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The Glory of God: A Summary of the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 2: The Process of Creation

If any scripture of the Hindus can be compared with the Bible, it is the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. It consists of twelve books, the first nine of which are something like the Old Testament, and the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth can be compared to the New Testament. In the earlier sections—the first nine books—we have a cosmology of the whole of creation, and practically the history of mankind as conceived from the point of view of a religious interpretation of the process of creation. Suka Maharishi placed before Raja Parikshit a picture of the Cosmic Being, through whose Being, through whose Person run all the levels of existence—seven realms above and seven realms below, from Patala to Brahmaloka. Having described this wondrous structure of creation through every level which one has to pass in the process of spiritual evolution, Sri Suka now turns his attention to the possibility of self-purification through the worship of the lesser gods, who operate through every level of creation as the fingers of the Almighty working everywhere.

The gods in heaven cannot be counted, even as the fingers of God cannot be counted. They are like infinite triangles that can be drawn on the canvas of space, all which have a base and an apex, the apex connecting the relationship between the two points at the base, representing the perceiver and the perceived, the subject and the object, in a transcendent presence called the adhidaiva. The process goes on rising, one above the other, until the Supreme Person is reached. Thus, the gods in heaven represent the different layers of superintending authority in the levels of creation, and one may take them all together at one stroke for a total meditation on creation in its entirety, or each one of them can be taken separately for the purpose of concentration.

For instance, Suka Maharishi says: brahma-varcasa-kāmas tu yajeta brahmaṇaḥ patim (S.B. 2.3.2). A human being has various desires, aspirations and longings. Every longing can be fulfilled by adoration of a particular divinity. If you aspire for radiance in your face, energy in your personality, and lustre in the whole of your being, then meditate on Brahmanaspati, who is the abode of all lustre; if you long for knowledge, enlightenment, wisdom, meditate on a person like Lord Siva; if you want health, vigour of personality and long life, offer your prostrations and adorations to Surya, the resplendent lord of the skies; if you want mental peace, balance of feeling, concentrate your mind on the moon as identical with yourself; if you want a warlike energy and strength in your person, meditate on Skanda, the generalissimo of the gods; and if you want to be free from every kind of obstacle along your successful approach in life, pray, offer your adoration to Ganapathi, or Ganesha Bhagavan, who is the remover of all obstacles.

But having said all these things, Suka concludes by giving his final opinion: akāmaḥ sarva-kāmo vā mokṣa-kāma udāra-dhīḥ, tīvreṇa bhakti-yogena yajeta puruṣaṁ param (S.B. 2.3.10). Infinite desires can be fulfilled by infinite adorations of different varieties, summoning the angels in heaven in different ways, which are the upasanas as mentioned; but if you want nothing or want all things at the same time, then your heart should be devoted to the Supreme Narayana who is the mokshadata—the giver of liberation.

The condition to attain Narayana is that we want nothing or we want everything at the same time, because wanting everything is equal to wanting nothing. The trouble is that we want only certain things, and not all things. No one can humanly long for all things in the world at the same time. But why does the mind make this discrimination in asking for things? Why does it ask only for little things? Here is the trouble with human nature: it wants, but it does not want everything. But in the condition of moksha, liberation, we have to either want everything or not want anything. Akamah means one who has no desires of any kind; sarva-kamo va means one who has desires for all things at the same time. Moksha-kama udara-dhih—whose intent is on liberation alone; such a person has to worship the Supreme Purusha. That is the Great Person who superintends the whole creation—the Father in heaven, if we want to call Him so.

This way of instruction by Suka Maharishi continues through the Second Skandha, or the Second Book, of the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana, and the same subject is continued in the Third Skandha where an elaborate description of the creational process through Brahma is described. This description of the coming of things from the supreme Creator as we have it in the Srimad Bhagavata practically tallies with modern findings of the process of evolution. The Bhagavata does not say that God created man in the beginning. There was an evolutionary process, as conceived in scientific circles—namely, God created the Earth and the heavens, as it is said in the Bible, for instance, but He did not create man immediately.

Here is a little departure in the story of the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. There is the vast ocean, the vast Earth, the entire physical universe before us—sun, moon, stars, all things. God created vegetation first. The plant kingdom manifested itself in the process of evolution. In this context, a question arises: Did God create all things at one stoke with a fiat of His will, or did He allow things to grow gradually from lower to higher species in a systematic manner? Both seem to be a valid answer in this connection. It is something like what goes on in the dream world. Do we suddenly dream mountains, rivers and things in our perception of dream, or is there a gradual perception of things from one stage to another? We can say both are equally valid. We fall into sleep and suddenly begin to dream, and the entire picture of the dream world is before us as if it has been created at one stroke. In that manner, we may say that the universe was created by a fiat of God by His will which He announced: “Let there be light”—and there was light. That is all. One word of God is enough, and the whole thing is manifested.

But after having created this total with the fiat of His will, there is no objection to the idea that the process of evolution took place gradually, because the theory is that creation is a cyclic process. It is not a sudden emerging of things that did not exist earlier. It is not that God created the world from nothing. We may say that, in some way, God does not create things Himself, as the sun does not create the problems of life, though without it no movement can take place here. God is responsible for the evolution of the potentials that existed during the conclusion of the previous cycle—called mahapralaya, the dissolution of the cosmos after one hundred lives of Brahma, the creative principle.

The one hundred lives of Brahma is something difficult to imagine in one's mind. There are four cycles of time, called Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. Kali Yuga, which is the time through which we are passing now, is considered to be the worst of times because there is conflict everywhere, which is why it is called Kali, which means quarrel. There is quarrel everywhere in this particular time of our life in this world. This period of Kali is supposed to range for about four lakhs twenty thousand years (420,000). Double that time is the duration of Dvapara Yuga. Treble that time is the duration of Treta Yuga. Four times the duration of Kali Yuga is the duration of Krita Yuga. When these fourfold cycles of such long duration revolve one thousand times, it is one day of Brahma; and that length of one thousand cycles of similar duration is the night of Brahma. These cycles constituting the day and night of Brahma make one full day of Brahma, and Brahma lives for one hundred years. Calculating Brahma's lifespan is like calculating the distance of the stars—so many light years, and much more than that.

This creation lasts as long as the life of Brahma continues. When the hundred years of Brahma are over, there is cosmic dissolution. All the world will become liquid, as it were; there will be cosmic waters. But the question will arise, what happens to the individuals, people like us, when everything in creation is dissolved during dissolution? Do we attain liberation? No, we do not attain liberation even if the whole world is dissolved, because liberation is freedom from desires of every kind. A mere physical dissolution of things does not mean the dissolution of mental desires. Just as sleep is not the end of the day and is only a commencement of the next day, in a similar manner, this cosmic sleep at the time of dissolution is a universal cessation of all activity but not a liberation of the forces of individualities. They will all be dissolved into a seed form of subtle potentiality when the universe dissolves after such a lengthy period of time—namely, one hundred years of Brahma, the Creator. And then there is creation once again.

The process starts in a similar pattern as it was in the earlier creation. The pattern is the same, but the details are different. The mould is cast forever, but the souls inhabiting these moulds vary according to the various stages of evolution in which they find themselves. That is to say, everyone has to pass through every species of creation. One has to be a mosquito, a frog, a snake, a boar, a lion, an elephant, a cow, a bull, and every blessed thing. They are moulds, or patterns of individualities, into which the mental construct—or the souls, we may say—are cast, so that the moulds permanently stay as they are, but the contents inside, the rulers there, differ at different stages of evolution, just as a particular house can be occupied by different people. The house is the same; it does not change, but today someone occupies it, and tomorrow another person occupies it. In the same way is the yatha purvam akalpayat (R.V. 10.190.3), says the Veda: As before, so creation starts once again.

The reason why there is such a degree in the process of evolution is that every species is given a chance to assert itself. No one can be considered as superior or inferior in this process; everybody is good enough. A tree is as good as a lion for its own purpose. We cannot say that a lion is superior to a tree; that comparison is not allowed anywhere in the scheme of creation. Even an insect has its own soul, and the ant's insistence on the right to survive is as important as the elephant's insistence on the right to survive. We cannot say an elephant is better than an ant. No such comparison can be made.

There are supposedly eighty-four lakhs (8,400,000) of species through which every soul has to pass; and we may say, as human beings, we have passed through these and become human beings, which is a great achievement. Manushyatvam durlabham is the adage of the ancient masters: It is difficult to be born as a human being because we have to cross these stages of all the lower species in order to be endowed with the prerogative of being born a human. If we read the Jataka stories of Buddha's previous lives, we will find this interesting account of what Buddha was in his earlier times. He was everything—every kind of animal, a cannibal, a thief, a lecherous man. Buddha was everything at one time or the other, and there was nothing that he was not. He passed through all these stages of human nature until he assumed a position of human attainment, of Buddhahood. Likewise is the case with all individuals who are going to be Buddhas—who are on the way to the achievement of it, in some degree or the other.

There is no double promotion in the process of evolution; every stage has to be passed through. Everyone has to work hard, and everyone has to work in the same way as everyone else, and achieve it by effort. This is the rigidity of the law of the universe, where justice is meted out to every person without any kind of partiality. A tree has to be a tree, a snake has to be a snake, a frog has to be a frog, and an elephant has to be an elephant. Whatever one is, one has a right to exist. The right to exist is the prerogative given by God's ordinance that no one can destroy another living being, because each one has a right to exist. That is the important point in the evolutionary process. In every stage, we find that all stages are equally important. Every stage is a level of reality—a kingdom, we may say, a kind of principality or empire which is inhabited by citizens of that particular stage, and all those citizens are as valid as citizens of any other realm.

We consider human beings as everything. We think of peace in the world—world peace. Generally, as human beings, we only think of peace for humanity, and not for lions and snakes. We do not think of their peace, as it is not our intention. We do not want peace for any animal or insect in the world; our attitude is that they can take care of themselves. We have roundtable conferences only for the peace of mankind because man can think only as man, and he cannot think as any other species.

We are to give justice to everybody, but that is not possible because of the insistence of the personality of each individual. A snake cares only for itself, and it can strike anyone who comes near it. It does not think that all are equal. It is not possible for even a human being to think that all are equal, because the insistence of the body and the survival instinct of the particular personality—the shape into which one is born—is so strong. But justice is meted out by the judiciary of the cosmos, and that judiciary has an eye everywhere and knows all things that are taking place. A snake is respected in the same way that a saint is respected; there is no difference.

But for us it is horrible to hear all these things. Is God as affectionate towards a snake as He is towards a saint or sage? The point is, there is no comparison of one level with another level. We have passed through that level, and we were snakes once upon a time. Would we have liked to be killed when we were snakes? We loved ourselves so much that we would have liked to continue as cobras because it is ‘me', it is ‘myself', it is ‘I'. The snake does not say that it is a snake; it says that it is ‘me'. Similarly, the human being does not say, “I am a human being.” The human being says, “I am ‘me', and you cannot interfere with me.” The insect also says, “You cannot interfere with me.”

But no particular species can consider this vast concept. It is not possible because together with the justice that requires a vaster vision of all things in the world, there is an indomitable pressure from inside us to mind our own business and not care what happens to others. But justice is not like that. God's vision is all-pervading and sees all things equally, in every way—with one eye only. God does not have many eyes. The many eyes that we speak of in the Visvarupa are actually only one eye, like the many rays of the sun constituting one energy.

So is the process of creation which is described in the Third Skandha of the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana, which Brahma himself narrates to Narada on his particular request as to how things came to be at all—again the same question as to what is good for mankind, or what is good for anybody. To this question, Sukadeva answers by these analogies given through various stories in the Skandhas of the Bhagavata.

Incidentally, we have to say how the Bhagavata came into being at all. It was written by Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, the great sage, after he completed writing the Mahabharata and the seventeen Puranas. It is said in the beginning of the Srimad Bhagavata that after having completed the Mahabharata, the great epic into which every knowledge has been pressed into service by the wise Vyasa, he felt that something had been left out and he had not completed his work, and he was disturbed by this ‘something' which he could not properly comprehend.

At that time Narada came and asked, “What is the problem? Why are you looking despondent?”

Vyasa replied, “I have written everything conceivable on dharma, artha and kama in the Mahabharata, yet I feel that something has been left out. I have to complete my mission, but I cannot properly picture what it is that I am expected to do.”

Then Narada said: yathā dharmādayaś cārthā muni- varyānukīrtitāḥ, na tathā vāsudevasya mahimā anuvarṇitah (S.B. 1.5.9). “You have not sufficiently glorified God in the Mahabharata. This is the defect of your work. You were busy with the narration of the epic—heroes, characters, and their vigorous opposition among themselves. You described the war in a mighty manner, but you have missed one thing. You have not adequately paid your honour, your homage, your tribute to the Almighty Creator of all this. In the Mahabharata epic, you have not expressed your love for God sufficiently. You have placed before people all the rules and regulations, but man cannot live only with rule, law and regulation. He also wants love. God is not merely a judge; He is also a parent, a father and mother. You have always considered God as a judge, as a terrifying person sitting at the top of creation and dispensing what is due to people. Maybe God is that, but He has a very kind and affectionate heart, which point you have missed in the Mahabharata.”

The glory of God is the subject of the Srimad Bhagavata. How can the glory of God be described? Is it possible for any mind to think what greatness God is? Whatever we say about Him is like a shadow in comparison to the radiance of the sun of the Supreme Being. Whatever we lack in our personality and find inadequate in this world, we seem to place it in God. We consider the opposite of all the defects of this world as the qualities of God. Everything is dying in this world, so we say God is deathless; everything is finite in this world, so we say God is infinite; everything is found only in one place in this world, so we say God is everywhere; everybody knows only certain things in this world, so we say God knows everything; everybody has a little strength, so we say God is all-powerful. That is to say, we are unable to positively describe what God Himself is, so we describe God as a counterpart of the defects and inadequacies that we see in creation. What other things can we say about God? Nobody has seen Him. We have only a feeling about Him, which we arrive at as a conclusion, as an inference from the circumstances of life and the difficulties we are passing through.

Thus originated the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. It is the outcome of the samadhi-consciousness of Vyasa. The Bhagavata is called the Samadhi Bhasha. Vyasa's language of samadhi is the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. He has given us the final word, and there is nothing more to say. It is said that after Shakespeare wrote King Lear, he had nothing more to say; or some say that after Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, he threw his magic wand into the ocean as there was nothing more to write. Some such thing is also told about the Srimad Bhagavata. When Vyasa wrote the Srimad Bhagavata, there was nothing more for him to tell humanity. All knowledge is comprehended within this scripture. Vyasochhishtam jagat sarvam is an old saying: Whatever has been spoken from the mouth of Vyasa is all the knowledge about the world. Whatever we find in the world, we will find here; and whatever we cannot find here, we will not find anywhere else. That is the vastness and the depth of Vyasa's writing.

The Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana is written in a very intricate style of Sanskrit. It is not like the Ramayana of Valmiki, the Mahabharata or the seventeen Puranas, which are written in simple Sanskrit. Anyone who knows some Sanskrit will understand what these are about, but even a Sanskrit scholar cannot understand the language of the Srimad Bhagavata. It is highly intricate, very involved, and is scholarship raised to the height of perfection. It is said, therefore, that the Bhagavata is the test of the scholarship of a person. If we want to test the depth of a person's scholarship, we have to test his knowledge of the Bhagavata. The verses are so intricate, so deep and pregnant with meaning, one thing meaning many other things—particularly certain sections like the Veda-stuti in the Tenth Skandha, which is a very intricate prayer that the Vedas offer to the Almighty, the meaning of which cannot be known on a casual or a grammatical reading of the verses. There is wisdom thrust into every verse of the Srimad Bhagavata. Mere Sanskrit knowledge will not do to understand it. It requires a commentary and an exposition in order to know what each section says.

Vyasa wrote the Srimad Bhagavata in this manner, and Suka is the mouthpiece of this great gospel. Vyasa taught the Bhagavata to his son Suka, which he reiterated to Parikshit on that particular occasion mentioned already.

The whole of sadhana practice, in all its varieties, is described in the Srimad Bhagavata. The difficulty in the practice of sadhana is that it is an attempt on our part to reach God. That is sadhana. The way in which we have to conduct ourselves inwardly and outwardly in order to attune ourselves to the requirement of God's presence is our sadhana. True sadhana is really difficult because it is an adjustment of our personality to the requirements of God's justice, and nothing can be more difficult than this prospect before us. As I mentioned, God's justice is incomprehensible. It involves the varieties that He has created in the world, all of which are taken into consideration at the same time. When God thinks, He thinks all things at the same time. It is not like a human being thinking, with one thought after the other. Hence, the adjustment of personality in the practice of sadhana to the requirement of God would mean an adjustment to the totality of the structure of creation and the rising of the spirit of our total personality in this adventure. It is not merely thinking, feeling or understanding that is going on in sadhana; it is the rising up of everything that we are into a focus of direct action.

I was reading a book that was presented to me, entitled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I went through that book and found it is so interesting, and it gives us the whole technique of sadhana. ‘Zen' is a Japanese word for meditation, which is dhyana in Sanskrit and chan in Chinese. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance—you will be wondering what kind of subject this is. The complicated structure of the motorcycle consists of various parts, but usually we are not aware of their existence. We only want to push a button, sit on it, and then ride. But how this button works, how the motorcycle is running, how many parts are involved in it and their cooperative, harmonious activity, with so much affection—can we imagine the total action taking place through the multifarious parts that constitute the motorcycle? The maintenance of it involves, equally, a great attention paid to each and every part—cleaning every nut and bolt, and so on, to perfection, in the maintenance of a motorcycle. Our body may be compared to that motorcycle. Every little thing that we think, feel, act, understand, and are, is important for us. We cannot ignore any part of our personality. Everything is beautiful.

Zen considers everything as beautiful. When we sweep the floor, we are not doing a dirty act. It is a great art of perfection, neatness; and the broom is an object of attention, not simply a thing about which we can be callous. If we wash a vessel, it is a great art of attention in which we are engaging. So is the case with every action, whether it is cooking, preparing tea or offering anything to a guest that comes—a great art, great perfection, great beauty, and great totality. Everything is wonderful; this is Zen's conception of all things in the world. Even a leaf on a tree, even a twig that is moving, all are beautiful. The twig is moving in the breeze, how beautiful! The leaf is moving, how beautiful! The sun is shining, how beautiful! The river is flowing, how beautiful! The mountain is standing, how beautiful! Why not say it is all beautiful, instead of saying it is all stupid? Zen does not accept that things are stupid.

Likewise, in the practice of sadhana there is no stupid thing in this world. Even our thoughts are not stupid; they have to be taken care of as our own children. We may have naughty children, but it does not matter, because they are our children. All children, even of the same parents, are different—one can totally differ from another in many respects—yet, they are to be taken care of as a single total in the family unit. In a similar manner are the ways in which we have to conduct ourselves in relation to the world. A little attention is to be paid to every thought that comes to the mind. Manana is only this much. If a thought comes, adore it, worship it. “My dear child, what do you want?” Why has this thought come to you? Give it what it wants; it will stop crying, and will go. But if you tell the thought, “Go, you idiot! I don't want you,” it will come back yelling with greater force. Therefore, no thought should be brushed aside as unwanted, because it is our child. It has come through our brain, and we are throwing it away. It arises because of a necessity. It will not come unnecessarily. We should understand that necessity by paying careful psychoanalytical attention to it. All thoughts are our thoughts, not somebody else's, so we cannot reject them unless we reject a part of ourselves, which cannot be done. Yoga is not a rejection of any particular, but an inclusion of all things in a total whole, with a beautiful vision of all their existences, just as in Zen. That is sadhana.

The Bhagavata Mahapurana is a total beauty, and not an admixture of tiny pieces thrown together higgledy-piggledy. The Srimad Bhagavata says that it is the complete structure of the body of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. We cannot say that the body of Sri Krishna is made up of useless little parts. It is all living radiance amalgamated into a total whole of perfection and wondrous light that was Sri Krishna's body, and that is embedded into the Srimad Bhagavata by the thought of the samadhi of Vyasa Bhagavan.

So, the sadhana of the Srimad Bhagavata is a divinity operating within us in terms of the divinity that is pervading everywhere. We may say that sadhana is God within us seeking God without, or we may say that it is God within us seeking God Who is everywhere. For that, we must be conscious of everything that is happening anywhere as being part and parcel of our relationship with the fraternity of humankind—not only humankind, but of all species and all levels of creation: Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka. At one stroke we assert our citizenship of all the levels of creation, and the gods become our friends. The denizens are ruled by divinities, and these divinities who are protecting the very quarters of creation will protect us, says the great scripture. We are not friendless and helpless in this world. The quarters of heaven, the very horizon dominated by a god, is ready to help us.

So goes the variety in this description of the story of creation. It is not merely a tale that is told to us for our cajolement, but a great meaning introduced into our practical life. We shall see this in the lives of some of the great saints depicted in the Srimad Bhagavata, such as the stories of Jada Bharata, Dhruva, Prahlada and others—and, finally, the life of Bhagavan Sri Krishna himself, with which the Srimad Bhagavata consummates.