The two ślokas beginning with “Mayā tatamidaṁ” have the following seven points.
- Mayā tatam-idam (All of this is pervaded or extended by me)
- Mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni (All beings exist in me)
- Na cāhaṁ teṣv-avasthitaḥ (I am not in them)
- Na ca mat-sthāni bhūtāni (The beings are not in me)
- Bhūta-bhṛt (The sustainer of beings)
- Na ca bhūta-sthaḥ (Not in these beings)
- Mamātmā bhūta-bhāvanaḥ (My Self constitutes the existence of beings)
There seems to be an inconsistency in these. How do we reconcile ‘mat-sthāni’ and ‘na ca mat-sthāni’? Can a consistent meaning be gleaned from these seven statements? Let us see.
1. Mayā tatam-idam – This entire universe is extended from Brahma. The word tatam (extended) implies an extending energy as well as a material that is extended. A cloth is the extension of yarn; the yarn is an extension of cotton. Only when cotton as the raw material is present can the skills and energies of the yarn-maker and the weaver come into play. A vessel is an extension of metal. Only in the presence of the metallic raw material can the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil go to work. Similarly, the fundamental energy needed for the creation of the universe is that of Brahma. What about the material for creation? The answer again, is Brahma.
Our experience in the world is that anything that is born or created has two causes – a mother and a father. One is the bīja (seed) and the other the kṣetra (field). Take a look at some man-made creations. For a pot, the kṣetra is clay and the bīja is the potter’s pot-making ability. In śāstric terminology, the clay is known as the upādāna-kāraṇa (material cause) and the potter’s felicity is known as the nimitta-kāraṇa (efficient cause).
However, Brahma is not a created object like a pot or a cloth; it is self-existent. Brahma is by itself the field or material cause as well as the seed or the efficient cause.
A thing’s efficient cause is active only during its creation. An object’s material cause always lies latent in the object just like clay that exists in a pot. The clay is the pot’s material cause. The potter’s fashioning of the pot ends just after the pot is made and is therefore the efficient cause.
So far so good. We just said that Brahma is itself both the material and efficient cause. Is there an example for that in the world? Yes, there is. We saw that at the end of our discussion of the seventh chapter.
yathorṇa-nābhiḥ sṛjate gṛhṇate ca ||
For a spider-web, the efficient cause is the spider’s ability to weave a web whereas the material cause is the web fluid. Both of these are within the spider. Similarly, Brahma can assume two forms as well as possess two capabilities. Much like our Upanishadic spider, Brahma can make its own web fluid and weave those fantastic webs. It appears to us that Brahma prepares its own colours and costumes, assumes roles and disguises by itself and plays the world-drama.
Another instance is found in the Bhāgavata where Śrīkṛṣṇa himself became the cows, calves, and cowherds, in an exhibition of his divine māyā (Note:This example was added by the translator in lieu of DVG’s untranslatable example.).
svayam ātmātma-govatsān prativāryātma-vatsapaiḥ |
krīḍann-ātma-vihāraiś-ca sarvātmā prāviśad-vrajam ||
(The Self of all entered Vraja enjoying himself with his own play – becoming the cows and calves himself as well as the cowherds.)
The conclusion is this: Creation is an independent līlā (pastime) of Brahma that is not ordered or inspired or impelled by another. Brahma does not need material or help from anyone else.
2. Now to the second point – "mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni" (all beings exist in me). Brahma is the substratum of all that exists. Brahma pervades all that exists. There is nothing that exists apart or outside of Brahma – there will not be anything else. This is the essence of the first statement of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣat – īśāvāsyam-idam sarvạm (All this is the dwelling of Īśvara). The word ‘existence’ includes whatever we see, experience, or infer. It is not possible to even talk about something as separate from Brahma. There is no existence for anything other than Brahma. The verb asti (is) can be used without qualification only with respect to a specific subject – Brahma. There is no absolute existence for anything other than Brahman. Whatever exists – as much as it exists – exists within Brahma, enclosed in its greatness like the shards of clouds in the atmosphere. It is Brahma that wholly and continuously pervades everything within and without, above and below, and all around. That is indicated by ‘mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni’.
3. The third point is "na cāhaṃ teṣu". Just because beings exist in Brahma and are able to act only because of Brahma’s support, they cannot be equated with Brahma. Doing so would be in error. In reality, Brahma is not limited either by forms and functions of things or by their shapes and modifications. It is beyond all these.
The world is a modification of Brahma-consciousness. A modification cannot alter the fundamental nature of the causal consciousness. A pot is an altered form of clay. This alteration cannot change the nature of clay. Modification is temporary; the causal substance is eternal.
A human being has nails and hair; but a human is not in those hair and nails. Shaving and cutting hair or nails does not affect the person. The sea has foam and bubbles; but there is no sea in foam and bubbles. The sea is undiminished even in the absence of foam and bubbles. Just as hair and nails are for the body and foam and bubbles are for the ocean, the things of the world are adventitious and momentary for Brahma. Though they appear real, they lack essence. The essence of Brahma lies not in the objects of the world. Even though husk might have come from paddy, it is not paddy by itself. Though an aspect of paddy might be seen in the husk, the husk is not the essence of the paddy.
Let us look at it in another way. Right now we have two things on our minds - Brahma and the world. Consider that they are opposite shores of a river and that the jīva is the river in between. When we see the world-shore from the Brahma-shore, it appears to us as not a rocky solid shore but a sandy one. It pleases the eye with its lush green appearance, but hides the marsh beneath it. It feels better than a coarse boulder. But when we stand in the world-shore, we feel that it is not solid and that it might collapse anytime. The opposite shore seems safer. Both the rock and sand are earth. But the earth's quality of stability manifests itself not in the sand but in the rocky shore. Similarly, Brahma's essence lies in the Supreme Pure Brahma that is beyond the visible world. But the world does not completely reflect Brahma's essence. The same is conveyed by the twelfth verse of the seventh chapter.
matta eveti tān viddhi na tvahaṁ teṣu te mayi
"I (Brahma) am not present in the three qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. But they are in me (Brahma)."
Sleep and mumblings exist in a human being; but there is no human being in sleep and mumblings.
It is delusion to consider that the essence of Brahma is the world, an extension of Brahma. But the world has no substratum other than Brahman.
To be continued...
The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.