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Vyavaharika In Hindu Religion

In Hindu religion, Vyavaharika is a Sanskrit word meaning empirical or worldly experience, one of the levels of reality. Philosophically, it is concerned with Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism). Upanishadic texts describe the Supreme Reality (Brahman) as formless and with form. To remove this contradiction, Adi Shankaracharya put forth the theory of three orders of reality (sattatraya) –

  • Illusory (pratibhasika)
  • Empirical (vyavaharika)
  • Transcendental or Absolute (paramarthika)

According to Adi Shankaracharya, the formless Brahman is the only Ultimate Reality (paramarthika satya), and the Brahman with form is only empirically (vyavaharika) real, real for worship and meditation.

The three orders of reality put forth by Adi Shankaracharya are based on our day to day experience of this world. The illusory level can be said of the dream experience. Everything in the dream vanishes as soon as one wakes up. Dream experience is contradicted by the waking state. Vyavaharika is experimental or empirical reality. This world and worldly things belong to this category. This world, though finite and phenomenal, is not illusory like pratibhasika. This world exists because we all experience it. Though this world and worldly experiences are real for all practical purposes, they are not real ultimately. It is like mistaking a rope for a snake in the dark. If this world can we are all unreal, then this would go against our day-to-day experience. Therefore, Adi Shankaracharya explained that this empirical world and all its experiences are true until the realization of the Self. This world experience is the highest reality for ignorant people. But for a realized self, this empirical world experience becomes sublated. Unreality of this world can be realized only after the realization of the Supreme Reality (Brahman).

Adi Shankaracharya does not dismiss the world as absolutely unreal. He only explains that when Brahman – the ground of all phenomena – is realized, then the world is less real compared to the Supreme Reality. After the stabilization of super-conscious experience revealing the identity of one only behind all, the world of multiplicity exists no more. When the realized being returns to a lower level, his experience of Advaita (non-dualism) still lives with him and so the reality of the world is not equally valid for him.