In his latest work titled The Grand Design, scientist Stephen Hawking has written, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist."
This view is in sharp contrast to Mr. Hawking's previous acceptance of Sir Isaac Newton's view (that the Universe was set in motion by God), as well to time-honored religious perspectives, which (excluding Buddhism) unanimously affirm that the Universe or - to use the more inclusive Greek term - the Kosmos was created by God.
advaita vedAnta is the finest example of a traditional spiritual metaphysic, and according to this metaphysical perspective, if we attribute causality to something on the manifest level, we have to ask what causes the thing that triggered the cause. Specifically, when Mr. Hawking sights the law of gravity as a cause for the Universe to create itself out of nothing, we have to ask, "If gravity allows this, then what caused gravity?"
We might also consider that nothing is a thing, due to the fact that nothing is objectively verifiable. For example, if a cup is reportedly empty, this report can be easily confirmed by looking to see that nothing is in the cup.
Ishvara, it must be pointed out, is not merely an elusive, anthropomorphic Being. Ishvara is Creator, Sustainer and Dissolver, which is to say, the First Cause or the Principle.
If it is acceptable to consider one thing (or some combination of things) as cause of another thing, then it will be incomprehensible to hold the view that causes are the effects of prior causes ad infinitum. For this reason, and for us to avoid believing any manifest thing to be the Cause of things, the Principle is offered.
Additionally, we may point out, the Principle or Ishvara brahman is only a thing to the degree It must be considered manifest. But brahman is also the Absolute, and so is found - however paradoxically - to be the the Cause of every cause, which causes are, in light of the Absolute, nothing if not mithya.