There are various theories of creation, ranging from absurd to the sublime.
There is a classical theory in Hinduism that keeps coming back to me. It may have no scientific validity. Nonetheless, it appeals to my imagination. It springs from the following mantra:
This innocuous looking verse occurs towards the end of the Shukla Yajur Veda Samhita in the form of shanti mantra for the Ishavasya Upanishad.
“Pri” the root of Purna means, “to fill” .This verse has acquired a number of interpretations, including a one with a play of pun on the word purna. Many other layers of interpretations have sprung up by ascribing the meaning of “full”, “whole”, “complete” etc. In addition, mathematical interpretations are derived by assigning numerical values such as ∞ or zero and one, to the term purna. A number of debates center on these interpretations. Even the mathematical interpretation has its critics, who say infinity cannot be added/deducted to/from infinity. If we are talking of two infinities, then they just cannot be infinity because each, obviously, limits the other. Similarly, assigning other numerical values does not also appear to make sense.
Others say the verse talks about the sum total of the energy in the universe. (I was referring to this, at the outset).According to them, the verse states the Universe is infinite. The sum total of energy in the Universe is infinite (a constant). That energy can never be enhanced or diminished. The universe is in a continuous state of flux. All things are in a state of constant flux where energy and information are forever flowing. The matter and energy keep changing forms. Matter and energy are not distinct. Matter is in essence trapped energy. The energy can convert to matter; the Matter in turn can convert into energy. In other words, matter and energy are inter changeable. The energy in the universe can neither be created nor destroyed; it keeps changing its form, from one state to another.
This implies neither was there a creation nor will there be a total destruction. The Universe was not created and it will not be destroyed. It is forever. It always did exist. It has no boundaries either. It is limitless. To signify this endless time and space continuum, the Universe is termed in the texts as Anaadi (without a beginning) and Anantha (without an end). Timeless not in the sense of endless duration, but in the sense of completeness, requiring neither a before nor an after.
It is this continuous state of flux where the matter and energy keep changing their state that we recognize as creation or destruction, as birth or death. . From the absolute point of view, there is neither birth nor death. It is a process in the ever-changing state of matter / energy.
This concept of indestructibility of the Universe with its infinite combinations, its continuous state of flux; keep coming up in various manners. The expressions like, “It” (tat) remains or Brahman (tat) (Universe) rolls with in itself; all things come from tat and resolve into tat etc. capture the essence of the concept.
Manduka Upanishad says, “That supreme Brahman is infinite and this conditioned Brahman is infinite. The infinite proceeds from infinite. Then through knowledge, realizing the infinitude of the infinite, it remains as infinite alone”. Sankara in his Brahma Sutra commentary said Brahman is immanent in the Universe.
The body is one continuous stream of matter. The body is viewed as a vessel. It is energy encased in matter. That matter, again, is trapped energy, as mentioned earlier. That trapped inner energy is not different from the total energy surrounding it and is the same as that (tat). Vedanta calls it embodied self (jiva or vijnanaatma).The Adhyasa or Avidya (ignorance) consists in treating jiva as independent and having an existence of its own.
This concept of indestructibility of energy and matter and their interchangeability, strangely, seems to feed the belief in rebirth. On death, the physical body (matter) decomposes and returns to the elements and takes another form. The inner energy (call it life, jiva, soul, spirit, vital force or whatever) is not destroyed. In fact, the “death” occurs when/ after the energy is separate from the shell, (body).That energy is not, therefore, present in the corpse when it is destroyed. That energy may have returned to the total or may have changed into another form of energy or into matter of some form.
The texts say, “Just as the bubble becomes one with the ocean when it bursts, just as the pot-space becomes one with the universal space when the pot is broken, so also the Jiva or the empirical self becomes one with Brahman.”
Thus, energy thrives on energy. Life thrives on life .jeevo_jeevasya_jeevanam.
March 21, 2015 at 3:02 pm
thank you for an illuminating post once again. i had to read your blog many times over before i could even venture to comment.
we see our physical bodies with definite outlines, borders; we see ourselves in finite terms and thus seek to look at the universe in the same way. the unknowing mind seeks to limit the universe (which we think is outside of us) in the same finite terms.
but true knowledge will dispel this avidya or ignorance. the mind comes to understand that:
1. infinity is anantha (unending); so there cannot be a beginning (hence universe is anaadi)
2. infinity is boundless-there is no outside; so there cannot be an inside
3. without the separation of the inside and the outside, there is spacelessness
4. when infinity is spaceless, it got to be timeless too
5. in essence, infinity is completeness. nothing can be added; nothing can be subtracted.
in short “aham brahmasmi”
i have a couple of questions arising from this summation:
1. what does adisesha signify? i ask because he is referred to as ananthasayanam. does he signify the unending universe? if so what does sayanam in the phrase signify?
2. how do you explain the concept of hiranya garbha garbhastham (golden egg of creation)? would that be maya or avidya? what would this concept of creation signify?
March 21, 2015 at 3:03 pm
or melody queen
thank you for posting the comments.
i am sorry you had to read the post many times over to dig a little sense out of that. i realize i should have made it a little more readable and a little less inscrutable. i thank your patience.
nevertheless, you have summed it up very well.
hinduism considers that the world is a manifestation of god. god and the universe are essentially one.there is no concept of creation and a creator. the world came from god, exists in god and will return to god just as the waves arise in the ocean, exist in the ocean and subside into the ocean. there is no concept of creation or destruction. it is a state of manifestation and unmanifestation. and this happens in cycles, repeatedly. there are graphic and poetic descriptions about god ‘s leela of creating the world, maintaining it and withdrawing it. there are figurative modes to explain the above concept.
there are various versions of creation detailed in the puranas. the most common version is that at the time of creation vishnu wakes up and a lotus emerges from his navel on which brahma is seated. brahma then creates the universe.
anantha the infinite is a term applied to the seven-headed serpent couch upon which the manifested vishnu reclines . anantha also represents the infinite beyond time and space. when he wakes up he manifests himself as the universe. after every 4.5 million years there is a deluge following which the withdrawal of the world takes place. then for the next 4.5 million years there is nothingness. during that period god exists without any form or characteristic. after that the world is created again. this cycle continues forever. this is a simplified version of the actual cycle of time.
[it is said manifestation and un-manifestation is instantaneous , because “time” is a part of manifestation . it is compared to a dream status .the dream world including its timeline are instantaneous. the “time” in dream is unreal. on waking up the dream world vanishes. the difference being god does not dream, here. i am not clear about this. you need to consult an expert. ]
how this time-cycle is computed needs some explanation. the period between one manifestation and un-manifestation is called a maha_yuga comprising four yugas .its duration is 4.32 million years as you see in the table below
the four yugas
1,728,000 solar years
1,296,000 solar years
864,000 solar years
432,000 solar years
a period of seventy-one mahayugas is one ‘manvantra’. after one manvantra the universe lies in a state of nothingness for a period of one manvantra. a period of fourteen manvantras is called a kalpa. after one kalpa the universe lies in a state of nothingness for a period of one kalpa. one kalpa is equal to one day in brahma’s life. brahma lives for a hundred years. then the universe lies in a state of nothingness for a period of a hundred of brahma’s years. [when on a vacation if you ever get bored try to arrive at 100 tears of brahma life , in terms of human years.]
we are now 5000 years into kali yuga of the present mahayuga.
here what is not important is the arithmetic’s or its accuracy. its message is important. what it conveys loud and clear is the utter insignificance of human existence on this planet, in the cosmic scenario.
there is a parallel here with the “ice-age”. the polar ice cape overflows every 100,000 years to cover earth’s surface. thereafter the earth lies covered under the ice for 80,000 years. life on the planet flourishes for 20,000 years, at the end of which the ice again takes over. this is broadly the maha_yuga pattern-creation, life, withdrawal followed by nothingness. the time span is of course on a different scale. i am not trying to justify or suggest anything. i am just drawing a parallel.
this again is a concept like all concepts. it is a mythological one at that. it is an open choice.
hiranya-garbha, the world-spirit is the spirit that pervades and animates the universe. to understand this you have to go back to the basic positions.
brahman is absolute independent of any creation. it exists by itself. and when that brahman is viewed as the moving spirit or the driving force in the universe, it is called hiranyagarbha . when that spirit or energy is viewed as a personal god creating, protecting and destroying the universe, it is then called isvara. eventually that isvara transforms himself into brahma, vishnu, and siva when his three functions are performed separately.
hiranyagarbha is therefore a concept, a factor as in mathematics, to forge a link between the subtle and the not-so-subtle, between the general and specific ,and between unknown and the familiar. (this process is also called arundhathi nyaya.)
if you put together the trinity plus isvara plus hiranya_garbha you will not get back brahman. the real sat_vastu (whatever it is) is not a sum of these. it is an ineffable unity unaffected by the conceptual distinctions one imposes on it. similarly , the trinity , isvara and hiranyagarbha are equally unaffected by the classification.
i hope you have the time and patience to read through this
thanks for asking. it helped me too.
p:s:you mentioned aham brahmasmi. it is one of the four maha_vakyas attributed to sankara. but you do not find them in his works. sri ramana mahrishi thought that “who am i?” or ” i am” was more purposeful. in any case, it has struck to sankara.let us leave it at that.
March 21, 2015 at 3:04 pm
dear rao sir:
thank you once again for giving my questions a serious thought. your explanation is lucid. but as you have remarked, the dichotomy in understanding arises because we try to reconcile the manifest universe with the unmanifest brahman; all the while knowing that the manifest universe is the same as the unmanifest brahman. some more probing is required if we have to grasp the essence, something our seers have been able to do in the past.
similarly, i now tend to think that hiranya garbha concept is an attempt aimed at understanding the manifest universe.
please correct me if i am wrong in the above interpretation. thank you for your patience.
ps: it was a pleasure to re-read your blog many times over