Saturday, December 2, 2023

Svetasvatara 1.3 on devātma śakti (aka maya) with commentary by Tejomayananda and Nikhilananda

The first and second verses [Svetasvatara 1.1 & 1.2] raise the following questions: Is Brahman the cause of the universe, or should time, or nature, or necessity, or some other factor, be considered as the cause? Can Brahman properly be called the cause, or is It devoid of causal relationship? Does Brahman, if It is the Creator, create the universe with outside help? If It is the cause, should It be regarded as the material cause or as the efficient cause? Or is It both efficient and material cause? Lastly, if Brahman is designated as the cause then what are Its characteristics; and if It transcends the causal relationship then, too, what is Its nature?

The answer is that the Pure Brahman is neither the cause nor something other than the cause, nor both, nor some thing other than both. Further, It is neither the efficient cause nor the material cause, nor both. Brahman is one and without a second, and devoid of any causal relationship. From the standpoint of the Absolute there is no creation; therefore Brahman cannot properly be described in terms of cause and effect. From the standpoint of the universe, however, Brahman with maya appears to be associated with creation, preservation, and destruction.


two translations of Svetasvatara 1.3

1.3. Following the path of meditation, the students saw the power of the Lord, hidden by its own inherent qualities, the Lord who, alone presides over all the causes – from time to the individual self. (tr-Tejomayananda

1.3. The sages, absorbed in meditation through one-pointedness of mind, discovered the [creative] power, belonging to the Lord Himself and hidden in its own gunas. That non-dual Lord rules over all those causes —time, the self, and the rest. (tr-Nikhilananda)

some commentaries

The infinite Truth has an infinite potential to create. This inscrutable divine power is called māyā. Thus the infinite Truth (Brahman) associated with māyā is the cause of the world... The various factors like time, inherent nature, nature’s laws, matter and energy are manifestations of māyā, or creations of māyā... Māyā cannot exist separate from Truth as Truth is of the nature of Existence. Anything other than Existence cannot exist. Then māyā must be one with the Truth. If so it becomes the Truth itself. Hence māyā cannot be said to be either separate or one with the Truth. Then maybe it does not exist at all. Since creation exists, its cause, the creative power also must exist and this power must exist in the infinite Truth alone. Hence this power is called inscrutable (anirvacanīya).


"Maya is like a twisted rope consisting of three strands, which are the three gunas. All that exists in the universe consists of these three gunas. Brahman, or the Great Spirit, after projecting the universe, remains hidden in it, just as a seed, after producing a tree, remains hidden in the tree. The cause produces the effect and remains concealed in the effect. First of all, Brahman is conceived as the Lord of maya; next, the same Brahman is known as the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the universe. The creative aspect, associated with sattva, is known as Brahma; the protective aspect, associated with rajas, is known as Vishnu; and the destructive aspect, associated with tamas, is known as Siva. These three aspects are related to the phenomenal world; they have no bearing upon the attributeless Brahman.


The word 'devātmaśakti' is an aphoristic ex- pression which is variously interpreted by various commentators, but to us it seems to embody the following view: The word 'deva' represents the God of Religion, 'ātma' the Self of philosophy, and 'śakti' the Energy of Science. The word also means the self-conscious power which is in everyone, Deva meaning self- luminous. It thus means to emphasize the presence of the Ultimate Truth in every- body in the form of self-conscious power. Devātmaśakti also means the source of knowledge, emotions and will, the three aspects of mind, Deva standing for knowledge, Atma for the emotions, and Śakti for will. This gives the characteristics of the Ultimate Reality which is beyond the province of mind and language.


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