by Swami Krishnananda
Māyā dhīna ścidābhāsaḥ śrutau māyī maheśvaraḥ, antaryāmi ca sarvajño jaga dyoniḥ sa eva hi (157). Ishvara is the origin of the universe; He is the source of all things. He works through His maya shakti and He is glorified in the scriptures as Maheshvara, the Lord of all beings. He is called Antaryami, the Indweller of all, Knower of everything. Such is Ishvara, as glorified in the Upanishads and all the scriptures.
Sauṣupta mānanda mayaṁ prakra myaivaṁ śrutir jagau, eṣa sarveśvara iti so’yaṁ vedokta īśvaraḥ (158). In the Mandukya Upanishad, the glory of this Great Being is sung in such words as: Eṣa sarveśvara, eṣa sarvajñah, eṣo’ntāryami, eṣa (Mundakya 6). Such are the words of the Mandukya Upanishad. The bliss of the sleep experience is a fraction, as it were, of the bliss of God. There is a tremendous difference between the cosmical causal condition of Ishvara and the individual causal condition of avidya experienced by everyone in the state of deep sleep.
While maya is the medium through which Ishvara manifests Himself as the omniscient and omnipotent ruler, jiva, under the subjection of the rajasic and tamasic qualities predominant in avidya, is subject to avidya. In that state of deep sleep, which is the causal condition of individuality, we know nothing, whereas Ishvara, through maya, which is the causal condition of the universe, knows everything. There is a topsy-turvy experience in the state of jiva, notwithstanding the fact it was in a causal condition; and Ishvara is also in a state of causal condition. The difference is that Ishvara's causal condition is determined by sattva guna – the pure sattva transparency quality or property of prakriti – whereas in the case of the jiva, the individual, it rajas and tamas are the medium. This is the difference between Ishvara and jiva. Ishvara knows everything; jiva knows nothing.
Sarvajñatvādike tasya naiva viprati padyatām, śrautār thasyā vitarkyatvāt māyāyāṁ sarva saṁbhavāt (159). Scripture is the authority for the assuming of the existence of a Great Being like Ishvara. Physically with the eyes, we cannot see such a Being. Even intellectually, it is difficult to ascertain the real character of Ishvara because the intellect, being a medium of individual perception accustomed to reports received through the sense organs, is not competent enough to fathom the depths of that which is super-individual, Universal. The individual intellect cannot think of Universality. Whenever we try to think of the Universal, it looks like an abstract something, whereas the objects of the world look very concrete. But the reverse is the case, in fact. The Universal is the real concrete existence which manifests itself – or rather appears as – the visible objects of the world.
Ayaṁ yat sṛjate viśvaṁ tadanya thayituṁ pumān, na ko’pi śaktas tenāyaṁ sarveśvara itīritaḥ (160). Why is He called sarveshvara? Why is God called omnipotent? Because what He has created, He has created forever, and nobody can change it. We cannot change even a little leaf in a tree; it has to be there in the manner it has been created by God. Even a hair on our body cannot be changed. Our every wink is counted by the Great Being. Whatever He has willed, He has willed forever, and nobody can amend it and change the constitution of God.
In the Ishavasya Upanishad there is a famous statement in this regard. Yāthātathyato'rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhyas samābhyah (Isa 8). When God willed this universe, He has willed it in such perfection, going to such extreme details, that for eternity there is no necessity to change the law that He has established. All the future occurrences and events and possibilities are already known to Him prior to the act of creation, so something else cannot suddenly take place tomorrow. The determining will of Ishvara is so powerful that until the end of creation no amendment of its constitution is essential and nobody can interfere in these laws. Therefore, He is called all-knowing and also all-powerful – sarveśvara itīritaḥ.
Aśeṣa prāṇi buddhīnāṁ vāsanā statrā saṁsthītāḥ, tābhiḥ kroḍi krtaṁ sarvaṁ tena sarvajña īritaḥ (161). All knowing He is. Every bit of process that is taking place in the universe is a content of His immediate awareness. The littlest events, the most insignificant occurrences in the world are known to Him directly in immediate perception. The knowledge of Ishvara, or the wisdom of God, is not attained by successive inferences or arguments. It is a process of immediate apprehension. Identity-consciousness is the nature of this perception of Ishvara.
The evolution of the cosmos and the events in history are immediate contents of Ishvara's consciousness. All the impressions of the intellects of people – aśeṣa prāṇi buddhīnāṁ vāsanā – all the impressions, or the vasanas as they are called, the vague potentials of future action in the individuals, deposited in their intellect and in their causal body, are all included in the body of Ishvara. Everybody's intellect is clubbed together into an integrated whole in the supreme intellect of Ishvara Himself. And all the individuals are strung on His body, as the cells of the body are strung in the personality of individuals. As various minute particles of self constitute the body and they cannot stand outside the body of an individual, so nothing in this world can stand outside Him. He is the Saririn, or the Universally-embodied. And everything else is the sarira, or the body of Ishvara.
Therefore, on account of His being an inclusive factor of all the events taking place even in the brains and the intellects of people, there is nothing that He does not know. Not only does He know what we are thinking, He also knows what we are going to think tomorrow. Even the future is known to Him in immediate presence. All the future for us is an immediate presence for Him. There is no future or past for God; it is an eternal present. That is the difference between ordinary individuals, jivas, and Ishvara, the all-knowing Being.
Vāsanānāṁ parokṣatvāt sarvajñatvaṁ na hī kṣyate, sarva buddhiṣu tad dṛṣṭvā vāsanā svanu mīyatām (162). We may be under the impression that the impressions created by the actions of jivas and deposited in their intellects have their potency for future action only, and that presently their futurity cannot be known. That may be the case with people like us. We cannot know what are the impressions imbedded in our own intellects, and perhaps many of us cannot know what we are going to think tomorrow. Suddenly thoughts will arise on account of occurrences of events in the world, and so on. But not so is the case of Ishvara.
There is no futurity and there is no potentiality; it is an actuality for everything. For Ishvara, everything is an actuality, and nothing is latent or potential in His case. For us it may be a potential for future action; for Him it is a direct experience of what is taking place just now, because what is going to take place even millions of years afterwards is an act of knowledge to Him just now. For Him, millions of years afterwards are like just now. The future also becomes the present in the case of Ishvara. That is why He is called All-knower.
Vijñāna maya mukhyeṣu kośeṣva nyatra caiva hi, antasti ṣṭhan yamayati tenān taryā mitāṁ vrajet (163). In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is a marvellous description of Antaryami, or the indwelling spirit. We can read it by heart, as a mantra japa – so purifying, so ennobling and touching is the description of God's immanency in this great section of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad called Antaryami Brahmana.
Within everything is God – not only within the objects of the world, but within even the sheaths of the body. Within the physical body, vital body, mental body, intellectual body, causal body, within our mind, within our intellect, within our ego, He is present as an immanent controller. He regulates the operation of even the intellects of people. And we cannot think in any manner which is opposed to or contrary to the Will that He has exercised at the beginning of creation. Therefore, He is called the immanent principle, not only controlling the world from outside as the creator, but also restraining us from inside even in the act of our thinking and reasoning. Nothing outside Him can be; and nobody can interfere with His action and His will.
Buddhau tiṣṭha nnāntaro’syā dhiyā nīkṣyaśca dhī vapuḥ, dhiya mantar yamayatīti evaṁ vedena ghoṣitam (164). Vedahere represents the Upanishad, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad particularly. Inside the buddhi, or the intellect, God is sitting as the intelligence in the intellect. The intellect is different from the intelligence that is inside it. Intellect is the sheath or the body of psychic function through which intelligence is manifest. That intelligence belongs to Ishvara Himself, God Himself. It manifests itself through the peculiar structure of human individuality, which is the intellect, and within the intellect He seats Himself. Seated inside the intellect of all beings, He controls their movements. But the intellect cannot know Him. The intellect can function only in the light of the reflection of that intelligence through it, but it cannot go back to its cause.
We are intelligent, but we cannot know why we are intelligent. Intelligence is a principle that is prior to the act of intelligent understanding. As the effect cannot know the cause, we as individuals working only through the intellect cannot know from where we get the intelligence because we cannot see our own backs. Ishvara is seated in the intellect and the reason of all people, unknown to the intellect and reason. The reason also must be reasonable. Why should it be reasonable?
We say, "This does not stand to reason." But why should anything stand to reason? That also must have a reason behind it. Why should rationality be respected? Because there is reason behind the respect that we have to give to rationality. What is the reason? What is the reason behind the goodness of reason and the applicability of reason? That is beyond us, because the impelling force which compels us to accept reason is something beyond reason itself. That is the Universal consciousness operating, into which we cannot probe properly for the same reason that the effect cannot know the cause. He is the reason behind the rationality of things.
Tantuḥ paṭe sthito yadvad upādāna tayā tathā, sarvo pādāna rūpatvāt sarvatrā yama vasthitaḥ (165). Ishvara is also the material cause of creation. His very substance is the substance of this world. As threads are the very substance of the cloth, Ishvara's existence is the very substance of everything in creation. He is the material of the very manifestation of this world, as threads are the material of this cloth. As threads are immanent in the cloth – they pervade the whole cloth and the cloth is not outside the threads, the thread itself is the cloth – so is the case with Ishvara. He permeates the world. He does not stand outside the world. He is the material cause of the world. Verily, He Himself is the world.
Paṭā dapyāntara stantuḥ tanto rapyaṁśu rāntaraḥ, āntaratvasya viśrāntiḥ yatrā sāvanu mīyatām (166). Internal to the cloth is the thread. Internal to the thread is the fibre. What is there internal to the fibre? Minute particles of cotton. What is there internal to the minute particles of cotton? Go on investigating like this into the deeper constitution of this cloth. Go on and on, investigating deeper and deeper into the original cause of this cloth. Where the intellect fails to go further and we have reached the last limit of our understanding beyond which our mind cannot go into the substance of the very cloth itself, there Ishvara arises.
Where intellect fails, religion commences, as they say. Religion begins when intellect fails. As long as intellect is active, religion is inactive; it won't work. So religion is nothing but the acceptance of God's existence from the bottom of one's heart. There ceases intellectual activity completely. The cause of causes, the ultimate impossible cause, behind which there cannot be any other cause – that is Ishvara, the All-knowing Being.
Dvitrānta ratvaka kṣāṇāṁ darśane’pyaya māntaraḥ, na vīkṣyate tato yukti śrutir bhyāmeva nirṇayaḥ (167). We will find that we cannot apply our intellect to finding out the cause of even the cloth itself. What is the substance out of which the cloth is made? We will find our brain ceases to work when we go on investigating into the ultimate cause of even the particles of fibre, which is the cotton of which the cloth is made.
What are these particles made of? We may say they are from atoms. What are the atoms made of? Nobody knows. They are certain energy constitutions. What is this energy made of? Nobody knows. We are arguing from effect to cause; but effect, however much it may try to touch the cause, it cannot touch it as long as it remains as an effect. That is to say, as long as we remain as individual observers and thinkers, independent of the cosmic whole, we shall not succeed in entering into the ultimate cause of things. Only scripture and higher reason are our aid here.
Paṭa rūpeṇa saṁsthānāt paṭas tantor vapur yathā, sarva rūpeṇa saṁsthānāt sarvam asya vapus tathā (168). Because of the fact that threads constitute the cloth, we say cloth is the body of the threads. Threads have assumed a form in the form of the cloth. In the same way, we may say, as God Ishvara constitutes the inner essence of all things, He exists in every form. We can say that the world is His body. As the cloth is the body of the threads, the universe is the body of Ishvara. Such analogy is very near what we can make out in regard to the relationship of effect and cause, world and Ishvara. There is something more about Ishvara than what we can make out from the illustration. Analogies are analogies, after all. They cannot be the ultimate truth; they give some symptom of what truth can be.
Tantoḥ saṅkoca vistāra calanadau paṭas tathā, avaśya meva bhavati na svātantryaṁ paṭe manāk (169). Whatever happens to the threads will happen to the cloth. The cloth has no independent existence. If the threads shrink, the cloth shrinks. If the threads expand for any reason, the cloth expands; and if the threads start shaking, the whole cloth also shakes. Whatever happens to the threads happens to the cloth. There is no independence for the cloth, it being totally dependent on its inner constituents.
In the same way, tathā’ntar yāmyayaṁ yatra yayā vāsanayā yathā, vikriyeta tathā’vaśyaṁ bhavateva na saṁśayaḥ (170). This analogy also applies to this world and Ishvara. The world changes only according to the change instituted by the will of Ishvara in the inner constituent of the forms of the world. The evolution of the cosmos, as we hear it said – the processes of human history, occurrences in nature, the coming and going of things, birth and death, joy and sorrow, every blessed thing in this universe – is something that happens to things in this world, just as something may happen to the cloth on account of the occurrences in the threads.
The will of Ishvara, which has the knowledge of past, present and future, decides that something has to take place in the interest of the total universe. Its interest is not only for particular persons. God does not exist for somebody's welfare and for the harm of somebody else. The interest of God is universal, as the organism of the human personality has the interest of the total well-being of the personality. There is no partiality in respect of any limb of the body, or the organism.
So tragedies and comedies, rises and falls of empires, kings going to dust, emperors vanishing into a condition of beggary tomorrow, unthinkable occurrences in the world, mysteries and wonders, thunderstorms and cyclones and droughts – nobody can imagine what kind of things these are, how they appear and why they appear. We cannot understand what is the cause behind all these things because we think in terms of space-time, and sometimes we think in such narrow limits of nation, community, village, family, etc. The whole of the universe is not before our eyes.
But Ishvara has the whole universe before Him. And in the interest of the stability of the cosmos, to maintain the organism of the structure which He has willed in His original concept of creation, He sees that the balance is maintained. And sudden shake-ups can take place in history – natural history as well as human history. There is no pleasure and pain, good and bad, necessary and unnecessary, etc. as we conceive them, in the mind of Ishvara because His thought is a total thought and, therefore, any kind of partial intervention from the social, economic or ethical side cannot apply to Ishvara.
Ishvara is not a social individual, He is not an economic unit, and He is not an ethical person. These laws apply only to human beings. He is a universal integration, to which we cannot apply any norm of human conduct. His will changes the whole cosmos as the change in the threads will change of the entire cloth.
In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says, Īśvaraḥ sarva bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe’rjuna tiṣṭhati, bhrāmayan sarva-bhūtāni yantra rūḍhāni māyayā (171). This verse is bodily lifted here. Bhagavan Shri Krishna speaks in the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. What does he say? “Hey Arjuna, Ishvara, the Lord, is within the heart of all beings. Operating from within the heart of everyone, He works the future and destiny of everyone, forcing all individuals to move as if they are mounted on a moving wheel. Compulsorily we are put under subjection to certain experiences in the world, as that which is caught up in the movement of a mechanical wheel has no independence whatsoever; and we move together with the movement of the wheel because we are stuck in the wheel.
Here the wheel is nothing but the will of Ishvara, and He mounts every individual on that machine, as it were, which is His will in such a powerful way that there seems to be no personal choice for jivas. They are stuck in it. Like a fly who is stuck in a moving wheel runs round and round with the wheel and cannot go out because of the force of the wheel, so we are stuck, as it were, in this wheel of movement of the whole structure of things, which is decided by the will of Ishvara. He does this work by being seated in the heart of everybody. From within us He is working and compelling us to think in a particular manner, and also forcing us to do certain actions in the way that they are necessary for the balance of the cosmos.
Sarva bhūtāni vijñāna mayāste hṛdaye sthitāḥ, tadupādāna bhūteśaḥ tatra vikriyate khalu (172). Within the intellect is Ishvara seated; and all individuals can be regarded as modifications of the form of the intellect. Our actions and our thoughts are the ways in which the intellect operates. Our life is controlled by the way in which we think and act. And our thoughts are decided by the intellectual illumination, the degree of illumination that we are endowed with. As this degree varies from individual to individual, the way in which people manifest their personality also changes; and everybody does not behave in the same way in the world, as we know very well.
Even the variety of this behaviour of individuals through their vijnana, or their intellect, is willed by Ishvara. If I behave in one way and you behave in another way, it is also willed by Him for a certain purpose. The purpose of God is beyond human reason. We cannot question why. Sometimes we do question why should this happen. "Why should the waves rise up twenty feet high and then destroy large areas of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa? This should not have happened." We say that; but God says it should happen, for some reason which is not our business to question. And He knows what it is.
Dehādi pañjaraṁ yantraṁ tadāroho’bhimānitā, vihita prati ṣiddheṣu pravṛttir bhramaṇaṁ bhavet (173). This wheel, this machine, is this body itself, actually speaking. Dehādi pañjaraṁ yantraṁ: He is working through this body of our individuality and He is sitting on it as somebody is riding on a horse; and as is the control exercised by the rider of the horse, so is the movement of the horse. Thus on this horse-like machine which is this body, the Lord seems to be riding and pressing forward the direction of the movement of this machine. And wherever the stirrups hit the horse, in that direction the horse moves. The reins are also controlled by the rider of the horse. He pulls the reins in a particular manner and the horse turns his neck and runs in that particular direction. We are like that. We may be horses on which God is riding, or we may call it a machine which is operated by God. In either case, we seem to be helpless finally.
Does God do bad actions and good actions? Nothing of the kind is applicable to God because goodness and badness are ethical concepts which are socially oriented to a large extent, which way of thinking is not applicable to Ishvara. Ishvara is a Unitary Being, and social laws cannot apply to God. Our constitutions of political government, etc., should not be applied there because these laws are valid only so long as we live as individuals in a social body. God is not a social body; He is an integrated existence. Indivisibility is the nature of God, whereas separateness is the nature of human organisations.
Therefore, don't apply any of our laws there. And it is better to keep quiet and accept what is happening, because our reason cannot plumb into the depths of the action of that which is totally integrated and indivisible, while we are accustomed to thinking only in terms of body and human relations – even going to such crude concepts as economics determining human values. There are philosophies in this world who conclude that the destiny of man is in economic conditions, which is the last step that wrong philosophy can take.
Vijñāna maya rūpeṇa tat pravṛtti svarūpataḥ, svaśaktyeśo vikriyat māyayā bhrāmaṇaṁ hi tat (174). The work of God through the intellects of people is a very peculiar mode of His operation. He does not contradict the potentials that are already present in the form of karmas. He only adds like sunlight, to give an example, which allows the actions in the world according to the potencies of different individualities – such as the growth of a plant from a seed, the movement of an animal in the forest, the work of people in the world, and any kind of activity in which we are engaged. Everything in the world is controlled by the light of the sun to a large extent, perhaps in every way, yet the sun does not directly interfere in the operations carried on by individuals, whatever be those operations.
In one way, without the sunlight, without any heat, without an existence, life itself would be impossible. Yet the modifications of individuals in the form of activity, etc., cannot be imputed to Ishvara – or to the sun, in the case of the analogy. In the same way, everything is controlled by the determining will of Ishvara operating through the intellect, vijnanamaya; yet, He stands apart. We will be given justice in the form of the desserts that we deserve.
Justice is the nature of God. He is not partial. He acts as an impersonal justice. ‘Impersonal’ justice is the word that is to be used in respect of God – no partiality whatsoever. He has no friend and no enemy and, therefore, we should not apply our human feelings of prejudice, like and dislike, etc., in the case of judging what is happening in the world through the will of God.