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To begin with, Let us not delve into tangential questions as to "Why would he do it?" and "What would arise out of doing it?" and so on as they are not our focus. I would simply like to hear a yes or no answer with a logical argument backing it up.

If one says that God cannot destroy the soul because Bhagwad Gita or some other scripture states soul to be eternal and a part of God then technically God cannot be omnipotent, for it shows that there are things outside his capacity.

If a being is truly omnipotent, He should have the power to change the nature of something eternal like the soul into non-eternal as well and subsequently being able to destroy it. So, the question is, is such a thing possible for God?

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  • Welcome to Hinduism SE. What do you mean by omnipotent? Please clarify what omnipotence means to you in context of Hinduism?
    – madhurkant
    Mar 28 at 16:14
  • 1
    In Hinduism, specifically authentic Advaita, Shankhya, Yoga schools, atman (soul) or purusha, individual is itself a brahman. There's no separate God apart from own atman. If there are - then they aren't omnipotent.
    – user29449
    Mar 28 at 16:23
  • // What do you mean by omnipotent? // @madhurkant Ability to do absolutely anything. Sticking to the dictionary meaning of omnipotence. oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/…
    – user34138
    Mar 28 at 17:23
  • @User29449 There are systems which believe in a dualistc God as well. Advaita also accepts the Concept of a dualistic God seperate from the jeeva atma in the empirical framework. It's only in the transcendental where there is no jiva, no Ishvara-only Atman. As for The Nirguna brahman of advaita, It is clearly not omnipotent as Adi shankara himself says omnipotence etc. are qualities imposed upon brahman through Ignorance
    – user34138
    Mar 28 at 17:29
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    @Ashwiniramachandran Please provide references to Advaita accepting dualistic god. Very word Advaita means one, not two! So your notion of dualistic god is incorrect. Nirguna brahman is a figurative representation of self. Dualistic notions are self contradictory and cause of ignorance. In hinduism, we accept, one, without a second.
    – user29449
    Mar 29 at 6:51

3 Answers 3

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On the question of the omnipotence of God/Ishwara...

It is not clear if Ishwara is omnipotent. In some places, Ishwara admits that He cannot change some things.

Bhagavad Gita

sadṛśaṅ cēṣṭatē svasyāḥ prakṛtērjñānavānapi. prakṛtiṅ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṅ kariṣyati৷৷3.33৷৷

3.33 Even a man of wisdom behaves according to his own nature. Beings follow (their) nature. What can restraint do?

While commenting on this sloka, Sri Adi Shankara says -

tasmāt prakṛtiṅ yānti anugacchanti bhūtāni prāṇinaḥ. nigrahaḥ niṣēdharūpaḥ kiṅ kariṣyati mama vā anyasya vā৷৷

Therefore, bhutani, beings; yanti, follow; (their) prakrtim, nature. Nigrahah kim karisyati, what can restraint do, be it from Me (Krishna) or anybody else?

Here, we find Bhagavan himself admitting that He cannot make people act contrary to their nature. This is an example that probably shows that Ishwara is not omnipotent.

If Ishwara cannot change how people act, then Ishwara is not omnipotent and so most likely Ishwara cannot destroy soul.

Moreover, Bhagavan says this in Gita.

mamaivāṅśō jīvalōkē jīvabhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ. manaḥṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi prakṛtisthāni karṣati৷৷15.7৷৷

15.7 It is verily a part of Mine which, becoming the eternal individual soul in the region of living beings, draws (to itself) the organs which have the mind as their sixth, and which abide in Nature.

The individual soul is an amsha or portion of the Supreme Self, and hence it cannot be destroyed even by Ishwara.

Also, commenting on Gita sloka 2.17, Sri Adi Shankara says -

asya brahmaṇaḥ vināśaṅ na kaścit kartumarhati, na kaścit atmānaṅ vināśayituṅ śaknōti īśvarō.pi. ātmā hi brahma

Therefore no one can bring about the destruction of this immutable Brahman. No one, not even God Himself, can destroy his own Self, because the Self is Brahman.

The last part applies to individual soul also in advaita. The individual soul is also essentially brahman, and thus cannot be destroyed even by Ishwara.

Appendix

A short discussion between Bhagavan Krishna and Utanka in Aswamedha parva of Mahabharata, that gives clues on whether Ishwara is omnipotent.

Utanka's words to Krishna

Utanka said,--'Since, though able, O Krishna, thou didst not rescue those foremost ones of Kuru's race, who were thy relatives and, therefore, dear to thee, I shall, without doubt, curse thee. Since thou didst not forcibly compel them to forbear, therefore, O slayer of Madhu, I shall, filled with wrath, denounce a curse on thee. It seems, O Madhava, that though fully able (to save them), thou wert indifferent to these foremost of Kurus who, overwhelmed by insincerity and hypocrisy have all met with destruction.'

Essence of Krishna's response -

In every Yuga I have to repair the causeway of Righteousness, entering into diverse kinds of wombs from desire of doing good to my creatures. When, O son of Bhrigu's race, I live in the order of the deities, I then verily act in every respect as a deity. When I live in the order of the Gandharvas, I then, O son of Bhrigu's race, act in every respect as a Gandharva. When I live in the order of the Nagas, I then act as a Naga, and when I live in the order of Yakshas or that of Rakshasas, I act after the manner of that order. Born now in the order of humanity, I must act as a human being. I appealed to them (the Kauravas) most piteously. But stupefied as they were and deprived of their senses, they refused to accept my words. I frightened them, filled with wrath, referring to some great fear (as the consequence of their slighting my message). But once more I showed themselves my usual (human) form. Possessed as they were of unrighteousness, and assailed by the virtue of Time, all of them have been righteously slain in battle, and have, without doubt, gone to Heaven

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  • Just because Ishwara WILLN'T change how people act contray to their nature, you can't conclude that Ishwara CAN'T do that. That is a very premature conclusion. Ishwara is omnipotent, but Hindus don't conceive Ishwara to be an egoistic being like the Abrahamic Yahweh who has to repeatedly destroy things in order to retain following.
    – অনু
    Mar 29 at 4:25
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    check out the Aswamedhika parva discussion between Bhagavan Krishna and Utanka. Bhagavan Krishna says he made multiple efforts to convince Duryodhana and others, but as Kauravas were adharmic, they did not listen.
    – estimator
    Mar 29 at 6:19
  • The same Mahabharata also states that Krishna had the power to repel off Gandhari's curse but he CHOSE NOT TO DO. Krishna was completely able to avoid the bloodshed of Kurukshetra war, but if he did so, then it would have invalidated many previous curses & vows, like Bhima's vow to kill Duryodhana, Arjuna's vow to kill Karna, Parashurama's curse on Karna etc etc. And to think about it, if the Kurukshetra war hadn't occured, we wouldn't have received the Bhagavad Gita of eternal appeal.
    – অনু
    Mar 29 at 13:32
  • Regarding Krishna being unable to change Duryodhana, it occurred because Krishna didn't reveal his full potential to a morally corrupt being like him as he did with Arjuna. Duryodhana was just a medium to eliminate sinful kings like Jayadratha, Jarasandha, Bhagadatta etc etc. So if Duryodhana did change his mind, those sinful monarchs who sided with him would have continued to reign, thereby invalidating the main reason of Krishna's avatarana - परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृतां . In Hindu scriptures, we do seldom see God interfering with destiny & karma.
    – অনু
    Mar 29 at 13:43
  • If you say that God's refusal to interfere with destiny & karma is a proof of God's inability to do so, then the reply is - the law is always greater than the lawgiver because once the law is madre, even it's creator can't override it. If God were to interfere with the basic Supreme laws like karma & destiny, nobody would have respected or followed those concepts.
    – অনু
    Mar 29 at 13:47
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Your very question is what gave birth to Advitam: the concept of Non-Duality. But for most, the notion of singularity and non-duality is a challenge.

एक एव रुद्र न द्वितीयाय तस्थुर्” meaning “There is but Rudra without a second”. ~Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.8.6

This principle emulated in many Upanishads. For example, nectar collected from many flowers by various bees as honey can't be differentiated as to which part of it is from which flower. Similarly, A pot made of clay is not different from the clay itself. An ornament made of gold is not different from gold itself. So, to answer your question, many look at the fist part "there is only one God" similar to the way you shared the quote from Gita. But our psychology (the Mind/Indra) ignores the second part "there are no two". The statement "none second" shows that, Cit and Chitta are one and the same. Chitta is only to give the notion of Individual experience of the whole. Like looking at a covered mirror with a small tear, and using the 5 senses to imagine endlessly. Hence the word "prapancha", meaning that which is perceived with 5 senses. Just like looking at a rope and thinking its a snake or more. So, as long as we perceive there is God and there is 'xyz' that either eternal alongside God and there non-eternal alongside God itself creates a conundrum of that which is Whole (purnam) and Anantam (infinite) having parts, not of itself.

"It is the seed of all seeds" ~Yoga Vaśiṣṭham 6.1.36

The only problem in reading the following is to interpret the a spectrum of light is a secondary entity other than light itself. When this is understood, your question will get answered.

एको हि रुद्रो न द्वितीयाय तस्थुर्य इमांल्लोकानीशत ईशनीभिः। प्रत्यङ्जनांस्तिष्ठति सञ्चुकोचान्तकाले संसृज्य विश्वा भुवनानि गोपाः॥ There is (हि) The One (एको ) Rudrā (रुद्रो) and none (न) other than He, none can make Him second (द्विती) in being (याय) that is in existence (तस्थु:र्य) among the worlds( इमां:ल्लोका), He is the authority (ईशते) by His own authority (ईशनीभिः)| In all worlds/dimensions (भुवनानि) is His convolution and projection and guardians (संसृज् + ज्य + गोपाः) in entirety (विश्वा), He is established (तिष्ठति) in all beings (हे जनाः) as the indweller (प्रत्यङ्); and all beings (भूत्वा), at the time of final dissolution (अन्त:काले), become/withdraw into Him (सञ्चुकोच)

~ Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 3.2

“from a single ball of clay, we can know every form made of clay, the difference in form is but the name (nāma-rūpa). In the beginning was one being, without a second, or non-being, without a second; and from that various beings came to be. Just like bees make one honey from nectars of various flowers, yet the honey do not know from which tree or flower, in the same way, all beings begotten from One Being do not know their source” Please note: the word “Being” doesn’t mean a person nor an alien or animal, beings means “to be” or “to exist”. Existence can’t be described or iconified with in image/form within the frontier of vocabulary.

~Chandogya Upaniṣhad 6.1.4/6.2.1/6.2.2/6.9.1/6.9.2

Source: LINK

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Omnipotence means the ability to do anything that is doable. You cannot say that Omnipotence includes being able to prove 1 = 2 for example.

The jIva is eternal (nitya) by definition. Changing the fundamental definition of things is not something in the scope of omnipotence.

there are things outside his capacity.

This is not about God's capacity. There are fundamental axioms in any formal system. Violating a fundamental axiom cannot happen in the scope of that system.

The axioms in (most schools of) Sanatana Dharma include (among others) (1) Eternal existence of the Jiva and (2) Omnipotence of God.

Here Omnipotence should only be understood as infinite potency to do what is allowed by the axioms of the system.

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  • This is just altering the definition of omnipotence . A potency that is bound by the Axioms of a system cannot be truly infinite as the axioms clearly put a limit on what it can do. So it cannot be omnipotent, as a truly omnipotent being would not be bound by any axioms. As simple as that.
    – user34138
    Mar 29 at 8:17
  • Ignore the axioms for a moment. There is no meaning in saying something like "The all-powerful person doesn't have the power to show someone more powerful than himself". So omnipotence is still bound by logical constraints. Do you agree?
    – hashable
    Mar 29 at 8:53
  • If omnipotence cannot circumvent reason, it ceases to be 'omnipotence' for it shows that the rules of logic and reason are more fundamental compared to God's potency. And regarding your question about God creating someone more powerful than himself, there are literal stories in the puranas where Gods like Shiva and Vishnu have granted certain individuals multiple times their own power as a boon , even if for a limited period so yes, it is possible as per the canonical scriptures. If God is able to do that, and still unable to destroy souls, he cannot be truly omnipotent.
    – user34138
    Mar 30 at 2:43
  • Either way, From the accepted answer, I already have gotten the answer I needed - that God cannot be truly omnipotent. The potency may be exceedingly great compared to the human scale so that it may seem "omnipotence-esque' from the relative scale but still not truly omnipotent as long as it cannot defy logic.
    – user34138
    Mar 30 at 4:52
  • It's not just omnipotence but a bunch of other qualities attributed to Brahman that all appear to have some sort of omni- attached to it but have bounds. These are for good reason. Without these bounds they can lead to undesirable consequences like for example making God capable of being a liar or filled with malice. E.g if God makes a promise and if he is truthful, he can't break it. If he is truly omnipotent, then he should be able to break it which will make him a liar. So it's not black and white as to whether He is truly not omnipotent or not (in your sense).
    – hashable
    Mar 30 at 8:06

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