Mandukya Karika, verse 3.15


मृल्लोहविस्फुलिङ्गाद्यैः सृष्टिर्या चोदितान्यथा ।
उपायः सोऽवताराय नास्ति भेदः कथंचन ॥ १५ ॥

mṛllohavisphuliṅgādyaiḥ sṛṣṭiryā coditānyathā |
upāyaḥ so'vatārāya nāsti bhedaḥ kathaṃcana || 15 ||

15. (The scriptural statements regarding) creation as illustrated by examples of earth, iron, sparks, etc., or otherwise, (only) serve the purpose of (ultimately) explaining the unity (of Jīva and Brahman). (Really speaking) multiplicity does not exist in any manner.

Shankara Bhashya (commentary)

(Objection)—Before1 creation all this might have been unborn, one and non-dual; but after creation, all this evolved world and the embodied beings (Jīvas) denote multiplicity. (Reply)—No, it cannot be so. For, the scriptural passages dealing with creation have another meaning. This difficulty raised here has already been solved by the statements that2 the aggregates (entities) of body, etc., like dream-objects, are produced through illusion of the subject (Ātman) and that creation and the differences of the Jīvas are like the creation and the differences of the Ghaṭākāśas, i.e., the bits of Ākāśa enclosed in different jars. The scriptural3 statements dealing with creation and differences (of the created beings), have again been referred to here in order to show that such statements regarding creation have the purpose of determining the unity of Jīva and Brahman. The4 (theory of) creation has been described in the scripture through the illustrations of earth, iron, sparks, etc., or otherwise; but all these modes of creation are meant for enlightening our intellect so that it may comprehend the identity of Jīva and Brahman. It is just like the story5 of the organs of speech (vāk), etc., being smitten with evil by the Asuras (demons) as described in the chapter on Prāṇa (vital breath), where the real purpose of the Śruti is to demonstrate the special importance of Prāṇa. (Objection)—We6 do not accept this meaning as indicated. (Reply)—Your contention is not correct. For7 this story about Prāṇa, etc., has been differently narrated in different recensions of the Vedas. If the story of Prāṇa were literally true, there should have been one version only in all recensions. Different versions of contradictory nature would not have been narrated. But we do come across such different versions in the Vedas. Therefore the scriptural passages recording stories of Prāṇa are not meant to serve any purpose of their own, i.e., they should not be taken literally. The scriptural8 statements regarding creation should also be understood in a similar manner. (Objection)—There have been different creations in different cycles. Therefore, the scriptural statements regarding creations (of the universe) and stories (of Prāṇa) are different as they refer to the Creations in different cycles. (Reply)—This contention is not valid. For, they (the illustrations of earth, iron, etc., as well as the stories of Prāṇa) serve no other useful purpose than clearing our intellect as stated above. No one can imagine any other utility of the scriptural statements regarding creation and Prāṇa. (Objection)—We9 contend that these are for the purpose of meditation so that one may ultimately attain to that end. (Reply)—This is not correct either; for no one desires to attain his identity with the dispute (in the case of the Prāṇa narrative), or with the creation or destruction (in the case of the scriptural statements regarding creation, etc.). Therefore we have reasonably to conclude that the scriptural statements regarding creation, etc., are for the purpose of helping the mind to realise the oneness of Ātman, and for no other purpose whatsoever. Therefore, no multiplicity is brought about by creation, etc.