Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 14 Apr 2019



Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

Part-2 of spiritual meeting (Satsanga) that took place between Swami and several devotees on the day of Shri Rama Navami:

Shri Phani: How do you correlate the vivarta vaada of Shankara with the parinaama vaada of Ramanuja?

Swami: Vivarta means an apparent modification whereas parinaama means an actual modification. Water appearing as a wave is an example of vivarta. Milk getting modified to curd is example of parinaama. In fact, scholars call only parinaama as a modification. In the case of vivarta, the word ‘modification’ cannot actually be used. Standstill water itself appears as a wave when some kinetic energy is imparted to it. There is no actual modification in the water at all! But we can still use the word modification in sense of the different appearance which is the result of the association of the water with kinetic energy. We can define modification in terms of a change of qualities. In the case of water and the wave, the water remains the same, chemically. There is no change in its qualities as in the case of milk turning to curd. But even in the case of milk turning to curd, the change in qualities can be attributed to the association of the unseen bacteria. It means that the milk does not change its qualities on its own. The unseen bacteria are responsible for the change of qualities. With this deep scientific background, we can differentiate between apparent and real modifications.

The basic point in this topic is that the concepts explained above deal with items of the imaginable domain and their relationships with each other. It is only a scientific discussion since science only deals with the imaginable domain. There is no reference to the unimaginable domain. Of course, we cannot discuss about the unimaginable domain itself since it is beyond logic. But the present topic is of the creation of the world from the unimaginable God. It is the discussion about the relationship between God, the unimaginable entity and the world, which is an imaginable entity. We can naturally discuss about the relationship between two imaginable items. We can never discuss about the relationship between two unimaginable items because one can never define more than one unimaginable item. If we attempt to define two unimaginable items, they ultimately become only one unimaginable entity since divisions or numbers cannot be imagined in the unimaginable domain. Similarly, no relationships can be imagined in the unimaginable domain since a relationship requires two items.

The present discussion is a discussion about the relationship between one unimaginable item and another imaginable item. In understanding the relationship between two items, the knowledge of both the items is essential. You cannot say that this lotus is produced from an unimaginable source. The lotus is understood to be a flower. But its source, which was said to be unimaginable, cannot be understood. Hence, we cannot understand the process of production of the lotus from that unimaginable source. In short, the relationship between an unimaginable item and an imaginable item becomes unimaginable. Both vivarta and parinaama are concepts about the relationships between imaginable items like water and a wave or milk and curd. These concepts cannot directly apply to the relationship between the unimaginable God and the imaginable world. Logic is only the study of items existing in the imaginable domain (world) and their relationships with each other. You are an imaginable item existing in the world, who cannot cross the boundaries of the world. Then, how can you take this imaginable world in one hand and the unimaginable God in another hand in order to study the relationship between the two? To hold the entire imaginable world in one hand, you have to first stand out of the boundaries of world, which is impossible!

Gaudapaada says that the world is not born (Ajaati vaada) at all from God. He says that the world is non-existent to the core. The soul is a part of the world and Gaudapaada is also a soul, So, as per his own theory, he was also not born at all! He has no existence whatsoever! His theory is correct with respect to the unimaginable God before God created the world. At that time, the world was actually not born (Ajaati) and had no existence. In contrast, Ramanjua says that the world is existent to the core and that it is born from God. He is correct because he is a soul who is a part of the world. For a soul, the world is equally existent and equally real as itself. The imaginable world is born from the unimaginable God. The world is different from God. So, considering this to be a case of real modification or parinaama is justified. But parinaama between worldly items requires the association of a second item. For instance, milk requires the association of bacteria to transform into curd. In the case of the creation of the world, the single unimaginable God created this imaginable world without the association of any second item (Ekamevaadvitiiyam Brahma—Veda, Mattah parataram kinchit naanyadasti—Gita). God is the Cause and the world is the product. The product is real and it is different from the cause (God). Form this point of view, it is acceptable to call it a parinaama or a real modification. But from the point of view of the Cause, which is the single unimaginable God who remains alone without any other second item, calling it a parinaama is not acceptable. In order for it to be a case of parinaama from the point of view of the Cause, you have to say that God is really modified into the real and different world, even though there was no other associated item. This was possible for God due to His unimaginable nature or unimaginable power. It means that in the case of God, parinaama is really possible due to His unimaginable nature and not due to mere worldly logic. The end result is that the parinaama in the case of unimaginable God is an unimaginable parinaama.

A similar argument applies to Shankara’s vivarta too. Even for the apparent vivarta modification, the association with a second item is essential. The water must be associated with kinetic energy to become a wave. Without the associated kinetic energy, the standstill water cannot become a wave. The qualities of water in the standstill water and the wave of water are not different. Yet, we can say that the wave of water is different from the standstill water in its shape and form. Since the product is different from the cause, we can call this too as a modification. The difference between the water and the wave is only in one quality, which is its form. The modification is only physical. There is no chemical change. So, such a modification is very weak and it can be called as an apparent modification. Whether it is the parinaama of Ramanuja or the vivarta of Shankara, the process of generation of the imaginary world from the unimaginable God is certainly unimaginable.

When the Creator as well as the process of creation is unimaginable, one cannot state with certainty the existence of the product (world) with respect to the unimaginable Creator. The world, which is the product, was non-existent to God before creation (ajaati). After creating it, it exists either in very strong state (parinaama) or in a very weak state (vivarta) as per the requirements of God so as to give Him entertainment. Existing in a strong state means existing as something very real; as something that cannot be changed easily. Existing in a very weak state means existing in a somewhat unreal state, like a thought, which can be controlled or changed easily. Such a weak existence can be treated to be a negligible existence. It can even be assumed to be almost like non-existence. Existence is called Sattaa whereas non-existence is called Asattaa. Negligible existence, which is almost like non-existence, is called Mithyaa. All these three states are possible for the world as per the requirement of God.

The world created by God can exist in a strong state as different from God. Such existence is also required whenever God wishes so for the sake of His entertainment. In that case, the parinaama of Ramanuja applies. But this parinaama is an unimaginable parinaama and not the worldly parinaama. A non-existent creation, which is non-different from the creator cannot give any entertainment to the creator. If creation were non-existent and non-different from God, we would have to accept that God is just like an incompetent-imaginable human being. God as the Human Incarnation in this world is entertained by this real world that is different from the Incarnation. It is just like any human being who is entertained by this real world that is different from the human being.

When God is performing miracles, the world is very weakly existent for Him. Since the world is different from God, it provides entertainment. Also, since it is weakly existent, it can be changed as per His will, which becomes a miracle for us. In this context, Shankara’s vivarta applies to the world. But it is an unimaginable vivarta and not the worldly vivarta. A creation that is different from God, but is equally existent as God, cannot be changed by Him. In that case, no miracles would be possible. Then God would not be able to surprise any devotee with a miracle for the sake of establishing the unimaginable nature of God. In that case, we would have to accept that God is just like an incompetent-imaginable human being. God as the Human Incarnation in this world is entertained by this very weakly real world that is different from Him. The word mithyaa can be applied even in the philosophy of Rāmānuja by saying that the world is real for soul and unreal (non-existent) for the unimaginable God before He created it. Since it is not possible to bring the angles of the soul and God together, one cannot decide for sure whether it is real or unreal. Mithyaa is defined by Shankara for broad application in this sense of uncertain reality (sadasatvilakshanaa).

Neither parinaama nor vivarta can be applied to an unborn and non-existent world (ajaati) before it was created from the unimaginable God for the very first time. Subsequently, the world is repeatedly dissolved and then re-created in a cyclic manner. Gaudapaada’s philosophy of an unborn non-existent creation (ajaati vaada) cannot be applied to the state of creation before it is re-created after a dissolution. This is because, the world is not completely destroyed during the dissolution. It is maintained in a non-exhibited subtle state (Avyaktam) during dissolution, only to be re-exhibited in a gross state.

In this way, all the three philosophies, Advaita, Vishishta Advaita, and Dvaita, can be correlated on the topic of God and His creation. The philosophy of Madhva in this topic is exactly similar to that of Ramanuja with a few differences. Madhva says that God is only the intelligent cause and not material cause of the world. He agrees that God has full control over the world. But He says that the material cause of the world is prakruti (nature) which exists separately. So, as per Madhva, prakruti is an independent entity that exists along with God.

One possible doubt arises here. Let us say that one Human Incarnation is performing a miracle in one place in the world. He is treating the world as having a very weak existence in order to perform the miracle. At the same time, in another place, another Human Incarnation is being entertained by the world, treating it to have a very strong existence. How can these two contradictory views of the same world held by two different Human Incarnations be reconciled? How can the same world exist strongly as well as weakly at the same time? Do we reconcile this contradiction by treating one part of the world as strongly existing and another part as weakly existing at the same time? Actually, that is not necessary. Anything is possible for the unimaginable God due to His unimaginable omnipotence. There is no need to assume the world to be existing strongly in one part and weakly in another part. For the same unimaginable God present in the two Human Incarnations the two contradictory views of the world can certainly coexist. The unimaginable God identifies with the two different human media to become two different Incarnations. Through each of them, both these contradictory wishes of the unimaginable God are fulfilled at the same time.

A false serpent superimposed on a rope can appear to be a real snake. This is similar to the case of spectators who feel the magician’s illusion is real. Simultaneously, the rope can appear to be a false imaginary snake to the same God. This is similar to a person imagining a false serpent on a truly existing rope. For the unimaginable God, both these options are possible. He is the absolute truth, whereas world is non-existent. It can appear to Him as a relative truth with either a strong or weak existence. The world cannot be another absolute truth, otherwise God could not have generated it, dissolved it, or changed it during its existence. In a fundamental sense, the world is non-existent to the unimaginable God, who has an absolute existence. In contrast, for a soul, the world actually exists. This is because the soul is a tiny part of the world. This non-existent world may appear to have either a strong or weak existence as per the desire of the unimaginable God. In both cases, the world is non-existent before the unimaginable God in a fundamental sense.

Click here for Part-1
Click here for Part-2