Brahma is the God of Creation and He is attributed to the creation of the brahmãnd (entire universe) and the life forms within it. Brahma is the first member of the Trimurthi, Vishnu being the second and Shiva, the third.
The creative principle of the universe is called Brahma in Sanskrit. Brahma, who is depicted as emerging from the navel lotus of Narayana, is a metaphor for all of creation: its laws, its inherent intelligence, and its consciously manifested potencies which operate as sages, saints, rishis, devas, celestials, and divine beings of all kinds of nature, temperament and description. Narayana is the Sanskrit name given in the Upanishads to that which is the sum and substance of all the manifested and unmanifested realms. Narayana is that which is neither created nor destroyed but transcends the creation, life and destruction of the universe. Brahma creates, operates in the form of this universe for trillions of years, then dissolves back into Narayana. Narayana, however, is neither created nor destroyed. Later, another Brahma appears to begin the process again.
Since the term "Brahma" does not appear in the Vedas, its creation stems from the Sanskrit word "Brih" which means "'to grow" or "to expand." In this way, it became synonymous with Hiranyagharba: The Golden Egg of Creation. Growing from the Navel Lotus of Narayana, Brahma is the name for the principle which creates all of the manifest realms. Since the Vedas proclaim in the Purusha Suktam that "three quarters of this universe are in indestructible realms above," then clearly Brahma, with his finite duration, is connected to the realms of the universe which we inhabit which are subject to creation and dissolution.
Brahma was endowed with his "spouse" (Saraswati) and consciousness at the time of creation. Brahma made certain "beings" solely by the power of his mind and thought. These beings are called the mind-born sons of Brahma. The state of their consciousness is summarized by the title Brahma Rishi: Seer with the Understanding of Brahma. Brahma Rishis, in turn, can confer this state of consciousness upon others who prove themselves capable and worthy. For an example of the conferring of the state of Brahma Rishi upon one being by another, see the Story of Vishwamitra in the Chapter on the Gayatri Mantra.
To further understand the concept of Brahma and his relation to the universe as we know it, it is helpful to view the cosmos through the lens of the Vedic descriptions of the life of the universe as interpreted in human years. Here are cycles of time as recorded in the Vedas and Upanishads.
Origin of Brahma
The manifested world of plurality has emerged from the unmanifest Reality. To indicate this Brahma the creator is described as being born from the kamala — lotus springing from Vishnu's nabhi (navel) as he is lying on the great serpent, Ananta in the milky ocean. Hence, his names Nabhija (navel born), Kanja (water born). His consort Saraswati manifested out of him and all creatures of the world resulted from their union.
According to Manu Smriti, the self-existent Lord manifested to dispel the darkness enveloping universe. He created the waters and deposited a seed that became a golden egg from which he was born as Brahma. He divided the egg into two parts to construct the heaven and earth, and created the ten Prajapatis, mind-born sons, who completed the work of creation. By a third account, the Lord separated himself into two parts, the male and the female after dividing the golden egg. From him sprang Viraja and from him Manu. Ramayana states that Brahma sprang from the ether and that sages Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Narada, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Sanasujata and others are his manasa putras (mentally conceived sons). From Marichi sprang Kashyapa from whom sprang Vishwavata who created Manu, the procreator of all human beings. Thus, Manu is Brahma's great grandson.
Brahma, the infinite, the source of all space, time, causation, names and forms, has many interesting and instructive designations. Theologically, he is the eka aksharam (single letter) AUM, and the svayambhu (uncreated creator), the self-born first person. Philosophically, he is the first manifestation of one's existence — ahankara. Cosmologically, he is hiranya garbha (golden embryo), the ball of fire, from which the universe develops. He is Prajapati, since all creatures are his progeny. He is pitamaha (patriarch), vidhi (ordinator), lokesha (master of the universe), dhatru (sustainer) and Viswakarma (architect of the world).
Brahma and Saraswati
Brahma is the Lord of creation. The creator must necessarily possess the knowledge to create. Without knowledge no creation is possible. Hence Brahma is said to be wedded to the goddess of knowledge, Saraswati. Brahma and his consort Saraswati, represent the vedas, their spirit and meaning. They form the subject of many tales in Hindu literature. All knowledge, religious and secular emanate from them. The name Narayana (one dwelling in the causal water, the abode of man) was applied to him first and later to Vishnu. The Avataras (incarnations) of fish (matsya) and tortoise (koorma) (later called the avataras of Vishnu), the boar (varaha) to raise the earth from under the waters and created the world, the sages, and prajapatis were all attributed to Brahma originally and shifted to Vishnu later. Brahma, created all knowledge, sciences, arts, music, dance and drama. He also officiated over the wedding of Shiva and Parvati.
Visualization of Brahma
One of the earliest iconographic descriptions of Brahma is that of the four-faced God seated on a lotus. Brahma's icon has four heads (chatur mukha brahma) facing the four quartem. They represent the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), the four yugas (krita, treta, dwapara, kali) (epochs of time), the four varnas (brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra). The faces have beards with eyes closed in meditation. There are four arms holding up different objects, akshamala (rosary), kurcha (kusha grass), sruk (ladle), sruva (spoon), kamandala (water pot) and pustaka (book) and in different poses representing the four quartem. Their combination and arrangement vary with the image. Akshamala symbolizes time; Kamandala, the waters of all creation. The implements kusha, sruk and sruva, denote the system of sacrifices used by creatures to sustain each other. The book represents religious and secular knowledge. Hand postures (mudras) are abhaya (protector) and varada (giver of boons). The icon may be in standing posture on a lotus or in sitting posture on a hamsa (swan). Hamsa stands for wisdom and discrimination.
Brahma is also shown riding a chariot drawn by seven swans, representing the seven worlds. Temples dedicated to Brahma show his Viswakarma aspect with four heads, the four arms holding the rosary, the book, kusha and kamandala and riding his swan. Temples of Shiva or Vishnu have a niche in the northern wall for Brahma as a parivara devata and his image receives daily worship.
Significance of Brahma
The description of Brahma like those of other deities of Hinduism bears a mystic symbolism. The lotus represents the Reality. Brahma sitting on the lotus indicates that he is ever-rooted in the infinite Reality. Reality is the foundation on which his personality rests. The four faces of Brahma represent the four Vedas. They also symbolise the functioning of the inner personality (antahkarana) which consists of thoughts. They are the mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara) and conditioned-consciousness (chitta). They represent the four ways in which thoughts function. They are the manifestations of the unmanifest Consciousness.
The animal hide worn by Brahma stands for austerity. A seeker who desires to realise his godhead must first go through spiritual disciplines. Observing such austerities the seeker must carefully study and reflect upon the scriptural truths which are suggested by the manuscript (Vedas) held in one hand. Having acquired the knowledge of scriptures he must work in the world without ego and egocentric desires, that is engage in dedicated and sacrificial service for the welfare of the world. This idea is suggested by the sacrificial implement held in the second hand. When a man works in the world selflessly he drops his desires. He is no longer extroverted, materialistic, sensual. His mind is withdrawn from its preoccupations with the world of objects and beings. Such a mind is said to be in uparati. A man who has reached the state of uparati is in a spirit of renunciation.
That is indicated by Brahma holding the kamandalu in his hand. Kamandalu is a water-pot used by a sanyasi-a man of renunciation. It is a symbol of sanyasa or renunciation. The mind of such a man which is withdrawn from the heat of passion of the world is available for deeper concentration and meditation. The rosary (mala) in the fourth hand is meant to be used for chanting and meditation. Meditation is the final gateway to Realisation. Through deep and consistent meditation the mind gets annihilated and the seeker attains godhood. A god-man maintains his identity with his supreme Self while he is engaged in the world of perceptions, emotions and thoughts. He retains the concept of unity in diversity. He separates the pure unconditioned consciousness underlying this conditioned world of names and forms. Brahma's association with a swan is most appropriate in this context.
A swan is described in Hindu mysticism as possessing the unique faculty of separating pure milk from a mixture of milk and water. It is reputed to have the ability to draw the milk alone and leave the water behind. Similarly does a man of Realization move about in the world recognizing the one divinity in the pluralistic phenomena of the world.
Three Principles of Creation
Life in this world is a manifestation of the three principles of creation, sustenance and destruction. In fact these three are interconnected. The apparent destruction is only an essential forerunner to creation.
Destruction and creation go hand in hand. They are like two sides of a coin. For example, the destruction of morning is creation of noon and the destruction of noon is creation of night. This chain of continuous destruction and construction maintains the day. Similarly, the destruction of childhood is the creation of youth and the destruction of youth the creation of old age. In this process of birth and death the individual is maintained. Hence the three gods of the Trinity viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Siva representing creation, maintenance and destruction, are essentially one and the same.
The above idea is well portrayed in Lord Dattatreya, in whose form the three Gods are combined. Dattatreya has the three faces of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva to indicate that the three principles for which they stand are inseparable. Lord Dattatreya is shown with four dogs following him. The four dogs represent the four Vedas. A dog is one of the most faithful animals in the world and it follows its master in all environments and circumstances. So, too, the Vedas arc said to follow a man-of-Realisation in the sense that all his actions, thoughts and desires are in perfect accord with the principles enunciated in the Vedic textbooks.
Worship and Invocation of Brahma
All creations arise out of vikshepa (thought disturbances). This vikshepa-sakti is Lord Brahma-the total mind-intellect equipment. Man, being essentially constituted of his mind and intellect, has already invoked this vikshepasakti and realised Brahma. Hence the worship and invocation of Brahma is practised by few.
Yet there are a few shrines dedicated to Brahma. He is worshipped and invoked particularly by scientists and kings for generating more creative ideas to serve the world of men and matter. The rulers invoke the Lord in order to surrender their ego and produce plans and schemes to serve the nation. Similarly, the research scholars invoke creative inspiration and flashes of new thoughts revealing the secrets of nature.
Lord Brahma is not popularly worshipped in India. This is so, because the idea of creation is repugnant to seeker of Truth since the creation of thoughts has veiled the infinite Reality. The attempt of all spiritual seekers is to destroy the existing thoughts and maintain the state of single pointed thought until the Reality is revealed. Hence, Siva (god of destruction) and Vishnu (god of maintenance) are worshipped more than Brahma. In fact, there are very few temples of Brahma-one in Rajasthan and another in Orissa -compared to innumerable shrines of Siva and Vishnu existing all over India
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