Our last ‘Thoughts and Questions’ proved so popular that we are offering a new topic for your consideration:
I received an interesting Question that touches on several aspects of creation and liberation for ‘everyone’. I posted the question at Advaitin discussion group because of my doubt about its value in gaining Self-Knowledge which is after all the one that matters for us here. The question is this:
“Is there any teaching anywhere in the scriptures regarding the enlightenment and ‘freeing’ of all jIva-s? What the questioner is getting at is: will the cycle of sRRiShTi – sthiti – laya ever come to an end, namely when there are no more jIva-s left to be enlightened? Or even: if this does occur at some point, will the process start all over again with a new set of jIva-s? If not, what happens then?”
My initial apprehension was that any ‘answer’ is clearly going to be in the same category as the various creation myths that we can find scattered about in the scriptures. However, a lively discussion ensued that eventually led to eka jIva vAda, a powerful but contentious theory that describes liberation of the jIva and the simultaneous end of creation.
I give below some of the salient points that have come up in those discussions:
1. The freeing of all jIva-s, all at once, has not been mentioned anywhere in the Veda and Vedanta. Brahman wanted to be many and became many. Nowhere is it said that Brahman wanted to be one again. What is taught in Advaita is that Brahman is always one and the jIvanmukta does realize that (or should we say the realized one is the jIvanmukta).
2. There are actually two questions in the inquiry:
i) The end to the endless cycle of creation and
ii) the creation of new jIva-s with the process starting all over at the end of each cycle.
Logically, the endless cycle cannot end (hence it is called endless cycle.) Thus, if the knowledge dawns for a particular jIva, his ignorance ends. When all jIva-s in the universe gain the knowledge, then from their point there is no more creation. Creation is only based on karma and all the karma is essentially neutralized by j~nAnam. The second question does not arise since the root cause for creation is beginning-less ignorance, which has now ended.
3. According to eka jIva vAda, there is only one jIva. All the others are like those conjured up in dream. Ishvara and Guru are also conjured up by this one jIva because of avidyA. When this one jIva attains Self-knowledge and becomes free from avidyA, he gets mokSha. Then all other jIva-s, including all living creatures (not only humans), cease to exist because the dreamer no longer exists. The mokSha stated to have been already attained by Suka and others is only by way of eulogy. When the only jIva becomes free from avidyA there will be no further creation and Brahman alone will remain. This is what has been stated by Appayya Dikshita in siddhanta-lesa-sangraha. Under the theory of multiple jIva-s (aneka jIva vAda), all jIva-s will gradually get liberated and then there will be no creation.
4. Shankara possibly did not propagate eka-jIva vAda in the vyAvahArika realm since upAdhi bedha is quite conspicuous.
5. eka jIva vAda is applicable only if the question is answered from the point of view of a single subject as reference point. There is only one conscious entity I am – everything else is mithyA (objects in my view). Hence when I realize, the story ends. I am Brahman or aham brahmAsmi becomes the underlying truth that I recognize. With multiple jIva-s assumed, creation would end only when all the jIva-s realize. Hence, from whose reference this question is addressed becomes important for clarification.
6. In the very last section of the siddhAnta lesha saMgraha of Sri Appayya DikShita there is a certain view called ‘sarva mukti‘. The idea there is: the j~nAnI who realizes the Supreme Brahman will, after death, remain one with Ishvara (and not be non-different from nirguNa Brahman). In that view such a situation will persist till ALL the jIva-s get liberated. However, there is no mention that the creation will cease after that, which, however, is obvious. A situation where there is a samaShTi, group, en masse, mukti, alone might make the sarva mukti a plausible one. In any case, it is only a kalpana (imagination), never even a vyAvahArika reality, not worth much thought.
But the admitted view of Advaita Vedanta is: even in the multiple-jiva scheme, the particular aspirant who evolves in spiritual enquiry, will naturally come to realize that there has been no creation, no bound soul, none seeking liberation, none a liberated one – in the pAramArthika sense (as the GaudapAda kArikA puts it) — it is ajAtivAda.
7. With aneka jiva vada, if you accept multiple jIva-s’ perceptions of the world, there would then be a need to postulate different portions of Consciousness / Brahman that somehow continue to be separate and re-born until they achieve mokSha. However, as per the Upanishads, there are no parts to Brahman. How can there be some separate jIva-s left out to be reborn until moksha?
8. In the Kathopanishat mantra 1.3.13 occurs a word ‘mahati’ in the locative case. The aspirant, in the meditative exercise to realize the Self has to gradually quieten his distracted mind and gradually identify itself with the subtle states of one’s own self. The ‘mahat’ is that cosmic entity that is just before, the penultimate, the True Self, the Atman. At this stage Shankara says:
//‘mahat’ is the First born (hiranyagarbha). One should make one’s mind pure-natured just as the First born is.//
In creation, the first one to manifest is this Mind. It does not have any shortcomings born of desire, anger, etc. Yet it is the repository of ‘all’ individual minds. So, at that stage there is a leap from the many-jIva-s idea to the one-jIva concept. And that is the closest to the Atman.
The following mantra from the rg veda supports the above idea:
kAmastagrE samavartaAdhiH manasO rEtaH prathamaM yadAsIt
The mantra says that the entire creation is the “projection from the mind of prajApati“. He desired to create and that desire itself became the seed of creation. prajApati can be considered to be the first jiva.
There is a question which the prajApati Himself poses to Himself before creation.
kAsIt pramA pratimA kiM nidAnaM (RRig veda, 10.130.3)
prajApati thinks Himself that what should be the measure of creation? How the creation should be commenced? What is the benchmark? How should it look like? What is the blueprint?
He got an answer by performing tapas that kAla (Time) in the form of “samvatsara” should be created. Thus, to create the blue print for “samvatsara“, prajApati offered Himself as the raw material for creation and performed “sarvahuta-yAga“.
Thus, prajApati also became identical with the puruSa. Hence the shatapatha brAhmaNa says that prajApati in the form of prathama jIva is very near and identical with puruSa
puruSo vai prajApatEH nEdiSTaM (188.8.131.52).
Advaita siddhAnta is shruti-proktaM which is explicitly stated in shruti.
It can be seen from the above summary that though eka jIva vAda is discussed to some extent, the question on the cyclicity of creation and complete ending of any further creation has not really been answered. I would like to invite the other bloggers and all the readers to respond and join in the discussion.
I am grateful to all the participants at the Advaitin forum for their thoughts and inputs on this topic. And thanks to Ramesam for editing those comments to produce this overall summary.