Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 10

Ashtavakra and King Janaka

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V


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Verse 10

mattho vinirgatham vishvam mayyeva layameshyathi
mridi kumbho jale veechih kanake katakam yatha


The universe that has emanated from me will become dissolved in me just as the pot into the clay, the wave into water and the bracelet into gold.


The nature of creation

I am the cause, the substance, and the provider of the substance. Therefore, whatever I create can never outlast me. They exist because I exist and I intend them to exit. When I stop projecting them, they cease to exist. My world exists when I am awake, when I am active and when I actively engage my senses and use my mind. When I go into deep sleep, all that stands in my consciousness remains withdrawn. When I wake up, I may see the world, but it is not the same which I left behind. Thus, my world exists because of me. I use my mind stuff to create it and sustain it.

Now, if you take this thought and project it on a universal scale, you will have the creation of Isvara, the one and only reality. The world exists in the consciousness of Isvara so long as he intends to keep it that way. In end, what remains is Isvara only, the eternal Self. Neither you nor I can ascertain it becase no one can outlast Isvara. However, using your own identity as Isvara, you can make some comparison in the context of your own life and your experience of the existential reality.

Three persons see the same women. One sees a mother in her. Another sees a sister in her. And the third sees a woman he married a few years ago. What happened here? Three people projected three realities into the same person. The person is the same, but three people saw her differently. We do it all the time. We project our own realities into the objects and the world we perceive and experience them differently. Those realities end when we stop projecting those same thoughts or ideas.

The Advaita school holds that the mind has no intelligence of its own. Its intelligence arises from the Self which projects it into the mind. Using that intelligence, the mind cognizes the world creating a replica of it. Whatever that exists in your mind, only that you can perceive. Thus, the world which you experience is essentially your projection. It is the sum of what you see in the things that you perceive rather than the things themselves. Things have no meaning of their own, except the meaning that you impart to them. If you arrest the process, the mind falls of and the reality of the world which is projected by it ceases to exist.

One of the central arguments of the Advaita has been that creation is a projection rather than a transformation. It is called vivartavada, which is in contrast to parinamavada of the Samkhya, Saiva Siddhanta, and the Vishishtadvaita schools. According to it, the cause does not transform into effect. Instead it projects an alternate reality.

According to Parinamavada, effects manifest when causes are modified into their effects. If you go by this argument, you have to accept that cause and effect are inseparable and represents two sides of the same reality. Both cause and effect are either distinct realities or variations of the same reality. In both cases, if the cause is real, the effect has to be real since effects cannot be unreal when causes are real and vice versa. Both cause and effect must be either real or unreal but cannot be both. However, when you view creation as a projection, then the cause and effect does not have to be the same. The cause can be real and the effect can be unreal, just as you and your imagination or your dream. Advaita says that the cause of all is real while the projection that arise from it is a temporary and an illusion. The world is a dream of God. Just as the sun is real while the light that is reflected on the surface of a lake or a pond is is unreal, Isvara is real while the world he projects is unreal and temporary..

Your world comes into existence when you wake up. It disappears when you fall asleep. In between your mind keeps creating your reality according to your desires, attachments, and likes and dislikes. The closest approximation to the Advaita is the classical Sunyavada (emptiness) school of Buddhism, which holds that everything is filled with emptiness, forms are mere aggregates, and when you disperse them everything disappears into the emptiness. However, unlike Advaita, it believes in dependent origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) according to which the effect depends upon the cause. If the cause exists, the effect also exists. If the effect disappears, the cause also disappears. It simply means, nothing is permanent. But cause and effect are temporary.

Hence for the Sunyavadins, there is no permanent reality. There is no eternal Self. Where the Advaitavadis see the Self, there the Sunyavadis see either an impermanent cause or an inexplicable emptiness or nothingness. When both cause and effect cease to exist, they believe that only emtpiness remains. No one can tell which of the two arguments is valid, until one transcends all modifications and enter the state of stillness. Even then it is doubtful whether the mind can grasp the transcendental experience without projecting its own beliefs into it.

In this verse we are introduced to the idea that God is not only the efficient cause but also the material cause. He provides the material with which the world and beings are created. The Self is not only pure consciousness but also the materiality. The one substance undergoes numerous modifications to appear as innumerable forms. They have a beginning and an end, whereas, the Self, or the source from which they arise, has neither. Creation resolves itself into its causes and leaves no trace of itself. In the end what stays is the one indivisible, eternal, indestructible truth, the Self.

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