Aadhyasa is a concept introduced by Sri Shankara. It is difficult to find an exact English word for Aaadhyasa. It may, among other things, mean “superimposition”,”projection” etc. Aadhyasa is more comprehensive than that.
2. He also recognized three levels of existence. The Absolute, the relative and the illusory.
3. Adhyasa consists in superimposing one level of existence (relative/illusory) over the other (The Absolute) and accepting the former as true while it may actually be untrue. (Untrue does not mean false. It is a neutral term that lies between the Truth and falsehood.)
There is nothing strange or startling about this. We experience it every day in our life.
4. Let us take an example. We have accepted a “day” as a working unit of time. We have divided / sub- divided it into hours, minutes, seconds etc. We measure our work and life in terms of these units. A “day” itself is reckoned with reference to sunset and sunrise. We may call this a relative view.
Further, what you call, let us say, 08.00 AM is not 08.00 AM to people living in other time zones. It will be a different time in their day/night. A single point in “time” signifies different “time” to different people. Each sets his “time” by his sunrise.
However, all of us know that sun neither sets nor rises. From the Absolute point of view, there is no day or night. In other words, there is no “time”. It is a time- less universe (because “time” as we understand it, is measured with reference to an event.)
We, thus, in our daily life impose a relative concept (day) over the Absolute (time less ness).This we do, because we are living in a relative world and not because we are ignorant of the sun’s status. Otherwise, how else can we live in a relative world?
5. Let us see another example. One may mistake a stump of wood at night for a thief and get alarmed. Another may mistake a coiled rope, in semi darkness, for a snake and get panicky. In both cases, when some one else throws light, after the event, they may learn the identity of the objects they “saw”. They may then say to themselves, with a sigh of relief,” Gosh! It was just a piece of wood/rope”.
In these instances, the persons involved imposed an illusory existence over the real one. They realized the identity of the objects only after someone threw light on the objects.
Here the interesting thing is while the perception may be illusory the alarm/panic experienced was real.
That again leads to another story.