If I am Brahman as Shankara states:

 I am other than name, form and action.
 My nature is ever free!
 I am Self, the supreme unconditioned Brahman.
 I am pure Awareness, always non-dual.

 — Adi Shankara, Upadesasahasri 11.7

Why does the supreme unconditioned Brahman appear as multiplicity? What is the point of existence? Why did the Universe come into being?

I am obviously thinking within my dualistic mind, but I don't understand why the One became Many. Is there a purpose to the One becoming the Universe? Are we all a dream in the mind of God, and finding our way back to realizing that we are God? I just don't understand why the One became Many, or at least appears to be Many to the individual person through Maya. Why does Maya exist within Brahman?

Why is there appearance instead of reality?

  • 1
    Relevant: What is the need of creation?
    – Pandya
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 1:53
  • The difference between Shankara's 'I am' and your 'I am' is the ego. Maya is the temporary matrix within Brahman which ultimately ends with body's death. Buddha saw dead, old, diseased and left home to seek truth and found peace only in enlightenment. You have many questions, answer to all of them is Self. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
    – user21800
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 17:08
  • It is His sport. See Brahma Sutras 2.1.33 here - wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 6:37
  • Alex here's my opinion. Universe exists because it always existed.
    – user22253
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 16:14
  • From Advaitic perspective, neither there was creation nor destruction. It was just Maya. Yoga Vasista explains this with many examples. [@Destroyer : hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/13969/277]
    – user29449
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 6:49

4 Answers 4


There are two answers in the Hindu scripture to the above question.

The first answer is that Brahman as Viraj was lonely. Philosophers do not like this answer since Brahman is by definition full and thus cannot have any want.

Who is Viraj?

In the beginning, this [universe] was the self (Viraj) alone, in the shape of a person. He reflected and saw nothing else but His self. He first said: "I am He." Therefore He came to be known by the name I (Aham). Hence, even now, when a person is addressed, he first says: "It is I," and then says whatever other name he may have. And because He, before (purva) the whole group [of aspirants], burnt (aushat) all evils, therefore He is called Purusha. He who knows this verily burns up him who wishes to be [Viraj] in advance of him.

Brhadaranyaka Upanishad I.IV.1

Viraj: The first embodied being, born of the Cosmic egg. He is endowed with a human form. It is important to remember that Sankaracharya uses the word Prajapati to denote both Hiranyagarbha and Viraj. The former applies to Brahman when identified, through maya, with the totality of subtle bodies, and the latter, to Brahman when identified through maya, with the totality of gross bodies.

Commentary of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad I.IV.1 by Swami Nikhilananda

He was afraid. Therefore one who is alone is afraid. This one who is alone then thought to himself, 'since there is nothing else than myself, of what am I afraid?' Thereupon his fear, verily, passed away, for, of what should he have been afraid? Assuredly it is from a second that fear arises.

Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad I.4.2

He, verily, had no delight. Therefore he who is alone has no delight. He desired a second. He became as large as a woman and a man in close embrace. ............

Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad I.4.3

Hiranya-garbha or Prajapati divided himself into two. Both are his elements. The two are not separate and the theory is not one of final dualism. ................ The original being, atman or self looks around and sees nothing else but himself. When he realizes his loneliness, he has two feelings, one of fear and the other of desire for companionship. His fear is dispelled when he realizes that there is nothing else of which he has to be afraid. His desire for companionship is satisfied by his dividing himself into parts which are then called husband and wife.

The Principal Upanishads by Radhakrishnan

The second answer is lila. It is all done as lila or as sport.

On Lila

The Supreme Spirit, being approached (at His behest) by His own subtle Divine Power (Prakrti, Universal Nature), constituted of the three Gunas (Dispositions called Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), looked at her sportively, as it were, and thereby endowed her with the power of world evolution by impregnating her with his own emanation as the Jiva or the individual spirit.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana III.26.4

There is also a verse in Brahma Sutra that talks of the universe as the pastime of Brahman.

But (creation for Brahman is) a mere pastime like what is seen in the world.

Brahma Sutra II.1.33 of Sri Sankaracharya translated by Swami Gambhirananda

  • Thanks for this answer ... Is this Hiranyagarbha/Prajapati mentioned in Brhd-Aranyaka Upanishad 1.4.3 in your post the four headed deity Brahma or is it the formless Nirguna Brahman? Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 13:59
  • Pradip Advaitins literally say that Maya was Anadi. So Ishwara was never alone as such.
    – user22253
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 16:12
  • 1
    @TheCrimsonUniverse, Hiranyagarbha is Brahma. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 4:15
  • @MrGreenGold, Maya Sakti may be anadi but the universe manifests and de-manifests. What happens when the universe de-manifests after MahaPralaya? Can you then call Brahman Isvara? Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 4:17
  • @PradipGangopadhyay but Pradip what are you calling as universe. If you call pancha bhootas as universe ofcourse they and come go. And at Mahapralaya they completely go back into Moola Prakruti or Maya. But if we call Moola Prakruti or Maya as Universe, she never goes away, even during. Mahapralaya. Even after Mahapralaya Brahman is not Ishwara. Brahman never becomes alone because if he becomes alone and the creates something Vaishamya Nairgrunya is violated.
    – user22253
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 5:32

Why does the supreme unconditioned Brahman appear as multiplicity?

The Yoga-Vasistha has the following to say on this question.

The appearance of diverse objects in the universe arises in the infinite consciousness when it becomes aware of itself—coincidentally (like a ripe cocoanut falling when a crow alights on it). Whenever and wherever this consciousness contemplates itself in whatever manner, then and there it appears so, without any cause.

Note: The crow and the coconut (kākatālīya) is a well-known logic used to indicate things which happen purely by random chance, coincidence or accident.

The Yoga-Vasistha repeats the above position of accidental creation at many places -

This creation does not arise as a ‘memory’ in the infinite consciousness. It arises in the consciousness without any reason or cause whatsoever (it is a coincidence like the ripe cocoanut falling when a crow alights on it);

Originally, Brahman alone existed as Brahman. In it innumerable substances appeared like ripples on the surface of the ocean. This is known as nature. It is not causally related to Brahman, but it happened like a cocoanut accidentally falling when a crow happened to alight on it. In that nature are found diverse creatures endowed with diverse characteristics.

The notion ‘I’ arises in Brahman accidentally (like the crow alighting on the cocoanut tree and the cocoanut falling down without causal relationship).

this entire creation of world-appearance is but an accidental manifestation of the intention of the omnipotent conscious-energy (cit-sakti) of the infinite consciousness or Brahman.

The cosmic order arises and exists in the supreme being or the infinite consciousness by sheer coincidence (as the ripe cocoanut falls when a crow coincidentally alights on it).

In this world which appears to have been created, even as the fruit of cocoanut-palm might appear to have been dislodged by a crow which coincidentally happens to alight on the tree at that moment, sheer ignorance generates feelings like ‘this I should have’ and ‘this I should reject’.

Further, stories of creation are all treated as ultimately false by the Yoga-Vasistha -

Theories concerning creation or the transformation of the self or consciousness into matter are expressions used by teachers while instructing students; there is not an iota of truth in all this.

As per the Yoga Vasistha, Creation is thus an accident, occuring randomly without any cause.


The Universe or Brahmand(the Cosmic egg) is a temporary yet eternal time-based illusion or Maya, a projection in the formless Brahman.

Srimad Bhagvatam Canto 12

Chapter 4: Pralaya: The Four Types of Annihilation

(1) S'rî S'uka said: 'Time beginning with the smallest unit of the atom and culminating in the two halves [or parârdhas of the life of Brahmâ], oh King, has been described [in 3.11] together with the duration of the yugas. Now hear about the annihilation of a kalpa. (2) A thousand cycles of four yugas is called a kalpa, a day of Brahmâ, in which there are fourteen original progenitors of mankind [Manus] oh ruler of the citizens. (3) At their end there is a period of dissolution of the same duration that is described as the night of Brahmâ. During that time the three worlds are subject to destruction. (4) This is said to be the occasional annihilation [or naimittika pralaya] in which [Nârâyana] the creator of the universe lies down upon His bed Ananta, to absorb the universe including Lord Brahmâ. (5) After the completion of two parârdhas [the two halves of the entire life] of the highest situated living being, Lord Brahmâ, the seven elements [mahat, ahankâra and the five tanmâtras] are subject to destruction. (6) This [occasion] oh King, at which the universal egg, this aggregate [of these seven universal aspects] reaches the time of its disruption and dissolves oh King, constitutes the elemental [prâkritika] annihilation.

(23) It is spiritual knowledge [the consciousness, the Absolute Truth alone] that is the foundation which manifests in the form of these elements of intelligence, the senses and the sense objects. Whatever that is perceived as having a beginning and an end is insubstantial, for it has no existence apart from its cause [only being a reference to it, compare 11.28: 21]. (24) A lamp, an eye that perceives and the form perceived do not stand apart from the light [that is treated by them]. The same way intelligence, the senses and sense perceptions do not stand apart from the [one Supreme] reality [the Absolute Truth] that is quite different [see also siddhânta and B.G. 9.15]. (25) The wakefulness, sleep and deep sleep that belong to the intelligence are therefore called a deception of the senses [relative to the fourth state of meditation called turîya]. This oh King is the duality experienced by the soul [11.13: 27-34]. (26) Just as clouds are there and are not there in the sky, this entire universe with its different parts being generated and having vanished is there and not there within the Absolute of the Truth. (27) The ingredient cause my best, of any composite entity out here, is something real [that can be perceived] so is stated [in the Vedânta-sûtra], just as the threads of a piece of cloth can be perceived separately from the fabric they form [see also 6.3: 12, 11.12: 21]. (28) Whatever one may experience as having a general cause and a specific effect constitutes a form of illusion; everything with a beginning and an end is insubstantial because of the interdependence [of cause and effect]. (29) Even though knowable to us the changeable nature of [the phenomenal world or] even a single atom, can in no way be explained without [ - as standing apart from -] the Self inside [of the Time, the Lord, the expansion of the universe, the 'fourth dimension'], for if that would be so [if there would not be such a Self] it should, being equal to the consciousness, stay the way it is. (30) One cannot have different types of Absolute Truth; if an unknowing person thinks of the Absolute in terms of opposites, that is just like having two skies, two daylights or two life breaths. (31) Just as gold appears to men in many forms depending its use, the Supreme Lord Adhokshaja who is inconceivable to the senses, is described in different terms by a worldly person and a person of Vedic knowledge. (32) A cloud brought about by the sun is made visible by the sun but means darkness to the eyes that are a partial expansion of the sun. Similarly the ego, one's I-awareness, is a quality of the Absolute made visible by the Absolute, but as a partial expansion of the Absolute that ego means darkness [falsehood] to the individual soul being bound to the material self. (33) When a cloud produced by the sun is riven, the eye sees the sun's form. When the same way the false ego that covers the spirit soul is destroyed by spiritual [self-]inquiry, remembrance [of the Original Self] will be the result. (34) When one thus with this sword of discrimination has cut away the false ego originating from illusion that binds the soul and one has developed a firm realization of the Infallible Supreme Soul, one speaks of the entire annihilation [of one's materially determined existence, âtyantika pralaya], dear King.

(35) Oh subduer of the enemies, some expert knowers of the subtle all-pervading spirit, assert that the creation and destruction of all living beings beginning with Brahmâ, is an everlasting [nitya] process. (36) The [more or less favorable living] conditions of all living beings subject to transformation, are rapidly and continuously wiped out by the mighty force of the current of Time and constitute the causes of their birth and death. (37) These states of existence created by the Time, the form of the Lord without a beginning or an end, one does not see [directly], just as the [movements of the] planets in the sky are not seen [directly, see also 3.10: 10-14]. (38) Annihilation in the sense of a continuous [nitya], periodical [naimittika], natural [elemental or prâkritika] and complete [âtyantika] destruction has been described. This is how Time [kâla] operates.

All the souls who want to escape the Maya forever(Kaivalya), should pray/connect with Destroyer Adiyogi Shiva, while those who want to enjoy it (like Gopis or Devas) should pray/connect with Sustainer MahaVishnu(lord of Cosmic ocean), while rest like atheists and animals are connected to the creator Brahma naturally.


Do you have any other suggestions ? If you are the only one and there is no other- and I mean literally nothing else and you gape yourself in the dark, what the heck would you do? Try splitting yourself, try hurting yourself, try to create some thing just like you, see what your alter-ego does but finally realize that it’s your own body part that’s also you! What a bummer! Its the the lowest low ever don’t you think? This is not new many other first ones have felt that or Brahman passed on his feelings to them. Refer to Brihadaranyaka upanishad initial chapters “Death or Hiranyagarbha goes about wandering in the dark worshipping himself , creating stuff and eating himself when for distinction a baby appeared and he tried to eat it and that cried “Baan” . He stopped and let it grow and produce things that he then devoured”.


1.2.1 There was nothing whatsoever here in the beginning. It was covered only by Death (Hiranyagarbha), or Hunger, for hunger is death. He created the mind, thinking, 'Let me have a mind.' He moved about worshipping (himself). As he was worshipping, water was produced. (Since he thought), 'As I was worshipping, water sprang up,' therefore Arka (fire) is so called. Water (or happiness) surely comes to one who knows how Arka (fire) came to have this name of Arka.

1.2.4 He desired, 'Let me have a second form (body)'. He, Death or Hunger, brought about the union of speech (the Vedas) with the mind. What was the seed there became the Year (Viraj). Before him there had been no year. He (Death) reared him for as long as a year, and after this period projected him. When he was born, (Death) opened his mouth (to swallow him). He (the babe) cried 'Bhan!' That became speech.

1.2.5 He thought, 'If I kill him, I shall be making very little food.' Through that speech and that mind he projected all this, whatever there is the Vedas Re, Yajus and Saman, the metres, the sacrifices, men and animals. Whatever he projected, he resolved to eat. Because he eats everything, therefore Aditi (Death) is so called. He who knows how Aditi came to have This name of Aditi, becomes the eater of all this, and everything becomes his food.

1.2.7 He desired, 'Let this body of mine be fit for a sacrifice, and let me be embodied through this,' (and entered it). Because that body swelled (AsVat), therefore it came to be called Asva (horse). And because it became fit for a sacrifice, therefore the horse sacrifice came to be known as AsVamedha. He who knows it thus indeed knows the horse sacrifice. (Imagining himself as the horse and) letting it remain free, he reflected (on it). After a year he sacrificed it to himself, and dispatched the (other) animals to the gods. Therefore (priests to this day) sacrifice to Prajapati the sanctified (horse) that is dedicated to all the gods. He who shines yonder is the horse sacrifice; his body is the year. This fire is Arka; its limbs are these worlds. So these two (fire and the sun) are Arka and the horse sacrifice. These two again become the same god, Death. He (who knows thus) conquers further death, death cannot overtake him, it becomes his self, and he becomes one with these deities.*

That is the primal instinct that is on all sentience. To eat. Sacrifice thus becomes a primordial need What and how varies. Obviously, then Maya becomes a game. Sort of like what your body part does to fool another. You watch the game enjoying the many vagaries . Oh yes, many of your body parts Are sentient conscious entities. You watch their games, get bored and the drama stage changes,. Everything becomes righteous. Everything becomes unrighteous. You question who you are and word and sound emerges, space emerges. Abracadabra poof it vanishes when you realize that they are a part of you. You churn the darkness spin your own awareness and lo and behold light filled consciousness emerges. Wow. Let that spin too..the dance goes on And Nasadiya Sukta emerges from some entities thought, sound and language in the future. Any more ideas on how to entertain oneself? Interestingly, for sharing you keep a bunch of sentient entities around you while the rest of them goes about in birth death processes. And so much complexities and games emerge to attain those seats. So much hatred and love. The literature on supposed immortality. To attain the divine feet. The bliss enjoyers. The ignorant. No one is more depressed than an immortal. But then you need an ‘achutha’ that does not fall from such grace heights to keep the show going. Newer the games the better. The question then becomes what improvements that we make to our current vivarium to pass it on to more ignorant sentient entities so that we all Move on to better Vivariums...? See the real show ? Yes Truth hurts and sometimes fantasies are far better. A set of 18 sages in south India called ‘siddhars’ have cryptic songs and poems that talk about Brahman. One of them is called Kudhambai Siddhar. He wrote a touching description of Brahman that you see In Tamil the verses read

  1. வெட்டவெளிக்குள் வெறும்பாழாய் நின்றதை இட்டமாய்ப் பார்ப்பாயடி குதம்பாய் இட்டமாய்ப் பார்ப்பாயடி.”.


He tells himself this “In Space you will see an outcast that is not bound to anything but still you will love seeing that again and again”. He is referring to the visions in Kundalini post Ajna Chakra. The outcast is Brahman. The observer is jivatma which is also Brahman. The outcast knows this fact. The poor jivatma doesn’t and hence the feeling of liking and loving that it feels. Yes, sir it’s a very lonely existence. Universe is keeping that outcast busy - a poor attempt to make it forget who it really is...


This same feeling happens to other higher beings (devas) themselves, as a hand-me-down from Brahman. Here is a well-written summary in Nasadiya Sukta, The Hymn of creation. This is a very popular Hymn..( You have to ask the Vedic Pandits to recite it. Every Vedic pandit learns this. )

Here are couple of links. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYlP7DXtyQ8 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasadiya_Sukta

The Meaning goes like this( from Wiki)...

  1. Then even non-existence was not there, nor existence, There was no air then, nor the space beyond it. What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping? Was there then cosmic fluid, in depths unfathomed?

  2. Then there was neither death nor immortality nor was there then the torch of night and day. The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining. There was that One then, and there was no other.

  3. At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness. All this was only unillumined cosmic water. That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing, arose at last, born of the power of knowledge.

  4. In the beginning desire descended on it - that was the primal seed, born of the mind. The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom know that which is, is kin to that which is not.

  5. And they have stretched their cord across the void, and know what was above, and what below. Seminal powers made fertile mighty forces. Below was strength, and over it was impulse.

  6. But, after all, who knows, and who can say Whence it all came, and how creation happened? the gods themselves are later than creation, so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

  7. Whence all creation had its origin, the creator, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, the creator, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows — or maybe even he does not know.


  • I think your answer is very unclear.
    – Wikash_
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 20:17

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