by Swami Krishnananda
. . .the creation of God (Ishvara srishti) and the creation of the individual (jiva srishti). God’s creation is impersonal. It makes no distinction between one and another. But we, with an individual’s perception, make distinctions. One person’s perception is not the same as another person’s perception of an identical object or situation. But God’s (Ishvara’s) creation is universally impartial.
The problems of life are not created by God. This is the great answer that this text gives us. There is no problem for God because there is no duality there, and no tension between aspects. There is no contradiction of phases, and there is no perception of the world at all, inasmuch as the world becomes a content of Universal Consciousness. In the case of the jiva, the world is not a content of its consciousness. It stands outside. Here is a basic metaphysical difference between God’s thought and human thought. The whole universe is inside the consciousness of God; but in the case of the individual jiva, the world is outside the consciousness of the perceiver.
The question has been raised again and again: Does the world exist independent of human thought, or does human thought modify the object to some extent? We have seen that there is a lot of difference created by the perceiving process, due to which an object appears to be desirable or otherwise. It becomes an object of like, dislike or neutrality on the part of people. If a person likes it, it is good. If he doesn’t like it, it is bad. In the case of a jivanmukta purusha, a realised soul, the thing is neither good nor bad. It has no value at all because he maintains a neutral position in respect of all things perceived on the background of universality of perspective.
Bhrānti svapna manorājya smṛtiṣ vastu mano mayam, jāgran manena meyasya na mano maya teti cet (26). It may be felt that, in the state of dream, the world of perception is entirely mental. We see it when we wake up. Is it the case with waking life also? Is the world that we see in front of us – these buildings, these hills and mountains, these things that we perceive with our eyes – also mental, or do they exist in themselves?
We have already tentatively answered this question. The substantiality and the basic neutrality of objects is God’s creation. The mountains do exist. They are not created by the mind of any person. The solar system exists. The rivers flow. People exist there, outside us. These are creations of God. But the attachments and emotional relationships which condition the perception of such impersonal objects of God’s creation are the jiva’s creation. The manner in which we look at a thing is not God’s creation. The thing itself is God’s creation, but the way in which we look at it is our creation. And therefore, here comes the distinction between an individual’s world and God’s world.
Does the world exist independently? Yes, it does exist, because it is Ishvara’s creation. But it has also another aspect, which is galvanised by the thought processes of the individuals when emotions and perceptual processes condition the object being perceived.
Bāḍhaṁ mane tu meyena yogāt syād viṣayā kṛtiḥ, bhaṣya vārtika kārābhyaṁ ayam artha udīritaḥ (27). Acharya Sankara is Bhasyakara and Vartikakara is Sureshvara Acharya. Both these people have held identical opinions in regard to this question of how the object is determined by mental processes.
When the objects are perceived by the mind, they produce an impression on the mind. As the impressions are created, the mind cognises the object in terms of the shape that it has taken, on account of the impression created on it by the object. There is, therefore, a secondary kind of perception that the mind is having in respect of object. It is held that we do not directly see anything as it is in itself.
All the objects of the world are seen by us coloured by our mental vrittis, just as the nature of the lenses in a pair of spectacles will determine the way in which we see the object. If it is coloured, then we will see objects coloured; or it can be concave or convex. It can be broken or dented, or some sort of distortion can be there in the lens, and we will also see the object with ups and downs, on level ground, etc., though these distortions are not accountable in terms of the objects by themselves. The determining factor of the mind by the objects is in terms of the impression created by them. As in a photographic camera, an impression is created by the object outside, and a picture of it is then made visible.
So we are supposed to see a picture of the world as a secondary perception of the object, and not a primary perception. We can never know the object as it is in itself, independent of our mental cognition. We cannot stand totally outside the object and see it. We are somehow or other, consciously or unconsciously, connected with the object through psychic processes and they whitewash, as it were (or colour wash or some kind of wash is done by the mind over the object), and then we pass judgements on things. Our judgement on any matter, or on any object whatsoever, is in the light of how we receive the objects into our mental process in a given condition. Our mental moods will tell us what kind of thing the world in front of us is. This has been explained by Acharya Sankara (Bhasyakara), and Vartikakara (Sureshvara Acharya, his own disciple) by an illustration.
Mūṣā siktaṁ yathā tāmraṁ tannibhaṁ jāyate tathā, rūpādīn vyāpnuva ccittaṁ tannibhaṁ dṛśyate dhruvam (28). When molten metal is cast into a crucible, the metal takes the shape of that crucible. The metal by itself has no shape. The world of objects, which is the creation of Ishvara by itself, does not present any differentiatedness in form. But it appears to be differentiated when it is cast in the mould of the vritti, or the psychosis of the mind of the cogniser, and that mould is the reason why we see things in a particular manner.
The mould is the mental makeup, and it differs from one person to another person. It differs even in the same person under different psychological conditions. A child sees the world in one way; an adult sees it in another way. An enthusiast sees it in one way, a drooping spirit sees it in a third way, a dying man sees it in a fourth way, though the world is the same.
Vyañjako vā yathā’’loko vyaṁgyasy-ākāratā-miyāt, sarvārtha-vya-ñjakatvād-dhīḥ arthākārā pradṛśyate (29). When sunlight falls on an object, we say the object shines. It falls on a pot, and the pot shines. Actually, the pot does not shine. It is the light that shines. The light of the sun, which has by itself no shape or form, appears to take the shape of that pot, and we see the illumination also taking the shape of that pot. There is a rotundity of light on the neck and mouth, etc., on which the light falls. And if we can closely observe the manner in which the object or the pot shines, we will find that there is an apparent taking of a similar form of as object, by the light that falls on it, on account of the pot having a shape, although the light itself has no shape.
In a similar manner, the world by itself has no shape or form. It is universally spread out in an equal fashion, but it takes a form as light takes a form when it falls on a particular object. Even in this case, the mind is the producer of the form; the world by itself is formless – it is ubiquitous, all-pervading. But the mind has a form. The desires of the mind cause the forms which the mind puts on under given conditions. Actually, this body of ours is also one form that our mind has taken. That is why bodies differ; it is because minds differ. And therefore, everything differs from one person to another person, from one thing to another thing.
Mātur manābhi niṣpattiḥ niṣpannaṁ meyam-eti tat, meyābhi saṅgataṁ tac-ca meyābhatvaṁ prapadyate (30). The process of the mind in the act of perception moves out of itself and envelops the object outside. The enveloping of the mind in terms of the object outside is called vritti vyakti – the enveloping of the vritti. The mind itself cannot cognise a thing because it is not conscious. The consciousness has to be borrowed by it from the Atman inside. Just as a copper wire itself cannot be regarded as the flow of electricity – though the copper wire is necessary for the flow of electricity – the mind too is not the consciousness. Even if we connect the wire from one place to another place, the electricity need not flow through it unless another element is there to make that possible.
The consciousness of an object is a dual process. On the one hand, the mind has to take the shape of the object. The object has to be cast in the mould of the mind. But that does not mean that we are conscious. The consciousness is an element which is drawn from the soul inside, the Atman, which automatically moves together with the movement of the mind in terms of the object outside. And therefore, when we perceive an object it does not merely mean that the mind moves. We ourselves seem to be moving towards it.
The consciousness is our own self. And so when the perception takes place, we appear to feel very much affected by the perception of the object. We are affected, which means to say that the consciousness is affected. Our very self is moulded. We get disturbed or we feel happy, as the case may be – a state of experience which is attended with consciousness. And there is a dual action taking place: vritti vyakti, which is the modification of the mind enveloping the object outside, and phala vyakti, which is consciousness following the movement of the mind in terms of the object. Vritti vyakti and phala vyakti are two terms used to designate the mental envelopment of the object outside and the consciousness illuminating that process of mental envelopment. Vritti vyakti, phala vyakti – thus, the object becomes illumined and we begin to perceive and cognise the nature of the object.
The movement of the mind in respect of an object outside is something very significant. It shows that the mind is not only inside the body; it moves outside. The perception of a mountain in a distant place has to be accounted for. How do we see a distant star? The stars do not enter our eyes; they are very far away. The hill also is not inside the eyeball. How do we see the object when it is so far away? There is some connection between the perceiving eye and the perceived object, though there is a spatial distance between one and the other. How come? How do we explain it? The consciousness of that distant object, while it has no physical contact, is the perception of the senses.
What happens is that the mind moves with regard to the object. The mind can move even up to the skies; it can reach heaven. There is no distance for the mind. It is all-pervading. In this way, we may know that our mind is connected with the Cosmic Mind. If the Cosmic Mind is not acting, we cannot perceive a thing even if it is one foot away from us. We cannot see anything because that ‘one foot away’ is a distance creating a gulf between the knower and the known. And that gulf has to be bridged by something. As that something can be neither us nor the object (they cannot connect the two), there is a third element there which is neither the object nor the subject. That third element is the Cosmic Mind, whose presence is not known to us.
The Cosmic Mind is an invisible, superintending principle that causes all perception. The mind connects itself with the Cosmic Mind and only then the distance of the object is obviated. Even if the object is very far away, the mind can know because it sees through the operation of the Cosmic Mind. The mind moves towards the object. Thus, the enveloping process has been explained as vritti vyakti and phala vyakti.
Saty evaṁ viṣayau dvau sto ghaṭau mṛṇmaya dhīmayau, mṛnnmayo mānameyaḥ syāt sākṣi bhāsyas tu dhīmayaḥ (31). There are two kinds of objects in the world: physical objects and psychological objects. A physical object is that which is there independently by itself, like a building; but it is also a psychological object for a person who owns the building. It is a psychological object for the person who wants to auction that building. It is the owner’s attachment to the building that makes that building a psychological object to him. It is no more a physical object. “It is my building.” And if we have borrowed money from the bank and we do not pay it back, it will become the object of auction by the bank. There also, it becomes psychological. Whether we want it or do not want it, either way it is a psychological object.
But the building itself does not know what is happening. It does not know that somebody owns it. It does not know that somebody is auctioning it. It may not even know that it is being broken, because the building is made up of little bricks and mortar and steel and other things. These parts of the building may not be conscious that the building exists at all.