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The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

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CHAPTER I

Second Brahmana: The Creation of the Universe (Continued)

  1. so׳kāmayata dvitīyo ma ātmā jāyeteti, sa manasā vācam mithunaṁ samabhavad aśanāyā mṛtyuḥ, tad yad reta āsīt, sa saṁvatsaro ׳bhavat; na ha purā tataḥ saṁvatsara āsa. tam etāvantaṁ kālam abhibhaḥ. yāvān saṁvatsaraḥ, tam etāvataḥ, kālasya parastād asṛjata; taṁ jātam abhivyādadāt, sa bhāṇ akarot saiva vāg abhavat.

It willed, or He willed: "May I have a second Self." This is the origin of creation. The world, this creation, this universe is the second Self, as it were, of the Supreme Being. This 'other' Self, which is this vast creation, is animated by the Supreme Being Himself. It is 'other' in the sense that is had not all the characters of the Absolute. Yet, it is the Self. Though it is the 'other', it is also the Self. It is called the 'Other Self', inasmuch as the Selfhood of the Absolute is transparently present in this creation. The Universal Ātman is immanent in the whole universe, in all aspects of creation; and yet the universe is an 'otherness', as it were, of God, an object of God. It is as if the Universal 'I' is envisaging a universal object, including all that is visible or sensible – space, time and causal relation. A single Subject encountering a single Object is the state which is described in this passage, a Cosmic Consciousness becoming aware of a Cosmic Object in a peculiar manner, not in the way in which the ordinary individual is aware of an object outside. The way in which God is conscious of the universe, is different from the way in which an ordinary Jīva, or individual, is conscious of an object. This makes all the difference between Universal Consciousness and particularised consciousness.

The object, in an ordinary perception, is segregated from the subject by the differentiating medium of space and of time, so that there is no vital connection between the object that is perceived and the subject that perceives. But there is a living connectedness between the Cosmic Object and the Cosmic Subject. This connection is sometimes described as one of Body and Soul. We know that there is a connection between the soul and the body. This relation between the soul and the body is different from the relation between an individual subject encountering an outside object. The soul and the body cannot be separated from each other. They are organically one. This relation is called Śariri – Śarira-Bhāva, the relation between consciousness and its embodiment. Thus, we can say that the Cosmic Awareness of the universe, in the case of God-Consciousness, is one of inseparable relation, like the relation of the soul and the body. When we are aware of our bodies, we are not only becoming aware of an object situated in space and time. We can say that this body is an object because it can be sensed, it can be seen, and it has all the characters of any object in the world; but, at the same time, it is an object which clings to us vitally and organically, not like an object such as the mountain which is far off in space and, perhaps, in time.

There are three kinds of 'self' distinguished in the philosophy of the Vedānta. These three 'selfs' are the three aspects of the conception of the One Self. They are called the Mukhya-Ātman, the Mithya-Ātman and the Gauna-Ātman, in Sanskrit. The Mukhya-Ātman is the primary Self, which is uniform and unique in every individual, equally. It does not differ from one person to another person, from one thing to another thing, like space contained in various vessels. It is the same space that is in all vessels, irrespective of the number and size of the vessels, etc. This ubiquitous Consciousness, which is equally present in all beings, irrespective of the distinctions of space, time and cause, is the Absolute Self. That is called the Mukhya-Ātman. There is also the Gauna-Ātman, or the secondary self which is distinguishable from the primary Self. It is not merely that one has within oneself, immanently present, the eternal primary Self, but there is also another kind of self with which one's individuality is connected. Anything that one loves is also a self. As a matter of fact, all love is a movement of self in a particular direction. When the self moves, we call it 'love'; and when it does not move, we call it 'being'. But, it is the same 'self' that acts, whether it moves or whether it does not move. The movement of the 'self' towards an object for any particular given purpose becomes the cause of affection for that object, and the 'Self' which is primary, is recognised in the object which is secondary. So, in the love of the object we are loving our own self really, it is not just something else. The object is invested with the character of the 'Self', and then there is an immense affection felt for the object. Every form of love is the love of 'Self'. There is nothing else in any form of affection. The object which is thus invested with the character of one's own Self, becoming the centre of affection, is what is called the secondary self. It is also a self, but it is not the Absolute Self. So, it is called secondary. The third form of self is this body which is temporarily assumed as the 'self' for the purpose of working out certain Karmas done in previous births. The nature of this body is characterised by the structure of the desires expressed in previous lives, and the Karmas performed in previous lives. A Karma, or an action, is a desire that is externalised in respect of an ulterior motive. Every action is desire-propelled. A desire-propelled movement in the direction of an object is an action, and that action produces a reaction, because every action is an interference in the universality of the cosmos. The equilibrium of the universe is disturbed by every action of any individual. This disturbance that is caused by the action of an individual is set right by the balance that is ever maintained by the universe. And this balance is maintained by a reaction that is so set up. The reaction comes back as a boomerang upon the very individual who is the source of that disturbance. This is called the Karma-Phala, or the fruit of action. That Karma-Phala becomes the seed for the manifestation of a future body. So, this body which we are assuming today, and in which we are embodied, is the result of our past Karmas. It is of such a nature, such a character, such a duration of life, etc., as were our previous desires and actions. This body also is an Ātman for us. We love it immensely. So it is 'self', but it is  a 'false' self. It is not the real Self. So it is called the Mithya-Ātman. Thus, the threefold distinction of the Ātman is made in this manner-the Mukhya-Ātman, the Gauna-Ātman, the Mithya-Ātman-the primary Self, the secondary self, and the false self. Here, the Universal Being Willed, "Let me have a secondary Self." This is, perhaps, the meaning of this passage of the Upaniṣhad.

You have heard this great passage of the Bible: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Something like this is what the Upaniṣhad tells us here. The Eternal Wisdom was manifest, with the eternal Word, and with this Word the whole cosmos was created. The Word which is with God, and which is God, is not merely a letter, or a sound that we make through our lips. It is an energy; it is a force; it is a vibration, which materialises itself, concretises itself into object-forms. The Word is the Veda, or Eternal Wisdom which is with God, and it is inseparable from God, and so, it is God Himself. The Cosmic Mind projected itself in the form of this Eternal Word, and manifested this universe. In the Manusmriti, and such other ancient texts, we are also told in a symbolic manner that Prajāpati, the Creator, conceived the whole cosmos in the pattern of 'Om', or the Praṇava. The Praṇava, or Omkāra, is supposed to be the seed of the whole universe. That is the essence of the Word that is Divine. It is also the Veda contained in a seed form. The whole of the Veda is inside 'Om'. "Eka eva purā vedah praṇavah sarva-vāngmayah," says Bhagavan Sri Krishna, as recorded in the Srimad-Bhagavata, when he spoke to Uddhava. There was only one Veda in the beginning. It was 'Om'. We did not have four Vedas like Rik, Yajur, Sāman and Atharva. They were classifications made later on by Sage Veda-Vyāsa. 'Om' is supposed to be a vibration, which is integral in its nature, and that is the Word spoken of. This Word which is Om, is the cause of the whole cosmos. The Mind of the Universe, the Cosmic Mind, Prajāpati, got united with this Word, which means to say, Consciousness vibrated through this Word for the purpose of the manifestation of the universe. And, in the Manusmriti, we are told that Praṇava splits itself into the Vyāhṛitis-Bhūh, Bhavah, Svah. These are mystical syllables which are supposed to contain the inner content of the Praṇava. And we are also further told that the three Vyahritis split themselves into the three Pādas, or the quarters of the Gāyatri Mantra which is supposed to be expounded in a greater detail in the three sections of the Puruṣha-Sūkta. These three parts of the Puruṣha-Sūkta become the three Vedas-Rik, Yajur and Sāman, and in all their multiplications. So, the origin of this creation is supposed to be a communion of the Cosmic Mind with Cosmic Vibration, which is referred to as the Word, the Veda-Vac, which means speech, the Original Word.

Sa manasā vācam mithunaṁ samabhavad aśanāyā mṛtyuḥ: Here the word aśanāyā mṛtyuḥ is repeated once again in order to bring out the sense that creation is an 'othering' of God, an alienation, a sacrifice, which is sometimes called the 'Cosmic Sacrifice'. The Absolute becomes something other than Itself, in order that it may appear as this universe. How does it become other than it is? By the projection of the time factor. There is no time in God; it is all Eternity. The moment there is the projection of process, it becomes creation-Saṁvatsara, the time-cycle. Saṁvatsara is the principle of the year, which is time. The moment there is consciousness of time, we are in a world of experience. And in the Absolute, which is durationless Eternity, there is no such process as time; there is no past, present and future. What we call Eternity was the Essence of God Himself, and in the grasp of the Universal Consciousness of God, past, present and future come together in a single comprehension. But, in the individual's case, this is split into three sections-the past, the present, and the future, which cannot be connected easily. We cannot know the past, we cannot know the future, we are in a very fine split-fact of what is called the present. Every second, the present passes and becomes a past. The past, the present, and the future are not three distinct parts of time, cut off one from the other. They are a continuity like the flow of a river. But, due to a peculiar effect that the time has upon our minds as individuals, we are unable to conceive of the past and the future, and we are stuck up in the middle, in the present merely. However, the point made out here is that the factor of time became manifest. Na ha purā tataḥ saṁvatsara āsa: Before that, there was no time. Before creation, time was not, and time and creation are identical. The moment there is creation, there is time, and the moment there is time, there is creation. They are one.

As mentioned earlier, the whole duration for which the universe lasts is dependant upon certain factors precedent to the creation of the universe. The chronological, genealogical, or cosmological descriptions given in the Purāṇas, etc. tell us that the duration of the universe during a particular Kalpa, or cycle of time, will be determined by the time taken by the potencies of the individuals who lay unliberated in the previous Kalpa. Therefore, it cannot be said that every Kalpa is of the same duration. The night of Brahma as we call the period of dissolution of the universe, is again of that much of duration as would be necessary for the fructification of the individual potencies lying unliberated in the previous Kalpa, at the time of the dissolution. Thus, by the manifestation of time, creation becomes possible. This is the point where Virāt assumes a complete Form, and time which has not yet begun to control things starts contemplating, as it were, the control of things. In Virāt, time is controlled by the consciousness of Virāt, but subsequently time becomes the controller. We have no control over time.

Here is a very peculiar symbolic expression, which seems to tell us that the urge for creation, the outrush of manifestation which is the principle of death, described here as Mṛityu, was not satisfied with creation up to the point of Virāt, and wanted to engulf Virāt itself in its bosom, so that creation would end with Virāt; but, it did not end with Virāt. The principle of manifestation was not satisfied with the manifestation of Virāt. The One has to become the many, further down. Well, the Virāt is the many, no doubt; manifold expression is there in this Body of the Virāt; everything can be seen there; everything is found there. So, in a way, we may say it is the fulfilment of the desire to create. But, the desire was not fulfilled. There has to be a further creation, and so, while the principle of death, which is the urge for creation, wanted to swallow the Virāt itself in its all-consuming mouth, the Virāt resented, as it were. It is symbolic, of course; not that there were two persons acting in two different manners. It is only a way of expressing a fact that the violent onrush of the urge for creation did not get exhausted with the manifestation of Virāt. It became more and more violent as it went down, until it saw the complete overturning of the cart, and the object sat on the throne of the subject, and that was enough. With that, the creative urge, perhaps, was satisfied. The Virāt resented the onrush of the urge for creation, which means to say, it did not accede to the idea that creation should end with Virāt. The Virāt manifested Himself further down, and his resentment is the Vāc, which means to say, the principle of speech. Here the speech means, symbolically, the Veda, and the Veda means knowledge, the Word, Vibration, Creative Force; and all that Omkāra, or Praṇava, symbolises. Then what happens?