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Madhusudana Sarasvati: Advaita-Siddhih (Sections on Mithyatva)

Madhusudana Sarasvati: Advaita-Siddhih (Sections on Mithyatva)
Item Code: IDG332
Author: Text translated and explained by Karuna Bhattacharya
Publisher: Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR)
Edition: 1992
ISBN: 8185636001
Pages: 220
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5" X 5.5"

About the Book:

This is a translation of the celebrated work of Madhusudana Sarasvati, one of the greatest scholars of Advaita Vedanta. This volume contains translation with detailed notes on the section on falsity, which is a central topic of Advaita Vedanta.

About the Author:

KARUNA BHATTACHARYA is a senior Reader in philosophy at Calcutta University. She was educated at the University College of Arts and Commerce, Calcutta, from where she took her M. A. and Ph.D. She has specialized in different branches of Indian philosophy and has a number of publications to her credit.



The concept of falsity is a very important concept in Advaita- Vedanta. The Advaitins declare the entire world to be false. The word 'world' denotes whatever is an object of consciousness. The external things like tables and chairs are all objects of conscious- ness-they are revealed by consciousness. The mental states- cognitive, conative and emotive-are also revealed by conscious- ness. It is usually believed that the mental states are self-revealed. But this belief does not stand the test of scrutiny. We are aware of the successive order of our mental states. But no particular men- tal state can grasp this order of succession, as no state can go beyond itself and apprehend other states. Therefore it has to be admitted that the mental states also are presented as objects to an abiding consciousness in us. They have, therefore, only an ob- jective being and hence are to be included in the world. Even the ego, the'!', is a part of the world so far as it is known as an ob- ject in our self-consciousness.

The Advaitins hold that the entire world is false. They prove the falsity of the world on several grounds: the world is false because it is an object like the illusory silver; the world is false because it is limited in space, time and content like the illusory silver; the world is false because it is insentient like the illusory silver. In all these arguments the world is the paksa and falsity is the sadhya. But what does the word 'falsity' mean?

In Western philosophy the word 'false' is used in respect of propositions or statements. A proposition or a statement alone can be false. Falsity cannot be predicated either of an act of cog- nition or of its object. For example, the statement 'This is a table' may be false. But the mental act of cognising the table can- not be false; nor can the table, the physical object, be false. The Naiyayikas, in Indian philosophy, however, would admit that cognitions can be false. But they insist that the objects of cognitions cannot be false. The word 'mithya' is used as an ad- jective of jnana; it cannot be used as an adjective of the object of jnana.

But the Advaitins hold that the word 'false' (mithya) can be used in respect of a cognition as well as its object. As a matter of fact we declare the cognition to be false when its object is found to be false. For example, as the illusory silver is detected to be false, its cognition is condemned to be false. We are not convinced of the falsity of a cognition in any other way. The re- alization of the falsity of the object makes us realize that the cognition of that object is false.

And, the Advaitins hold, it is not improper to use the word 'false' as the predicate of an object of cognition. Common usage would support the thesis that the objects can be false. After the correction of an illusion, say, the illusion of silver, we do say: 'Only a false silver did I perceive' (mithya rajatam maya drstam). Such an expression shows that it is not strange to hold that an object can be false.

The Advaitins do not only say that an object may be false.they assert that all objects, without exception, are false, and that they are false because they are of the nature of objects. But what do the Advaitins really mean when they conclude that all objects are false? Evaluation of the Advaita thesis is not possible without understanding what the word 'false', as an adjective of the world, really means. Usually falsity is contrasted with truth. As truth is identified with reality;' falsity is contrasted with reality as well. The speciality of Advaita Vedanta lies in the fact that in Advaita philosophy falsity is contrasted with unreality as well. The false is different from the real or the true (sat or satya) as well as dif- ferent from the unreal (asat). The real (sat or satya) never gets cancelled. The unreal (asat) is incapable of being presented as real in any locus. The false is what is presented as real in some locus and yet gets cancelled.

Prominent Advaitins have given five different definitions of falsity. Madhusadana Sarasvati in his Advaltasiddhih has examin- ed the concept of falsity by analysing these five definitions. He has tried to establish the falsity of the world by meeting the chal- lenge posed by the Madhvas and the Naiyayikas.

In the present work I have tried to elucidate Madhusudana's views. It is a difficult task because Advaitasiddhih is a difficult book, the chief reason: for which is its abstruse analysis and intricacy of language. Laghucandrika, the famous commentary on Advaita- siddhih by Brahmananda is equally difficult to grasp. In my understanding of Advaitasiddhih as well as Laghucandrika, I have got substantial help from Balabodhini, an elaborate and masterly commentary by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. Yogendranath Bagchi.s He has given a very lucid exposition of Madhusudana's views in simple Sanskrit.

In my attempt to explain Madhusudana's views on falsity, I have first presented the texts (The five definitions of falsity along with Madhusudana's analysis of these definitions. The Chapter named Mithyatvasamanyopapatti is also included). Next follows my translations of these texts. I have tried to make the transla- tion as literal as possible without being unintelligible. I have then added to the translation my explanation or elucidation of the texts.

The text is taken from the Nirnaya Sagara edition of Advaita- siddhih by Pandit Anantakrsna Sastri (second edition, 1973). I hope to complete this work gradually, hopefully, in a not too distant future.

I am grateful to the Indian Council of Philosophical Research for sponsoring and financing the project, and to the project editor, Professor Sibajiban Bhattacharyya for his help in the preparation of this work.





The concepts of appearance and reality play such an important role in every sphere of life that it is natural that they should re- ceive attention of all types of philosophers. Different definitions of the concept of appearance constitute the central topic of the portion of the Advaitasiddhi explained in this volume. I shall give here a general idea of the problem.

One way to understand these two concepts is tofind some sort of similarity of appearance with pretension and reality with actuality. This way of understanding the concepts makes clear that the concept of appearance is parasitic on normal behaviour as lying is parasitic on truth. Appearance must be understood as appearance as real, so much so that appearance cannot be under- stood except as a shadow, imitation, copy, of reality and so on. A second way of understanding the two concepts is to identify appearance with the subjective and reality with the objective. But as the objective has to be understood as being independent of the subject or of the subjective, the subjective becomes the basic notion. Thus appearance is a more fundamental concept than reality.

A third way of understanding these two concepts is to identify the real with the actual and the appearance with the merely possible. An appearance cannot be an impossibility even though it cannot also be an actuality. There are two ways of conceiving the relation between the actual and the possible. It may be held that the actual world is itself one of the possible worlds (the compossible world, perhaps), so that the concept of possibility becomes the basic concept. The other way of understanding the concepts of actuality and possibility is to regard the possible only as possibly real so. that reality or actuality becomes the basic concept. This ontological priority of the actual or the real has also a logical or an epistemological consequence. There are logicians, like Johnson, who have defined a proposition as assertible although a proposition may be entertained, question- ed, doubted without being asserted. It is argued that when, for example, we doubt a proposition an element of assertion enters in it in some way or the other.

There is also an extreme theory according to which reality alone is consistent, and appearances involve inconsistencies, and hence are impossible. Against this extreme theory it may be noted that although all appearances may be impossible, yet all impossibilities are not appearances. This shows that impossibility can only be a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of appeara- nces. It is, therefore, necessary to find out sufficient conditions of appearance.



The law of contradiction is the only means available to us for proving the unreality or non-existence of something. If the as- sumption that the thing exists leads to a self-contradiction, it is proved, by reductio ad absurdum, that the thing is non-existent. Fitch,' however, has distinguished between two different forms of proof by reductio ad absurdum. In the weaker form this proof merely shows that if the assumption is made then the contradic- tion follows. But from this it does not follow that the assump- tion itself cannot be made. In the strong form it proves that the assumption itself is wrong. By using the restricted principle of negation introduction or restricted reductio ad absurdum Fitch can reject the law of excluded middle (LE), while admitting the law of contradiction (LC). Thus there are various ways of admit- ting (LC) but rejecting (LE). In what follows we shall use the unrestricted form of the reductio.

In this form the reductio proves the non-existence of a self- contradiction absolutely, unconditionally. Now there are two different types of persons doing logic-hard-boiled logicians and soft logicians. Parmenides in explaining his negative way was a hard-boiled logician. He accepted the law of contradiction in the form

(i) 'A cannot be not-A',
1. Symbolic Logic.

and argued that there can be nothing which is self-contradictory. Thus change, becoming, motion, etc. are self-contradictory and are, therefore, nothing. There is nothing like appearance which is other than reality, for reality alone exists and appearances not being identical with reality are nothing. The problem of appear- ance arises only in the case of soft logicians who in spite of their logic are yet overwhelmed by their experience. According to Permenides, change, motion, becoming, etc. are non-existent and we cannot experience them; and there the matter ends. But soft logicians who cannot get over the overwhelming evidence of their senses, wonder how the self-contradictory, i.e. nothing, can yet be experienced as real. Appearances involve inconsistencies in their very concept and yet they are not nothing because they are experienced as real. To accommodate becoming, change, motion, etc. therefore, these logicians change the law of contradiction from form (i) to form

(ii) A cannot be both Band not-B at the same time.
Thus Permenides's concept of reality as simple and indivisible is replaced by the concept of a reality which endures in time. The law of contradiction then becomes applicable only to a reality at the same time but not to reality at different times. Thus reality must be not only enduring in time but time itself has to be con- ceived as a sequence of time-segments. So long as A remains B, it cannot also be not-B; it is not necessary to hold that time is a series of moments in order to apply the law of contradiction to empirical objects, unless, of course, the objects themselves are conceived as changing every moment.

So also objects of experience, i.e. macro-objects, are extended in space and it may be that they have some quality, attribute or property in some parts and not have them in other parts. Here, too, it is not necessary to conceive space as atomic in order to apply the law of contradiction to them. For the law states that A cannot be not-B at the same stretch of place where it is B. Space has to be conceived as atomic only if the objects are conceived as having atomic parts. There is nothing in the law of contradiction in form (ii) which requires objects to be point-instants. Thus the law in this form will have no essential difficulty if space and time are conceived as being infinitely divisible instead of having points and instants.

The whole exercise of reformulating the law of contradiction stems from the unease of the soft logicians that nothing violating the law of contradiction can be experienced as real. As change, becoming, extension, are all experienced, in order to accommo- date them the law of contradiction is given different forms. In the process, reality which is conceived by Parmenides as indivi- sible unity is replaced by a concept of reality having various aspects, spatial and temporal. But then there are various other aspects of reality as experienced. Thus shadows and the objects of which they are shadows are equally visible and are visible in the same sense. Yet shadows are not regarded as real for various purposes because although the empirical objects and their sha- dows are equally visible, empirical objects are also tangible whereas shadows are not. Thus the concept of reality is further analysed into aspects appropriate to different senses. That which is both visible and tangible is real and that which is merely visi- ble is an appearance. But then that which is visible cannot be nothing, and as a matter of fact there are various purposes for which shadows deserve the most important consideration, as for example, the technological problems connected with TV projec- tions. Thus the law of contradiction has to be further expanded to give rise to the following form:

(iii) A cannot be' experienced as both Band not-B at the same time, at the same place, by the same sense-organ.
This formulation which introduces a further dimension of the concept of reality can accommodate even shadows as real. Thus we are gradually led to formulation (iii) of the law and to a be- wildering complex concept of reality which is multifaceted. But by thus changing the law of contradiction to accommodate what- ever we experience as real, we are led to the position of Par- menides according to whom there is nothing which is self-con- tradictory. What Parmenides rejected as nothing-motion, change, becoming-are now included within reality. But the con- cept of appearance as different from that of reality has not been explained.

An appearance, therefore, has to be unreal and yet not no- thing. An appearance is not nothing because it is experienced as real; and it is not real either. To accommodate these two incon- sistent features of appearance we may say either that an appear- ance is both real and unreal, or, that an appearance is neither real nor unreal. To hold that appearance is both real and unreal is to make the concept of appearance impossible for there cannot be a self-contradictory concept. An appearance is inconsistent only in a special way. We have to distinguish between an incon- sistent object of experience which is both real and unreal and other inconsistent objects which are wholly unreal. Reality as well as thought of reality must be self-consistent. An appearance is real as an object of experience but unreal because it is incon- sistent. Sense-experience tells us that it is real, reason tells us that it cannot be. A thing which is both red and not-red at the same time is an impossibility, it is nothing; therefore, it is not an appearance either. Although A cannot (really) be not-A still A can appear as not-A. The law of contradiction, therefore, cannot prevent appearances. This is briefly the point in the first defi- nition of falsity.




Preface vii
General Editor's Introduction xiii
A. Text 3
B. Translation 4
C. Explanatory Notes 8
A. Text 37
B. Translation 41
C. Explanatory Notes 51
A. Text 111
B. Translation 112
C. Explanatory Notes 115
A. Text 141
B. Translation 141
C. Explanatory Notes 143
A. Text 163
B. Translation 163
C. Explanatory Notes 164
A. Text 177
B. Translation 177
C. Explanatory Notes 179


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