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Astitva Concept In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Astitva is ultimate reality described as ‘pure existence’. Asti means ‘is’. Astitva means ‘is-ness’. This is one of the attributes of Brahman; it exists and never ceases to be. The other attributes are absolute, non-dual and real. It is the one constant among variables, and therefore the only real. It cannot be contradicted. Existence is its essence.

Precisely for this reason, the existence of Brahman is different from the existence of other objects of the world. The objects of the world are said to possess five characteristics –

  1. Existence
  2. Manifestation
  3. Lovability
  4. Name
  5. Form

The first three constitute the essential nature of Brahman and the last two are the variable nature of the world. So, in empirical usages such as ‘the pot exists’, ‘the cloth exists’ and so on, the existence cognized in the pot or the cloth is not its nature but that of the underlying reality, Brahman. It is wrongly attributed to the object due to ignorance, just as in the case of red-hot iron, it is fire that is hot but by transference, the iron is said to be hot. By its sameness in all things, existence (Astitva) is known to be the basic reality called Brahman.

This nature of Brahman as non-dual and pure existence is intimately intuited when all illusions about it are removed. This constitutes Self-knowledge or realization. That is why Upanishads like Katha Upanishad (II-3.13) say that the Brahman-reality is to be understood only as existence (asti-ity-eva-upaladhavyah).