Meaning and concept of Asat in Hinduism

Manifested Brahman

Isvara, Manifested Brahman

by Jayaram V

Asat means unreal, untruth, nonexistence. Its opposite is sat which means truth, existence, manifest, right, pure, real etc. Both are considered aspects of Brahman, the Supreme Reality. Manifested Brahman is considered sat, a truth being who becomes reflected in the purest of the purity (suddha sattva), while his creation is considered asat.

It is asat because it is unreal, an illusion or projection and consists of impurities such as the triple gunas and the 23 tattvas (basic structural parts of Nature). Brahman is asat (unmanifested, unknown, nonbeing, indeterminate) before he becomes sat (manifested). The Bhagavadgita advices devotees not to worship unmanifested Brahman because it is difficult and painful.

Asat has many other meanings such as untruth, ignorance, nonbeing, nonentity, evil, wicked, vile, perverse, distorted, unnatural, unmanifested, heterodox, wrong, false, improper, inconsistent, impermanent, etc. A heterodox scripture is often called asat-agama, and an unconventional practice as asat-achar. Sinful action is known as asat-karma.

On the spiritual path one has to cultivate proper discernment (sadbuddhi or satvivek) to discriminate between right knowledge and wrong knowledge, right practices and wrong practice, truth and falsehood, good and evil, and right conduct and evil conduct. Closely related to asat is asatya, meaning untruth or falsehood.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3.28) contains the beautiful peace mantra which begins with the word asat, as stated below.

Asatoma sadgamaya
Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya
Mrityorma Amritangamaya
Aum shanti, shanti, shanti.

It means, (O, God), lead me from untruth to truth, darkness to light and death to immortality. Aum, peace here, peace above, and peace everywhere.

Bhagavadgita Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V Avaialbe in USA/UK/DE/FR/ES/IT/NL/PL/SC/JP/CA/AU

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