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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Mithyājñāna literally means ‘false knowledge’.

The words ‘mithyā’ and ‘mithyājñāna’ are widely used in the Advaita Vedānta Darśana. If Brahman, the Absolute, is the one and only Reality, the one without a second,[1] then, all else that appears to exist this world and the innumerable beings in it must be mithyā, unreal and false. To think that the world is real, that the body-mind complex is itself the ātman or the Self, is mithyājṅāna or false knowledge.

The reason for this is avidyā or ajñāna[2] which, at the cosmic level, is called māyā. It is anādi[3] but can be ended with vidyā or jñāna.[4] The Brahmavaivartapurāṇa describes Mithyā as the wife of Adharma. Her brother is Kapaṭa.[5] These two are invisible in the Kṛta or Satya yuga, appear in a subtle form in the Tretāyuga, half manifest in the Dvāparayuga and fully manifest, creating havoc in the Kaliyuga. Obviously this is a symbolic way of describing the gradual increase of falsehood and deceit over the four epochs.


  1. It is tathya; eka; advitiya.
  2. Ajñāna means nescience.
  3. Anādi means without beginning.
  4. Jñāna means the true knowledge of the ātman/ Brahman.
  5. Kapata means deceit.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore