Creation theories

Dennis Waite dwaite at INTERALPHA.CO.UK
Fri Jan 17 15:46:02 CST 1997

I have been studying Vidyasankar's excellent response to my query about
creation. I have translated the Sanskrit bits as best as I could and
reworked these complex ideas so that I felt I understood what was being
said. Below is the result. I would ask Vidyasnakar to correct any
misunderstandings and also give his permission for me to read the article to
my students at the Advaita class, who have been asking about this recently
and to whom I have been unable to give a satisfactory explanation. Meanwhile
I am now inspired to read the Mandukya references and Sankara's commentary
more carefully. I had been aware of the discussion there but had abandoned
it a year or two ago as being too difficult. Incidentally, are there any
readily available (readable?) books by SrIharsha, citsukha or sukhaprakASa
that you mentioned. I have not heard of these authors. Is there anything on
the web relating to them? They sound interesting!

On Creation
 - paraphrased (and translated?) from Vidyasankar Sundaresan

Most advaitins believe that, ultimately, there is no such thing as creation.
As far as the appearance of  our day to day existence is concerned, however,
they would concede that our practical experience is one of an external
universe separate from ourselves. As long as we believe that we are not the
Atman, there is clearly a difference between the observer and the observed.
But in this case, they would argue that we are not seeing the universe
aright. We are deluded about ourselves and we are ignorant about the true
nature of things. In this situation, the explanation adopted is that the
universe was created by brahman in his capacity as ISvara. We 'see' it as a
result. i.e. most advaitins defend the view that a thing has to exist for it
to be perceived.

But none of this is possible without ignorance and the power of mAyA is
attributed to ISvara to explain the delusion. This mAyA has no independent
existence, being absolutely dependent on brahman (which, after all, is all
there is) and disappears as soon as realisation occurs. This explanation, of
an ISvara who creates the universe, is a temporary one only, introduced
simply to provide an explanation for those who desire one. The concept does
not compromise non-duality and explains the devotional nature of many
advaitins. Once it can be accepted that mAyA is not real and there is only
brahman, then the view that there never was a creation becomes reasonable.

This interim view of a real creation and a creator cannot lead to
realisation. Moreover, there is no purpose in 'looking' for brahman whilst
still in this interim state. If your house is on fire, you should
concentrate on putting out the fire before looking for a cause. Similarly,
if our aim is Realisation, our primary task is to understand the Atman. Once
this has been done, then we can (if still needed!) ask about the creation.
Thus our concern to date has been to explain the external world, as known
through the senses. In order to realise the identity of Atman and brahman,
we need to look inwards, beyond the senses.

It is this search which reveals the knowledge of the unreality of mAyA.
Brahman is understood in its essence, without any attributes, and recognised
as being ones own true nature. MAyA, and consequently the universe, then
disappear. This is obviously extremely difficult to comprehend in our
current, waking state since the apparent existence of an external world is
continually reinforced by the senses. But the recognition of the equivalence
of Atman and brahman does not take place in the waking state but on the
fourth plane of consciousness, turIya. Here, the mistaken understanding of
the Atman is resolved and an external world, separate from the Self, is no
longer seen. Neither 'oneself' nor the world outside of that self exist.
Both are now resolved into the Atman, the one and only reality. Now it
seems, it would become possible to talk about the concept of 'no creation'
except that, since there is now known to be nothing other than the Atman,
talk of a world external to it now no longer arises. Furthermore no senses
operate at this level and the nature of the Atman is ultimately ineffable.
The Atman is eternal, unborn and undying, and undivided. The apparent
universe having been resolved into the Atman itself, there is now no
creation. This is the ultimate reality.

Thus  the provisional view of a creation and a creator can be held at the
level of our (illusory) day to day existence. It is something which needs to
be properly understood and eventually transcended so that the ultimate
reality of 'no creation' may be realised. Once realisation has taken place,
there are no longer separate things.

Finally, there is a minority viewpoint to the effect that the embodied Atman
effectively creates its objects of perception and that without an observer
there is no creation. This is similar to a Western subjective idealism
philosophy and has interesting parallels in modern quantum physics, where
the observer is an inseparable part of the observation and directly affects
it. This point of view is, however, not accepted by most advaitins and seems
to have some logical contradictions.


dwaite at

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