Analogies used in Vedanta

To explain the phenomenon of world, life and Brahman, Vedanta uses several analogies viz. rope & snake, post & ghost, ocean & waves, mud & pots and gold & ornaments. These are oft quoted to impress upon the complex realities. They also help while meditating on truth.

It is said that as is the snake on the rope or as is the ghost in the post, so is the world on Brahman. Or may be, so is the Prakriti on Brahman. The moment one apprehends rope as a rope or post as a post, the misapprehension of snake or ghost dies and so dies associated mental agitations. Thus, Vedanta says the world or Prakriti to be illusion. It is neither real nor unreal. It is maya, illusion. It exists so long as Brahman is not perceived. There is no fundamental difference, i.e. difference as to kind and nature, between waking world and dream world. The entire dream world is a projection of waker’s mind, which folds back once the wakes rises. Similarly, the entire waking world is a projection on Brahman and folds back when ahamkara is extinguished and only one reality remains.

The other examples mean that the Brahman and world are one and the same. That is, they are different only as much as diamond and charcoal. There is no difficulty in understanding this.

Thus, we see that there is a fundamental difference in analogies between first two and rest three. First two analogies basically indicate that world does not ‘actually’ exist. The way dream world does not ‘actually’ exists. It is but a projection of waker’s mind into which it folds back once the waker rises. Similarly, the waker’s world folds back to Brahman once knowledge dawns. Now, let us examine this further. The fact that rope is misapprehended to be a snake means that there are three things, rope, a seer and illusory snake. Now, if the world is to be illusory snake and Brahman to be rope then who is the seer? It has to be jiva or ahamkara. So, jiva misapprehends Brahman to be illusory world (Prakriti). Now, this theory is not possible as the jiva itself is the result of Prakriti. The reflection of Brahman in Prakriti gives rise to ahamkara/jiva. If Prakriti itself is illusion then where is the question of a further illusory jiva. So, it seems I am unable to understand the example clearly or there must be some deficiency in my understanding of the definitions.

In chapter IX, verse 8 of Geeta, Lord Krishna says that He creates this manifold world helplessly/automatically by animating Prakriti. The abovementioned analogy of rope and snake can be seen in a new light now. Prakriti can also be explained as the nature of Brahman. Brahman has no properties, no attributes. Along with rope, there is also a potential of its non-apprehension. This potential of non-apprehension can be termed as Prakriti of rope or Prakriti of Brahman. However, this also doesn’t solve my problem, as there is none to misapprehend other than Brahman. So, does that mean Brahman is not apprehending Brahman itself? Let us sit down and think, what is the real meaning of this analogy.

 

               

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