If the atman of a person is static in nature and unaffected by anything and it was identical to the mind, the mind also would have to be static and not affected by anything. You could never feel sick;sad or happy at different times.a changeless (in terms of its nature or otherwise)static self couldn’t do anything because it’s static, so how could it control the aggregates or possess them and do anything – in one moment do this, in one moment do something else?a changeless atman would either constantely do one thing or nothing at all.it would feel and think one thing or nothing at all.so Creation,maintenance and destruction by Ishvara would be impossible.Prayala would be impossible.And the fact that we can multi-task and do many things at the same time and different times (the fact that we can multi-task) means that the atman is made up with parts. also,Consciousness can't exist without a object to be conscious of,so creation must always have been there. So what is Advaita saying about the atman that its Changeless in nature and one etc?

is it talking about the material' substance 'of the soul only?

the Advaitins and Trika Shaivas state that brahman has one permanent nature,but to have one nature means to only be able to act within that nature.if bliss and omniscience were our nature,we would not be able to change our nature to feel sad and ignorance.if Ishvara were creator,he would always create constantely forever without prayala.

  • what Im basically saying is only prakasha could be static not vimarsha.
    – johny man
    Jun 22, 2020 at 14:27
  • Mind is not identical to Atman, rather its property, just like property of your leg is to walk, property of nose is to breathe, but these properties are nothing without the subject Atman. Just like a body without Atman is dead and rots. In simple example, the electricity supplied to your home runs TV, fridge, washing machine etc., many tasks can be done from the single line of electricity, but can you watch tv or wash clothes on electric wire or board itself?TV & electricity are useless without each other.Similarly, atman is static and source of Maya, but you cant think or walk on atman itself
    – user20656
    Jun 22, 2020 at 16:00
  • but even if prakasha gives rise to vimarsha,then as a cause it is impermanent and changing and active.so why to trika Shaivas say even that prakasha is inactive?just replace ishvara with prakasha and vimarsha with maya/buddhi and the same query can be applied to advaita vedanta.a unchanging self would thus be impossible.
    – johny man
    Jun 23, 2020 at 9:55
  • 'That which is infinite is immortal, and that which is finite is mortal.’ Chandogya Upanishad 7.24.1 Prakasha, Vimarsha, Purusha, Prakriti are an expression of Brahman but not the Brahman itself.In a huge ocean, waves are seen rising only from close, but from far away, ocean is static and serene,similarly Brahman/Kshetragya is infinite with Maya/Kshetra as its superimposition. Kshetragya/consciousness is independent of Kshetra/matter, thats why soul continues to exist even after the death of any material body(gist of Geeta).Its because of one's ignorance,.one reincarnates,not because of God
    – user20656
    Jun 23, 2020 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


This question is actually raised and answered in Sri Vidyaranya Swami's Pancadasi, especially in verses VI. 155-200 (here - http://www.shankaracharya.org/panchadasi_trans.php). The translator, Swami Swahananda, has extensive commentary on most of the verses; too extensive to put into this answer. The link provides the actual verse translation of Vidyaranya by Swahananda, but not the original Sanskrit text or Swahananda's commentary in the hardcopy. The commentary of Swahananda below is from hardcopy. Only the commentary from verse 156 and part of 157 is provided below.

  1. It is said by the Shruti that Jiva and Ishvara are creations of Maya, being reflections of Atman in it. Ishvara is like the reflection of the sky in the cloud; Jiva is like the reflection of the sky in water.

Tapaniya Up. 9.

  1. Maya is comparable to a cloud and the mental impressions in the Buddhi are like the water-particles which make up the cloud. The reflected consciousness in Maya is like the sky reflected in the water-particles of the cloud.

commentary: Ajana is the adjunct of Isvara-bhava, not the Vasanas in Buddhi. The implication is that like the reflection of the sky in water-particles of a cloud, the existence of God in not felt but guessed, and therefore, is not very clear as that of 'I'-consciousness.

This stanza has, however, given rise to a controversy, which though needless in a way, has cleared an important point in the Advaita philosophy. This Sloka is evidently an explanation of the previous one; and it explains what Isvara or God is: God is the immutable consciousness as reflected on the impressions of Buddhi contained in Maya; becauase these impressions have been likened to the water-particles in a cloud, which is compared to Maya.

Maya, as such, contains within itself everything in creation. So, pure consciousness getting identified with it becomes all-knowing. There is no need of bringing in 'impressions of mind'. Again, by bringing them in, we are involved in unnecessary contradictions, thus (1) Impressions are many, therefore identifications with these will make Isvara also many. (2) If 'impressions' means individual impressions, each of them giving one idea, Isvara will be limited in knowledge and not all-knowing. (3) If, however, 'impressions' means the entire collection of ideas then this collection takes place only in Pralaya (dissolution) and there will, therefore, be no Isvara during creation and maintenance periods of the universe. These difficulties are real.

But identifications with mere Maya is not the solution either. For, Maya, the universal Sattva, by itself is devoid of variety; and when we attribute all-knowingness to Isvara, we do not think of Isvara's knowledge of the entire gamut of the variety, severally and collectively. It is only the impressions of Buddhi that create variety; and these impressions are ever-lasting throughout creation in all its three stages of creation, maintenance, and dissolution, undergoing transformation from gross to subtle, subtle to causal and back from causal to subtle, etc. So the author has very wisely taken both Maya as such and the impressions of Buddhi as Isvara's upadhi--the identification with the former gives unity to Isvara and that with the later brings in variety. Only 'impressions' are not to be taken as gross and subtle impressions but their causal stages which, with their whole history, lie latent in the universal Sattva which is Maya. If they are not kept in view all-knowingness of Isvara will be impaired.

  1. Shruti says that this (pure universal) consciousness reflected in Maya is Ishvara which controls Maya as well. The great Ishvara is the inner ruler, omniscient and cause of the universe.

commentary: Vide Svetasvatara Up. 4.9-10, Mandukya Up. 6.

  1. The Shruti, in the passage beginning with 'the consciousness in the deep sleep' and ending in 'He is the Lord of all' describes this 'sheath of bliss' as the Ishvara.

commentary: Vide Mandukya Up. 5.6. Brhadanranyaka Up. 4.4.22

Here Isvara is the consciousness reflected in the totality of bliss-sheaths. It has been stated above that Isvara is the reflection of consciousness in the Vasana, and as the bliss sheath is nothing else than a reflection, it is called Isvara. This, however, is a concession to those who cannot comprehend the higher conceptions in the beginning.

Here the author clearly says that this 'sheath' of bliss' is Isvara. Much dust of controversy, as over the previous Sloka, has been raised over this statement. The point, however, is this: A Jiva is a reflected consciousness individualized, and Isvara is the reflected consciousness of the totality. Now can there be totality without individuals? So Isvara must, of necessity, include Jivas. In each drop of Ganges water the Ganges abides and yet all the drops severally do not constitute the Ganges, which over and above all of them is a unity. [the commentary on this verse continues for over another page]

  1. The omniscience and other properties of the bliss sheath are not to be questioned, because the assertions of the Shruti are beyond dispute and because everything is possible in Maya.

  2. Since nobody has the power to alter the world of waking and dream states which are projected from the bliss-sheath, it is proper to call it the Lord of all.

  3. In the bliss-sheath inhere all the desires and mental impressions of all living beings. In as much as it knows them (impressions) all, it is called omniscient.

  4. (Doubt): The omniscience, alleged to be the nature of the bliss-sheath, is not evident because the impressions are not known directly. (Reply): Its knowledge of the impressions (though not directly felt) is inferred from observation of its presence in all mentations.

  5. Since Ishvara (the consciousness in the bliss-sheath) abides in and activates and controls all the functions of all other sheaths beginning with that of the intellect and elsewhere also in creation, it is called the inner controller.

  6. The Shruti says that the Lord abides in the intellect and has the intellect as His body (instrument); but the intellect does not know Him; it is itself controlled by Him.

  7. As threads pervade a piece of cloth and constitute its material cause, so the Inner Ruler, pervading the whole universe, is the material cause of the universe.

  8. Just as the threads are subtler than the cloth and the fibres of the threads subtler than the threads themselves, even so, where this progress from the subtle to the subtler stops, there do we confront the Inner Ruler.

  9. Being minuter than the minute of the second and third degree, the inmost Being is not subject to perception; but by reasoning and by Shruti His existence is ascertained.

  10. As a piece of cloth is said to be the body of the threads which become the cloth, so when He has become the universe it is described as His body.

  11. When threads are contracted or expanded, or any motion is imparted to them, the cloth similarly behaves - it has no independence at all.

  12. Similarly the worldly objects assume the forms in the manner He transforms them according to their past desires and impressions. There is no doubt about it.

  13. In the Gita Sri Krishna says: 'O Arjuna, the Lord abides in the hearts of all beings and makes them revolve by His Maya as if mounted on a wheel'. [Gita: XVIII-61]

  14. 'All beings' in the above passage means the Jivas or the sheaths of intellect which abide in the hearts of all beings. Being their material cause, the Lord appears to undergo changes with them.

  15. By the word 'wheel' is meant the cage of the body with sheaths etc. By saying that all beings are 'mounted on the wheel' is meant that they have come to consider the body as the ego. By the word 'revolve' is meant the performance of good and bad deeds.

  16. The meaning of the expression 'The Lord makes them revolve by His Maya', is that the Lord by his power of Maya becomes involved in the intellect-sheath and seems to change with the operations of the intellect.

  17. The same meaning is expressed by the Shruti saying that the Lord is called the inner controller. By applying this reason one can come to the same conclusion with regard to the physical elements and all other objects.

  18. 'I know what is virtue, but my inclination is not mine to practise it; I know what is vice, but my desisting from it is not mine but His. I do as I am prompted by some god seated in my heart.'

  19. From the above verse do not think that individual efforts are not necessary, for the Lord transforms Himself as those efforts.

  20. This theory does not contradict the idea of the Lord prompting every thing, for one who has known Ishvara to be the controller of things knows his Self as non-attached.

  21. Both the Shruti and the tradition declare this knowledge of the non-attachment of the Self to be the cause of release. It is also stated in Varaha-Purana that both the scriptural and the traditional truths are from the Lord.

  22. The Shruti declares that in fear of Him the forces of nature operate, showing that His commandments engender fear. So His lordship over all beings is different from His inner Rulership of them.

  23. One Shruti passage says that the suns and planets move at the command of the Lord. Another Shruti passage says that the Lord entering the human body controls it from within.

  24. The Lord is said to be the source of the universe, for He causes the creation and dissolution of the world. By creation and dissolution are meant the manifestation and demanifestation of the world.

  25. The world remains potential as impressions in the Lord and He causes its manifestation in accordance with the past deeds of beings. Creation is like the unrolling of a painted canvas.

  26. If the painted canvas is rolled up, the picture is no longer visible. In the same way, when the Karma of beings is exhausted, the Lord withdraws into Himself the universe with all that it contains (i.e., all remain in a latent form).

  27. The creation and destruction of the world are comparable to day and night, to the waking and sleeping states, to the opening and closing of the eyes and the activity and quiescense of the mind.

  28. Ishvara is endowed with the power of Maya which is the power of manifesting and demanifesting, so the objections to the theory that creation has a beginning or that it is evolutionary or that things are naturally endowed with certain special qualities do not apply to it.

  29. Ishvara through the Tamas of Maya is the cause of the inanimate objects and through the reflection of the supreme intelligence Ishvara is the cause of the Jivas.

  30. It is objected that the cause of the bodies is that aspect of Paramatman in which Tamas predominates and that of the Jivas is that aspect where intelligence predominates. So Paramatman alone is their cause in accordance with their inner impressions, moral and spiritual actions.

  31. Thus Sureshvaracharya, the author of Vartika, has attributed the cause of the animate and inanimate creation to Paramatman and not to Ishvara.

  32. Our reply is that Acharya Sureshvara holds Brahman to be the cause of the world, but he has taken for granted the mutual superimposition of Ishvara and Brahman even as that of Jiva and Kutastha.

  33. The Shruti explains clearly that from Brahman, who is truth, knowledge and infinity, arose Akasa, air, fire, water, earth, herbs, food, bodies and so forth.

  34. Superficially it looks as if Brahman were the cause of the world and that Ishvara were a real entity. This cannot be explained except by the mutual superimposition of the true nature of Brahman on Ishvara and the creativity of Ishvara on Brahman.

  35. In a piece of cloth stiffened with starch, the starch becomes one with the cloth; so by the process of mutual superimposition the ignorant conceive Ishvara to be one with Paramatman.

  36. As the dull-witted imagine that the Akasa reflected in a cloud is the Akasa absolute, so the undiscriminating do not see the distinction between Brahman and Ishvara.

  37. By deep enquiry and by the application of the rules of interpretation to the Vedic text we come to know that Brahman is associationless and unconditioned by Maya, whereas Ishvara is the creator conditioned by Maya.

  38. The Vedas declare Brahman to be truth, knowledge and infinity and also that speech and the other organs cannot grasp it. Thus it is determined that Brahman is associationless.

  39. Another Shruti says that Ishvara, the Lord of Maya, creates the universe, whereas the Jiva is controlled by Maya. So Ishvara, associated with Maya, is the creator.

  40. As the deep sleep state passes into dream state, so Ishvara who is known as the sheath of bliss, transforms Himself into Hiranyagarbha, when He, the one, wills to be many.

  41. There are two types of Shruti text describing the creation of the world either as a gradual evolution or as instantaneous. There is no contradiction, for the dream world sometimes arises gradually out of deep sleep, but at other times it arises instantaneously.

  42. Hiranyagarbha or Sutratman, otherwise called the subtle-body, is the totality of the subtle bodies of all Jivas. He conceives Himself as the totality of all egos or 'I' - consciousnesses, like the threads of a piece of cloth; and He is said to be endowed with the powers of volition, conation and cognition.

  • the problem with that is that Buddhi has not arisen so it cannot cease.so how can the infinite Awareness be experienced or brought to be dominant?something that exists,cannot go into nonexistance.similarly,something that doesn't exist cannot go into existance.so how can you get rid of samsaric mind if it has not been arisen even conventionally?
    – johny man
    Jun 23, 2020 at 9:41
  • and if ishvara gives rise to Buddhi,then ishvara is changing and impermanent and a cause cannot be static.if active buddhi/maya is coadjutunt to a static maya then liberation is not possible.
    – johny man
    Jun 23, 2020 at 10:05
  • @johnyman As far as i know, in Advaita vedanta, Ishwara has two descriptions. The first description is that Ishwara is the personal god who is limited by a anthropomorphic form or upadhi, who operates only in the realm of maya/multiplicity and also controls maya or the world of multiplicity. Since He has a limited form, He can move from one location to another if HE wishes to do so, (like from a heavenly abode to a material plane). But Ishwara is not the cause of all causes. It is the static, infinite, substratum Brahman which gives rise to the form of Ishwara. Apr 4, 2022 at 9:32
  • @johnyman When Brahman reflects in maya, or in other words, when the unmanifested Brahman with the use of its power maya, manifests as an all-powerful, all-knowing entity with a limited form, the same Brahman now becomes Ishwara. And yet after the rise of Ishwara, the impersonal Brahman continues to remain in the background as a static infinite substratum, without undergoing any change. Apr 4, 2022 at 9:41
  • @johnyman The second or alternative description of Ishwara in Advaita Vedanta is that, Ishwara is the sum total of all causal, subtle and physical bodies. In other words, He is the entire creation. He is the total cosmos. Now, you might say, if Ishwara is the totality and not just a limited entity (if we go by this second description), then doesn't that make Ishwara static? My answer to that is, No ... When we say Ishwara is the totality, we mean He is the entire cosmos. The whole cosmos is a massive realm but its NOT infinite. Apr 4, 2022 at 10:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .