Creation of this Universe & Beyond

In the beginning all this was Atman – one only. There was nothing else active. He bethought himself, ‘Let me now create the world.’ He created these worlds.

Aitareya Upanishad

In the beginning all this was Atman – one only.

There was nothing else active. He bethought himself,

‘Let me now create the world.’ He created these worlds.

Yuga Years
Kaliyuga consists of 432,000
Dvaparayuga consists of 864,000
Tretayuga consists of  1,296,000
Krtayuga consists of  1,728,000

Sri Ramana Maharshi: All metaphysical discussion is profitless unless it causes us to seek within the Self for the true reality.

All controversies about creation, the nature of the universe, evolution, the purpose of God, etc., are useless. They are not conducive to our true happiness. People try to find out about things which are outside of them before they try to find out ‘Who am I?’ Only by the latter means can happiness be gained.

[Note: Comments by David Godman: Sri Ramana Maharshi had little or no interest in the theoretical side of spirituality. His principal concern was to bring people to an awareness of the Self and, to achieve this end, he always insisted that practice was more important than speculation. Sri Ramana was known to have views which were totally at variance with the common- sense view of the world. As with most other topics he tailored his statements to conform to the different levels of understanding he encountered in his questioners, but even so, almost all his ideas were radical refutations of the concepts of physical reality that most people cherish.

Sri Ramana adopted three different standpoints when he spoke about the nature of the physical world. He advocated all of them at different times, but it is clear from his general comments on the subject that he only considered the first two theories given below to be either true or useful.

  1. Ajata vada or the theory of non-causality. This is an ancient Hindu doctrine which states that the creation of the world never happened at all. It is a complete denial of all causality in the physical world. Sri Ramana endorsed this view by saying that it is the jnani’s (Man who is Self-realised) experience that nothing ever comes into existence or ceases to be because the Self alone exists as the sole unchanging reality. It is a corollary of this theory that time, space, cause and effect, essential components of all creation theories, exist only in the minds of ajnanis (ignorant) and that the experience of the Self reveals their non-existence.

This theory is not a denial of the reality of the world, only of the creative process which brought it into existence. Speaking from his own experience Sri Ramana said that the jnani is aware that the world is real, not as an assemblage of interacting matter and energy, but as an uncaused appearance in the Self. He enlarged on this by saying that because the real nature or substratum of this appearance is identical with the beingness of the Self, it necessarily partakes of its reality. That is to say, the world is not real to the jnani simply because it appears, but only because the real nature of the appearance is inseparable from the Self.

The ajnani on the other hand, is totally unaware of the unitary nature and source of the world and, as a consequence, his mind constructs an illusory world of separate interacting objects by persistently misinterpreting the sense-impressions it receives. Sri Ramana pointed out that this view of the world has no more reality than a dream since it superimposes a creation of the mind on the reality of the Self. He summarised the difference between the jnani’s and the ajnani’s standpoint by saying that the world is unreal if it is perceived by the mind as a collection of discrete objects and real when it is directly experienced as an appearance in the Self.

  1. Drishti-srishti vada. If his questioners found the idea of ajata or non-causality impossible to assimilate, he would teach them that the world comes into existence simultaneously with the appearance of the ‘I’ –thought and that it ceases to exist when the ‘I’ –thought is absent.

This theory is known as drishti-srishti, or simultaneous creation, and it says, in effect, that the world which appears to an ajnani is a product of the mind that perceives it, and that in the absence of that mind it ceases to exist. The theory is true in so far as the mind does create an imaginary world for itself, but from the standpoint of the Self, an imaginary ‘I’ creating an imaginary world is no creation at all, and so the doctrine of ajata is not subverted. Although Sri Ramana
sometimes said that drishti-srishti was not the ultimate truth about creation he encouraged his followers to accept it as a working hypothesis. He justified this approach by saying that if one can consistently regard the world as an unreal creation of the mind then it loses its attraction and it becomes easier to maintain an undistracted awareness of the ‘I’-thought.

  1. Srishti-drishti vada (gradual creation). This is the common-sense view which holds that the world is an objective reality governed by laws of cause and effect which can be traced back to a single act of creation. It includes virtually all western ideas on the subject from ‘big bang’ theory to the biblical account in Genesis. Sri Ramana invoked theories of this nature when he was talking to questioners who were unwilling to accept the implications of the ajata and drishti-srishti
    Even then, he would usually point out that such theories should not be taken too seriously as they were only promulgated to satisfy intellectual curiosity.

Literally, drishti-srishti means that the world only exists when it is perceived whereas srishti-drishti means that the world existed prior to anyone’s perception of it. Although the former theory sounds perverse, Sri Ramana insisted that serious seekers should be satisfied with it, partly because it is a close approximation to the truth and partly because it is the most beneficial attitude to adopt if one is seriously interested in realising the Self.]

Question: How has srishti (creation) come about? Some say it is predestined. Others say it the Lord’s leela or sport.
What is the truth?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Various accounts are given in books. But is there creation? Only if there is creation do we have to explain how it came about. We may not know about all these theories, but we certainly know that we exist. Why not know the ‘‘I’’ and then see if there is a creation?

Question: In the Vedanta of Sri Sankaracharya the principle of the creation of the world has been accepted for the sake of beginners, but for the advanced the principle of non-creation is put forward. What is your view on this matter?

Maharshi: “There is no dissolution or creation, no one in bondage, nor anyone pursuing spiritual practices. There is no one desiring liberation, nor anyone liberated. This is the absolute truth.” This sloka (verse) appears in the second chapter of Gaudapada’s Karika. One who is established in the Self sees this by his knowledge of reality.

Question: Is not the Self the cause of this world we see around us?

Maharshi: Self itself appears as the world of diverse names and forms. However, Self does not act as the efficient cause (nimitta karana), creating, sustaining and destroying it. Do not ask ‘Why does the confusion of Self, not knowing the truth that it itself appears as the world arise?’ If instead you enquire ‘To whom does this confusion occur?’, it will be discovered that no such confusion ever existed for Self.

Questioner: You seem to be an exponent of ajata doctrine of Advaita Vedanta.

Maharshi: I do not teach only the ajata doctrine. I approve of all schools. The same truth has to be expressed in different ways to suit the capacity of the hearer.

The Ajata doctrine says, ‘Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth or death, no projection or drawing in, no seeker, no bondage, no liberation. The one unity alone exists.’

To find it difficult to grasp this truth and who ask, ‘How can we ignore this solid world we see all around us?’, the dream experience is pointed out and they are told, ‘All that you see depends on the seer. Apart from the seer, there is no seen.’ This is called the drishti-srishti vada or the argument that one first creates out of one’s mind and then sees what one’s mind itself has created. Some people cannot grasp even this, and they continue to argue in the following terms:

‘The dream experience is so short, while the world always
exists. The dream experience was limited to me. But the world is felt and seen not only by me, but by so many others. We cannot call such a world non-existent.’

When people argue in this way they can be given a srishti-drishti theory, for example, ‘God first created such and such a thing, out of such and such an element, and then something else was created, and so on.’ That alone will satisfy this class. Their minds are otherwise not satisfied, and they ask themselves, ‘How can all geography, all maps, all sciences, stars, planets and the rules governing or relating to them and all knowledge be totally untrue?’ To such it is best to say, ‘Yes, God created all this and so you see it.’

Question: But all these cannot be true. Only one doctrine can be true.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: All these theories are only to suit the capacity of the learner. The absolute can only be one.

The Vedanta says that the cosmos springs into view simultaneously with the seer and that there is no detailed process of creation. This is said to be yugapat-srishti (instantaneous creation). It is quite similar to the creations in dream where the experiencer springs up simultaneously with the objects of experience. When this is told, some people are not satisfied for they are deeply rooted in objective knowledge.
They seek to find out how there can be sudden creation. They argue that an effect must be preceded by a cause. In short, they desire an explanation for the existence of the world which they see around them. Then the srutis (scriptures) try to satisfy their curiosity by theories of creation.

This method of dealing with the subject of creation is called krama-srishti

(gradual creation). But the true seeker can content with yugapat-srishti, instantaneous creation.

There may be any number of theories of creation. All of them extend outwardly. There will be no limit to them because time and space are unlimited. They are however only in the mind.
If you see the mind, time and space are transcended and the Self is realised.

Creation is explained scientifically or logically to one’s own satisfaction. But is there any finality about it? Such explanations are called krama-srishti (gradual creation). On the other hand, drishti-srishti (simultaneous creation) is yugapat-srishti. Without the seer there are no objects seen.
Find the seer and the creation is comprised in him. Why look outward and go on explaining the phenomena which are endless?

Where are you now? Are you in the world or is the world within you? You must admit that the world is not perceived in your sleep although you cannot deny your existence then. The world appears when you wake up. So where is it? Clearly the world is your thought. Thoughts are your projections. The “I” is first created and then the world. The world is created by the “I” which in its turn rises up from the Self. The riddle of the creation of the world is thus solved if you solve the creation of the “I”. So, I say, find your Self.

Again, does the world come and ask you ‘Why do “I” exist?
How was “I” created?’ It is you who ask the question. The questioner must establish the relationship between the world and himself. He must admit that the world is his own imagination. Who imagines it? Let him again find the “I” and then the Self. Moreover, all the scientific and theological explanations do not harmonise. The diversities in such theories clearly show the uselessness of seeking such explanations. Such explanations are purely mental and intellectual and nothing more. Still, all of them are true according to the standpoint of the individual. There is no creation in the state of realisation. When one sees the world, one does not see oneself. When one sees the Self, the world is not seen. So, see the Self and realise that there has been no creation.

Question: “Brahman is real. The world is illusion” is the stock phrase of Sri Sankaracharya. Yet others say, “The world is reality.” Which is true?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Both statements are true. They refer to different stages of development and are spoken from different points of view. The aspirant starts with the definition, that which is real exists always. Then he eliminates the world as unreal because it is changing. The seeker ultimately reaches the Self and there finds unity as the prevailing note. Then, that which was originally rejected as being unreal is found to be a part of the unity. Being absorbed in the reality, the world also is real. There is only being in Self-realisation, and nothing but being.

Question: Sri Bhagavan (Ramana Maharshi) often says that Maya (illusion) and reality are the same. How can that be?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Sankara was criticised for his views on Maya without being understood. He said that

  1. Brahman is real
  2. The universe is unreal, and
  3. The universe is Brahman.

He did not stop at the second, because the third explains the other two. It signifies that the universe is real if perceived as the Self, and unreal if perceived apart from the Self. Hence May and reality are one and the same.

Question: So, the world is not really illusory?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: At the level of the spiritual seeker you have got to say that the world is an illusion. There is no other way. When a man forgets that he is a Brahman, who is real, permanent and omnipresent, and deludes himself into thinking that he is a body in the universe which is filled with bodies that are transitory, and labours under that delusion, you have got to remind him that the world is unreal and a delusion.

Why? Because his vision which has forgotten its own Self is dwelling in the external, material universe. It will not turn inwards into introspection unless you impress on him that all this external material universe is unreal. When once he realises his own Self, he will know that there is nothing other than his own Self and he will come to look upon the whole universe as Brahman.

There is no universe without the Self. So, ling as a man does not see the Self which is the origin of all, but looks only at the external world as real and permanent, you have to tell him that all this external universe is an illusion. You cannot help it. Take a paper. We see only the script, and nobody notices the paper on which the script is written. The paper is there whether the script on it is there or not. To those who look upon the script as real, you have to say that it is unreal, an illusion, since it rests upon the paper. The wise man looks upon both the paper and script as one. So also, with Brahman and the universe.

Question: So, the world is real when it is experienced as the Self and unreal when it is seen as separate names and forms?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Just as fire is obscured by smoke, the shining light of consciousness is obscured by the assemblage of names and forms, the world. When by compassionate divine grace the mind becomes clear, the nature of the world will be known to be not the illusory forms but only the reality.

Only those people whose minds are devoid of the evil power of Maya, having given up the knowledge of the world and being unattached to it, and having thereby attained the knowledge of the self-shining Supreme Reality, can correctly know the meaning of the statement “The world is real.” If one’s outlook has been transformed to the nature of real knowledge, the world of the five elements beginning with space (akasha) will be real, being the Supreme Reality, which is the nature of knowledge.

The original state of this empty world, which is bewildering and crowded with many names and forms, is bliss, which is one, just as the egg-yolk of a multi-coloured peacock is only one. Know this truth by abiding in the state of Self.

By means of the Higher Knowledge the wise behold everywhere Brahman, which otherwise cannot be seen or seized, which has no root or attributes, no eyes or ears, no hands or feet; which is eternal and omnipresent, all-pervading and extremely subtle; which is imperishable and the source of all beings.
(Mundaka Upanishad, I.i.6)

[Note: As the spider sends forth and draws in its thread, as plants grow on the earth, as hair grows on the head and the body of a living man- so does everything in the universe arise from the Imperishable.

“Draws in”: That is to say, absorbs within itself. The thread, when drawn in, becomes again part and parcel of the spider. “Plants..”: They are not different from the earth. “Hair….”: The hair is different from the man. The one is inert and the other living.

These three illustrations stress the spontaneous nature of the creation. Brahman Itself, without the help of an extraneous cause, projects the universe out of Itself. It is both the material and the efficient cause. The first illustration points out that the universe is projected from Brahman and also ultimately merges in Brahman. The second illustration points out that, after the creation, the universe rests in Brahman. According to the third, Brahman, which is Pure Intelligence, projects out of Itself the inert material universe, like the growth of hair from a living man. The creation is not the becoming or transformation of Brahman. Brahman through Its own inscrutable power, appears as the universe of name and form without Itself undergoing any change whatsoever. This is called maya.]

[The following comments refer to the next verse No.8. The successive stages in the evolution of the universe are described. Things did not come into existence all at once, as if someone had thrown a handful of plums.]

Brahman expands by means of austerity, and from It primal matter is produced; from matter, Prana; from Prana, mind; from mind, the elements; from the elements, the worlds; thence works, and from the works, their immortal fruits.
(Mundaka Upanishad, I.i.8)

[Note: “Expands”: The word tapas in the Sanskrit text means, literally, austerity. It also denotes intense thinking, which precedes any creative act. Here the word means knowledge, regarding the future creation. Brahman or Pure Intelligence, alone exists. It is one and without a second. Under the influence of Its own maya there arises in Brahman the desire for creation, or projection, and forthwith it becomes endowed with omniscience, that is to say, with the knowledge and capacity of creating, preserving and destroying the universe.

Thus Brahman appears to increase in size, like a seed before it splits and the sprout comes out; or like a father dilating with joy before begetting a son. In this stage Brahman, or the attributeless Absolute, becomes known as Saguna Brahman associated with the attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and so on. The whole creation is the illusory superimposition of name and form on Brahman, owing to maya. Maya has no existence independent of Brahman.

“From It”: Prakriti or primal matter in a state of non- differentiation, being a beginningless entity, cannot be said to be created. What is meant is that it becomes ready for manifestation. The word for primal matter in the Sanskrit text is annam, food; all created beings derive enjoyment from material objects, as a man does from food. Brahman desirous of creation appears as the undifferentiated prakriti, or matter. From the standpoint of prakriti, Brahman is the material cause of the universe, whereas, from the standpoint of Pure Intelligence, It is efficient cause.

“From Matter, Prana”: The first tangible and specific manifestation is Prana (Life), known as Brahma, Hiranyagarbha (the Golden Egg), Prajapati (the Creator), and Sutratma (the Atman which, like a thread, holds together the whole universe). He is the World Soul, the Cosmic Person in whom become manifest the knowledge and power of Brahman with regard to creation. He is the sprout, the first shoot of the creation, and contains in seed from the desires and actions of the created beings yet to be evolved.

The Personal Gods of the different religions represent different aspects of Brahma. In the Puranas He is described as a special Person endowed with a form and dwelling in a special world called Brahmaloka, which may be roughly compared to the heavens of the Dualistic religions.

“Mind”: That is to say the Cosmic Mind. The individual minds are not yet evolved, Mind is characterised by volition, deliberation, doubt, and determination.

“Elements”: The five elements, space (akasa), air, fire, water and earth. When first evolved, they are uncompounded, subtle, and incapable of creating. Then they combine and become gross elements. Each gross element contains one half portion of its subtle counterpart and one eighth of each of the four other subtle elements.

“Immortal fruits”: Work (karma) creates desire, and the desire again impels one to action. Thus, in the relative universe the stream of work never comes to an end even in a million aeons. The Knowledge of Brahman alone puts a stop to desire and work. Like work, its fruit is also without an end. Hence it is called immortal.

From the relative point of view, creation is without beginning. The human mind cannot think of the beginning of time or space. If a limit is arbitrarily set, one can conceive of time or space beyond that as well. Likewise, there is no such thing as absolute destruction.

speaks of the manifestation and the non-manifestation of the universe. In the former state things are seen in their tangible form, and in the latter, they remain as seeds. These two states are called the “day of Brahma” and the “night of Brahma.” The period of manifestation is called a kalpa, or cycle (One kalpa consists of 4,320,000,000 years. Two kalpas make a day and night of Brahma of 8,640,00,000 years.360 such days make one year of Brahma. 100 such years constitute Brahma’s lifetime of 311,040, 000,000,000 years.

Whenever the creation of the world is spoken of, what is really meant is the beginning of a cycle. A new cycle begins by the will of Isvara (Saguna Brahman,), and its character is determined by the accumulated actions of the living beings of the previous cycle. (For explanations on ‘Isvara’ see page ‘Nature of Reality’; refer to the column on the left). Mere matter, without the help of consciousness or intelligence, cannot precipitate creation. Whether the created beings in a particular cycle will be happy or unhappy, wise or ignorant, is determined by the law of karma. In discussing creation or evolution, it should be remembered that according to Vedanta it is the illusory superimposition upon Brahman of names and forms.

That is to say, owing to maya Pure Intelligence, or Brahman, appears as Brahman with attributes, further appears through maya as the undifferentiated prakriti. This process of illusory superimposition is to be applied to all stages of evolution.]

For him who knows all and understands everything, whose austerity consists of knowledge- from Him, the Imperishable Brahman, are born Brahma, name, form, and food.

(Mundaka Upanishad, I.i.9)

[Note: “Who knows all”: That is to say, in general. This refers to the cosmic aspect of Brahman (Brahman with attributes) associated with maya, or cosmic ignorance. Saguna Brahman surveys the created universe as a totality.

“Understands everything”: That is to say, in particular. This refers to the individualised aspects of Brahman (that is to say, the jiva or individual soul), associated with avidya, or individualised ignorance.

“Austerity”: The word refers to omniscience, endowed with which Brahman creates the universe. In the case of ordinary people austerity is associated with great effort. But Brahman creates the universe without the slightest effort. It appears to be the spontaneous manifestation of Brahman.

“Name”: By which a created being is known.
“Form”: Denoting a particular shape or colour.
“Food”: Corn, barley, and other foods, by which living beings are sustained.

It is well known that any creative work is preceded by deep thinking. The object is at first conceived in the mind of the creator; then it is given a tangible form. The universe is the outcome of the thought of the Creator. In describing the act of creation, the Upanishad says: “He thought.” The difference, however, between a human creation and the divine creation is that the former is the result of much effort and labour, whereas, the latter is the spontaneous manifestation of Brahman. “Devasya esha svabhavah-” All this is the very nature of Brahman. The Upanishad gives a spiritual interpretation of the creation as opposed to a mechanistic one.]


The Blessed Lord said:

[Note: Day means evolution or projection or manifestation of the universe. Night means involution of the universe known as pralaya. The worlds are limited or conditioned in time.

Therefore they return again. The world of Brahma (Brahmaloka or Satyaloka) is also transient, although it lasts for a thousand ages. When the four great yugas have gone round a thousand times, it makes a day time of Brahma and when an equal number of yugas pass again it makes a night. Those who can see and live through the day and night of Brahma can really know what is a day and what is a night.]

The Suryasiddhanta speaks of the same division of time.
According to it:

Yuga             Years
Kaliyuga consists of


Dvaparayuga consists of 864,000
Tretayuga consists of 1,296,000
Krtayuga consists of 1,728,000
Thus, a Mahayuga consisting of these four yugas comprises 4,320,000 yrs 4,320,000
71 such Mahayugas at the close of 1,728,000 years make one Manvantara of 308,448,000
14 such Manvantaras constitute one kalpa of 4,320,000,000
Two Kalpas make a day and night of Brahma of 8,640,000,000
360 such days make one year of Brahma consisting of 3,110,400,000,000
100 such years constitute Brahma’s lifetime of 311,040,000,000,000

 The world is absorbed in the avyaktam or the Unmanifested or Mulaprakriti during the cosmic pralaya (involution of the world).
Just as the tree remains in a latent state in the seed, so also this whole universe remains in a latent state in a seed form in the Mulaprakriti during pralaya. This is the night of Brahma.

This is the cosmic night. Again, the world is projected at the beginning of the Mahakalpa (evolution). There comes the cosmic dawn or cosmic day. The eternal rhythm of cosmic day and night (evolution and involution) is kept up in the macrocosm.

Nothing that comes under this ever-revolving wheel of cosmic day and night lasts forever. That is the reason why the seers of the Upanishads, the sages of yore lived in the transcendental Supreme Being, the Imperishable Self, the indestructible Purusa, the supreme goal of life, the highest end of man, which is beyond the cosmic day and night. Just as the seeds that are fried can hardly germinate, so also those who have attained to the imperishable Brahman, the Absolute, the Eternal, cannot return to this world of sorrow, pain and misery. They know neither day nor night. They are one with Existence Absolute.

The manifested and the unmanifested dwell in Brahman.
Brahman is beyond the manifested and the unmanifested.
When the world and the body are destroyed Brahman is not destroyed. The waves come out and subside, but the ocean remains unaffected. So also, the worlds come and subside, but Brahman the source of everything, the source of Mulaprakriti, ever remains unaffected. Just as ornaments come out of gold and then go back to gold when they are melted, so also all the worlds come out of Brahman and go back to Brahman. Gold is in no way affected by the various forms such as earrings, bracelets, anklets, etc., that have been made of it. Even so Brahman is not in the least affected by the projection and destruction (dissolution) of the worlds and the bodies of beings. He remains always as He is.]

From the Unmanifested all the manifested (worlds) proceed at the coming of the ‘day’; at the coming of the ‘night’ they dissolve verily into that alone which is called the Unmanifested. (Gita, Ch. 8, Verse 18)

[Note: When Brahma awakes, all manifestations, moving and unmoving (animate and inanimate) stream forth at the coming of the ‘day’ from the Avyaktam or the Unmanifested. When Brahma goes to sleep, all the manifestations merge in the Unmanifested, for the cosmic night has set in.

“Coming of the day”: Commencement of creation.
“Coming of the night”: Commencement of dissolution.]

This same multitude of beings, being born again and again, is dissolved, helplessly, O Arjuna, (into the Unmanifested) at the coming of the night and comes forth at the coming of the day. (Gita, Ch. 8, Verse 19)

[Note: Avidya (ignorance), kama (desire) and karma (action) are the knots that bind the individual to samsara. Desire is born of avidya. Man exerts to attain and enjoy the objects of his desires. During this activity he favours some and injures others through the force of raga-dvesa (love and hatred or attraction and repulsion). Therefore, he is caught in the wheel of samsara or transmigration. He has to take birth again and again to reap the fruits of his own actions. He repeatedly comes forth and dissolves through the force of his own karma.

The individual souls have lost their independence as they are bound by ignorance, desire and activity. Therefore they are subject to the sorrows, miseries and pains of this samsara.

In order to create dispassion in their minds and a longing for liberation in their hearts, and to remove the fallacious belief that a man reaps the fruits of what he has not done or that he does not reap the fruits of what he has done, the Lord has said that all creatures involuntarily come into being again and again at the coming of the day and dissolve at the coming of the night (on account of the actions or karmas caused by desire born of ignorance).]

But verily there exists, higher than the Unmanifested another Unmanifested Eternal Who is not destroyed when all beings are destroyed. (Gita, Ch.8, Verse 20)

[Note: Another Unmanifested is the ancient or Eternal Para Brahman Who is distinct from the Unmanifested (Avyaktam or Primordial Nature), Who is of quite different nature. He is superior to Hiranyagarbha (the Cosmic Creative Intelligence) and the Unmanifested Nature because He is their cause. He is not destroyed when all the beings from Brahma down to the ants or the blade of grass are destroyed.]

All beings, O Arjuna, go into My Nature at the end of a kalpa; I send them forth again at the beginning of the next kalpa.
(Gita, Ch.9, Verse 7)

[Note: “Prakrti”: The inferior one or the lower Nature composed of the three qualities, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas.

Just as the grass grows from the earth and dries up in the earth, just as the ripples and waves rise from the ocean and disappear in the ocean itself, just as the dreams proceed from the mind and melt away in the mind itself when the dreamer comes back to the waking state, so also the beings which arise from Nature merge into it during dissolution or pralaya.

Pralaya is the period of dissolution.
Maha-utpatti is the time of creation.]

[Note: The Lord leans on, presses or embraces Nature. He invigorates and fertilises Nature which had gone to sleep at the end of the mahakalpa or universal dissolution and project again this whole multitude of beings. He gazes at each level and plane after plane comes into being.

The term Prakrti denotes or indicates the five kleshas or afflictions, viz., avidya (ignorance), asmita (egoism), raga (likes or attachments) and dvesa (dislikes), and abhinivesa (clinging to earthly life).]

My womb is the great Brahma; in that I place the germ; thence, O Arjuna, is the birth of all beings. (Gita, Ch.14, Verse 3)

[Note: My womb is the great Nature. The cosmos is evolved out of His Nature. Nature is called the great Brahma for she is the resting place of the five subtle elements and also the mahat (cosmic mind). She is called the great Brahma, because through Her the whole manifestation takes place.

I lay in it (the Mahatbrahma) the embryo of life; then all beings begin to come to life therefrom. In the great Brahma or Nature I place the germ or the seed for the birth of Hiranyagarbha; and the seed gives birth to all beings. The birth of Hirahnyagarbha or Brahma (the Creator) gives rise to the birth of beings.

The Primordial Nature is like the clay. She cannot create the forms Herself. She gives birth to Brahma Who creates all beings just as the potter creates various forms from the clay.
I am endowed with two Saktis, viz., the superior and the inferior Natures, the field and its knower. I unite these two (the spirit and the matter). The individual soul comes under the influence of the limiting adjuncts, viz., ignorance, desire and action. On account of ignorance (avidya), the individual soul forgets his original divine nature, gets himself entangled in the meshes of desire (kama) and action (karma), and revolves in the wheel of birth and death.]

Whatever forms are produced, O Arjuna, in any womb whatsoever, the great Brahma is their womb and I am the seed-giving father.
(Gita, Ch.14, Verse 4)

[Note: “I am the father”: The Primordial Nature is the mother.
The whole manifested world is the child Nature has produced in its association with Me. Therefore, I am called the father of this world.

“wombs”: Such as the gods, men, cattle, beasts, birds, etc.]

Under Me as supervisor Nature produces the moving
and the unmoving; because of this, O Arjuna, the world revolves.
(Gita, Ch.9, Verse 10)

[Note: The Lord presides only as a witness. Nature does everything. By reason of His proximity or presence, Nature sends forth the moving and the unmoving. The prime cause of this creation is Nature. For the movable and the immovable, and for the whole universe the root cause is Nature itself.

Although all actions are done with the help of the light of the sun, yet the sun cannot become the doer of actions. Even so the Lord cannot become the doer of actions even though Nature does all actions with the help of the light of the Lord.

As Brahman illumines avidya (ignorance), the material cause of this world, He is regarded as the cause of this world. The magnet is quite indifferent although it makes the iron pieces move on account of its proximity. Even so the Lord remains indifferent although He makes Nature create the world.

As the Lord and the Witness, He presides over this world which consists of moving and unmoving objects. He is a mere witness only.

From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CCXXXI
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Creator of all beings

Yudhishthira said: I desire, O thou of Kuru’s race, to know what the origin and what the end is of all creatures; what is the nature of their meditation and what are their acts; What are the divisions of time, and what the allotted periods of life in the respective epochs?

Bhishma said: In this connection I shall recite to thee an old narrative of what the divine Vyasa said unto his son Suka.
Having studies the illimitable Vedas with all their branches and the Upanishads, and desirous of leading a life of Brahmacharya (celibate) in consequence of his having earned excellence of religious merit, Suka addressed these very questions, about which his doubt had been solved, to his father.

Suka said: It behoveth thee to tell me who the Creator is of all beings, as fixed by a knowledge of time, and what the duties are that should be accomplished by a Brahmana.

Vyasa said: Only Brahman, which is without beginning and without end, unborn, blazing with effulgence, above decay, immutable, indestructible, inconceivable, and transcending knowledge, exists before the Creation.

Divisions of time

The Rishis, measuring time, have named particular portions by particular names. Five and ten winks of the eye make what is called a Kashtha. Thirty Kashthas would make what is called a Kala. Thirty Kalas, with the tenth part of a Kala added, make what is known as a Muhurta. Thirty Muhurtas make up one day and night. Thirty days and nights are called a month, and twelve months are called a year.

Persons conversant with mathematical science say that a year is made up of two Ayanas (dependent on sun’s motion), viz., the northern and the southern. The sun makes the day and the night for the world of man. The night is for the sleep of all living creatures, and the day is for the doing of action.

A month of human beings is equal to a day and night of the Pitris (deceased ancestors). That division (as regards the Pitris) consists in this: the lighted fortnight (of men) is their day which is for the doing of acts; and the dark fortnight is their night for sleep. A year (of human beings) is equal to a day and night of the gods.

The division (as regards the gods) consists in this: the half year for which the sun travels from the vernal to the autumnal equinox is the day of the deities, and the half year for which the sun travels from the latter to the former is their night.

Computing by the days and nights of human beings about which I have told thee, I shall speak of the day and night of Brahma and his years also. I shall in their order, tell thee the number of years, that are thus for different purposes computed differently in respect of the Krita, the Treta, the Dwapara, and the Kali yugas. Four thousand years (of the deities) is the duration of the first or Krita age. The morning of that epoch consists of four hundred years and its evening is of four hundred years. [The total duration, therefore, of the krita Yuga (age) is four thousand and eight hundred years of the deities.]

As regards the other yugas, the duration of each gradually decreases by a quarter in respect of both the substantive period with the conjoining portion and the conjoining portion itself. [Thus, the duration of the Treta is three thousand years and its morning extends for three hundred years and its evening for three hundred.]

The duration of the Dwapara also is two thousand years, and its morning extends for two hundred years and its evening also for two hundred. The duration of the Kali yuga is one thousand years, and its morning extends for one hundred years, and its evening for one hundred.

[Note: The Krita extends in all for 4800 years. The Treta for 3600; the Dwapara for 2400; and the Kali for 1200. These are, however, the years of the deities.]

These periods always sustain the never-ending and eternal worlds. They who are conversant with Brahman, O child, regard this as Immutable Brahman.

Duties change according to the Yugas (ages)

In the Krita age, all the duties exist in their entirety, along with Truth. No knowledge or object came to men of that age through unrighteous or forbidden means. In the other yugas, duty, ordained in the Vedas, is seen to gradually decline by a quarter in each. Sinfulness grows in consequence of theft, untruth, and deception. In the Krita age, all persons are free from disease and crowned with success in respect of all their objects, and all live for four hundred years. In the Treta, the period of life decreases by a quarter. It has also been heard by us that, in the succeeding yugas, the words of the Vedas, the periods of life, the blessings (uttered by Brahmanas), and the fruits of Vedic rites, all decrease gradually.

The duties set down for the Krita yugas are of one kind. Those for the Treta are otherwise. Those for the Dwapara are different.
And those for the Kali are otherwise. This is in accordance > with that decline that marks every succeeding yuga. In the Krita, penance occupies the foremost place. In the Treta, Knowledge is foremost. In the Dwapara, Sacrifice has been said to be the foremost. [Note: See Page ‘Mantras- Sacred Fire’]. In the kali yuga, only gift is the one thing that has been laid down.

The learned say that these twelve thousand years (of the deities) constitute what is called a Yuga. A thousand such Yugas compose a single day of Brahma. The same is the duration of Brahma’s night. With the commencement of Brahma’s day, the universe begins to start into life. During the period of universal dissolution, the Creator sleeps, having recourse to Yoga-meditation. When the period of slumber expires, He awakes. That then which is Brahma’s day extends for a thousand such yugas. His nights also extend for a thousand similar Yugas. They who know this are said to know the day and the night. On the expiry of His night, Brahma, waking up, modifies the indestructible Chit by causing it to be overlaid with Avidya. [See Page ‘Maya’]. He then causes Consciousness to spring up, whence proceeds Mind which is identical with the Manifest.

[Note: The external world is nothing, but Mind transformed.
Mind, therefore, is spoken of here as that which is manifest.]

From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, section CCXXXII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Initial Creation

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.

  1. In the beginning all this was Atman – one only. There was nothing else active. He bethought himself, ‘Let me now create the world.’ He created these worlds.

[Note: Atman = Self or the Supreme Reality]

  1. He bethought himself, ‘Here then are the worlds. Let me now create the guardians of the worlds.’ From the waters themselves he drew forth the person and gave him a shape.
  2. He bethought himself, ‘Here are the worlds and the guardians of the worlds. Let me create food for them.’
  3. He brooded upon the waters and from the waters so brooded on, a form was produced. The form that was produced – that was indeed food.
  4. The food that was thus created wished to run away. The person sought to seize it with his speech. He could not grasp it with his speech. If he had grasped it with his speech, then by merely speaking of food one would have been satisfied.
  5. He then sought to seize it with his breath. He could not grasp it with his breath. If he had grasped it with his breath, then by merely breathing on food one would have been satisfied.
  6. He then sought to seize it with his sight. He could not grasp it with his sight. If he had grasped it with his sight, then by merely seeing food one would have been satisfied.
  7. He then sought to seize it with his hearing. He could not grasp it with his hearing. If he had grasped it with his hearing, then by merely hearing of food one would have been satisfied.
  8. He then sought to seize it with his skin. He could not grasp it with his skin. If he had grasped it with his skin, then by merely touching food one would have been satisfied.
  9. He then sought to seize it with his mind. He could not grasp it with his mind. If he had grasped it with his mind, then by merely thinking of food one would have been satisfied.
  10. He then sought to seize it with his Apana (digestive breath). He got it. It is this breath that takes in food. It is this breath that lives on food.
  11. He (the Atman) bethought himself, ‘Now can this thing (this person) live without me?’ He bethought himself, ‘By which way shall I enter it?’ He bethought himself, ‘If speaking is done by the organ of speech, breathing by breath, seeing by the eye, hearing by the ear, touching by the skin, thinking by the mind, eating by the Apana (digestive breath) – then who am I?’
  12. So, cleaving asunder this end (of the head), He entered by that way. This is the opening known as Vidriti (the cleft). It is the place of bliss. For Him there are three abodes (in the body) – three states of sleep – this one, this one and this one.

[Note:(Explanation by Swami Nikhilananda, Belur Math): So, piercing the end (i.e. the place where the parting of the hair ends), the Lord entered through that door.
Three conditions of sleep: the three states of consciousness – waking, dream and deep sleep.]

  1. He (the Jiva or the embodied soul), being born, knew and talked only of the created objects. How should he speak of any other? And then (after enlightenment) did he see this very Person, Brahman, the All-pervading and say, ‘This have I seen.’


  1. Who is he whom we worship as Atman? Which one is Atman? Is it he by whom one sees, or by whom one hears, or by whom one smells the smell or by whom one speaks the speech, or by whom one knows the sweet and the bitter?’
  2. That which is known as the heart, the mind – that is consciousness, perception, discrimination, intelligence, wisdom, insight, steadfastness, thought, acuteness, impulse, memory, volition, decision, life, desire, control – all these are indeed, the names of intelligence (Prajnana).
  3. This Brahma, this Indra, this Prajapati, these gods, these five great elements – earth, air, space, water, fire – these things together with small creatures, and those of different origins – those born from an egg, those born from a womb, those born from sweat and those born from a sprout; horses, cows, men, elephants; whatever breathing thing there is here, whether moving or flying, and whatever is stationary – all this is guided by intelligence, is based on intelligence. The world is guided by intelligence. Intelligence is the basis. Intelligence is Brahman (the Supreme reality).

By means of this Intelligent Self the (Vamadeva) soared upward from this world and, having fulfilled all his desires in the yonder world of heaven, became immortal – yea, became immortal.

Facebook Comments