Detailed explanation of Drshti Shrishti Vada

16.1.2. Detailed analysis of dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda

Please note that most of the things are already explained above in brief. Hence this article is repeated with detailed explanation.

Since the theory of mithyā and vivarta vāda is not easy to understand, we will try to understand it in accordance with dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda with the help of rajju-sarpa vāda (snake-rope analogy). We have to keep in mind that whenever the word ‘samsāra’ or ‘world’ is used, it is meant to be taken as ‘mano sṛṣṭi’ or ‘mental world’. We will also take into account Sri Ramana Maharshi’s saying in 40 verses of reality (sat-darshan-chalisi) and of course use some logic to arrive at logical conclusion.

Sri Ramana Maharshi in 40 verses on reality verse 7 says -

Though both jagat (creation) and knowledge (mana or manas or mind) both rises (comes forth) into existence and perishes simultaneously, still, it is due to mind  (knowledge) that the world manifests itself [inside us]. That which shines or exists as the origin of creation and destruction [of inner world], and shines forth even when there is no activity of creation or destruction is the absolute truth (tatvam).

This verse is divided into two parts. The gist of first part of verse is that mind creates an image which is then superimposed on the object that is perceived. Second part of verse focuses on the substratum on which the mind projects image.  This substratum exist independently irrespective of something superimposed on it or not. We will understand them one by one.

The verse says, first mind creates name and form inside itself and then, that form is superimposed on the object. When one sees rope in dark room, one sees snake. How one perceives snake instead of rope?

First we will have to understand the process of perception. According to modern medical science, when light rays fall on retina, light rays are carried via optical fibres and the image is projected on cerebral cortex. An inverted image is formed, is then perceived by brain. Brain tries to understand the image with the information it already has. For example if we see a shape ‘clock’, light rays which fall on eye lens are projected on cerebral cortex. This can be termed as sensation. Then brain tries to interpret the image by giving a meaningful suggestion. Here the suggestion given is ‘this is a clock’.  So perception may be defined as sensation + meaningful suggestion. However, our shāshtra-s explain perception in a slightly different way. Our shāshtra-s say, that mind travels through senses up to the object, touches it, feels it and then gives meaningful suggestion. The explanation is based on mental level.

With this in mind, when mind senses anything via five senses, it immediately tries to find a meaningful explanation and tries to arrive at conclusion. When the object is not clearly perceived or seen, mind tries to correlate it with the nearest object that is stored in mind. Mind keeps imagining until it reaches an acceptable conclusion. It superimposes the nearest image on the unclear object. Nature of mind to constantly imagine until it reaches meaningful conclusion can be aptly explained by a small experiment of staring at equidistant dots


Keep seeing the dots. Soon, in few seconds, mind will try to connect dots. You may see a square, rectangle, triangle, rhombus, or any other relevant shape that mind can think of.

equidistant space shape 1.png  50987_orig vertical line.pngenigma-1723-eqvidistant shape 2.png

In above experiment, in reality, there is no shape, there are no lines, yet mind superimposes lines on dots. In other words mind sees what it chooses to see, which may not be the reality. With this in mind, let us understand vivarta vāda with the help of dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda.


In snake-rope analogy, mind cannot clearly see rope and hence it superimposes snake on it. Snake is first formed in the mind or rather, first, snake is imagined by mind and then it is superimposed on rope. Snake was non-existent prior to mind’s imagination. There was only rope.  We will break the first part of verse further into two parts for better understanding.

  • Though both jagat (creation) and knowledge (mana or manas or mind) both rises (comes forth) into existence and perishes simultaneously,

  • still, it is due to mind (knowledge) that the world manifests itself [inside us].

We will take first part of verse.

Observer sees rope, but fails to identify it and hence it projects snake on rope. One does not see rope gradually getting transformed into snake after few moments of seeing rope. On first instance one directly sees a snake. Both process of seeing rope and identifying it as snake happen simultaneously. Hence it is dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda. Here, jagat is snake and mind  represents knowledge. Without the knowledge of snake, mind cannot superimpose snake on rope.

Now let us take second part into consideration. Please go through very slowly, as on first instance it may look like we are contradicting our own claim of being dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda

Second part says, ‘it is due to mind (knowledge) that the world manifests itself [inside us].’

It can be said that -

  1. Observer sees rope, but fails to identify it. So first came dṛṣya i.e. ‘sight’. In other words, dṛṣṭi was first.

  2. Immediately mind projected image of snake on rope. Hence snake came later.

Here, the object rope already existed prior to observer stepping in dark room. But it’s existence was not noted and is of little consequence to the observer. Observer is not influenced by rope due to absence of cognition. The wrong cognition of rope as snake was due to faulty perception of mind. The image of snake was first created or imagined in mind before it was projected on external object rope. Here mind represents knowledge and snake represents the world (samsāra). Snake is indeed considered as real on first instance of perception and the observer continues to believe in this false perception until the truth is revealed to him. The world (of observer) is conceived inside the mind first. Hence it is the mind that makes the world (as perceived by observer) into existence (though both vision and projection happen simultaneously).

Now, let’s understand the second part.

That which shines or exists as the origin of creation and destruction [of inner world], and shines forth even when there is no activity of creation or destruction is the absolute truth tatvam.

In order to superimpose something, one needs a substratum, a base, upon which any image can be projected. Just like canvas is substratum or base for painting, rope here represents the substratum or base which is already present prior to (mental) creation, preservation and destruction (of projection of image of snake on rope). In this entire process, nothing in reality happens to rope. Rope never gets transformed into snake at anytime, but is wrongly perceived as snake due to faulty vision.

Rope, as the cause, exists in snake. Snake is in reality a rope (but is hidden). Snake depends upon rope for it’s existence, whereas rope can stay as rope in it’s natural state without any superimposition i.e. activity of creation, preservation and destruction of image of snake. Rope represents Brahman.

It may still not be clear how is this a dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda. We will take into consideration the reaction after which one suddenly sees rope. Remember we talked that we have preconceived notions and our own biases? Same applies here. After one sees (dṛṣya) snake, either one runs away from it due to fear or one tries to catch it to earn something out of it or to eat it. So the wrong notion of rope being snake leads us to doing wrong things. We live in such mental world. We give different valuation to gold and iron. The moment we see gold, we also attach an ‘asset’ to it. This applying of ‘special value’ makes gold special for us. Hence we live in the world created by us and perceive objects with our ‘own vision’. Vision is not to be taken as just vision. Sensation without meaning makes no sense. Hence any sensation has to be coupled with meaningful sensation. Hence we just do not sense or see, but we ‘perceive’. This perception is based upon our own imagination. So vision (dṛṣṭi) and cognition (sṛṣṭi) happens simultaneously. This is dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda.  What may be important to one may not be important to another. Each one of us perceives this world in his own way. Shāshtra-s call this selective perception as ‘likes and dislikes’ i.e. ‘rāga and dvesha’. One has to rise above this perception of mind by being a witness and transcend the mind to enter into non-dual state where pure consciousness prevails.

Further notes -

We must understand that we are not talking about the world and it’s objects, but the ‘way world is perceived by us’. What mind cannot perceive, is non-existent for it. For example every moment someone is born and someone dies. But do we feel happiness and sorrow each and every moment. But suppose that we see a person hit by a truck and is in pain. Now our mind reacts to this incident as it is cognised by mind. If you were not present on the scene of accident, you won't feel anything. This incident never happened for you.  That is why when mind is destroyed or merges into Brahman, one does not see or experience any creation. Here it is to be noted that the world is negated and not destroyed. Negation does not mean destruction, else if one person gets enlightenment, the whole world will be destroyed. It should also be noted that if there is no desire for any object, it makes no difference where the object is present in front of you or not.