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Two Creation Theories
Sundari: Both theories of creation are explained and accepted by Vedanta, evolution and spontaneous creation. How you see it depends on your perspective and self-knowledge. Direct or indirect knowledge? If you look at Creation as the self, it is spontaneous and instant – or you could say there is no creation, only you. If you look at it as the jiva, Creation evolves. The self does not evolve, and neither does Isvara.
In Maya, the apparent reality, or Creation, there are two forces: knowledge and ignorance. Ignorance creates involution, which is the self apparently identified with matter or objects, apparently under the spell of ignorance. Knowledge creates evolution, the attempt of consciousness to disentangle itself from matter (i.e. from identification with the objects or ignorance).
Isvara, pure sattva operating Maya, is not evolving and is not contaminated or influenced by rajas and tamas. As pure sattva, Isvara is the cause of Maya, not its effects. This is the confusing part because Isvara also appears as a jiva, or subtle body, and as such is also the effect of Maya. Therefore it is both evolving and involving. The effects of Maya are called mithya, i.e. that which makes the apparently real appear real. Isvara is not really the effect of ignorance; it only appears as the apparent effect in a different form.
Prakriti is the subtle cause of matter and energy. Therefore prakriti is matter in seed form. It seems conscious because it borrows its light from awareness. The world and all external objects, whether gross matter or subtle matter, are comprised of prakriti. Prakriti has three qualities, the three gunas, which reflect the self and seem to conceal it, but do not really conceal the self, because nothing can conceal it.
Pure macrocosmic sattvic prakriti is like a bright, clear mirror, capable of reflecting awareness (pratibimba chaitanya). Macrocosmic sattva is the blueprint for all forms, the entire creation – the eternal truths, forces, laws, jivas, karma, three gunas and five elements. It knows everything. It is not yet mixed with rajas and tamas, it is pure knowledge. It is awareness appearing as the knower. It is an object known to awareness and contains all objects, including energy and space. When rajas and tamas arise, and pure sattva is contaminated, the mirror shatters into innumerable shards. Maya becomes avidya, multi-faceted, diverse, pluralistic, creating all objects sentient and insentient, containing the essence of awareness, consciousness, conditioned by rajas and tamas.
Maya “manufactures” all substance out of tamas – the existence “aspect” of consciousness. If Maya created all substance out of sattva, all rocks could think and talk. Rajas acts on the objects according to their blueprint, creating apparent movement and change, individuality and separation.
The five elements, which in various combinations make up prakriti (nature), are considered inert. Yet we say they are constantly changing, which proves they are not truly real but only appearances. However, anything that is inert cannot change. According to the laws of physics, inert objects will continue at rest or in motion in the same direction until acted upon by an external force. So Vedanta should teach that the world and all its objects, including jivas, can BE changed. But the self alone is real because the self cannot BE changed.
The key idea is prakriti which, in terms of the dream of Maya, does actively evolve. Vedanta provisionally accepts this view, but also negates it as the teachings progress. Actually, Maya is consciousness, so it doesn’t evolve, but it looks like it does. If we accept the fact that matter cannot in and of itself change, because it is inert, and therefore it must BE changed, the question then becomes, what changes it? There seem to be only two choices: the self, whose light is reflected through the intellect (buddhi), or the three gunas.
However, the gunas are another name for Maya. So the other possibility is that Isvara operating through Maya uses Maya’s projecting power (rajas) to cause apparent movement and change at the level of pratibasika satyam (jiva sristi). Thus all apparent matter can be changed either externally or internally at this level. However, neither Isvara nor Maya exist at the paramarthika satyam level of “absolute” reality. Therefore the self neither changes nor can be changed.
The issue, which you seem to understand, is satya and mithya. Neither matter nor awareness actually change, but they seem to when we view them through our senses, which are in Maya and apparently changing. We don’t know that it is identification with the changing senses that makes the world seem to be changing. And insofar as the dream of Maya is real, it is possible to effect change because prakriti evolves. That’s what the discussion on free will in Chapters II to VI of the Gita is all about. You should read James’ new book on the gunas, The Yoga of the Three Energies, which explains this in detail.
Don: When and where do the three gunas, qualities or powers, come from in the “sequence” of creation? Currently I understand them to be sattva (knowledge of what is possible), tamas (concealing, non-reflecting, density; earlier I said a black hole?), and rajas (projection, action); together they are the attributes or powers of Isvara 2 (awareness and Maya) that create and sustain the world of mithya.
Sundari: I explained this above. There is no time for awareness, so it is very difficult to explain the creation teaching, but let’s assume time existed.
First and always, there is pure consciousness. Secondly, Maya (pure macrocosmic sattva) appears, and awareness plus Maya “becomes” Isvara in the role of Creator. Lastly, matter appears, but macrocosmic sattvic prakriti is present before matter appears. Prakriti is the clear mirror of consciousness, prior to the emergence of rajas and tamas.
As explained, prakriti is the subtle nature or substance of all matter, subtle and gross matter, the blueprint for all forms, existing eternally within Maya. Prakriti does not exist without Maya. There is no point in talking about the difference between them, because prakriti does not mean anything without Maya. They are the same, but they are not.
Isvara associated with Maya is independent of prakriti because Isvara is triguna-atita, beyond the gunas. Prakriti depends on Isvara, not the other way around. And Isvara as pure consciousness gives rise to creation, but is always free of the creation.