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Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

BRIHADARANYAKA UPANISHAD (3)-MADHU-KANDA-CHAPTER I
By T.N.Sethumadhavan, June 2012 [tnsethu@rediffmail.com]

Chapter :

SECTION IV:
PURUSHAVIDHA BRAHMANA
THE SAGA OF CREATION.

PREAMBLE

One of the oldest pastimes of man has been to activate his contemplative and analytical faculties to find out the final answer to the riddle of creation of the universe. We have answers to this enigma in every religion. We have scientific theories throwing up endless ever-changing conclusions. We have philosophers’ speculations and poetic imaginations. But the mystery of creation remains as much unfathomed and unsolved today as in the Vedic days.

Creation is interpreted in the Vedas as a developmental course rather than as bringing into being something not hitherto existent. It is considered as a process and not an event. In the Vedas, the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures the creation of the perceived universe is described over and over again in a bewildering variety of ways that often seem to contradict one another. This is because the Vedas being the revealed knowledge to several sages at different points of time the interpretation of a single theme varies in myriad ways.  The human intellect being finite or limited it comprehends the Infinite or the Unlimited – Brahman - which has no qualities or attributes amenable for description, in a variety of colors. Thus we find each Upanishad and sometimes in the same Upanishad there are several theories about the saga of creation.  (For a detailed analysis on this topic readers’ attention is invited to my Article entitled “Mystery of Creation - Some Vedantic Concepts” appearing in this website under the category ‘Vedanta’ –click here to read).

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad we have seen in Section II a discussion about ‘Creation and Evolution of the Universe’ through the concepts of Death and Sacrifice. This section of the same Upanishad expounds another theory about creation of the universe through the concept of ‘Brahman’, the totality called Purusha. The concept of Purusha has been discussed in various ways in several scriptures, Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

It may be noted that the Purusha Sukta, the most commonly recited Vedic hymn in almost all Vedic rituals and ceremonies, expounds the concept of Purusha elaborately. It appears in the  Rig-veda (10.7.90.1-16) and in various other Vedic Scriptures as also its contents have been reflected and elaborated in the Bhagavata Purana (2.5.35 to 2.6.1-29) and in the Mahabharata (Mokshadharma Parva 351 and 352).
 
This section of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad develops the concept of the Purusha as follows:

In the beginning there was only Brahman (Self). It was alone, undifferentiated and unmanifested. It is called Purusha. The word “I” was born when Purusha became conscious of Himself. Purusha was not happy being alone. So He projected out of Himself a pair – the male principle and the female principle. This was the beginning of the universe of living beings. Urge to reproduce is a cosmic urge; there is nothing to feel embarrassed about it.

The entire creation is Self, the Cosmic Person Himself. The food that we eat and the energy that is derived from it is also He alone. He made the universe differentiated by name and form. He entered all these differentiated entities of the universe up to the tips of their nails like a sword in its scabbard, like the fire in its source. He is the person that breathes, sees, speaks, hears, and thinks. He is the Self that should be meditated upon as a Totality. Everything becomes One in Him. This whole universe is like footprints which ultimately lead to Him alone.

That Self which is the whole universe is also the Self in me, in you and everybody else. Therefore I am all this Totality, Brahman. Hence this Upanishad boldly declares Aham Brahma Asmi - I am Brahman". This one of the four mahavakyas, great sayings of the Upanishads.

The Upanishad proceeds telling us that the universe owes its elegance to its diversity. This diversity was also created by Him (the Cosmic Person). For example He created the four vocational orders in the society- the teachers or the priests, the rulers, the businessmen and farmers and the service providers. He also created Law and Justice – Dharma

He is the Self in all of us. We must meditate on this Self and know It in our lifetime. If we do so, all our cravings will disappear since all our desires would have become ineffective as a burnt seed. Self is the support of all beings- from gods down to animals. Thus everything in the universe is interdependent and everything is dependent on Him. When we realize and practice this Truth, all living beings will wish well for us, just as we desire our own well being.

A man is complete only when he has a mind of his own, a loving wife, loving children, adequate wealth and a life style of performing good deeds. metaphorically, these five are like his Self, speech, breath, eyes and ears respectively. Thus the number five occupies an important place in many objects and phenomena of the universe.

MANTRA 1

In the beginning, this universe was the Self (Viraj) alone, in the shape of a person. He looked around and saw nothing else but His Self. He first said: "This is I". Therefore He came to be known by the name I (Aham). Hence, even now, when a person is called or summoned, he first replies: "This is I" and then says whatever other name he may have. Before all this (purvam), He had burnt up (aushat) all evils; therefore He is called Purusha (pur-ush-a), a Cosmic Person. He, who knows this, verily, destroys everyone who tries to become Viraj before him.

In the beginning, before the creation of bodies, all this was just the Self, undifferentiated from the body of viraj. This Self was like a human being in shape. He is referred to as the first born virat, the first person to have a body endowed with the capacity of willing, acting and knowing. He naturally felt his existence and expressed himself thus “I am”. This is the reason even today when somebody is called he immediately responds by saying “I am”. and then gives out his name.  This being is now known as Purusha, the word Purusha indicating that he was the first among all beings to have destroyed all evils in the form of attachment to sense-objects and ignorance. By identifying himself with pure vital force he killed the evil of attachment of the senses. One who meditates on this Cosmic Purusha excels all others in their spiritual endeavors.

MANTRA 2

When he did not see anything else whatsoever except himself. This first self, in the shape of a man, became afraid. Therefore people still are afraid when alone. This fear indicates the universal desire for self-preservation. The virat (the sum total of all gross bodies in the universe) then thought: "Since there is nothing else but Myself, what am I afraid of?" Thereupon His fears were gone; for what was there to fear? Assuredly, it is from a second entity that fear arises. Thus fear pre-supposes duality or a second person. When the truth of non-duality dawned on him, fear which was an effect of ignorance vanished.

MANTRA 3

Although his fear has passed away he was not at all happy due to his being alone. Therefore none feels happy when he is alone. He wished for a second person as his mate. He grew as big as a man and a woman closely embracing each other. He divided this very body into two. From that division arose husband (pati) and wife (patni). Therefore, as Yajnavalkya used to say, this body is one half of oneself, like one of the two halves of a split peanut. Therefore this space is indeed filled by a wife. He was united with her. From that union human beings were born.

The original being, Self, looks around and sees nothing else but himself. When he realizes his loneliness, he has two feelings, one of fear and the other of a desire for companionship. His fear is dispelled when he realizes that there is nothing else of which he has to be afraid of. His desire for companionship is satisfied by projecting another body of the size of man and woman united in close embrace. This body was then called husband and wife. From the union of these two the race of human beings is produced.

According to the mantra, Prajapati or Hiranygarbha or the Cosmic Person, the Purusha appeared to divide himself into two halves indicating that both are his elements. The two are not separate; they do not mean any duality. One half of the Cosmic person becomes man and the other woman each incomplete without the other like the two halves of a split pea. When the peanut is split into two halves each half becomes incomplete without the other. Both the halves are needed to make each other complete. So too are men and women in the world. Thus the teaching of equality between the genders is as old as the Vedas themselves; but unfortunately we are not implementing this principle in our day to day life in our society.

In this passage the Upanishad presents man and woman as two equal halves, each incomplete without the other. This teaching of equality is of tremendous significance with far-reaching consequence viewed from the present day settings of gender-bias like sex-determination tests, female foeticides, and the so called honor killings of girls and such other facets of degradation of women as a class. This is a great advice that should inspire us in creating a society where the dignity of men and women can be maintained on equal footing. This mantra conveys the idea that man and woman have been created equally – none superior or inferior to the other, nobody is better-half or worse-half.

MANTRA 4 - 6

A series of transformations of the original human pair into animal forms is described in these mantras which conclude with the statement that the Cosmic Person, Viraj, produced everything, whatever exists in pairs, down to ants. Then he (Viraj) realized: "Indeed, I am the creation, for I produced all this." Therefore He was called Creation. He who knows this becomes a creator in this creation of Viraj. Then fire, food, liquids, moon and gods were created. This is the highest creation of Viraj, that He projected the gods, who are even superior to Him.

Thus creation is nothing else but His nature and power of manifestation through which he goes on creating men, animals and other beings. Therefore creation is not different from Him. the Purusha.

Chapter :

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