Q. Swamiji, what part does the Lord (Ishvara) play in the vision of Vedanta? Is an acceptance of the Lord necessary, or can he be dismissed as simply a belief which one may or may not accept as true?
Swami Dayananda: You can dismiss the Lord (Ishvara) only from one standpoint. If you say that anything observed involves an observer, it is not difficult to discover that both the observer as well as the observed, and the knowledge thereof, are all false. If you analyze in keeping with the scriptures (shruti) the nature of the observed, the world, and the nature of the observer, they are false in the sense that they are apparent, having no independent existence, and are subject to negation (mithya). Therefore, the truth, that which cannot be negated (satyam), is only yourself, which is the essence of the observer and also the essence of the observed.
When the observer-observed division itself is apparent then the world becomes only an appearance (pratiti). Therefore you need not account for the world at all. When you don’t account for the world, there is no question of the Lord, coming into the picture. The whole thing is apparent. Once you recognize this, you can dismiss the Lord, you can dismiss the world, and you can dismiss the individual (jiva). You can dismiss everything. There is only one thing you cannot dismiss. That is your self, Brahman, the limitless ‘I’, and that alone is the truth.
Where does the Lord come into the picture? This question arises only if you start the inquiry from the standpoint of the apparent (mithya); that is, seeing for the time being the observer, the observed, and the knowledge thereof as the truth (satyam). You find that there is an order in this apparent creation. At the same time, there is helplessness on part of the observer, the doer, and his total non-participation in the creation of things that are already there. As an individual, one does not really participate in the creation, in the sense that it is already there. Your mind is already there, your senses are already there, and the world is there. You don't see the world behaving in a manner that is not expected. It behaves in a manner that can be expected and can be figured out to an extent. And if you are not able to figure out certain things, that is because of a limitation of knowledge.
All that we see, the working of the world, involves an order and structure, and that structure is not something that is subjective. It’s not that my mind creates it. Even something that is created by the mind also requires a mind that is not created by the mind. It’s clear, then, that as an individual you do not have any type of authorship qualities. And therefore, when you deal with the world and start the inquiry with what is in front of you, you must naturally appreciate the Lord (Ishvara), the creator.
Once you appreciate the Lord then the inquiry goes further. You find that your logic is not enough to prove the existence of the Lord nor can you logically dismiss Him. Therefore, you have to have faith in the existence of a Lord. That is how you get into different religions, called faith. You cannot dismiss the Lord and you cannot prove his existence logically, so the Lord is accepted on faith. Then, if you accept the Lord there are certain qualities that you naturally have to attribute to Him. The very acceptance provides the basis for qualities of the Lord; such as, omniscience and omnipotence, Creator of everything, He, Himself, not created by anything, etc. All these attributes become very evident.
Still it is a faith because the Lord (Ishvara) is established in faith. Here is where we require the scriptures (shruti). The scriptures reveal the Lord as all knowing (sarvajnah) and all powerful (sarvashaktiman) and it also tells that the Lord is not only the creator but the creation, which is something assimilable and can be understood.
If the scriptures were to point out a Lord (½Ûvara) other than the creation, then you could neither understand the Lord, nor could you prove his existence; you could only have faith in the scriptures and her words. But since it talks about a Lord none other than the creation, then you cannot dismiss that Lord because you cannot dismiss the world and its order, you cannot dismiss your body, mind, and senses, you cannot dismiss means of knowledge (pramanas) and their operations, etc. Since you cannot dismiss all this, the day your inquiry leads to a point where it helps you dismiss the very creation, then you can dismiss the Lord also. Until then, the Lord is as true as the creation is, because the scripture does not say that the creation is other than the Lord (Ishvara).
Thus, you can dismiss the Lord only when you can dismiss creation. When you can dismiss the creation, as I said in the beginning, then you can dismiss the Lord. But this is possible only if the sentence the limitless self alone is real and the world is apparent (brahma satyam jaganmithya) is clearly understood. And to understand this, to dismiss the Lord, you require all the grace of the Lord. Then it works. Otherwise you have to accept Him, ½Ûvara.
Om Tat Sat