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Instantaneous and Evolutionary Theories of Creation
Questioner: Hello, Sundari, can you precise me a bit the topic about “the world is a projection,” which I have a certain difficulty to grasp in relationship with the instantaneous theory of the world instead of an evolution theory of the world?
Sundari: In Maya, the apparent reality, or Creation, there are two forces: knowledge and ignorance. Ignorance creates involution, which is the Self that has identified with matter or objects, thus 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).
Vedanta’s view on the evolutionary theory depends on which perspective you take, the jiva or the Self. From the point of view of the Self, nothing ever happened and there is no such thing as evolution, because there is no Creation. The Self cannot change, evolve or cause anything, because there would have to be something other than it to do so, which is impossible, because reality is non-dual.
From the point of view of the jiva, or individual, there is an apparent Creation which seems to be evolving and changing. The Creation teachings can be confusing because for moksa to obtain requires the ability to discriminate between satya, that which is real, meaning always present and unchanging, and mithya, that which is not real, meaning not always present and unchanging. The Creation is mithya, so it is not real, but a projection created by Maya, the power in awareness to delude. There is a Creation because we can’t experience something that doesn’t exist, but the Creation is as good as non-existent because it has no impact on the Self, nor does the Self impact on it. It seems to be real and have substance but has no actual substance.
As long as you think matter is real and you need a cause for it, then the sat “aspect” of the Self is responsible for the material Creation. But as we said, matter is purely a projection. When you dig into it, it resolves into existence/awareness, the substratum. “Sentient” and “inert” are just teaching tools; they don’t refer to real objects in the Creation. We need them because people think they are sentient beings caught in a material world. They aren’t. They are only the sat-chit-ananda atma.
The evolution theory corresponds with the Creation, or cause-and-effect, theory in Vedanta, which fits in with the first stages of Self-inquiry. It provisionally accepts duality, but the teachings are set up to destroy duality so take you gradually to non-duality. The main purpose of the cause-and-effect teaching, as with all other prakriyas adopted by the Upanishads, is not to make you believe in causation or the Creation. It is to reveal the truth of the Self as attribute-free, limitless, part-less, beginningless and endless consciousness – and that the Creation is neither real nor unreal but has a dependent reality on you, consciousness. The karana karya prakriya (cause-and-effect proof) is meant to unfold the fact that not only is the Self limitless, but you are also non-separate from it.
Isvara, before the projection of Maya, refers to pure consciousness/awareness, or Brahman. Maya is a power (shakti) that exists in awareness or it would not be unlimited. Once Maya is projected, Isvara operating ignorance is also referred to as Isvara, or God, the Creator, the dharma field, the macrcosmic mind, or the causal body. The Creation is made up of the three energies, or gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas; it is projected with the emergence of the three gunas. Sattva is intelligence, the knowledge that directs evolution (it shapes matter). Tamas is the heavy, dense substance of matter; and rajas is the energy required to transform matter. The gunas are consciousness and collectively they are the substance of Creation.
Isvara, pure sattva operating Maya, is not evolving, as 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 effects of Maya; so it is both evolving and involving. This is the semblance, or Maya, theory. The effects of Maya are called mithya: i.e. that which makes the apparently real appear real. Isvara is not really the effects of ignorance; it only appears as the apparent effects in a different form.
This is hard to understand, but what it means is that everything that is taking place in Creation is happening because Isvara (the gunas) is the doer, not the jiva nor awareness. The jiva, or individual, which is the Self under the spell of ignorance identified with the objects, thinks it is the doer. But it is the gunas that are causing everything to unfold the way it does. The individual does appear to have limited free will, but in actual fact this “free” will is also governed by the vasanas, which in turn are governed by the gunas. So no one is doing anything really. No one knows the mind of Isvara, because only Isvara has all knowledge. The individual only has knowledge of the objects it has contact with. Isvara is running the whole dharma field.
I don’t know if you have ever studied philosophy, but what is very interesting to me is that the essence of the Mandukya teaching was very well known, way before Socrates and his line of thinkers, way before even the Bronze Age. It was not exclusive to India by any means. The idea of the “one” or the “monad” was and is a universal idea. Here is what Parmenides (circa 515 BC) had to say about it, and he could be quoting the Mandukya.
Parmenides’ argument about being, enunciated in his book On Nature, of about 475 BC: “It is impossible,” Parmenides asserted, “for anything to come into being, because it must either come from being, in which case it already existed, or from non-being, which is impossible, since non-being does not exist. Similarly, nothing can pass out of existence, for it must pass either into being, in which case it still exists, or into non-being, which is impossible.”
But, unlike the Indian rishis, this thinking never took off among the Greeks. Many great thinkers during the time of and after Parmenides hated it because it sounded so nihilistic; they called the thinking “infinite regress,” which is when a proposition is regarded as reduced to absurdity because infinity melts down identities. When any entity “enters” infinity it loses the identity which formerly differentiated it from other entities. In infinity everything is everything. The proposition which becomes entangled in infinite regress is no longer just itself; it has passed beyond the law of identity, and dichotomies such as true and false (duality) no longer apply to it. It destroys duality and with it, the ego’s sense of self, so of course it is frightening for minds that are not qualified or have not assimilated the truth that there is nothing in this world to gain. Hence the importance of qualifications.
James says that the cause-and-effect teaching is a set-up because once you have understood and assimilated that you are the Self and the Self never undergoes any change, you are then ready for the next step, which is the non-origination prakriya, the instant projection theory. The Mandukya Karika is the most advanced and subtle of all Vedanta teachings, as it explains why the cause-and-effect teaching is not the whole truth, but the mind must be ready to hear it. Basically, it says that if there is no creation before the Creation appears and none after it is withdrawn; is there ever a Creation at all? No, there is not. For some people, it is extremely depressing news, and they can fall into “the void.”
If the mind is qualified, the Mandukya answers the logical question: How can sat, consciousness, be the basis of the material Creation if it is non-dual consciousness? The material Creation is not material. It is a projection caused by Maya, which is not the same OR not different from sat, existence/awareness. You can’t get something out of something that is incapable of modification. Sat is not the cause of anything. How could it be? If it were, it would not be non-dual. The Mandukya also points out that the Self implies not-Self.
When you know you are the Self, there is no satya and mithya for you anymore, they are just concepts/principles used to teach you that you are the Self and can be discarded. But, very importantly, at this stage mithya “becomes” satya because it was satya all along. You see everything as just IS-NESS, a direct experience of existence as your identity, the Self. The reversal of superimposition caused by Maya that had to take place, viparaya, is reversed again, but this time with full Self-knowledge. When Self-knowledge is firm, you see everything as “real” because it is all you, though you are not it.
As long as the inquirer understands the common identity between consciousness, Isvara and jiva to be sat, the Self, and this understanding allows them to discriminate that the existence of all objects belongs to consciousness and that all objects have a dependent existence on you, the Self, then Maya is no problem. You understand the principles that run mithya and live free of it while enjoying it for what it is, just a play.
I hope this helps.
~ Love, Sundari