by Swami Krishnananda
Sarvathā śakti mātrasya na pṛthak gaṇanā kvacit, śakti kāryaṁ tu naivāṣti dvitīyaṁ śaṅkyate kaṭham (53). The discussion was centring around the question of the relation of a substance to its quality – such as fire and its heat, a person and his ability, strength, etc. This verse tells us that the quality cannot be considered as independent of the substance, in the same way as the strength of a person cannot be considered as separate from the person, because strength or quality by itself does not effect any special activity, consequence, etc. Minus substance, the quality cannot produce any special effect.
If we separate the person from his ability, and the ability is made to stand independently by itself, it will not do anything. That ability is a vacuum; it is an abstraction. So shakti, power, ability, minus the substance in which it inheres, is a non-entity. It is also not a second principle. All these arguments through which we have passed in the previous discourse hinge upon the point that the quality of a substance is neither separable from the substance nor can it be identified with the substance. The strength of a person is not the same as the person. They are not identical, and yet they are not separable. Dvitīyaṁ śaṅkyate kaṭham: the duality of the two – substance, and quality or property – cannot be doubted.
Now, a question arises in the fifty-fourth verse: Does maya work in the whole of Brahman, or only in a part of Brahman? Brahman is universally present. Is maya also universally present? Or is there some part of Brahman where maya does not work?
Na kṛstna brahmā vṛttiḥ sā śaktiḥ kiṁ tveka deśa bhāk, ghaṭa śaktir yathā bhūmau snigdha mṛdyeva vartate (54). The author's view is that maya does not work in the whole of Brahman; it is only in certain aspects of Brahman that we can see maya operating. Eka deśa bhāk means ‘located in some part, but not operable everywhere’, just as the capacity of the earth to modify itself into a pot is not to be seen generally in every part of the earth. The potential for the earth to get transformed into a form called a pot is localised in the sense that it requires the assistance of a maker of the pot. Certain other factors are also necessary. The earth will not automatically rise into the shape of a pot. That is to say, the pot-ness of the earth is not a universal existence; otherwise, everywhere, wherever there is earth, pots will come up. There are certain locations, conditioning factors, where alone the pot can come up out of the earth. And generally, we cannot see the pot form coming up everywhere in physical existence.
In a similar manner, under conditions, maya operates. It does not mean that it is unconditionally operating everywhere in the whole of Brahman, the entirety of the Absolute. In the Purusha Sukta of the Veda it is mentioned that one fourth of the Absolute, as it were, is manifest as this creation. Pādo’sya sarvā bhūtāni tripādasti svayaṁ prabhaḥ, ityeka deśa vṛttitvaṁ māyayā vadati śrutiḥ (55). Metaphorically – not to be construed in a precise mathematical fashion – the Veda mantra, the Purusha Sukta, says that a fraction, one fourth as it were, of the supreme Absolute is all this creation, and three-fourths is transcendent, untouched by maya, the creative process. Pādo’sya sarvā bhūtāni tripādasti svayaṁ prabhaḥ: Transcendent radiance is the uncontaminated Brahman, the Absolute, ranging above all creative process; and only one fourth is this whole cosmos.
If the whole of Brahman has become the world, assuming that such a thing has taken place – supposing that the maya shakti has pervaded the whole of Brahman, and the entirety of Brahman has become this world – then there would be no Brahman left beyond the world. If that is the case, there would be no such thing as the liberation of the spirit in Brahman, because there is no Brahman at all. It has all become the world. As milk that has become curd cannot become milk once again, the Brahman that has become the world would cease to be Brahman on account of its modification into the names and forms entirely, if we suppose that the whole thing has become the universe.
That doctrine which holds that the entirety of God has become the world is called pantheism. It is a defective doctrine which merges God with the creative process and does not accept another God, transcendent. There is no transcendence of God. There is only immanence of God for the pantheistic doctrine, which cannot be accepted on account of the fact that transcendence is always there and but for which, individuals involved in the creative process will not have an aspiration for God. Our aspiration for the Transcendent Reality is actually an indication of there being such a thing as a Transcendent Being. If such a thing does not exist – if it is all immanence only, and all the parts of God are merged in the parts of creation, including our own selves – we will be like locked-up persons inside a prison, and there would be no consciousness of even freedom from the prison.
Pādo’sya sarvā bhūtāni tripādasti svayaṁ prabhaḥ, ityeka deśa vṛttitvaṁ māyayā vadati śrutiḥ. Sruti is a Veda; it means the Purusha Sukta, which affirms that only a fraction of Brahman should be regarded as involved in creation, not the entirety. In the Bhagavad Gita also, this is confirmed.
Viṣṭa bhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam ekāṁśena sthito jagat, iti kṛṣṇo’rju nāyāha jagata stveka deśatām (56). "I have enveloped this entire creation," says the great Lord of the Bhagavad Gita, "and I am sustaining this entire cosmos by a fraction of Myself. I do not involve Myself entirely in the act of creation." Even when we work, when we are very occupied with certain works – office work, industrial work, manufacturing work, etc. – we always remain something at the back of this work. We don't completely merge ourselves and then cease to be what we are, even if the work is very heavy. There is a transcendent element in us, to which we revert after the work is over. If we have merged ourselves in the work, there would be no personality in us; we would be only work. The entire personality would be nothing but the manifestation of work. There is a transcendent background to which we revert when the work is finished, though for the time being it appears that we are immersed in the work. We never get totally immersed in anything; we have a transcendent element in us always. So is the case with God.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Sri Krishna says that by a fraction of his power he is able to sustain the whole cosmos. Then Lord Krishna describes to Arjuna the fractional character of creation, even though it appears so large, so big.
Sa bhūmiṁ viśvato vṛtvā atyatiṣṭha daśāṅgulam, vikārāvarti cātrāsti śruti sūtra kṛtor vacaḥ (57). Again the Purusha Sukta is quoted here. Having enveloped the whole of creation, the entire earth, the whole world, the Supreme Being transcends creation by ten fingers' length. Even if it is by one inch, it is nevertheless transcendence. It is only to indicate that God is above the world and always maintains His Self-identity in spite of His being immanent in all parts of creation.
The word dasangulam, or ‘ten fingers’, is interpreted in many ways. The word ‘ten’ is a figure which exceeds numerology. There are no ten numbers; numbers are only nine. Ten is nothing but one and zero, so the number ten is indicative of a numberless state of being; and a numberless state of being is infinite being. So to say that God transcends the world by ten fingers is to say that He transcends the world infinitely and there is no end for His transcendence. Sa bhūmiṁ viśvato vṛtvā atyatiṣṭha daśāṅgulam.
The Brahma Sutra also corroborates this view when it says that there is something above all modifications. All these quotations from the Veda, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutra are to suggest that the whole of Brahman is not involved in creation. Maya does not pervade the entirety of the Absolute. It is localised only in certain conditioned parts of Brahman. The transcendence of Brahman is not affected. God remains transcendent in spite of the vastness of creation and the inscrutability of His power, maya.
Niraṁśe’pyaṁśa māropya kṛtsneṁśe veti pṛcchataḥ, tad bhāṣayo ttaraṁ brūte śrutiḥ śrotṛ hitaiṣiṇī (58). You may ask the question, "Can you divide God into two parts – three-fourths somewhere, one-fourth somewhere else – transcendence and immanence being two different aspects of God?" This difference is not a mathematical difference. It does not follow that you can actually divide God into two parts as the transcendent and the immanent. It is only an answer befitting the question itself.
The question itself implies the possibility of maya shakti being somewhere or not being somewhere. We have already assumed in our question the location of maya, or the fractional area that is supposed to be occupied by maya. When we have already assumed this kind of fractional consideration of the location of maya, we have also to give the answer accordingly. So we say it is only fractional, and not the whole of Brahman. Here, the question of the whole and the part should not be taken in the sense of measurement in geometry and arithmetic. Geometry and arithmetic do not apply to God because measurements of every kind and computations of every type refer to things which are in space and in time. Timeless and spaceless Existence cannot be geometrically measured or computed arithmetically. So it does not follow that there is a physically discernable part of God which is transcendent and some physically discernable part which is involved in creation. Our questions and answers are in terms of the manner in which we express ourselves. It is a metaphorical way of speaking.
It is not factually true that there is division of God. It is indivisible Existence – in the same sense as some part of our mind is affected with a certain anxiety, etc., and yet we remain unaffected in certain other aspects of the mind, thereby indicating that we cannot split the mind into two parts. We have an integrated personality. We feel that we are one single whole, and yet many a time we feel that we are little finite fractions in the world of society and engagement. This is a logical distinction that we introduce into our mental operation, and it is not a mathematical distinction. Mathematical parts are different from logical parts. They are conceptually construed for the purpose of the understanding of the spirit involved in the situation. It is not to be understood literally. The fraction that is supposed to be of God manifested in the form of creation is a logical part, and not a mathematical part.
Sattattva māśritā śaktiḥ kalpayet sati vikriyāḥ, varṇā bhitti gatā bhittau citraṁ nānā vidhaṁ tathā (59). This shakti, the power of God, associating itself with Pure Existence, creates the variety as names and forms of this world in the same way as colours painted on a wall may present portrayals of pictures which are different from one another. Varieties of colours may look like varieties of forms on a canvas or a wall when a painting is done in that manner. In a similar way, this shakti, which acts like the colouring medium in terms of names and forms, works this great variety of creation on a base – a canvas or a wall or a background – which is Pure Existence.
Maya also has to exist; otherwise, there would be no presentation of variety in the form of this creation. On the basis of Universal Existence which is Brahman, varieties in the form of this colourful creation are created by the shakti which is the power of God, which is neither to be identified with God nor considered as separable from God.