Questioner (Q): Did God create the world?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Your world is with you at the centre. Brahm is just the substratum. It has been referred to in various ways in Vedantic literature; sometimes it’s called the Substratum, sometimes the Background, sometimes the Space, the Ether in which everything is happening, sometimes the Watcher, sometimes the Progenitor, sometimes the Mega-controller who operates only at the meta-level. But the idea behind all these expressions has one thing in common – Brahm has no interest in any participation at the micro-level.
At the micro-level, it’s your own doing. Getting it? It’s the play of your own tendencies. Your own tendencies make you see a problem where there is none. You imagine, and then you do a lot to get rid of that problem; and then obviously, to do a lot, you create the entire space in which a lot of doing can happen, no? If you want to play a game, you cannot just play it, right? You want to play golf or tennis or cricket, right? You cannot just randomly and suddenly initiate the game. If you’re a serious player as we all are, then you in fact require to build an entire stadium. Why? Just because you wanted to play one game; that’s what desire does. Because it has to do what it has to do, therefore, it has to create an entire universe; that’s the reason why our universe exists, so that we may do just a few things. Even if you have to play a ten-over match, you need to create an entire infrastructure for it, no? Our life is that ten over match; amounting to nothing, nothing much at all, but what do we do? We build an entire... Like somebody deciding to fly to a place just 200 kilometers away; the place might be just 200 kilometers away, but if you have decided to fly, then what all do you need to build? What do you need to build?
Imagine; you actually need to launch satellites, you need rockets; you need rockets that go beyond the atmosphere of the Earth. You would be flying well within the limits of the atmosphere. Needless to talk of all the infrastructure that you need to build on the ground - the airports and such little things, just because you wanted to experience one flight. So, just because we want to live that small-happy life of 60 years with two or four or six of our near ones, the entire cosmos has to exist, entire cosmos! No, it does not exist on its own, it exists because you want a nest within it; your nest necessitates the entire cosmos. So, your nest is not within the cosmos, the cosmos is within your nest! Well, poetically you have always said that, have you not? But it turns out it is true conceptually as well; poetry meets mathematics. So, when you say, “You know, my little house is my universe,” you are horribly right!
It’s your desire that breeds the universe, else there is nothing. So, there is a desire that gives birth to the worlds, and then; there is a desire that gets fed up of the worlds and returns to the Pure, the Original, the Immutable. The first kind of desire that brought us where we are; it’s not much use discussing it now, because the deed has been done. We do exist today, at least in our own frame of reference, right? Evolution has taken place, we cannot de-evolve now. What do we do then? We make use of the second kind of desire. What is the second kind of desire? That will take you back to where you came from, getting it?
Remember that Vedanta has nothing to do with stuff miscellaneous. It talks only of the One and if the One is too difficult to talk of, it talks of two - Truth and the mind; and if the listeners clamor too much for detail, then at most it talks of three – Truth, the mind, and the body.
The Rishis were simple people, they loved relaxation; they were too wise to indulge in needless details. When the thousand are all included in one, how wise is it to talk individually of the thousand? Like efficient mathematicians, they referred only to the one, which one am I talking of? Mind. Why refer to the thousand things in the mind? Simply call all that as mind-stuff, full-stop; otherwise, there is no end. With nothing at its centre, the mind still has the magical capacity to keep weaving an infinite net; innumerable things the mind can breed. The wise one says, “Why talk of all that diversity? Why are we so interested in it? I know all those things are just one.”
Otherwise, one can just be lost in the count, getting it? There is no end to diversity; if you cannot see the commonness behind stuff, the oneness behind things, then you will be consumed by the count. So, they don’t talk of too many things. So, the Rishis have no business talking of ánna , food, or grain, cereals, mundane things. The moment you see such a thing being talked of; you should immediately know that something else is being referred to. Never deviate from the first principles, never. All the verses have to be read in the light of the first principles, and the first principles have nothing to do with food.
Disputably, the Rishis were fun-loving people but they had higher sources than food to extract fun from. They won’t be so particular about ánna (food), as to give it a place of pride adjacent to Brahm. In the same verse where you are talking of Brahm, if you find ánna too mentioned, then you should know it’s just a pointer towards something else, right? So, what does ánna refer to? Material, gross manifestation, gross mind. So, there is Nothing; then there is just the little sensation, that little vibration, the beginning of a movement which is nothing but the beginning of deviation from the Centre, which is nothing but the beginning of Maya. And then that which is in the beginning - just a little vibration, a bit of a spasm in due course of time explodes into the entire universe. And which in due course of things sees its own futility and therefore, recedes back into the Source. Getting it?
The entire curve is the movement of Maya or desire. You should know the point you are standing at on that curve. If you know where you are, you also know what you ought to do.
You have already come a long distance, cannot undo the journey; you cannot un-travel the distance. What do you do then? Complete the cycle. Have the right desire that stimulates you into the right action. The right works, the right actions, that lead you into immortality; that’s what you need to do now. Now that you have chosen to be in the world of action, you cannot avoid action; act rightly, therefore, act vigorously, act rightly. Would have been wonderful, had you not needed to act at all, had you not been present at all, had you not taken birth at all; but you are born now, past is irreversible. In our own eyes, we exist and we exist as creatures of suffering; therefore, what do we do? We do justice to this birth. Having chosen to be born, now justify your birth.
“No, but we didn’t choose to be born.”
You see if you know that much, I too know that you know that much. So, if I am saying that you have chosen to be born, obviously there is something I mean. Kindly, try to grasp. Our consciousness goes into ourselves only to a small degree. Your self is like a deep well, deep well and your consciousness is like the light of a feeble electric torch that you throw into the well. How deep does the light penetrate? And the well is old and deep. It’s not as if it is a reservoir of clean and clear water. There is all kind of dubious, nefarious stuff cluttered within it; and primitive spiders have woven webs that your torchlight cannot penetrate. The area illuminated by your torchlight is the conscious mind, it is only a small part of yourself, beneath that there is a lot that you do not know of; so, your choices come from there. You refuse to own those choices because those choices aren’t conscious choices; your refusal means very little. They are your choices even if they were unconsciously made, so, being born is one such choice.
“And how is it possible when I am not yet born, how do I decide to be born? How is it even conceivable that a child decides to be born?”
Maybe only the body is born. Maybe the tendency that decides to take birth exists even before the body. Maybe what you are calling as birth is just the physical appearance of the desire. Maybe the desire pre-exists its gross appearance.
“Oh, how is it possible? You mean that I existed even before my birth?”
Of course, you did, not in a physical way, but you did exist and I’m not talking of the Atman here; I’m talking of that primitive tendency that pervades all existence. The tendency which keeps taking birth again and again in the form of every new child. The tendency decided to take birth, right? That tendency is you, so, you decided to take birth. No? Fine. Having decided to be born, now, make good use of whatever is available to you. To put it realistically, let’s make the best use of a bad situation. Well, we may decide to entertain ourselves by thinking that.
“It’s great to have taken birth and you know; we are here to really have a good time. It’s like being invited to a party or something; the one is born on a Saturday night.”
Unfortunately, it’s not that way and we know that, yeah? The first step in spirituality is to honestly acknowledge that it’s not quite the great situation we keep telling ourselves it is. So, let’s make the best of a bad place, right? Which is that you are condemned to desire, at least desire rightly. You cannot ‘not desire’, you cannot ‘not act’, you cannot ‘not want’. The best is to obviously be in a situation where you don’t need to want. But you need to want; you need to want; you need to be attracted; you need to beg; you need to practice; you need to work; you need to love. Desire rightly, act rightly, think rightly, work rightly, love rightly. The result of the right pursuit that you will come to a point where you will not need to work or desire or act or even love. Getting it?
Q: Desire must be mine and if it is, then desire must be the final matter, then Brahm and desire have to be separate entities like creator and creation, then did matter always exist with Brahm?
AP: Matter exists only for the one who acknowledges matter. You cannot look at Brahm and matter objectively. When you say, “Did Brahm always exist with matter, or co-exist?”; who are you looking at these two? Who are you? So, truly only Brahm exists, right? It is the power of Brahm to forget Itself. Brahm doesn’t quite create, It manifests, manifests. And when It manifests, It gets divided into two – you and what you see. Non-dual Brahm manifests itself by dividing into two – you and what you see. And by ‘you’, I do not mean ‘Anupam’ (name of the questioner), I mean the ‘I’ tendency. The ‘I’ tendency is also the universe tendency. And the ‘I’ tendency takes various shapes and forms; those various shapes and forms are the individual persons. Each person projects and experiences his or her own world, each sentient being, I’m not only talking of human beings. Every sentient being lives in the cocoon of its own experienced universe; beyond that cocoon, it knows nothing. How do you think the universe of a firefly or a gadfly is? Same as yours? Stretch your imagination and conceive the universe of a mosquito. What do you think? Same as yours? Even that of a dog, pet dog. There it is relatively easier to appreciate the difference to see that the universe of the dog can just not be the same as your universe. It’s not so easy to appreciate that your universe cannot be the same as her universe. And for you, your universe is, unfortunately, the truth and for her, her universe is sadly the final truth. And that’s the root of all suffering, including all human suffering. Because we believe so much in ourselves, therefore, we believe in the finality of our universe and therefore, our experiences. That’s the ego, no?
“I am surely the truth, therefore, what I experience, how can it be false? Therefore, the world is as real as I am. I am real and the world is real.”
If you are real and the world is real, what is this reality so afraid of? Why do you live in perpetual fear? The real should be the last one to fear. That’s the missing link in your entire narrative; the little gap through which we keep bleeding. You are getting it?
So, Brahm is not the creator. When you desperately want to invent a creator then you come up with īśvára . But Vedanta is not very enamored of īśvára , so, Vedanta says, “ īśvára is just Maya, just Maya”. Because you experience the universe, therefore, you feel the need to justify the origin of the universe, therefore, you must have an īśvára . But how can the creator of a false universe be real? If the universe is false, what do you say about its creator? (Acharya Prashant laughs...).
So, Vedanta isn't very enthralled with īśvára . The creator-creation theory goes more with God. God is comparable to īśvára , Brahm is not God. Knowers of Brahm would say, “God and God’s creation both are just Maya”. Don't be deceived when sometimes you come across the word ‘God’ even in Vedantic literature. Be careful at such points. See carefully whether it relates to Brahm or īśvára .