Many Paths to One God
Hindu Concept of Creation of the Universe
The Hindu tradition perceives the existence of cyclical nature of the universe and everything within it. The cosmos follows one cycle within a framework of cycles. It may have been created and reach an end, but it represents only one turn in the perpetual "wheel of time", which revolves infinitely through successive cycles of creation and destruction. Within this cycle of creation and destruction of the universe, the
soul (atman) also undergoes its own version of cycle called
samsara, the cycle of rebirth in which individual souls are repeatedly reincarnated.
In the beginning there was neither existence nor non- existence; there was no atmosphere, no sky, and no realm beyond the sky. What power was there? Where was that power? Who was that power? Was it finite or infinite?
There was neither death nor immortality. There was nothing to distinguish night from day. There was no wind or breath. God alone breathed by his own energy. Other than God there was nothing.
In the beginning darkness was swathed in darkness. All was liquid and formless. God was clothed in emptiness.
Then fire arose within God; and in the fire arose love. This was the seed of the soul. Sages have found this seed within their hearts; they have discovered that it is the bond between existence and non-existence.
Who really knows what happened? Who can describe it? How were things produced? Where was creation born? When the universe was created, the one became many. Who knows how this occurred?
Did creation happen at God's command, or did it happen without his command? He looks down upon creation from the highest heaven. Only he knows the answer -or perhaps he does not know.
Rig Veda 10:129.1-7
The Hindu mythology gives several processes of creation of the universe.
The world came into being through the dismemberment of the "cosmic man."
Creation originated from a cosmic egg.
Creation of the universe originated in a dream of Brahma, the creator god.
Creation sprang from the tears of Prajapati.
The Puranas contain many stories that attribute creation to one of the supreme deities, particularly
Shiva, Vishnu and the Goddess.
The authors of Upanishads struggled with this question of origins. Ultimately, they contended that the source of creation is profoundly unknowable.
One of the best-known Vedic creation myths relates the sacrifice of purusha, the cosmic man. The gods cut up purusha, took the quarter of him that was manifest in their realm and placed it upon the sacrificial fire; from this the Vedic deities Indra, Agni and Vayu were born, together with the cardinal points of the universe, animals, humans and the four varnas (orders).
The universe is often said to be born from the sacred syllable
Om, or from an inert void in which "there was neither being nor non-being ...death nor non- death", a single principle from which emerged the diversity of life. From this void desire was born, and from desire came humans, gods and demons.
Those who deny God, deny themselves. Those who affirm God, affirm themselves.
God said: 'Let me multiply! Let me have offspring! ' So he heated himself up; and when he was hot, he emitted the entire world, and all that it contains.
And after emitting the world, he entered it. He who has no body, assumed many bodies. He who is infinite, became finite. He who is everywhere, went to particular places. He who is totally wise, caused ignorance. He who sees all truth, caused delusion. God becomes every being, and gives reality to every being.
Before the world was created, God existed, but was invisible. By means of the soul all living beings can know God; and this knowledge fills them with joy. The soul is the source of abiding joy. When we discover the soul in the depths of our consciousness, we are overwhelmed with delight. If the soul did not live within us, then we should not breathe -we should not live.
The soul is one. The soul is changeless, nameless, and formless. Until we understand the soul, we live in fear. Scholars may study the soul through words; but unless they know the soul within themselves, their scholarship merely emphasizes their ignorance, and increases their fear.
Taittiriya Upanishad 2:6; 7
Another version of creation of the universe credits it to pure Self in the form of a man, existing alone without a Creator. It looked around and saw nothing but itself, divided itself into two parts for company and created everything in this
universe as the story below shows.
In the beginning there was a single soul. This soul looked around, and saw nothing but itself. It exclaimed: 'Here I am! , From that moment the concept '1' came into existence. Realizing it was alone, this entity became afraid. Then it thought: 'Why should I be afraid, when there is no one but me?' So its fear subsided.
Yet, since pleasure can only be enjoyed in company, this soul lacked all pleasure. Thus it wanted a companion. It was as large as a man and a woman embracing. So it split into two, becoming a husband and a wife. That is why it is said that a husband and wife are two halves of a single being.
The husband and wife had sexual intercourse; and from their union human beings were born.
She then thought: 'Since we came from the same soul, surely it is wrong for us to have intercourse. I shall hide myself.' So she became a cow. But he became a bull, and they had intercourse; and from their union cattle were born. Then she became a mare, and he a stallion; and from their union horses were born. In this way all living creatures were born, down to the smallest insect.
Thus the soul is the common vital entity in every living being. The soul is dearer than a son or daughter, dearer than wealth, dearer than all things. When people recognize that only the soul is truly dear to them, then that which is dear to them, will never perish.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1:4.
After creating the universe, the half that was He then realized, "I am creation, for I have poured forth all this." It was not that man was born in a god's image, but that all of creation was born from the cosmic man. God and humankind are thus of the very same flesh, that of the first being who wanted to be more, and so divided. "Anyone understanding
this becomes, truly, himself a creator in this creation."
Hindus believe that the world is created, destroyed, and recreated in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. It continuously moves from one Maha Yuga (great age) to the next, with each lasting for 4,320,000 years. Each Maha Yuga consists of a series of four shorter yugas, or ages, each of which is morally worse and of shorter duration than the age that preceded it.
Cosmology for more details.)
At the end of 1,000 Maha Yugas (one day of the life of the
world), the great god Vishnu will adopt the form of Shiva-Rudra and will destroy all life on earth.
He will then usher in one night in the life of the world, a period lasting as long as
1,000 Maha yugas.
First Shiva-Rudra will enter the sun's rays and intensify them for 100
years. This will generate great heat. The excessive heat will evaporate all water on the face of the earth. All three worlds
will be affected - heaven, earth, and the Underworld. They will all burn up from this intense heat. The great drought and scorching fire will create a wasteland. Famine will stalk the
universe. By the time the 100-year period ends, no living creature will
remain in the three worlds.
When the fires have consumed all life on the three worlds, Shiva-Rudra will exhale dreadful storm clouds.
This will be accompanied by terrifying thunder and lightning. These clouds will move across the face of the earth, obscuring the sun and cloaking the world in darkness. Day and night, for 100 years, a deluge of rain will pour forth until everything in the world has been buried beneath the deep waters of a devastating flood. Besides the desolate sea, only the great god Vishnu will continue to exist, for the fire and flood will have destroyed all of the other gods along with the rest of all life.
Just as the great flood begins to bury all life, a large golden egg will appear. This egg will contain the seeds of all forms of life that existed in the world before the flood. As the world drowns, the egg will float safety upon the waters of the boundless ocean.
When the ocean completely covers all three worlds, Vishnu will exhale a drying wind. For 100 years this wind will
blow across the world, dispersing the storm clouds. For the remainder of the 1,000 Maha Yugas, that night in the life of the world, Vishnu will sleep and the world will lie asleep also.
At the end of the long night of 1,000 Maha Yugas, Vishnu will awaken. A marvelous lotus flower will emerge from his navel, and Vishnu will emerge from the lotus flower in his creative form of
Brahma, creator of life on earth. The lotus will become the foundation of the three worlds.
Once he has emerged from the blossom, Brahma will rest upon it. Brahma will break open the egg to initiate the process of rebirth.
This will usher in the next day in the life of the world, a new period of 1,000 Maha Yugas.
Hindus believe that the image of all three worlds, complete with gods, demons, and human beings, exists within Brahma. First Brahma, the creator, will bring forth water, fire, air, wind, sky, and earth, with mountains and trees upon the earth. Then he will create the forms of time, as a way of organizing the universe.
Soon thereafter, Brahma will concentrate upon creating gods, demons, and human beings. First he
will bring forth the demons from his buttocks. He will then cast off his body, creating the darkness we call night, which belongs to the enemies of the gods. Taking a second body, Brahma will bring forth the gods from his face. He will cast off this body as well, creating the lightness we call day, which belongs to the gods.
From successive bodies, Brahma's powers of concentration will bring forth human beings and Rakshasas, snakes and birds. Then Brahma will bring forth goats from his mouth, sheep from his chest, cows from his stomach, antelope, buffalo, camels, donkeys, elephants, and other animals from his arms and legs, horses from his feet, and plant life from the hair on his body.
Thus the great god Vishnu exists eternally in his three forms. First he is
Brahma, the grandfather and creator of the world. Then he is Vishnu, the preserver of life on earth. Finally he is
Shiva-Rudra, the destroyer of life on earth.
Source: World Mythology by Donna Rosenberg