The philosophy of Shri Shankara has been called creative monism

By some high, authorities the philosophy of Shri Shankara is called creative monism. He insists that the effect is not unreal. His words are: “All the theories which maintain the unreality of the cause or the effect or both are untenable and easily refuted”. (Aitareya Upanishad, Shankara Bhashya, I. I. 2.). Some of the interpreters of the great Acharya, like Das Gupta, Belvelkar, Radhakrishna, believe that Brahman is indifferent to the world and the creative process is utterly meaningless. A great warning of Shri Shankara must be noted carefully if we try to understand the idealism of the holy Acharya: “Whenever two things are compared, they are compared only with reference to some particular point they have in common. The total equality of the two can never be demonstrated”. When we say that a certain man is a lion, we mean that he has the courage of the lion and not that he has a tail and four feet too. Many of the analogies of the holy Acharya are thus misunderstood.

In the Aitareya commentary the holy Acharya says: “The omniscient and the omnipotent Atman, the great conjuror, creates itself as other than itself in the form of the universe, just as the intelligent juggler, without any other material, creates himself in another form as travelling in the air”. Such similes are not meant to be taken absolutely literally and those estimates of Advaita which claim that it postulates the illusoriness of the world and the falsity of the creation fail to do justice to the philosophy of the great Acharya.

Ramanuja, Bhaskara, Das Gupta and Belvelkar have missed the essential truth of the Advaita of Shri Shankara in claiming that it denies the reality of the effected universe. They call his philosophy Satkaranvad, i.e. the doctrine that the cause alone is real and not the effect.

Brahman, the Atman of the universe, creates itself as other than itself in the form of the universe. There is Self and nothing but Self – the not-Self has no existence. Brahman is declared as the cause of the universe. How can it be the cause of a universe which is nothing?

It is the essence which explains the universe, and not vice versa. The effect is in the cause, and not the cause in the effect. The world of names and forms has its existence in the cause, Brahman. It has no independent existence and it is in this sense that it is called unreal or Maya.

The entrance of Brahman into the world is a metaphorical expression. It means that the universe exists in and through Brahman.

To attribute creativeness to the Absolute frightens the Western pundits. Let us prefer to talk of the “revelation” of the Absolute in the form of the world. Shri Shankara says that from one reality no other reality is born. Being alone subsists in another form as Jagat. Professor Whitehead in “Science and the Modern World says: “An underlying activity, or substratal activity, expressing itself in individual embodiments and evolving in achievement of organisms ….”. Just as a serpent coils itself into a ring, Brahman presents itself in another form as Jagat.

All “This” is only a form of “Being”.

“The Lord is perceived as manifold, although He is ever the same pure intelligence, on account of Maya”.

“Maya is diverse knowledge or false identification created by names, forms and the elements”.

“The Deva creates the differences in the form of names and forms, and also sees them as such. (Shri Shankara).

Index for this series on Fundamental points on the Advaita of Shri Shankara that are overlooked or misunderstood:

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