Khyativada is the theory of error in Hindu an Indic philosophies

There are eight other Khyatis (Refer for detailed information)

  1. Atma-Khyati

  2. A-Khyati

  3. Sadasat-khyati

  4. Anirvachniya-khyati

  5. Asat-Khyati

  6. Anyatha-khyati

  7. Sat-Khyati

  8. Viaparita-khyati

But then the Madhwas introduced a novel idea called the Abhinava Anyatha Khyati.

What is it? And how does it compare with the Anirvachniya-khyati of Advaita?

Edit: Here's an extremely well written answer on Quora


The Abhinava Anyatha Khyati is about illusory experience. Let me discuss Madhva’s theory.

Abhinava Anyatha Khyati

This brings us to the problem of illusory experiences. All Indian systems of philosophy, including that of the Buddhists and Jains, have their theory of illusions, which is technically called Khyati-vada. We shall consider here only those that are relevant to the understanding of Madhva’s theory known as Abhinava-anyatha-khyati, which is a combination of the Buddhists’ Asat-khyati and the Anyatha-khyati of the Logical Realists, the Nayyayikas. The Logical Realists explain the traditional example of the illusory perception of silver in nacre (mother of pearl) thus: ‘The silver is not in the shell but in the bazaar (market). That silver of the bazaar is seen in the nacre and confused with it.’ There are three elements involved in this - the locus, silveriness or silver of the bazaar and the synthesis of these due to various environmental causes. The illusion .. is removed when the sublating perception, ‘This is not silver but nacre’ dawns on the perceiver. The Nayyayikas maintain that what this sublating knowledge negates is not the actual silver in the bazaar, but only the identification of it with the ‘this’ or the locus of the nacre. Thus they substantiate their realism even in illusory perception by maintaining that the silver perceived is not false, as it is present in the bazaar. ….

The Buddhist theory of Asat-khyati is meant not merely to show that the traditional example of illusory experiences like the silver in the nacre, the snake in the rope, and the water in the desert (in a mirage) are illusory perceptions, but to explain on the basis of such analogy that the whole of our experience of the world as outside is illusory. …The idealist or Vijnanavadis (they say the the whole of the world is simply a mental experience) extend this analogically to the totality of the world experience. The Sunyavadi Buddhists consider all experience to be like the circle seen when a torch is whirled round and round at a rapid speed. The circle does not actually exist, yet it is experienced. Similarly, non-existence is the nature of the world… It is all Sunya or something falsely perceived as existing.

Now Madhva in the first place agrees with the Idealist Buddhists in their total denial of actual existence for the object of illusion, say silver, perceived outside. But he does not deny the locus, the ‘this’ where the false perception manifests. For in a false perception also there is a real contact of the perceiving faculty, say sight, with a real object as given in a distorted presentation. That distorted presentation, which has no actual existence, is the illusion. He thus agrees with the Nayyayika realists in holding that there is a contact between the senses and an object, but it is not with the actual silver of the bazaar but with the distortion of the locus, here in this instance, nacre.

Bhakti Schools of Vedanta by Swami Tapasyananda

The text below is optional. How does Madhva's position differ from that of the Advaita?

Anirvacaniya khyati

The Advaita Vedantin is one with Madhva in refuting these Buddhist theories from his Vyavaharika (empirical) point of view, and concurs partially with them from the Paramarthika (metaphysical) point of view.

Bhakti Schools of Vedanta by Swami Tapasyananda

The Advaitins say that the silver in the nacre is an illusion. However, the silver itself cannot be wished away as illusion as Buddhists do in the vyavaharika point of view. Another way to think of this is that the universe appears on Nirguna Brahman due to ignorance without affecting the Absolute. Being only an appearance caused by Ignorance, the manifold world is like a rope appearing as a snake or a nacre appearing as silver in defective situations. This means that the universe does not exist at all from the Absolute point of view but exists from the empirical point of view.

This creates a peculiar situation that the universe or the silver in the nacre both exists (vyavaharika level) and does not exist (Paramarthika level)! Thus the entire universe has an indeterminate existence.

He calls this intermediate reality as Sad-asad-anirvachaniya, indeterminate existent non-existent experience. It is existent, because it [nacre, universe] is actually experienced; it is also non-existent because it is sublated. Sublated means that it is stultified and revealed as having never existed really even when it is being experienced as real. So it is a category forming a mixture of both reality and unreality, and for this reason indeterminable (anirvacaniya) in either way exclusively. This is called Anirvacaniya-khyati.

Bhakti Schools of Vedanta by Swami Tapasyananda

Madhva’s criticism of Anirvacaniya-Khyati

His basic criticism is that to claim that something is both existent and non-existent at the same time, as Advaitins do, is only a verbal fiction. The existent is the contrary of the non-existent, without any middle ground between them. So they cannot coexist.

An Advaita experience in literature

When they returned to the room and Narendra heard the Master speaking to others, he was surprised to find in his words an inner logic, a striking sincerity, and a convincing proof of his spiritual nature. In answer to Narendra's question, "Sir, have you seen God?" the Master said: "Yes, I have seen God. I have seen Him more tangibly than I see you. I have talked to Him more intimately than I am talking to you." Continuing, the Master said: "But, my child, who wants to see God? People shed jugs of tears for money, wife, and children. But if they would weep for God for only one day they would surely see Him." Narendra was amazed. These words he could not doubt. This was the first time he had ever heard a man saying that he had seen God. But he could not reconcile these words of the Master with the scene that had taken place on the verandah only a few minutes before. He concluded that Sri Ramakrishna was a monomaniac, and returned home rather puzzled in mind.

During his second visit, about a month later, suddenly, at the touch of the Master, Narendra felt overwhelmed and saw the walls of the room and everything around him whirling and vanishing. "What are you doing to me?" he cried in terror. "I have my father and mother at home." He saw his own ego and the whole universe almost swallowed in a nameless void. With a laugh the Master easily restored him. Narendra thought he might have been hypnotized, but he could not understand how a monomaniac could cast a spell over the mind of a strong person like himself. He returned home more confused than ever, resolved to be henceforth on his guard before this strange man.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Introduction by Swami Nikhilananda

It is a possibility that the Advaita Anirvachaniya Khyati comes from this type of experience.


My aim here is to answer your question in the comment. Has advaita refuted the khyati of various schools?

Advaita has extensively discussed Anirvachniya-khyati and contrasted it with other khyati. Please see the first chapter of panchadasi entitled superimposition. A more detailed discussion on this is found in the book methods of knowledge of satprakashananda. The main book from which I have understood this is from the book vedAnta paribhAshA, written by dharmarAja adhvarindra. This book has an entire chapter on nature of error.

You have to take a single example of silver in the nacre or snake in the rope example and look at all the eight classifications of error. For example, each school follows a different khyati.

Asat-khyātivāda madhyamika of buddhism. involves perception of non-existent entities. This is rejected because they say both silver and nacre is false. One could be more false than the other. But Brahman is sat and can not be rejected at any time.

Akhyātivāda Prabhakara Mimansa. the error lies not in perception but in the lack of appropriate discrimination. Advaita rejects this because silver is perceived here and now. It is not from memory.

Anyathā-khyātivāda Nyaya According to this nyAya theory, the silver and nacre are both real and the perception of the brightness of the nacre is interpreted as the silver. Advaita dismisses these arguments based on that perception of silver is taking place now and it is not nacre.

Ātma-khyātivāda Yogacara of buddhism. Falsity is due to internalization of thoughts. This is rejected on the basis that falsity cannot be separated from the truth

sat khyAti – this is the theory of vishiShTAdvaita (Ramanuja) and argues that there must be real silver present in the nacre for one to see. Since all objects are fundamentally made of the same five elements, everything is present in everything else. Hence, perception of silver in the nacre is due to the presence of real silver there. This can be dismissed because then every object consists of everything else.

sadasat khyAti – this theory of sAMkhya is based upon ‘united’ perception of a real (sat) and unreal (asat) object. This is dismissed by advaita on the grounds that something that is non-existent cannot be perceived in front of one, just because it is existent elsewhere.

Anirvacanīya-khyātivāda Advaita. the illusory object of the snake is a product of ignorance (avidyā) about the substratum of the rope and the error is caused due to Maya (which is also indescribable).

Dvaita developed a new kind of anyatha-khyati and is termed abhinava anyatha-khyati '. The central point in Madhva's explanation is that the non-existent is apprehensible.

From the same book,

Ramanuja has tried to maintain that the silver experienced in illusory knowledge is real (sat) but we have shown that he has not succeeded in doing so. Madhva has similarly failed to establish that the silver in the shell-silver cognition is asat. These theories result in the advaitic view that the silver is neither sat not asat. Why silver is presented to sense where there is only a bit of shell is left unexplained. It is evident that none of the theories can cogently account for the unitary cognition that arises in an error-situation and its subsequent conative activity. We must therefore admit that the serpent in the rope or the silver in the nacre comes under a unique category. It is neither absolutely real nor absolutely unreal. It is anirvacaniya, i.e., non-determinable.

  • 1
    Great answer, but this answerainly focuses on Anirvachniya-khyati rather than Abhinava Anyatha Khyati. It just says Madhwa has failed explain, while there is an explaination given, refer qr.ae/pGIGQW. He clearly says whenever there is dosha in object, or person or environment. This causes the error – Mr Green Gold Apr 19 at 6:40
  • I have written. See the last sentence. The central point in Madhva's explanation is that the non-existent is apprehensible. It is claimed silver in the shell-silver cognition is asat. Advaita says this view is wrong as the silver is clearly perceived. Further, my response is more to your question, "Advaitis have refuted the other khyatis??" – GIRIBLR Apr 19 at 6:44

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