According to Vedanta, creation is nothing but projection. As the dream world is projected, so too is the waking world We have that projecting power in the dream also, so we are not unfamiliar with what is meant by creation or projection.
There is no real creation or transformation as such. It is just projection, in the same way as there is no real transformation of rope, just a projection of snake. Nothing whatever happens to rope, it is just made to appear as snake. One thing being made to appear different from what it is, is what we call ’creation’. Wherever creation takes place, it is only this.
Here an objection may arise, “What are you talking about Swamiji? I take this clay, and I make a pot out of it. It is a transformation of clay. We curdle milk so it becomes curd. That is also transformation. A lot of changes happen. This table is made. Formerly it was the trunk of a tree, and then we did so much to it! Do you mean to say this is projected?” Sometimes this may be very frustrating. We will look into it more later, but if you inquire into what the substance is, there is only one substance. As far as the Vedantin is concerned, that substance is ब्रह्मन brahman. There is no other really existing thing (vastu). Brahman is made to look like a table or a chair or a house. It is made to look like the whole world. That is why the text says विक्षेप-शक्ति viksepa-sakti, projecting power.
Similarly, there is a veiling of brahman, which is limitless, one, nondual, and a projection of the world of diversity. Then what is this world, this diverse creation? As we will see later on, when you inquire into the nature of diversity, it all resolves into just one, nondual vastu. That is why Chandogya Upanisad says:-
सदेव सोम्य इदमग्र आसीत् एकमेवाद्वितीयम्
sadeva somya idam agm asitt ekametvadvitiyam
“Hey, Somya (good-looking one)! This whole universe of diversity and divisions was only sat, existence, brahman, one without a second.” That is the substance upon which various projections are made, which we call creation. This viksepa-sakti of maya in fact creates the appearance of the entire universe.
Lingadi-brahmandantam jagat srjet, it projects, jagat, the world, linga-adi, beginning from the individual subtle body, brahma-anda-antam, culminating in the entire brahmanda, cosmos or universe. Thus, from the individual to the totality, the projecting power of maya creates or projects the whole universe. The same thing is clarified in verse (Drg Drsya Viveka 14):
सृष्टिनार्म ब्रह्मरूपे सच्चिदानन्दवस्तुनि |
अब्धौ फेनदिवत्सर्वनामरूपप्रसरणा ||
Srstirnama brahmarupe saccinanandavastuni |
सुष्ट्री Srstih -the creation; नाम nama -known as; ब्रह्मरूपे brahma-rupe in that which is of the nature of brahman; सत-चित -आनंद -वस्तुनि sat-cit-ananda-vastuni in the vastu, which is sat (existence), Cit (awareness), and ananda (wholeness); अब्धाओ abdhau in the ocean; फेन-आदि-वत्त phena-adi-vat like the foam etc.; नाम -रुप -प्रसारण nama-rupa-prasarna -expansion (i.e. manifestation) as names and forms
The manifestation of all names and forms in the vastu or reality, which is sat-cit-ananda and which is brahman is called the creation. It is like the creation of foam, etc, in the ocean.
Creation has sat-cit-ananda as its basis.
Srstirnama. It is nama, what is known as, srsti, creation. What we call srsti is nama-rupa-prasarna, the expansion or manifestation as names and forms. The basis upon what it manifests is sat-cit-ananda-vastu or brahma-rupa. That which is sat-cit-ananda as well as vastu is called sat-cit-ananda-vastu. The word vastu is used here to mean ’reality’. And the nature of the reality is sat-cit-ananda.
Sat-cit-ananda is satyam jnanam anantam brahma
This is the first time in the text that we come across the term सत-चित्त-आनंद sat-cit-ananda. Sat means existence, cit means awareness or intelligence, and ananda means wholeness or completeness. That is the only vastu. This reality is called brahman, whose nature is sat-cit-ananda. It is also called सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma in Taittiriya Upanisad.
We do not find the expression sat-cit-ananda in any of the major Upanisads. What we find is satyam-jnanam- anantam brahma. Satyam is truth, ज्ञानम jnanam is knowledge, and anantam is infinite. So brahman is truth, knowledge, infinite. Do not think that truth, knowledge, and infinite are all different. What is satyam is also jnanam what is jnanam is also anantam, and what is anantam is also satyam.
The Upanisad need not have employed these three words; it did so for our sake only. Any one word is quite adequate to reveal the nature of the vastu. What happens is that each one of these words, satyam, jnanam, and anantam, is used commonly in our day-to-day parlance. Therefore we have some concepts or ideas in our mind about what they mean.
When I hear the Upanisad say brahman is satyam, truth, then I think, “Alright, I have some idea about what satyam is, what truth is”. Satyam means the material cause of the five elements, so therefore I would think, ”Okay, brahman is the material cause.” But the material cause undergoes transformation to become the effect, so I would think that brahman undergoes transformation to become effect. The material cause is also always inert, so I would think that brahman is inert.
But then comes the word jnanam, so it is not inert; it is conscious. Jnanam means knowledge, and knowledge always has its locus in a conscious being. So then I think, ”Brahman being conscious is alright, but knowledge is always limited, like ghata-jnana, knowledge of pot, and pata-jnana, knowledge of cloth.” The cognition of pot or cognition of cloth, cognition of anything that is ’this’, is always limited. So I may think that brahman is limited.
But then the Upanisad says, “No, it is anantam.” It is knowledge alright, but it is not what you understand as a given cognition. It is neither a cognition nor the knower. It is that which is the common basis of the knower, known, and knowledge. It is infinite.
That is how the three words enable us to understand brahman correctly: that it is truth, meaning it is changeless; it is jnanam, meaning it is consciousness; and it is anantam, meaning it is not consciousness of something, but is rather consciousness itself, which is limitless. This can be translated as sat-cit-ananda, where satyam is equated to sat, jnanam is equated to cit, and anantam is equated to ananda.
Happiness is only in the infinite
Ananda is where anantam is. Anantam means infinite. Vedanta says that ananda or happiness is there only in the infinite. There cannot be happiness in the finite. Chandogya Upanisad says:-
यो वै भूमा तत् सुखम नाल्पे सुखमस्तु
yo vai bhuma tat sukhan nalpe sukham asti.
The sage Sanatkumara says to sage Narada, yo vai bhuma tat sukham, happiness is only in that which is bhuma, abundant or limitless. Na alpe sukham asti, there cannot be happiness in anything that is limited. Happiness is the nature of the limitless, it cannot be the nature of anything that is limited. Therefore, Chandogya Upanisad says that ananda or happiness has to be anantam.
Thus, anantam is ananda, jnanam is cit, and satyam is sat. Satyam jnanam anantam is sat-cit-ananda. Usually, the laksan-vakya, the term used to indicate brahma-svarupa is सत्यम ज्ञानम अनंतम satyam-jnanam-anantam brahma. But here, satyam jnanam anantam is the same as sat-cit-ananda. And the vastu, reality, is sat-cit-ananda.
What Vedanta says is that there is nothing but reality, that is all there is. It is not that there is reality and then there is something other than reality. Reality is nondual. What is meant by ’nondual’ is that reality is one without a second.
Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati