Part XXXXIII -
Creation as Transformation
vedAnta says that Brahman is one without a second:
ekam, eva, advitIyam – one, alone, without a second – and
Shankara comments on the use of these three separate
words (ekam, eva and advitIyam) to negate differences
of any kind. Three kinds of differences can exist: vijAti,
sajAti and svagata bheda-s; and hence Shankara says
that three separate words are used by the scripture
to negate each of these three types of differences.
1) Differences of genus (e.g. trees are different
from stones) is called vijAti bheda.
2) Differences within the same genus or family (e.g.
a mango tree is different from a coconut tree) is
called sajAti bheda.
3) Differences within a unit or vyakti (e.g. within
a tree, the roots, branches, leaves, fruits, etc are
different) are called svagata bheda-s.
exist because all objects are made up of parts.
In Brahman, since it is one without a second, there
is nothing else to differentiate it from. Hence, the
scriptures call Brahman ‘agotram’, meaning
that it does not belong to any family or genus since
it is one without a second. It is an undifferentiated
homogeneous mass of consciousness – praj~nAnaM
brahma. We have discussed before that this is a svarUpa
lakShaNa of Brahman, implying that consciousness is
Brahman and Brahman is consciousness. Since consciousness
has to exist, Brahman is also defined as pure existence.
Being one without a second, Brahman has to be limitless
or anantam which also means that it is of the nature
of pure Ananda svarUpa. The implication of all this
is that there cannot be anything other than Brahman,
and therefore there cannot be anything other than
pure, undifferentiated, infinite existence-consciousness.
The question then arises as to how we can explain the
universe of things and beings, apparently consisting
of many conscious and inert entities. Brahman, a conscious
entity without a second, appears to transform itself
into many things and beings. As the Shruti says: bahusyAm,
prajAyeya – let me become many and it became many.
How does one become many? Here, two prominent theories
exist – one is pariNAma vAda and the other is
vivarta vAda. VP discusses the difference between the
two. Advaita subscribes to vivarta vAda.
pariNAma involves complete transformation of one thing
into another, like milk becoming yogurt or curds. In
science, we call this ‘irreversible transformation’.
In this transformation of one thing into another, the
cause is destroyed in the formation of the product.
VP says that, in this kind of transformation (pariNAma),
both cause and effects are ontologically equivalent – pariNAmo
nAma upAdAna samasattAkakAryApattiH; the material cause,
upAdAna kAraNa, has the same ontological existence as
the product. Another example of pariNAma is when a ring
is changed into a bangle. Both ring and bangle have
the same degree of reality. vishiShTAdvaita, following
sAMkhya, subscribes to this type of transformation for
creation. In doing so, one gives the product the same
degree of reality as the material cause. Hence jIva
and jagat become as real as Brahman from which they
are formed, just as the yogurt or curd is formed from
In contrast, vivarta involves a transformation of the
cause into products without the cause getting destroyed
during the transformation. Hence, it is called an ‘apparent’ transformation.
The scriptures give three examples to illustrate this
transformation: clay becoming many types of clay-vessels;
gold becoming many golden ornaments; iron becoming many
iron-tools (Ch. Up 6-1-3). In all these cases of vivarta
transformation, the material cause pervades the effects
without itself undergoing any transformation.
VP says: vivarto nAma upAdAnaviShamasattAkakAryApattiH – in
the production of a product, the upAdAna kAraNa or
material cause has different degree of reality or
existence from the product. That is, ontologically,
the cause and the effects are different. In the case
of the formation of a ring from gold, the gold remains
as gold and the ring is produced by this vivarta or ‘transformation-less’ transformation.
Is the product gold or a ring? We normally refer to
it as a golden ring. But that is a misnomer, as we
are giving more importance to the name and form than
to the substantive. It should rightly be called ‘ringly
gold’, i.e. it is gold with the quality of being
in the form of a ring. Although the word ‘ring’ is
a noun, it has no substantive of its own. I.e. ring
cannot exist independent of gold whereas gold can
exist independently of a ring.
are expressed by the anvaya-vyatireka (co-existence
and co-absence) logic in tarka shAstra. This logic
is used to establish the relation between two entities
that exist together, and clarify whether they are
interdependent or independent of each other, i.e.
their ontological status with respect to each other.
anvaya implies ‘one is, the other is’,
i.e. both exist simultaneously. Taking the example
of the ring: ‘ring is, gold is’ implying
that, wherever a ring is present, then gold has to
be there also. Without gold being present, the ring
cannot be there. At this stage we do not know which
is independent and which is dependent. Now we apply
vyatireka. vyatireka involves their absence: ‘ring
is not, gold is’.
This means that, even if the ring is destroyed by
melting, the gold still remains. This proves that
the gold has the independent existence. The transformation
of gold into a ring is of the ‘vivarta’ type.
VP says that the material cause and the product have
different degrees of existence. One is ‘more
Now let us apply this anvaya-vyatireka logic to the
milk and yogurt example. Applying anvaya: ‘milk
is, yogurt is not’. And vyatireka says: ‘milk
is not, yogurt is’. Thus they both are independent
of each other. In the language of VP they have the same
degree of existence or reality. That is the nature of
Returning to the vivarta transformation, in respect
of the ring and gold example, the existence of the ring
is of lower reality since the ring can be negated without
negating the gold by changing the ring into a bangle.
The gold remains as gold while the ring can be changed
from one form/name into another. With reference to the
gold, this transformation is vivarta, but with reference
to the ring transforming into a bangle, it is pariNAma.
According to advaita vedAnta, all objects in the universe
are only relatively real – vyavahAra satyam. Absolute
reality remains with Brahman, as it is one without a
second and part-less. Also it remains as Brahman without
undergoing any transformation during the creation of
the universe, since it is infinite. What is infinite
cannot undergo any transformation. Just as gold appear
to transform into ornaments without itself undergoing
any transformation, Brahman transforms into space-air-fire-water-earth
as per the Vedantic declarative statement “let
me become many and he became many”. Because of
vivarta, or transformation-less transformation, Brahman
remains as Brahman, while there are varieties of products
as a result of combinations and permutations. Brahman
expresses as ‘existence’ in everything,
and as ‘consciousness’ and ‘happiness’ also
in subtle products, depending on the subtleness or the
purity of the objects. Just as in the metaphor of ‘ringly
gold’, the substantive of every object is Brahman
only. Hence the famous Gita shloka: brahmArpaNam brahma
haviH – everything is nothing but Brahman; and
neha nAnAsti kincana – there is nothing other
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