26 – Tattva Bodha: Relationship of Consciousness, Space-Time, Maya & Ishvara


Discourse 26 explains the terms maya and ishvara and their relationship to world and consciousness.

Source: Tattva Bodha


  • Efficient/Intelligent & Material Cause because of which the universe comes, is called Ishvara:
    • Ishvara, which means, cause of the universe, is abhinna-nimitta-upadana-karanam, meaning the material and the intelligence that's organizing that material, at any time, have no existence apart from Ishvara.
    • Sanskrit words defined:
      • Nimitta karanam: Efficient or intelligent-cause. 
      • Upadana-karanam: means material cause.
      • Abhinna: Not different from.
    • The spider-web scriptural example is used to specifically demonstrate abhinna-nimitta-upadana-karanam. The intelligent pattern of the web, and the web — both have no existence apart from the spider. However must always find out how far any example goes, otherwise can argue with, “But spider walks away from the web. That means God walks away from his creation!”. Therefore we negate the spider-web limit with supplementary Dream example, where you never walk away from your dream, and fill up the entire dream throughout the duration of the dream.  People in your creation look at your creation and speculate names of you — Rama, Allah, Krishna, and put you in heaven, and consider their body a separate creation. Then śruti comes and wakes you up to  Īśvara, showing that both you, the subject, and object is Īśvara.
    • Another way scriptures define Ishvara is: sarvajña (All-knowledge), sarva-śaktimān (all-power). This is more in line with religion stating, God is All-knowing, all-mighty.  
  • That same Efficient/intelligent and Material Cause as explained above — equally existed before universe manifested — except it remained in potential. However this raises the next question: How did many come out of the One? How can Awareness create a world of duality? How do we account this world of form? How to explain away the jagat (universe of infinite objects)
    • Awareness alone can't create. Brahman enjoys a power called māyā-upadhiUpadhi is that which makes something appear different – without intrinsically changing it.
      • For example:
        • The ripples in the river make the moon's reflection ripply. Seems like the moon and it's shine has taken on attributes of movement and agitation. In this case, the ripples are upadhi
        • Putting spoon in water, from a certain angle, the spoon seems to bend, even though it remains straight. The water is upadhi; making the spoon take on an appearance which it intrinsically doesn't have.
        • In Dream, your mind is upadhi, making you (the conscious being) appear like there is a subject and object split.  
    • Using above examples, Brahman with maya-upadhi becomes Ishvara (all-knowledge, all-power). Just like in dream example above, there's no real creation. It's an as-though creation, a mithya creation, entirely depending on the conscious being. Ishvara as though – creates, sustains, and dissolves. But in reality whatever is being created, sustained and dissolved – is nothing but manifestation of Ishvara. Just like in a dream, whatever is being created and sustained, is nothing but you. The whole thing only seems true from standpoint of the manifest dream. But from your standpoint, you remain free of of the whole thing and never take on the merits nor the foolishness done by any of the people in your dream creation.
  • What is point of maya teaching?
    • To explain away duality/creation.  It's introduced to solve a problem. Elephant story demonstrates this. Father wrote a will in case of his death. The will said, 1/2 of his elephants will go to first son. 1/3 to second son. And 1/9 to third son. Father died with 17 elephants left. But how to divide 17 in half? First son can't get 8  ½ elephants. All want a full elephant. So they quarrel and get into a fist fight on the street. Minister notices them, approaches them with his majestic elephant and comes down. He offers them his elephant, that way the sons will have 18 elephants in total. This way, the first son receives 9 elephants. Second son, 6. And third son, 2. That's 17 elephants in total. The clever minister sits back on his 18th maya-elephant.  
  • Moksha:
    • Knowing the truth doesn’t mean mental modes will change, because even happiness is in mode of flux. Also doesn’t mean wise person (jnani) won’t seek anything else. Because the empirical level, the person continues to be like any other. He she may still want a job, to study personal hobbies, do social service. Only difference is — in stage of ignorance, whatever I wanted, it was for my fulfillment. But the fulfillment keeps evading me, as it can never fill an incomplete person. Whereas wise person performs out of fulfillment. In me everything exists, and my body-mind complex is born in this empirical world for a while.
    • Moksha is like understanding the difference between Actor and role. Actor can play any role, but in background knows this is only a role, this isn’t really me. The role needs me, while I am free of the role. I've been hired by my karma to do this role. While I act out according to this empirical individuality according to unique talents and position I've been put in — I remain intrinsically free of this person. This understanding gives you leisure, knowing world isn’t absolutely real. At same time, one doesn’t dismiss the world.
  • NEXT TOPIC: How does whole world / physical and subtle body come about?

Verse: 24 Principles of Creation

atha caturviṃśati-tattvotpatti-prakāraṃ vakṣyāmaḥ
Now (after the discussion centred on ātman), we shall explain the mode of origin of the twenty-four essential principles/factors (of the jagat).

  • Atma undergoes no real change to become the world. If Atma did change, you wouldn’t be sat-cit right now. For example, when milk through a certain process becomes yogurt, we don’t find milk anymore. But in the universe, when look at anything, we find presence of sat (Existence) & cit (Consciousness) — not as an object, but something that’s self-evident to everyone. Even before manifestation of universe, sat-cit was present. After manifestation of universe, exact same sat-cit is present, which is why it’s still recognizable here and now. Otherwise sat-cit would be a belief system, as there would be no way of proving it now, and nobody knows what it was before creation.
  • Because sat-cit and knowledge-power is the same before and after creation — we can map out creation using a reliable model, which remains consistent in all cycles of creation. The model comes from Sankhya and consists of 24 factors used to help explain away the origin of the universe. They are:
    1. From maya (knowledge & power in potential) comes 5 elements (pañca-mahābhūta), from which comes…
    2. 5 organs of perception (pañca-jñānendriya).
    3. 5 organs of action (pañca-karmendriya).
    4. 5 prāṇas.
    5. Inner-instrument (antaḥkaraṇa), consisting of 4 thought modifications (manas, buddhi, citta, ahaṅkāra).
  • Although a question arises. If sat-cit is limitless, never changes, never moves and is One — how how does it become a moving, changing universe of multiplicity. There is an intervening factor explained in next verse…

Verse: Brahman along with māyā is the cause of universe…

brahmāśrayā sattvarajastamo-guṇātmikā māyā asti
Māyā is, with its being in Brahman, endowed with three guṇās (aspects/constituents) sattva, rajas and tamas.

  • Atma was used before to speak of reality, and is now interchanged with word Brahma. In Taittiriya Upanishad, it says, “brahmavid apnoti param”, meaning knower of Brahman gains the highest, and that Brahman is Atma, I. In other words, since everything is Brahman, then you too have to be included in everything. So why is Atma being interchanged with Brahman from now on in the book? Because your notion of Atma, I — has to change from who you think you are — to Atma as being Brahman (limitless Existence-Consciousness). So you don’t keep placing your I, in what you’re used to. It's analogous to initiations in ancient tribes. The “boy” goes through a well put together initiation. Afterwards he is entitled a “man”. He may initially continue to refer to himself as a boy by mere habit. But he is ongoingly reminded, “you are now a man or woman with a new outlook”. Eventually the old habits vanish.
  • Atma vs Brahman:
    • Atma word is used to denote Existence-Consciousness from standpoint of individual. While Brahman word is used to denote Existence-Consciousness from standpoint of totality. EG: Space in room is called “inside space”. And space outside room is called “total space”. But it's still just space.
  • There is something that has it’s being in Brahman, called maya, the intervening factor. It is all-knowledge in potential (meaning it's not manifesting the universe). It depends on consciousness, and makes consciousness as though become all-knowledge.
    • EG: I am free from dream world, with reference to dream world I create, I become all-knowing entity. In reference to dream world, I am knower of dream, and out of my knowledge, I create the dream. At same time, creator of dream (the mind), nor it’s creations pass over to me in the Waking. Even characteristic of Waking don’t stick to me. So status of all-knowledge is in reference to creation. But from standpoint of myself, I’m free even from all-knowledge.
  • ORDER: All knowledge depends on sat-cit. Particles depends on all-knowledge, from which they come about, and through which they organize themselves to become the world. So all-knowledge makes possible this whole creation from which time-space-objects simultaneously occur. And before time-space-objects, the same all-knowledge was in unmanifest form. How does it become manifest? Through it’s own knowledge (blueprint); how things are to organize, interact, look like, what is to be speed of light, how starts are to form, etc.
  • Maya vs Ishvara:
    • Maya is all-knowledge in unmanifest form, but in reference to manifest universe, same all-knowledge is called the “cause of universe”; Ishvara. EG: You’re mother in potential. Reference to created child, you’re mother. Similarly, maya can't be called creator, as creation is yet to come. When creation comes, then the same all-knowledge is called Isvara (cause of the universe, God).


  1. If the final reality (Brahman) is unchanging, unmoving, and One — how do you explain away a changing, moving universe of multiplicity? How can changing come from unchanging? How can two come from One? 

Keywords:  sarvajna, sarva-shaktiman, panca-mahabhuta, panca-jnanendriya, panca-karmendriya, pranas, antahkarana

Credit for help in Tattva Bodha to [1] Chinmaya Mission's Swami Advayananda, [2] Arsha Vidya's Swami Dayananda, [3] Neema Majmudar.

Recorded 26 Nov, 2023

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