THREE TYPES OF REALITY
There are three types of reality as explained in Vedanta sastra. They are the pratibhasika satya, vyavaharika satya and paramarthika satya. In our life, we exist in any one of these realities for the majority of the time. Let us see each one of them with appropriate drishtantas (examples).
Pratibhasika satya is otherwise known as individual reality or subjective reality. Personal experiences of an individual like dreams, plans, imagination, thoughts, spiritual experiences, experiences from the sense organs etc are called the pratibhasika satya. They may or may not be real for others. In our jagrad avasta we mostly depend on the pratibhasika pramanas that is we mostly depend on our ideas, thoughts and sense organs. Individual decisions are important in life; they may be right or wrong for others. I may think and conclude on certain matters regardless of others feelings, emotions or facts. Many people misinterpret certain values or facts in their own convenient way. They may be right values expressed in the scriptures, but they interpret in their own way, mostly in a negative way. Even though we live in this materialistic world, most of the time we live in our world of thoughts and imagination. This is the root cause for worries and miseries; and this is called samsara. We superimpose our world of thoughts on the existing world of matter and we live in a world of asatya (our dream world). All these belong to the pratibhasika satya.
Vyavakarika satya is otherwise known as objective reality or common reality. It is the world of matter that we experience in our life. It is the materialistic world. It is otherwise said as Ishwara srishti (creation of God). It is the common experience of the world. This is the world of mitya and it loses its importance by knowledge. The common experiences of all people is called the vyavakarika satya.
Paramartika satya is the absolute reality or the complete reality. That which is true (satya) for the three periods of time is the paramartika satya; and that satya is Brahman and Brahman alone. Brahman cannot be realized by the sense organs. It is not explicit. One must do vichara (analysis) to realize the inner reality. It is the cause that does not change to give the result and for that reason it is known as vivartha karana. It is not removed by any pramana (instrument of knowledge). It is the satya and it is omnipresent. That eternal reality is the paramartika satya.
Now, an example can make us understand the three types of reality in a more clear way.
A man sees an object at a distance. First it appears as gold in the bright sunlight. Therefore, he thinks that it is a gold ball. He went near it to take it. When he neared it he realized that is a golden colour pot. When he took it and had a closer look, he realized that it is a clay pot which is painted in golden colour. In this example, his illusion that it is gold ball is the pratibhasika satya. It is only his thought and not true. When he realized that it is a golden colour pot, it is the vyavakarika satya. When he realized in a subtle way that it is only a clay pot painted in golden colour, which implies that it is only clay, it is the paramarthika satya. The clay existed even before becoming a pot; it will exist even after the pot breaks. It is the base, it exists in the three periods of time, and so it is the paramartika satya.
As said earlier, even though we live in the material world, world of matter and energy, for the majority of the time in the jagrad avasta (waking state) we live in the pratibhasika satya, the world of our thoughts and imagination. In order to understand the truth of the material world, we have to come in terms with the vyavakarika satya. Then to understand the reality we have to gradually shift to the paramartika satya.
In the world of pratibhasika satya, mind will be mostly in a negative state or it will be ignorant of the reality. To understand the paramartika satya, we have to clean up the mind and it is a two step process. The first step is the karma yoga and the second step is the jnana yoga. Karma yoga prepares the mind for knowledge and jnana yoga imparts knowledge.
One must concentrate on the duty and must accept the result with contentment. One must not justify failure or our weakness, by doing so may lead to future complications. Failure must not be accepted in a personal manner and at the same time success must not boost a person’s ego. Karma must be done for the sake of doing karma. Practicing sadhana chatustaya will remove all the negative effects from the mind. Bhakti (devotion) and self surrender to God are prime importance to attain jnana.
When the mind is prepared for jnana, one must do shravana(listening) and manana on Vedanta sastras. If the mind is not prepared to grasp the highest truth, shravana and manana will purify the mind automatically.
Sastra explains that everything, jiva, jagad, Ishwara (God), liberation, has three states of reality. Let us see each one of them separately and briefly.
THREE STATES OF REALITY IN THE JIVA
When a jiva is in his world of imagination and when his thoughts are projected by ego then he is in the state of prathibhasika satya. When the same jiva, discriminates himself from anatma and see himself as I, the Atma, which is separate from the world of experience (anatma) then he is said to be in the state of vyavakarika satya. When the jiva realizes that he is the Atma and not the anatma, the world is only an illusion set by the mind, then he is said to be in the state of paramarthika satya.
THREE STATES OF REALITY IN THE JAGAD(WORLD)
The world will remain the same. However, we view the world in three different ways according to our knowledge.
When we consider this world as the cause for our worries and miseries, then we have pratibhasika drishti on this world. Drishti means view. When we view this world as the play of maya and it is subject to change then we have vyavaharika drishti on this world. When we have complete knowledge and do not give any reality to this world and view this world as asat then we have paramarthika drishti on this world.
THREE STATES OF REALITY OF ISHWARA (GOD)
When we assume the Universal Consciousness as having a name and form, and consider that form as very personal, like Ishta devata or Kula devata, then it is the pratibhasika drishti on Ishwara. Pratibhasika drishti leads to pratibhasika satya. Pratibhasika drishti on Ishwara is the root cause for many religious fights all over the world. People try to own the consciousness which is Universal. People fail to understand the inner reality and fight over the external form. It is complete misunderstanding of the reality. When we have pratibhasika drishti on God, we pray to God and we have emotional attachment towards God. We feel that He is the dispenser of our karmic result.
When we view the Universal Consciousness as the creator of this Universe and He is the Ishwara (God), the combination of Brahman and maya, then we have vyavakarika drishti on God, which leads to vyavakarika satya. We understand that Ishwara (God) is the nimitta karana and upadhana karana of this world.
When we view Consciousness in its true sense, as absolute and infinite then we have paramartika drishti on the reality, which leads to paramartika satya. When we realize that the Truth is not different from us and it cannot be explained by words, then we have paramartika drishti on Ishwara (God).
THREE TYPES OF REALITY OF LIBERATION (MOKSHA)
When we think that liberation or moksha is going to heaven and enjoying luxuries or going to pitru loka or Brahma loka then it is called the pratibhasika satya of liberation.
There are two types of liberation in Jiva. One is jivan mukti and the other is vidheka mukti. Jivan mukti is living in this material world and leading ordinary life with complete knowledge that “I am Brahman”, and they live with this knowledge till the prarabhdha karma gets exhausted. Jiva is well aware of its true nature and after realizing he lives a detached life. He remains as a silent witness.
When the realized jiva leaves the body after the prarabhdha karma gets exhausted then it is called the vidheka mukti. He has no rebirth. By the power of his knowledge his sanchita karma as well as the agami karma is erased. Both jivan mukti as well as vidheka mukti comes under vyavakarika satya of liberation.
Paramarthika satya of liberation is that the jiva attains nitya mukti. He does not even feel that he once existed as a jiva with a body and mind. He feels that he is Brahman alone. It is the most advanced state of mukti and this is the paramartika satya of liberation (mukti).
One must understand every state of reality in a proper way. A common man usually exists in the pratibhasika satya. He must move to the next level of reality that is to vyavakarika satya and then to paramartika satya. By doing karma yoga one can elevate oneself from pratibhasika satya to vyavaharika satya. By jnana yoga one can elevate oneself from vyavaharika satya to paramartika satya.
These are the three types of reality as explained in the Vedanta sastras.