Reply To: The significance of the word "satasati"

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Ashish Dalela

The complete statement is: bhaktyā hy asaṅgaḥ sad-asaty anātmani, which literally means “by devotion one must remain detached from the truth-false which is not suitable for the self”.

It is not satasati but sat-asatya. It is then conjunct with anātmani which means unsuitable for the atmaSat means truth, and asatya means false. It can also mean eternal and temporary. From the context of anātmani we can understand that we are not talking about the soul’s sat.

Prabhupada translates sat-asatya as the “material world”, which is indeed the combination of truth and false. You can also take this literally and say that one must be detached from the temporary truths. The material energy is the truth or sat however the objects created from this energy — such as the bodies of living entities — are temporary. So because the body is made from something eternal or truth, we cannot regard the world as an illusion. But because the body is temporary, we cannot consider it completely true or eternal. A more sophisticated understanding is that the world is created from the combination of the universal and individual. The universals are eternal, but the individual instantiations are temporary. They are temporary because the association of the universal with the individual is temporary. For example, the soul is eternal and the idea ‘cow’ is eternal. But the association of the soul with a cow (body) is temporary.

The impersonalist may consider both the soul (i.e. the individuality) and the cow (as the universal concept) to be temporary, so they cannot say that anything in this world is true or eternal. But we accept that both the soul and the material energy are eternal, but the associations between these two are temporary. Hence, asat in this context means something temporary.

But if we wanted to treat asat as ‘false’, that is also possible, and again “I am a cow” is false. With this understanding, we can say that the soul can associate with a body, but if he gives up the identification with the body, then the body can be temporary but there is no falsity.

So, the materialists live in a temporary world under falsities. But the devotee lives in the material world which is temporary without falsity. Accordingly, for the materialist, asat = temporary + false. But for the spiritualist, asat = temporary + true. This again gives rise to another meaning for the devotee (since the devotee is being referenced here), namely, that if one remains detached from the material world, then the world is temporary (asat) but there is no falsity (sat). So, based on this, for the devotee, we can also use the term sat-asatya in a different sense.

Since the world is temporary, it is still anatmani or unsuitable for the eternal soul.