O good looking one, in the beginning this was Existence alone, One only, without a second. With regard to this some say, “In the beginning this was non-existence alone, one only, without a second. From that non-existence issued existence."(Chandogya Upanisad: VI.2.1)
I have written already about the common features of the thought of Parmenides and that of the satkaryavada thesis of the non-difference of cause and effect.
It is said that there are no proofs of the existence of God offered in Vedanta but that verse is surely an intuition about contingency. If there are no individual separable things that have existence in the initial stage prior to their creation then Existence or Being itself must be there. The idea is that out of nothing, nothing can come. There never is a complete void, the sarva sunya of the Buddhists that Sankara controverts in his commentary.
For the Buddhists imagine that the reality before creation is merely an absence of existence. But they do not stand for any other substance opposed to existence, unlike the Naiyayikas who hold that existence and non-existence mean ‘things as they are’, and the opposite of them , (respectively)
The Naiyayikas take this existence of things/non-existence of things in a logical polar way. Having the concept of the existence of anything implies having the concept of its non-existence. The Buddhists view is an ontological one. For them there can be pure non-existence of whatever subsequently comes into existence.
For the Advaitin the primary intuition about a thing is - ‘it is’. Then adjoined to that is - ‘it is this’.
Even now it is surely Existence. But now it stands qualified by name and form, and also as an object of the word and the idea ‘this’. Therefore it is termed as ‘this’. But before creation, in the beginning, this was only an object of the word and idea ‘Existence’. Hence it is emphasized that ‘in the beginning this was Existence alone’. For as in deep-sleep, so also before creation it was not possible to grasp this as possessed of name or form. As someone, after rising from deep-sleep, realises that in deep-sleep the thing that existed was mere existence, i.e. he realises existence alone, similar was the case before creation. This is the meaning.
Wnen I read this the other morning it occurred to me that in meditation when for a brief moment we are conscious but without thoughts and then move into some reverie, there is a similar transition. In one sense those thoughts were not there before but their consciousness was. Part of the point of meditation is to move the awareness away from the contents of consciousness and identification with that to consciousness as such or the standpoint of the Witness (Saksin).