To understand the ‘When’ of creation, science speculates different theories at different points in time. Thus in regards to existence, there were the inconclusive theory of the ‘big bang’ –- inconclusive because any ‘beginning’ presupposes a ‘recurrence’. Moreover, it is now acknowledged that the world described by physics is not an independently existing structure. Actually, the theory that space came into existence at the moment of the big bang cannot justify how space emerged from non-space. If we conceptualize a pre-spatial level of reality to account for the big bang, then, logically, we have to trace the origin of consciousness to those properties of the universe that antedate and explain the occurrence of big bang. If so, consciousness can turn out to be older than matter in space. (Readers interested in Consciousness Studies from multiple perspectives can refer to The Nature of Consciousness, edited by Ned Block etal, London, Bradford, 1998)
Then there is the ‘when’ aspect of emergence of ‘conscious life’ from ‘inconscient’ matter. Someone in desperation opined that ‘life ‘entered earth from another planet to which Sri Aurobindo quipped ‘To the thinker that would explain nothing. The essential question is how Life comes into Matter at all and not how it enters into the matter of a particular planet’ (The Life Divine, pg 97, footnote). Actually, Indian spirituality experienced two dimensions that simultaneously co-exist: Time and Timelessness. If the creation is a ‘recurrent’ phenomenon, this recurrence also exists in eternity!
However, the ‘Why’ of creation is the most intriguing. Science does not attempt to answer this question, avoiding it with a cursory tag of ‘chance’ or ‘accident’. It is in this sphere that Indian spiritual metaphysics is at its best. It has given an answer that is one of the best spiritual gifts to humanity!
It explains that Creation exists due to a SELF-EXISTENT BLISS OR ANANDA: an implicit joy that exists just for its own sake.
NATURE OF ANANDA
This Ananda or Bliss is very much different from our usual notions of pleasure, happiness and joy. It is a self-aware, self-existent delight, is not dependent on anything and is not determined by anything.
The most important psychological perspective of ‘Ananda’ is that it exists, sui generis, WITHOUT ANY MOTIVE. In our ordinary experience, motivation is the internal energizer of our activities, behaviors, emotions, and ideals. That something can exist without any motivation, ‘ahetuka’ but just for the ‘joy’ of its own ‘joy’ is a unique psychological experience.
Actually, this Ananda is an INTRINSIC aspect of the supreme Reality perceived as Sachchidananda. We have discussed before that the nature of Reality has been construed as a triune of ‘Existence-Consciousness- Force- Bliss’ – principles that are NOT ADDITIVE but different poises of the same Reality. This means that ‘Bliss’ or Ananda is the VERY NATURE of Reality. It is not merely a ‘value’ aspect of Reality BUT THE VERY SUBSTANCE OF REALITY.
Sri Aurobindo makes a very important observation of the fact that ANANDA is IN-BUILT within Reality and not a value imposed by an extra-cosmic creator. This observation is important, as the concept of Bliss has to tackle two fundamental contradictions:
(a) THE EMOTIONAL AND SENSATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS OF PAIN; and
(b) THE ETHICAL PROBLEM OF EVIL.
Sri Aurobindo elaborates these two issues in detail in The Life Divine. In the process, He presents His own unique theory of ETHICS, which we will deal in our post-script.
What is Fundamental; DELIGHT OR PAIN?
How do we know that which is more fundamental (or in other words-which is ‘more true’) -- pleasure or pain? Sri Aurobindo answers that DELIGHT is primary. If pain appears to be more fundamental, it is ‘AN ERROR OF PERSPECTIVE’ (Ibid, Pg.102)
‘If we regard it dispassionately and with a sole view to accurate and unemotional appreciation, we shall find that the sum of the pleasure of existence far exceeds the sum of the pain of existence, - appearances and individual cases to the contrary notwithstanding, - and that the active or passive, surface or underlying pleasure of existence is the normal state of nature, pain a contrary occurrence temporarily suspending or overlaying that normal state. But for that very reason the lesser sum of pain affects us more intensely and often looms larger than the greater sum of pleasure; precisely because the latter is normal, we do not treasure it, hardly even observe it unless it intensifies into some acuter form of itself, into a wave of happiness, a crest of joy or ecstasy. It is these things that we call delight and seek and the normal satisfaction of existence which is always there regardless of event and particular cause or object, affects us as something neutral which is neither pleasure nor pain. It is there, a great practical fact, for without it there would not be the universal and overpowering instinct of self-preservation, but it is not what we seek and therefore we do not enter it into our balance of emotional and sensational profit and loss. In that balance we enter only positive pleasures on one side and discomfort and pain on the other; pain affects us more intensely because it is abnormal to our being, contrary to our natural tendency and is experienced as an outrage on our existence, an offence and external attack on what we are and seek to be’. (Ibid)
DOES GOD PUNISH?
If the human being is subject to pain and suffering, does that imply that God is revengeful? This question is difficult to answer if God is considered to be an extracosmic creator, a Being who has ‘created’ the world. ‘If we say that pain is a trial and an ordeal, we do not solve the moral problem, we arrive at an immoral or non-moral God, - an excellent world-mechanist perhaps, a cunning psychologist, but not a God of Good and of Love whom we can worship, only a God of Might to whose law we must submit or whose caprice we may hope to propitiate’ (Ibid, pg 103).
Certain traditions of India tried to solve this problem by having recourse to the law of Karma where we suffer or enjoy in accordance with our deeds (or misdeeds) in antenatal births! Such a law runs automatically and does not need moral policing by an outside agency like God. “ The inexorable law of Karma is irreconcilable with a supreme moral and personal Deity, and therefore the clear logic of Buddha denied the existence of any free and all-governing personal God; all personality he declared to be a creation of ignorance and subject to Karma” (Ibid).
Sri Aurobindo approaches this problem from a different perspective:
1 Firstly, He does not view karma in the traditional mechanical way. He expounds His own notions much later in The Life Divine when He talks about rebirth. Suffice it is to note at this moment that our usual account of karma is based on ‘the mere mental assumption that the workings of Nature ought to be moral and proceed according to an exact mortality of equal justice- a scrupulous, even mathematical law of reward and punishment or, at any rate, of results according to a human idea of right correspondences. But Nature is non-moral – she uses forces and processes moral, immoral and amoral pell-mell for working out her business. Nature in her outward aspect seems to care for nothing except to get things done- or else to make conditions for an ingenious variety of the play of life. Nature in her deeper aspect as a conscious spiritual Power is concerned with the growth, by experience, the spiritual development of the souls she has in her charge – and these souls themselves have a say in the matter. All these good people lament and wonder that unaccountably they and other good people are visited with such meaningless sufferings and misfortunes. But are they really visited with them by an outside Power or by a mechanical Law of Karma? Is it not possible that the soul itself- not the outward mind, but the spirit within- has accepted and chosen these things as part of its development in order to get through the necessary experience at a rapid rate, to hew through, durchhauen, even at the risk or the cost of much damage to the outward life and the body? To the growing soul, to the spirit within us, may not difficulties, obstacles, attacks be means of growth, added strength, enlarged experience, training for spiritual victory? The arrangement of things may be that and not a mere question of the pounds, shillings and pence of a distribution of rewards and retributory misfortunes! (Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, 1969 ed, Tome One, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education Collection, Vol.VI, Pondicherry , pg 434-435)
2 Secondly, the Indian concept of Reality is Sachchidananda that does not have a place for an extra-cosmic creator. The Supreme Consciousness is self-existent, self-aware, and self-evolving. This itself is the Divine. (That is why Sri Aurobindo prefers the word ‘Divine’ as it is relates to a poise of Consciousness rather than ‘God’ which sounds rather anthropometrical!) ‘Sachchidananda of the Vedanta is one existence without a second; all that is, is He. If then evil and suffering exist, it is He that bears the evil and suffering in the creature in whom He has embodied Himself. The problem
then changes entirely. The question is no longer how came God to create for His creatures a suffering and evil of which He is Himself incapable and therefore immune, but how came the sole and infinite Existence-Consciousness-Bliss to admit into itself that which is not bliss, that which seems to be its positive negation.’(The Life Divine, pg 104)
Sri Aurobindo approaches this riddle in this and the subsequent chapter by
1. Propounding a new theory of ethics
2. Reinterpreting the concept of Maya (which is popularly considered to be an illusion)
3. Espousing Existence as the matrix for the Divine Play or Lila.
But when shall Krishna’s dance through Nature move,
His mask of sweetness, laughter, rapture, love?
(Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, Pg 149)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu