In Shankara’s explication of the Advaita Vedanta, as we all know, the concept of “adhyAsa” or “superimposition” plays a significant role. This technique of ‘superimposing’ a non-existing imaginary thing (adhyAropita mithyA vastu) on a really existing substratum (adhisThAna) and later rescinding or negating (apavAda) the superimposed object has been an age-old method of imparting the Knowledge of the Self (Atman / brahman) to an eligible student. Shankara himself reveals this fact in his commentary at 13.13, BGB.
Unfortunately in the present day, the ‘eligibility criteria’ for the student are so much discounted that one doesn’t often know whether a student truly obtained the intended ‘meaning’ of the teaching or goes away with his/her own ‘idea’ of what is taught because of the unprepared nature of and/or other prior notions cluttering up his/her mind.
The actual position of Advaita siddhAnta (doctrine) is that there is no creation at all and the visible touchy-feely world is a mere imaginary (kalpita) thing that we by birth naturally “superimpose” on a rock-stable, immutable, infinite, eternal, ever-tranquil, some-indescribable, “no-thing thing.” This nameless “no-thing thing” is indicated for communicational purposes by the word, brahman. And the most popular metaphor used by Shankara in his commentaries is that of seeing mistakenly a snake in place of a rope under semi-lighted conditions. The world we see is comparable to the ‘imaginary’ snake which doesn’t really exist and brahman is like the rope.
In the snake-rope example, there is really no relation between the snake and the rope. The rope did NOT change to be a snake nor did it produce the snake. Even when we mistakenly “see” and feel the snake, the rope itself continues to be rope only! So also is the case with the world and brahman.
The inevitable question that pops up then is: “How did the world come about at all in the first place?” Well, Advaita Vedanta does not really explain. As Dennis wrote in a comment at another thread, “Brahman does not act” to bring about the snake-like world! It’s admittedly an “Explanatory Gap.” If one still insists, the scripture says that the appearance of the world is merely a hallucination on the part of the questioner. It’s stand is: “Nothing really happened!”
In order to appease the curiosity of an inquisitive seeker, shAstra (scripture) introduces a slight ‘slack’ to allow some sort of a ‘perturbation’ within the ‘unchanging’ brahman. Basing oneself on such an assumed ‘perturbation,’ explanatory “models” are built — the complexity of the model increasing with the increasing number of questions raised by the seekers.
However, one should remember, as Swami Prakasanandendra Saraswati said in the linked Video at the other thread, that any ‘model’ is still a ‘thought-construct’ in our awake world like any idea within a dream is part of the dream only (watch from about 5 min into the Video). To really understand the Truth (with Caps “T”), one has to wake up from the world that we perceive. Moreover, Shankara also agrees that the concept of “ignorance” one proposes as an explanation for our inability in knowing the truth is an explanatory artifact; he admits the ‘logical untenability’ of superimposition, as Smt. Manjushree Hegde said in the other Video linked at that thread (at about 45 min into the Video).
Hence, any answer to a question about the mechanism of superimposition necessarily involves certain ‘assumptions.’ Venkat in a comment wrote that “the individual mind is itself a superimposition on Consciousness.” I agreed with that broad suggestion. Dennis, initially, raised the Question: “Who it would be that is doing the superimposition and what mechanism they would be using?”
Later, he modified the question to add “it cannot be an action of the mind (in any of its aspects) if the mind itself is a product of the superimposition. And it cannot be Brahman, since Brahman does not act. So what exactly are you saying??”
At this stage, I would like to open up the topic for a discussion by all the participants. In the interest of having a smooth and focused deliberation on the subject, I would like to request all to let me have the freedom to edit out or alter any words in the comments that are likely to impede our main purpose of reaching a logical conclusion. In case my alterations are not acceptable, I request the author of the comment to please write to me at my e-mail so that we can arrive at mutually acceptable wording.