[Advaita-l] Creation in the upanishads

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Mon Aug 27 01:00:27 CDT 2007

*The real object of the description of creation in the upanishads.*

* *    Different upanishads describe the creation, sustenance and
dissolution of the universe differently. The taitt. up. describes the
creation of five elements. The chandogya up. speaks only of three elements.
The aitareya up. describes creation in an entirely different manner. These
contradictions are not considered to be of any importance because the
description of creation is not the intention of the upanishads. According to
advaita, creation is not real, but is only a superimposition on brahman,
which alone is real in the absolute sense. The universe, which is a
transformation of *maayaa*, is *anirvachaniiya**. *It cannot be described
either as real or as unreal. It has empirical reality only. The description
of creation, etc, in the upanishads is only to bring out the truth that
brahman, the cause, alone is real. The effect, universe, has no independent
existence apart from the cause, brahman. The following passages from SrI
Sankara's bhaashya bring out the real purpose of the statements about
creation in the upanishads.

br.up.2.1.20. bhaashya.β€”*tasmaat
upakramopasamhaaraabhyaam-------------------vaakyaani iti.*

>From the introduction and conclusion it is clear that the passages speaking
about the origin, sustenance and dissolution of the universe are intended
only to strengthen the idea that the individual self is the same as the
Supreme Self.

br.up.2.1.20. bhaashya.β€”*tasmaat

Therefore, the mention in all the Vedaanta texts of the origin, sustenance
and dissolution of the universe is only to strengthen our idea of brahman
being a homogeneous entity, and not to tell us that the origin, etc, is
real. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that a part of the indivisible,
transcendental Supreme Self becomes the relative, individual self, because
the Supreme Self is intrinsically without parts.

The theory of *vivarta*

advaita Vedaanta explains the creation of the world by the theory of *
vivarta.* This theory is different from the theory of *aarambha vaada *of
nyaaya-Vais'eshika  and the *pariNaama vaada *of saankhya. According
to *aarambha
vaada *the effect was not pre-existent in the cause and is something new
which has come into existence. This theory is also called *asatkaarya
vada,*because according to this the
*kaarya*, effect, did not previously exist. According to the *pariNaama
vaada, *the effect was existent in the cause and is only a transformation of
the cause. It is therefore also known as *satkaarya vaada,* because the
kaarya, effect, was existent in the cause. According to advaita, the effect
is not an actual transformation of the cause. brahman is immutable and there
can be no transformation of it. It only serves as the substratum
* for the appearance of the universe, just as the rope serves as the
substratum for the appearance of the illusory snake.

This nature of the universe as a mere appearance on brahman is brought out
beautifully by sures'vara in the following verses:-

Naishkarmyasiddhi.1.1β€”I offer my salutation to Hari, the destroyer of
darkness and the witness of the intellect, from whom the universe consisting
of ether, air, fire, water and earth has arisen like a snake from a garland.

taitt. up. bhaashya Vaartika.2.378β€”He, the Supreme Lord, the controller of *
maayaa*, having created the universe with His *maayaa*, entered that very
universe in the same way as a garland can be said to enter the illusory
snake projected on it. (By this, the statements in the taitt.up.2.6.1 and
the Br.up.1.4.7 that the Lord, having created the universe, entered into it,
are also explained).

This appearance of the universe is due to *avidyaa, *or nescience, which
conceals brahman by its veiling power (*aavaraNa s'akti)* and projects the
universe by its power of projection (*vikshepa s'akti).* The universe is
therefore said to be only a *vivarta,* or a transfiguration, of brahman.
Like the illusory snake with rope as the substratum, the universe is *mithyaa,
*with brahman as the substratum. But there is a vital difference between the
illusoriness of the rope-snake and that of the universe. While the snake is
purely illusory, or *praatibhaasika, *the universe has empirical, or
*reality. That means that the universe is real for all those who are still
in ignorance of Brahman. It loses its reality only when brahman is realized
as the only reality and as identical with one's own self, or, in other
words, when identification with the body-mind complex completely disappears.
Bondage is nothing but identification with the body-mind complex. This
identification being due only to the ignorance of the truth that one is
really the *aatmaa*, which is the same as brahman, it can be removed only by
the knowledge of one's real nature as brahman.    *       *


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