Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Bilimoria on Theodicy

Purushottama bilimoria has a review of the various theodicies in the Hindu tradition.
Towards an Indian Theodicy

His remarks on the short sections of Shankaracarya’s commentary on Brahma Sutra Bhasya II.i.34/5 are interesting.
Śaṅkara is adamant that creation is “sāpekṣa,” that is, Brahman is not independent, even though he is the sole material cause of the world. As a matter of fact, he does not have nor can exercise free choice, since he has no control over dispensing the consequences of creatures’ actions, in which he is guided by the “Force of Law” – Karma.

The essence of this view is that when you create a world you create interaction, you create work and therefore causality. Because issuing from the boundless consciousness of Brahman in which there is no border between spirit and matter, interaction on all planes is subject to cause and effect. The explication of Brahman as the material cause of the universe must not be taken to mean that Brahman is itself material. This is made clear by Shankaracarya in his commentary on Tai.Up. (Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma). See various posts on this very close analysis –
To create a world in which there was no interaction would be incoherent. Bilimoria puts it in a stronger way that might be questioned.
It is clear though that God’s dependence upon the karma of the creatures, seriously delimits, that is, restricts, God’s omnipotence; second, it takes away any element of the hand or even the inscrutability of providence: grace would not be easy to come by in this account

Delimit and dependence seem to suggest the concept of a creation inflicting itself on the creator when in fact the demands of karma are internal to creation. When grace is required it comes from inside the creation via an avatar as the Bhagavad Gita puts it:
BG 4.8: To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age

Within the creation the avatar is subject to birth and death and can interact with others to answer their prayers. There is no remote creator dependent on his creation but he must act from within the creation if he is to act in Isvara mode.

Bilimoria stresses again this ‘dependence’ aspect in his consideration of B.S.B. II.i.35:
Be that as it may, the uniqueness of the Hindu idea of the beginninglessness of the universe (in cyclical returns), and God’s dependence on the world (rather than the converse) renders God not as independent and existing outside of, nay prior to, the created world – which marks the idea of God in Judeo-Christian monotheistic doctrines. God is bound by the karmas of the individual creatures even after their selves have been dissolved along with the world.

This is in reference to the beginning-less nature of the Hindu creation which is periodically dissolved and reissued with the karmas of participants continuing on. Before you had the big bang you had the big contraction. And off to work we go.

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