- Adhyasa, or “superimposition” of an unreal thing upon a real one, is an important concept in the ADVAITA (non-dual) philosophy of SHANKARA, the renowned teacher of VEDANTA.A pedestrian example would be a person look-ing at a rope in a dark place and briefly seeing a snake. This sort of superimposition involves two physical objects, but the central superimposition or adhyasa in Shankara’s system is the ignorant superimposition of the empirical world upon the attribute-free BRAHMAN or ultimate reality. Humans imagine that the empirical world is real, but, just as the rope is not the snake, so is the empirical world not the brahman. Shankara holds that the phenomenal world is false (mithya) and illusory (M AYA). Ignorance (AV I D YA), leads us to see the world as real, but when knowledge (VIDYA or JNANA) dawns, we see the truth: that the only existence is brahman, the actionless, attribute-free ground of being that can be described as SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, being-consciousness-bliss.Further reading: S. N. Dasgupta, History of Indian Phi-losophy, Vol. 1 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975); ———, History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 2 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975); Daya Krishna, New Perspectives in Indian Philosophy (Jaipur: Rawat, 2001); Karl Potter, ed., Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, vol. 3 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.