What Is the Aim or Purpose of God's Creation?

God and creation

by Jayaram V

Summary: This essay examines why God creates the worlds and being and what is the purpose of his creation.

The answer depends upon how you view the relationship between God and his creation, and whether God and his creation are the same or different. Further, you have to see whether there are eternal and indestructible realities (tattvas) other than God who also participate in it. In Hinduism, you do not always get a clear answer or only one answer to any theological or metaphysical question about transcendental realities. Most of the time, the answer depends upon who asks it and who delivers it, and in what state of consciousness the dialogue takes place.

The metaphysical conundrum

In the totality of existence, all possibilities exist. In the infinite reality, there will be infinite possibilities. Hence, to answer the question, and thereby define the indefinable reality of God,  you have to define the context and add a perspective. The genuine answer to this question is silence. It is what many seers and enlightened yogis and Buddhas do. There are surely people who understand what that silence means, and they will ask no more. However, for the sake of intellect that wants to conceptualize everything, you have to provide a reasonable answer that can in some respects reflect the truth.

The scriptures suggest that God manifests things and worlds for his enjoyment (lila). We cannot accept this argument unless we agree that God is a Being with a distinct personality and identity of his own. The scriptures call him Isvara, the Lord, or Purusha, the Cosmic Person. He has two other aspects, Hiranyagarbha, the golden soul (the holy ghost), and Viraj, the material universe. All these three are considered aspects of Saguna Brahman, or Brahman with qualities, in contrast to Nirguna Brahman, the unknown, unmanifested Brahman, or Brahman without qualities.

The Upanishads also recognize three distinct realities, the Supreme Self (Isvara), the Self (cit), and Nature (acit). Isvara is the lord and creator of the universe and its true owner and inhabitant. The Self (atman or the soul) is eternal, indivisible, and indestructible. Isvara is one, but the souls are numerous. Nature (Prakriti) is the field of creation. She is subject to modifications and responsible for diversity. In your case, you are the soul (atma), your mind and body are Nature. And the one who watches over you is the Supreme Self (paramatma).

Brahman and creation

Now, having considered the primary Upanishadic distinctions of Brahman and related realities, let us return to the question. Depending upon how you interpret the relationship between Brahman and the above mentioned two realities, we have three distinct schools of Vedanta namely Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita.

According to Advaita, God is one. The other two (souls and Nature) are his projections and part of an illusion. Brahman is both the creator and the created, the subject and the object. The distinction between them is purely temporary. When one wakes up in the consciousness of the Self, all distinctions and dualities disappear, just as the pot becomes clay when it is dissilved or the waves subside into the ocean when they fall.

According to Vishishtadvaita, God, souls and Nature are somewhat distinct and have their own separate existence, just as you and your reflection in a mirror appear to be temporarily different. At the end of each cycle of creation, he withdraws them into himself and manifests them again in the next time cycle.

According to Dvaita, the third school, God, souls and Nature have their own independent existence. They are eternal and eternally distinct. There are further divisions and distinctions with in each of them, and they too are real and eternal. Souls will have their own distinction even after their liberation. Thus, duality exists as an essential reality, not as an illusion or projection, from the highest to the lowest.

The last two schools hold that God is an independent entity, while souls and Nature are dependent. Just as there is a distinction between God and souls, there can be distinctions among souls also. Some are eternally free, some bound, some liberated, and some eternally bound. If God is the soul of the universe, individual souls, beings, and worlds are his cosmic body.

Creation with intention

From the standpoint of Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita, we may accept that God creates the worlds and beings for his enjoyment (lila) or to witness the drama of creation as it unfolds before him. It is somewhat similar to daydreaming or creative visualization, where you intentionally direct your thoughts and imagination to create mental pictures. At the end of each cycle of creation, he destroys the worlds and goes to sleep. Both Nature and souls survive the destruction, since they are eternal and indestructible. However, since they are dependent realities both of them also go into a sleeping or resting mode along with Brahman, until Brahman wakes up and returns to his active duty.

Creation as a dream without intention

However, if you go by the argument of Advaita, you may not feel convinced that God creates anything for any reason, purpose or intention. The three, reason, purpose or intention, imply the duality of subject and object and an explicit or implicit motive. They also denote incompleteness, dependence, and imperfection because you seek things when you lack something, need something or depend upon something.

Advaita does not see any of that possibility because it views God as one, without parts, complete, perfect, and totally independent. The duality of subject and object is also absent in him. Hence, he is free from delusion (maya) of duality, modes (gunas), divisions, desires and attachments. There is no sense of otherness in him. He is also not bound to any specific purpose, agenda, or intention. Therefore, if any worlds manifest out of him, it is just the way a flower blooms or the wind blows.

For Advaita, creation is just a happening without specific motive or purpose. If there is one, it must be inherent to the supreme reality. God must be enabling it without any particular aim, purpose, or reason. Like the waves that rise and fall into the ocean, the worlds and universes must be appearing and disappearing in his consciousness without any reason. There may be rhyme or order to it because rytha (order and regularity) is part of his natural perfection, Hence, creation may happen at regular intervals in a cyclical fashion according to the natural beat of Time that is inherent to him, not because he intentionally sets up an alarm and exercises his will to start or end each cycle of creation, or to wake up or to go to sleep.

If this world is a dream of God, as the Advaita school declares, then there can be no specific reason for existence or for creation. It must be happening on its own without any specific motive or intention. It is just like your dreams.Who can purposefully dream any dreams or end them? Dreams just happen. There is no purpose, and no written script. They arise and subside like waves in your consciousness. Similarly, these worlds, universes and life forms must be spontaneously arising and disappearing in the consciousness of God forever without any preordained script.

The riddle of why

No one can answer the why of existence. No one can tell you why the universe exists, what purpose it serves and why it is created. You also cannot answer why and for what ultimate purpose you exist. You may speculate upon it, theorize it, and ponder about it, but you cannot be sure. You do not know why you are born, or why in the order of things the sun is set to rise in the east and the earth has only five continents. Whatever predictions astrologers make about the world or people is based on the regularity or the pattern (rytha), not certainty. It is because no one, including God himself, knows the script. It is like a writer or an artist beginning his or her creation with a free mind, without any specific plot, theme, or aim in mind.

The Nasadiya Sukta from the Rigveda (10.129) expresses this difficulty in the following verse that no one knows the why of creation. No one knows why the worlds come into existence, and whether He, the Brahman, also has any knowledge of it.

Who verily knows and who can here declare it,
Whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than this world's production.
Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation,
whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven,
He verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

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