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The Mandukya Upanishad

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Section 6: The God of the Universe

Isvara

The third quarter of the Atman, called Prajna, is identified with the third quarter of the Universal Consciousness called Isvara. Isvara is omnipotent and, therefore, He is regarded as the source and the end of all creation. This Prajna is the causal state of the universe, both outwardly and inwardly. Macrocosmically, we regard this consciousness as the Creator of the whole universe, while microcosmically, the very same consciousness is the creator of this internal world of the Jiva.

This Consciousness as the cause of all things is also the Lord over everything – Esha sarvesvarah. Now, this epithet 'Sarvesvara' as also the other qualification, 'Sarvajna', omniscient, cannot be attributed to the Jiva, because the Jiva is not Sarvesvara, and so not also Sarvajna. The Mandukya Upanishad seems to make no palpable distinction between the individual and the cosmic, and it harmonises the relation between Jiva and Isvara. The causal condition of the Jiva, namely Prajna, is regarded only as a part of the Cosmic Causal State of Isvara. To this Upanishad, there is only one Reality, and the distinctions that we usually make between the Cosmic and the individual, between Isvara and Jiva, are overcome in the higher analysis of the Upanishad. It is all God, and God alone, Isvara everywhere, and the Jiva has no place to exist apart from the Being of Isvara. So, when you describe the nature of God, you have also described the nature of all creation including the contents thereof, together with all the Jivas. We need not describe the drop separately when we describe the ocean; and so, the ocean is being described here, the ocean of causality that is designated as Isvara, from whom proceed Hiranyagarbha and Virat. Esha sarvesvarah: This is the Overlord of all; the Master of all things; supremely powerful. Esha sarvajnah: This Being is all-knowing, omniscient. Nothing can be hidden from the perception of this Being. Isvara is omnipresent and so He is also omniscient; therefore, also, He is omnipotent. The All-pervading Presence of Isvara explains His omniscience. The Jiva is not characterised by this knowledge because of its being localised in spots in space, because of the mind of the Jiva not being capable of moving outside its own body, because of our thoughts being confined to our personalities. We are, as Jivas, Aikadesika, present only in one place, while Isvara is Sarvagata, present everywhere. The' knowledge of Isvara is not a 'cognition' of objects, and no 'cognition' or 'perception' can be regarded as a part of omniscience, because the objects of cognition do not come under the control of the cogniser, necessarily. Though we cognise objects outside, we cannot be said to have a power over them, fully. We see the whole world with our eyes, but what power have we over thc world. Our knowledge does not bring us power, though it is often said that knowledge is power. Knowledge is power, but not sensory knowledge. It is some other knowledge, altogether, that can be equated with power. Sarvajnatva becomes identical with Sarvasaktimatva only under a given condition, and not always. Though we may have vast knowledge in the sense of learning or information, we cannot be said to have power over the things or objects of this type of knowledge. While the Jiva's knowledge is sensory, perceptual and cognitional, Isvara's knowledge is intuitional. While the Jiva's knowledge cannot be identified with the existence of its objects, Isvara's knowledge is identical with the existence of everything. While 'Sat' and 'Chit' unite in the Being of Isvara, they get separated in the case of the Jiva. This is the reason why the Jiva is neither Sarvajna nor Sarvesvara, the reason being that the world is outside the knowledge of the Jiva, though the Jiva seems to have a cognition of the objects by a process artificially brought about through the relation of space and time. The knowledge of Isvara is above space and time, and is non-relational. The Jiva's knowledge is relative; Isvara's knowledge is absolute. Isvara is, and His Being itself is all knowledge and power, while the Jiva's being cannot be equated with knowledge and power. The Jiva's existence is separated from its knowledge, and knowledge from power, while all these are one in the case of Isvara. So, it is only Isvara who can be called Sarvesvara and Sarvajna; and the Mandukya Upanishad, while describing the third Pada or phase of the Atman as the cause of all things and qualifying it with the epithets Sarvesvara and Sarvajna, obviously refers to the Universal Isvara.

Esha yonih sarvasya prabhavapyayau: He is the womb of all things. All things come from Him as the tree comes from a seed. The tree may be vast in its extent in space; yet, it is all hidden in its potentiality in the seed. The future structure or the shape and the nature of the tree is already determined by the content of the seed. It is not that some new thing comes up when there is germination of the seed. Whatever was in the seed, that alone comes out in the form of an effect, namely, the plant, and the tree. The universe is Self-determined in the sense that it is already contained and fully present in the Being of the Causal State, Isvara. Thus, in a cosmic sense, we may say that everything is determined for ever. No change can be brought about in the cosmos by effort of any kind, because all the efforts are the activities of the Jivas whose existence and function are controlled by the seed, namely, Isvara, from whom all this comes. Omniscience includes knowledge of the future, and if the future is going to be indetermined there cannot be any such thing as omniscience. We cannot say that the future can be changed by individual effort, and the so-called change that we try to introduce in the future is already known to Isvara, and all our efforts of the future are determined by the Will of Isvara. So, while there is freedom of choice from the point of view of the Jiva, it is determination from the point of view of the Will of Isvara. While we seem to change society, God knows already the changes that we are going to introduce, the 'why' and the 'how' of it. Thus, it is cosmic determination from the point of view of Isvara, but from the standpoint of the activities of the Jiva, it appears to be a process of change with an indeterminate future. God, Isvara, therefore, is All-powerful, All-knowing, the seed of all things, the beginning and the end of everything.

Prabhavapyayau hi bhutanam: Everything comes forth from Him and everything returns to Him, and everything is sustained, also, in His Being. Our movements cannot take us outside the Body of Isvara. Even if we travel millions of miles in the distant space, to the stars, we are within the Body of Isvara. We cannot go outside it. Let our thoughts, let the soul fly into the heights of the empyrean, or come down to the nether regions, it is within the purview of Isvara's knowledge and is contained in the Being of Isvara. Whatever be the freedom of the kite to fly to the skies, as long as it is tied with a rope to a peg on the earth, its movements are restricted. Our freedom seems to be within the radius of the operation of our Prarabdha-Karma, and beyond that limit we cannot go. We have freedom, but limited freedom, not absolute freedom. It is the freedom that a mother gives to her child. The child has a freedom, but within limits; beyond that the mother will not make any allowance. Isvara gives us freedom in the sense that there is capacity in us to understand, ratiocinate and judge situations, but all these judgments are determined by the law of Isvara, and we cannot overrule that law; we have to abide by that law. And, if our egoism so acts, occasionally, as to violate this law of Isvara, then there is a reaction set up, and this reaction is what is called the law of Karma. Karma that binds is nothing but the effect of the violation of the law of Isvara, and abidance by His Will is unselfish Karma. This is Karma-Yoga. When we abide by His Will, follow His law, and then act, we perform Karma-Yoga. But when we violate His Will and act according to the dictates of the ego, we perform a binding Karma. Isvara, therefore, is everything, the coming in and the going out of all things, of all beings. Such is the glory, the magnificence and the greatness of God, Isvara, whose integral parts, organic limbs, are the Jivas, and all things, animate or inanimate. The distinction of living and non-living beings, the inorganic and the organic, do not obtain in the realm of Isvara's Being. For Him, it is all Consciousness. There is no Jadatva, or no dead matter, for Isvara, because it is His Being. He permeates all things; He is Antaryamin. This is the Causal Condition of the universe, corresponding to which there is the causal experience of the Jiva, called Prajna. The individual causal state is Prajna; the Universal Causal State is Isvara. The individual subtle state is Taijasa; the Cosmic Subtle State is Hiranyagarbha. The individual gross state is Visva; the Cosmic Gross State is Vaisvanara, or Virat. Isvara is often understood as that Total Being, in which all the cosmic states are united.