Who Created God? — Theory of Maya

Excerpts from writings by
Paramahansa Yogananda and Swami Vivekananda

The Knower, the Knowing & the Known

The Unmanifested Absolute is
the Knower
the Knowing &
the Known as

This Unmanifested Absolute cannot be described except that It was the Knower, the Knowing, and the Known existing as One. In It the being, Its cosmic consciousness, and Its omnipotence, all were without differentiation: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever newly joyous Spirit.

In this Ever-New Bliss, there was no space or time, no dual conception or law of relativity; everything that was, is, or is to be existed as One Undifferentiated Spirit. Space and time and relativity are categories of objects; as soon as a human being sees a planet hanging in the sky, he conceives that it is occupying dimensional space and existing in time, relative to its place in the universe. But when there were no finite objects of creation, neither were there the dimensions of being that define them, only the Blissful Spirit. (...)

Spirit, being the only existing Substance, had naught but Itself with which to create. Spirit and Its universal creation could not be essentially different, for two ever-existing Infinite Forces would consequently each be absolute, which is by definition an impossibility. An orderly creation requires the duality of Creator and created. Thus,

Spirit first gave rise to a Magic Delusion, Maya, the cosmic Magical Measurer, which produces the illusion of dividing a portion of the Indivisible Infinite into separate finite objects, even as a calm ocean becomes distorted into individual waves on its surface by the action of a storm.

All creation is nothing but Spirit, seemingly and temporarily diversified by Spirit's creative vibratory activity. (sc)


Be a Witness

— "By what can the knower be known?" How can the knower be known? The eyes see everything; can they see themselves? They cannot: The very fact of knowledge is a degradation.

When you want to know a thing, it immediately becomes limited by your mind.

This is true about all knowledge, and can it be less so about the Infinite? Can you thus limit Him who is the substance of all knowledge, Him who is the Sâkshi, the witness, without whom you cannot have any knowledge, Him who has no qualities, who is the Witness of the whole universe, the Witness in our own souls? How can you know Him?

— "How to know the knower?" The knower cannot be known, because if it were known, it will not be the knower. If you look at your eyes in a mirror, the reflection is no more your eyes, but something else, only a reflection. Then if this soul, this Universal, Infinite Being which you are, is only a witness, what good is it? It cannot live, and move about, and enjoy the world, as we do. People cannot understand how the witness can enjoy.

It is only the witness that can enjoy.

If there is a wrestling match, who enjoys it, those who take part in it, or those who are looking on — the outsiders? The more and more you are the witness of anything in life, the more you enjoy it. And this is Ânanda; and, therefore,

infinite bliss can only be yours
when you have become
the witness of this universe;
then alone you are a Mukta Purusha*.

* mukta = "free", Purusha = the Godhead that dwells within the body, "totality of consciousness"

It is the witness alone that can work without any desire, without any idea of going to heaven, without any idea of blame, without any idea of praise. The witness alone enjoys, and none else. (sv III:419)

Law of Causation

A stone falls and we ask, why? This question is possible only on the supposition that nothing happens without a cause. I request you to make this very clear in your minds, for whenever we ask why anything happens, we are taking for granted that everything that happens must have a why, that is to say, it must have been preceded by something else which acted as the cause. This precedence and succession are what we call the law of causation. It means that everything in the universe is by turn a cause and an effect. It is the cause of certain things which come after it, and is itself the effect of something else which has preceded it. This is called the law of causation and is a necessary condition of all our thinking. We believe that every particle in the universe, whatever it be, is in relation to every other particle.


is the law of the whole universe.

In asking what caused the Absolute, what an error we are making! To ask this question we have to suppose that the Absolute also is bound by something, that It is dependent on something; and in making this supposition, we drag the Absolute down to the level of the universe. For in the Absolute there is neither time, space, nor causation; It is all one.

That which exists by itself alone cannot have any cause.

That which is free cannot have any cause; else it would not be free, but bound. That which has relativity cannot be free. Thus we see the very question, why the Infinite became the finite, is an impossible one, for it is self-contradictory.

For instance, here is a chair, it is known to us. ... This chair is known, but God is intensely more than that because in and through Him we have to know this chair itself.

God is
the Witness,
the eternal Witness
of all knowledge.

Whatever we know we have to know in and through Him. He is the Essence of our own Self. He is the Essence of this ego, this I and we cannot know anything excepting in and through that I. Therefore you have to know everything in and through the Brahman. To know the chair you have to know it in and through God. Thus God is infinitely nearer to us than the chair, but yet He is infinitely higher. Neither known, nor unknown, but something infinitely higher than either. He is your Self. "Who would live a second, who would breathe a second in this universe, if that Blessed One were not filling it?" Because in and through Him we breathe, in and through Him we exist. Not the He is standing somewhere and making my blood circulate. What is meant is that He is the Essence of all this, tie Soul of my soul.

You cannot by any possibility say you know Him; it would be degrading Him. You cannot get out of yourself, so you cannot know Him. Knowledge is objectification. For instance, in memory you are objectifying many things, projecting them out of yourself. All memory, all the things which I have seen and which I know are in my mind. The pictures, the impressions of all these things, are in my mind, and when I would try to think of them, to know them, the first act of knowledge would be to project them outside. This cannot be done with God, because He is the Essence of our souls, we cannot project Him outside ourselves.

Here is one of the profoundest passages in Vedanta:

"He [ GOD ]
that is the Essence of your soul,
He is the Truth,
He is the Self,
thou art That,
O Shvetaketu."

This is what is meant by "Thou art God." [Chandogya Up.]

You cannot describe Him by any other language. All attempts of language, calling Him father, or brother, or our dearest friend, are attempts to objectify God, which cannot be done. He is the Eternal Subject of everything. I am the subject of this chair; I see the chair; so God is the Eternal Subject of my soul. How can you objectify Him, the Essence of your souls, the Reality of everything? Thus, I would repeat to you once more, God is neither knowable nor unknowable, but something infinitely higher than either. He is one with us, and that which is one with us is neither knowable nor unknowable, as our own self. You cannot know your own self; you cannot move it out and make it an object to look at, because you are that and cannot separate yourself from it. Neither is it unknowable, for what is better known than yourself? It is really the centre of our knowledge. In exactly the same sense, God is neither unknowable nor known, but infinitely higher than both; for He is our real Self.

The one peculiar attribute we find in time, space, and causation is that they cannot exist separate from other things. Try to think of space without colour, or limits, or any connection with the things around — just abstract space. You cannot; you have to think of it as the space between two limits or between three objects. It has to be connected with some object to have any existence. So with time; you cannot have any idea of abstract time, but you have to take two events, one preceding and the other succeeding, and join the two events by the idea of succession. Time depends on two events, just as space has to be related to outside objects.

And the idea of causation is inseparable from time and space. This is the peculiar thing about them that they have no independent existence. They have not even the existence which the chair or the wall has. They are as shadows around everything which you cannot catch. They have no real existence; yet they are not non-existent, seeing that through them all things are manifesting as this universe. Thus we see, first, that the combination of time, space, and causation has neither existence nor non-existence. Secondly, it sometimes vanishes.

To give an illustration, there is a wave on the ocean. The wave is the same as the ocean certainly, and yet we know it is a wave, and as such different from the ocean.


What makes this difference? The name and the form, that is, the idea in the mind and the form. Now, can we think of a waveform as something separate from the ocean? Certainly not. It is always associated with the ocean idea. If the wave subsides, the form vanishes in a moment, and yet the form was not a delusion. So long as the wave existed the form was there, and you were bound to see the form. This is Maya.

The whole of this universe, therefore, is, as it were, a peculiar form; the Absolute is that ocean while you and I, and suns and stars, and everything else are various waves of that ocean. And what makes the waves different? Only the form, and that form is time, space, and causation, all entirely dependent on the wave. As soon as the wave goes, they vanish. As soon as the individual gives up this Maya, it vanishes for him and he becomes free. The whole struggle is to get rid of this clinging on to time, space, and causation, which are always obstacles in our way. (sv II:130-137)

What is the Cause of Maya?

The question — what is the cause of Maya (illusion)? — has been asked for the last three thousand years; and the only answer is: when the world is able to formulate a logical question, we shall answer it. The question is contradictory. Our position is that the Absolute has become this relative only apparently, that the Unconditioned has become the conditioned only in Maya. By the very admission of the Unconditioned, we admit that the Absolute cannot be acted upon by anything else. It is uncaused, which means that nothing outside Itself can act upon It.

First of all, if It is unconditioned, It cannot have been acted upon by anything else. In the Unconditioned there cannot be time, space, or causation. That granted your question will be: "What caused that which cannot be caused by anything to be changed into this?" Your question is only possible in the conditioned. But you take it out of the conditioned, and want to ask it in the Unconditioned.

Only when the Unconditioned becomes conditioned, and space,
time, and
come in, can the question be asked.
We can only say ignorance makes the illusion.

The question is impossible. Nothing can have worked on the Absolute. There was no cause. Not that we do not know, or that we are ignorant; but It is above knowledge, and cannot be brought down to the plane of knowledge. We can use the words, "I do not know" in two senses. In one way, they mean that we are lower than knowledge, and in the other way, that the thing is above knowledge. (sv V:276)

The Paradox of Maya

Maya is not illusion as it is popularly interpreted. Maya is real, yet it is not real. It is real in that the Real is behind it and gives it its appearance of reality. That which is real in Maya is the Reality in and through Maya. Yet the Reality is never seen; and hence that which is seen is unreal, and its has no real independent existence of itself, but is dependent upon the Real for its existence.

Maya is a paradox —
yet not real,
an illusion,
yet not an illusion.

He who knows the Real sees in Maya not illusion, but reality. He who knows not the Real sees in Maya illusion and thinks it real. (sv VI:92)

Brahman and Maya

Q: — Brahman and Maya cannot be cognised simultaneously. How could the absolute reality of either be proved as arising out of the one or the other?

A: — It could be proved only by realisation. When one realises Brahman, for him Maya exists no longer, just as once the identity of the rope is found out, the illusion of the serpent comes no more.

Q: — What is Maya?

A: — There is only one thing, call it by any name — matter, or spirit. It is difficult or rather impossible to think the one independent of the other. This is Maya, or ignorance.

Q: — What is Mukti (liberation)?

A: — Mukti means entire freedom — freedom from the bandages of good and evil. A golden chain is as much a chain as an iron one. Shri Ramakrishna used to say that, to pick out one thorn which has stuck into the foot, another thorn is requisitioned, and when the thorn is taken out, both are thrown away. So the bad tendencies are to be counteracted by the good ones, but after that, the good tendencies have also to be conquered. (sv V:317)

* sv = Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda


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