The Philosophy of Life
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 6: The Constitution of the Universe

The World of Science

The term universe signifies the totality of space, time and matter. Modern physical science has discovered that matter has no independent existence but can be reduced to the ultimate constitution of the space-time manifold. Ordinarily, space is conceived as extendedness with three dimensions, and time as a consciousness of the succession of events in space. Thus, common perception makes an empirical distinction between space and time. But scientists like Minkowski, Einstein and Eddington have tried to demonstrate and prove that every event in the universe has a four-dimensional character. What we perceive is not space and time but a space-time continuum. Matter itself is found to owe its origin to a particular feature discoverable in the space-time manifold. A kink or twist or curvature in space-time is said to be responsible for the appearance of what is commonly called matter. The nature of this curvature is dependent upon the quality and the amount of matter that it contains. The greater the matter, the greater is the curvature. And this curvature it is that goes by the name of gravitational force.

Philosophers like Kant denied any externality to space and viewed it as a necessary mode of objective perception, a special condition of the sensibility. Space, however, is not a creation of any individual mind, for all perceptions are contained in it, though it is possible for us to believe that space may be a mode of perception by a cosmic mind. In these days, there is a tendency to reduce perceptual space to certain kinds of relationship between bodies, to position, distance and direction. Even these relations are external, objective and real to all perceiving minds and are not the creations of any particular mind. Space, thus, becomes a cosmic factor necessary for the perception of things by all minds.

Time appears as an element very necessary in the understanding of any event completely. It is not enough if we merely understand the three dimensions—right and left, up and down, far and near—related to an object or event. We also require to know, in addition to these factors, a fourth dimension—succession in terms of before and after. Such temporal succession in space is called time, and due to the peculiar manner of the reaction of our minds to events that occur in space in what we call succession, we are made to create a distinction between past, present and future. The succession is really continuous, and no genuine demarcation can be made in it. But, on account of the play of our minds in the form of sense-perception, memory and imagination, such a threefold distinction is made in the passage of time. In fact, the present is only a concept. It does not exist as distinguished from the past and the future. In actual practice the present turns out to be the subtle concept of an infinitesimal part of the succession of events, which directly appears as a content of sense-experience. The past has an infinite history and the future has infinite possibilities. The present fades away either to eternity or to nothingness.

Space, time and matter, however, have a common origin which contains all these in a unified and homogeneous form in what is designated today as the space-time continuum. The Newtonian conception of absolute space and absolute time with localised bodies in them has been abandoned, and the concept of gravitation itself has undergone a new orientation. Matter is fast losing its solidity and evaporating into an indescribable energy which is now considered to be the matrix of the universe. According to Einstein and his followers, the ultimate physical reality of the universe is space-time. The inequalities, the twists, the curved nature of space-time constitute the visible matter. This means that matter can be reduced to energy and the space-time manifold. Newton’s theory that material bodies are drawn out of the straight line which would be their natural course of motion, in the direction of other material bodies by a peculiar force called gravitation, has been now supplanted by the discovery that no such force does exist, that bodies are not pulled in that way, but that what is called the gravitational force is a peculiar curvature of space around bodies of matter. The path of any material body in the region of this curvature is determined only by this curvature, and not by any other force called gravitation.

The stable universe of Newton has disappeared into a cosmos of relativity with space-time as its ultimate basis, constructed out of lines of force and intervals of events. There are no objects, only events; no points of space, only waves of energy. The visible universe is, therefore, not the real one. In the hands of the modern physicist the real universe becomes a supersensible object. We are given, instead of a hard, tangible and visible universe with the qualities conveyed to us by our senses, a universe of mathematical point-events, symbols, which in the end clamour for being reduced to nothing but thought. To James Jeans, the universe is a construction of a cosmic mathematical mind, which may be called God; and to Arthur Eddington, the universe is of the stuff of a cosmic mind or consciousness. An enquiry into the ultimate reality of the physical universe has ended practically in a negation of it by the most advanced scientists of today, and in a return to mind and consciousness as its reality. Physics has landed itself in metaphysics, and the scientist has become a philosopher. Matter is slowly disclosing its essential psychical and spiritual being.

Inadequacy of the Mechanistic Conception of Life

Mechanism is the theory that all existence, organic or inorganic, can be explained by matter, motion and force, and that no other thing is necessary for an understanding of life. Physics and chemistry are held to be competent to explain the processes of the universe in its totality. Every event is reduced by this theory to the movements of particles of matter in space. Higher forms of life are said to differ from the lower ones only in the complexity of their structure. Physical laws and chemical elements constitute the ultimate reality of the universe. Individuals differ from one another, not in their essential constitution, but in the manner in which they manifest themselves in life. The universe is supposed to work like a machine by means of physico-chemical laws. Even living organisms are not outside the laws of physics and chemistry. Evolution is purely mechanical; nothing new is ever created.

This mechanistic scheme of life is unable to explain the purpose that is seen in Nature. There is creativity and freedom manifest in organic evolution. The continuous adjustment of internal to external conditions is not done in a mechanical way, but with a definite purpose in view. There is new creation at every step, which is observed to be directed by a conscious purpose which is entirely different from blind mechanical impulse or push. Evolution is the progressive adaptation of life to its environments, a movement towards greater freedom, an assertion of the presence of a higher Intelligence which seeks to overcome the obstruction of matter in greater and greater degrees. There is a creative synthesis involved not only in the process of organic evolution but even in the organisation of electrons and protons into atoms, atoms into molecules, molecules into cells, cells into living organisms. In all this process there is noticed a synthesising tendency which cannot be attributed to the mechanical structure of physical bodies. A movement deliberately directed to an end that is yet to be realised cannot be said to be blind. It is not difficult to see that being manifest an inherent tendency to reach a goal common to all of them, which naturally makes one believe that there is a universal force at work everywhere, actuating all beings towards the attainment of their essential existence.

The view that there is new creation at every step should not be taken to be identical with the theory of the emergent evolutionists of the West. It is held, for example, that oxygen and hydrogen are the causes of water; but as these causes do not have the characteristics of their effect even in the least, the emergent evolutionists think that there is an entirely new property manifested in the effect, which was not present in the cause. While denying the claims of mechanism, they are anxious to uphold the untenable theory that something can come out of nothing. In other words, it means that there can be an effect without a cause, for the special features appearing in water are said not to exist in its causes, viz. oxygen and hydrogen. This theory is obviously not acceptable on the very face of it, for we never see something coming out of nothing. That oxygen and hydrogen taken separately give no hint of the property of water shows, not that water has properties quite independent of those of oxygen and hydrogen, but that our observations of the essential constituent properties of the causes of water are today imperfect and very inadequate for the task. Complex organisms do not manifest entirely new characteristics, but make manifest those features that were already present in the cause, though imperceptible to and unrecognisable by even the acutest scientific examination. All hidden elements need not necessarily reveal themselves to analysis by means available at present to human beings. The new qualities that appear in effects are the results of the manifestation of a greater amount of reality, and this reality will be found to be commonly present in all things, though unevenly revealed in them. Evolution is not creation but an unfoldment of potential being. In most cases this potentiality is invisible and even unimaginable. Inorganic matter cannot express thought, emotion or understanding, and the reason for the appearance of the latter in higher organisms is to be ascribed not to physical laws but to the nature of a reality which is endowed with such properties. If, on the other hand, there is an entirely new creation at every stage of evolution, there would be no possibility of a cosmic consciousness, an instantaneous knowledge of the past, present and future, which many sages claim to have in profound meditation. God is said to be omniscient; but even He cannot be so if there is an eternal and absolutely new creation every time. There cannot even be any such thing as eternity, if only the theory of emergent evolution is to be admitted as it is presented today. Only the acceptance of the view that evolution is an unfoldment of latent existence can explain satisfactorily experience as given in the world.

Living organisms exhibit a peculiar aptitude and capacity to grow, select, adjust, feel, preserve and reproduce, which cannot be seen to be present in inorganic bodies. Freedom and choice are the special prerogatives of living organisms, which matter does not have. Highly developed organisms struggle to overcome the encumbrances of unsuitable environment and finally succeed in their attempt. They use intelligence, tactics and methods which we cannot see functioning or operating in inorganic matter. The principle that directs the process of change, transformation and evolution is held by many to be a mind endowed with a consciousness of a specific destiny. A. N. Whitehead gives voice to the tendency of the present day to go beyond the mechanistic theory to the theory of organisms. He says that science is now becoming the study of organisms and that biology is the study of the larger organisms, whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms. Right from electrons and protons up to the highest kind of living bodies, there is to be observed a process of organisation into more complex structures. All this complicated process is ultimately under the guidance and direction of a reality that is immanent in all things,—the principle of consciousness. Whether we agree with him or not in regard to all his propositions, there is no doubt that Bergson made an epoch-making advance in the attempt to break down the old belief in the ultimate competency of mechanistic laws to explain the phenomena of life. The conception of a driving force in evolution has a long history of its own. Huxley and Loeb propounded a mechanistic theory of life. Aristotle in ancient days, and Driesch in recent times, posited a vital force or some non-material principle. Bergson brought forth his elan vital and Lloyd Morgan and Samuel Alexander a nisus, for evolution. Hobhouse is inclined to think that there is a mind at the back of evolution operating as its propelling force. Eddington comes near the Vedanta when he admits a universal mind as the highest principle reigning behind all forms of life and existence. He says that the proud knowledge which the theory of relativity has given to the scientist today is after all, in regard to the nature of things, an empty shell—a form of symbols. “It is knowledge of structural form, and not knowledge of content. All through the physical world runs that unknown content, which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness. Here is a hint of aspects deep within the world of physics, and yet unattainable by the methods of physics. And, moreover, we have found that where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from Nature that which the mind has put into Nature” (Space, Time and Gravitation: p. 200). The ingressive evolution of Whitehead throws much light on the possible truth of the fact of evolution. There is not any particular cause preceding any particular effect in the succession of events in time, but there is a universal interaction of forces, wherein each element is equally a cause and an effect when viewed with a cosmic vision of things. When the intellect functions within the framework of space-time, it is forced to look at the position of the cause as antecedence in time; but the whole question of time is finally solved in that consciousness which envisages the entire scheme of the universe in an eternal now and an infinite here.

Space, Time and Causation

Space is the condition of externality, time the process of continuance of being. We know the world as contained in space, as existing in time. There is no world without space and time, and no idea of our living as human beings can ever arise except in terms of space and time. The two are fundamental for all experience, and life is unimaginable without the concepts of extension and period. It would appear from the nature of things that a knowledge of space and time would necessarily provide an insight into the nature of the world as a whole. The importance of this proposition becomes evident when we envisage the utter impossibility of the very concept of being, as far as we are concerned, except on the presupposition of the idea of space and time. Even thought becomes abortive when it is forced to operate without the postulation of these limiting conditions prior to the attempt at thinking, or a least simultaneously with it. The world is often identified with the time-process and is indistinguishable from the notion of mass and dimension. Perhaps the world is what we understand by space and can be explained when the meaning of time is correctly understood. But what are space and time?

The Yogavasishtha, which abounds in an extensive treatment of the nature of the world in terms of space and time, propounds the amazing doctrine that space and time are not realities in themselves but appearances relative to experience. It teaches that space and time are ultimately constructions of thought and are dependent on thought. One cannot conceive of space and time when the functions of the mind are inhibited, or where no consciousness seems to operate. It is possible for different persons existing in different orders of reality to experience the same world as being possessed of different space-time significance. The reality of space and time, and the stability, order and meaning of the things of the world change, according to the Yogavasishtha, in different space-time realms. There can be no experience of space without the individualisation of consciousness. Space is a mode of perception by the individualised observer. Where individuality is not, space also is not. The perception of space is relative to the activity of the mind. Under different conditions, different orders of space can be perceived by the same mind. Even a small area of space can appear to the mind, under certain circumstances, as a vast extension, or a kingdom itself. The mind in the state of dream, for example, experiences a universe with its own space and time. The dream world has all the characters and structural qualities of the waking world, and yet the two realms are different from each other. We also know that, even in this world, the mind can perceive a thing as what it is not. Two-dimensional pictures can be made to rouse the idea of a three-dimensional region of great immensity. The mind can project forth space in accordance with the condition in which it is. The idea of time, again, is dependent on the idea of space. In fact, the concepts of space and time rise simultaneously, and as spatial characters are relative to states of mind, so are time characters. A moment of time can appear to the mind as a long universal cycle, and the latter, again, can appear to it as a moment under certain given conditions. Whatever is the nature of the objective condition to which consciousness is related, that alone appears to it as reality. When consciousness is switched on to the idea of a moment, even an age can be passed as a moment, while, when it is identified with the idea of a long period of time, even a moment can be experienced as such. The nature of the experience of space and time depends upon the manner in which the consciousness happens to be objectively modalised. Persons who are in a depressed state of mind or who are in deep sorrow are apt to feel that a moment of time is like a year, while those who revel in happiness would feel the contrary. Space and time are ultimately conditions of consciousness and are not independent of it. In the dreaming state experiences ranging over thousands of years can be undergone in a moment’s time, while, at the same time, the mind in this state can also project a moment’s experience into a history of several years. In the state of intense spiritual contemplation and Samadhi, space and time are transcended, and only pure consciousness reveals itself. In this consciousness the entire universal cycle is said to appear and disappear within the millionth part of a moment. Space is the way in which the mind knows things as having extension, and time is the feeling of the succession of internal states reacting to those of events outside.

The relativity of space and time, the ultimate ideal character of the world and the presence of worlds within worlds are picturesquely illustrated in the following remarkable story narrated in the Yogavasishtha:

There was a king called Padma who ruled over this earth. He had a queen, by name Lila. Due to her intense devotion to her lord, Lila wished that her husband should be exempted from death. With this in view she once invited the wise men of the city and questioned them as regards the possibility of freeing her husband from mortality. The wise men’s reply was that no one in the world can ever be free from the clutches of death, for all that is born is bound to die. Disappointed at this, Lila began to propitiate the goddess Sarasvati. The goddess, being pleased, asked Lila what she wanted from her as a boon. Lila said in reply that, if her husband was to quit his body before her own demise, his soul might remain within her own room even after its departure, and not go outside anywhere. The goddess granted the boon and, adding that she would be present before Lila any time she thought of her, disappeared from sight. In course of time, the death of Padma occurred, and Lila was sunk in sorrow. A voice from an invisible source proclaimed to Lila that there was no need to grieve over her husband’s death, that his soul was inside her own room, and that his body should be preserved well until the time when his soul would vivify it again. Lila felt happy, meditated on the goddess Sarasvati, and instantly Sarasvati appeared before her. Lila questioned the goddess as to where her husband was living at that time. The goddess answered that the soul of Padma was within the room, but in a different world of space and time, which was subtler than this present world in which Lila was living. The goddess explained to Lila the way in which worlds exist within worlds, interpenetrating but without affecting one another. The one is absent to the other, though the one may exist within the other. But one who wishes to have a knowledge of the other worlds may, by extraordinary powers, obtain it. Hearing this, Lila cherished a desire to see personally the world in which her husband was living after his death. The goddess provided Lila with the necessary psychic equipment with which to enter the subtler realm and perceive the objects and events there as its denizen.

The goddess Sarasvati and Lila, by supernatural powers, entered the world of Padma, which he had gained as a result of his previous Karmas. Sarasvati and Lila, when they entered the new world, found that the king was sixteen years old and was ruling over a vast kingdom of his own, though Padma had died only a few hours before their arrival in this new kingdom. Lila was wonderstruck to have this marvellous experience, for she could not understand how one could be sixteen years old within the period of a few hours and how a vast kingdom could exist within the limited space in a room. Sarasvati tried to dispel the doubts of Lila by explaining to her that worlds can exist even in an atom, that space and time are not limited to any single order of perception, that there are different spaces and times and that there are different worlds of different kinds, each governed by the special laws of its own space and time. The events that take place in a moment in a particular world may occur in a long universal cycle in some other world. In dream, one may experience the vicissitudes of a whole life in a moment. The same rule applies to other worlds also. Lila was in a state of consternation when she heard such startling things, but Sarasvati increased her dismay by telling her that she and her husband Padma were actually a Brahmin couple reborn after the latter’s death which occurred only eight days before at some other place. And during this week Padma had ruled over his kingdom for fifty years and died. Sarasvati added that there was a Brahmin called Vasishtha living with his wife Arundhati. One day, the Brahmin happened to witness the procession of a king and developed a desire in his mind to enjoy the pleasures of a king. It so happened that the Brahmin died the same day, leaving the desire unfulfilled. The Brahmin’s wife had received a boon that the soul of her husband, in case he died before her, should not go outside her house, and that she should live with her husband forever. Stricken with grief, Arundhati entered the funeral pyre of her husband and burnt herself. Sarasvati said that all this happened only eight days ago, and that Vasishtha and Arundhati were reborn as Padma and Lila. The kingdom of Padma and Lila was then declared to be within the house of Vasishtha and Arundhati, and the new kingdom of Padma after his death to be within the room of Lila. What could be more terrifying to Lila than this? Sarasvati, in order to verify the facts in the presence of Lila, took her to the realm in which Vasishtha and Arundhati lived, where they saw the sons of the Brahmin couple wailing over the deaths of their parents. Lila actually saw the house of the Brahmin family and was informed by those then present that the death of the pious couple took place only a week ago. Lila developed immediately a desire to know all her previous births, and by the grace of Sarasvati she obtained this knowledge of her entire past history beginning from creation itself.

Sarasvati and Lila then returned to the kingdom of Viduratha, which was the name of Padma as king after his rebirth. To the surprise of Lila, Viduratha was found to be seventy years old then. He had married a queen, by name Lila. Due to his intense desire to live with his consort, Padma, in his present birth, too, obtained a queen of the same name, with the same qualities. Sarasvati and Lila called Viduratha in private and reminded him of his previous life as Padma. The king, due to his knowledge of his past birth, wished to become Padma again, and his present queen, who may be called Lila II, also wished to follow Viduratha in his future life as well, and asked for a boon to that effect from Sarasvati. After a time, the kingdom of Viduratha was invaded by enemies and there was a fierce battle fought between the contending armies. In the battle, Viduratha was killed, and his soul which had not gone out of the room of Lila I, entered the corpse of Padma, and there Padma rose up again as the ruler of his previous kingdom. He began to have the consciousness of the new realm and found also the two Lilas standing before him as his queens, whom he had obtained as a result of the intensity of his desires. Padma then lived happily as a king with the two Lilas as his queens. The life of Viduratha, extending over seventy years, was lived in a single day after the death of Padma.

This story is intended to illustrate the fact that spaces and times are many and are related to their experiencer. All our experiences are the results of our previous desire-impressions. One’s birth, death and the environment in which one lives are all the direct consequences of the patterns of one’s desires. There is no such thing as a static and unconditioned world which can be valid for all people and for all times. The reactions to one’s previous actions—mental, verbal or physical—materialise themselves as conditions of objective experience for the agent of those actions. Each one’s world is made up of his own desires, though the material of that world may be drawn from any objective realm which may be equally real to many others who, too, happen to be born in that world due to the similarity of conditions which they are expected to experience.

The philosopher Kant thought that space and time are empirically real and transcendentally ideal. The ideas of space and time are, according to him, required to give form and order to the manifold of sensations which are not presented in an ordered form. Space and time are perceptual categories, they are the necessary conditions of all perception. Space is said to represent and determine the form of external perception, while time represents and determines the perception of internal states. They are empirically real, for they constitute not mere forms of perception but actual perceptions themselves. They are the sense-data which, with the structure of the understanding, make all definite human knowledge possible. They are transcendentally ideal, for they are ultimately a priori forms of perception and are contributed somehow by the nature of the sensibility and the understanding. The view of Kant seems to be that space and time have a meaning only from the point of view of individuals, though they are universal in the sense that they are valid also for other minds.

The Relativity of Space and Time

The absolute character of space and time has been denied by the physical theory of relativity. The three-dimensional space and the one-dimensional time which were supposed to have absolute validity have now been found to be welded together into a primordial stuff of space-time, of which the space and time which we ordinarily know are mere abstractions. The real physical world is, therefore, a four-dimensional realm with the ideas of up and down, right and left, forward and backward, and before and after for its constituents. These four sets of relations are to be taken into consideration in determining the character of any particular event. The theory of relativity has further led to modify our conception of matter which, it holds, is not an independent entity by itself, but is constituted of twists and turns or wrinkles in the space-time manifold. Space and time are discovered to be relative to the position and motion of the observers and the systems of reference which they employ. When these systems change, the significance of space and time also changes accordingly. The significance is, however, universal and not merely individual. The position has been summed up by James Jeans, thus: “Thus we conclude, with a high degree of probability, that the space-time unity and the objects which figure in it cannot be mere constructs of our individual minds, but must have existences of their own, although we know that space and time separately are abstractions of our individual minds from the space-time unity. This does not, of course, touch the question, to which we shall return later, of whether space, time and the material world are or are not of a mental nature, being perhaps the constructs of a consciousness superior to our own. So long as we are concerned only with our sensations, it is all the same whether we regard the world as a mental construct or as having an existence of its own independent of mind—the essential point at the moment is that it cannot be a private mental construct of our own” (Physics and Philosophy: p. 192).

The fact that space and time are mental constructs need not necessarily mean that each individual experiencer should have an absolutely independent world. There can be a common space-time for all observers who happen to use the same frame of reference, though there may be differences in the manner of their subjective reactions and interactions in relation to other individuals of such a space-time-world. This shows that the external world of common experience is not a construct of any particular individual but is the uniform object—with exceptions in respect of subjective reactions—experienced by a number of individual minds, establishing thus an existence of itself with some sort of independence over the perceiving minds. But even the world of a common space-time to different individuals of similar frames of reference must fall within the construct of a cosmic mind which should include all subjects and objects of perception. The space-time world is extra-mental to individual experiencers, but mental to the cosmic experiencer. The reality of the external world to individual experiencers cannot be obviated as long as experience is confined to individuality, for the curious fact that is often forgotten is that the individuals experiencing the world are themselves contents of the world as far as their constitution is concerned, though their essential consciousness ought to be construed to belong to a realm that is beyond space-time. But from the point of view of the ultimate consciousness, the reality of the world of space-time is revealed, and this ideality has reference and validity only to this consciousness. And as this consciousness is universal, the world of space-time is ideal only to it and not to the individuals. The latter are bound to particular and relative frames of reference of space-time. This bondage is Samsara. The universal consciousness, on the other hand, is the single witness and observer of the totality of all space-time reference and, not being confined to any particular order of space-time, it is eternally liberated and is identified with supreme freedom and bliss.

The story of Lila and Padma, in the Yogavasishtha, demonstrates the truth that the same event can have several dates and locations. An event that may take place for us on a particular day or date need not necessarily mean that it is completely restricted to that particular space-time coordinate. Every event is a universal event and is valid to the whole cosmos, though with the necessary changes required to make it relevant to the realm of being which is valid to all the frames of space-time experience. The past, present and future have no absolute determinations but are significant only in relation to individual experiencers. An event may have a different significance altogether with a different space-time meaning in some other realm of the universe. What is past need not necessarily be past for every one, and this applies to the present and the future also. The only thing that can be said about the truth regarding events is that they occur, ultimately, in eternity which does not admit of the differences of past, present and future. The division in the time-series has validity in relation to individuals whose consciousnesses are apparently divided due to their being fastened to particular objects of experience. Any event, taken by itself, and at a single given moment of time, may belong to either the past, or the present or the future in accordance with the space-time coordinate from which it is viewed. And from the point of view of the universal being, an event is a universal process inseparable from the consciousness in which it occurs. The divisions of space and time are, therefore, not truths having meaning to all experiencers but are, in a sense, working hypotheses constructed for making individual life possible. Space-time is a relation and not an existence. This world of space-time in which we live is not the only possible or the real one. There are as many worlds with as many space-times as there are frames of reference for modes of consciousness. When freed from limitation to any particular frame of space-time, an event reveals its character of being universal, i.e., of being everywhere and at all times, without spatial or temporal confinement of any kind. An event is infinite and eternal if only it can be extricated from particularised space-time references. As Truth is a universal oneness, all events in all space-times should be contained in it as non-different from it.

The Phenomenal Character of Space

A knowledge of space implies a knowledge of the terms that it relates, and a knowledge of these terms, again, requires a knowledge of the space that differentiates them. Space and the things that it relates to determine one another. It is not true that space and time have an existence independent of the bodies which they contain and limit. If there is no individual existence, there is no spatial existence, also. Our dream perception is a clear instance: space and time with the objects appear to be all real while they are seen, but, on waking, the dream space and time vanish together with the dream objects. We do not see merely the dream space and time persisting even when their objects are contradicted in waking. Space and time are inseparably related to their contents, and their contents, again, are inseparable from the space and time in which they are involved. Without spatial and temporal distinction there is no objectness. This shows that what we perceive is not merely an isolated object but a complex system of reference which determines the nature not only of the object of knowledge but also of the individual constitution of the knower. The threefold process of the relation between the knower, the knowledge and the known, is involved in a particular space-time reference which determines the nature of all the three elements in the process. It is not enough, therefore, if in our search for real knowledge we take into consideration only the object of knowledge as spatially and temporally cut off from the subject, for the great error that is committed in all our objective searches and endeavours is that we disregard the role that is played by ourselves in our activities. What we know is really not any independent object but a complex situation in which the object is involved. And in this situation we ourselves, as knowers, are involved, so that in the degree of reality manifest in the subject and the object of our knowledge there is practically no difference. All quest for genuine knowledge must pay due regard to all the factors that are implicit in the manifestation of knowledge, and, obviously, it is not merely the object that is its determinant. Every act of knowledge includes the characters of space, time, causality, individuality and a distinction between the knower and the known. Unless a critical analysis of all these elements in their relation to one another is made in determining the nature of right knowledge, there is no possibility of our attaining it. Real knowledge is always a whole, and it binds together, in an internal relation, all the constituents which bring it about. This phenomenon gives us an insight into the truth that we live not as private individuals but as inhabitants of a cosmos where each is related to the other in the manner of parts to the whole in a living organism.

That space is not ultimately real is clear from the fact that externality is not ultimately real. Externality is the same as duality in perception, and reality is ever free from it, for what is real is never known as an object. If externality is not real, space cannot be real, and the reality of space is there only as long as externality is recognised as a fact. An inward harmony among things, which is their ultimate essence, discloses the empirical character of space which, by its very nature, does not allow of such a harmony. Discreteness among objects is fundamental to space, and indivisibility is natural to reality. Space-perceptions are determined by the position and velocity of individuals existing as percipients, and in several respects this law applies to time-perceptions also. That space and time are an appearance is discussed by Prof. Taylor on metaphysical grounds. “An all-comprehensive experience cannot apprehend the detail of existence under the forms of space and time for the following reason.” “It (i.e. such an experience) would not be of perceptual space and time, because the whole character of our perceptual space and time depends upon the very imperfections and limitations which make our experience fragmentary and imperfect. Perceptual space and time are, for me, what they are, because I see them, so to say, in perspective from the special standpoint of my own particular here and now. If that standpoint were altered, my whole outlook on the space and time order would suffer change. But the Absolute cannot look at the space and time order from the standpoint of my here and now. For, it is the finitude of my interests and purposes which confines me in my outlook to this here and now. If my interests … were coextensive with the life of the whole, every place and every time would be my here and now… “ “An absolute experience must be out of time and out of space, in the sense that its contents are not apprehended in the form of spatial and temporal series, but in some other way. Space and time then must be the phenomenal appearance of a higher reality which is spaceless and timeless” (Elements of Metaphysics: p. 254).

The Transcendence of Space in the Atman

The world of space and time has no independent existence; it is included in the Atman or the supreme Self. The Self is the Paramarthikasatta (absolute reality), while the space-time world has only Vyavaharikasatta (pragmatic reality) relevant only to empirical experience. Space has a meaning in the distinction that is commonly made between in and out, here and there, this and that, etc. This distinction obtains only so long as there is no recognition of the true relation that subsists between the two points related. The ultimate relation among things is pure consciousness, independent of objects, and the non-experience of it is the condition of the perception of spatial difference. The differentiation of the knowing self from its object is the prerequisite of the appearance of space. The moment the Self is segregated from the contents of its knowledge, there is the notion of space and time arising in it. In the undivided consciousness of the Self the distinction of in and out, here and there, etc. gets merged, and space, whose essence is this distinction, gets negatived. For the same reason, temporal distinction has no meaning to the Self, for the Self is consciousness which knows even this distinction. The division of time into past, present and future has a spatial import, and the non-spatial Self ought to be non-temporal, too. While the time-series is to be identified with a state of change, the Self which witnesses all change is known to remain changeless. All change is an appearance consequent upon the false isolation of the Self from the objects, and vice versa. The agency of the Self in action, and the validity of action, also, are based on this erroneous notion of the individualisation of consciousness as separated from its objects. The knowledge-essence of the Self becomes evident when its spatial embodiment and temporal confinement are known to be unreal. The individuality of the individual, the plurality of the selves and the diversity of objects are all transcended in the oneness of the Self. The whole of Samsara consists in confinement to space-time, for it arises on account of the misconception that the body is the Self, this misconception being simultaneous with the rise of the notion of space and time. The essence of the Self is knowledge, and this knowledge has no in and out, here and there, etc., for it is universal. The Kathopanishad declares that whatever is here is also there, and whatever is there is also here, and that he goes from death to death who perceives here diversity, as it were. In the Atman there is no plurality or duality, and so no space or time. In the words of the Chhandogya Upanishad, the Atman alone is below, above, before, behind, to the right, to the left; the Atman, indeed, is all this. As the Atman is inside as well as outside of all things, space and time are not significant to it. “How did space manifest in the spaceless Brahman? How did East, West, North and South come into existence? This also is a creation or trick of the mind. When you are tired, even a furlong appears to be a mile. When you are vigorous, a mile seems to be a furlong. For a Jivanmukta or seer there is neither time nor space. He beholds Brahman which is timeless and spaceless” (Philosophy and Teachings: p. 89).

In his commentary on the Brahmasutras, Swami Sivananda makes the following remarks in regard to space: Ether is not eternal but created. The Purvapakshin says that Akasa is not caused or created because there is no mention to that effect in the creation passage of the Chhandogya Upanishad. He holds that Akasa is eternal and not caused, because the Sruti cited does not speak of it as caused, while it refers specifically to the creation of fire. But, the Siddhantin replies that there is a Sruti which expressly says that Akasa is created. Though there is no statement in the Chhandogya Upanishad regarding the causation of Akasa, yet there is a passage in the Taittiriya Sruti on its origination. ‘From that Self sprang Akasa, from Akasa air, from air fire, from fire water, from water earth.’ It is objected that the Taittiriya text referred to, which declares the origin of Akasa, should be taken in a secondary or figurative sense, as Akasa cannot be created, for it has no parts. As a spaceless state antecedent to the creation of space cannot be predicated, space cannot be said to have a cause. As space is all-pervading, it must be causeless. Against this objection it may be said that the scriptural assertion that from the knowledge of Brahman everything is known can be true only if everything in the world is an effect of Brahman. Because the Sruti says that the effects are not different from the cause; therefore, if the cause, Brahman, is known, the effects also will be known. If Akasa does not originate from Brahman, we cannot know it by a knowledge of Brahman. And by this the scriptural assertion would become false and Akasa would still remain to be known, as it is not an effect of Brahman. But, if Akasa is created, there will be no such difficulty at all. Hence Akasa has to be admitted to be an effect and as created. It is an element like fire and air, and so it must have an origin. It is the substratum of an impermanent quality, viz. sound, and as such it must be impermanent. This is the direct argument to prove the origin and destruction of Akasa. The indirect argument to prove it is: Whatever has no origin is eternal, as Brahman, and whatever has permanent qualities is eternal, as the soul, but Akasa, not being like Brahman in these respects, cannot be eternal.

We see in this universe that all created things are different from one another. Akasa is separate from earth, etc. And Akasa also must be an effect. It cannot be eternal, and it is not stated by anyone to be self-existent. The all-pervasiveness and eternality of Akasa are only relatively true, for Akasa is not an effect of Brahman. It is not right to say that with reference to the origin of Akasa we could not find out any difference between its pre-causal states (the time before and after its origination). Brahman is described in the Sruti as not gross and not subtle. The Sruti refers to an Anakasa (spaceless) state, a condition devoid of differentiation. Brahman does not participate in the nature of Akasa, and so it is a settled conclusion that before Akasa was produced Brahman existed.

Akasa has an Anitya-Guna (non-eternal attribute), and so it should be Anitya (non-eternal). The perishability of Akasa is known from its being the substratum of the non-eternal quality of sound, just as jars and other things which are the substrata of non-eternal qualities are found to be non-eternal. Scripture and reason show that Akasa has an origin. And this origin is Brahman, which does not admit of non-eternal qualities (Vide, Brahmasutras: Vol. I, pp. 418-433). In his Ten Upanishads, Swami Sivananda says that space and time manifest themselves first, that the first prerequisite of relative existence is extension and that, when there is time, events come in succession. He concludes that, even when one imagines that nothing exists, space will remain and that, when space is transcended, knowledge of the Self ensues.

Time is an Appearance

Time is non-eternal like space. It is in the nature of things in time to exhibit a tendency to reach beyond themselves towards a state exceeding the present one. All things in this world acquire a meaning when they are understood in terms of their existence in time, and shorn of all relevance to it, they have no significance. Every object or event in this world is at once connected with a past and suggests a future, though it has also a present. Nothing can exist merely in the present without reference to a past and a future. A present without a past or a future is inconceivable to us, for it means eternity beyond time, of which we can form no idea. Individual existence has a hypothetical present which is inconceivable without reference to what preceded it and what lies ahead of it. It is this connection of things and events with parts of a succession of temporal experience that makes them relative. The world is in time, and time is not in the eternal. Time has a speciality in that individuals have no power to move in it, though they have an ability to travel in space. This, perhaps, explains the phenomenon of our being anxious not so much to be ubiquitous as to be immortal. There is a desire in all beings to perpetuate their existence and their actions, reflecting thereby the presence of an eternal something which is their ultimate ideal. The perception of time is the consciousness of the succession of events or cognitive acts, and when attention is centred in a particular fusion of a certain group of successive moments of cognition or acts of awareness, the consciousness of duration within the jurisdiction of that attention goes by the name of the present time.

Things in this world of time do not exist but flow in a series of events. The world is not being but becoming. Time is becoming, while eternity is being. Every event in the temporal world has an infinite past and an infinite future, and the chain of the order of events does not seem to have either a beginning or an end. Though every event is related to every other, our consciousness of an event does not contain this cosmic relation, but takes the event as a truncated unit in a continuous series of bits of process which seem to be externally related to one another. But in the eternal, the whole can be seen to be present in every one of its parts, which are all connected with it in an internal relation. Temporal events, as viewed from the standpoint of the eternal, are not externally related bits, but a mirroring of the Absolute. As far as ordinary experience is concerned, the consciousness of time cannot be separated from the consciousness of space. Whatever we know is not only in space but also in time. This makes one feel that space and time are not two different realities conditioning experience in different ways, but appearances or aspects of one reality. Modern science calls this matrix space-time or a four-dimensional continuum, the acceptance of which seems to imply the negation of the commonly accepted values of individual bodies that are believed to be contained in space and time taken as separate entities. The truth of individuality lies not in itself alone but in the complex structure of the total experience constituted of different factors, viz. space, time and selfhood. We always think and believe ourselves to be in space and time, and never in a space-time unity, for, to think in a space-time unity would be not to think at all as individual beings.

“Time is a mode of the mind. Time is a mental creation. Time is a trick or jugglery of the mind. Time is an illusion. Brahman is beyond time. It is eternity.” “Tomorrow becomes today and today becomes yesterday. The future becomes the present and the present become the past. What is all this? This is a creation of the mind alone. In Isvara everything is present only, everything is here only.” “There is neither day nor night, neither yesterday nor tomorrow in the sun. The mind has created time and space. When you are happy, time passes away quickly; when you are unhappy, time hangs heavily. This is only a relative world. The theory of relativity of Einstein throws much light on the nature of Maya and this world” (Philosophy and Teachings: pp. 88-89). “Time is a false thing. When you are concentrated, three hours appear as half an hour. When the mind is wandering, half an hour appears as three hours. In dream, within ten minutes, you see events of a hundred years. The mind will make one Kalpa as one minute and one minute as one Kalpa” (Ibid, p. 102). “Time is caused by the succession of events. How can there be time in eternity? Space is distance between two objects. How can there be space when you feel and behold the Self everywhere?” (Secret of Self-realisation: p. 75). It is our habit of thinking in terms of a before and an after that is responsible for our perception of time. In fact, we cannot know time if there are no distinguishable events which we understand to be taking place in space. There is implied an idea of extendedness even in the idea of the succession of events in time. The difference that we observe between two instants of time—and in the perception of this difference alone is contained the meaning of time—can be valid only on the supposition of the existence of space between the instants. Though, in a way, it can be said that space and time rise simultaneously in our consciousness, we seem to discover in it a precedence of the idea of space, without which even instants of time cannot be known. The notion of duality is common to both the consciousness of space and the consciousness of time. And we are accustomed to think of duality and difference as distinction in space. As the ultimate reality is non-dual, time, which is characterised by the duality of instants, cannot be predicated of it. Reality is not in time. It has neither a past nor a future but has its significance in a transcendent present. This present is not, however, the one that we know here with our minds. It is a timeless present, an instantaneous now, with which a spaceless infinitude gets fused in a divisionless experience. This is our real Self.

Swami Sivananda teaches that the real is not bound by space and time and that, therefore, whatever is limited to space and time must be unreal. As our knowledge in this world, our thoughts, feelings and reactions are within space and time, they cannot have the character of reality. Space is divisible and reality is indivisible. Space and time disclose in themselves a tendency to self-transcendence. The intellectual habit of taking for granted the finitude of the self does not give us truth. The truth is that reality is not limited to the body but encompasses the whole universe. It is the Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Isvara, all in one. Its essence is Brahman. The misery of life consists in the consciousness of the separation of oneself from the universal reality of Brahman, and perennial bliss is in the experience of the oneness of the self with Brahman. In every act of the mind there is an assertion of the separation of the self from reality, and so it must naturally be of the nature of a hungering for that happiness which it cannot find anywhere in the realm of its operations. Mental activity is painful, for it is a search for that which it has lost by isolating itself from that which it seeks.

Causation: A Law of Necessity

The human mind is bound up in the idea of causal relation. The cause seems to precede the effect in a temporal sequence. It is impossible for us to think of the occurrence of events independently of the concept of causality. The idea of space and time is intimately connected with this concept. Space, time and cause represent the three basic units of the structure of all conceivable knowledge. The moment an event is known, it is found to be in space and time and is at once linked up with others in a causal change. We either think in terms of space, time and cause or do not think at all. This exhibits the completely empirical character of our knowledge of the world. We are accustomed to think that there ought to be a cause for every effect and that every effect should be related to its cause spatially and temporally. The commonsense view of causality, however, does not stand the test of careful scrutiny. On observation it is found that every cause has another cause behind it, so that no single object or event can be considered to be a cause of a particular effect. There is a series of causes, even as there is a series of effects. If we take into consideration the position of an event in this long chain of causation, we will find that every cause is also an effect with reference to that from which it originated, and a cause in relation to that which it originates. Further, no single factor does ever become a cause of any condition or situation. The ordinary view of causation takes only a bit of the whole process by way of abstraction, disregarding the other factors which are not open to the immediate observation of the senses and the mind. The question now arises as to whether causation is a fact relevant to the world in itself, or it is only a mental habit to cognise events in a particular way.

Kant held that the mind imposes on the chaotic and disorderly material of the world its own laws of order, regularity, causality, etc., so that our experiences must fit in with the framework of the mind. This framework is supplied by the mind for the arrangement of objects which become the contents of its knowledge. Things of the world, in themselves, are not really related exactly in the way in which the mind supposes them to be; but the recognition of causation in the world of events is a necessary condition of the mind, to be obeyed and fulfilled, if we are to have any experience at all. Modern physics maintains that the mind selects certain aspects of the world, which can fit into the, categories of which it is constituted, and rejects other aspects which remain outside its knowledge. The symbolic world of present day physics is an abstraction of a mental construct from reality, and this abstraction obeys the laws of the mind, of mathematics and of physics. Thus we are led finally to the conclusion arrived at by Eddington that “where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from Nature that which the mind has put into Nature.” We seem to discover ourselves in the world outside.

The Meaning of Causal Relation

Causation implies that one thing proceeds from another thing. But one thing cannot be the cause of another thing if one thing is different from another thing, for causation becomes a relation between two terms, and if there is no such relation, there is no causation. But if there is such a relation, there is no sharp difference between cause and effect. The discovery of the nature of the effect in the cause shows that cause and effect are, essentially, non-different. And if they are non-different, again, there can be no causation, for causation has a meaning only when cause and effect maintain some sort of independence. The causal concept is logically indefensible, and it arises on account of our weddedness to the notion of the spatialisedness of experience. No intelligible explanation of causation can be offered on the basis of the belief in the actual separation of objects from one another. The duality that hampers us at every step becomes a hindrance to a correct understanding of life in its essence. Only on the admission of the universe as a connected process of events, and not a collocation of isolated objects hanging in space, can a satisfactory account of the phenomenon of causation be given. And, if the universe is a continuous process, no one thing or event in it can be said to be the cause of any other thing or event, for, in an unbroken process, every part has to pervade and penetrate every other part, so that everything in it becomes a cause as well as an effect. Every event, at every moment, reflects a universal situation, and does not stand as a witness abstracted from the whole. James Jeans says: “If we suppose that the happenings of Nature are governed by a causal law, we must suppose that the cause of any effect is the whole previous state of the world, so that every effect has an infinite number of causes.” “Yet in considering any event it is not necessary for all previous events in the history of the world to be considered as separate causes. The effects of the earlier of them are already taken into account in the later, and they need not be allowed for twice over. It is enough to consider a cross-section at one particular instant of time” (Physics and Philosophy: pp. 103-104).

That there is something exceedingly wrong with our ordinary notion of causality is pointed out by Prof. C. E. M. Joad, in his Guide to Philosophy (p. 219), by a striking illustration from the speed of light. Starting with the explanation that an observer situated in a comet travelling away from the earth and viewing events upon the earth through a telescope will be able to observe the events of the earth when the light-rays travelling from earth reach him, he says that, if the speed of the comet were equal to that of light, the events upon the earth will appear to the observer to cease, since no light-rays carrying the message of the succession of events can catch him up. And if, again, the velocity of the comet were to exceed that of light, the observer will see the sequence of events in reverse order, for he will catch up the light-rays which, travelling from the earth, convey the message of events earlier than those which he has already observed. What we call causes will then appear to the observer in the comet as effects, and our effects will be to him causes. The purport of this illustration is that the idea of cause and effect is not valid to the events themselves, but that it is dependent upon the point of observation, and that the direction of causation is relative to the position and velocity of the observer. Causation, then, reduces itself to a mental construct, a form of perception and understanding, the way in which our minds are forced to view events. The world of causation cannot be the real world; the real must be other than what we know through the instruments with which we are endowed at present.

Causation and Causality

Arthur Eddington introduces a distinction between causation and causality. Causation is that relation of cause and effect in which there is the notion of the temporal antecedence of the cause to the effect. This is the ordinary commonsense view of the meaning of cause-and-effect relationship. But by causality Eddington understands not a temporal sequence of events valid to observing minds but what he terms a symmetrical relation of the totality of the events forming the world, in which the world is conceived of as a complete system of connected events. Whitehead holds a view similar to it when he proposes a reality of the nature of an organismic process. However, we have to add that causality can be said to be objective only in the sense that it is observed not merely by one mind but by all minds. Still it remains a fact that causality is meaningful only to minds and that its extra-mental validity cannot be established, though it may be that we, in the present state of affairs, are obliged to admit that causality is perhaps the way of a cosmic mind and thus enjoys an existence outside individual minds. But the purely hypothetical character of this supposition cannot be denied. A necessity of thought need not be an uncontradictable truth. James Jeans observes: “We can no longer say that the past creates the present; past and present no longer have any objective meanings, since the four-dimensional continuum can no longer be sharply divided into past, present and future.” “If we still wish to think of the happenings in the phenomenal world as governed by a causal law, we must suppose that these happenings are determined in some substratum of the world which lies beyond the world of phenomena, and so also beyond our access.” The implication of the quantum mechanics of Dirac is declared to be that there has to be a disappearance of causality from the world we see on account of the possibility of the absence of any unique association of the events in the phenomenal world with the events in the substratum.

Cause and Effect are Continuous

Causation among things outside is to be understood as the individualistic reading of the consequences of an indivisible consciousness appearing as the witness of objects which have it as their existence and content. The function of this universal principle as an unbroken continuum appears, when it is manifest in individuals, as the law of causal relation among things and events. The dynamic self-expression of the Absolute in the world of objects involves a causal relation among them. Thus, causation has a meaning in the empirical world, but is meaningless to the Absolute or to the universe taken as a whole. In the world of the senses this relation manifests itself as mechanistic causation, but to the understanding it reveals its teleological character. The world is directed by the nature of the Absolute, and so all causation must be a teleological push and pull, though in the sense-world of mathematical and physical laws mechanism has a full sway. Mechanism and teleology do not contradict each other but form two phases of one truth. The senses cannot observe the purpose hidden in Nature, they can only see a mechanical relation of causation among things. But the higher understanding soars above the mechanism of the sense-world and discovers a supreme purpose in life, towards which evolution directs it.

We have to assume that cause and effect are continuous, as there is no reason why the cause should cease to produce the effect at any given moment of time, for, a moment’s cessation may give occasion to a total cessation as the reason for a moment’s cessation may apply for all time. There should, therefore, be supposed a ceaseless flow of the cause into the effect; else there would be no causation. But, if there is an unceasing continuity between cause and effect, there would be no difference between the two; and without this difference there is no causation. Neither with difference nor without it between cause and effect does there seem to be any contingency of our giving an account of the causal scheme. Cause and effect are but two sides of a uniform existence which the logical intellect finds itself obliged to interpret as a region of causal relations. The Vedanta holds that the production of the effect is an appearance and the only reality is the cause which, due to its non-relation to any real effect, cannot even be called a cause. That the cause should have a temporal precedence over the effect is not the truth of things, but only the result of the impossibility of the intellect to think in any other way. The law of the temporal mind is no absolute law, but has a meaning only to itself. The assumption of a first causeless cause producing real effects would be to posit a beginning for the time-series which would have to originate without any reason whatsoever. If causation were real, there would be no chance of ultimate freedom or Moksha. But, from the scriptures we understand that it is possible for us to break the chain of causation and attain the highest beatitude in union with Brahman.

The Significance of the Causal Concept

Swami Sivananda accepts causation as a universal law. “No event can occur without having a positive and definite cause at the back of it. The breaking of war, the rise of a comet, the occurrence of an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, the breaking of an epidemic, thunder, lightning, floods, diseases in the body, fortune, misfortune,—all have definite causes behind them.” “There is no such thing as blind chance or accident. The cause is hidden or unknown if we are not able to trace out the cause of a particular accident.” “All the physical and mental forces in Nature obey this grand law of cause and effect. Law and the law-giver are one. Law and God are one. Nature and Nature’s laws are one.” “From the vibration of an electron to the revolution of a mighty planet, from the falling of a mango to the ground to the powerful willing of a Jnani or a Yogi, from the motion of a runner in the postal department to the movement of radio-waves in the subtle ether, from the transmitting of a telegraphic message to the telepathic communication of a Yogi in the thought-world, every event is the effect of some invisible force that works in happy concord and harmony with the law of cause and effect” (Practice of Karma-Yoga: pp. 62-63). “There is perfect continuity of life all throughout” (Ibid p. 71).

The concept of causation in the philosophy of Swami Sivananda can be formulated from an explanation of this subject offered in his commentary on the Brahmasutras. He holds, with Sankara, that the effect is non-different from the cause, and that the defects observed in the effects cannot affect the cause, even as the special features of a jar are not, when it is broken and resolved into the cause, taken into the cause. The world conceived of as an effect is not a changeless reality, and hence, when it is reabsorbed into its cause, viz., Brahman, the defects of the former are not taken over into the latter. Brahman is the Vivarta-Upadana (apparent material cause) of the world, and not its real cause, and so the qualities of the world cannot taint Brahman in any way. We see in the world that a magician conjuring up various phenomena is not affected by them even in the least. Further, all the characters of the world are not really absorbed into Brahman at the time of its dissolution. Certain characteristics of the individuals who have not attained liberation at the time of the dissolution of the world remain then in a potential state and provide the necessary cause for the subsequent creation of the world. The case is analogous to the state of waking following deep sleep. The potentiality for creation remains unseen in the condition of dissolution. The fact that particular effects are produced from particular causes, and not from things entirely dissimilar to them, shows that the effect is non-different from the cause and exists in the cause even before origination. Prior to its causation the effect is unmanifest in the cause. In creation the effect gets manifested. An effect which was non-existent in its cause cannot come into being. There is no entirely new creation, for all creation is a manifestation of what existed previously in a latent state. “The effect is not different from the cause. The effect, the world, is not different from the cause, Brahman. As the cause, Brahman is Ananda or bliss. There is reflection of bliss in the effect, the world. The essence of the world is the same as Brahman” (Secret of Self realisation: p. 96). “In this world, everything has a cause and an effect. The seed is the cause of the tree, and so on. How can there be cause and effect in Brahman which is the causeless Cause, which is self-existent, which is not an effect of anything?” (Ibid p. 75). “An effect does not exist apart from its cause. For instance, a pot does not exist apart from clay, its material cause. Similarly, this universe does not exist apart from Brahman, its material cause. It has no independent existence” (Self-Knowledge: p. 4).

The effect appears to us to proceed from the cause on account of a defect in our perception of the cause. There is nothing in the effect which is not contained in the cause, and even the spatial distance between the two is logically inadmissible. Such distinction is empirically made by the relative conditions of individual perception. If the effect is really non-existent in the cause, and if it is true that a new effect entirely different from the cause is capable of being produced, we cannot, even by an effort of imagination, conceive of its coming into being at all. No attempt on the part of an external agent can be of any avail in bringing forth an effect which is not at all the cause. Nothing can originate from nothing. Oil cannot be pressed out of sand by any amount of ingenuity or effort. There is an inseparable relation between cause and effect, and this can be intelligible only when the effect is understood as an unfoldment of the cause, and the cause as the latency of the effect.

The fact that the effect is non-different from the cause establishes the truth that the real is the cause and not the effect. The Chhandogya Upanishad declares that Brahman which is the ultimate cause is, alone, real, even as clay alone is real as the cause of all things that are made of it. As there is nothing but clay in a jar made of clay, so there is nothing but Brahman in this world. As the jar is not separate from the clay of which it is an appearance, so is the world non-different from Brahman on which it appears. From this it is also clear that a knowledge of the cause at once implies a knowledge of all its effects. When clay is known, all its effects also are known. When Brahman is known, the whole world is known. All modification is a play of speech, a mere name; the original substance alone is real. The Upanishad teaching leads to the conclusion that the name and the form of the effect are not in its cause, while the essential nature of the cause is in the effect. Only on the acceptance of the proposition that the effect is non-different from the cause can the passage of the Sruti—that with the knowledge of Brahman everything is known—have any meaning, for the knowledge of a cause cannot imply the knowledge of an effect which is different from it. Though all causes seen in the world have some other cause behind them, Brahman, which is the ultimate cause, has no other cause behind it, for the Sruti declares that the great Self is unborn and undecaying (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: IV. 4. 25): Brahman is eternal being and not an effect of any cause.

The Evolution of Name and Form

Swami Sivananda delineates the Vedanta theory of the evolution of the universe in his Vedanta in Daily Life, Self Knowledge and First Lessons in Vedanta. The method adopted is deductive, for the story of evolution begins with the affirmation of Brahman and its Sakti or the eternal Power or self-expression as the ultimate cause of the universe. As there is a limited mind in the individual, there is an unlimited mind in the cosmos. This cosmic mind in its unmanifested state exists in a primordial cause of all things, called Mula-Prakriti, or simply Prakriti. Prakriti is the Sakti of Brahman. It is the state of the equilibrium of the essences constituting the universe. The universe remains in a latent state in Prakriti, which is the mother of all phenomena, visible and invisible. Prakriti is constituted of three metaphysical properties, called Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva is the state of equilibrium of intelligence, harmony of forces and freedom from want. In it there is no distraction whatsoever. There is no movement caused by the presence of any sense of imperfection. It may be compared to a clean glass or a mirror, not stained by any colour, through which the intelligence of the Absolute gets reflected, as it were. Sattva is purity and dynamic consciousness. Etymologically, Sattva is the state of being. It is, however, not perfect being but approximate to pure being. One who is in the state of Sattva enjoys the blessedness and bliss of Brahman.

Rajas is distraction, activity, movement, disturbance. There is vibration, motion, when there is a manifestation of Rajas. In Sattva there is equilibrium, and in Rajas there is objectivity, motion in its subtle form. Activity starts when Rajas begins to operate. This is the cause of division and separation of existence. The third property of Prakriti is Tamas. It is inertia, unconsciousness and fixity, where there is no manifestation of intelligence. There is an excess of the manifestation of Tamas in inanimate objects. A predominance of Tamas characterises the non-intelligent universe. It is manifest, in some degree, even in animate beings.

An object can be in three conditions: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas—harmony, activity or inertia. Usually, the human mind never enjoys a state of this primary Sattva. It is ever in a state of secondary Rajas or Tamas. The mind of man always functions objectively; it is either active or inactive. When it is active, it is in a state of Rajas; when it is inactive, it is fixed in Tamas. It is very difficult for one to conceive of absolute Sattva. Sometimes, in states of ecstasy, Sattva, like a flash of lightning, manifests itself in the human mind also. Whenever we are happy, there is an expression of Sattva in us. When there is merely a movement or vibration, which is the quality of Rajas, there can be no experience of happiness. Happiness can be manifest only in Sattva, in a state of the equilibrium of mind, and not in Rajas. Consciousness can be manifest in Rajas, but happiness requires a subtler medium for its expression. But through Tamas neither intelligence nor happiness can be made manifest. Joy, intelligence and existence are revealed in Sattva, intelligence and existence in Rajas and existence alone in Tamas. Even inanimate things are; they exist: the other two qualities are not visible in them.

Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the ultimate stuff of which the Prakriti consists. The cosmic mind is a manifestation of Brahman in primary Sattva. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are not qualities of Prakriti in the sense of qualities seen in things of the world. When we say, for example, ‘this cloth is blue,’ we mean that blueness is a quality of the particular piece of cloth. Here the quality and substance are two different things. Blueness does not constitute the cloth, nor does it form any part of the stuff of the cloth. It is not in this sense that Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are called properties of Prakriti. In the world we see that a quality inheres in a substance, and it cannot exist without a substance. But Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are not qualities inhering in Prakriti, as in a substance, but form the very existence of Prakriti. We may bring out the significance of these primeval modes by the analogy of a rope with three strands. The strands are entwined together to form the rope. The strands are not the qualities of the rope, but form the substance out of which the rope is made. The rope does not exist without the strands. It is in the sense of the relation of the three strands to the rope that Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are said to be properties of Prakriti. They are not its external attributes but its essence and existence. And all substances in the world are made up of these three modes by permutation and combination.

These primordial properties exist in the cosmic mind and the individual mind, which bear the relation of cause and effect, or original and reflection, respectively. In the cosmic mind they exist as free media manifesting Brahman in its infinitude. But in the individual they become the secondary media manifesting a distorted form of reality in the structures of personalities and their natures. The cosmic manifestation of Brahman in pure Sattva becomes the cosmic mind in its original form, unmanifested, as if in a state of cosmic sleep. This sleep is not, however, the unconscious sleep known to individuals. Rather, it is a sleep where consciousness does not lose itself in ignorance but retains its freshness and omniscience. When Brahman manifests itself in the property of cosmic Sattva, it assumes the form of the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the universe. This first manifestation of Brahman in cosmic Sattva is called Isvara. Isvara is different from Brahman in the sense that He is in relation to the universe, while Brahman is independent of all cosmic relations. Isvara is Brahman appearing as the immanent principle in all things. For practical purposes in spiritual Sadhana, this distinction between Isvara and Brahman need not be made. The distinction is essential only in a technical study of first principles. Brahman with the relations of the universe is Isvara and Isvara without such relations is Brahman.

Brahman is also manifest in cosmic Rajas. Now, this manifestation of reality in a dividing force becomes the origin of the appearance of the different individuals in the universe. In cosmic Sattva there is no division. Hence Isvara is omnipresent. But the individuals are localised, for, they are the results of the appearance of consciousness through Rajas, the force of individuation, division and separation of existence. And when this manifestation takes place in cosmic Tamas, the history is different. Here no consciousness is to be seen, not even individual consciousness. Only existence is felt, nothing more. Even this feeling of the existence of the cosmic Tamas belongs to other conscious beings, not to the Tamas itself. The stone does not know that it has no knowledge. It is we, human beings endowed with understanding, that say that it has no consciousness. In Tamas there is no joy, no intelligence, but only unconscious existence. The stone, however, is not a product of cosmic Tamas in its pure form; it is the result of the mixing up of its derivatives. This primary Tamas is very subtle, and has a supersensible existence.

The Projection of the Universe

Brahman appears as phenomenal being: as God, the individuals and the universe. A more detailed analysis of the manner of the manifestation of Brahman through Tamas is necessary for a clear comprehension of the nature of the evolved universe. Cosmic Tamas divides itself into two forces, having two functions to fulfil: Avarana and Vikshepa. Avarana is veiling or covering of consciousness. A light that is covered with a bushel is not visible, though it is present there. Consciousness, in a like manner, is covered by the Avarana-Sakti. This Avarana, too, is twofold: Asattavarana (veiling of the existence-aspect of reality) and Abhanavarana (veiling of the consciousness aspect of reality). We are deprived of a knowledge not only of the nature of Brahman but even of its existence. But there is something worse. We are not merely ignorant of Brahman in a negative way, on account of Avarana; there is a further positive error that we commit—the perception of the external world,—which is the work of Vikshepa. Vikshepa is distraction, the projecting power, and it forms the second property of cosmic Tamas. Tamas, therefore, in one of its aspects, causes the appearance of the external universe, and here it is aided by cosmic Rajas in the act of creating a diversity of individuals. As the one mind divides itself as the subject and the objects in dream, the one cosmic mind appears as the subject and the objects in the waking state. This, then, is the twofold function of cosmic Tamas—the veiling of consciousness and the projection of an object before it.

This cosmic Vikshepa-Sakti ramifies itself into five subtle essences called Tanmatras. These Tanmatras are termed Sabda, Sparsa, Rupa, Rasa and Gandha. Sabda is the principle of sound, Sparsa of touch, Rupa of sight or form, Rasa of taste and Gandha of smell. These five essences exist in their subtle form at the time of evolution. They are all-pervading and constitute the whole cosmos in its subtle aspect. These essences, too, have their properties of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in a secondary way. The eternal modes have a primary as well as a secondary aspect. As primary modes they are free from the limitations to which the individuals are subject. Evil, suffering, pain, and the like, are seen to be occasioned only in the individual aspects of these modes, for they become incapable of manifesting, in this condition, the pure universal essence of consciousness.

Sabda, Sparsa, Rupa, Rasa and Gandha have, in each of them, the three properties of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, in their secondary conditions. The Sattva portions of each of the five Tanmatras blended together to form a whole constitute the psychological organs, viz. Buddhi (understanding and willing), Manas (thinking and feeling), Ahamkara (ego) and Chitta (memory). These are the main functions of the internal organs in us. These Sattva portions of the Tanmatras, taken individually, form the senses of knowledge or cognition. The Sattva of Sabda becomes the sense of hearing, the Sattva of Sparsa becomes the sense of touch, the Sattva of Rupa becomes the sense of seeing, the Sattva of Rasa becomes the sense of taste and the Sattva of Gandha becomes the sense of smell.

The Rajas portions of the five Tanmatras, put together, constitute the vital energy or Prana. There are five forms or functions of the Prana within us, viz. Prana, Apana, Vyana, Samana and Udana. Prana is the outgoing breath. Its seat is the heart and it does the work of respiration. Apana is the ingoing breath. It is located in the anus and it does the function of excretion. Vyana is all over the body and it is responsible for the circulation of blood in the entire system. Samana is situated in the navel and it does the work of digesting the food that is consumed. Udana is in the throat and it causes the separation of the subtle body from the physical body at the time of death. It also causes deglutition and takes the individual to Brahman during deep sleep. These five forms of the Prana constitute the collective totality of the Rajas portions of the five Tanmatras. Taken individually, these Rajas portions form the five organs of action. The Rajas of Sabda becomes the organ of speech, the Rajas of Sparsa becomes the organ of grasping (hands), the Rajas of Rupa becomes the organ for locomotion (feet), the Rajas of Rasa becomes the organ of generation and the Rajas of Gandha becomes the organ of excretion. There are also five other minor Pranas, called Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya, performing, respectively, the functions of causing belching or hiccup, closing and opening of the eyelids, hunger, yawning and nourishing the body as well as decomposing it on its death.

The Tamas portions of the five Tanmatras become the gross visible universe by a process called Panchikarana, which means quintuplication. The earth, water, fire, air and ether which we perceive through the senses are the products of this peculiar process of the mixing up of the five forms of the Tamas elements in the Tanmatras. Quintuplication is the process by which half of each Tamas element is mixed with one-eighth of each of the four remaining Tamas elements. Ether, for example, is constituted of half of the Tamas portion of the Tanmatra of Sabda, together with one-eighth of the Tamas portion of each of the other four forms of Tamas in the Tanmatras of Sparsa, Rupa, Rasa and Gandha. In a similar way, the other four great elements (Mahabhutas) are formed. Our physical bodies, too, are constituted of these five quintuplicated elements (Panchikrita-Bhutas). The worlds manifested are, however, of varying natures. “Vasishtha tells Rama, in the Yogavasishtha: ‘At one period Siva creates all the universe; at another period Brahma; at another period Vishnu; then the Munis, and so on. Sometimes Brahma is born in a lotus, sometimes in the mundane egg, sometimes in Akasa (ether). In one creation, powerful trees alone will exist in this universe; in another the earth alone; in another stones alone; in another flesh alone; and in another gold alone. Thus will it be in diverse ways. During the several creations, the foremost is sometimes ether, sometimes air, sometimes fire, sometimes water and sometimes earth. Herein I have but briefly described to you the creation of one Brahma. The order of evolution will not be the same in all Yugas (cycles of creation), but will vary with different Yugas. Krita (the first Yuga or the golden age) and other Yugas will recur again and again. There is no object in this world which does not cycle round many times’” (Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta: p. 232). This is the structure and constitution of the universe that is made explicit in the process of evolution.

Design in the Evolutionary Process

Human evolution is directed towards ultimate self-perfection. With a long quotation, Swami Sivananda ratifies the following thesis regarding evolution and its significance: “It is the progress of the Thinker in man, from his present condition of limitedness to the state of the unlimited Self. Progress of the Thinker means improvement and growth of the mind through which he thinks. In the physical plane, all vegetable and animal bodies develop out of the life-germ, the unit-cell. The embryonic cell sometimes divides itself into two or more cells, and sometimes, as in the case of the lower forms of life, it becomes associated with new cells drawn from outside. In any case, development of the embryo implies multiplication of cells. Mere multiplication of cells, again, cannot make a living body. Along with it, there is also the widening or expansion of life within, so as to control all the cells together. Similarly, a man’s mind is said to grow or expand when his thoughts extend beyond his physical body and his limited personality. As the original unit-cell is the earliest and lowest state of the physical body, thoughts of one’s own interests alone belong to the lowest stage of the mind. The mind grows when the interests of others are also considered, as the physical body grows up, packing together more cells. As there is a connecting life for all the cells together, selfless thoughts or thoughts of others’ interests should be bound up together by a connecting and unifying knowledge that all are the Self. The end of the evolution of the Thinker is reached when the evolving mental life becomes, by expansion, identical with the all-including Life” (Practice of Karma-Yoga: pp. 171-72).

“They say that evolution is going on in the universe; but what it is that is evolving they have nothing to say about. They observe different natures, bodies and objects in the universe, occupying different positions in some respects, and seeing that one is more ‘advanced’ than another, they make a regular scale, noting the different degrees of advancement. But they do not say that what is now found in the more advanced state of being must, in its essence, have been in existence formerly and must have been then in a less advanced condition. In other words, they do not say that the underlying entity which bears a more advanced form or exhibits a higher state or condition today is the same as that which formerly appeared in a coarser garb or functioned in a lower kind of existence” (Ibid, p. 167). Evolution is of name and form and not of essence. And even name and form are not evolved in any arbitrary way. There is no way of explaining evolution except by resort to the law of Karma. In this connection, a bold and ingenious theory is countenanced in the following passage: “Is a vegetable capable of doing any responsible act or Karma for which it is rewarded? If it is itself not capable of doing any, is its ascent in evolution compulsory and due to the act of another agent? If so, does it mean that the fruits of action may go to one who did nothing to merit them? Among the lower animals themselves, one is found more happy throughout its life-period, from the moment of its birth, than another. Why should it be so? The differences in the animal’s experience of pain and pleasure must have their own causes. What are they? The causes must relate to the previous existence of every such Jiva in question. This previous life could not have been that of a lower animal; for, lower animals can do no responsible Karma. The law of Karma and justice, if it is true at all, shows unmistakably that there is no real foundation for the notion that there is evolution (caused by conscious action) going on below the stage of man. Every brute, every little insect and everyone of the plants and trees—all were and are going to be again human beings themselves. They are all temporarily suspended from the class of humanity for some offences” (Practice of Karma-Yoga: pp. 169-70). To the objection that, “if all non-human states of being are only the results of previous human Karma, there must have been only men and none else in the beginning stage of the universe,” it is replied that “this question assumes that there was a beginning for the universe,” and “as there was no beginning for the universe, there could not have been any period of time when there were men alone” (Ibid, pp. 170-71). The position is that at all times there have been human as well as non-human states of being in the manifested universe, so that the condition that any experience in a sub-human state should be traced back to some previous human state need not necessarily mean that human and sub-human beings cannot coexist at all stages of the universe.

According to Lamarck, the evolution of sense-organs is preceded by hidden desires or needs of the living organism, compelling the expression of the sense-organs for the purpose of actualising these urges or needs. The inner functions are the causes of the development of the external organs. The inner needs get developed into desires which materialise themselves as individual effort, on the part of the organism, to bring out the necessary instruments for the performance of the specific functions prompted by its fundamental needs. Thus, the desire to see, hear, smell, taste and touch acts as a causative force to evolve the organs of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, respectively. Needs of the organism, however, are conditioned by the nature of the environment under the influence of which the organism becomes what it is. The universe as a whole may be said to be in travail at the birth of any single entity in it. The organs of action, in the same way, are consequences of the desire to act in particular ways. The restraint of the senses, then, is the overcoming of the inner force of desire. The Yogavasishtha propounds a similar theory of the origin of the senses and limbs in living organisms. “The thought or design which is at work in the growth and development of organised structures is not a mere mechanical power or cunning acting from without—shaping, adjusting, putting together materials prepared to its hand, constructing them according to an ingenious plan, after the manner of a maker of machines. Here, on the contrary, the idea or formative power goes with the matter, and constitutes the very indwelling essence of the thing... Nor, for the building up and completing of the structure, is there any call for the interposition of external agency. From first to last it is self-formative, self-developing” (John Caird: The Philosophy of Religion, pp. 137-138). God is the immanent existence of the world; the world is the appearance of God and is the process of the Self-realisation of every individual. In this process the present is determined by the past and is guided by the future purpose towards which it is directed. As this purpose is an eternal presence envisaged by time, it takes the form of a mechanistic as well as a teleological evolution, thus reconciling both ways in its timeless advance.

Purpose in Nature

The universe is a purposive structure which exhibits signs of the existence of an intelligent directing force within it, pointing to the realisation of an aim in which the time-process is completely overcome. It works in the manner of an organism in which the parts are subservient to the whole and determine the characteristics of one another by reciprocal relation. The teleological character of the universe is explained by the principle that an organic whole is the fulfilment of the aspirations of its parts and is the home of their value. If evolution is creative, it must have a direction, a way to its destination. Even Darwin’s theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest can have meaning only on the acceptance of a final purpose unseen at present. The struggle for existence is ultimately a struggle for perfect existence, unimpeded by external force or environment and unrestricted by outward laws. Mechanism rules in the world of space-time, but life points to an ideal beyond it. “The life of man is an indication of what is beyond him and what determines the course of his thoughts, feelings and actions. The wider life is invisible, and the visible is a shadow cast by the invisible which is the real. The shadow gives an idea of the substance, and no one can pursue the path to the true substance by the perception of the shadow. Human existence, by the fact of its limitations, wants and various forms of restlessness, discontent and sorrow, points to a higher desired end, incomprehensible though the nature of this end be. As life on earth is characterised by incessant change, and nothing here seems to have the character of reality, nothing here can satisfy man completely. The Bhagavadgita has referred to this world as impermanent, unhappy, the abode of sorrow, and transient. The sages of yore declared with immediate intuition that Truth is one, and that the goal of human life is the realisation and experience of this Truth” (The Divine Life: vol. XIX, p. 173).

The biological evolution of organisms brings about changes in their organs and constitution as a whole, not by accident or chance, but due to their inner demands or needs for a different kind of experience, in order to adjust and adapt themselves to newer types of environments. This is guided by a teleological factor within, a purpose to be fulfilled in the various stages of evolution. The selection of organismic entities in evolution is not so much natural as rational. Evolution is directed by an inner purpose, an urge to unfold in every principle the ultimate indivisibility of being. The Absolute does not only push the elements from within, as their true existence, but also pulls them from the front, as their final goal. In the mechanical whole, “the parts precede the whole and produce it by being put together. In the organic whole, on the other hand, the parts themselves are conditioned by the whole and are only possible in it. In the organic whole, therefore, the end, which is to come out of it, determines the beginning” (W. Windelband: An Introduction to Philosophy, p. 145).

The great play of evolution is enacted within the organism of the universe directed by its own necessity and law. Absolutely independent individual organisms do not exist. They are all threaded together, as it were, by the universal consciousness running through all of them. The evolution of the individuals has its purpose in their realisation of the ultimate truth, goodness and beauty of the universe, which is a temporal translation of the eternal. The highest end is the realisation of eternity in Brahman, which is at once the efficient and the material cause of all things, in two different phases of its manifestation. It is also the instrumental as well as the final cause of the whole scheme of evolution and involution. Differences in the concepts of different kinds of cause arise on account of the different standpoints from which the one reality is viewed. The universe is Brahman appearing. Nothing happens in it, nothing is outside it, and yet all things happen because of it and for it. There is only one purpose discoverable in all activity—the attainment of a higher state of existence by transcending the lower one, the final consummation being Self-realisation. Here the purpose of evolution is served, all processes reach their end, all activities fulfil their aim and the goal of life is, at last, reached.