[Advaita-l] Advaita vEdAnta - Unit (12)

Krishnamurthy Ramakrishna puttakrishna at verizon.net
Wed Feb 7 15:26:52 CST 2007

So far we have understood that Brahman is the material and intelligent
causes of jagat.

We reviewed causes of jagat as posited by other philosophies and countered
them. We

established that Brahman is the one and only (undifferentiated) material and

cause of the jagat.

In this Unit, we will begin to understand the mechanics of creation, that
brings us to understand mAyA.


The Play of mAyA.


We reviewed in the previous units, that Brahman is the " abhinna nimitta
upAdAna kAraNa " (non-differentiated or [one and the same] material and
intelligent cause) of the jagat. In this section, we will try to understand
the mechanics of how the jagat came into being. This is a difficult task,
since the humans, conditioned by space and time, are experiencing jagat
posterior to jagat coming in to being. So the only recourse to understand
this mechanics is the upanishads. However, the upanishadic point of view
seems to be different in different upanishads. But there can only be one
mechanism of this jagat coming into being; so which of the upanishads
describe the correct mechanics? Why such seemingly different views among

Before we try to understand these various upanishadic views, it is
instructive to understand why vEdAnta even discusses the creation of jagat.
After all jagat is jaDa; there is no value in understanding the creation of
jagat other than the inquisitiveness of the jIva. From a vEdAntin's
perspective, as such there is nothing to be gained by understanding the
mechanics of the jagat coming into being. The goal of vEdAntin is to present
Brahman, whose understanding is necessary in the realization of Brahman.
However, Brahman cannot be presented without the presentation of jagat,
because the invisible Brahman has to be understood only through the visible
jagat. So it is inevitable for vEdAnta and the vEdAntin to understand the
creation of jagat.

A fact of creation of an object has a definite mechanism of creation. Its
description also will be consistent. Advaita's view is that this jagat was
not created in the traditional sense. Then what to talk about the mechanics
of its creation? However, it is the general belief of jIvas that this jagat
was created. vEdAnta follows this track of jIva's understanding in initially
supporting this concept of creation of jagat; As the understanding becomes
firm, vEdAnta presents how the jagat actually came into being . This is the
method of teaching of vEdAnta. 

The upanishats have presented several mechanics of creation, as deemed
necessary, consistent with seeker's experience of jagat. As the seeker's
knowledge and ability in judgment and reasoning intensifies, it helps him to
understand that the jagat we see is the play of mAyA. This is the method of
vEdAnta. This method and the fact that the jagat is not created are
consistent with the nature of Brahman.


What is mAyA?

Now let us look at the following mantra from the  taittirIya upanishat - "
agnih pUrva rUpam, Aditya uttara rUpam, Apah sandhih, vaidyutah sandhAnam
(1.3) - Fire is the first form, Sun is the second form, union of these two
is water and the force or power that causes the union is the lightening
(electric potential). We know a similar phenomena in Science. Hydrogen and
oxygen combine to form water with the application of electricity. Hydrogen
is a gas and combustible (characteristic of agni). Oxygen is a gas and
supporter of combustion (characteristic of Sun - caused by temperature
differences resulting in wind currents, supporting combustion). Water is the
resulting union, caused by Electricity (vaidyutah) - the medium or power
that helps in the union to form water. 

Water is a liquid and puts out fire. The two gases - Hydrogen and Oxygen -
are combustible and supporter of combustion respectively. How did water,
which puts out fire result from two gases which are combustible and
supporter of combustion? That is the power in electricity. Science tells us
here that it is the power of electricity, by which the kArya (water) is of a
totally opposing characteristic from the kAraNa (Oxygen and Hydrogen -
upAdAna). vEdAnta also presents that such a power exists - a power in
Brahman. Brahman is of the nature of consciousness and limitless in space
and time, and actionless, is the kAraNa for the jagat, which is of the
nature of inert and limited in time and space. Such power of Brahman, which
hides its characteristics of consciousness and limitlessness and presents
itself as the inert limited jagat is mAyA.

Sri Shankara, in Prashna upanishat (1.16) comments as follows; "bahiranyathA
AtmAnam prakashya anyathaiva kAryam karOti sA mAyA" - mAyA is that power of
Brahman that enables an outward presentation different from the internal

Following the taittirIya mantra, Brahman is the first form (pUrva rUpa),
Iswara is the second form (uttara rUpa), jagat is the sandhi and mAyA is the
power causing the sandhi.

We will focus on understanding what this mAyA is, the play of this mAyA and
how it helps in nderstanding the jagat coming into being. However, it should
be noted that mAyA is not invented by advaita to explain some aspect of
jagat. The shrutis and smritis extol this mAyA in several contexts like;

indrO mAyAbhih pururUpa IyatE - indra (Brahman) appears to be of many forms
due to mAyA ( brihadAraNyaka upanishat - 2.5.19)

mAyAm tu prakritm vidyAt, mAyinAm tu mahEshvaram  - The prakriti should be
understood to be mAyA and the Iswara as mAyAvi (swEtAsvatara upanishat -

daivI hi EshA guNamayi mama mAyA duratyayA - This divine mAyA of mine,
caused by the guNas is difficult to crossover (gIta - 7.14). 

In the next unit, we will review some of the statements of scriptures
regarding the creation of jagat.


Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace).


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