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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Paramārtha

Sanskrit for ultimate reality, from parama (highest, primary) and artha (object, aim, thing). In Advaita Vedānta and the two MAHĀYĀNA Buddhist schools, it refers to the ultimate truth about the world, sometimes given as pāramārthika (being the highest reality) or pāramārthikasatya (being the highest truth). In Advaita as well as in The Secret Doctrine of Helena P. Blavatsky, only the one transcendent Being or Be-ness (BRAHMAN or PARABRAHMAN) can be considered real, hence the manifested world is termed illusion or MšYš. But it certainly is not unreal, meaning non-existent, so it has at least a phenomenal reality. Yet, we can and do make distinctions between veridical and delusory perceptions and judgments within this phenomenal world, so we need some term to discuss this “pragmatic” reality. Advaita uses the term vyavahāra, which has the connotation of “marketplace” reality or truth. Mādhyamika and Yogācāra Buddhism use the term samvti (“approximate,” “common,” or “customary”) reality or truth for the same distinction. HPB glosses the term paramārtha with svasamvedanā, which she translates “Self-analysing consciousness” (SD I:53-54) or “the reflection which analyses itself” (SD I:44fn). The main significance of that gloss is to indicate that the ultimate reality is not insentient, but is the very basis of our own empirical or vyavahāra consciousness.

R.W.B.

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