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False Conception In Hinduism – Concept Of Abhasa

In Hinduism, abhasa is false conception regarding the materiality of the world of appearance, that which is illumined, a principle or category in Shaiva ontology. The concept of Abhasa applies to both the objective world and the subjective world. The concept predicates that there are two parts of ‘I’ – one part is made of pure intelligence or pure consciousness and the other subsists on subjectivity. In other words, this abhasa is equivalent to the concept of maya and therefore concerns the concept of Brahman as well.

One school of thought holds maya as the dvara (gate) through which one Brahman appears as many. Abhasa confirms the reality of Brahman as the only truth. But Abhasa cannot be altogether ignored. Vacaspati Mishra believes that maya is co-existent with Brahman. In that sense, abhasa or the world of appearance is expedient for the operation of the Universe. This process of operation of abhasa conceals Brahman as its object.

An individual can realize the relationship between the world of appearance and Brahman by regarding all sensory data as illusory. The gross physical world, the senses of perception, mind and the intellect are all truly non-existent and hence constitute only abhasa.

The intellect mediates on Brahman and disregards other objects by saying neti neti. When all other objects are negated, the final residue is nothing but Brahman, and Brahman alone. In that state of experience, abhasa is totally effaced. This is because when limitations are rooted out, all differences of divisions created by abhasa disappear. In the void of abhasa now pervades the infinite Brahman. The indescribable and inconceivable Brahman is attained through the realization of the falsity of abhasa.

Abhasa leads to false knowledge. True knowledge is opposed to it. However, the two coexist. A person who has realized Brahman has a bodily existence. According to the text of Vedas, maya appears to be absolutely unreal, a non-entity. However, it is Brahman that assumes diverse forms through maya.

Vedantins propose that the impact of abhasa through its magical creations is indefinable, unchangeable and entirely different from Brahman, who is constant (nitya).

Brahman is different from maya because abhasa created by maya does not exist in reality. Brahman manifests itself by subordinating abhasa or maya and facilitating the incarnation of Brahman on the earth from time to time.

Yoga Vasistha is one of the texts that illustrates the idea that this world is a perfect abhasa. Abhasa is the sensory data. According to Adi Shankaracharya, a person is fed on this knowledge which leads to actions in the jurisdiction of abhasa. The magic of maya diverts a person from the path of true knowledge (or understanding of Brahman as the final truth). Quoting from Chandogya Upanishad, Adi Shankaracharya talks about the quest for emancipation which does not yield early fruit. But the actions which bear early fruit continue to cast the spell of abhasa and keep on deferring the attainment of mukti (liberation).

The Adi Shankara School of Vedanta says that ajnana (nescience) is the factor that deludes the mind and obstructs the comprehension of Brahman. This ajnana or avidya creates illusions.

The concept of abhasa is integral to the concept of Brahman. Passage through the world of senses enables a person to get over maya or abhasa and perceive the path of sat, chit and ananda (knowledge, existence and bliss). That opens the vista to Brahman. Therein lies the significance and purpose of abhasa.

In Kashmir Shaiva philosophy, abhasa signifies thirty six tattvas (ontological categories or principles) ranging from Shiva tattva or prithvi tattva – from the most subtle and pervasive to the most gross and limited. In its typical philosophical position, Kashmir Shaivism holds that whatever ‘appears’ in whatsoever forms – all are real as they all are manifestations of Paramashiva (the Universal Being/ Consciousness).