Does the Universe really exist? Satyam Mithya
Does the Universe really exist? Bhagavad Gita chapter 2 verse 16 succinctly addresses this question – see http://www.advaita-academy.org/blogs/the-nature-of-myself-and-the-universe/ .
Anything that ‘exists’ has 2 ‘types’ of existence:
Example 1: Hotness of fire. Does hotness come & go in fire? No, it’s always there in fire. Hence the hotness is intrinsic (svarupa) to the fire.
Example 2: Existence of clay. Before clay is made into a pot, is it still clay? Yes. After clay has been shaped into a pot, is it still clay? Yes. After the pot has been smashed on the floor into pieces, are the pieces still clay? Yes. Therefore is the clay always there (past, present, future)? Yes. Hence the clay has an intrinsic existence. This intrinsic existence of clay is called ‘Satyam’ in Sanskrit.
Example 1: Hotness of water. Does hotness come & go in water? Yes, sometimes water is hot and sometimes it is not. Hence hotness is incidental to the water. i.e. the hotness in water is a borrowed property, from the fire.
Example 2: Existence of a pot. Does the existence of the pot come & go? Yes. Before the pot-maker made the pot, it did not exist. It was just a lump of clay. After the pot is smashed on the floor, the pot does not exist. It is in the form of many pieces of clay on the floor. The pot exists for sometime in between its creation and destruction, so it is not always existent. Therefore the very ‘existence’ of the pot is Incidental. The pot’s existence is borrowed from something else (i.e. Clay. Without clay the pot would not exist). This ‘borrowed existence’ status for the pot is called ‘Mithya’ in Sanskrit.
These examples are given to prove only 1 point made in the Gita (2.16) – the entire Universe consisting of mere names and forms is Mithya. And Atma is Satyam. Meaning that the Universe’s very existence is entirely borrowed from Atma alone. Just like a pot entirely borrows its very existence from clay alone. And remember who is Atma? You! sat-chit-ananda atma. Clearly knowing the difference between Satyam and Mithya, one becomes a liberated wise person (tattvadarshin) who can see the truth of this world.