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Thread: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

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    The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Namaste,

    1. MithyA means "Unreal". I found a question being raised again and again by some people not well versed in Advaitic philosophy :

    If this world is "unreal" then you too are unreal and this whole talk is unreal ... you don't exist etc. etc. Now that contradicts our understanding that if I don't exist then who is participating in the discussion, who is striving for liberation etc. etc.

    So, what exactly does "MithyA" mean ? If I say that this world is MithyA, does it make the world non-existent ? Does it make births, deaths, bondage, liberation non-existent ? If that is so, what is the use of treading any path for liberation by one who is already non-existent ?

    2. If there is really Non-duality ... how come multiplicity is there is the universe ? If there is really Only One, how come there is Brahman and Jiva, births and death, bondage and liberation ? What goes into birth after birth, if there is really Non-duality ?

    *********

    It is not that these issue have not been addressed before but I would like to keep all valuable ideas in one thread. So, I invite all members who are either Adavitins or who are not against Non-duality to participate in this thread and offer their valuable points.

    I would request that people who are dualists should take care that this thread is not derailed and if required they participate only after this discussion has progressed to a significant extent. It is a difficult issue to understand and therefore trying not-to-understand will certainly ensure that one doesn't understand.

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

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    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    As I understand, "real" is what is unsublateable in the past, present and future. A dream is un"real" from the POV of the waking world because it is sublated on waking up. Likewise, our waking world is un"real" from the POV of Brahman-consciousness because on dawn of Jnana, the waking world is sublated.

    Talk of "real" or un"real" needs to be done relative to a frame of reference.

  3. #3

    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Namaste,

    Good topic.

    Real always exists independently. As an example it is said in the clay world Clay is real. What about the clay pot? Clay pot cannot exist independent of clay so clay pot cannot be real. Also in a matter of time clay pot is subject to destruction and it resolves to Clay. But clay pot is not unreal because we can touch it, feel it etc. So clay pot is just mithya, i.e. that which has name and form but no independent existence. So Mithya is neither real or unreal. If we replace clay with gold and clay pot with ornament we get another useful example.

    If we look at the whole world everything is just name and form. If we keep digging into it we soon come to sub atomic particles then what? Vedanta states that there is one Sat (reality) for everything.

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    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Namaste WM and Seeker,

    Very good answers from both of you ! Thanks.

    Let's analyse what has been offered here and where we go from here :

    WonderMonk offers :

    i) Real is that which is not sublateable in the past, present in future : That means it remains unchanged (to be called what it was earlier with all attributes or the lack of it) irrespective of changes in time. That is quite logical as anything if changes into something else with passage of time, that thing can't be called Real.

    ii) Second and very very important point that has been offered here that the words "real" and "unreal" should be used by taking due care of frame of reference from which we are speaking.

    This appears to be quite logical and yet we mess up often by mixing the frame of references when drawing our inferences while discussing. I will elaborate on this part in detail later.

    Seeker's explanation has much more clarity. He offers :

    a) Reality exists independently ... that means almost similar to what WM offers in his first point but is a step ahead as it takes into account even other factors and not only time. So, irrespective of effects of various factors, the Reality must exist as It is.

    b) A very important point has been offered here which hits the nail directly on its head : Mithya is neither Real nor Unreal (in fact, if the second point of WM is examined closely, it too says the same thing).

    That is the most important point about the word "Mithya". How ? Sankaracharya says, "Brahman satyam jagan Mithya, Jeevo Brahmaiva naaparah". Now, here we cannot translate Mithya as non-existent ... if that is so, Jagat would become non-existent and that would make the Jeeva too non-existent. So, Sankaracharya then mean to say that "non-existent entity is actually existent" ... which becomes ridiculous !

    Why does it become ridiculous ? Because :

    a) We violate the frames of references --- From the absolute state Jagat is "unreal" a i.e. when you are not influenced by the state of Jagat ... but when one is within Jagat and perceiving something ... it is "real" within framework of Jagat.

    b) We mistranslate the word Mithya as "Non-existent" when Mithya means that the thing being called Mithya is not actually what it appears

    *****

    All the matter within this world is made up of Protons, Neutrons and Electrons (let us assume that we are not going to break these particles further) ... in some matters some particles are more and some are less. In fact our body too, is made up of the same atomic particles i.e. the Protons, Neutrons and the electrons. Now, there are two things kept side by side one is Honey and other is Potassium Cyanide. What is the difference between between the two substances at sub-atomic levels ? : Nothing. Both are made up of the same substances. What are you actually getting by eating Honey or Potassium Cyanide ? Some amount of Protons, some amount of Neutrons and some amount of electrons. So, can one eat Potassium Cyanide in place of Honey ? No. Why ? Because from the framework of eating activity, you are not a heap of protons, neutrons and electrons alone but a human being and Potassium Cyanide is not just another heap of protons, neutrons and electrons but a poison for a human body.

    In the above example, the three particles which remain unchanged during the process (let's assume that these three particles are unchanging during the processes we are discussing) so, these are "real" and the "Honey" or the "Potassium Cyanide" is Mithya from sub-atomic levels but at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that eating, nutrition and poisoning activities are at gross level and not at sub-atomic levels, so when we are acting at gross level, it would be foolish to use the axiom of sub-atomic level.

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

  5. #5

    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Let us keep things simple.

    Mithya = unreal.

    This is how the word is used by Advaita (waking up from a dream, etc) and also by rival schools.

    The confusion is only due to ignoring the Vyavaharika/Paramartika paradigm.
    http://lokayata.info
    http://shivsomashekhar.wordpress.com/category/history/

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    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Namaste to All,

    As I understand it, it depends with what you compare Mithya.
    It is seen as "unreal" only when you compare it to the Ultimate Reality-Brahman. But from our material dualistic, perspective the world is 100% real.
    Since we are finite in thought, we cannot perceive the in-finite, so we see the world with dualities, as separate, etc.... But the Ultimate-Truth, everything is ONE, without dualities, without separation, so the world cannot be real.
    When you realize yourself as the infinite Brahman, all dualities cease, there is no birth and death, since birth and death is under the influence of time, but in the Ultimate non dual reality, there is no influence of time, time is santana (eternal) there is no cause-effect, birth-death, light-dark, being-nonbeing, etc...
    Ignorance is what causes multiplicity and duality, more knowledge also leads to more ignorance, that's why Advaita says that the goal is to realize yourself as the ONE, not to seek more knowledge.
    The one who realized his/her nature as the absolute Brahman, the Atman (self) is free from all limits, dualities, bondage, birth, death, etc.... He becomes one with the Supreme, like a wave in the ocean.

    ---Nirguna

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    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Good post, Nirguna ! Welcome to the forum !

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

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    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Explanations about "Mithya" are good and understandable..but the core point missed is "why sat which is satyam transformed into mithya world?" when the mithya jeeva state is not desirable.

    Sorry but this is my opinion:

    I don't think you people are trying to findout the TRUTH without prejudice , you have certain thoughts and trying to prove them without even looking into sruthi or logic.

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    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    Quote Originally Posted by sanathan View Post
    Explanations about "Mithya" are good and understandable..but the core point missed is "why sat which is satyam transformed into mithya world?" when the mithya jeeva state is not desirable.

    Sorry but this is my opinion:

    I don't think you people are trying to findout the TRUTH without prejudice , you have certain thoughts and trying to prove them without even looking into sruthi or logic.
    Again in the fray ? I think you said that you were not interested in a discussion with me and I also stated that. If you are a "Know-all" person why discuss anything at all ? BTW, please note this :

    the core point missed is "why sat which is satyam transformed into mithya world?
    Why not answer some basic questions first, if all facts must have a valid "why" ?

    a) Why does a certain wavelength of sun-light appear as blue and not red ?
    b) Why men have two feet and not ten ?
    c) Why women only give births to children and not men ?

    etc.
    etc.

    Please don't answer ... think on your own as I don't want to discuss anything with you.

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

  10. #10

    Re: The real meaning of the word Mithya in Advaita VedAnta

    mithyA literally means 'incorrectly' or 'false'
    (http://www.advaita.org.uk/sanskrit/terms_mn.htm)

    I got this story from Acharya Sadananda,
    (http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses..._sadananda.htm) :

    "There is story in the yoga vAsiShTha: Rama, after listening to the advaita teaching which states that everything is mithyA, wanted to test vAsiShTha, his guru. As he was coming to the palace, he sent a wild elephant to chase vAsiShTha muni. Obviously, vAsiShTha ran away to avoid getting hurt. Rama then questioned him as to why he had run away, when the elephant was only mithyA. vAsiShTha answered that his running away was also mithyA."


    so mithyA in Advaita Vedanta means neither real nor unreal

    the world is not real since it always changes, the world is not un-real too since we can experience it.

    so in the same order of reality, the world, you, me and animals are real.

    Physicists know that gold, iron, clay are made from atom, there are no really difference in type of atom between gold, iron and clay, only their sub-atomic configuration are different so some become gold, iron or clay, but the physicists still have to pay different prices for each of them when he buy gold, iron or clay.

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