What is Adhyasa (Cognitive error)


Q5-1). What is Shri Shankaracharya’s definition of Adhyasa ?

Shri Shankara gives 3 definitions of Adhyasa :

Definition 1 : Perception of experienced object from memory on a wrong locus ( parastra purva drista  ava bhasaha iti  adhyasah smriti rupaha)

For example snake is seen earlier. There is memory of snake. Memory of snake is superimposed on rope.

Definition 2 :   Perception of an object is seen on wrong locus (Atasmin tad buddhih)

Silver is seen on a sea shell.

Mirage in desert – seeing water where there is none.

Definition 3 : Mixing up of real and unreal (sathya anrutham mithunikaranam)

For example  the experience of  I am the body  therefore  I am limited.

Here I am is sat-chit.  I is infinite SELF – Brahman.  I  am is sathya.  I cannot be seen.

Body is unreal- anrutham.  But body can be seen.

Mixing up body and atma  results in I am body. This is adhyasa.

Q5-2-a). What is the objection raised by opponent (purvapakshin) to Shri Shankara’s adhyasa vada ?

The opponent (purvapakshin) raises a valid question regarding adhyasa.  Opponent raises  four points.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-Objection 1 by opponent (purva pakshins)  – Atma is not available for senses (Apratyakshatvam)

Rope is visible (pratyaksha) object. Rope should be within visible range to perceive.  For example if rope is within range of 10 meters I can perceive. I cannot perceive rope which is 500 meters away. – pratyakshatvam.    Atma is not pratyaksha vastu. Atma cannot be seen.  Atma is apratyaksham. Hence adhyasa is not possible.

Answer for  Objection 1 by Advaitin

For mistake to take place, object should be known or evident. Unknown object cannot be mistaken. It is not necessary to have object in the front. The condition that it should be known is met with atma. Everybody knows atma directly (aparoksha) as I am. Adhyasa is possible.

—————————————————————————————————————————————Objection 2 by opponent ( purvapakshin) – Ignorance (Ajnanatvam)

While perceiving the rope (in poor light), the perceiver should not know that there is rope and should be ignorant of the fact that it is rope. If the perceiver knows that there is rope, he cannot superimpose snake on that.  Partial knowledge is required for mistake. – ajnanatvam . You say atma is self luminous. Ajnanatvam of atma is impossible.

Answer for  objection 2 by Advaitin

    Atma is partially known. Atma is not fully known. Every body knows atma as “I am”. It is knowledge of sat-chit. But atma is not known as anandam. Everybody knows that he/she is not purna. Everybody considers himself/herself as suffering in someway or the other. Everybody says he is samsari – suffering. If there is complete knowledge of atma, there will be purnatva and no suffering. As per Chandogya Upanishad says knower of Self crosses sorrow (atmavit tarati shokam). Hence ajnanatvam of atma is evident. Adhyasa is possible.

———————————————————————————————————————————–Objection 3 by opponent (purvapakshin) – Similarity (sadrishyatvam)

There should be similarity between what is perceived and what is superimposed. For example  I can superimpose snake on a rope but not a pumpkin on rope. – sadrisyam.        Body is the object (anatma). Atma is the subject. There is no similarity between anatma and atma. Atma is consciousness (chetana), anatma is inert (jada). Atma has no parts, no form – nirakar.  Body has parts and qualities – sakar, sagun. Hence superimposition is not possible.

Answer for  objection 3 by Advaitin

Similarity is not necessary for superimposition. For example, sky appears to be blue. There is no similarity between sky and blueness. Hence adhyasa is possible.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-Objection 4 by opponent (purvapakshin)

Anatma is unreal. Atma is real. Unreal snake is possible because I have experienced snake earlier. I have memory of the snake (vasana) . However, memory of unreal anatma body is not possible I have not experienced atma earlier. Body becomes unreal only when I experience atma. Hence,  I have no memory of Atma. Hence adhyasa is not possible.

Answer for objection 4 by Advaitin

It is not necessary that memory of real snake is only cause of the problem. Someone may not have seen real snake but has seen sculpture or painting of the snake or even movie of the snake. Sculpture/painting/movie is not real snake. But that leaves an impression (vasana). The memory of unreal snake seen can cause adhyasa. Similarly, in case anatma, real anatma is never there. Only unreal anatma is there from the beginning due to avidya. Avidya is beginning less – anadi. Due to beginning less avidya, unreal anatma memory is there. Adhyasa is possible because of this vasana of unreal body. Hence it is impossible to superimpose.





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