Creation (Pt. Sanjay Rath)

Creation of the Universe has been a popular theme with philosophies and so also with Vedic Astrology. Parasara[1] teaches that the entire manifested[2] Universe is but one-eighth portion of the body of Narayana[3]. The size of the unmanifested Narayana is infinite and just like dividing infinity by any number the quotient is still infinity, so also the size of the manifested potion of Narayana is infinite[4]. Essentially, the absolute Narayana is Nirguna[5] but as a part of His pleasure[6], does attain the three Guna[7] due to Yoga (union) with the three kinds of Shakti[8].

The whole body of Narayana is divided into four parts called (1) Param-Brahmä, (2) Maha-Vishnu, (3) Sada-Shiva and (4) Vasudeva. These parts cannot really be differentiated from the whole as the pure nectar pervades them and the names used here are merely to aid understanding. Thus, Narayana with Sri[9] Shakti is called Maha-Vishnu and is of pure[10] Satwa Guna; Narayana with Bhu[11] Shakti is Param-Brahmä and is of pure Rajas Guna; while Narayana with Nila[12] Shakti is Sada-Shiva and is of pure Tamas Guna. These three parts are full of nectar and are imperceptible. The fourth part of Narayana is Vasudeva. This quarter is further divided into two parts – one part that is perceptible (with three Shakti i.e. Sri-Shakti, Bhu-Shakti & Nila-Shakti and three Guna’s intermingling) and the other part that is imperceptible (with two Shakti’s: Sri-Shakti & Bhu-Shakti).

The perceptible part of Vasudeva is Karanodakasayi-Vishnu or the principal evolver and the first intention of creation is seen in the evolution of the sixteen principles of material action[13]. Srila Prabhupada[14] opines that many such universes come out of the pores of the skin of Karanodakasayi-Vishnu. This is the first expansion (first Pada) of Vishnu of the three Pada[15] (steps) in which the Lord manifests. Having created the universes Vasudeva/Vishnu enters into them for continuing the process of creation. In the next two-stages/ steps, He is known as Garbhodakasayi Vishnu and Kshirodakasayi Vishnu.

The three-fold division continues into the next level due to the expansion of this perceptible part of Vasudeva with the motive of entering into each universe. Vasudeva takes the form of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu lying within the half of the universe, which is full with the water of His perspiration from the pangs of multiple births. Vasudeva (Garbhodakasayi Vishnu) with Neela Shakti (Tamas) evolves as the Shankarshana; with Bhu Shakti He expands into Pradyumna (Rajas) and with Sri Shakti He evolves as Aniruddha (Satwa Guna)[16]. There is an intermingling of the Guna’s (modes of nature), and the prevailing modes shall dominate the nature of the expansion.
Figure 1: Narayana & Creation
The expansions of Sankarshana (Neela Shakti – Tamas) further evolve into the Maha Tatwa (the primordial five states of physical existence) while those of Pradyumna (Bhu Shakti – Rajas) evolve into Ahamkara (individual ego) and Aniruddha (Sri Shakti – Satwa) evolves into the demiurge Brahma (Ahamkara murti). This is conceived as the stem of the lotus (akin to the umbilical chord) growing out of the navel of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu (as Aniruddha). The stem has a thousand petal lotus as its apex (like the Sahasrara Chakra – thousand petal Chakra in the cranium) on which resided Brahma. The stem has been equated to the three Loka (planes of existence) or to fourteen Loka depending on the context. Such brilliant imagery helps to clear many a misconception. For example there is this never ending debate about the correct time of birth – as to (a) whether it is the Garbha pravesha or coming out of the uterus, (b) Nadi sodhana – cutting of the umbilicus or (c) Prathama rodana – first cry? If we were to accept this imagery of Brahma on the umbilicus of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu as symbolizing birth, then it is time of cutting of the umbilical chord, which is the correct birth moment.
Figure 2: Karanodakasayi-Vishnu

Ahamkara born of predominant Rajas further evolves into three parts based on the Guna’s. A more Satvic expansion (born from Satwa or goodness) is into a Deva; Rajasik expansion (born from Rajas or Passion) is unto the Indriya’s {five Gyanendriya or senses related to knowledge (1) smell, (2) taste, (3) sight (4) hear and (5) touch or feel and five Karmendriya or five primary actions (1) speech, (2) grasping, (3) walking, (4) evacuation/cleansing and (5) procreation}; and the Tamasik expansion (born of Tamas or ignorance) is into Pancha Bhoota (five states of physical existence) called (1) Agni – fire/energy (2) Prithvi – earth/solid (3) Jala – water/liquid (4) Vayu – wind/gas and (5) Akash – ether/vacuum.  The Dhi (Supreme intelligence of Vasudeva) enters the process of creation through Ahamkara and besides the creation of the Tanmatra {five subtle elements – (1) Energy – Agni (2) Solid – Prithvi (3) Liquid – Jala (4) Gas – Vayu and (5) Akash – Vacuum in the physical sense but an ethereal substance in the metaphysical sense} and the Indriya as indicated, also creates the Mana (Mind or consciousness). All these creations are ‘active’ as they arise with their individual Shakti’s. In fact, Ahamkara itself has been created from the Rajas of Pradyumna and in turn its creations will also exhibit such traits as associating for the purpose of creating active elements and bodies that are principally Rajasik. Thus all creatures and living bodies are created from Ahamkara.
Figure 3: Garbhodakasayi Vishnu
The Vishnu Purana confirms this postulation and adds that the ‘Paramatma’ is the ‘Purusha’ and adds that He is ‘Kaala’ or time (the controller of the sixteen laws of material action). Thus evolved the concept of Kaala Purusha (personification of time as an aspect of God) and the Bha-Chakra (zodiac) as the celestial clock that not only represents the Kaala Purusha but also indicates the quality of time. Kshirodakasayi Vishnu or the Paramatma expands from Vasudeva/Garbhodakasayi Vishnu into the body of Brahma (through the Satvic incarnation Aniruddha) and thereafter enters the body of every living being to reside in the heart (lotus[17]). By a similar process, the Jeevatma (or the individual personal soul) also enters the body and shares a berth next to the Param Atma in the heart. Parasara[18] has opined that the Paramatma resides in all Jeeva’s i.e. all living beings have a portion of the divine spark of Vishnu within their hearts. The potency of this spark of Vishnu is called Paramatma-amsa whereas the potency of his or her own individual soul is called Jeeva-amsa.

Sankhya Shastra has a similar postulation (as taught by Sri Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavat Gita and Kapila Muni an incarnation of Vishnu in the Srimad Bhagavatam) in so far as the expansion of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu is concerned. This teaching is grossly different from the fundamental atheism of the Sankhya Shastra given in the Sankhya Karika of Isvarakrishna attributed to Kapila. Kapila Muni the legendary founder of this system of philosophy[19] gave this knowledge to His mother Devahuti and is different from Kapila Muni as indicated in the Bhagavatam. The principal difference is in the view of the Purusha as being the prime creator (Krishna/Kapila) and just an inactive spectator of the evolution of Prakriti (Isvarakrishna).

The expansion of Vasudeva is based on twenty-five principles (Tatwa). The first principle is [1] the Purusha or Vasudeva the principal evolver Who glances at [2]Prakriti (Shakti - personified as Mother Nature) while lying on the Karana Sagar (causal ocean). The Purusha has three forms[20] as (a) Maha Vishnu or Karanodakasayi Vishnu, (b) Garbhodakasayi Vishnu and (c) Kshirodakasayi Vishnu at the three levels of evolution. At the first level, the exhalation of Karanodakasayi Vishnu produces innumerable universes that start as a seed and expand as they float above the causal ocean. At the second level, Garbhodakasayi Vishnu enters each of these universes and interacts with Prakriti in its three constituent qualities called Guna to produce besides others, [3]Intelligence (Dhi or buddhi called Maha ‘the Great One’). From intelligence is produced [4]Ahamkara (Self consciousness).

Ahamkara interacts with Neela Shakti in the mode of Tamas to produce the Tanmatra (five forms of material existence in the particle form). The Tanmatra or particle forms of physical existence are [5] Akash - Vacuum or ether depending on context, [6] Vayu – Gas, [7] Jala – liquid, [8] Prithvi – Solid, and [9] Agni – Energy. The five forms of gross physical matter called Maha Bhoota was created from these molecular forms. These are also named as the molecular forms (as they are not different from their constituent molecules) as [10] Akash - Vacuum or ether, [11] Vayu – Gas, [12] Jala – liquid, [13] Prithvi – Solid, and [14] Agni – Energy.

Ahamkara interacts with Bhu Shakti in the mode of Rajas to produce the five sense organs called Gyanendriya – [15] hearing, [16] touch, [17] sight, [18] taste and, [19] smell and the five organs of action called Karmendriya - [20] speech, [21] grasping, [22] walking, [23] procreation and, [24] evacuation. Each of these organs and senses correspond to a Tanmatra/Maha Bhoota respectively. The final product of Ahamkara is the Mana (Mind) that interacts with the various Gyanendriya and Karmendriya and is influenced by the Tanmatra and Maha Bhoota i.e. the mind is the link between the senses and organs that are in constant interaction with the molecular and gross material forms. 

[1] BPHS 1.9

[2] The manifest is referred to as ‘Maya’ or illusion, and in the Bhagavat Gita is called the Akshara’ (syllable), immutable Brahma. Thus, if Narayana is said to be even above this sound syllable.

[3] Narayana is composed of two words ‘Nara’ meaning ‘any body’ and ‘Ayana’ meaning ‘Goal’. Thus the composite word Narayana means the ultimate goal of every body both living and non-living or mobile and immobile. In a more subtle sense it refers to the individual soul (Microcosm) endeavoring to attain Union (Yoga) with the Universal Soul (Macrocosm). Thus, Narayana also means this universal soul or supreme personality of God.

[4] Poornamada poornamidam poornatapoornamudachyate; poornasya poornamadaya poornamevavasisyate.

[5] Nirguna means untouched by material contamination - [Prabhupada]. Beyond the Guna’s or without Guna.

[6] Bhagavat Gita 9.8

[7] Guna are the material qualities of Prakriti (personified nature) as Satwa (Goodness), Rajas (Passion) and Tamas (Ignorance).

[8] Shakti literally means strength or power and specifically indicates the strength to achieve an objective. The three primary objectives are creation, preservation and dissolution.

[9] Sri Shakti is the phoneme causing Satwa Guna and is personified as Maha-Lakshmi. Satwa Guna is of the nature of Goodness causing preservation.

[10] The word ‘pure’ has been used to indicate the presence of Amrita (nectar) that causes immortality or perceived immortality in a relative time concept.

[11] Bhu Shakti is the phoneme causing Rajas Guna and is personified as Maha-Saraswati. Satwa Guna is of the nature of Passion causing creation.

[12] Nila Shakti is the phoneme causing Tamas Guna and is personified as Maha-Kali. Tamas Guna is of the nature of Ignorance causing destruction.

[13] SB 1.3.1

[14] SB 1.3.1 purport

[15] Trinipada vichakrame Vishnur-gopa adabhya. Atho dharmani dharayen. RV

[16] This postulation of Parasara (BPHS 1.14 –1.17) is corroborated by the Sloka - Om namastubhyam Bhagavate Vasudevaaya dhimahi. Pradyumnayaaya, Aniruddhaaya namah Sankarshanaya cha. In addition we are taught that the intellect ‘Dhi’ evolves with these expansions which in turn, results in the creation of (a) Brahma and the 14 Loka, (b) Ahamkara that creates living beings and (c) Maha Tatwa. These expansions are spontaneous without any time lag.

[17] Ref: Appendix-1 – Heart lotus is the Hridaya Padma or a psychic energy center in the region of the heart.

[18] BPHS 1.21 -24

[19] There are six systems of Philosophy called Shad-Darshan. Refer Appendix-4 for more details.

[20] Laghu Bhagavatamrita, Purva Khanda, 33


Agni said…
Thank you. You've summed up Pancharatra philosophy beautifully. About the tattvas, two things: (1) there are only 24 listed in your article. I think you're missing mahat (manas) as a separate tattva. (2) Purusha (tattva 1) as listed only refers to Vasudeva and His expansions. Where is the Jivatma in this scheme? Does not Vaishnava doctrine differentiate between Purusha (Jivatma) and Purushottama (Paramatma)?

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