“यदन्यदन्यत्र विभाव्यते भ्रमादध्यासमित्याहुरमुं विपश्चितः | असर्पभुते हिविभावनं यथा रज्ज्वादिके तद्वदपीश्वरे जगत् ||” (श्रीरामगीता – ३७ )
“To perceive a thing to be something other than itself and to recognize that thing to be only what you perceive it to be is called by the wise the phenomenon of superimposition. Just as in the rope we see the serpent only, so too we see the world of plurality (superimposed) upon the Lord.” (Shri Rama Gita – 37)
In Vedaanta-shastra, the example of delusory vision of the serpent on the rope is often quoted. When a thing without losing its own essential nature, provides for experiences other than itself, it is called ‘Vivarta’ theory. Just as in a lonely, dimly lit place a long rope is perceived as a crawling snake ready to bite. The snake is the ‘vivarta’ of the rope. In the non apprehension of the rope, we entertain the misapprehension of the snake.
Shri Rama cites this classic example while imparting the knowledge of the Self to his dear brother Lakshmana. Explaining to him that upon Brahman (Atman, Lord, Self, Reality) which has none of the qualities of the finite world of plurality, people through an act of superimposition (adhyasa) recognise the ever changing world of names and forms. The world of plurality is the ‘vivarta’ of Brahman. In truth, nothing but Brahman (Self) exists, One without a second, blissful and perfect. Yet in its non apprehension, we entertain a delusory vision of a world riddled with sorrow and imperfections, which is the misapprehension.
Only knowledge can wipe out ignorance. A student when reaches the understanding that the snake is only a superimposition, he recognizes the rope and there is nothing else for him to throw away. Similarly, on awakening to the Self or Brahman, there is, in fact no world to be rejected. All the names and forms projected by ignorance suddenly disappear to become one, all consuming experience of the Self. Brahman is all inclusive. Vedanta rejects nothing, accepts everything, but keeps nothing.