by Swami Krishnananda
Acetanānāṁ hetuḥ syāt jāḍyāṁśene śvara stathā, cidābhāsāṁ śata steveṣa jīvānāṁ kāraṇaṁ bhavet (187). Ishvara is the cause, both of the universe and the individual jivas. By adopting the tamasic quality of prakriti as the material for the manifestation of the universe, He becomes the creator thereof. By reflecting Himself through the intellects of individuals, He becomes the cause of the individuals themselves.
The physical universe has no self-consciousness. That is why it is supposed to be caused by the tamasic aspect of prakriti, whereas jivas (individuals) have self-consciousness. That is due to the fact that Ishvara's consciousness is reflected through the intellect – that reflected consciousness being called chidabhasa. So He is the cause of both the universe externally and the jiva subjectively.
Tamaḥ pradhānaḥ kṣetrāṇāṁ cit pradhānaś cidātmanām, paraḥ kāraṇatā meti bhāvanā jñāna karmabhiḥ (188). The Supreme Being, Brahman, becomes verily the cause of the objective universe rooted in the tamasic aspect of prakriti, tama-pradhana, and is also the cause of the individual jivas who are self-conscious on account of intelligence being reflected through them. They differ from one another on account of their feelings, by their ideation, by their action.
The attitudes, the ideas and the actions of people cause the difference of one person from another person. Though the same consciousness is reflected everywhere – the same prakriti, in its tamasic aspect, becomes the cause of the physical universe – yet we will find the earth is not the same everywhere. Different kinds of material can be found in different parts of the earth and in this physical cosmos which is so vast. It is not that one uniform element is present everywhere.
Even in inanimate material, there is internal difference. Somewhere we will find gold ore, somewhere we will find iron, somewhere we will find something else. Somewhere we will find marble and somewhere some jewel or gem; and the earth too is of a different nature – somewhere arid, somewhere fertile, etc.
In the case of conscious individuals, they differ on account of their psychological attitudes. Their outlook in general varies. Though we all do see the same world with our eyes, our idea of the world differs from person to person. It is not a uniform notion that we have about things. Our understanding of the world also differs from one another; and our actions in respect of things in the world naturally is determined by our idea about things and our feelings for them.
Iti vārtika kāreṇa jaḍa cetana hetutā, paramātmana evoktā neśvarasyeti cecchṛṇu (189). Vartikakara Sureshvara Acharya is one of the disciples of Acharya Sankara. He is one of the most voluminous of writers, and has written a huge commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya of Sankara and many other very important works such as Naishkarmya-siddhi, Pranava Vartika, Manasollasa, etc. ‘Vartika’ is a huge commentary and the one who writes such a Vartika is endowed with the title ‘Vartikakara’.
In one place in this Vartikakara, Sureshvara Acharya, the disciple of Sankara, appears to make out vaguely that Brahman is directly the cause of the universe. As he does not use the word ‘Ishvara’, some doubt may arise in the mind whether there is a principle called Ishvara creating the cosmos or whether it is Brahman itself – the Absolute itself – directly becoming the world, congealing itself into things. Is it so?
To this, the author of the Panchadasi says that we have to understand Sureshvara properly. It cannot be that Brahman directly becomes the cause. Causation cannot be applied to Brahman directly. Brahman is neither the cause of anything nor the effect of anything, because to attribute causality to Brahman would be to attribute some character to it, specifically in relation to that which is going to be manifested afterwards. In that case, Brahman would be tainted with the touch of modification.
So the Panchadasi's author, Vidyaranya Swami, says that when the great author Sureshvara apparently made mention of Brahman as the cause of the universe, it appears that there was already in his mind this adhyasa, or the internal superimposition of characters as regards to the causality of the world. That is to say, he had in his mind what we call Ishvara, though the word used by him is Brahman, because for all practical purposes, Ishvara and Brahman are not capable of differentiation – the reason being, there are certain qualities in Ishvara which are to be found in Brahman only. The universality of Ishvara is a character of Brahman. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence are also characteristics of Brahman only, and they are to be found in Ishvara.
We have to read between the lines of Sureshvara's statement when he says Brahman is the cause of the universe. The Upanishads also say that Brahman is the cause, but they qualify it subsequently by saying that He willed. The God we call Ishvara is nothing but this willed Brahman. Brahman, associated with the will, is Ishvara; and if we free Ishvara from willing, he becomes Brahman directly.
Anyonyā dhyāsa matrāpi jīva kūṭastha yoriva, īśvara brahmaṇoḥ siddhaṁ kṛtvā brūte sureśvaraḥ (190). So Sureshvaracharya has not directly made any such statement that Brahman is directly the cause. The idea behind his statement is that the will of Brahman is the cause. And this will it is that we designate as Ishvara.
Satyaṁ jñānaṁ anantaṁ yat brahma tasmāt samutthitāḥ, khaṁ vāyvagni jalor vyoṣaddhi annadehā iti śrutiḥ (191). This is the definition of Brahman in the Taittiriya Upanishad: Truth, Knowledge, Infinity is Brahman. From that Brahman, all the elements arose – space, air, fire, water, earth and all the plantations, all the vegetables, all foodstuff, by eating which organic beings come into life. This is what the Taittiriya Upanishad says, making it appear that Brahman is the direct cause. It does not use the word ‘Ishvara’ here.
Āpāta dṛṣṭitas tatra brahmaṇo bhāti hetutā, hetośca satyatā tasmāt anyonyā dhyāsa iṣyate (192). Here also we have to understand when we read the lines of the Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahman is actually defined in terms of Ishvara only, though the word ‘Ishvara’ is not used. Whether the word is used or not, the definition, the characterisation, is of Ishvara only. Here again the mutual superimposition is to be applied. The causality of the universe requires a kind of thought, will, volition, or some such concentration on the part of the cause. Our point is that Ishvara is only a name that we give to the very same Brahman associated with that tapas, that concentration, that will or determination to create.
Anyonyā dhyāsa rūpo’sau anna lipta paṭo yathā, ghaṭṭi tenaikatā meti tadvat bhrāntyai katāṁ gataḥ (193). As we create a confusion between the cloth and the starch and then call it a canvas, we confuse Brahman and the will thereof and call that mutually superimposed principle as Ishvara. Just as when we speak of canvas we do not clearly think of the distinction between the starch and the cloth, so also when we speak of Ishvara we do not make a distinction between Brahman and will. Either way, this is only a matter of putting things in proper style or language. The idea behind the statements of the Upanishads that Brahman is the direct cause or our statement here that Ishvara is the cause practically amounts to the same thing. The differences appear to be purely linguistic.
Meghākāśa mahā kāśau viviceyete na pāmaraiḥ, tadvat brahme śayo raikyaṁ paśyantyā pāta darśinaḥ (194). Just as children cannot make a distinction between the clear sky and the sky that is reflected through a thin layer of clouds, and say it is sky though actually it is a reflected sky that they are seeing through the clouds, in the same way, spiritually illiterate persons not well qualified do not know the distinction between Brahman and Ishvara. They identify one with the other. The difference is just simple.
Brahman reflected through this thin cloud-like layer of shuddha sattva, pure sattva of prakriti, is Ishvara. Otherwise, we would not be able to attribute creatorship to Brahman. If we attribute creatorship to Brahman, we would have to attribute all kinds of spatiality, temporality, etc., which are not to be associated with Brahman in any way. We say that God is all-pervading, Ishvara is all-pervading. The all-pervadingness is a definition that has meaning only if there is space. If there is no space, there is no question of all-pervading. Similarly, we say He is eternal. This also is a thought that is connected with time. All-powerful – He can do many things. The question of doing many things does not arise as He Himself is the All. This is how we have to distinguish between Ishvara and Brahman.
Upakramādibhir liṅgaiḥ tātparyasya vicāraṇāt, asaṅgaṁ brahma māyāvī sṛjatyeṣa maheśvaraḥ (195). The conclusion, therefore, of all this analysis is that by reading between the lines of all these great texts and authors like the Upanishads, Sureshvaracharya, etc., we have only one conclusion to draw: Brahman is totally unattached. It is not affected by the changes taking place in the world, whereas it is Ishvara that is directly responsible for the modifications of things in the world. They are two different things in principle.
Satyaṁ jñānam anantaṁ ceta upakra myopa saṁhṛtam, yato vāco nivartanta itya saṅgatva nirṇayaḥ (196). The same Upanishad, Taittiriya, defines Brahman as truth, knowledge, infinity, commencing its statement from this definition of Brahman as ‘satyaṁ jñānam anantaṁ’, ends with saying nobody can contact Brahman. Speech and mind return baffled when they contemplate Brahman or try to describe Brahman. Speech is baffled when it tries to describe Brahman; mind is baffled when it tries to think Brahman. So either way, right from the beginning to the end, the same Upanishad seems to be emphasising the unattached character of Brahman, which is not to be associated with the will to create.