[Advaita-l] Ishwara/brahman of the Vedanta

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Sep 7 06:47:40 CDT 2013

In the Taittiriya Upanishad we have this famous statement: 'yato vA imAni
bhUtAni jAyante, yena jAtAni jIvanti, yatprayantyabhisamvishanti,
tadvijijnAsasva, tad brahma iti'  This means: 'Know through enquiry that
brahman  which is the source, the abode of sustenance and dissolution of
these beings.'  The very third Brahmasutra 'janmAdyasya yataH' has this
shruti as its subject matter.

Ishwara is mAyopAdhika; *mAyAm tu prakRtim vidyAt, mAyinam tu maheshwaram
says the shvetashvataropanishat*.

In the Bhagavadgita 7.12 the Lord says:  ये चैव सात्विका भावा
राजसास्तामसाश्र्च ये । मत्त एवेति तान्विद्धि न त्वहं तेषु ते मयि ॥ १२ ॥

All the beings, endowed with sattva, rajas and tamas spring from Me
alone....but I am not in them; they are in Me.

अहं सर्वस्य प्रभवो मत्तः सर्वं प्रवर्तते।
इति मत्वा भजन्ते मां बुधा भावसमन्विताः॥10.8॥

I am the source of everything, everything evolves from Me....

>From such statements we would get a feeling that Brahman is the cause of
this creation. But such a conclusion will not be absolutely correct.  For,
in the BG itself we have statements like:
"मयाध्यक्षेण प्रकृतिः सूयते सचराचरम् ।हेतुनानेन कौन्तेय जगद्विपरिवर्तते
"॥9.10 ||
 "Arujuna, with Me as the supervisor, Material Nature brings forth the
whole creation, consisting of both sentient and insentient beings; it is
due to this cause that the wheel of Samsara is going around.""मम
योनिर्महद्ब्रह्म तस्मिन्गर्भं दधाम्यहम् ।
संभवः सर्वभूतानां ततो भवति भारत "॥14.3॥
"My primordial Nature, known as the great Brahma (mAyA), is the womb of all
creatures; in that womb I place the seed of all life. The creation of all
beings follows from that union of Matter and Spirit, O Arjuna."
This shows that the very concept of Ishwara is inseparable from the mAyA
adjunct. That is why in picotrial/graphic descriptions Vishnu is shown as
having Lakshmi, the mAyA/prakRti, in His heart.  In other words, the heart
of Vishnu, saguNa Ishwara, is Lakshmi, mAyAtattvam.  Without this heart,
there is no existence even for the Ishwara tattvam.  Thereby Brahman,
inevitably has to depend on mAyA/Lakshmi for its Ishwaratvam.  While
Lakshmi/mAyA is jaDa, having to depend on the Chetana Brahman, the Chetana
brahman, to be/become Ishwara has to depend on this jaDa tattvam. Therefore
to say 'Brahman is svatantra tattvam/satyam' is not absolutely correct; for
Brahman's pAratantryam on mAyA/prakRti/Lakshmi is inevitable.  That is the
manner in which Shankaracharya teaches in the BSB 1.4.3 while refuting the
sAnkya's  swatantra pradhAna as the cause of the creation:

//...But this primordial state is held by us to be subject to the Supreme
Lord, but not as an independent thing.  That state (of pradhAna/avyakta)
has to be admitted, because it  serves a purpose.  Without that latent
state, the creatorship of God cannot have any meaning, inasmuch as God
cannot act without His power (of MAyA), and without that latent state, the
absence of birth for the freed souls cannot be explained. [The power of
mAyA has to be admitted whose presence makes birth, death, etc. possible,
and whose cessation brings about liberation.]//

So, the Swatantra brahman is inseparably dependent upon the paratantra
mAyA/prakRti for being endowed with the attribute of
Creator/Sustainer/Destroyer of the created universe.  Such is the position
in all non-advaitic systems and only in the  vyavaharika in Advaita.  In
advaita since creation is only relatively real, not absolutely real, the
association / dependence on mAyA by brahman is only relatively real.  In
absolute terms, however, Brahman is never dependent on anything since there
is nothing other than brahman.

The position of Ishwara in Vedanta:

>From the above it is clear that Brahman + mAyA alone is Ishwara.  And
through the agency of mAyA alone the sarvajnatva/sarvashaktitva of Ishwara
accrues and therefore, without these two, there is no longer any
Ishwaratvam continuing.  That such an Ishwara has no definite / regular
form is also clear from the scriptural passages such as:

अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत ।अव्यक्तनिधनान्येव तत्र का परिदेवना ॥
Beings are unmanifest at first, (and) manifest in the middle, Arjuna;
(and) surely, unmanifest at death. What complaint can there be in this?
Bhagavad Gita 2.28  [The unmanifest is mAyA]
अव्यक्ताद्व्यक्तयः सर्वाः प्रभवन्त्यहरागमे।
 रात्र्यागमे प्रलीयन्ते तत्रैवाव्यक्तसंज्ञके।।8.18।।

 English translation by Swami Gambhirananda

 BG 8.18 With the coming of day all manifested things emerge from the
Unmanifest and when night comes they merge in that itself which is called
the Unmanifested.

These two verses unmistakably show that the creation/dissolution of beings
happens only from/into the unmanifest/mAyA.  The term 'unmanifest' is that
there is no form/identifying marks for it.  Creation, in its manifest
state, is identifiable through our senses.

We saw a few verses in the foregoing where Bhagavan said He is the source
of everything.  We saw some verses where the Lord says that along with mAyA
He is the source and here we see mAyA is the source.  All this boils down
to saying that ONLY with mAyA-association is the Lord, Brahman capable of
creating, etc.  Otherwise Brahman is incapable of creation.  Such a fact
will be shocking to theistic schools but Vedanta is clear about the

Now, such an Ishwara/brahman has no form whatsoever is also clear from the
following bhashya of Shankara BSB 3.2.9:

//Doubt: It is being considered whether the one that awakes from that
merger in Sat is the same at the time of awakening as one was at the time
of merger, or whether it may either be the same entity or some one else.'

The opponent holds: ..Hence the conclusion is that the one waking up from
such merger may be either the original soul, *or he may be Ishwara,* or
some other individual soul. //

>From the above inclusion of Ishwara as an alternative, it is clear that
there is impossibile to differentiate Ishwara from the rest of creation
during pralaya.  It is the avyAkRta state which the Taittiriyopanishat
indicates in the words 'asad vA idamagra AsIt. tato vai sadajaayata..'
where Shankara says 'it is the avAkRta brahman' from which creation emerges
after pralaya. That such a Brahman/Ishwara does not have any form is clear
from the above study.

Even statements such as 'AdityavarNam tamasaH parastAt' [It is of the
splendor of the Sun, beyond the darkness (of avidyA) of the Purusha sUktam
are only aids devised to take the aspirant closer to the formless Brahman.
Surely the 'tejas'  / color / sun-like light referred here is not any
physical light, since the darkness is also only avidya and not the darkness
we are familiar with. Any analogy like AdityavarNam, kamalapatrAkSha, are
only from the created universe.  There cannot be any analogy given to That
which is beyond Creation.  For, the concept of 'form/color' is a unique
guNa of the third panchabhUta called tejas.  Any AkAra or varNa is possible
only in creation and an analogy to the Creator from creation is only
bringing down the creator to the level of creation.  'nAsti akRtaH kRtena'
says the Mundakopanishat [through the means of creation/karma, it is not
possible to attain the one beyond creation/karma.]  For, the Kathopanishat

न संदृशे तिष्ठति रूपमस्य न चक्षुषा पश्यति कश्चनैनम् । हृदा मनीषा
मनसाऽभिकॢप्तो य एतद्विदुरमृतास्ते भवन्ति ॥ (Katha Upanishad, 9th Mantra,
Canto 6). His form is not within the field of sight; none can see Him with
the eye. He is revealed in (the cavity of) the heart by the manas that is
particularly trained.  Those who succeed in realizing It 'as It is' go
beyond death.

Form is something grasped by the organ of sight and no other organ.  And
since it is a property of the tejas bhuta, only the eye can grasp it.  The
above upanishad says that Brahman has no form and therefore none can see It
with the eyes.  Any form/body taken by Brahman is only with
mAyA-association and that, therefore, cannot be absolute, but only



   1.  Brahman is the source of creation
   2. mAya is the source of creation
   3. Brahman in association with mAyA is the creator
   4. Brahman's dependence on mAyA is unavoidable for creation
   5. Brahman's Ishwaratvam is therefore non independent of mAyA but
   inextricably dependent on mAyA/prakRti
   6. Without mAyA there  is no sarvajnatvam/sarvashaktitvam for Brahman
   7. There is no form for the creator Ishwara
   8. Any form is an attributed one owing to mAyA association.

Om Tat Sat

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