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Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

By T.N.Sethumadhavan, June 2012 []

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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 ( 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.


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.


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.


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.

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  1. Comment By - Steve Savage Date - 08 Nov 2014 Time - 7:15AM
  2. THE CREATION EXPERIENCE by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts" (This is the Third of Eight Major Spiritual Experiences in my life) “There was neither non-existence nor existence. There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. There was neither death nor immortality. There was no distinguishing sign of day or night. That One breathed by its own impulse. Other than that, there was nothing beyond.” - Veda Hymn of Creation August 1973, at age 36, I experienced what is now popularly termed "Cosmic Consciousness." The "Experience" was such that I didn`t know whether I was dying, hallucinating, poisoned, or what or why this was happening. My experiential reality ("Maya") was suddenly stripped away and I was confronted with "God only knows what." I was infinitely small, a singularity, a point of view looking out through the eyes of a tremendous being of infinite dimensions, i.e., if, oxymoronically, dimensions were possible. Looking down at my legs and body, I was amazed that I was inside of, controlling, such a huge Being, a Kabbalistic Adam Kadmon, as it were. It was like looking out from the eyes of the Statue of Liberty in a way; "a Rockefeller Plaza Prometheus," alone in the Void. This "Body," this "Universe," was all there was. There was nothing else. No light. No darkness. Nothing! Suddenly, the Nothingness began to separate into shapes and forms. I was witnessing Creation. What was assembling before me was a scene separated from me by a Great Abyss. Across that Abyss was a Mountain and a Sea off in the distance. On that Mountain, seated on a Rock, in the nearly identical pose of Rodin`s "The Thinker," was a God-like Bearded Man of unimaginable anatomical perfection in Left Profile. Nothing seemed real; the perfectly round Disc (Moon) in the sky appeared stage-like as well (no radiance) (?"It`s only a Paper Moon sailing over a Cardboard Sea"?). I was observing all this as a Being of Pure Consciousness; the Life observing the Clay, as it were. The thoughts of the Man on the Mountain were my thoughts. He ("I") was asking him ("My") self the Eternal Questions. "I" the Observer, the Man the Observed, yet One and the same. He never looked toward me. It was "I" who was aware of him, he unaware of me. He stood up, walked toward the Peak of the Mountain, his back towards me. He walked around, then down, the right side of the Mountain and disappeared from my view. "When you see your likeness, you rejoice. But when you see your images which came into being before you, and which neither die nor become manifest, how much you will have to bear!" Gospel of Thomas (84) I next became aware that "I" was separate from my body. I thought, "What`s happening? I`m so afraid." Then, "There`s nothing to be afraid of; I`m all there is." Looking down from the right, out of my seated body, "I" suddenly had great compassion and love for this Beast, this Primate, who had harbored me for all my life. "I" was the god to whom he prayed for all these years. "I" was his immortal. “If not for me, he would have been the King of the Beasts in the Natural Order of Things.” "I" thought, "When Buddy (body) dies, he hits the ground and rots. What happens to me? Where do "I" go?" This, of course, is a very brief, very superficial recollection of a much greater "Experience" that could fill volumes. It is what has been driving me to seek answers for 40 years to the Eternal Questions. I have lived a Mystical Life in a Quest that has rewarded me with a wealth of "a posteriori" knowledge that corresponds exactly to my "a priori" experiences; yet, Absolute Knowledge was still not in my grasp until my 8th major spiritual experience which occurred December 8, 1976 ("I" am not here). Of the 1,000`s of books that looked for me, were read by me, a select few have given names to, and are in agreement with, the elements of the "Experience": 1. The Bhrihadaranyaka Upanishad; 2. Proverbs 8:22-27; and 3. "The Wisdom of the Vedas," by J.C. Chatterji in which I was amazed to discover an exact description of the Unitive Vision, the Third of Eight Major Spiritual Experiences in my life in Part I, the chapter titled "Waking Up." I have since bought from "Hindu Reality" and "Kashmir Shaivism" by J.C. Chatterji seeking further insights. However, it is "The Wisdom of the Vedas" that validated my Experience of August 1973. My Weltanschauung changed after the Experience of August 1973. Ignorance is truly Bliss. It beats Infinite Insanity. Why do I know what I know? I keep trying to pull the wool over my own eyes but it`s of no use. If you are someone who is truly spiritually awakened, on the Path, please post a comment.

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