Can Isvara Create?

Hi, Ted.


On page 183 of “The Essence of Enlightenment” there seems to be a contradiction. ‘’The dharma field is brought into being by Isvara and Isvara is the creator of the experiencing entities and what they experience.’’  In the next paragraph he writes, ‘’Both the jiva and Isvara enjoy the same identity as awareness. Neither can create because creation is a conscious process and a conscious process obviously requires consciousness.’’ I’m wondering if Isvara creates or not.


Also, on page 185 James writes ‘’ Paramatma is non-dual, it is self-knowing, and when objects are present, knows objects. It is prior to and the knower of both the jiva and Isvara.  On page 184 he writes, ’’ Isvara associated with Maya is conscious,’’ which again seems to contradict the statement, ‘’Both the jiva and Isvara enjoy the same identity as awareness. Neither can create because creation is a conscious process and a conscious process requires consciousness.’’







Hi, Cameron.


Vedanta presents Isvara as the shrishti-sthiti-laya karta (i.e., the creator, sustainer, and resolver of the manifestation). Basically, Isvara is the personification of the dharma, which in this context refers to the physical, psychological, and moral/ethical laws that govern the cause-and-effect operation of the manifest universe, the results of which constitute the circumstances of the apparent reality and the experience of the apparent individual person.


These dharmas—which include not only the laws by which the universe functions, but also the “blueprints” for all objective phenomena, including apparent individuals—are the consequence of the conditioning influence that Maya exerts upon pure awareness. In this sense, we could say that Maya is the power that makes limitless conscious existence appear to be Isvara. In other words, the influence of Maya on awareness imbues limitless conscious existence with relatively limitless iccha (i.e., will), jnana (i.e., knowledge), and kriya (i.e., power to act) and thereby renders limitless conscious existence omniscient and omnipotent and, thus, produces the personified entity we refer to as Isvara, or God-the-Creator. Figurative speaking, we could also say that when Brahman (i.e., limitless conscious existence) wields the power of Maya it becomes Isvara.


Since pure awareness is all-pervasive, perfectly full, a partless whole, and impersonal, however, it is actually incapable of acting and, therefore, is not capable of creating. Its all-pervasiveness allows it no arena within the context of which to move, which is the character of action, or any constant “background” against which to measure any change, which is the consequence of action, and, therefore, no means of identifying that any action has taken place. Its perfect fullness precludes any motivation to act, for action is only performed with the motivation of gaining, sustaining, avoiding, or getting rid of something. In this regard, a further ramification of its all-pervasive nature is that there is no other place from which to obtain anything or any place else for something to exist or go if it is avoided or disposed of. Because pure awareness is a partless whole, it has no limbs or instruments with which to act. And in this regard, its all-pervasiveness precludes the existence of any other entity or object upon which to act. Finally, pure awareness is wholly impersonal. It is not an entity with a mind that makes decisions based on a subjective guna-rooted, vasana-based, raga-dvesha (i.e., like-dislike, or desire-fear)-influenced set of values.


Subjected to Maya’s conditioning influence, however, pure awareness assumes the role of Isvara, who is the personification of the knowledge, or intelligent design, of the dharma-field (i.e., the apparent reality, or the manifestation in both its subtle and gross aspects). This is the reason that Isvara is considered the creator of the dharma-field.


Though Isvara (i.e., the laws that govern the operation of the dharma-field) determines the character of the field itself and the results of the actions executed within its context, Isvara is not a personal entity that creates or produces results of its own accord. Isvara is an objective phenomenon (i.e., something conceivable) that accounts for the manifestation and its operation. In this regard, it is a grand mechanism that produces and processes experience. But it only operates when imbued with or “illumined by” awareness. By analogy, we could liken this circumstance to that of the relationship between a computer and wifi. Magnificent as its design is, no computer can function without a source of power. At the same time, power itself cannot perform the complex tasks that characterize computing. If we connect the computer to wifi, however, amazing computations can occur. Just so, while neither pure awareness nor Isvara can create or operate the dharma-field, when Isvara is “enlivened” by awareness, which is its essential nature anyway due to the fact that Isvara is awareness wielding the power of Maya, then the creation and the operation of the dharma-field occur.


What is true of Isvara with regard to its inability to act independently of awareness is equally true of the jiva (i.e., the apparent individual person). As an effect of Isvara, the jiva is nothing more than a conglomerate of causal, subtle, and gross matter, which unless “enlivened” by awareness is incapable of acting either mentally or physically, and thus is not capable of creating anything.


Since both Isvara and the jiva are objects appearing in awareness, however, they are essentially nothing other than awareness. Though the upadhis (i.e., limiting adjunct, or objective phenomenon characterized by particular qualities, characteristics, and boundaries) of each are different—Isvara’s being the collective of all causal , subtle, and gross bodies; the jiva’s being a particular causal, subtle, and gross body—the “field” of awareness in which both appear, the “light” of awareness by means of which both are known, and, in fact, the “substanceless substance” of which both are made is nothing other than awareness. In this way, while Isvara and the jiva do not share the same qualities and capabilities within the context of the relative reality, they do share the same essential identity as awareness, or limitless conscious existence, which is the irreducible substrate, or fundamental reality into which all objective phenomena resolve.


All the best,