Gita Chapter 11:32
>ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE ACCODING TO THE HINDU SCRIPTURE.
Many of the world’s religions have ideas and beliefs about the origin of the universe, including people and animals. Usually these take the form of creation accounts in the sacred books of the religions concerned.
(Rigvedha was written at least some four thousand years before the birth of Christ)
- There was neither non-being then, nor being.
There was neither atmos-phere nor any ether be-yond it.
What was in vi-bration and from where, in whose
protection, what water was there deep and unfathomable?
- There was not death and no trace of immortality.
There was no sign of night or day.
Prambanan: Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma temple
That One breathed without breath by its own nature.
Beyond it there was nothing what-soever.
- In the beginning, darkness existed,
hidden in dark-ness All this was a signless ocean.
When emptiness hidden by immensity ex-isted,
by the power of tapas
the One was born.
Desire came into being in the beginning,
which was the first seed of the mind.
The wise seers with the perception in
the heart found the kinship of being in non-being.
- The ray of theirs extended widely across.
What was below it and what was above it?
The placers of the seed existed;
great powers were there, the self-nature
below and the causative force above.
- Who now knows and who can declare
from where it arose, from where is this manifestation.
The Gods came after its production.
Hence who knows from where it has
come into being?
- This manifestation and from where it has
arisen, whether he controls it or whether
he does not. Who is its overseer in the
supreme ether, per-haps he knows or per-haps he does not know.
English: Statue of Brahma, the Hindu Creator God, in the background of reclining Buddha statue.
According to Scholars, the religious tradition that we know as Hinduism is the product of at least 5,000 years of development, with roots stretching back to the Indus Valley civilisation, which prospered some 4 – 5,000 years ago.
However, the origins of this religion are shrouded in mystery and according to Hindu scriptures may be millions of years old. There are many Hindu creation stories but the one given here helps to explain one of the major Hindu beliefs – reincarnation.
This is not the first world, nor is it the first universe.
There have been and will be many more worlds and universes than there are drops of water in the holy river Ganges. The universes are made by Lord Brahma
the Creator, maintained by Lord Vishnu the Preserver
and destroyed by Lord Shiva.
Since the universes must be destroyed before they can be recreated, Lord Shiva is called the Destroyer and Re-creator.
These three gods are all forms of Supreme One and part of the Supreme One.
The Supreme One is behind and beyond all.
After each old universe is destroyed nothing is left but a vast ocean. Floating on this ocean, resting on the great snake Ananta, is Lord Vishnu. Some say that a lotus flower springs from his navel and from this comes Lord Brahma. And it is from Lord Brahma that all creation comes.
How dies Lord Brahma create? Some tell of how he grows lonely and splits himself in two to create male and female. Then he becomes one again and human beings are created. In the same way he creates all the other living things, from the great animals to the tiniest insects. Others say that everything comes from different parts of Lord Brahma’s body. All the
different animals and all the people come from his mouth, arms, thighs and feet. Everything comes from one -Lord Brahma, who is part of the Supreme One – so everything is part of the Supreme One. For this universe, this world and this Lord Brahma, like all those before and all those to come, will be destroyed by Lord Shiva.
How long is the life of a universe? Its length is beyond imagination. One day to Lord Brahma is longer than four thousand million of the years that we know. Every night when Lord Brahma sleeps the world is destroyed. Every morning when he awakes it is created again. When the Lord Brahma of this universe has lived a lifetime of such days the universe is completely destroyed by Lord Shiva. Everything disappears into the Supreme One. For an un-imaginable period of time chaos and water alone exist.
Then once again Lord Vishnu appears, floating on the vast ocean. From Lord Vishnu comes forth Lord Brahma of the new universe and the cycle continues for ever.
This belief in reincarnation, in the cycle of life, strongly influences the lifestyle of many Hindus. It can best be explained by the terms ‘dharma’ and ‘karma’. Dharma may be translated as ‘duty’ and for Hindus, part of that duty is to respect and care for all living things. The belief that after death we are reborn in another body, not necessarily human, leads to a great respect for all life and results in many cases of vegetarianism. Karma is the result or product of what we do. If we
do our duty, then we create good karma, since the next life we may have is directly related to the actions of our present life. To the Hindu, everything is part of the Supreme One, and thus every living thing is equally important in the great cycle of life.
A secondary school revision resource for GCSE Religious studies looking at beliefs about creation and evolution in Hinduism.Many of the world’s religions have ideas and beliefs about the origin of the universe, including people and animals. Usually these take the form of creation accounts in the sacred books of the religions concerned.
The origins of the universe
There are many different stories and beliefs about creation contained in the Hindu scriptures.
The sacred sound Aum is believed to be the first sound at the start of creation. Hindus believe that brahman (the one ultimate reality) has three functions and these are shown by the three gods, Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. These three are sometimes shown as three heads merging into one and are known as the Trimurti.
Brahma is the Creator and source of all creation
Vishnu is the Preserver and responsible for keeping all good things on earth
Shiva is the Destroyer and is needed because some things are harmful and because change is necessary for the creation of new things
In the Chandogya Upanishad (a Hindu sacred text.) creation is described as the breaking of an egg. In the Vedas (knowledge) one of the accounts says that the creator built the universe with timber , as a carpenter builds a house.
In the Rig Veda (the first scripture of Hinduism, containing spiritual and scientific knowledge) it says that the universe was created out of the parts of the body of a single cosmic man Purusha when his body was sacrificed. There the four classes ( varnas) of Indian society come from his body: the priest (Brahmin) from his mouth, the warrior (Kshatritya) from his arms, the peasant (Vaishya) from his thighs, and the servant (Shudra) from his legs.
The Hymn of Creation
Another attempt at explaining the creation of the universe is found in the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda :
Then was neither non-existence nor existence: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it..
Death was not then, nor was there anything immortal: no sign was there, the Day’s and Night’s divider. .
Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos..
All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of Warmth was born that One.
In the Chandogya Upanishad it says that in the beginning was the Brahman,Hinduism: beliefs about creation and evolution Scientific ideas
Cosmology is the study of the universe, and humanity’s place in it.
One of the theories put forward by cosmologists is the Big Bang theory . This suggests that about 15,000 million years ago there was a massive explosion. This was the point at which all matter in the universe began; space and time began then too. Over time the universe that we know, and human and animal life, emerged.
This theory is generally accepted by scientists as being the best theory they have to explain the origins of the universe.
If this theory is true, then it could mean that the universe ‘just happened ’ and that it did not emerge as a result of the activity of a creator God.
Some people suggest parallels between the process of creation as described in the Hindu sacred texts and the scientific understanding of the universe, especially the Big Bang Theory.
Some scientists have suggested that, following the Big Bang, the process of the expansion of the universe will eventually be reversed and at some distant point in the future will start to contract, eventually imploding into a `Big Crunch’. This could lead to another ‘Big Bang’, with a new universe being formed. This presents a picture of the universe as a process of creation and destruction occurring over vast time spans.
In Hinduism, the Vishnu Purana describes Vishnu as creator, sustainer, destroyer and then re-creator of the universe. This process takes place over a vast period of time called a Kalpa (nearly 9 billion years). The creation, sustaining and destruction of the universe is also told in the stories about Shiva, who is often shown as ‘Lord of the Dance’.
The idea that life might have evolved was first mentioned as early as the 4th century CE by St Augustine , who wrote that God probably only created very simple life forms and that these developed over time.
Today we associate evolutionary science with scientists such as Charles Darwin who wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ in 1859. He argued that life began with very simple cells and later developed into what we see today. He said that Natural Selection was one of the major mechanisms driving evolution.
Darwin upset many people with his views and even some respected scientists such as Philip Gosse argued that the fossils, which were discovered in the ground, had been placed there by God deliberately to fool people.
For most Hindus, however, the issues and concerns raised by modern science are not important.
Some Hindus are interested in these issues, and study them at a high level, however for the majority they are more focused on the purpose of life , which is to reach moksha (the ultimate freedom from reincarnation).
Science and Hinduism represent two contrasting understandings of the universe.
ORIGIN OF MAN : The TRUE LIGHT
Hinduism: Concerning the origin of man, the Bhagavatam shares the following explanation-
“Brahma’s first human creations were saints, who, immediately upon being created fell into deep meditation, finding no interest in the things of the world. Thus, through them, Brahma saw no possibility of propagation of their species. While he was meditating upon what course he should pursue, his own form divided itself, one half became man and the other half became woman. The man was called Manu, and the woman Shatarupa, and from them have sprung all mankind.”
1 So man is considered, not a creaton of God, but an emanation of God. At the beginning of every secondary cycle another Manu appears to become the father of the human race.
Concerning the nature of man, numerous theories are found in Hinduism.
The following seems to be the most dominant and accepted. Man is made up of three primary bodies or ‘sheaths’ (sharira ) that surround the atman (the real Self):
Hindus believe the self or soul (atman) repeatedly takes on a physical body.
(1) The gross body- sthula-sharira, also called annamaya kosha;
(2) The subtle body- sukshma-sharira, also called linga- sharira, and;
(3) The causal body- karana-sharira, identical with anandamaya-kosha .
2 The subtle body is subdivided further into three parts: the vital sheath (pranamaya-kosha ), the mental sheath ( manomaya- kosha), and the intellectual sheath (vijnanamaya-kosha ). So altogether there are five ‘sheaths’ or bodies in which the atman is contained (a viewpoint expressed in the Taittiriya Upanishad).
The subtle body is the means by which the atman passes from one life to the next on its journey toward perfection. The causal body contains the ‘idea template’-the spiritual blueprint for the subtle and gross bodies. Some sources say that the causal body is also divided into three parts, bringing the total number of ‘bodies’ to seven. The atman (Sanskrit meaning “God within”) is the true Self, the higher Self. It is eternal, uncreated, without gender, pure, unchanging, indestructible, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. It cannot feel pain and it does not evolve. This divine essence is within every living thing: plant, animal and human. These variations are not differences in the atman itself, but in the degree it manifests in a physical form. When dwelling in a human body, it erroneously identifies itself with the flesh body, the mind and the intellect, until a person’s consciousness is awakened. Then the atman rules a person’s existence.
A primary doctrine that pervades much of Hinduism is the perception that atman, the individual soul, is actually Brahman , the universal Soul. Often quoted is the passage out of the Chandogya Upanishad in which Uddalaka admonishes his son, Svetaketu: “The subtle essence is universally diffused in all things wherever found. It is the true Self; and, Svetaketu, that thou art ( tat twam asi )!”
Conflicting interpretations of this passage exist within the camp of Hinduism itself. Sankara, an eighth century Hindu philosopher, believed this statement indicates atman and Brahman are identical. Ramanuja, an eleventh century Hindu teacher, insisted it infers atman and Brahman are inseparable, but not identical.
When the atman becomes personalized and individualized, it is referred to as the jiva (pronounced jee’va, meaning “that which lives”). This is the embodied atman , the individual personality that wrongly identifies with the physical form and the mind. As the human ego, it imparts a fallacious sense of duality (distinction between God and man) that keeps the jiva bound to the cycle of birth and death. The atman transcends time, space, causality, name and form, but these five things bind the jiva. This condition is only a temporary illusion on the way to the final destiny of atman (the true Self) merging into oneness with Brahman. Jivas are infinite in number.
Everything in the manifest world is comprised of the three gunas : sattva, rajas and tamas. When it relates to the evolutionary development of human beings, sattva concerns that part of our inherent nature that is veiled and must be realized; tamas is what hinders that realization; rajas is the energy or force that overcomes tamas. Tamas is laziness, unconcern and the dullness of the sense-bound human mind; rajas is passion, zeal and holy action that overcomes tamas to attain the sattva of serenity and understanding. Sattva is goodness and harmony. It is not cosmic consciousness, but it leads a person to the boundary of this ultimate state of being. Final liberation happens after many incarnations, with the circumstances of each incarnation determined by karma from previous lives. Karma attaches itself to the subtle body. Karma is comprised of merits (punya ) or demerits ( papa ) that result from every action. There are sixteen basic elements of the physical body; nineteen elements of the subtle body, which correspond to the thirty-five basic idea-elements of the causal body. •
Note on the caste system of Hinduism:
In discussing various beliefs concerning the nature of man, this subject should not be overlooked. In the Laws of Manu (an ancient Hindu text) society is divided into four main castes (varnas )- Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (nobles), Vaisyas (merchants and farmers) and Sudras (manual laborers, peasants and servants). These originated from four parts of the body of Brahma. (See Rig Veda 10:90,12.) The Brahmin priestly caste proceeded from Brahma’s head, the Kshatriyas from his arms, the Vaisyas from his thighs and the Sudras from his feet. Far beneath the Sudras are the ‘untouchables’ ( Harijans ) who were rejects from the social order altogether. (Mahatma Ghandi preferred to call them the “Children of God.”) These four main castes are divided into various sub-castes (around 3,000). Each of these divisions determines a certain status and duty in life. When this social order is strictly observed, the castes do not intermarry or even eat with each other. In 1949 Ghandi and others persuaded the Indian Parliament to make this practice illegal. Nevertheless, some still live according to this standard, believing it to be divinely inspired. (In Hindu Scripture Krishna declares, “The four castes were created by me.” Bhagavad-Gita 4:13 )
The caste system has been a subject of great controversy, even within the camp of Far Eastern religions. Buddha was appalled at this doctrine. Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, and Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, were both born in the second caste, yet they arose to become noted spiritual leaders. Both of them repudiated this concept, teaching that society should be casteless and that all people have equal value. Some Hindus compromise the unyielding imposition of this doctrine, teaching that a person’s caste is determined, not by the social status inherited at birth, but by personal choice or personal accomplishment. Thus, any person can be positioned in any caste according to his own intellectual, emotional, spiritual and/or social development. •
Sapta Chakra, from a Yoga manuscipt in Braj Bhasa lanaguage. (1899)
Note on the Yoga School within Hinduism:
Yoga is one of the main schools of thought within Hinduism. In many groups that promote the practice of yoga, human beings are described as possessing spiritual energy centers called chakras. Though there are some different views promoted by various yogis and swamis, it is generally believed that there are seven main chakras, five of which are positioned along the spinal column. The sixth is the ‘third eye’ and the seventh, the ‘crown chakra’ located at the crown of the skull. The third eye (in the middle of the forehead) is described as one of the main gateways out of the body into the astral realm. Each chakra is associated with a different deity. When the kundalini (the latent deposit of divine energy at the base of the spine) is ‘awakened,’ this energy travels upward through the chakras. Upon reaching the crown chakra, God consciousness is attained. According to the Sankhya Yoga School, there are two main aspects to man: the self (purusha ) bound inside of a body of matter (prakriti ).
1 Swami Prabhavananda, The Spiritual Heritage of India (Hollywood, California: Vedanta Press, n.d.) p. 140. 2 “Sharira,” The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion (Boston, Massachusetts: