Part XIII – Creation according to Vedanta
Vedanta says that any creation involves two factors. In the above, we have talked about the first one, called the intelligent cause or nimitta karaNa. In addition to the intelligence or know-how, we need material for the creation. For me to carve out a Ganesha idol, even if I have the know-how, I must have some material to hand, the stone. In my case, I could go out and collect a stone from the street to create Ganesha. Similarly for the intelligent cause, God, to create this entire universe, he needs the material. He does not have the luxury to go out and get the material for his creation. He has to create the material too.
It is a peculiar creation wherein the two causes – the material cause and the intelligent cause have to be one and the same. The muNDaka upaniShad gives an analogy: The spider projects and withdraws the material for the creation of its web (‘yatho nabir sRRijate gRRinhate ca’); i.e. it is the material cause for the creation. And the intelligence to create the web rests with the spider, too. Thus material and intelligent cause for the spider’s web is one and the same.
Let us ask further? What is the size of this universe? If there is a creator where is he? Why or what is the purpose of this creation? Why did he create me? What is my relationship with the creator?
First, creation has to be infinite. If it were finite, we would want to know what is there on the other side of the finite universe. Any boundary defining the finiteness of the universe would have to separate it from something else which is not the universe. If something else is there, then where did that outside come from? It has to be created too. If so, it implies that creation has to be boundless or infinite. Vedanta says pUrNam idam - idam or this, standing for the entire universe, is pUrNam or limitless or infinite.
Next, where is the creator now, after creating the Universe? The creator cannot be inside the creation or outside the creation. He cannot be outside the creation since any outside would also have to be created; then that outside would be inside the creation. Hence there is no outside of the creation. He cannot be inside the creation either. In fact anything inside the creation cannot create this entire universe. In addition, if He were inside, He would be limited by the creation. Hence, he can neither be inside nor outside the creation. The only alternative is that He and the creation cannot be separated. Not only is he the material and intelligent cause, it also follows that he is inseparable from the creation. If the creation is infinite, He has to be infinite too. Hence Vedanta says: He pervades the entire universe, both inside (here inside referring to the body of the individual) as well as outside (antar bihischa tat sarvam vyApya nArayana sthitaH).
What is the nature of this God principle that we have defined as the cause for the entire universe? Since he is the creator and a creator cannot be an inert entity, He has to be a conscious entity. How and why did He create and why did He create this kind of Universe with such disparities that we talked about earlier? Why did He create me? Vedanta addresses each of these questions in a logical fashion. Here we need to understand the role of Logic or anumAna pramANa. Vedanta talks about the truth of the creation which is beyond the logic. That is, logically one cannot deduce the truth – says Vedanta (naiShA tarkena matirApaneya). Yet Vedanta is not illogical as we shall see.
In Vedanta, the ultimate truth is called Brahman. Brahman comes from the root, bRRihat indicating ‘growing’ or ‘expanding’ or ‘big’. Big is an adjective qualifying a noun. But Vedantic seers found out that the noun qualifies the adjective too. Take for example a big mountain wherein the bigness of the mountain is defined relative to a normal size mountain. If we say big mosquito, its bigness is different from that of the bigness of the mountain. Thus the adjective big is also qualified by the noun that it qualifies. All these qualified ‘big-nesses’ are finitely big. If we want to designate something which is unqualifiedly big or infinitely big, the adjective big itself is made into noun and that is the word Brahman.
Brahman is infinitely big or unqualifiedly big, with the meaning of absolutely infinite or infiniteness from every aspect. Hence Vedanta says there is nothing other than Brahman or it is one without a second (ekam eva, advitIyam). If there is something other than Brahman, Brahman ceases to be Brahman since its infiniteness is compromised. Infinite cannot have parts because then also infiniteness is compromised. Vedanta says that, normally, objects can differ in three ways – called vijAti, sajAti and svagata bhedA-s. vijAti bheda is the difference that exists between two different species, like cows and horses. sajAti bheda is the difference that exists between different units in the same species – like white cow vs black cow. svagata bheda is the internal difference within one unit – like legs are different from the hands, ears, eyes, etc. Brahman cannot have any of these three types of difference since it is one without a second and is part less. Brahman is indescribable, indefinable and unqualifiable – we will examine some of these descriptions in the next part.
Proceed to the next essay.