Original Creation of the Universe -

Saiva Siddhantam’s Answer


Tiruvachakamani K. M. Balasubramaniam, B A., B.L.,



" Is creation therefore a pastime of God - a lila and a sport ? Or is it a purposeless game with no aim or goal ? " This question is as old as the world itself but no answer could be half as bold. As Bradely says : " The old question why God made the world has never been answered nor will be. We know not why the world should be ; we only know that there it is."

Practically the same helplessness or avowed inability characterises the answer by every School of Philosophy.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad begins by asking very similar questions. " What is the cause ? Whence are we born ? Whereby do we live ? On what are we established ? And supervised by whom do we experience our pains and pleasures ? " Yet, that Upanishad finds that an adequate answer to these questions cannot be given in terms of any material or finite principle. Indeed the treatment of the topic of creation is neither full nor frequent in the Upanishads ; nor is there consistency of details among the different passages that deal with the subject of creation.

Swami Vivekananda

" Why should the free, perfect and pure Being be thus under the thraldom of Matter? How can the Perfect Soul be deluded into the belief that he is imperfect ? " This is, in effect the same question which seeks the purpose of creation. The immortal and invincible Swami Vivekananda himself asks this question and answers : " I do not know ", with a frankness which is charming and disarming.


But even this frankest answer of the mightiest exponent of Vedanta of modern times has been repudiated by one Mukhopadyaya who declares that the Swamiji is wrong. He asserts that the perfect does not become the imperfect and since what has really happened is nothing more than the reflection of Brahman in a pot of water, the question itself is out of court. This is the metaphysics of Advaita Vedanta which has no theory of creation since there is no ‘ creation ‘ at all in the accepted sense of that term.

Some others hold that the evolution of Brahman into men and animals is the result of the desire of God to know Himself, see Himself and realise Himself by means of His reflections.

Dr. Annie Besant

Dr. Annie Besant declares that Ishwara evolves into man and brute to gather experience, to improve Himself by means of animal sheaths and that there could be no Perfect Brahman at any time. If the Vedas repeat the cry that there is a Brahman from which there is no return, says Besant, it is but a mere make-believe.


An exponent of the Nyaya-Vaiseshika Philosophy has the following remarks upon this question :

" Why should there be a will to creation at all ? " Answering this question, the theory that God may have an unsatisfied want to be fulfilled or the acquisition of an advantage in creating the world is summarily dismissed with the words : A God with an unsatisfied want is a contradiction in terms.


Again another theory is propounded : " Creation is but a game and pastime with Him and no question of motive therefore can be urged as necessary " But Uddyotakara refuses to be convinced by this argument, as even a play is not a motive-less activity, since it is resorted to with a view to enjoyment of pleasure. This need for pleasure also is unthinkable in the case of God who is All-Bliss.

Another theory that God desires to demonstrate His powers and glory by means of His manifold creation is equally summarily dismissed, since " He does not gain any advantage from this adventure, nor would He lose anything, if He did not embark on this enterprise " In the words of Milton, " God does not need either man’s work or His own gifts ".

Yet another proposition is made, which though unsatisfactory by itself, is certainly much more acceptable than the other ones. That theory is : " It is God’s very nature to do so ". Cosmic activities are an essential part of His Being and Godhead minus Cosmic functions is an unintelligible fiction. It may be interesting to observe in this connection that Gaudapada too, the spiritual Grandfather of Sankara, in his Mandukya Karika has summed up this view in a couplet and he draws the same conclusion as Uddyotakara that it is the essential nature of God to engage in creative activities, as no motive could be alleged with reference to One who has no unsatisfied wants...God is a dynamic principle and His dynamism is manifested in His Cosmic activities and it does not have any room for speculation as to why God should be dynamic and not quiescent and inactive.


According to Ramanuja’s Visishtadvaitam, " for God, the creation of the world is said to be mere lila or sport ". " Krida harer idam sarvam ". The metaphor of lila brings out the disinterestedness, freedom and joy underlying the act of creation. It enables Ramanuja to insist on the absolute freedom and independence of God. Nature and souls are instruments of God’s play and cannot at anytime offer any resistance to His will. The whole drama is undertaken by the Lord at his own sweet will. It is the case of ‘ Lokavattu lila Kaivalvam ". In the words of Browning " God tastes infinite joys in infinite ways ". Hence there is no motive for creation except the very joy of it.


Madhvacharya holds that God’s activity i.e., creation of the world is the result of His over-flowing perfection. Hence the question of purpose or motive does not arise here also.

Hellenic Doctrine

As Paul Duessen observes, " for the Hellenic consciousness the existence of the world has its purpose in itself ".


" Christianity, inclining to the Old Testament seeks to understand Creation through the love of God towards mankind, towards a thing to be created, though not yet existing. " And on the question as to why God created the souls, either from out of nothing or from His Ideas, Christian Theology is silent.

The Church of Rome

The doctrine of the Church of Rome regarding creation as expressed in the canons of the Vatican Council is as follows :

" If any one confesses not that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and mental, have been, in their whole substance produced by God out of nothing, or shall say that God created, not by His free-will from all necessity but by a necessity equal to the necessity whereby He loves Himself or shall deny that the world was made for the glory of God, let Him be anathema."

Before we go to consider the views of Sankara on this question and finally postulate the Siddhantic doctrine of creation, it may be useful for us to refer briefly to the statements on creation found in the Vedas and Upanishads also.


In conceiving the metaphysical genesis of creation the Rishis first caught a glimpse of the Cosmic Mind (Hiranyagarbha) or Viswakarman as the great Progenitor of the entire Universe.

The Rishis is their full comprehension of the Supreme Principles could realise a Cosmic Being (Parama Purusha) and the whole universe as his body.

The hymn X. 90. 1-3 says :

" All these, His creation are His grandeur but the Purusha is ever superior to all these (in His transcendent aspect). The whole of the universe is only one-fourth of His being, the remaining three-fourths remain in celestial immortality."

In these hymns of Hiranyagarbha and Viswakarman the sages were contemplating the Theistic origin of Creation. The Purusha Sukta on the other hand promulgates the Pantheistic view of creation. Then came the more metaphysical view in the Nasadiya Sukta.

" At that time ( before creation ) there was neither aught nor naught ( the manifest and unmanifest ) " - This refers to the precosmic period.

Again it says :

" Then there existed the Sole One ( Supreme Self ) without a stir or breath. There was nothing else but One."


" Then there was darkness enveloped in darkness. All was undifferentiatad, engulfed in water (the Primal Cause.) What existed was enveloped with unreality (Maya). His grandeur was manifested by austerity (Knowledge or Will).

This hymn discloses the Maya theory (in the Siddhantic or Sankya sense) and also a personal God and His creation of the universe through His Will or desire which supports the Siddhantic view of God’s creation emerging through His Will or Icchaa Sakti.

The Upanishads

Chandogya Upanishad

" Existent alone, dear one, was This in the beginning, One alone and without a second. It conceived the idea :

" I will become many, I will propagate Myself. " So it created fire. This fire conceived the idea " I will become many, I will propagate myself. " So it created water etc.

" That Deity conceived the idea ‘ Verily, I will enter into these three deities (fire, water, food) with this living self (the individual soul) and spread forth into names and forms and I will make each one of them three fold ( 6:2, 2-3, 2 ).


Ailtreya Upanishad

" Truly this world was Atman alone in the beginning : there was naught else there to open the eyes. He conceived the idea " I will now create worlds. "

This postulates a personal God deciding by His Will to create the worlds, as in Saiva Siddhanta.


Prasna Upanishad

"He formed the design; then He created Breath."

Mundaka Upanishad

" This is the unchanging which the wise know as the Womb of beings. "

Taittiriya Upanishad

" Non-existent was this in the beginning, thence the existent arose. "

Svetasvatara Upanishad

" He creates this world.....

" Having entered into union with principle (tattwa) after principle,

" With one, with two, with three or with eight."

Here we have a personal God and His creation of the world through Maya or the tattwas which are 36 according to Saiva Siddhanta.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

" The original Being is called Atman or Self because when He looks round, He sees nothing else but Himself. He is also called the ‘I’ and ‘Purusha’. When the Atman realises His loneliness, He has two feelings, one of fear and the other of a desire for companionship. He dispels His fear with the reflection that He has nothing else to be afraid of, while His second desire is satisfied by His dividing Himself into two parts which are then named husband and wife. From their union the race of human beings is produced.

A series of transformations of the original human pair into animal forms takes place and from each transformation a new species of animal is born. The animals and men produced are Brahma’s begetting or creation. "


So far as the plane of metaphysics is concerned the Advaita Vedanta does not admit the theory of physical creation at all, as we have already seen. As Prof. Max Muller says : " There is but little room in true Vedanta philosophy for psychology or cosmology, nay, even for Ethics ". But from the exoteric point of view there are two creations possible, one the original one and the other the periodical and cyclic creation, after every pralaya. The reason for the latter kind of creation as admitted by Sankara and other Theistic Schools of Hindu Thought is the need for the souls to work out their karmas performed by them in their previous births.

Regarding the motive for the first and original creation (though this question is never permitted to be raised) Sri Sankara has the following observations to make :

" We have learnt to know Brahman as an intelligent Being ; as such he seems to require a motive for his creation. The application of this rule of experience to Brahman is, as it seems, confirmed by the Scriptures, when they teach that the world is dear to him not for the world’s sake but for the sake of his own Self. If we ascribe to God a motive which determined him to create, this contradicts his All-sufficiency ; but if we do not ascribe such a motive to him, creation becomes impossible. Or shall we take it for granted, that Brahman like a thoughtless man proceeded to create at random and without a motive ? This again would contradict his omniscience.

" We must then take it for granted that as a Prince or some great man who has all that he requires undertakes something without a motive, purely for sport and pastime ; or as out-breathing and inbreathing go on by themselves, without external motive, so too God created the world of himself and without a motive, purely for sport ; for a further motive is not to be found by reflection or revelation of the Scriptures and it is impossible to ask God himself about it ... That he could not for this reason proceed to act is contrary to the teachings of the Scripture concerning creation ; that he acted without thought and by chance, is contrary to the teaching concerning his omniscience ".

Thus, on his own showing Sankara is confronted with a dilemma and he finds it impossible to reconcile and rationalise the need of logic on the one hand and the creed of Scripture on the other. And as usual, he cuts the Guardian knot by wriggling himself out of this fix and having recourse to his metaphysical standpoint. For says he, " Above all we must not forget that the whole teaching as to creation refers to this world of names and forms founded on ignorance and it has really only the aim of teaching the identity of nature with Brahman. "

As regards the periodical creation of the world, Sankara is at one with all other Theistic Schools of Hindu Thought like Saiva Siddhanta, Visishtadvaita and Dwaita in maintaining that the world is the indispensable theatre and scene of atonement of the works of a previous birth by the souls and that God is the indispensable judge and controller who supervises the measure and mode of experiencing the Karma by each soul.

The Problem of Evil and the way out

Nevertheless the greatest and insoluble problem of evil stares all these Schools in their face. And the problem has defied solution particularly by the two Schools namely that of Sankara and that of Christianity as well as Judaism.

Hence, Paul Duessen, than whom there has been no more devoted follower of Sankara, makes the following observation :


" That empirical Theism (for which the world is real and different from God) is untenable appears now here so clearly as in the region of morals. For, however the matter be turned in at real creation, which is seriously taken, the responsibility for evil and for the sin of the world finally falls on God. This consequence does not trouble the morally undeveloped conscience......


" The Hebrews gained a solution of the question, more apparent than real, by adopting (or rather adapting) Satan from the mythology of Persia and thereby satisfying themselves. The Indians in a more philosophical spirit recognised the fact that there are only two ways out of this : either by referring the constitution (essential) and also the creation (existential) of the world not to God but to an immanent principle or idealistically, by denying the existence of the world altogether. We find Sankara taking both the ways, by bringing forward, as he always does, both empirical and metaphysical arguments for the solution of the problem. "


Next, Paul Duessen states an empirical argument as advanced by Sankara against the theory which charges God with the responsibility for the evils in the world and then makes this significant comment thereon :


" It is true that here also our author starts from the separation (only indicated by the Sutram) of God and the soul, in order to transfer all moral guilt from the former to the latter. Brahman is omniscient and omnipotent, everlasting, pure, wise and free. Because he is free, he can do what he wills. For him there is neither command nor prohibition and therefore neither good nor evil. The individual soul, on the contrary, is affected by good and evil and of it we do not at all maintain that it is the Creator of the world. "

Without committing himself, proceeds Duessen, to the question, unavoidable from this standpoint " whence then springs the individual soul with its good and evil ? ", our author (Sankara) at once passes on to the metaphysical explanation : ‘ But how is this ? ‘ asks he. ‘ Are not God and soul the same according to the words ‘ Tat Twam Asi ? ‘ ‘ To this it is replied ‘ continues Sankara ‘ when by the teaching of non-separateness through sentences like Tat Twam Asi the consciousness of non-separateness is awakened, then the wanderings of the soul and creative functions of Brahman cease ; for the whole tendency of the world of division springs from false knowledge and is removed by perfect knowledge. Whence then the creation ? And whence the responsibility for not having brought forth good only ? ‘

Thus, we have seen how, Paul Duessen himself is highly critical of the quickchanging attitude of the mighty Sankara who has always two strings to his bow in tackling questions of philosophy. The big question that Duessen asks of Sankara, " Whence then springs the individual soul with its good and evil ? " has been bypassed in a hurry and never answered by the latter. If ever he had answered it, that would have meant the deathblow to his Monism. In fact this is the whole crux of the problem of evil and the inability to answer this question has been the source of great dissatisfaction. And exactly because Saiva Siddhanta philosophy has bravely faced and boldly answered this thorny question which Duessen has asked from out of the words of Sankara himself, that System has, it is believed, established a title for a rational one.


The Siddhantic Theory of Creation

The fundamental doctrine of Saiva Siddhanta postulates the eternal and distinct existence of three Padarthas or entities called Pathi, Pasu and Pasam or God, Soul and Matter. Pasam is achit and it can have no use for anything like the universe. God is All-Powerful, perfect and has no need for anything ; He is self-sufficient. Hence He has also no benefit to be derived from the universe. Therefore it is the only other entity called Soul which is neither God nor Matter that can and must stand in need of the universe. If it is a created thing, then the question will arise, " why did God create it ? " Any answer like ‘ it is his lila ‘ will be unsatisfactory ; it will do no credit to God, the All-Wise. If it be the Parinama or Vivartha of God himself, the position will be hardly better. In fact it will be worse because the real sufferer or enjoyer will then be God only and no separate entity. So the purpose of creation will still be either illogical and absurd or non-existent. So the soul must be not only eternal and beginningless but also so attached to evil beginninglessly that it must stand in need of a redemptive cosmic creation by God. This position alone will satisfy us regarding the motive or purpose of creation and hence Saiva Siddhanta swears only by this theory to explain the problem of evil.


The plain alternative before the Saiva Siddhanta was : should he make an all-perfect and all-powerful immaculate God enthral and imprison Himself in sin and bondage for no known purpose or should he have an uncreated and eternal soul steeped in darkness beginninglessly so as to stand in need of emancipation ? Both the alternatives are at best hypotheses or mere assumptions from our finite standpoint. Either the one or the other has to constitute the starting point of our metaphysical enquiry. Having seen the disastrous and discreditable consequences that flow from the assumption of God becoming the soul and getting entangled in evil, the Saiva Siddhantin has boldly and almost inevitably chosen the other alternative of positing an eternal soul enveloped in evil and sin. ‘ Make not the mighty God mean ; rather make the little soul less ‘ seems to be his watchword.


By this practical theory which steers clear off the shoals of the Monistic School on the one hand and the rocks of Christianity on the other, the Saiva Siddhantin has not only shifted the burden of sins off the shoulders of God but also safeguarded the sacredness and supremacy of God who is unsullied by any taint or temptation. Nor should Satan be set up as a rival to His throne and the conflict in the world if there should be one, must be between the sinful soul and Satan and not between Satan and the Supreme God. The position of God must be that of the Judge and the Protector and never that of a suspect and an accused.


This theory may be subject to the criticism that God having not created the soul, the former’s omnipotence is compromised or detracted from. Every system of philosophy is bound to come up against a blind lane sometime or other. And Siddhanta is no exception to this rule. But still the lesser evil must be chosen. As against other theories which vitiate and violate the majesty and magnanimity of the mighty God, this theory alone glorifies His untarnished Self which is Life, Light and Love. The Vedantin makes the Brahman " somehow " become the many and evil souls. The Siddhantin steeps the soul " somehow " in beginningless darkness. The Vedantin’s ‘somehow’, besides being blasphemous, is unable to assign a logical purpose or motive for creation. But the Siddhantin’s ‘somehow’ is able not only to save God from ‘ His candid friends ‘ but also advance a valid motive for creation. May the world choose the more agreeable of the two. The question here is not as to which alternative is more logical. The question is, on the other hand, one as to which theory is less illogical. As J. M. Nallaswami Pillai succinctly puts it, " If the soul is other than God, other than Maya and is in bhanda or bondage, then the necessity for the creation of the world becomes intelligible ".

The motive for creation, therefore, is the redemption of the numberless souls eternally wallowing in beginningless evil and darkness. Hence, the words of the Nasadiya Suktam " His grandeur was manifested by austerity (knowledge or Will) " are best exemplified by the Siddhantic Theory of creation by a God whose very definition is Love.

Courtesy : 63rd Annual Conference Souvenier, 1968 Saiva Siddhanta Perumanram, Chennai.

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