by Swami Krishnananda
The transcendent Brahman does not bear any relation to the universe. The nature of its existence is such that it cannot have distinctions within it or outside it. It is free from the threefold differentiation: Sajatiya, Vijatiya and Svagata. It is beyond the world in every sense of the term, and cannot be discovered in anything that we can hope to know. The perishable does not satisfy our quest for the eternal. Brahman is Nishprapancha, Prapanchopasama, a being which is free from the universe, and in which the universe ceases to be. But without holding allegiance to the existence of Brahman, the world cannot be. The world is dependent on Brahman. In this respect, the names and forms and activities of the world are directed by Brahman; the world automatically receives, in different degrees, inspiration and reality from the existence, consciousness and bliss of Brahman. Brahman envisaged thus by the individuals, as the supreme Cause and the Director of the universe, is Isvara, the Cosmic Being. Isvara is omnipresent, for He supports and animates every speck of creation by His immanence. He is omniscient, for He has a direct intuition of all things, manifest and unmanifest. He is also the Divine Self and the Inner Ruler of the cosmos. The knowledge which Isvara has of the universe is not relational, not brought about by a mental function, and does not labour under the limitations of space and time, but immediate in its essence and spirit. It is not any outside knowledge of an object, but knowledge as the being of the object itself. He is omnipotent, for He has the power to do, undo or transform the universe as a whole, for the universe is His Body. He is called the Creator of the universe, for it is He that initiates the appearance of all things by the activity of His consciousness. This work of Isvara never comes to a cessation until the universe is withdrawn into Him, and this process is felt and continues in different degrees, in every bit of His creation. He is the Preserver of the universe, as the sustenance of all life requires the operation of His Spirit. His existence and activity are felt by us wherever and whenever we think of Him intensely. He is the Destroyer or the final transformer of the universe, into whom the universe is withdrawn in the end, to whom all beings return on the completion of the working out of their deeds in the present cycle. Isvara is the natural and necessary counter-correlative of the world taken as an object of individualistic observation.
The characteristics of Isvara, as enumerated above, are the Tatasthalakshanas or the accidental attributes of Brahman. The appearance of Brahman as Isvara continues as long as there is the experience of the world and the individual. The fact that there is an observer implies that there is an external world. And the fact of the existence of an objective world, again, entails the recognition of a supreme Creator and Director of beings. If there is an individual, there ought to be a world, and if there is a world, there ought to be God. Isvara, Jagat and Jiva—God, the world and the individual—go together, one implying the others, and not being possible without the others. The three principles are the basic contents of all relative experience.
The concept of God involves certain unavoidable presuppositions, if it is to stand the test of reason. We are obliged to hold that God must be one, and not more than one. A perfect God ought to be self-dependent, and a plurality or even a duality of gods would introduce a kind of limitation and dependence. A universe with many gods cannot be governed harmoniously, for there would be conflict of purpose among them. The system and order in Nature demand that the Sovereign of the universe must be one. God ought to be an uncaused reality, and though everything of which God is the cause has to be in space and time, God, who is the causeless Cause, is above space and time. The sequence of effects which proceed from God is more logical than chronological. As the final goal of all beings, God directs all movements towards Himself by an upward pull, as it were, by being the determining destination of the entire creation. He is the fulfilment of all aspirations and needs, and the realisation of Him is the great blessedness of any mortal. God has a direct knowledge of the inner workings of Nature, in their completest detail. Though He transcends all individual values, He is the conservation of all values, and constitutes their eternal home. In Him all values exist in their truest essence. Not only this, God Himself is the highest value and end of universal existence. To realise Him is to rise to the centre of the cosmos and to rule it with unlimited knowledge and suzerainty. Man realises his ideals more and more as and when his consciousness approximates, in greater and greater degree, the being of God. The deeper the realisation, the more inward is the manner in which the values are enjoyed in a condition which tends to advance towards infinitude, in which the remoteness of ideals gets expanded into a boundless Spirit, with neither inside nor outside. God is the be-all and the end-all of creation.
St. Thomas Aquinas advances five proofs for the existence of God. The first is the argument from motion, which holds that all motion presupposes the existence of something which is not itself subject to motion. Motion implies a motionless ground. The motion that characterises the world ought to be logically preceded by an unmoved Mover, an ultimate being who is not moved by anything else, who ought to be the basis of the motion of all things. The second is the causal argument that, as every effect has a cause, the causal chain would lead to an endless regress if a final uncaused Cause is not posited. Without the admission of such a Cause, the very concept of causality, which holds sway over the world, would lose its meaning. The final cause has, therefore, no other cause outside itself, it is the final form without matter in it. The third is the cosmological argument which points out that all contingent events necessarily imply an eternal substance which itself is not contingent. The very consciousness of finitude gives rise to the consciousness of the infinite. The fourth is the henological argument, according to which the concept of more and less in the things of this world signifies the existence of a maximum value whose manifestation in various degrees creates in us and in things the idea of more or less of value. The various grades of relative perfection and imperfection in the world indicate that there ought to be an absolute state whose partial revelations here give meaning to these relative expressions. The fifth is the teleological argument or the argument from design and adaptation, which infers the existence of God as the supreme intelligence, on the basis of the purposive adaptation seen in Nature and the ordered design for which it appears to be meant. The purpose that is discovered in Nature cannot be accounted for otherwise than by admitting the presence of a supremely intelligent Creator, a wise Architect of the universe. The different parts of the universe harmoniously fit in with one another’s purposes, and adjust and adapt themselves for an end beyond themselves. All this shows that there ought to be a purposive Agent who has brought about all this adaptation, system and order in creation. God, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is, therefore, One, the unmoved Mover, the causeless Cause, the eternal Substance, the highest Perfection, supreme Intelligence, and the Maximum of being.
In his treatise on divine government, given in his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas says: “I answer that certain ancient philosophers denied the government of the world, saying that all things happened by chance. But such an opinion can be refuted as impossible in two ways. First, by the observation of things themselves. For we observe that in Nature things happen always or nearly always for the best; which would not be the case unless some sort of Providence directed Nature towards good as an end. And this is to govern. Therefore, the unfailing order we observe in things is the sign of their being governed. For instance, if we were to enter a well-ordered house, we would gather from the order manifested in the house the notion of a governor, as Cicero says, quoting Aristotle. Secondly, this is clear from a consideration of the divine goodness which, as we have said above, is the cause of the production of things in being. For, as it belongs to the best to produce the best, it is not fitting that the supreme goodness of God should produce things without giving them their perfection. Now a thing’s ultimate perfection consists in the attainment of its end. Therefore, it belongs to the divine goodness, as it brought things into being, so to lead them to their end. And this is to govern.” “Hence, as the movement of the arrow towards a definite end shows clearly that it is directed by someone with knowledge, so the unvarying course of natural things which are without knowledge shows clearly that the world is governed by some Reason.”
St. Thomas argues that as the beginning of the universe is outside itself, the end of all things in the universe should be a transcendent good which is not to be sought within the universe. The highest good is the highest end of all beings. As the particular end of anything is a particular form of good, so the universal end of all things ought to be the universal good, which can only be one. And this good has to be identified with God, for it is the good of and for itself by virtue of its essence and existence, whereas a particular good is good only by participation. Every form of good that is conceivable in the universe is, according to Aquinas, a good only by sharing in a higher good. The good of the whole world cannot be within itself, but ought to transcend it. Everything under the sun, in the opinion of Aquinas, is generated and corrupted in accordance with the sun’s movement. A certain amount of chance seems to characterise all that is mundane. And the very fact that an element of chance is discovered in things here on earth proves that they are subject to a government of a higher order. For, unless corruptible things were governed by a higher being, there would be no order but only chaos, no definiteness but only indeterminacy everywhere. Things lacking knowledge, naturally, get guided by a being endowed with knowledge. All activity in the universe is intentional and purposive, directed by the supreme decree of God.
Swami Sivananda, accepting the famous arguments for the existence of God,—the ontological, the cosmological and the theological,—would endorse the theological proofs of St. Thomas Aquinas. The feeling of the ‘I’, according to him, is rooted in an existence which cannot be doubted. The existence of the Self is existence in general, and is enjoyed by everyone. The Self of everyone bears testimony to the existence of the Self which comprehends the entire universe. This universal Self is God. Though one is encased in this finite body, one can think and feel: ‘I am infinite’, through an irresistible urge which tends to direct all thought towards the achievement of such being. Such an urge from within cannot possibly be, unless there is a reality to which it points. “You always feel: ‘I exist.’ You can never deny your existence. Existence is Brahman, your own inner immortal Self.” “Though I am encased in this finite body, though I am imperfect and mortal on account of egoism, I can think of the infinite, the perfect, the immortal being. This idea of the infinite can arise only from an infinite being” (Wisdom Nectar, p. 188).
Swami Sivananda observes that the concept of the finite posits the infinite. “Everything is changing in this world. There must be a substratum that is unchanging. We cannot think of a changing thing without thinking of something which is unchanging. Forms are finite. You cannot think of a finite object without thinking of something beyond.” This has similarity to the argument for the existence of the infinite from the contingent nature of things. Further he adds: “There is beauty, intelligence, luminosity, law, order, harmony, in spite of apparent disorder and disharmony. There must be an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent being who governs and controls this vast universe” (Ibid. pp. 188-89). The world has the character of an effect, which is observable from the vicissitudes it constantly undergoes, and the effect always attempts to find rest in its cause. The human mind feels itself constrained to carry the causal argument to its logical limits and posit at one end of the series a cause of all things in the world of time, though it is itself outside all temporal events. Every visible cause has another higher cause which is more pervasive and enduring. God is the name we give to the highest cause. “In this world of phenomena, there is a cause for everything. The law of cause and effect operates. There is the cause, the father, for the effect which is the child. There is the cause, the seed, for the effect which is the tree. There is the cause, the potter, for the effect which is the pot.” “You see this world. There must be a cause for this world, which is an effect. That causeless cause is God or the creator” (Ibid. p. 189).