Adi Shankaracharya taught:

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.
Vivekachudamani 234 (translated by Swami Madhavananda)

On the other hand, the above is refuted by the Brahma Sutras:

(External objects are) not non-existent, for they are perceived. And because of the difference of nature (the waking state is) not (false) like dream etc.
Brahma-Sutra 2.2.28-29 (translated by Swami Gambhirananda)

Non-existence (of things external) is not (true), on account of their being experienced. And owing to the difference of nature (in consciousness between the waking and the dream state, the experience of the waking state) is not like dreams etc.
Brahma-Sutra 2.2.28-29 (translated by Swami Vireshwarananda)

Swami Vireshwarananda commented (in the link above):

The external world is an object of experience through the senses, and cannot therefore be altogether non-existent like the horns of a hare. .... There is a difference between the dream state and the waking state. What is seen in a dream is contradicted by waking experience, it is unreal. The dream state is a kind of memory, but the waking state is a real perception; so it cannot be rejected as untrue. Moreover, what is the proof of the existence of consciousness except experience? If that is so, why should not an object which is experienced be taken also as existing?

Is Advaita refuted by Brahma Sutras?

How does Advaita Vedanta defend itself against the refutation by the Brahma Sutras above?

Is Advaita true and the Brahma Sutras false, or vice versa? How can they both be true?

Swami Vireshwarananda also acknowledged this contradiction in his comments but did not provide further explanation on it:

It may be said that even the Vedantins acknowledge the unreality of the external world, since it is contradicted by the knowledge of Brahman, and that this view is based on the Srutis.

If the Advaitin view is based on the Srutis, then wouldn't that make the Brahma Sutras contradictory to the Srutis?

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    Unclear how the quotes you give support your statement that the Brahma Sutras refute Advaita. You may want to reread again. Jul 6, 2022 at 13:24
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    @SwamiVishwananda Why is it not clear? The Vivekachudamani quote says both the universe (i.e. the external world that is perceived) and dreams are false and unreal. The Brahma Sutras say, the external world is not false unlike dreams. Isn't that a contradiction? Even Swami Vireshwaranda acknowledged it in his comments.
    – ruben2020
    Jul 6, 2022 at 13:30
  • The sensual world exists in a relative sense, not an absolute sense. Swami Vivekananda says - The world is God and is real, but that is not the world we see; just as we see silver in the mother-of-pearl where it is not. That is what is known as Adhyasa or superimposition, that is, a relative existence dependent upon a real one,..."taking a thing for what it is not". We see reality, but distorted by the medium through which we see it. Jul 9, 2022 at 15:19
  • You see the 'world' - but it reality you see God - distorted through the lens of Maya. You see Brahman - but you think it is the world. Ask 'Who am 'I'? Jul 9, 2022 at 15:22

3 Answers 3


You shouldn't have stopped at Vivecudamani 234. Let us look at what Vivekcudamani says in the very next shloka.

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 [1] which appears like that through delusion.

[1] Substratum etc. - A rope appears as a snake. This idea is made clear in the next few shlokas.

Vivecudamani 235

Vivekcudamani 234 is giving an unusual analogy when it talks of deep sleep. However, the subsequent shlokas make it clear that it is basically talking of the familiar 'rope appearing as a snake' illustration of Advaita Vedanta.

The 'rope appearing as a snake' analogy says that the universe is in a state of mithya. It is a phenomenon that is superimposed on Brahman. It is real as a phenomenon but not completely real. We will see Brahman as the universe as long as we remain within the domain of maya. We will see it as Brahman when we go beyond maya.

An example

Think of our day time experience. We see a blue dome above us when there is a cloudless sky during day time. The blue dome is real to us who live on the surface of the earth. However, even during day time the earth is surrounded by darkness of space studded by stars. The universe is like that blue dome which is superimposed on the darkness of space (Brahman). We will see the blue dome as long as we remain close to the surface of the earth, i.e., we remain in the domain of maya. If we manage to go far from the earth surface (for example the International Space Station), i.e. go beyond maya, then we will see the actual reality, the dark space with stars. Advaita Vedanta says that the universe is like that blue dome which is not completely real but also not completely unreal but mithya.

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    So, is the external world/ universe real or unreal? Or are you saying it's absolutely unreal but apparently real?
    – ruben2020
    Jul 7, 2022 at 4:20
  • @ruben2020 I have written some additional material to explain the Advaita position. Jul 7, 2022 at 4:39
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    @PradipGangopadhyay Sir so Consiouness creates all objects (world) manifests itself in them, and this is called superimposition? Sep 2, 2023 at 19:39
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    This example is soo wonderful sir. One of the most brilliant ones. Gold Ornaments, Ashtavarka Janaka and this one. Superb Sep 2, 2023 at 19:40
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    Yes. consciousness projects the entire universe. We see the universe but not the substratum which is the pure Consciousness. A Jnani sees both and the universe appears as a superimposition on Pure Consciousness. There is an even higher state called vijnan. Sep 3, 2023 at 5:10

The question proposed, seems to be related with the Bhagavad Gita shloka 2.16.

nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ ubhayorapi dṛiṣhṭo ’nta stvanayos tattva-darśhibhiḥ(2.16) Of the unreal , there is no being, the real has no non-existence,the nature of both of them Indeed has been realised by the seers of truth(translation Swami Gambirananda)

Mithya could be either bhava(presence) or abhava(absence).

Its impossible that bhava and abhava can go together, as they are mutually exclusive (like light and darkness), thus can't be simultaneous.Thereby, what remains is , either bhava or abhava,(as it does translate to neither bhava nor abhava).

If you take the case of a pencil, it was abhava before it was manufactured, and after it got used up ,but bhava as well, when it was being used.

Here , the experiential reality connected with the pencil is not denied, however , it is construed, the bhava has undergone cessation,or it did not exist before, thus it is either real or unreal (understood as mithya).

In vivekachudamani 234, there is abhava of the universe during deep sleep, ( that is experienced real during waking state). Thus, as per BG 2.16, nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ ,universe cannot be satyam (real).

According to , Vivekachudamani 121, This negative rememberance of I did not know anything then , (upon waking) proves the existence of continuity among the 3 avasthaas(jagrat, swapna , sushupti) , hints the presence of awareness of the Jiva , that links them all.This very awareness of the Jiva does not undergo any abhava, is real- satyam.

Brahma Sutra 2.2.28 , 29 , seems to only state that the experiential reality is not abhava (totally denied ,as in other schools like bauddhas,) yet it doesn't mean satyam

Hence vivekachudamani 234 is in confirmity with Sri Shankara bhashya. of BS 2.2.8 and 2.2.9.


How can Ved Vyas ji rachit Brahma sutra refute Advaita, when it is the same.

Shankara Acharya has written bashya over it. Why will he write if it is refuting Advaita.

Look at this picture. Ved Vyas ji, blessed Adi Shakara Acharya, why will he bless if it is refuted? Can you answer?

enter image description here

Coming to the question read just before the verse


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Only after this the verse given by you comes. The verse 234 is for people who accept Vedas as proof. To them it is addressed. But the refutation of Brahma Sutras is for Buddhists who don't accept the Vedas. The context matters. You have cut out what Swami Vireshwaranandaji has told. He clearly says the same thing. Why are you giving half quote? give full quote.

Here is the full quote.

It may be said that even the Vedantins acknowledge the unreality of the external world, since it is contradicted by the knowledge of Brahman, and that this view is based on the Srutis. But if the Bauddhas accept the authority of the Vedas, then they would be included within the Vedantic school and no longer remain outside it, but as a matter of fact they do not accept the Vedas

This what he says. So it is clear, people can base this argument only if they accept Vedas.

Refer https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras/d/doc64248.html

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