Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 27 Mar 2021


Why Is Every Soul Not God? Part-4

Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

Part-1     Part-2     Part-3     Part-4     Part-5     Part-6     Part-7     Part-8     Part-9

Part 4: Individual and Cosmic Illusions

A person (soul) having little knowledge might be under an illusion about himself. But even such a person is able to remember and recognize his true nature when he is reminded about it. Then how can the omniscient and omnipotent God ever be affected by even a trace of ignorance or illusion? Even the theoretical ignorance of the true knowledge, which is known as the ajñāna āvaraṇam is impossible in the case of the omniscient God. God can never forget His true nature, which is the absolute reality. God’s true nature is unimaginable to us, but it is fully known to God. In the case of the petty imaginable soul, the soul can indeed have theoretical ignorance, which is called āvaraṇam or avidyā. It can forget its own nature. It can also suffer from the practical effect of the ignorance, called vikṣepa. By its self-effort, this petty imaginable soul made of relative awareness can come out of the theoretical ignorance which affects its intelligence. But it cannot easily cross the practical effect of that ignorance. Let us take the case of a simple illusion in which a rope appears to be a snake to a person in dim light. The cause for the illusion or error is the individual’s ignorance of the true nature of the rope (āvaraṇam or avidyā). As a result of that theoretical error the person begins to shake with fear. This shaking with fear is the practical effect of the theoretical error and is called vikṣepa. By turning on a torchlight, the person gets the true knowledge of the existence of the rope and the theoretical error (avidyā) vanishes. But the fear (vikṣepa) continues at least for some time, even after realization. This is an example of an individual illusion, which only affected one particular individual.

Apart from this individual illusion, there is another type of illusion, which is caused by God. It is called māyā. Due to māyā, God appears to be this creation to the soul. God appears to be energy and energy appears to be matter to the soul. It is an illusion that affects all souls. No soul can ever come out of practical effect of this māyā, at any time, even after theoretical realization. For example, the soul may theoretically come to know that God Himself appears to be energy and that energy itself appears to be matter by a process of superimposition. But the soul can never practically realize matter to be energy and energy to be God, at any time. The individual himself is responsible for creating the individual-illusion known as avidyā; whereas, it is God who is responsible for creating the cosmic-illusion known as māyā.

Is ignorance not common to both avidyā and māyā?

Opponent: In both the examples of avidyā and māyā the common basic principle is lack of the true knowledge of the object. Hence, both are basically one and the same.

Swami: What you say is true as far as an individual soul is concerned. Even for the individual soul, there is a difference between avidyā and māyā. The soul can overcome the individual theoretical error (avidyā) immediately and overcome its practical effect (vikṣepa) after some time. But the soul can never overcome the practical effect of the cosmic illusion (māyā), even after theoretical realization. The case of God is completely different. He neither has any theoretical ignorance nor the practical effect of that ignorance. It is true that to avoid the boredom of loneliness, God created this world, which is basically unreal for Him. But in order to obtain full entertainment from the world, God gave the status of absolute reality to the world. So, the world, which is basically unreal to God, now appears to be absolutely-real even to God. It appears to be as real to God as Himself. Hence, the world gives God full and real entertainment. When a soul creates an imaginary world for its own entertainment, the imaginary world is only relatively-real with respect to the soul. It appears quite unclear and the soul is incapable of making that imaginary world as real as itself or as real as the external world. The soul is incapable of granting the status of absolute reality to its own imaginary world. This is because, the soul itself is a part of the world and world has been granted the status of absolute reality by God. Inherently, the soul and the whole world is only a relative-reality, that is unreal to God. The status of absolute reality granted to the world is a God-given gift. The soul has no right or capacity to further donate that God-given gift to its own imaginary world. The gift of absolute reality only exists with the soul and the rest world. But the soul is not omnipotent and so, it cannot donate that gift further to its own imaginary world. The soul and the rest of the world is granted the status of absolute reality so that it can appear absolutely-real to God and give Him real entertainment. The soul always remains in the status of the object and God remains the subject. The soul can never become equal to God, the subject and transfer its own absolute reality to its created imaginary world. It can only transfer its inherent characteristic of relative reality to its creation. Due to this reason, the creation of the soul (imaginary world) can never get an equal status with the creation of God that includes all souls. This is because, the relatively-real soul is not the absolutely-real God.

Opponent: You are calling the creation of God as absolutely real on the one hand and on the other hand, You are also calling the same creation as relatively real. Is it not a self-contradiction?

Swami: I am saying that the creation of God only appears to be absolutely-real to God to give real entertainment to God. This does not mean that it is actually absolutely-real to God. The absolute reality of this creation is only an appearance. The absolute reality granted by God to the world is only so that it should appear to be absolutely-real and not that it should actually become absolutely-real. Such an apparent absolute reality of this creation is called a relative reality. The relative reality of creation is the wish of God. Whatever the omnipotent God wishes, happens.

If you take the case of the soul, the whole situation is different from God. The soul is a part of this relatively-real world. This means that the soul appears to be absolutely-real in appearance to God, even though it is not actually absolutely-real. The rest of creation, including other souls, appears to be absolutely-real to the soul. The soul also appears absolutely-real to itself. This is because, with respect to the soul, the soul itself, other souls and the rest of creation are actually absolutely-real. This is based on the principle that a relatively-real item is absolutely-real to another relatively-real item. Hence, the rest creation not only appears to be absolutely-real to a soul, but it is also actually absolutely-real. So, there is a clear difference between God and the soul. God is really absolutely-real and the relatively-real creation only appears to be absolutely-real to Him. The soul is relatively-real, with respect to God. The rest of the creation, which is also relatively-real with respect to God, appears to be absolutely-real to the soul because it is absolutely-real with respect to the soul. The soul and the rest of creation are at the same level of reality since the soul is only a part of creation.

If the soul were already God, the soul would not have even a trace of ignorance. It would never mistake itself to be the body (dehātma buddhi). God can impose such ignorance upon Himself for the sake of entertainment just like an actor imposes the ignorance of his own identity upon himself, while playing a certain role. To get rid of such self-imposed ignorance of one’s own identity, a wise man does not need the help of any preacher. Is it not horrible to treat God to be an unwise person? Even a person of medium wisdom realizes his own nature on receiving the preaching of the preacher. He ‘becomes’ himself immediately on realizing his own true identity. There is no place for the practical influence of the long-standing ignorance, called vikṣepa. There is no place for the practical influence of the very long-standing ignorance, called vikṣepa-mala. If the soul were God, as you claim, the soul’s incapability to practically become God by overcoming both vikṣepa and its mala proves God to be very weak and ineffective! Hence, in the case of God, self-imposed ignorance in the first stage of āvaraṇam and in the subsequent two stages of the practical influence of that ignorance (vikṣepa and its mala) are totally impossible. They are totally unacceptable, in the case of God.

Of course, if you frankly admit that the relatively-real soul is different from God, then your analysis is very much appreciable. The concepts of the soul having ignorance, called āvaraṇam, and the soul suffering from the practical effects of the ignorance, called vikṣepa and its mala are welcome. We can assume that Śaṅkara has introduced the removal of these three stages of ignorance as the three stages of the spiritual effort to become God. That too is highly appreciable. The reason is that the soul puts forth sincere efforts only when it is tempted by the highest fruit. Of course, you can even tempt the soul and encourage it to pursue the spiritual path by showing a lower goal. For instance, you could say that as a result of following the spiritual path, the soul will attain its true nature of pure awareness and that it will cross all misery in life. But if the goal of the spiritual effort is said to be the attainment of the nature of God, the followers will be highly motivated. Due to the climax of attraction that they have for becoming God, they will put in the climax of effort. This was the intention of Śaṅkara and it was known to Rāmānuja. Rāmānuja was an Incarnation of God Viṣṇu and Śaṅkara was an Incarnation of God Śiva. God Viṣṇu always knows the intention of God Śiva since both are essentially one and the same. Hence, Rāmānuja always condemned only the followers of Śaṅkara and never Śaṅkara Himself. Rāmānuja always said that whatever the followers of Śaṅkara say is not correct. He never said that whatever Śaṅkara said is not correct (Yaducyate Śaṅkaraiḥ...).


To be continued…