This deals with the gross body or sthula sarira.
  • The second state is called the dreaming state, or the Taijasa or the Swapna state. This state deals with the dreaming mind. This deals with the subtle body or sukshma sarira.
  • The third state is called the state of deep sleep, or the Prajna or the Sushupti state. This deals with the causal body or karana-sarira. It is the seed of both the subtle and the gross body.
  • The fourth state is called Turiya. It is the state of pure-consciousness, it transcends all the other three states of consciousness. It is the state of liberation, it is where one experiences sat, chit and ananda. According to Shankara, one who attains this state, attains Jivan-mukti.

The Concept of Adhyasa

  • According to Shankara, there is a self-evident difference between the subject and the object.
  • The subject is pure-consciousness, the light, the I, etc. Whereas, the object is unconsciousness, the dark, the Non-I.
  • Hence, the two are opposed to each-other. Yet, it is a common and a natural practice to superimpose one upon the other.
  • In other words, according to Shankara, people wrongly super-impose the object and its attributes upon the subject.
  • This coupling of the real and the unreal is called satyantre-mithunikrtya and it leads to superimposition or adhyasa, error or bhrama, illusion or maya, ignorance or avidya.
  • Hence, the superimposition of one thing upon the other is called adhyasa.
  • For example, the superimposition of the snake on the rope, silver on the shell, etc.
  • This notion of the thing (snake, silver) in something else (rope, shell) is called atasmin-tadbuddih.

The Concept of Jiva

  • Jiva is the individual self. It deals with subject-object duality in the sense, it is subject element as it is pure consciousness and is called sakshin.
  • On the other hand, it is the object element for it deals with an internal organ called the antahkarana or mind which is composed of five elements- earth, water, fire, air and ether.
  • The source of antahkarana is avidya or ignorance which causes in it the concept of individuality.
  • In the jagrat state or walking state- the internal organ is aided by senses, in the dream state or swapna state- the internal organ functions by itself, in the deep sleep state or sushupti state- the internal organ is lost in its cause avidya.
  • Hence, in all these three state- the individuality of the internal organ or mind remains because the sakshin is associated with avidya or ignorance.
  • According to Shankara, in turiya state or in liberation, avidya or ignorance is destroyed and the sakshin is realised as Brahman, something which it always was and is.

The Concept of Maya

  • The general trend of Advaitins, including Shankara is to treat the concept of maya or illusion and avidya or ignorance as two terms which can be synonymously used.
  • At the same time, Shankara differentiates between the two aspects of Maya or avidya which are called aavarna and vikshepa.
  • The former or aavarna is negative in nature for it deals with concealment.
  • On the other hand, vikshepa is positive in nature for it deals with the positive aspect of projection.
  • According to Shankara, following are the characteristics of Maya;
    • It is the inherent power or potency of Brahman. It is coeval in him. In other words, it is entirely dependent on Brahman or inseparable from him. This relation of maya and Brahman is called tadatmya- it is neither identity, nor difference nor both.
    • Maya is beginning less or anadi.
    • It is material and unconscious in nature.
    • It is positive wrong knowledge. It is positive because it is not merely negative. Aavarna and vikshepa are its two aspects. The former or aavarna is negative in nature for it deals with concealment. On the other hand, vikshepa is positive in nature for it deals with the positive aspect of projection.
    • It is Indescribable - neither real nor unreal nor both (sad-asad-anirvachniya) . It is real for it projects the world of appearance and it is true as long as it lasts. It is unreal for it has no existence apart from Brahman and vanishes at the time when knowledge dawns. It cannot be both real and unreal for this conception is self-contradictory in nature
    • It deals with vyavharika-satta
    • Its locus is Brahman, yet, Brahman is untouched by Maya.
    • It is removed by right knowledge
    • It is of the nature of super-imposition or adhyasa. For example, the superimposition of the snake on the rope is due to maya.


1. Vyavharika satta rejects


A. Paramarthika satta

B. Pratibhasika satta

C. Both A and B

D. None of these

Answer: B

2. According to Shankara, antahkarna is composed of ________ elements


A. Four

B. Five

C. Only two, fire and earth

D. None of these

Answer: B

3. Paramarthika satta refutes


A. Vyavharika satta alone

B. Pratibhasika satta

C. Both A and B

D. None of these

Answer: C

4. ________ is positive wrong knowledge


A. Brahman

B. Maya

C. Avidya

D. Adhyasa

Answer: B

5. The coupling of the real and the unreal is called


A. Adhyasa

B. Avidya

C. Maya

D. Satyantre-Mithunikrtya

Answer: D

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