The Vedas define Brahman as one for whom all these beings are born, that by whom they live, that into whom, when departing, they enter (yato va imani bhutani jayante, yena jatani jivanti, yat prayanti abhisamvisanti…tad brahma – Taittiriya Upanishad 3-1)
The purpose of creation
What is the need or purpose for creation of this world? It may be argued that creation of the world is a wasteful exercise on the part of Brahman. Normally when we do an act, there is some motive behind it. We do it either for our benefit or for the benefit of somebody else. Brahman has all desires fulfilled (avapta-samasta kamah) and there is no benefit or satisfaction to be gained by Him, by creating the world. Since Brahman needs nothing to be achieved for His benefit, the creation is not for His sake. Nor does He create the world to benefit others because the world is full of disease, poverty and sorrow.
Creation is a sport
The Brahma Sutra replies to this objection by stating that creation of the world is mere sport to the Lord, citing the example of a sovereign King in the world, who has all desires fulfilled and everything at his command, playing with balls, chess and so on, merely as sport (lokavat tu lilakaivalyam – Brahma Sutra 2-1-33) as explained by Ramanuja. Adi Sankara also, in his commentary on the above Sutra, agrees that creation is mere sport for Brahman, giving the examples of kings engaging in sportful activities as mere pastime, people breathing in the normal course and children playing for mere fun.
The question then arises: This world is full of inequalities – men, animals, despicable creatures like worms and insects, trees and so on; even among men, rich and poor, high and low, learned and illiterate, virtuous and wicked. If Brahman creates the world for sport, why should He not create a world, full of only good people, enjoying extreme happiness? Does not creation of such a miserable world, where people undergo endless sufferings and miseries like illness and poverty, indicate a cruel and wicked pleasure on the part Of Brahman?
Based on Past Karmas
Brahma Sutra again provides the answer. The inequalities in creation and sufferings of people are based on their past karma-s, which are beginningless. So, no partiality or mercilessness can be attributed to God, since He creates the world and the various beings, in various forms and states, strictly in accordance with their past karmas.
The relevant Brahma Sutra says: “There is no partiality or mercilessness (in Him), because it (creation) is dependent (on karma). (Vaishamya-nairghrinye na, sapekshatvat tatha hi darsayati ’2- 1-34).
The Upanishads state in several places : “He who does good works, gets noble births. He who does sinful works, gets evil births”; “Those whose conduct has been good here, will get good births. But those whose conduct has been wicked will get evil births like a dog Or a Pig- * .’’
Brahman creates the world as pure sport; but He strictly follows the rules of the game and creates the individual beings.
Stressing this aspect, albeit in a jocular manner, Ramanuja’s disciple Kurattazhvan directly asks the Lord (Sri Vaikuntha Stava, v. 55): ”0 Lord, the Vedas say that you have unbridled freedom of action, that cannot be questioned by anybody. Why then do you insist on taking into consideration, the law of karma, while creating the world instead of granting salvation to all, straightaway?“
God’s Ability to Desire
A subtle point is worth mentioning in this context. God is described as one who has all desires fulfilled (avapta samasta kamah). Why then should He embark on creation, even as sport?. Swami Nigamanta Maha Desika gives a convincing reply.
Avapta samasta kamah means that He has the ability to achieve whatever He wills; it does not mean that the Lord does not will or desire to do anything at all. His ability to desire and will (sankalpa) is well established and the Vedas state this in many places-“He desired: ‘May I become many. May I be born”‘. (Sah akamayata bahu syam prajayeya iti – Taittiriya Upanishad 2-6).
The Motive is Mercy
Is then, creation of the world, purely sport for Brahman? Is there no other purpose or motive behind it? Let us turn to Nammazhvar. He states: “God creates this world again and again, in the fond hope that the jivatmas, after repeated births and deaths, will at last realize Him, shake off samsara and attain salvation.” (Ninru ninru pala naal uykkum.. . Tiruvaymozhi 3-~9 – 10).
The commentator non pareil, Nampillai, draws an apt analogy of a peasant repeatedly tilling the land and sowing, even after repeated failure of the earlier crops, in the fond hope that at least the next crop will yield a bumper harvest. Stressing the mercy-aspect lying behind the creation of the world, Nammazhvar mentions in another place that God works with tireless zeal, by repeatedly creating the world, to see whether, at least in the next birth, some jivarma-s will strive and attain salvation (sornbaadu ippalluruvai ellaam padarvirta vittaa – Periya Tirwandadi, 18)
Bhagavad Ramanuja conveys this truth in the opening verse of his Sri Bhashya that creation, sustenance and destruction of all worlds are sport for the Lord who has a firm resolve to protect all beings, surrendering unto Him. This shows that besides sport or lila, the motive behind creation of the world is mercy (daya).
Sport and Mercy
Vedanta Desika, following his archa-vigraha and hero Sri Ramanuja while, agreeing that creation is sport for the Lord, also accepts daya as motive for the same. He observes “It is not a blemish on God, if we accept a purpose for creation; for it is to bless and bestow favours on those who seek Him” (Sarvarthasiddhi 3-1). He admirably sums up the purpose of creation in a pithy, catchy phrase as “sport, mingled with mercy” (krida karunya tantrah – Tattva Mukta Kalapa 3-1).
The Swami again dwells at length on the sport as the mercy-aspect of creation in the virodha parihara section of his Chillarai Rahasyas. He raises a pertinent question: If Brahman creates the world as sport, how can it be said that He creates out of mercy? And answers: This sport (lila) has the objective of removing others’ sufferings. When a compassionate king gives milk-rice to hungry dwarfs and hunch-backs (and to loving parrots), it is a sportive pastime for him, as well as a merciful act and there is no inconsistency.
There may arise one more question. Why should Brahma Sutra (2-1-33- referred to already) describe it as ‘mere sport’, instead of simply saying sport? The emphasis is to show that Brahman has unfettered freedom to do anything at His will. He is under no compulsion to act at the behest of anybody else. He is supremely independent and can achieve anything by His mere will.
Summing up, we may note that sport and mercy of God are two-fold motives for creation of the world. At times, one or the other aspect is stressed, depending on the circumstances and context.
Source: Nrisimhapriya 2004