From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, section CCXXXII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Vyasa said: Brahma is the effulgent seed from which, existing as it does by itself, has sprung the whole universe consisting of two kinds of being, viz., the mobile and the immobile. At the dawn of His day, waking up, He creates with the help of Avidya this universe. At first springs up that which is called Mahat. That Mahat is speedily transformed into Mind which is the soul of the Manifest.
[Note: By Mahat is meant Pure or Subtle intelligence. The Manifest starts into existence from Mind or has Mind for its soul.]
Overwhelming the Chit, which is effulgent, with Avidya, Mind creates seven great beings. [Note: These seven great Beings or entities are Mahat, which is speedily transformed into Mind, and the five elemental entities of Space, Fire, Air, Water and Earth.]
Urged by the desire of creating, Mind which is far-reaching, which has many courses, and which has desire and doubt for its principal indications, begins to create diverse kinds of objects by modifications of itself. First springs from it Space.
Know that its property is Sound. From Space, by modification, arises the bearer of all scents. Viz., the pure and mighty Wind.
It is said to possess the attribute of Touch From Wind also, by modification, springs Light endued with effulgence. Displayed in beauty, and called also Sukram, it starts into existence, thus, possessing the attribute of Form. From Light, by modification, arises Water, having Taste for its attribute. From Water springs Earth having Scent for its attribute. These are said to represent initial creation.
These, one after another, acquire the attributes of the immediately preceding ones from which they have sprung. Each has not only its own special attribute but each succeeding one has the attributes of all the preceding ones. (Thus, Space has only Sound for its attribute. After Space comes Wind which has, therefore, both Sound and Touch for its attributes. From Wind comes Light or Fire, which has Sound, Touch, and Form for its attributes. From Light is Water, which has Sound, Touch, Form, and Taste for its attributes. From Water is Earth, which has Sound, Touch, Form, Taste, and Scent for its attributes).
If anybody, perceiving Scent in Water, were from ignorance to say that it belongs to Water, he would fall into an error, for
Scent is the attribute of Earth though it may exist in a state of attachment with Water and also Wind. These seven kinds of entities, possessing diverse kinds of energy, at first existed separately from one another. They could not create objects without all of them coming together into a state of commingling. All these great entities coming together, and commingling with one another, form the constituent parts of the body which are called limbs.
[Note: Chit or Jiva (individual soul) is called Purusha or resider in body, because when overlaid with Avidya by the Supreme Soul, it is not possible for it to exist in any other way than by being invested with a covering or case made of primordial matter determined by the power of acts. Here, however, it means limbs (avayavam)]
The Gross Body
In consequence of the combination of those limbs, the sum total, invested with form and having six and ten constituent parts, becomes what is called the body. (When the gross body is thus formed), the subtle Mahat, with the unexhausted residue of acts, then enters that combination called the gross body.
[Note: The seven entities, in their gross form, are unable, if separate, to produce anything. They, therefore, combine with one another. Thus uniting, they first form the asrayanam of sarira i.e., the constituent parts of the body. They, at this stage, must be known by the name of Purusha of avayava i.e., the full body, possessed of form and having the six and ten attributes, comes into existence. Then the subtle Mahat and the subtle Bhutas with the unexhausted residue of acts, enter it. The plural form Mahanti is used because the same Mahat by entering each different form apparently becomes many.
Thus, there are two bodies, one gross, and the other subtle called Linga-sarira. The residue of acts is thus explained: all creatures enjoy or suffer the effects of their good and bad acts.
If, however, the consequences of acts, good and bad, be all exhausted, there can be no rebirth. A residue, therefore, remains in consequence of which rebirth becomes possible. Creation and destruction, again, are endlessly going on. The beginning of the first Creation is inconceivable. The Creation here described is one of a series.]
Then the original Creator of all beings, having by His Maya divided Himself, enters that subtle form for surveying or overlooking everything. And in as much as he is the original Creator of all beings he is on that account called the Lord of all beings.
[Note: The six and ten parts are the five bhutas (elements), and the eleven senses of knowledge and action including mind. The great creatures are the Tan-matras of the gross elements, i.e., their subtle forms. At first the gross body (with the principle of growth) is formed. Into it enters the subtle body or the linga-sarira. At first the gross elements come together. Then the subtle ones with the residue of acts. Then enters the Soul which is Brahman itself. The Soul enters into the subtle form for witnessing, or surveying. All creatures are only manifestations of that Soul due to the accident of Avidya or Maya.]
It is He who creates all beings mobile and immobile. After having thus assumed the form of Brahma he creates the worlds of the gods, the Rishis, the Pitris, and men; the rivers, the seas, and the oceans, the points of the horizon, countries and provinces, hills and mountains, and large trees, human beings, Kinnaras, Rakshasa, birds, animals domestic and wild, and snakes. Indeed, he creates both kinds of existent things, viz., those that are mobile and those that are immobile; and those that are destructible and those that are indestructible.
Of these created objects each obtains those attributes which it had during the previous Creation; and each, indeed, obtains repeatedly the same attributes at every subsequent Creation. Determined in respect of character by either injuriousness or peacefulness, mildness or fierceness, righteousness or unrighteousness, truthfulness or untruthfulness, each creature, at every new creation, obtains that particular attribute which it had cherished before. It is in consequence of this that that particular attribute attaches to it. It is the Ordainer Himself who attaches variety to the great entities (of Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth), to the objects of the senses (such as form etc.), and to size or bulk of existent matter, and appoints the relations of creatures with those multiform entities.
Amongst men who have devoted themselves to the sciences of things, there are some who say that, in the production of effects, exertion is supreme. Some learned persons say that Destiny is supreme, and some that it is Nature which is the agent. Others say that Acts flowing from (personal) exertion, and Destiny, produce effects, aided by Nature. Instead of regarding any of these as singly competent for the production of effects, they say that it is the union of all three that produces all effects.
As regards this subject, some say that such is the case; some, that such is not the case; some, that both of these are not the case; and some, that it is not that the reverse of both are not. These, of course, are the contentions of those that depend on Acts, with reference to objects. They however, whose vision is directed to truth regard Brahman as the cause.
Penance is the highest good for living creatures. The roots of penance are tranquillity and self-restraint. By penance one obtains all things that one wishes for in one’s mind. By penance one attains to that Being who creates the universe. He who (by penance) succeeds in attaining to that Being becomes the puissant master of all beings. It is by Penance that the Rishis are enabled to read the Vedas ceaselessly.
At the outset the Self-born caused those excellent Vedic sounds, that are embodiments of knowledge and that have neither beginning nor end to (spring up and) flow on (from preceptor to disciple). From those sounds have sprung all kinds of actions. The names of the Rishis, all things that have been created, the varieties of form seen in existent things, and the course of actions, have their origin in the Vedas.
[Note: Comments by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli: It is remarkable that there is a close resemblance between the spirit of the first chapter of Genesis with what is contained in the Srutis (Vedas) on the subject of Creation. Let there be Earth, and there was Earth, says the inspired poet of Genesis. Nilkantha (another scholar of the Mahabharata) cites exactly similar words from the Srutis as those which Brahman uttered for creating the Earth, such as, Bhuriti vyaharau as Bhumimasrijat. Then the four modes of life with the duties of each, the modes of worship, etc., were also indicated; hence, all acts also are in the Vedas which represent the words of Brahman.]
Indeed, the Supreme Master of all beings, in the beginning, created all things from the words of the Vedas. Truly, the names of the Rishis, and all else that has been created occur in the Vedas.
Upon the expiration of his night (i.e. at the dawn of his day), the uncreate Brahman creates, from prototypes that existed before, all things which are, of course, well-made by Him.
In the Vedas has been indicated the topic of the Soul’s Emancipation, along with the ten means constituted by study of the Vedas, adoption of the domestic mode of life, penances, observances of duties common to all modes of life, sacrifices, performance of all such acts as lead to pure fame, meditation which is of three kinds, and that kind of emancipation which is called success (Siddhi) attainable in this life.
[Note: The first line contains only technical terms. Nama means Rigveda. Hence, it stands for study of all the Vedas. Bheda stands for half, i.e., for the wife, who must be associated with her husband in all religious acts. Tapah is penance; hence it stands for all kinds of observances like Chandrayana, and modes of life, Vanaprastha, etc. Karma means such acts as the saying of morning and evening prayers, etc. Yama is sacrifice like Jyotishtoma etc. Akhya means such acts as lead to good fame, like the digging of wells, build water-tanks, the making of roads etc. Aloka, meaning meditation, is of three kinds. Lastly, comes Siddhi, meaning that emancipation which is arrived at by one during this life.]
That incomprehensible Brahman which has been declared in the words of the Vedas, and which has been indicated more clearly in the Upanishads by those who have an insight into the Vedas, can be realised by gradually following the practices referred to above.
Unto a person who thinks he has a body, this consciousness of duality, fraught again with that of pairs of opposites, is born only of acts in which he is engaged. (That consciousness of duality ceases during dreamless slumber or when Emancipation has been attained). That person, however, who has attained to Emancipation, aided by his knowledge, forcibly drives off that consciousness of duality.
Two Brahmas should be known, viz., the Brahma represented by sound (i.e., the Vedas), and secondly that which is beyond the Vedas and is Supreme. One that is conversant with Brahma represented by sound succeeds in attaining to Brahman that is Supreme. The slaughter of animals is the sacrifice laid down for the Kshatriyas. The growing of corn is the sacrifice laid down for the Vaisyas. Serving the three other orders is the sacrifice laid down for the Sudras. Penances (or worship of Brahman) is the sacrifice laid down for the Brahmanas. In the Krita age the performance of sacrifices was not necessary. Such performance became necessary in the Treta age. In the Dwapara, sacrifices have begun to fall off. In the Kali age, the same is the case with them.
In Krita age, men, worshipping only one Brahman, looked upon the Richs, the Samans, the Yajus and the rites and sacrifices that are performed from motives of advantage, as all different from the object of their worship, and practised only Yoga, by means of penances. In the Treta age, many mighty men appeared that swayed all mobile and immobile objects.
(Though the generality of men in that age were not naturally inclined to the practice of righteousness, yet those great leaders forced them to such practice.) Accordingly, in that age, the Vedas, and sacrifices and the distinctions between the several orders, and the four modes of life, existed in a compact state. In consequence, however, of the decrease in the period of life in the Dwapara, all these, in that age, fall off from that compact condition. In the Kali age, all the Vedas become so scarce that they may not be even seen by men.
Afflicted by iniquity, they suffer extermination along with the rites and sacrifices laid down in them. The righteousness > which is seen in the Krita age is now visible in such Brahmanas as are of cleansed souls and as are devoted to penances and the study of the scriptures. As regards the other Yugas, it is seen that without at once giving up the duties and acts that are consistent with righteousness, men, observant of practices of their respective orders, and conversant with the ordinance of the Vedas are led by the authority of the scriptures, to betake themselves from motives of advantage and interest to sacrifices and vows and pilgrimages to sacred waters and spots.
[Note: In the three other Yugas, men, without absolutely abandoning virtue, perform good acts and Vedic sacrifices and rites and scriptural vows and observances, from motives of low gain and not as a preparation for Emancipation. Thus, even in the Kali age, Vedic rites are not absolutely unknown. The motive, however, from which these are undertaken is connected with some low or sordid gain.]
As in the season of rains a large variety of new objects of the immobile order are caused to come forth into life by the showers that fall from the clouds, even so many new kinds of duty or religious observances are brought about in each Yuga. As the same phenomena reappear with the reappearance of the seasons, even so, at each new Creation the same attributes appear in each new Brahman and Hara. I have, before this, spoken to thee of Time which is without beginning and without end, and which ordains this variety in the universe. It is that Time which creates and swallows up all creatures. All the innumerable creatures that exist subject to pairs of opposites and according to their respective nature, have Time for their refuge.