The Divine Play Paradigm (PRISM) that explains freewill, evil, uncertainty, God, and Nature

Excerpted from the book “Our Homebound Inner Journey”. See also Chapter 3 of “Law of Love & The Mathematics of Spirituality”.

Free Will: We are not the movers and shakers we take ourselves to be! All that happens in creation, the “seen”, is entirely under the control of God (Īśvaraḥ). Cosmos is ruled by God’s Will and the God-mandated laws of nature (Prakṛti). We have no hand in it.

The Divine Play: Understanding creation as a cosmic divine play (līla) solely directed by Īśvaraḥ‘s Will is a way to resolve many knotty philosophical questions. It also provides the rationale for many a spiritual advice: for example, the need to be just a witness to the happenings in the world and the need to avoid judging others. The jīvas (the sentient creatures in creation) are but actors in that play and are instinctively following the script of the play. This applies to the actions, feelings, and thoughts of every jīva. The egoistic notions of doership and enjoyership entertained by us have no logical basis; they have no standing in Vedanta teachings either. Jīvas do have freewill which is limited to guiding their inner spiritual life but it does not extend to their worldly life.

Why Evil? The līla paradigm answers another question that has bedeviled philosophers since times immemorial: Why does God permit evil in his creation? In all religions, God represents goodness and justice. Therefore the overarching theme of the play created by Īśvaraḥ has goodness overcoming evil in episode after episode. Naturally there has to be evil in creation in order to make this point. It is not however the case that the good always wins and evil is predictably subdued in every single situation every time. That would make the play rather boringly predictable. The world, as we know it from history and our own personal experience, is fascinating because it is unpredictable to a degree. There are times when evil has the upper hand but at the proper time willed by God it is quelled.

This World Could be Dreary and Hopeless Without God-Willed Uncertainty: Any lively play or sport must have some orderliness but also a measure of unpredictability to make it truly a sport. A game whose course and final outcome are foregone conclusions is no game at all. There must be some uncertainty in order to make it worthwhile for the players and spectators to participate in it. At the same time, it should not be a “anything goes” game where no player follows any rule or there is no referee to call and enforce the prescribed rules of the game. In God’s creation there are natural laws that all creatures must obey. That brings a great deal of predictability and orderliness and makes life livable At the same time there is God’s freewill which adds a mysterious element of uncertainty. Life could be dreadful in a totally certain world. There could be no escape from the future even after knowing it is bound for calamity. There will be no place for hope and ambition in that world. Truly that would be an unbearable world.

Creation Has the Right Mix of Certainty and Uncertainty The mix of orderliness and unpredictability makes or world an astoundingly and endlessly fascinating place to be, if only we can look at it detachedly! Just recall your own life from birth onwards to see if it does not now resemble a play with many actors coming in and going out of the stage and many chance events shaping its course.

Why Creation? The divine play view also answers another question often asked: Why did Īśvaraḥ create the world and all creatures in the first place? It should be for the same reason why any gifted playwright conceives and produces a play or why any true (non-starving) artist creates any piece of art: Purely for the joy of it. Īśvaraḥ is the epitome of perfection, bliss, and creativity. God does not need anything else (-nor is there anything other than God-) to add to Its perfection or bliss. Hence whatever It creates must be an expression of Its joy, Its infinite bliss. It should be purely for entertainment. The world, we may say, is created by God simply as an entertainment for God. Vedanta says it is a source of entertainment also for the enlightened jīvas who have realized the Truth. They witness the world as a play in which their own body-mind-intellect is a mere actor. But the ordinary, ignorant jīvas identify with the good and bad experiences scripted for their Body-Mind-Intellect in the play and suffer. This is not unlike someone watching a movie identifying with a character and empathizing acutely with its fictional pains and pleasures.

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