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Recently I came across one of the key quote, which sums up Adi ShankarAchArya's Advaita philosophy:

The Brahman of the Upanishads is the only Reality, and everything else—this world of manifoldness—is unreal, is a mere appearance; the individual soul (Jiva) is identical with Brahman

Above is taken from Brahma Sutra, Adhyasa. Similar translation is also found in wikipedia article Advaita Vedanta > Moksha - liberation by western scholars (marginally better). Then I saw the Sanskrit text:

ब्रह्म सत्यं जगत् मिथ्या, जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः |

We can trivially translate it to:

BrahM is truth, the universe is unworthy(useless); Certainly Jivas are not different from BrahM

Let's assume "BrahM" is another name of "Brahman" (with or without Upanishada), which is the supreme One. Actually there is slight difference between "not different" and "identical", but let's skip it for now.

My question is with below 2 terms:

  1. सत्यं / Satya
    Does it mean "real" or "truth"?
  2. मिथ्या / Mithya
    Does it mean "unreal" or "unworthy"?
    Often we use term MithyAchAra for "useless practices".

The motive behind this Q is that, there is sharp difference between "unworthy" and "unreal". The term "unworthy" depicts something "useless", but still real. While "unreal" is plain "non-existent".

Note: It confuses novices (like me) who may think that how can world be unreal! For the matter of argument, we are learning that "world is unreal" from this "unreal world" only, won't it paradoxically make the statement "world is unreal" also unreal?

  • Adi Shankaracharya definitely believed that the world did not exist. Thankfully we don't need to worry about how to translate the word mithya, because Adi Shankaracharya doesn't just speak about his belief in the non-existence of the world in a single line, he discusses it at great length and presents very detailed arguments for it. I suggest that you read Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad: archive.org/details/… That's where Adi Shankaracharya discusses it in detail. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 25 '16 at 14:27
  • By the way, the Mandukya Upanishad played a very important role in the history of Advaita. We do not have any manuscripts of the Mandukya Upanishad alone; the earliest manuscripts we have are the Mandukya Upanishad together with the Karika or commentary of Gaudapada, who was Adi Shankaracharya's guru's guru. There are plenty of Buddhist thinkers who also thought that the world was an illusion, but they thought that once you go past the illusion you'll find that reality is just nothingness. But Gaudapada introduced the idea when you go past the illusion the reality is Brahman, not nothingness. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 25 '16 at 14:37
  • Adi Shankaracharya's commentary is actually a commentary on Gaudapada's Karika, not just a commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad itself. By the way, if you don't like the idea that the world is an illusion, might I suggest that you explore the other Vedantic philosophies, like Ramanujacharya's philosophy of Visistadvaita? Ramanujacharya believed that the world exists, and that the only "illusion" is our belief that we are the body. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 25 '16 at 14:44
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    From Advaita point of view, the universe is unreal, just like a dream. In the dream, there are several characters and upon waking up all these characters dissolve into You. Similarly upon self-realization, all of creation merges back into You i.e. You realize that everything and everyone were always You. There was no one separate from You. This is the meaning behind the relation of Atman = Brahman or jivo brahmaiva na apara :). All the best! – Sai Mar 25 '16 at 21:38
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    Sanskrit, like all languages, actually even more so than other languages, can have multiple interpretations of the same word. What is important is the context that is is used in. This is why it is important to read the commentators and to have a teacher. People think that to study electrical engineering they need to study many years and have good professors, but when it comes to scripture, they need no one! – Swami Vishwananda Apr 1 '16 at 7:17
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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.

  • Thanks. Answer starts with a promising note & seemed 'worthy' of accepting :-). But it ends up contradicting with 1st para unintentionally. I categorize "real != truth". Former is more on "information", latter is on "faith". But "mithyA" is unrelated to both of them. e.g. For too imaginative people, even truth/reality also can be mithyA. From Gita 13.21, Prakruti is being the cause & effect of universe. In 13.20, it's also said to be beginningless (i.e. Permanent). My strong inclination is that, Adi recommended least involvement in material world by calling mithyA. – iammilind Jun 19 '16 at 4:13
  • @iammilind how can truth be called mithya even if some imaginative people imagine it... Truth is truth and truth... it doesn't changes by imagination... Sun isn't affected whether it is reflected in ditch or Ganga... similarly truth doesn't changes by imagination of people... it's just reflection... – Tejaswee Jun 19 '16 at 4:25
  • You are right if mithyA = unreal. However I translate mithyA = unworthy. e.g. A drunkard knows the truth of liquor's bad effects, but that truth is still unworthy for him to quit drinking. Related to Sun, its 'rays are reaching Ganga' is the truth, but Ganga itself is unworthy if the Sun should illuminate or not. With or without Ganga, it simply illuminates. In other words, think of mithyA in terms of "relevance". Your answer is good, but I feel that it's yet to touch upon the key difference between "unreal" & "unworthy". Word is minute, but changes the meaning of that verse greatly. – iammilind Jun 19 '16 at 4:47
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  1. सत्यम् / Satyam = Truth

    (Difference between "True & Real" or "Reality vs. Truth" is another topic/question that might be suitable on english.SE or philosophy.SE)

  2. मिथ्या / Mithya = False / Unreal

    According to Adi Shankara & Advaita Vedanta, world is unreal. The sanskrit word मिथ्या means unreal or false. It may also be used as unworthy.

Note: for Sanskrit word meaning & English translation you can refer sanskritdictionary.com or spokensanskrit.de


ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या :

  • Anything is called Sat (सत्) only if it exist (and remains constant) in all the three periods of time (past,current & future) i.e त्रिकालाबाध सत्य. But in case of world it isn't exist before origin & after dissolution, plus it doesn't remain constant in three periods of time. This way it (world) is called मिथ्या=false (असत्). But Brahman(ब्रह्म) is सत्[1]

  • In the word "जगत् मिथ्या", जगत् is also taken as माया (illusion) which can be "सत्" for who realizing it because of ignorance. Who tries to understand the maya, can't call it सत् as discussed in above para and neither call it असत् as realizing it and hence call it अनिर्वचनीय (Inexpressible). But For who knows the ultimate truth, there is no such thing and it becomes मिथ्या=unworthy (insignificant).


Now, going to the philosophy of Advaita:

Gaudapada (Gaudapada was the grand guru of Adi Shankaracharya) karika on Mandukya Upanishad (also known as Māndūkya-kārikā) can be considered as the first/oldest source for Advaita. In chapter 2 (वैतथ्य प्रकरण), मिथ्यात्व (unreality/illusion) of the world is demonstrated by logical arguments.

You find many-times the Sanskrit word "वैतथ्य" (falseness) there but as this question deals with the word "मिथ्या", let me quote one verse:

सप्रयोजनता तेषां स्वप्ने विप्रतिपद्यते ।
तस्मादाद्यन्तवत्त्वेन मिथ्यैव खलु ते स्मृताः ॥

7 The utility of the objects of waking experience is contradicted in dreams; therefore they are certainly unreal. Thus both experiences, having a beginning and an end, are unreal.

Above verse is found two-times (2-7 and 4-32) that concludes that both state are unreal.

Another interesting and clear verse is:

धर्मा य इति जायन्ते जायन्ते ते न तत्त्वतः ।
जन्म मायोपमं तेषां सा च माया न विद्यते ॥ ५८॥

58 Birth is ascribed to the jivas; but such birth is not possible from the standpoint of Reality. Their birth is like that of an illusory object. That illusion, again, does not exist.

on which Adi Shankara's commentaries states:

If all existing is due to Maya (माया), then isn't maya real/actual? No; सा च माया न विद्यते Maya is not exist. It is only the name of (non-exist) unreal thing.

So, The conclusion is: According to Advaita, world is not exist, it is unreal. (I recommend reading the Mandukya Upanishad with Gaudpad Karika for clear understanding of this. meanwhile the verses posted by Keshav may help you ).


Edit : Including verse 231-238 from Vivekachudamani (English translation from here):

ब्रह्मैवेदं विश्वमित्येव वाणी श्रौती ब्रूतेऽथर्वनिष्ठा वरिष्ठा ।
तस्मादेतद्ब्रह्ममात्रं हि विश्वं नाधिष्ठानाद्भिन्नताऽऽरोपितस्य ॥

This universe is verily Brahman – such is the august pronouncement of the Atharva Veda. Therefore this universe is nothing but Brahman, for that which is superimposed (on something) has no separate existence from its substratum.

सत्यं यदि स्याज्जगदेतदात्मनोऽ न तत्त्वहानिर्निगमाप्रमाणता ।
असत्यवादित्वमपीशितुः स्या- न्नैतत्त्रयं साधु हितं महात्मनाम् ॥

If the universe, as it is, be real, there would be no cessation of the dualistic element, the scriptures would be falsified, and the Lord Himself would be guilty of an untruth. None of these three is considered either desirable or wholesome by the noble-minded.

ईश्वरो वस्तुतत्त्वज्ञो न चाहं तेष्ववस्थितः । न च मत्स्थानि भूतानीत्येवमेव व्यचीक्लृपत् ॥

The Lord, who knows the secret of all things has supported this view in the words: "But I am not in them" … "nor are the beings in Me".

यदि सत्यं भवेद्विश्वं सुषुप्तामुपलभ्यताम् । यन्नोपलभ्यते किञ्चिदतोऽसत्स्वप्नवन्मृषा ॥

If the universe be true, let it then be perceived in the state of deep sleep also. As it is not at all perceived, it must be unreal and false, like dreams.

अतः पृथङ्नास्ति जगत्परात्मनः पृथक्प्रतीतिस्तु मृषा गुणादिवत् ।
आरोपितस्यास्ति किमर्थवत्ताऽ- धिष्ठानमाभाति तथा भ्रमेण ॥ २३५॥

Therefore the universe does not exist apart from the Supreme Self; and the perception of its separateness is false like the qualities (of blueness etc., in the sky). Has a superimposed attribute any meaning apart from its substratum ? It is the substratum which appears like that through delusion.

भ्रान्तस्य यद्यद्भ्रमतः प्रतीतं ब्रह्मैव तत्तद्रजतं हि शुक्तिः ।
इदन्तया ब्रह्म सदैव रूप्यते त्वारोपितं ब्रह्मणि नाममात्रम् ॥

Whatever a deluded man perceives through mistake, is Brahman and Brahman alone: The silver is nothing but the mother-of-pearl. It is Brahman which is always considered as this universe, whereas that which is superimposed on the Brahman, viz. the universe, is merely a name.

अतः परं ब्रह्म सदद्वितीयं विशुद्धविज्ञानघनं निरञ्जनम् ।
प्राशान्तमाद्यन्तविहीनमक्रियं निरन्तरानन्दरसस्वरूपम् ॥

निरस्तमायाकृतसर्वभेदं नित्यं सुखं निष्कलमप्रमेयम् ।
अरूपमव्यक्तमनाख्यमव्ययं ज्योतिः स्वयं किञ्चिदिदं चकास्ति ॥

Hence whatever is manifested, viz. this universe, is the Supreme Brahman Itself, the Real, the One without a second, pure, the Essence of Knowledge, taintless, serene, devoid of beginning and end, beyond activity, the Essence of Bliss Absolute – transcending all the diversities created by Maya or Nescience, eternal, ever beyond the reach of pain, indivisible, immeasurable, formless, undifferentiated, nameless, immutable, self-luminous.

Which clearly demonstrates that world/universe is unreal!


[1] as I've discussed here. Also सत्यं ज्ञानमनन्तं ब्रह्म (Taittariya Upanishad 2-1). Read BG 17.23 , 17.26 also.

Note: Without doing more arguments we should focus on attaining the ultimate truth i.e Aatman (आत्मा) /Brahman (ब्रह्म). [Mundaka Upanishad 1-3 : knowing what all this things can be known], [Brihadaranyak 2-8-5]

  • You can find some argument & definition 1, 2, 3(dictionary). – Paṇḍyā Mar 29 '16 at 11:47
  • I had checked those dictionaries while posting. .de doesn't list "unreal" at all. .com doesn't list "unreal" as primary meaning. But at the bottom, from external reference it suggests "not in reality". Your above dictionary(3) says: "not altogether unreal ...". Any other source for "मिथ्या = Unreal"? Let's not equate "False = Unreal". "False" exists, while "Unreal" doesn't. 1 + 1 = 3 is a "False" answer, but still "Real". Not answering at all is "Unreal" answer. These words are confusing, due to our day to day usage. But "Unreal" in this context is creating a "Real" confusion. :-) – iammilind Mar 29 '16 at 11:50
  • @iammilind check my revisions ( 1 onwards.). – Paṇḍyā May 2 '16 at 6:12
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The Advaita belief that the physical Universe does not exist is described in great detail in the Karika or commentary of the Mandukya Upanishad by Gaudapada, who was Adi Shankaracharya's guru's guru. (There are some issues with Gaudapada's authorship of the Karika, which I discuss here.) In chapter 2 of his commentary, Gaudapada argues that just as objects we see in dreams are not real because we cannot find them when we wake up, similarly the objects seen in the waking world are not real because we cannot find them when we are dreaming:

  1. Harih Aum. The wise declare the unreality of all entities seen in dreams, because they are located within the body and the space therein is confined.

  2. The dreamer, on account of the shortness of the time involved, cannot go out of the body and see the dream objects. Nor does he, when awakened, find himself in the places seen in the dream.

  3. Scripture, on rational grounds, declares the non—existence of the chariots etc. perceived in dreams. Therefore the wise say that the unreality established by reason is proclaimed by scripture.

  4. The different objects seen in the confined space of dreams are unreal on account of their being perceived. For the same reason i.e. on account of their being perceived, the objects seen in the waking state are also unreal. The same condition i.e. the state of being perceived exists in both waking and dreaming. The only difference is the limitation of space associated with dream objects.

  5. Thoughtful persons speak of the sameness of the waking and dream states on account of the similarity of the objects perceived in both states on the grounds already mentioned.

  6. 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.

  7. The utility of the objects of waking experience is contradicted in dreams; therefore they are certainly unreal. Thus both experiences, having a beginning and an end, are unreal.

  8. The objects perceived by the dreamer, not usually seen in the waking state, owe their existence to the peculiar conditions under which the cognizer i.e. the mind functions for the time being, as with those residing in heaven. The dreamer, associating himself with the dream conditions, perceives those objects, even as a man, well instructed here, goes from one place to another and sees the peculiar objects belonging to those places.

9—10. In dreams, what is imagined within the mind is illusory and what is cognized outside by the mind, real; but truly, both are known to be unreal. Similarly, in the waking state, what is imagined within by the mind is illusory and what is cognized outside by the mind, real; but both should be held, on rational grounds, to be unreal.

Here is Adi Shankaracharya says in his commentary on Karika 6:

The objects perceived to exist in the waking state are unreal for this reason also, that they do not really exist either at the beginning or at the end. Such objects (of experience) as mirage, etc., do not really exist either at the beginning or at the end. Therefore they do not (really) exist in the middle either. This is the decided opinion of the world. The several objects perceived to exist really in the waking state are also of the same nature. Though they (the objects of experience) are of the same nature as illusory objects, such as mirage, etc., on account of their non-existence at the beginning and at the end, still they are regarded as real by the ignorant, that is, the persons that do not know Ātman.

And here is what he says in his commentary on Karikas 9 and 10:

Having refuted the contention of the opponent that there exists no similarity between objects of the waking state and the abnormal (unusual) objects seen in dream, (the text proceeds to point out) the truth of the objects of waking state being (unreal) like those of dream. In the dream state also those which are mere modifications of the mind, cognized within, are illusory. For, such internal objects vanish the moment after they are cognized. In that very dream such objects as pot, etc., cognized by the mind and perceived by the sense-organs, eyes, etc., as existing outside, are held to be real. Thus, though all the dream experiences are, without doubt, known to be unreal, yet they arrange themselves as real and unreal. Both kinds of objects (in dream), imagined by the mind internally and externally, are found to be unreal. Similarly in the waking experience objects known as real and imaginary (mental) should be rationally held to be unreal. Objects, internal and external, are creations of the mind (whether they be-in the dream or in the waking state). Other matters have already been explained.

In any case, later on in the chapter Gaudapada gives his view of the true nature of reality:

  1. As dreams, illusions and castles in the air are viewed, so is the tangible universe viewed by the wise, well versed in Vedanta.

  2. 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.

  3. Atman is imagined as the unreal objects that are perceived to exist and as Non—duality as well. The objects, too, are imagined in the non—dual Atman. Therefore Non—duality is Bliss.

  4. The diversity in the universe does not exist as an entity identical With Atman, nor does it exist by itself. Neither is it separate from Brahman nor is it non—separate. This is the statement of the wise.

  5. The wise, who are free from attachment, fear and anger and are well versed in the Vedas, have realized Atman as devoid of all phantasms and free from the illusion of the manifold and as non—dual.

  6. Therefore, knowing Atman as such, fix your attention on Non—duality. Having realized Non—duality, behave in the world like an inert object.

Here is what Adi Shankaracharya says on his commentary on Karika 32:

This verse sums up the meaning of the chapter. When duality is perceived to be illusory and Ātman alone is known as the sole Reality, then it is clearly established that all our experiences, ordinary or religious (Vedic), verily pertain to the domain of ignorance. Then one perceives that there is no dissolution, i.e., destruction (from the standpoint of Reality); no birth or creation, i.e., coming into existence; no one in bondage, i.e., no worldly being; no pupilage, i.e., no one adopting means for the attainment of liberation; no seeker after liberation, and no one free from bondage (as bondage does not exist). The Ultimate Truth is that the stage of bondage, etc., cannot exist in the absence of creation and destruction. How can it be said that there is neither creation nor destruction? It is thus replied:—There is no duality (at any time). The absence of duality is indicated by such Scriptural passages as, “When duality appears to exist....” “One who appears to see multiplicity....” “All this is verily Ātman.” “Ātman is one and without a second.” “All that exists is verily the Ātman,” etc. Birth1 or death can be predicated only of that which exists and never of what does not exist[.]

Also, in chapter 4 of his commentary, Gaudapada makes the argument hat just as mountains and the like which are perceived in dreams are not real because they cannot possibly exist within the human body, so too mountains and the like which are perceived in the waking states are not real because they cannot possibly exist within Brahman:

31—32. If a thing is non—existent 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. The utility of the objects of waking experience is contradicted in dreams; therefore they are certainly unreal. Both experiences have a beginning and an end.

  1. All entities seen in dreams are unreal, because they are perceived inside the body. How is it possible for things that are perceived to exist, really to exist in Brahman, which is indivisible and homogeneous?

  2. It is not reasonable to think that a dreamer actually goes out in order to experience the objects seen in the dream, because of the discrepancy of the time involved in such a journey. Nor does he, when awakened, find himself in the places seen in the dream.

  3. The dreamer, after awaking, realizes the illusoriness of the conversations he had with friends etc. in the dream state. Further, he does not possess in the waking state anything he acquired while dreaming.

  4. The dream body is unsubstantial because the other i.e. the physical body, different from it, is perceived. Like the dream body, all things cognized by the mind are unsubstantial.

  5. Since the experience of objects in dreams is similar to the experience of objects in the waking state, waking experience is regarded as the cause of dream experience. It is only by him who admits waking experience to be the cause of dream experience that waking experience can be regarded as real.

  6. All entities are said to be unborn, since birth cannot be established as a fact. It is utterly impossible for the unreal to be born of the real.

  7. A man filled with the impressions of the unreal objects seen in the waking state sees those very things in dreams as well. But he does not see in the waking state the unreal objects seen in dreams.

  8. The unreal cannot have another unreality for its cause, nor can the real have the unreal for its cause. The real cannot be the cause of the real. And how utterly impossible it is for the real to be the cause of the unreal!

  9. As a person in the waking state through false knowledge appears to handle objects, whose nature is inscrutable, as if they were real, so also, in dreams, he perceives, through false knowledge, objects whose existence is possible in the dream state alone.

  10. Wise men teach causality only for the sake of those who, afraid of non—creation, assert the reality of external objects because they perceive such objects and also because they cling to various social and religious duties.

  11. Those who, because of their fear of the truth of absolute non— creation and also because of their perception of external objects, deny ajati (non—creation) are not affected by the evil consequent on the belief in creation. This evil, if there is any, is insignificant.

  12. As an elephant conjured up by a magician is taken to be real because it is perceived to exist and also because it answers to the behavior of a real elephant, so also external objects are taken to be real because they are perceived to exist and because one can deal with them.

Finally, let me end with the salutation that Adi Shankaracharya makes at the conclusion of his commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad:

I salute Brahman, the destroyer of the fear of those who take refuge in It—which, though unborn, appears to be associated with birth through Its own majestic powers; which, though motionless, appears to be moving; and which, though non— dual, appears to have assumed many forms to those whose vision is deluded by the perception of diverse objects and their attributes.

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    BTW, this Q is neither to refute Advaita nor to challenge Shankara. The main concern is If the "mithyA" word is translated as "unreal"/"non-existent". It will be helpful if you could put the relevant Sanskrit verses, only for those translations where "unreal"/"non-existent" word are seen. I find your answer useful. But my main concern is If the objects created out of Prakruti are real or not. Because Shankara doesn't regard Prakruti as unreal in his commentary of BG 13.20. – iammilind Mar 30 '16 at 1:33
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    @iammilind That's why I made sure that my answer wasn't dependent on the word Mithya at all, instead I presented the detailed arguments of Gaudapada and Adi Shankaracharya on exactly why they think that the objects perceived in the waking state cannot possibly exist. In any case, if you want Gaudapada's commentary in Sanskrit, here it is: sanskritdocuments.org/doc_upanishhat/kaarikaa.itx It's in ITRANS format, but you can convert it to other formats using this tool: learnsanskrit.org/tools/sanscript – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 30 '16 at 2:24
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    Then the point is missed. My Q is not about if the belief system is right or not, but the possible translation (error), which may create havoc. Gaudapada & Shankara would have given their commentaries in Sanskrit or their local language. It would have been common people like us, who translated into English. The entire meaning will change If a a keyword like mithyA is mistranslated. Similar to how PrabhupAda has wrongly translated Gita at several places. Anyways, I will try to look at the links you posted. – iammilind Mar 30 '16 at 2:34
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    @iammilind Well, the point of my answer wasn't about whether the Advaita belief system was right or wrong (I think it's unequivocally wrong), the point was to present the arguments of Gaudapada and Adi Shankaracharya in sufficient detail that there would be no confusion about the fact that they believed that things perceived in the waking state cannot possibly exist. The logical structure of their argument makes clear exactly what they believe, regardless of whether the word for "unreal" or whatever is properly translated or not. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 30 '16 at 2:43
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    you have misinterpreted Sankara. Sankara does not posit that the universe does not exist. He posits that we are interpreting the universe wrongly. There is a tremendous difference between the two. The Universe is real - but we see it wrongly. The universe is Brahman seen through the lens of Maya, it does not have a separate existence apart from Brahman. – Swami Vishwananda Apr 1 '16 at 7:10
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The doctrine of Maya is expressed as a logical formulation of the nature of the world experience. The school of Advaita Vedanta views Maya in this manner, ie., the world is maya. Swami Tapasyananda explains this way of viewing the world as follows:

.. it is necessary to say what Mayavadins, mistakenly called illusionists, mean by the expression maya. They think that the real and unreal are not contradictory terms, but only contraries with a middle ground between them. At one end stands the absolutely unreal or fictitious entities like 'horn of a hare' and the 'son of a barren woman'. These are mere words, without any reality. At the other end stands Brahman, the absolutely real, which can never be negated by anything. Between these two extremes, there are two levels, forming a middle ground, as it were, which thought cannot exclusively classify with either of them. The first of these two middle categories is the experiences of the dream, and those caused by errors of perception.... At the time of perception these phenomena appear absolutely real, and therefore, as far as the perceiver is concerned, for the moment, the experienced objects are there. But when the error is dispelled by right knowledge the illusion disappears totally, or even if the appearance of it persists owing to a combination of circumstances, it no longer deceives the perceiver... The second of these intermediate categories is the phenomenal world which we experience in our working life, and which, after all, causes us all the problems of philosophy and religion. The school of thought [Advaita Vedanta].. tries to understand it also on the analogy of the erroneous perceptions described above. But it would be wrong to state that they put it on a par with them. What they contend is that there have been men who have experienced an awakening corresponding to the disillusionment from illusory perceptions. It is an awakening into a wider consciousness, on gaining which - and it is then and then alone - the phenomenal world is recognized to be on a par with experience of illusory perceptions, i.e. it either disappears completely or, if it continues to be perceived, it is no longer felt to be, in itself, of any reality or value.

Sri Ramakrishna's thoughts in a vedantic perspective by Swami Tapasyananda

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