Theories of Creation in Hinduism


[Updated on: 17-April-2016]

Let us now understand different theories of creation.

16. Theories of creation


There are four theories of creation.


  1. Ārambha vāda (आरंभ वाद)

  2. Pariṇāma vāda (परिणाम वाद)

  3. Vivarta vāda (विवर्त वाद)

  4. Ajāti vāda / ajāta vāda (अजाति वाद / अजात वाद)


Two explanations are very popular -  Pariṇāma vāda (परिणाम वाद) and Vivarta vāda (विवर्त वाद). We will understand these two first.


A simple explanation explaining theory of creation is that Non-dual, eternal Brahman itself became many. Hence the creator Brahman has ‘transformed’ 1/4th part of itself into universe. Hence all the creation (jagat) and the living entities ie souls (jīva-s) are his parts or are his partial manifestations. In this way Brahman, nara, being the cause of universe, is present in it and also pervades it.  This cause-effect theory is called as ‘pariṇāma vāda’. An example is ‘milk turning into curd’. Curd cannot be re-converted back into Milk. Hence this process is irreversible. Hence Jīva and jagat cannot in reality lose itself and merge into Brahman. Hence all three - Jīva, jagat and Īshvara (Brahman) are eternal. This is the philosophy that Vaiṣṇava-s (Vaishnavas) adhere too. Śaiva-s too consider jagat as a divine expression of Śiva which is created through his potency ‘Ādi Shakti’.


Another popular view adopted by Ādi Śankara Bhagavadpāda is ‘vivarta vāda’.  Before we understand this view, lets understand the definitions of reality and unreality.


Definitions of Real and Unreal


As per advaitic interpretation of ‘reality’ as found in BG 2.16, and BG 2.27, the definition of real and unreal (false) is given. Please note that the definition of mithyā is not given but will be deviced on the basis of logic. Other verses like BG 2.17-25, 2.62, 2.27, 6.30, etc gives more explanation of the nature of Brahman (Self). They are quoted later under notes so that only interested readers can read it. Rest can skip that section to maintain flow of reading.


In BG 2.16, Bhagavān says, that which is Real is eternal and Unreal does not exist at any time.

In BG 2.27, Bhagavān says, Anyone born has to die and anything that dies is reborn ...


This means that Reality does not suffer from birth, transformation, delay and death. That which does not have beginning does not have an end.  


Unreal or false does not exist at any time. An example is rabbit’s horn or a Child of Barren Women. They never exist and hence cannot be discussed.


The important definition of Self or Brahman as adopted from BG is undecaying, immovable and unchangeable. These three are very important qualities of Self or Brahman.


mithyā

On this basis, we can say that only Brahman is truth, everything else is false. However don't we experience this world? How can we question our own existence? Well, the answer to this is that there is an in-between state which is called as mithyā. That which is neither real nor unreal is called as mithyā. In other words, that which is experienced, but is not of eternal nature i.e. is temporary is mithyā. Hence this world is called as mithyā. Examples of mithyā are three states of consciousness, waking, dream and deep sleep. Another example is sea shell appearing as silver and mirage of appearance of water in desert sand.


Please note that there are views that consider this world as real. Sanātana dharma accepts all kinds of logical explanations that find support in shāshtra-s. Different views are suitable for people with different temperaments and mental make-up. In order to avoid complications, we will only stick to Ādi Śankara’s interpretations.   


Notes:


bhagavAn in gItA says:


BG 2.27 For death of anyone born, is certain, and of the dead (re-) birth is a certainly...


This means that anything that is born dies. The definition of real and unreal is


  • BG 2.16 Of the unreal there is no being; the real has no non-existence. But the nature of both these, indeed, has been realized by the seers of Truth.


Definition of Self is


  • BG 2.17 But know That to be indestructible by which all this is pervaded (omnipresent / all pervading). None can bring about the destruction of this Immutable.

  • BG 2.18 These destructible bodies are said to belong to the everlasting, indestructible, indeterminable, embodied One.

  • BG 2.20 Never is this One born, and never does It die; nor is it that having come to exist, It will again cease to be. This One is birthless, eternal, undecaying, ancient; It is not killed when the body is killed.

  • BG 2.21 O Partha, he who knows this One as indestructible, eternal, birthless and undecaying ...

  • BG 2.24 This Self cannot be cut, burnt, wetted, nor dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, immovable and ancient.

  • BG 2.25 It is said that This is unmanifest (avyakta); This is inconceivable; This is unchangeable.

  • BG 2.72 O Partha, this is the state of being established in Brahman. One does not become deluded after attaining this. One attains identification with Brahman by being established in this state even in the closing years of one's life.

  • BG 6.30 He who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, he never becomes separated from Me, nor do I become separated from him.


Hence we can conclude that


That which has beginning has an end. shruti-s explain that in the beginning there was only one brahman. Then brahman created the universe. Universe, jIva-s were created. Hence they suffer from prior non-existence (i.e. this universe was non-existence before it's birth - creation). bhagavAn says that Self does not die, when established in brahman becomes immortal. Self is unmanifested and unborn.

The important definition of Self or Brahman is undecaying, immovable and unchangeable. these three are very important qualities of Self or Brahman.


With this in mind, let's continue to discuss vivarta vāda.


An example that aptly describes this view is the very popular ‘snake and rope analogy’ or ‘rajju-sarpa-vāda’ which is also found in Bhāgavat purāṇa 10.14.28. Entire philosophy of advaita can be explained by this example. Delving deep would fill pages and is a separate topic for practising advaitins well versed in basics of advaita. Here, we will briefly understand this example. In a dark room, a rope is (wrongly) perceived as snake. Reacting to this snake, either one is afraid of it as tries to run away from it or one tries to catch it to earn something out of it. The game (reaction) of ‘run-and-chase’ continues as long as snake is perceived. The reason for this behaviour is our ignorance i.e. absence of the knowledge of truth. When we switch on the light, snake simply disappears and rope manifests itself without any effort on our part. Snake simply vanishes leaving no trace of itself. Snake was superimposed on Rope. Wrong perception made it look real. Snake ‘veiled’ the rope. Snake was real only until darkness prevailed.  In the same way, this world is experienced as separate object due to veiling power of māyā. Once this veil, the root cause of ignorance is removed, Self, the Brahman, shines by itself. This world is true only until the truth is veiled. The world talked here is better understood if we take it as ‘mental world’ or ‘Jīva shṛṣṭi’. What we perceive need not be true. We can be deluded. It is our mind that values one object over another. Object does not value itself. For example, ‘Gold’ is valuable than ‘rock’. But Gold itself does not say so. It is our mind that makes such distinction. This is called as Jīva shṛṣṭi or mano sṛṣṭi. When in samadhi, mind is melts into oneness and merges into Non-dual Brahman. In this state, since mind loses its individual existence, just like a drop loses its existence when it merges into ocean, does not experiences anything separately. Jīva becomes Śiva (Brahman). No world is experienced in this state. This final state is called as ‘advaita-sthiti’ or ‘nirvikalp samādhi’.


A philosophy specifically dealing with this state is called as ‘ajāti-vāda’ or ‘ajāt-vāda’. ‘ja’ means ‘birth’. ‘aja’ or ‘a-jāta’ means ‘unborn’.  In this theory, nothing is born. The world was never created. Ādi Śankara’s paramguru (guru’s guru) Śrī Gauḍapāda or Śrī Gauḍpadāchārya jī advocated this philosophy as highest truth, which is reflected on his kārikā on Māṇḍukya Upanishad. (Kārikā is a type of commentary which explains inner meaning of verses.)


Theory of indeterminability - That which cannot be explained (anirvachanīya)

Hence in this explanation, the world and jīvahood are temporary, only Brahman is unchanging, eternal, unborn reality. Since we do not know when the world or jīva-s were first created, we consider them as ‘unborn’. But since they merge in Brahman in samādhi, i.e. they are destroyed, they are not unborn in real sense. Nobody known when the world was created or when jīva-s came into existence. If Brahman is immovable, or beyond guṇa-s when how did māyā create this universe by herself? Was māyā created by Brahman or is it ever existent? How can māyā whose birth is not known by anyone merge into Brahman in samādhi? Many questions arise which cannot be answered conclusively. Answering one question may contradict another theory which says māya is absent in brahman. This phenomenon of ‘indeterminability’ is called as ‘anirvachanīya’ (अनिर्वचनीय) i.e. ‘unexplainable, indescribable’’. All this is due to the power of the Lord’s Māyā. Hence Māyā is called as ‘anirvachanīya’.   


There is one more theory, ‘ārambha vāda’, thus making four ‘theories of creation’. In ārambha vāda, God is the kartā (doer) and he created this universe. This vāda suits those who believe in karma and cannot believe that God does not do any karma. They believe that without karma nothing is possible. Like potter creating pot. Pot cannot be created by itself. Potter (Brahman) acts. His action creates pot (world). Nyāya-vaisheshikā adopt this vāda. In parināma vāda, God does not in reality work (act), but everything happens by itself. For example, Sun which does not do any work but under its influence we find transformations like water vapourizing into steam, plants growing, etc. Pariṇāma vāda is for subtle intellect as is adopted by sānkhya philosophy. It also finds support in shāstra-s. Subtler than Pariṇāma vāda is vivarta vāda. Ādi Śankara adopted this vedic philosophy to explain mithyā nature of māyā. Mithyā means of temporary and of changing nature. Subtlest of all is the philosophy of ajāti-vāda. It is only for selected few purified souls who are very near to experiencing ‘enlightenment’. Aṣṭāvakra Gītā, Yōga Vāsiṣṭa and Maṇḍukya kārikā explain this philosophy.  


Note: Further explanation for those well versed with basics of vedānta  - can be skipped.


Those adhering to ārambha vāda believe that God can only be realised by karma, whereas Ādi Śankara says that ‘There is no liberation without Knowledge of Self’. No action can earn Self-realisation. Mental efforts gives us inner purity, but not knowledge. Action always has its limits. Self Realisation is limitless. It is immortal and eternal state. Limited effort cannot yield unlimited results. ‘Earning’ Self Realisation means it was not present in past but was achieved by ‘effort’ i.e. karma. This is not true, as Brahman, our true nature, is eternally present in past, present and future. This topic is very subtle and needs much explanation and intense meditation to understand it properly. Hence we will leave it as of now. It will get cleared as one progresses spiritually.


We will also discuss two theories of creations known as sṛsṭi-dṛsṭi vāda and dṛsṭi-sṛsṭi vāda.


16.1. Sṛsṭi-Dṛsṭi Vāda and Dṛsṭi-Sṛsṭi Vāda - Theories of Creation


(Shrishti-Drishti vada and Drishti-Shrishti Vada)


There are three main ways of understanding creation in the advaita tradition - namely,

  1. ajāti vāda (in reality no creation occurred),

  2. sṛsṭi-dṛsṭi vāda (what has been created is perceived) and

  3. dṛsṭi-sṛsṭi vāda (perception is simultaneous with creation)


Ajāti view is held in the pāramārthika sense, while the other two views are held in the vyāvahārika sense. We have already discussed ajāti vāda. Let’s discuss the other two. Please  understand that a given teacher may use one or more of these vāda-s, depending upon his own views, the student's ability, and other factors.


sṛsṭi-dṛsṭi vāda (what has been created is perceived)


According to this view, first came the universe and then the vision of universe (as separate from us) was perceived. We find from our shāshtra-s that first Brahman or Īshvara created the universe. Hence universe came into existence and then we jīva-s came into existence and experienced duality. Without this world, how can jīva-s be created?. Jīva-s need a place to live in. Hence sṛsṭi (creation) is prior to dṛsṭi (perception). This is sṛsṭi-dṛsṭi vāda (what has been created is perceived). This view is commonly accepted and is better suited for new students as we all see this universe distinct from ourselves.


Note for advanced seekers -


After a student matures, s/he can adopt vivarta vāda and later on in final stage when one gets first glimpse of samādhi can adopt ajāti vāda. Ajāti vāda is important to strongly embed the reality of non-dual Brahman. It also breaks the common notion that Brahman can be achieved only by doing certain kriyā-s like japa, tapa, nidhidhyāsana, surrender,concentration, or kuṇḍlini activation. You can use ‘auto-suggestion’ to go to sleep. For example, ‘I am feeling sleepy, my eyes are getting heavy’, etc are auto-suggestions. You continue until you enter into sleep. After you enter in sleep, do you continue to practice auto-suggestion? The purpose of auto-suggestion is to ‘sleep’. Once we are already sleeping, there is no need of autosuggestion. Similarly, all the processes and methods to realise Brahman are fulfilled when one enters into this blissful state. After entering into this state you do not need to do ‘anything to enter’ into samādhi. In this state, there is absence of concentration and all methods. This may not feel correct. Lets try to use proper wordings. This is because they all represent ‘an act’. You need an object to concentrate onto. Hence there is always subject-object relationship. This relationship is dual in nature. It comes under relative reality and not absolute reality which is non-dual and independent in nature. Hence in state of samādhi, there is absence of act of concentration, absence of act of surrender, absence of any act of doing kriyā-s, etc. Just abide in your true nature.


Meditation process - from effort to effortless

Your true nature is Ātman or Brahman. In order to be ‘just you’, you do not need to do anything. So ‘just be’ in the natural state. Abiding in the ‘natural state’ is practically not possible for all. Only those who enter into this state, but cannot stay in this blissful, nondual state for ever, can actually adopt this vāda in practice. For such advanced seekers, there is no need to study vedānta, no need to practice Yogic kriyā-s, no need of any āsana-s, no need of japa or tapa. Nidhidhyāsa (Self Enquiry) or OM chanting happens by itself. One stays as an observer.  After a thought is uprooted, Self Enquiry or OM chanting drops automatically and everything melts into oneness. The little ‘I’ or ‘ego’ melts into to bigger complete ‘I’ called as ‘aham’. This capital ‘I’ or Self than spontaneously shines itself. Self was already there the moment veil of ignorance draped with desires, emotions and thoughts is removed. What is left is capital ‘I’ or Self. Hence one has to just stay in natural state without any effort. Meditator no more makes any effort. Hence there is no kriyā (mental effort of any kind). Consciousness is naturally rooted in the source. Meditation has now transformed from effort to effortless. Jñāna reveals itself as soon as ajñāna is removed just like the Sun shine returns as soon as clouds fade away.


In words of Sri Ramana Maharshi


“As one enters into deep meditative state, there is someone already waiting for you. After entering into this state, you, as an individual, have no role to play, whatever is to be done is done by someone else.”


“After burning the corpse, fire does not remain alive but extinguishes itself. Similarly, the Self Enquiry or OM after removing ignorance does not continue but merges into its source.“  


Next vāda is -


dṛsṭi-sṛsṭi vāda (perception is simultaneous with creation)


According to this less popular view, cognition or perception and creation are simultaneous. The world exist because we perceive it. The world itself does not say that it exists. Hence the creation is in mind. Here it is better to understand the creation of world as ‘mental creation’. If we take real creation, then some objections could be raised. Refuting these objections will further complicate things. Hence we will stick with the interpretation of world as ‘inner world created by mind’. Many things will begin to make sense if we adopt this view. Instead of talking about origin of universe, which will only be a guess work as nobody knows the truth of origin of universe, is it not better to understand the origin of inner universe and understand our own mind? This meditative approach helps one evolve to higher state of consciousness and dive deep within ourselves.


In case of advanced seekers, their guru is going to tell the truth which will be revealed to them as ‘direct experience’ either in meditation or in waking state with open eyes. What happens in dream happens exactly the in same way in waking state. There is no difference in dream and waking state. But this truth may not be palatable. Hence we will keep creation as ‘jīva sṛṣṭi’, which is our understanding of the world created by perception, supposition, preconceived notions, biased thinking, unnecessary valuation to objects and opinion of others and what not. One person may be good for one and bad for another. Ours is relative world, every comparision, opinion or perception is relative to something and hence is relative reality.


In order to understand dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda, we must first understand that meaning of the word ‘dṛṣṭi’ (drishti).


16.1.1. Meaning of dṛṣṭi (vision)


Dṛṣṭi though is translated into ‘vision’ is not to be taken as just ‘vision’. By vision, we mean our ‘perception’. When we see something, say a golden brick, we add our own value to it. So Gold is not perceived just as a ‘metal’, but as ‘valuable metal’. When we see something, image gets projected inside our brain. This is called as sensation. Brain processes this image and tries to give a meaningful suggestion. This meaningful suggestion is our own suggestion based on information collected in past and our opinion attached to the information. So perception can be defined as ‘sensation + meaningful suggestion’.


According to Science, light rays fall on eye lens, are carried onto brain to form an image. This image is the cognised. However our shāshtra-s give different explanation. Mind travels up to object via senses, feels it and then projects its own opinion on the object.  Shāshtra-s  speak from mental level.


Sensation without meaningful suggestion makes no sense. Any sensation has to be coupled with meaningful sensation. If no meaning can be deduced, mind rejects it. For example, while walking on road, eyes see many people, but do we remember all faces? However, if we spot a known face, say our friend, we will respond to him. We not only see an image of human being, but we see our friend in it. Along with friend, we keep his nature (character or personality and behaviour towards us) in mind while dealing with him. On other words, we have ‘an opinion’ about our friend. Hence we just do not sense or see, but we ‘perceive’ in our own unique way due to unique opinion. This perception is based upon our own imagination and preconceived notions. Likewise, what may be important to one may not be important to another. Shāshtra-s call this selective perception as ‘likes and dislikes’ i.e. ‘rāga and dvesha’.


So we do not just see the object, but we perceive it. In other words, mind tries to ‘know’ the object via senses. Hence seeing (which is actually perceiving) is knowing.


With this in mind, let us understand dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda with the help of snake and rope analogy in light of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s verses #7 from ‘40 verses on reality’.


Now the question arises, How can both vision and creation happen simultaneously?


Sri Ramana Maharshi in 40 verses on reality verse 7 says -


Though both jagat (creation) and knowledge (mana or manas or mind) both rises (comes forth) into existence and perishes simultaneously, still, it is due to mind  (knowledge) that the world manifests itself [inside us]. That which shines or exists as the origin of creation and destruction [of inner world], and shines forth even when there is no activity of creation or destruction is the absolute truth (tatvam).


The question is why is it said that both knowledge (mind) and creation happens simultaneously?  


We will understand snake-rope analogy part by part.


  1. Eyes sees something but cannot identify what it is - Sensation happens first.

  2. Mind tries to give meaningful suggestion of this unclear image (sensation) and so creates an image of snake. - Meaningful suggestion

  3. This image, which is created within itself, is then projected onto object by mind via senses (eyes) - process of perception.

  4. Observer believes that it has seen snake - Snake is perception


Though we have broken the phenomenon of seeing snake on rope in parts, in reality, one never sees rope in first place nor does one sees rope getting transformed into snake. One directly sees snake at first place. Hence we can say that both vision of snake and projection of snake happen simultaneously as Sri Ramana Maharshi has said. Hence this phenomenon is said to be dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda.


On a deeper level, we know that mind first creates an image of snake and then it projects onto object (rope). Here mind is knowledge and snake is samsāra. We see what our mind perceives. This is what is said by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Moving forward, let’s understand how mind is knowledge. Mind [in dream] creates universe, preserves it and then destroys it in itself. Though in the dream there are many characters, in reality they are all played by mind. There is no one else than mind. Hence this creation depends upon mind which is both material and efficient cause. In other words mind has both knowledge and material to create the world. Hence Sri Ramana Maharshi refers to mind as knowledge.


We will connect these two vāda-s with four theories of creation. Sṛṣṭi-dṛṣṭi vāda suits  ārambha vāda and pariṇāma vāda and to some extend vivarta vāda. Whereas dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda suits vivarta vāda and ajāti vāda.


16.1.2. Detailed analysis of dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda


Please note that most of the things are already explained above in brief. Hence this article is repeated with detailed explanation.


How Brain Perceives any information ...

First we will have to understand the process of perception. According to modern medical science, when light rays fall on retina, light rays are carried via optical fibres and the image is projected on cerebral cortex. An inverted image is formed, is then perceived by brain. Brain tries to understand the image with the information it already has. For example if we see a shape ‘clock’, light rays which fall on eye lens are projected on cerebral cortex. This can be termed as sensation. Then brain tries to interpret the image by giving a meaningful suggestion. Here the suggestion given is ‘this is a clock’.  So perception may be defined as sensation + meaningful suggestion. However, our shāshtra-s explain perception in a slightly different way. Our shāshtra-s say, that mind travels through senses up to the object, touches it, feels it and then gives meaningful suggestion. The explanation is based on mental level.


With this in mind, when mind senses anything via five senses, it immediately tries to find a meaningful explanation and tries to arrive at conclusion. When the object is not clearly perceived or seen, mind tries to correlate it with the nearest object that is stored in mind. Mind keeps imagining until it reaches an acceptable conclusion. It superimposes the nearest image on the unclear object. Nature of mind to constantly imagine until it reaches meaningful conclusion can be aptly explained by a small experiment of staring at equidistant dots


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Keep seeing the dots. Soon, in few seconds, mind will try to connect dots. You may see a square, rectangle, triangle, rhombus, or any other relevant shape that mind can think of.


equidistant space shape 1.png  50987_orig vertical line.pngenigma-1723-eqvidistant shape 2.png


In above experiment, in reality, there is no shape, there are no lines, yet mind superimposes lines connecting dots. In other words mind sees what it chooses to see, which may not be the reality.


With this in mind, let us understand vivarta vāda with the help of dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda.

 

Further observations from snake-rope analogy:


Here, the object rope already existed prior to observer stepping in dark room. But it’s existence was not noted and is of little consequence to the observer. Observer is not influenced by rope due to absence of cognition. The wrong cognition of rope as snake was due to faulty perception of mind. The image of snake was first created or imagined in mind before it was projected on external object rope. Here mind represents knowledge and snake represents the world (samsāra). Snake is indeed considered as real on first instance of perception and the observer continues to believe in this false perception until the truth is revealed to him. The world (of observer) is conceived inside the mind first. Hence it is the mind that makes the world (as perceived by observer) into existence (though both vision and projection happen simultaneously).


Let us recall the verse under consideration

Sri Ramana Maharshi in 40 verses on reality verse 7 says -


Though both jagat (creation) and knowledge (mana or manas or mind) both rises (comes forth) into existence and perishes simultaneously, still, it is due to mind  (knowledge) that the world manifests itself [inside us]. That which shines or exists as the origin of creation and destruction [of inner world], and shines forth even when there is no activity of creation or destruction is the absolute truth (tatvam).


Earlier, we had  taken first part of the verse into consideration. Now we will take second part. This part is very important for a sādhaka. One is trained to stay as a witness and search for the origin of thoughts or desires (vāsanā). This source of thoughts and desires is also the source of any mantra. Hence all types of contemplation be it Self Enquiry or OM chanting, they all end in merging in this source. Hence from the beginning, the focus of meditation is this ‘source’. Let’s understand the second part.


That which shines or exists as the origin of creation and destruction [of inner world], and shines forth even when there is no activity of creation or destruction is the absolute truth tatvam.


In order to superimpose something, one needs a substratum, a base, upon which any image can be projected. Just like canvas is substratum or base for painting, rope here represents the substratum or base which is already present prior to (mental) creation, preservation and destruction (of projection of image of snake on rope). In this entire process, nothing in reality happens to rope. Rope never gets transformed into snake at anytime, but is wrongly perceived as snake due to faulty vision.


Rope, as the cause, exists in snake. Snake is in reality a rope (but is hidden). Snake depends upon rope for it’s existence, whereas rope can stay as rope in it’s natural state without any superimposition i.e. activity of creation, preservation and destruction of image of snake. Rope represents Brahman. Snake is not rope, but rope appears as snake due to faulty vision (perception), which in turn is due to God’s māyā.


Meaning of ‘Nārāyaṇa or Śiva is present in samsāra as cause


In light of snake-rope analogy, let’s try to understand the meaning of ‘Nārāyaṇa or Śiva is present in samsāra as cause’.


Names Nārāyaṇa and Śiva represent Brahman. Nārāyaṇa is made up of two words, ‘nara’ and ‘ayana’. Nārāyaṇa is found as #245th name in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma. Ādi Sankara in his commentary on Viṣṇu Sahasranāma gives one of the meaning of Nārāyaṇa as -  

‘Ātman’ is known as ‘nara’ (नर), ākāsha et al (5 elements) originating from this [‘nara’] are known as ‘nāra’ (नार). [nara], as their cause, pervades ‘nāra’, which is the effect, hence it [nara] is their resting place (house); therefore Bhagavān is known as ‘Nārāyaṇa’. It is said in mantravarṇa (Nārāyaṇa Up. 13.1-2) - Whatever creation we see or hear [or experience via 5 senses] is pervaded by Nārāyaṇa from both within and outside.  


Nārāyaṇa means, ‘The resting place of jīva-s’. Śiva means ‘in which all things lie’. Both names point to the source where finally jīva-s merge. It is also the place from where jīva-s emerged. Here present in samsāra as source means that rope (Brahman) is present in snake (world) as the cause. This does not mean that Brahman is actually transformed into universe. In snake, technically there is no rope, yet we can say that in reality it is rope only. The word ‘cause’ means that it is the root cause or source of anything. Here it means it is snake is not Brahman, this world is not Brahman, but Brahman appears as this world because of māyā. In this sense we say that Īshvara is present in jagat, yet it is not present, as mentioned in BG 9.4 and BG 9.5 and in other verses like BG 7.6.


An interesting thing to note is that ‘samsāra’ is not used by bhagavān in gītā. The word used is ‘vishva’. It seems that the word ‘samsāra’ means ‘jīva-sṛṣṭi’ or ‘mano-sṛṣṭi’, while vishva or jagat means the world created by Īshvara.


Note A for advanced seekers: World is projection of mind of Brahmā jī

Further we may say that this world is created by the mind of Brahmā jī. Hence this world is a mental projection of Īshvara. If we take external world as illusion or projection of Self, and that each one of us sees i.e. perceives this world in different way, then how come we see this world as same. We all see this trees, objects, etc. The answer is that since we are covered by the mind of Īshvara and his māyā, we perceive same object. This truth is not acceptable, as we all live in this world. Hence we will stick to the world as ‘world as we perceive’.


Note B: Faulty vision leads one to do faulty things

It may still not be clear how is this a dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda. We will take into consideration the reaction after which one suddenly sees rope. Remember we talked that we have preconceived notions and our own biases? Same applies here. After one sees (dṛṣya) snake, either one runs away from it due to fear or one tries to catch it to earn something out of it or to eat it. So the wrong notion of rope being snake leads us to doing wrong things. We live in such mental world. We give different valuation to gold and iron. The moment we see gold, we also attach an ‘asset’ to it. This applying of ‘special value’ makes gold special for us. Hence we live in the world created by us and perceive objects with our ‘own vision’. Vision is not to be taken as just vision. Sensation without meaning makes no sense. Hence any sensation has to be coupled with meaningful sensation. Hence we just do not sense or see, but we ‘perceive’. This perception is based upon our own imagination. So vision (dṛṣṭi) and cognition (sṛṣṭi) happens simultaneously. This is dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda.  What may be important to one may not be important to another. Each one of us perceives this world in his own way. Shāshtra-s call this selective perception as ‘likes and dislikes’ i.e. ‘rāga and dvesha’. One has to rise above this perception of mind by being a witness and transcend the mind to enter into non-dual state where pure consciousness prevails.


Note C: Why mind does not see the world?

We must understand that we are not talking about the world and it’s objects, but the ‘way world is perceived by us’. What mind cannot perceive, is non-existent for it. For example every moment someone is born and someone dies. But do we feel happiness and sorrow each and every moment. But suppose that we see a person hit by a truck and is in pain. Now our mind reacts to this incident as it is cognised by mind. If you were not present on the scene of accident, you won't feel anything. This incident never happened for you.  That is why when mind is destroyed or merges into Brahman, one does not see or experience any creation. Here it is to be noted that the world is negated and not destroyed. Negation does not mean destruction, else if one person gets enlightenment, the whole world will be destroyed. It should also be noted that if there is no desire for any object, it makes no difference where the object is present in front of you or not.


Earlier, we were talking about nara and nāra. We discussed various theories of creations. We will refresh this topic.


According to ārambha vāda, God really creates the real world and souls. This view looks good to beginners but is rejected by vedāntins as God in reality never divides himself and creates world and souls. In this case of name #245 Nārāyaṇa, ārambha vāda would mean that God actually creates universe and is separate from it. This view opposes the views of Vaiṣṇava-s who think jīva jagat and Īshvara are eternal. Hence creation in reality cannot be ‘created’, as it is eternal.  


Pariṇāma vāda is better than ārambha vāda, as the creation happens by itself. Milk even though left undisturbed transforms into curd. Hence God pervades into the world as its cause. Īshavara is cause and jagat is effect. This logic is useful for practical purposes on vyavahārika level.


We also discussed vivarta vāda. nara is present in nāra i.e nara pervades nāra as cause. Rope is present in snake and pervades it as its cause. In reality rope never pervades snake, as snake was never real. In other words, snake is real but temporary and rope is its cause of creation only until the truth is realised.  After realising the truth, there is no creation. This is ajāti vāda. In vivarta vāda there is no real creation of universe.


Credits: Referred to Creation Theories in Advaita Vedānta


There are two other vāda-s or theories of creations explaining the position of cause and effect. They are satkārya vāda and asatkārya vāda. These two vāda-s pointed out by a reader Śrī Ravishankar jī . Since these two vāda-s are added later, they are explained in brief separately as earlier four vāda-s along with sṛṣṭi-dṛṣṭi vāda and dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi vāda well are integrated with each other. Information about these vāda-s is compiled from notes of Sri S.N. Shastri ji, a well known Advaitin who has translated many work of Śrī Ādi Śankarāchārya jī in English. Credits: Thanks to Advaita Vision for sharing this info.


16.2. Satkārya vāda and asatkārya vāda


‘sat’ means ‘existence’ or ‘truth’, ‘asat’ means ‘non-existence’. We recall the verse BG 2.16 - Truth (reality) never dies, and untruth (unreal) never exists.  ‘Kārya’here means ‘effect’ or ‘that which is produced’. Sat, which is Brahman, is the cause and kārya (effect) is the creation.


Satkārya vāda is propagated by sāmkhya and asatkārya vāda is propagated in nyāya-vaśeṣika (न्याय-वैशेषिक) and Buddhist philosophy of śūṇya vāda of mādhyamika school.


According to satkārya vāda, effect is pre-existent in the cause. According to Buddhist version of asatkārya vāda, Cause cease to exist after it gets transformed into effect. Hence cause (Brahman), cease to exist. This is śūṇya vāda, where the zero state, non-existence of anything is the final state.


According to nyāya-vaśeṣika’s asatkārya vāda, effect is not preexistent in cause, but cause is present before, during and after cause is transformed into effect.  


sāṃkhya rejects asatkārya vāda, pointing out that, if the effect is not already in the cause, then anything can be produced from anything else, for example, curd can be produced from water and oil from sand. So the sāṃkhya-s hold that the effect, kārya, must exist (sat) in the cause.


Sāṃkhya-s further hold that there is a real transformation or pariṇāma of the cause into the effect and that both the cause and the effect are real. Advaita vedānta accepts one part of satkārya vāda, that effect (kārya) is pre-existent in cause (Brahman). However sāṃkhya-s and those schools which accept pariṇāma vāda often give example of ‘Milk transforming in curd’ or simply ‘milk changing into curd’. Brahman, also known as Nārāyana or Visṇu gets really transformed in the creation. This ‘reality’ of transformation is not accepted by advaita, as, if Brahman gets transformed, then it is divided and that 1/4th part which got transformed into jagat and jīva-s will cease to exist. Also this process is irreversible. Curd cannot be reconverted into Milk. Hence this world cannot die, which contradicts BG 2.16, that anything that is born dies and truth is unborn and does not suffer from non-existence. Brahman cannot suffer from non-existence. Though there are technical issues with pariṇāma vāda it is easy to understand and hence adopted by vaiṣṇava sampradāya-s. They must also have given a logical logical explanation so as not to contradict BG 2.16 and related verses and must have made sure that Brahman’s eternality is not compromised.


We must understand that no theory is perfect from all viewpoints. For example this world is not real but mithyā is difficult to accept. We must also note that no example used to explain any theory is perfect, especially if interpreted from different view point. An example has it’s own limitations. An example should be understood and interpreted with context to the theory that is explained and from positive attitude.


We will now move over to a new topic. Sanātana Dharma has many distinctive features, which are not found in other religions.