Who created this world? I certainly have not done so. Who created the sun and the stars? I certainly have not done so. Who made the clouds? Who formulated the laws by which all this functions. Who set the cycle of the tides and the seasons? Who provided for the needs of every creature? The world is a furnished house meant to be enjoyed by all; its kitchen serves food to every creature, be it a bee, a bird, or a man. All beings are equipped for survival; human beings come with nostrils to draw oxygen from air, a fish with gills to draw it from water. I find that nothing here is redundant. Everything is well-designed, including the human machine which is capable of lasting a hundred years. Who authored this intelligent, meaningful creation?
This desire to know the cause of something is natural to humankind. If I say, “There is a fire”; you will ask for the evidence. I answer, “I see smoke, and therefore there is a fire”. For any inference or presumption the human intellect demands that there be a cause. Without this “cause- hunting”; behavior a human being would be like an animal, led only by the senses; there would be no inference, in presumption, no final knowledge.
The Cause of the Objective Creation
An objective creation is one that is available for perception by all observers; the object exists, and therefore you and I and others see it. This is in contrast to a subjective creation, a creation that is only perceived by its author. In a dream you see a mountain. The mountain is not an objective creation; no one but you can see it. You see it in. your mind and therefore it exists.
How can one account for this objective creation? Who authored this world? For any creation there must be a creator who knows exactly what he or she is going to create and has in mind the purpose and the means of creating it. That person is called निमित्त कारण nimitta karna, the efficient cause, an intelligent being who has the knowledge and skill to create something particular. A potter knows what a pot is and how to make it. He knows what to use as material, how to shape it, what tools are needed — in short, the potter is one who has the knowledge and skill to make pots. A bird has the knowledge and skill to make a nest, a bee to make a honeycomb. For this world, there must be a creator who has both the knowledge of the entire creation and the power to create it.
Belief or Knowledge
If I hold a watch before you and ask you “Do you believe that there is a maker of this watch?” your reply has to be, “Yes”. You did not see anyone make the watch, but you still say that the watchmaker exists. Your conclusion is based on the same type of cause-hunting that makes it unnecessary to question and verify the existence of your great-great-grandfather though you have never seen even a picture of him; the fact that you are here is the proof that he was here before you. You are an effect that must have a cause. Though you do not know the maker of the watch, you know that there must be a maker, for any effect presupposes a cause.
Let us analyze what belief is. A belief is a judgement prior to gaining knowledge and is subject to verification by inquiry. Suppose you say, “John is a good man”; even though you have never met him. You really do not know that John is good, but only believe so because someone said to you that he is good. There is every possibility that this belief can be belied. If you meet John and he does or does not turn out to be good, what you then have is not belief any longer, but knowledge about John.
Belief is not based on knowledge, and so it can always be shaken. Belief that cannot be shaken is not belief; it is knowledge. Even if a million people say that fire is cold, you will not accept it, because the fact that fire is hot is knowledge which cannot be shaken by anyone. Now remember the Watch and the watchmaker. If I say that I believe in the existence of the watchmaker, his or her existence is subject to negation. Is there any possibility that the watch can be without a creator? No. Therefore, what you have is knowledge of the existence of a watchmaker, not belief.
Similarly, it is not right to say that you believe in God, the creator of this world. You see the creation which is intelligent and purposeful. Therefore, you do not simply believe – you know that there must be a creator for it. That creator should be omniscient and omnipotent, for as the potter must have the knowledge of the pot and the skill to make it, the creator of all must have all knowledge and all skill. You do not find such a being here on earth, so you imagine that He or She resides in a place, say heaven, unknown to you. You say that God in heaven created this world.
This simplistic statement will not satisfy your intellect for long. The problem now is, who created the heaven, where did God sit when He created this world? And if God created- that heaven, where was God seated before the creation of heaven? This endless chain of questions arises because we fail to recognize another equally important cause of creation.
The Material Cause
For anything that is created, not only is there a creator, the intelligent cause, who has the intelligence to make it, but also there is the material with which to create. Without clay a potter cannot make pots. The material of which a thing is made is called उपादान कारण updana karna, the material cause. The creator of the world must have needed material to create it. If that material was different from God, one could ask, who made the material? If the answer is that someone else made it, it can be argued that this someone must be considered the real creator of the world, and the question remains: from where did this new God get the material to make the world? If He made it with some other material, from where did that material come? To avoid landing in the logical absurdity of infinite regress, we must say that God Himself is the material cause of creation. God finds the material in Himself, and from it creates the world. In Mundakopanisad, it is said, Just as a spider spreads out and draws in (the thread that it spins)…
The spider is both उपादान कारण upadana karna and निमित्त कारण nimitta karna, the material of the web and the one who weaves it. Similarly, when you dream, you are the author of the dream creation, and you are also the material of it. The ocean, the mountain, the sun and moon that are so vivid in your dream are created by you out of yourself. You are both उपादान कारण upadana karana and निमित्त कारण nimitta karna of the dream.
This world is authored by someone who must be both its efficient and material cause. If God is the material cause, he does not stand apart from the creation. When you pick up a pot, you also pick up the material of the pot, clay; when you hold a gold chain, you hold gold. Wherever an object goes, its material cause accompanies it. The object is sustained by the material of which it is made; an effect is never separate from its material cause. If the Lord is the material and efficient cause of creation, what is the distance between the Lord and creation? There can be no distance. The Lord is the creation.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati