Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Critical analysis of vedAnta paribhAShA Part XXXXIV
Dr. K. Sadananda

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Part XXXXIV - Questions on ‘Creation as Transformation’

Question: If Brahman is undifferentiated pure consciousness, how can one undifferentiable entity become many differentiable entities? In the creation of ring, bangle etc, there is an intelligent cause – the gold smith. And there is an instrumental cause – the tools which enable him to make the beautiful ring, bangle, necklace, etc; i.e. varieties of forms. Similarly, in the creation of the universe of names and forms, there must be both material cause and instrumental cause. If these causes are separate from Brahman, then Brahman is not one without a second. If they are the same as Brahman then Brahman must have internal parts – material, instruments and intelligent causes. Either way ,the fundamental postulate that Brahman has no internal divisions is violated.

Answer: Not so. Brahman is one without a second; all causes rest in Brahman. Brahman is pure consciousness, there is nothing other than pure consciousness. Since there seems to be a creation, advaita considers that it is an apparent creation or ‘transformation less transformation’ or vivarta. The intelligent, the material and the instrumental causes are also apparent for the apparent creation. From the point of view of Brahman, there is really no creation at all, and one cannot count apparent entities as parts of Brahman since they are not real. Ontologically they do not have the same degree of reality. Ring, bangle, etc are different from each other but from the gold standpoint there is no difference. They are ‘ringly gold’ and ‘bangly gold’ etc. Hence, ontologically, gold has a different degree of existence in relation to ring, bangle, bracelet, etc. Ring, bangle, bracelet, etc are not parts of gold; they are gold that appears to have different forms. In the same way, all objects in the universe exist in different apparent forms with different names. But, from the point of view of existence itself, it remains as indivisible and undifferentiable and thus part-less in spite of the differentiable attributive universe.

Question: Even so, the attributes of a ring are different from those of a bangle, etc. Since it is an intelligent and ordered creation, there have to be causes for these attributive differences in order for the objects to be created, even if they are apparent. Thus, even if there are no specific objects other than ‘ringly gold’, ‘bracelety gold’, etc, they are attributive and have sajAti, vijAti and svagata bheda-s [similar, dissimilar and unique attributes]. A ring is different from a bangle and one ring differs from another. Even within the ring itself, the inside is different from outside. Similarly, each individual is different from another and they are not randomly created. There must be some cause for this order. If that cause is different from Brahman, we have duality and, if that cause is the same as Brahman, then we have internal differences in Brahman. Since the cause for each product is different, the attributes are different.

Answer: Yes, there are causes for the attributive differences in the products. In the vivarta transformation, these causes are also of the same degree of reality as the products. The source for all these causes, according to advaita vedAnta, is called mAyA. mAyA is defined as yA mA sA mAyA – that which appears to be there but is not. Creation is not random. The attributive differences in the products of creation come from karma, the subtle impressions or saMskAra carried over from the previous creation. (In the case of the jIva, these are also called vAsanA-s.) The cause for the previous creation again comes from the creation prior to that one. Thus, there is no beginning or end for this cycle of creation, sustenance and annihilation. Hence, Krishna declares that there is no reason for one to cry that someone is going to die, since there was never a time that the jIva-s were not there (na tvevAham jAtu nAsam …).


1. There is no proof for introducing mAyA to explain the creation.

2. Scripture says that Brahman is:
a) that ‘from which all beings are born, by which they are sustained and into which they go back’ – yatova imAni bhUtAni jAyante (Tait. Up.)
b) the source for all beings – yat bhUta yonim paripasyanti dhIrAH (Mun. Up.)
c) that from which comes the birth of the universe – janmAdyasya yataH (Br. Su.I.i.2).
Finally, the whole doctrine is self-contradictory. Brahman is infinite and part-less and at the same time there is a mAyA that is the cause for creation. mAyA cannot be separate from Brahman since it violates the infiniteness of Brahman. Yet he cannot be the same as Brahman. mAyA has to be inert as it is different from Brahman and Brahman is defined as a ‘homogeneous mass of consciousness’ (Ma. Up.). mAyA cannot be a conscious entity, since we would then end up with two entities which are conscious. Brahman cannot even create using mAyA, since he would then be become a kartA (‘doer’). The homogeneous, all pervading consciousness cannot have mAyA, an inert entity, either as a separate or as an integral part. The whole philosophy seems to be based on a shaky foundation.

Answer: Several objections have been bundled together in the above. First, there are scriptural reference to mAyA – mAyantu prakRitim vidyAt (Sv. Up.) and mayA adhyaksheNa prakRitiH sUyate carAcaram (B.G.) – ‘Know that mAyA is prakRRiti’ and ‘prakRRiti creates the whole universe of movable and immovable under my president-ship’. Hence, mAyA is not an advaitic interpretation. Brahman is consciousness and infinite. Existence-consciousness logically has to be infinite, too. The ‘infinite’ cannot create, since creation is an action and therefore would involves a modification. Yet there seems to be creation. Scripture also says that, knowing Brahman, one knows everything. This can be true only if everything is nothing but Brahman. And that Brahman you are – tat tvam asi. Since you are a conscious-existent entity, being svarUpa lakshaNam, by definition you are Brahman; aham brahmAsmi is the absolute truth that the scriptures declare.

Hence, creation has to be looked at from two different perspectives. From the absolute point of view, Brahman alone is, as pure homogeneous consciousness without any attributes whatsoever, since only finite objects can have attributes that differentiate them from other finite objects. mAyA can only be of the nature of mAyA, i.e. it is only an apparent factor that is the cause for the creation. The wielder of mAyA is Ishvara, as Krishna declares following the Upanishadic statement ‘ mAyinantu maheswaram’ (Sv. Up.). Thus Ishvara, a conscious entity using mAyA as his shakti or power, creates the world of plurality using the karma from the previous lives of the jIva-s as the basis for creation. Since it is born of mAyA shakti, the product is also of the nature of mAyA; i.e. one cannot say that it is real or unreal, just as with the ring and bangle that are created out of gold. Is the ring real? No, it is actually gold. The ring
can undergo destructive transformation in becoming a bangle but the gold does not change in this transformation. From the gold’s perspective, the transformation is vivarta. From the ring’s perspective, which is of a lower order of reality, the transformation into bangle is pariNAma. Hence, we have the scriptural statement: “let me become many (bahushyAm) and He became many (prajAyeya), where the prefix pra-, as VidyAranya says, implies a peculiar transformation involving mAyA, and keeping Brahman intact or untouched during the transformation. Also, “sarvaM khalvidam brahma – all this (that we see) is nothing but Brahman” and “nehanAnAsti ki~nchana – there is nothing other than Brahman. Hence, the creation has to be vivarta from Brahman’s point of view, preserving the absolute reality, even though it can be considered to be real at the transactional level. Thus, analysis of the scriptural statements shows that they are self-consistent and indicates the absolute nature of the reality in spite of apparent plurality. Hence, the truth is advaitam.

Proceed to the next essay.

Other Essays in this Section (Perception):
01. Introduction Part 1. 28. Perception at the Individual Level.
02. Introduction Part 2. 29. Perception at the Cosmic Level.
03. Analysis of Time and Space. 30. Summary so far.
04. Knowledge is Continuous. 31. vAchArambhanaNaM.
05. Whatever you perceive is Brahman! 32. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.1.
06. Attributes and Substantive. 33. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.2.
07. Mechanics of Perception. 34. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.3.
08. Some Objections. 35. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.4.
09. Internal Perceptions. 36. Re-examination of the Perceptual Process Pt.5.
10. The Criteria for Cognition. 37. Nature of ‘ego’ and Self-realization.
11. Unity of limiting consciousness for perception. 38. Erroneous Perceptions Pt. 1.
12. Internal Perceptions (cont.) 39. Erroneous Perceptions Pt. 2.
13. Some Clarifications Regarding Internal Perception. 40. Analysis of Error - Part 1: khyAti vAda-s.
14. Some Clarifications Regarding Character. 41. Analysis of error - Part 2: vedAnta paribhAshA analysis.
15. Question related to jAti [species]. 42. Analysis of error - Part 3: naiyAyika objection.
16. Relation between an attribute and its substantive. 43. Creation as Transformation.
17. brahman is the changeless substantive. 44. Questions on ‘Creation as Transformation’.
18. Perceptuality of Objects: Definition vindicated (part 1). 45. Ontological Status of 'This'.
19. Perceptuality of Objects: Definition vindicated (part 2). 46. Two Layers of Ignorance.
20. Questions related to Perceptuality (part 1). 47. Conclusion of silver-nacre analysis.
21. Questions related to Perceptuality (part 2). 48. Perception in Dream.
22. Mind as Subject. 49. Negating false perception.
23. Self-realization. 50. Counterpositive.
24. Application to Illusions. 51. Summary of Mechanism of Perceptual Knowledge.
25. Determinate and indeterminate perceptions (part 1). 52. vyAvahArika vs. prAtibhAsika Pt. 1.
26. Determinate and indeterminate perceptions (part 2). 53. vyAvahArika vs. prAtibhAsika Pt. 2.
27. The position of vishiShTAdvaita.  
The next section in this series continues with the pramANa of anumAna (inference).

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Page last updated: 08-Jul-2012