asatyam apratiṣṭhaḿ te
jagad āhur anīśvaram
kim anyat kāma-haitukam

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 16.8

They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

The demonic conclude that the world is phantasmagoria. There is no cause and effect, no controller, no purpose: everything is unreal. They say that this cosmic manifestation arises due to chance material actions and reactions. They do not think that the world was created by God for a certain purpose. They have their own theory: that the world has come about in its own way and that there is no reason to believe that there is a God behind it. For them there is no difference between spirit and matter, and they do not accept the Supreme Spirit.

Everything is matter only, and the whole cosmos is supposed to be a mass of ignorance. According to them, everything is void, and whatever manifestation exists is due to our ignorance in perception. They take it for granted that all manifestation of diversity is a display of ignorance. Just as in a dream we may create so many things which actually have no existence, so when we are awake we shall see that everything is simply a dream. But factually, although the demons say that life is a dream, they are very expert in enjoying this dream. And so, instead of acquiring knowledge, they become more and more implicated in their dreamland. They conclude that as a child is simply the result of sexual intercourse between man and woman, this world is born without any soul. For them it is only a combination of matter that has produced the living entities, and there is no question of the existence of the soul. As many living creatures come out from perspiration and from a dead body without any cause, the whole living world has come out of the material combinations of the cosmic manifestation. Therefore material nature is the cause of this manifestation, and there is no other cause. They do not believe in the words of Krishna in Bhagavad-gita: mayadhyaksena prakritih suyate sa-caracaram. “Under My direction the whole material world is moving.” In other words, among the demons there is no perfect knowledge of the creation of the world; every one of them has some particular theory of his own. According to them, one interpretation of the scriptures is as good as another, for they do not believe in a standard understanding of the scriptural injunctions.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

This verse describes the thinking process of the asuras. They say that the world is an illusory conception, based on falsity (asatyam); that it is without shelter (apratistha), not having even the basis of a flower in the sky; that it is without creatorship of a controller since it is false (anisvaram). Because it has arisen from nowhere like entities from perspiration, it has not arisen from a cause (aparaspara sambhutam). What else can be said (kim anyat)? Its cause is just according to the desire of those who propound theories about it (kama haitukam). If they can imagine that the world arises only by illusion, then that becomes the cause.

Others explain the verse thus: It has no proof, no confirmation from the Vedas, Puranas or other sources of knowledge (asatyam). It is said:

trayo vedasya kartaro bhanda-dhurta-nisacara

The makers of the three Vedas are jackals imitating wise men.

It has no state of dharma or adharma (apratistham). The ideas of dharma and adharma are both mistaken conceptions. The Lord also is conceived on the basis of mistake or bhrama (anisvaram).

“It is observed that the world arises only from the mutual interactions of men and women.” This is not a fact. The world does not arise from their interaction (aparaspara sarhbhutam). Though it is said that the child arises from the mother and father, it is a mistaken idea, like false knowledge that the pot has arisen from the potter. What should be said? The cause of the world is simply a speculation of one’s whim (kama haitukam). By logic, whatever different persons speak about atoms, maya or God, they talk of that as the cause.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

16.8 They maintain that the universe is ‘without truth,’ viz., they do not accept that this universe, which is the effect of Brahman denoted by the term Satya, has Brahman for its Self. They contend that it is bereft of any ‘foundation,’ viz., they do not accept that it has Brahman for its foundation. Brahman as Ananta supports the earth and bears all the worlds, as declared in ‘This earth, sustained upon the head of this great serpent, supports in its turn, this garland of worlds, along with their men, demons and gods’ (V.P., 2.5.27). They say that it is ‘without a Lord,’ viz. they don’t accept that this universe is controlled by Me, the Lord of all, the Supreme Brahman, whose will is always true. It has been already averred: ‘I am the origin of all; from Me proceed everything’ (10.8). And they also contend thus: ‘What else can exist without mutual causation?’ i.e., except by the union of the male and the female among men, beasts etc. What else exists apart from this nature? The meaning is that nothing else is seen. Therefore the entire world is rooted in sexual lust.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

It may be wondered how is it tat the demoniac are not able to perform righteous activities prescribed in the Vedic scriptures and unable to refrain from executing unrighteous actions that are prohibited as vile and degrading? How can there be any logical explanation as to the cause of happiness and misery without the evaluation of righteous and unrighteous conduct? It may be further postulated why do the demoniac determinedly transgress the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures in spiteful disrespect to truth, purity and dignity? Unless one accepts the reality of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures there is no other valid and proven explanation for the origin of creation and all its variegated unlimited beings. All these queries will be summarily answered and resolved in these 12 verses beginning now.

The demoniac mentality is very dark and limited in scope. The demoniac believe creation to be false, without any basis or purpose. The demoniac refuse to acknowledge or accept the absolute authority of the Vedic scriptures which have manifested for the benefit of all creation. The demoniac say that the ordinances and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures are nebulous and imaginary having no moral implications or applications to concepts of right or wrong. They regard the unlimited myriads of variegated jivas or embodied beings as merely arising spontaneously on their own accord like bubbles arising in water; without the auspices of a Supreme Lord or almighty god, without even a singular consciousness manifesting as a creator. The demoniac hypothecate that creation originated by the mutual union of a supra human male and female in sexual intercourse and cite as their evidence the visible proof that all species cohabit in this way and that is how creation expanded and evolved. The demoniac hence belligerently believe that the origins of creation is from lust alone without superior agency. All these blatantly erroneous concepts they adamantly cling to as rust stubbornly clings to metal.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The material existence is real. This world is not an illusion. The incarnation Vedavyasa has written in Vedanta Sutra III.II.III beginning mayamatram tu kartsyena meaning: This world appears illusory because its nature is not manifest in its entirety. The Upanisads proclaim that the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence has a twofold nature of manifest and unmanifest and this is the established form of the ultimate truth. All the worlds have been established by the Supreme Lord Krishna who has energised them and sustains them providing them the means to flourish and evolve. The Supreme Lord as isvaram parama the supreme controller who alone creates, maintains and destroys all existence yet the demoniac contrarily, adamantly oppose Him.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

The demoniac falsely state that creation is godless and completely unreal, without any foundation or creator. They have no knowledge of the Vedic scriptures which ascertains all variables perceived and unperceived and gives as evidence countless examples which we will validate now. The Vedanta Sutra II.I.XVI beginning sattva ca varasya states: Even prior to the manifestation of the effect its existence is inherent in the cause. The Chandogya Upanisad VI.II.I beginning sadeva samye damagra states: In the beginning was only the Supreme Lord alone for before creation there was non- existence of any reality and from this non-existence everything became manifest. It is to be understood that non-existence is mahattattva the most subtle and infinitesimal sub-atomic essence where name and form have no scope to manifest. This is confirmed again in Vedanta Sutra II.I.XVIII beginning yukteli savdanara ca which states: Through studying verses in Vedic scriptures with unbiased erudition it can be ascertained that asat or non-existence refers to the subtlest state of existence known as mahattattva. So from these examples it can be determined that creation is absolutely real and the erroneous conceptions of the demoniac to the contrary are based on the supposition that the effect must be non-existent because the cause is non-existent and this has now been proven to be false. The Taittiriya Upanisad II.VII.I beginning asadva idamagre asit states: Creation was ever existent before its manifestation in its mahattattva form and when the Supreme Lord wills it to manifest it appears. The meaning of the word asatyam is unreal but that is substantiated by the understanding that everything material is the effect of a cause which is not perceived. This is confirmed in Vedanta Sutra III.II.III beginning mayamatram tu kartsyena which states: Creation is only illusory because its nature is not manifest in its entirety. The complete cosmic manifestation and total material creation comprised of demigods, humans, demons, animals, birds, fish, plants, etc. is created, maintained and sustained under the absolute control of the Supreme Lord Krishna. Creation is His by product, pervaded, supported and energised by Him alone. Yet adamantly the demoniac bray and howl that there is no Supreme Lord, no supreme god or supreme creator involved in the process and formation of creation. If they think like this, then how do the demoniac say that creation came into existence? The demoniac analysing existence from only a limited materialistic viewpoint conclude that creation is evolving in all species of life solely through the mutual copulation of male and female by sexual intercourse. Seeing no other external source they opine that lust alone must be the sole cause of creation and determinedly continue degrading themselves in their demoniac activities.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

16.8 Te, they, the domoniacal persons; ahuh, say; that the jagat, world; is asatyam, unreal-as we ourselves are prone to falsehood, so is this whole world unreal; apratistham, it has no basis, it does not have righteousness and unrighteousness as its basis; it is anisvaram, without a God-nor is there a God who rules this (world) according to rigtheousness and unrighteousness (of beings). Hence they say that the world is godless. Moreover, it is aparaspara-sambhutam, born of mutual union. The whole world is born of the union of the male and female impelled by passion. (That union is) kama-haitukam, brought about by passion. Kama-haitukam and kama-hetukam are the same. Kim anyat, what other (cause can there be)? There exists to other unseen cause such as righteousness, unrigtheousness, etc. Certainly, the passion of living beings is the cause of the world. This is the view of the materialists.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

16.8 Asatyam etc. [It] has nothing beyond : Here there is no other thing beyond what is seen.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

asatyam apratistham te
jagad ahur anisvaram
kim anyat kama-haitukam

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

asatyam — unreal; apratiṣṭham — without foundation; te — they; jagat — the cosmic manifestation; āhuḥ — say; anīśvaram — with no controller; aparaspara — without cause; sambhūtam — arisen; kim anyat — there is no other cause; kāma-haitukam — it is due to lust only.