Hi I do not understand why there is no religion stacks exchange but this question is more philosophy anyhow.

Nondualistic eastern religions (Traditionally tantra movement, some Hinduism strands, probably Kabbalah but I only know it superficially, and more recently Yogananda/Eckhart Tolle and others) all posit the view of the universe that there is one god, one consciousness, or light that is perfect and encompasses all.

Matter is consciousness (or god/light) creating itself within itself and enlightenment is when a sentient being remembers (in an experiential way) their artificial separateness and reunites with totality.

This is a very prominent view in Eastern religions and spiritual movements and yet I cannot find a reasoning why consciousness or god or whatever this totality is labeled would want/need/have to create itself within itself. Some authors label is as love or play which does not go into why. Others claim this is how consciousness grows and evolves by giving sentience free will. Osho probably has the most satisfactory answer I've encountered so far in that he is honest that there is no explanation available to us and one of the reasons many masters never talked about it even positing it as so.

Looking into biology, astronomy or psychology I cannot find reasoning why a system (sentient as in a human brain or non-sentient like an ecological system) would self-limit to grow, or any other reason. The human brain expands neural pathways and in general common sense intelligence is increased through unification of previously separate elements. If there were an all encompassing consciousness I would think it would resemble a sci-fi cloud with infinitely fast transmission of waves that would never need to create matter.

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    All these non dual philosophies have different theory of creation. In Kashmiri Shaivism (non dual school) creation is by product of consciousness. Like, heat or power to burn is imminent to exist in presence of fire, similarly creation is imminent in presence of consciousness.
    – Mr. Sigma.
    Apr 17, 2018 at 4:47
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    If the Ultimate Reality did not manifest in infinite variety but remained confined within its singleness, then it would neither be the Highest Power nor Consciousness but something like a jar. --Tantrāloka, III.100
    – Mr. Sigma.
    Apr 17, 2018 at 4:48
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    Like if an enthusiastic painter, painting is in very nature of whom is provided with painting brush, sheet, colors etc will start painting so consciousness which is all encompassing starts creation because creativity is in very nature of consciousness.
    – Mr. Sigma.
    Apr 17, 2018 at 4:52
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    Created things would be unreal or have no independent existence. As Nagarjuna puts it, nothing really exists or ever really happens. That it seems to do so, Lao Tsu tells us, is a consequence of 'Tao being what it is'. The idea that God (Reality, the Ultimate) 'does' something is rejected. There would be no time or place to do it and no reason for doing it. All would follow from the identity or nature of Reality. Usually the space-time universe is seen as a playground and/or as a means by which 'God' may mirror His being and know Himself. The word 'God' would be optional here. . .
    – user20253
    Apr 17, 2018 at 11:17
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    I cannot find reasoning why a system (sentient as in a human brain or non-sentient like an ecological system) would self-limit to grow - Galileo discussed some of the physical constraints and limitations of systems in the context of scale-up problems. He argued that at some point the bones of a scaled-up giant animal or human would not have sufficient structural strength to support their own weight. Mice and cats can survive falls from almost any height due to wind resistance, large surface area, and small mass. Humans can't survive impact at terminal velocity. Elephants can't jump. Jan 12 at 21:57

6 Answers 6


From a monistic viewpoint there is no creation. The Ultimate Reality, give it what name you want, is not aware of any creation. Is the desert aware of a mirage? The mirage is only observed by the observer of the mirage, the desert is not aware of any mirage. you can only ask why within the framework of time, space, and causation. The Ultimate Reality is beyond these so asking why cannot be asked there. To infer that the Ultimate Reality has some purpose or goal is to infer that It is not perfect. The nearest you can say in terms of language is that it is all done in sport - for fun. The Brahma Sutras say verses 2.1.32-33 (https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras/d/doc62753.html):

Adhikarana XI - Brahman’s creation has no motive behind except a sportive impulse

Sutra 2,1.32

  1. (Brahman is) not (the creator of the world) on account of (every activity) having a motive.

Granting that Brahman possesses all powers for creation, a further objection is raised against Its being the cause. Nobody engages himself in anything without a motive or purpose. Everything is undertaken by people to satisfy .some desire. But Brahman is self-sufficient, therefore It has nothing to gain by the creation; hence we cannot expect It to engage Itself in such a useless creation. Therefore Brahman cannot be the cause of the world.

Sutra 2,1.33

  1. But (Brahman’s creative activity) is mere pastime, as is seen in the world.

Even as kings without any motive behind are seen to engage in acts for mere pastime, or even as men breathe without a purpose, for it is their very nature, or even as children play out of mere fun, so also Brahman without any purpose engages Itself in creating this world of diversity. This answers the objection raised in the previous Sutra against Brahman’s being the cause of the world.

  • But there is a well-understood reason for appearance of mirages regardless of whether desert is "aware" of it, and it has nothing to do with goals or purposes or motives. And how can something one is "unaware" of be done "for fun"? If maya is supposed to be analogous to mirage then what is it in the nature of Brahman/Atman that explains it?
    – Conifold
    Apr 17, 2018 at 21:20
  • @Conifold First, metaphors work one way. To say it is for sport is to say that we cannot say 'why'. Brahman is described as Nirguna (without qualities) and Saguna (with qualities). The Nirguna Brahman is not aware of the existence of the universe. See the link I gave the Introduction pp xv - xxvii Apr 19, 2018 at 12:41
  • @Conifold - You could check out Aurobindo's 'Divine Life and the chapter on 'Reality and the Cosmic Illusion' for a good disussion.
    – user20253
    Jun 4, 2018 at 9:51

You are here. The reason for which may seem a mystery, but the most enlightening question on the matter is: would you rather be anywhere else?

The closer you get to comprehending the Ultimate Reality, the more you will appreciate your current state! To get the point across quickly (though this is not precisely whole and true), answer the why not with love, or play, or growth but with fear. "Fear" of the state of being everything, everywhere all at once. (Fear is quoted because it is closer to dislike or desire-not-to-be-like-that. It's hard to describe Being the Ultimate Reality as "bad" or "scary" since those words start to lose meaning, but you can get the feeling that One might prefer not to Experience that, even if you cannot put your finger on why exactly)

And so, One convinces Oneself that One did not exist at a time (by creating time itself) in the past, and also will not exist at a time in the future. What a blessing to be temporary! What a blessing to forget! And so One Believes in Birth and Death with some time in between (80 years, 800 years, 800 million, they all are arbitrary compared to infinity). So One begins existing at a time, but if One is still everything, then what acted upon One to bring about its existence? The external-internal divide is created to satisfy this.

Now there is a Me, and what does this Me have? Well a Body, of course to create separation (again arbitrary). Picture a physical (4 dimensions created earlier) reality that contains a lone Me. "Who created this unique Me?" asks Me. "The entirety of the external is so different ". Let's add other Me's that also Experience (or at least appear to Experience), and for good measure let's give them similar Bodies. And further let's single out some Me's (two, again arbitrary) that take responsibility for creating Me. And now Me is further insignificant, apparently only one part of one layer of the fractal process of Me's creating Me's, a process which seems indifferent to any "individual" Me.

Me, being astute, wonders where Me's in general come from, and so we get Me's with a huge diversity of Bodies (animals, plants, rocks etc.) and an apparent diversity in ability to Experience. In addition, the more similar a Me's body is to Me, the more likely it is to seem to Experience like Me (humans -> ~apex mammals and some birds -> rest of mammals and birds -> reptiles & amphibians -> plants -> rocks etc.).

This is a wonderful trick to sell the idea that Experience comes from the "physical world" when truly it's the other way around. The framework shifts from "entity" ( for lack of a better term ), to "physical entity". Both of which Me is just one such example of. But with the latter, there comes the question of what are physical entities made of. (It is possible to be made of something, rather than just Be. In fact, fully buying into this illusion entails Believing that it is not just possible, but even fundamental to know what an entity is made of in order to know what it is.) In this way, most "external" Me's stop being seen as Me's, they are what you might call physical things or physical entities. I doubt you consider a rock to be as much of an entity as yourself, but note the story in the above paragraphs (re-read it to double check): the external-internal divide turned everything into Me's and picked out a singular for You, never was anything added after that was not a Me! No physical reality was described, even though we had birth, death, parents, a whole animal kingdom, and a habitat for them to dwell in; those were still formless entities, closer to Ideas or Concepts or whatever you would call the Ultimate Reality that we started out with.

A clarifying thought exercise: imagine starting with a similar body but it has 4 legs instead of two. To remain convincing, that is what everyone else looks like as well. Also, most animals also have a 6 limbed skeleton. Imagine evolution as a process to believably explain why you exist the way you do, instead of a process that is the reason you exist the way you do. Essentially take our normative understanding of causality (that things create phenomenon) and flip it around (phenomenon necessitate things). Maybe the planet you live on and the laws of physics are also a bit different. Maybe earth is a cube instead of a sphere. Of course the specifics here are hypothetical, there is more than one way to skin a cat (~infinite here).

You can also go back and tweak the other arbitrary choices. Try to imagine space as 2 dimensions or 4, and every aspect that could change. Imagine if you live for 100 million years (note that years means nothing technically here, but understand the spirit of the question), maybe planets exist a million times longer than they do (that would make that reality decently similar to what you experience now) but another way to skin the cat is that planets exist for the same amount of time as they do here, and you are now more like an elf from LOTR (of course this necessitates physics changes, but that is no bother). Or imagine that you are the only human on earth. You would probably need some catastrophic event (nuclear war, etc) to have happened right before you were born, and your mother to have died in childhood, so that you the reason you're the only human on earth is that you are the last human on earth.

This highlights exactly why I told the story in the way that I did. There are some things that are much less arbitrary. Being the only human on earth as the first one, spawned out of nowhere, doesn't work. As in, it's not believable! It's not stable. You have a tendency to go back to the Ultimate Reality. What happens during a strange dream where you realize that things don't add up? You wake up ;)

So why, then, do you get these particular set of arbitrary choices? They seem so specific, especially when you fully consider all the possibilities. Could you change them (change "physical reality" to be whatever)? I'd say yes, if you truly desired, it would be already done. A word of caution: to be small is a blessing, to be insignificant is a blessing, to struggle is a blessing, to be ignorant is a blessing, to fail is a blessing. There is so much to Appreciate, and Where/When/How You Are is exactly Where/When/How You Want (and have Chosen) to Be. Could even the Ultimate Reality Know Why it Is?


There are similar although not identical logic problems that Eastern religions face to the ones that Western religions face.

An omni-deity faces a series of optimization test cases, where agency plus creation power should lead to some kind of optimized feature of our universe -- but our actual universe does not have that feature. These include the problem of evil, the problem of incomplete communication, the problem of limited variability/beauty, etc. These problems are most notable for a creating deity, but also apply for one that is merely a resident of our universe, as a solo deity could change our universe over time, even if not omnipotent.

Similarly, an Eastern deity faces similar prediction failings. IF a deity starts out perfect, WHY engage in any effort to "grow" or "learn" or "play" -- all of the above can be done just thru contemplation, and yield more surprises and perfections than any limited agents such as ourselves could. Why have a trajectory of departure from the infinite in imperfect form, with ultimate return in perfect form, when perfection was already present -- this seems a nonsense goal/behavior. Etc., etc. The storyline for a perfect starting point, cannot justify anything that is then attempted to be explained.

A modification of an Eastern viewpoint DOES have a way out, though, IF one does not assume a deity/source starts out perfect. An immature source, COULD benefit from segmentation, then diversification, and exploration/play/creativity. And both evil and good behavior within its segments, could teach itself the value of morality. This could justify a universe at least a little bit like ours. There are problems even for a maturing God hypothesis. The problems are that so little of our universe is able to support life, it is not nearly diverse enough, and our moral maturation/training life-life is so ineffective.

So an Eastern viewpoint can at least get a little bit closer to explaining our universe, but it still can't really do the job -- as your question appropriately implies.

  • "God wished to enjoy his being through many selves." - Paramahansa Yogananda -- I don't see any problems with this idea.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 13 at 0:16

Maybe it's inherently interesting and important to create universes, if you have the power to do it?

That it would be intellectually interesting is probably understating the case a bit; but having the power, would it not also come to seem important, to create regions where infinite power/transmissibility were to be held back, if only to understand this 'part' of your power too?

For an infinite power, creating universes is the same thing as what it is (and does.) My thinking on this would be influenced more by Spinoza, but my sense is that the logic of omnitude sort of inherently suggests that everything will be done, since it is capable of being done, and so this (world/universe) too "must" exist.

  • "BE... All that you can BE!"
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 13 at 0:29

According to Prtyabhijna philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism, Consciousness manifests because

  • It has potency to create. Ecstasy in consciousness manifests into creation.
  • No one obstructs it to create.

For the time being, I will quote Virupakshapanchadashika verse along with the commentary(partially presenting here) by Vidyacakravartin on the verse where the reason of the creation can be found.

2.9. That consciousness has the nature of recognitive apprehension, flows from its own ecstasy, is Supreme Speech, and comprises the collection of phonemes as abbreviated into the first and the last. [That consciousness] is in reality I-hood.
Commentary- [The assertion that consciousness] “has the nature of recognitive apprehension” means that it has the nature of recognitive judgment. That [consciousness] is properly referred to with [the pronoun] “that,” in the sense of something observable, because it is proven to everybody through their own experience. Consciousness is the abiding of the sentient being in its essential nature when there is the dissolution of all colorations by objects of consciousness. [The assertion that that consciousness] “flows from its own ecstasy” means that it bursts into manifestation continuously because it has no obstructions.


Nice question but very difficult. I'd agree that Osho is good but I find Sri Aurobindo more helpful on this question since he is more of a metaphysician. A quite comprehensive answer (right or wrong) is given in a chapter of his 'Divine Life' called 'Reality and the Cosmic Illusion'. He examines the various forms this relationship might take and surveys what is said by the various sages and masters and to a large extent reconciles them.

Not everyone is a fan of Aurobindo, who is often accused of being more of a academic metaphysician than a realised master, but at least the accusation is a compliment to him as a metaphysician. I'd recommend his chapter on the realtionship between Brahman and the world of multiplicity.

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