According to ShankarAchArya in Advaita, is the universe “unreal” or “unworthy”?


There is a common popular misconception in People that according to Advaita World doesn't exist at all. It is not true.

When we are deciding reality of things as per Advaita. Then, Advaita itself gives three level of reality to us:

1)Paramarthika Satyam/ Absolute Reality level

2)Vyavaharika Satyam/ Ishwara Shristi level

3)Pratibhasika Satyam/ Jeeva Shristi level

I have given their definition with examples in my answer here.

Now applying the popular statement:

ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या
Brahman Satyam Jagan Mithya

in all these three reality.

1)Applying in Paramarthika Satyam level:

In this level there is neither Ishwara nor Maya. Just Brahman exist in Sat-Chid-Aananda form. It is somewhat like this:

There is neither dissolution nor creation, none in bondage and none practicing disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth. [Gaudapada Karika Chapter 2 verse 32]

There is neither creation nor destruction in this level. As there is neither creation nor destruction. Hence world doesn't exist at all in this level. So here 'Mithya' means 'Unreal' or that which doesn't exist. Brahman is both real and truth as truth is real and real is truth.

2)Applying in Vyavaharika Satyam level:

This level is Ishwara Shristi. The Universe which we see and perceive now is through the Maya of Ishwara. So Universe exists at this level (through the Maya of Ishwara). But Universe which we see and perceive now is of this kind.

If a thing is non—existent both in the beginning and in the end, it is necessarily non—existent in the present. The objects that we see are really like illusions; still they are regarded as real. [GaudaPada Karika Chapter 2 verse 6]

As the objects created in this Universe were non-existent in the beginning and also will not exist in future, so being real (for a certain time being) also is actually like an illusion. So from the level of Vyavaharik Satyam level 'Mithya' means unworthy.

3)Applying in Pratibhasika Satyam level:

There is no need to apply in this level. As this level is Jeeva Shristi. ie. Created by ourselves like dream, seeing rope as snake, hallucinations etc.. So, by the direct perception from Vyavaharik level we know these things are unreal.

So, the reality of something in Advaita depends on from which level of reality are we perceiving the truth. From Absolute level of reality world doesn't exist. So, mithya means 'Unreal' here. From Ishwara Shristi level world objects are there but they are for a time being only hence Mithya means 'Unworthy' from this level.

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