18.10.14 (Published in Advaita Vision) Yes, V; that is the central issue: Has the world been created, or somehow emanated from the unmanifest dimension of Atman/Brahman, or has a world always existed along with Brahman as its manifestation? We can relate the first option to the doctrine of ‘aparent creation’, and the second to that of ‘no creation’. There would be a third option: ‘intermittent manifestation (mahapralaya)’, but this belongs to the world of mythology.
BECOMING, or BEING?
On a previous comment I quoted Shankara as saying that ‘what exists cannot cease to exist, and what exists not cannot come into existence’.
“How could being be produced from non-being?” (I queried in my last post), or, to put it the other way around, ‘How can non-being ‘become’ being?’ As we can see, this is not possible. Even considering that the world ‘comes’ ultimately from, or is caused by, God or Consciousness/Atman/Brahman, the doctrine that the effect is not other than the cause (or that the cause inheres in the effect) tells us that there is no cause for the world, no creation at all – and also, coincidentally, that there is no time involved. What is, is from all ‘time’, ever, as it were; it is always ‘there’.
The metaphysical doctrine of transcendence/immanence points at an apparent distinction, without need of calling forth time, for one can see it as timeless or instantaneous. Further, one can say, paradoxically, that “what is/appears to be ‘transcendent’ inheres, or is ‘immanent’, in the universe of ‘forms and names’”. All is One. The consequence, then, is that there is no such distinction or dichotomy ‘in reality’. This would also do away with the pair unmanifest-manifest. They are mere concepts (though with a provisional value or utility).
For, is Consciousness/Atman/Brahman transcendent, or is it so apparently and only to the limited (immature or unprepared) mind? Reality, Consciousness-Atman (or sat-chit), is a priori unchanging, immutable; and it is said that it is unknowable to or by the mind. But the awakened mind merges with pure Consciousness, and it is then understood that the apparent multiplicity of names, forms, the gross and the subtle, inner and outer, are nothing more than the way Reality or Consciousness shows itself, that ‘they’ are not separate or different from It. Reality, then, is self-evident.
So there is no becoming other than phenomenal appearance/appearing, only an ‘act’ of understanding – in the mind – which henceforth ceases to be mind and is transmuted, as it were, into pure Consciousness. This act (or ‘vision’) cannot be said to happen in or within time, and it certainly does not pertain to the ‘individual’ – it is timeless and, one could say, gratuitous. By this act or vision timelessness bursts into time, which, along with space, and everything else, is but a mere appearance, a presentation (or disguise) of the changeless Absolute.