[Advaita-l] "Uncaused Cause" (was Re: [advaitin] Swami Chinmayananda on "God")

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 29 16:46:53 CDT 2005

I respect Swami Chinmayananda for his great contributions to
Vedanta, but most philosophers would find problems with his
arguments for the existence of God as they appear in a dialog
posted to the advaitin list. (I have also CC-ed the advaita-l
list since the interests of the lists are the same in this

The following points are to be noted as simple observations
only. I must reiterate that no disrespect whatsoever is

--- "R.S.MANI" <r_s_mani at yahoo.com> wrote:


> Swamiji smiled: "So, eggs come from hens, hens come from eggs,
> which again come from other hens, and so on, ad-infinitum. Can
> you, Ram, say with any certainty, which was the first cause?
> Egg or hen? How and why?
> Swamiji, now addressing all the devotees present, went on:
> "You see, God is not just a person or individual, sitting in a
> palace above the clouds, dispensing favours. It stands to
> reason that every effect must have had a cause prior to it.
> The watch that you are wearing did not make itself. Your
> breakfast did not cook itself. There was a cause, in each
> case. The cause must have emerged from a previous cause. GOD
> is now the first cause. The sole cause. The UNCAUSED CAUSE.
> There was no cause before Him.

The above argument is called the "First Cause Argument", one of
several "Cosmological Arguments for the existence of God" that
was propounded by St. Augustine, who lived around 400 AD.
Augustine's idea was that, "Every effect must have a cause, and
therefore God must be the first cause, the 'uncaused cause'."

There are several counter-objections to the above argument:

1) If you assume that every cause must have had a preceding
cause, then God, being a cause, must also have another cause
preceding him! So who or what caused God? What justifies your
claim that God is "uncaused"? Perhaps your "God" is also caused!

2) From the claim, "Every cause must have had a preceding
cause", it does not follow that the universe must have had ONE
cause. Why should there not be more number of causes? As
Bertrand Russell has pointed out, it is like saying, "All human
beings have a mother, therefore the entire human race must have
had one mother."

We can accept that individual events have causes, which DOES NOT
IMPLY that the entire set of causal events must have had a
single cause. What prevents the entire universe from having
evolved out of 23 causes (for instance)? Why limit it to ONE
cause (instead of 23 causes) for the universe? It is entirely
possible that the preceding causes go on ad infinitum.

3) Even if it be accepted that there is a single cause to the
universe, there is no reason to believe that the cause must be a
conscious being. Can this be "God", a supreme being that is
essentially inanimate?

You can read more at the following websites:


> He is the oldest, the most
> ancient, He was before TIME. The Sanaatanah, the Puraanah.

I'm not sure if Swamiji is saying that Vedantins give the
"uncaused cause" argument. But traditional advaitins have
considered and rejected this argument. In Vidyaranya's Shankara
Digvijayam, it is said that this is an argument of Kanada, which
Shankara refutes.

An extract from "The Sankara-dig-vijaya of Madhava-Vidyaranya",
by Swami Tapasyananda (Canto 9, "Master of All Learning")

Shankara replied, "The followers of Kanada say that, by
reasoning, we see that an effect must have had a cause. Through
this reasoning we can infer that, the world being of the nature
of an effect, it must have had a cause. That cause is God. To
arrive at God, this kind of reasoning is sufficient. No Vedic
authority is needed. The Vedic sentences on this subject are
merely confirmation of what is obtained by reason. Such is the
view of Kanada and several others. But the Vedas, on the other
hand, declare that Brahman is known through the Upanishads only.
How can then the view of Kanada - that even without the Veda,
through reasoning alone, God is known - be accepted?"


"As they say in Silicon Valley, where I live, if you haven't failed 
recently, you're not trying hard enough." -Keith Devlin

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