KIRAN ATMA: Adhyasa
Showing posts with label Adhyasa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adhyasa. Show all posts

Hinduism And Hindu Theology - What Is An Adhyasa ?

Adhyasa means "superimposition" in Sanskrit. This is a fundamental idea in Advaita Vedanta, one of the six schools of ancient Indian philosophy, that explains the world around us's ultimate unreality, despite its seeming reality. 


  • According to the Advaita Vedanta school, there is only one true concept in the world, which is Brahman. 
  • Everything is, in reality, the same thing, and this will never change. Because Brahman is all-encompassing, it can never be seen as such (pratyaksha). 
  • The Advaitins must next explain how things in the world seem to change, or how they appear varied and distinct. 
  • This is described as a result of our erroneous perception and comprehension. 
  • This concept is known as adhyasa, and it is based on the human propensity to “build” an image of the universe. 


Human beings, according to this theory, superimpose a false knowledge (that reality is varied and differentiated) on top of the true understanding (that all reality is nothing but undifferentiated Brahman). 


  • The Advaitins believe that the universe exists because Brahman exists. 
  • The world as most unenlightened people see it is not real. 
  • Advaitins use two well-known examples to demonstrate this concept: a rope that is mistaken for a snake for a short while, and a post that is mistaken for a man.
  • These judgements are not made up out of thin air, despite the fact that they are incorrect. In each instance, one is seeing something real—the rope and post are both real—but “superimposing” a false identity on them, thus “transforming” them into something they are not. 
  • Human awareness, it is claimed, starts with the Supreme Reality (Brahman), which is really there, but superimposes something that is not (the judgment of a diverse world). 
  • The fundamental issue, according to the Advaitins, is epistemological, or how humans come to know things, rather than the nature of the things themselves. 
  • True understanding occurs when the mistaken notions that led to the initial error are destroyed and replaced by true understanding, not when the things themselves change—to return to the example, the rope has always been and always will be a rope—but when the mistaken notions that led to the initial error are destroyed and replaced by true understanding. 
  • Advaitins believe that adhyasa is a manifestation of avidya (a lack of genuine knowledge), which is perpetuated and maintained by the karmic power of one's erroneous ideas and deeds. 
  • Adhyasa vanishes the instant full knowledge is realized, when one realizes that the universe (and oneself) are both nothing but Brahman. 

This epiphany provides ultimate knowledge that can never be lost, just as once a piece of rope has been identified, it can never again become a serpent. Karl H. Potter (ed. ), Advaita Vedanta up to Samkara and His Pupils, 1981; and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore (eds. ), A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, 1957, for further details.


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