A logical argument for the existence of energies in Bhagavān

The Advaitavādis reject the notion that the absolute truth has energies. As such, for them the material world does not exist, because the absolute truth, or Brahman is completely devoid of energies required for acting, for cognition and for experience.

Śrī Jīva Goswami presents a logical argument derived from the Bhāgavatam for why the absolute truth must have śaktis. In Anuchheda 16, he quotes a question by Śrī Maitreya to Śrī Parāśara in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, which expresses the viewpoint of the Advaitavādis:

निर्गुणस्याप्रमेयस्य शुद्धस्याप्यमलात्मनः।कथं सर्गादिकर्तृत्वं ब्रह्मणोSभ्युपगम्यते।।

Brahman is free of material qualities, immeasurable, completely pure and spotless in essence. How then can we attribute to it the agency behind creation, maintenance and dissolution of the world? Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.3.1

This question assumes the absolute truth to be formless Brahman. Agents in the world have a material body, senses and mind. As Brahman is not material, it cannot have any agency, i.e. any energy to act. How can it then be called the creator of the material world?

Interestingly, Śrī Parāśara replied to this question by proving logically that Brahman has energies, i.e. he answered the question with Bhagavān in mind (as the indeterminate Brahman does not have any attributes) :

शक्तयः सर्वभावानामचिन्त्यज्ञानगोचराः। यतोSतो ब्रह्मणस्तास्तु सर्गाद्या भावशक्तयः।भवन्ति तपसां श्रेष्ठ पावकस्य यथोष्णता।।

O best of the ascetics, the energies of all existent objects are inconceivable but perceptible by intuitive knowledge, just like heat in fire. Similarly, know that Brahman’s energies, such as its creative power, are inconceivable and beyond human intelligence. Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.3.2

In answering the question, Śrī Parāśara used an analogy and logic to conclude that Bhagavān has intrinsic energies in Him, and that He acts through this energies to create, maintain and destroy the world. Śrī Jīva’s commentary on Śrī Parāśara’s reply is reproduced below:

लोके हि सर्वेषां भावानां मणिमन्त्रादीनां शक्तयोSचिन्त्यज्ञानगोचराः। अचिन्त्यं तर्कासहं यज्ज्ञानं कार्यान्यथानुपपत्तिप्रमाणकं तस्य गोचरा सन्ति।

In the material world, ‘the energies of all existent objects’ (śaktayaḥ-sarva bhāvānām), such as gems and mantras, are ‘inconceivable but perceptible’ (acintya-jñāna-gocarāḥ). The words acintya-jñāna refer to knowledge that confounds rationality and must be obtained by simple acceptance of the effects (kārya-anyathā-anupapatti). By such knowledge, the existence of energies is perceived (tasya gocarāḥ santi).

यत एवमतो ब्रह्मणोSपि तास्तथाविधाः शक्तयः सर्गादिहेतुभूता भावशक्तयः स्वभाविद्धाः शक्तयः सन्त्येव पावकस्य दाहकत्वादिशक्तिवत्। अतो गुणादिहीनस्याप्यचिन्त्यशक्तिमत्त्वाद् ब्रह्मणः सर्गादिकर्तृत्वं घटत इत्यर्थः।

This being the case with ordinary phenomena, then certainly inconceivable real potencies inhere in Brahman, that are the cause of creation, maintenance and so forth. The conclusion is that even though Brahman is devoid of the guṇas of nature, by its inconceivable energies, it is the agent behind creation, maintenance and dissolution of the world.

The logic is as follows. When we sit near a fire, we feel its heat. A magnet moves iron filings from a distance. While we cannot directly perceive that the magnet has magnetism or that fire has heat in it, we conclude from the effect that the fire and the magnet, both have intrinsic energy in it. This may be inconceivable to us as we cannot see the energies themselves, but the existence of energies cannot be denied simply because their effects cannot be denied. Śrī Parāśara extends this to all real objects- all real objects have energies in them.

The next part of the argument is that Brahman, which is the one non-dual reality, must similarly have energies in it because the material world is an effect which cannot be denied (here, the assumption is that the material world is real). Of course, here the word Brahman refers to Bhagavān and not the attributeless Brahman.

Śrī Jīva points out that the energies in Bhagavān are intrinsic to it, and not superimposed from elsewhere, just as the energy of fire is intrinsic to it and not derived from something external to it. But unlike fire whose energy can be subdued (e.g. by using an insulating material to enclose it), Bhagavān’s energies cannot be subdued by anything. This is because unlike the fire, there is nothing in existence which can act independently of Bhagavān.

Categories: Bhagavān, Brahman

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