The third Skandha begins with Krishna sitting next to the sea, all the Yadavas having had died. Krishna’s cousin, Uddhava finds Krishna there and knows that Krishna is planning to leave this mortal world. Krishna teaches Uddhava the Brahma Vidya and then Bddhava left to travel to Badarik Ashram on the Gandhamadana mountan. While travelling to the Badarisk Ashram, Uddhava realises that Krishna has also died from Jara’s arrow shot which hits the sole of Krishna’s foot. The arrow was cursed and it was destiny otherwise how else can a Vishnu incarnation die? Vidura happens to meet Uddhava and hears about the end of the Yadavas and upon knowing that he is now in possession of the Brahma Vidya, begs to learn it. But Uddhava demurs, suggests that Vidura go learn the Brahma Vidya from Sage Maitreya.
Vidura reaches Sage Maitreya’s Ashram and begs him to give him the Brahma Vidya starting with the story of how creation began and Vishnu’s incarnations. A brief overview was given in Skhanda two but this is much more detailed. And then began a fascinating story about the beginning of creation. A Mahapralaya happens. A mahapralaya is a fascinating event. Thinking more about it, it is philosophically challenging to even imagine. Think of a situation or an event where the entire known and unknown universe is annihilated. Existence of time, space, consciousness, all dimensions vanish. Physical matter, memory, Dark Matter, souls everything is no longer in existence. You might well as inquire if that is mahapralaya, then what is pralaya. Well, if I understood it correctly, this roughly corresponds to significant cosmic events such as a star / nova / super nova explosion or the destruction of a solar system. A maharalaya is the mother of all pralayas so to say. This event marks the end of one and the beginning of another cycle of a mahamanvantara, a cosmic cycle.
Now take a step back and imagine this kind of philosophy being discussed thousands of years back. I find it difficult to comprehend and hold the concept in my mind, much less visualise this and these fellows were not only discussing the concept, they were describing a whole mythology around it. So after the mahapralaya happens, all creation is now dissolved into the primordial sea, Naara. Now this is where I am a bit confused. If all creation is annihilated, then where is this sea coming from? It might be primordial but this means that the sea is outside the realms of creation. Is this in some other dimension that Vishnu has? Something to think about, eh?
The reason why I think it is another dimension is because the Purana now talks about a serpent, Adisesha, which is floating on this sea upon which Vishnu is sleeping. It says that all creation has now been withdrawn into Vishnu. Ah! Ha!, so my guess was right, Vishnu exists outside of creation. For a long unbroken moment, everything was perfectly balanced and nothing stirred. The three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas were in equilibrium till Kaala, the spirit of time, disturbed the balance.
Before I go on with the story, here is another incongruous statement. How can something external disturb something that is inside Vishnu? If Vishnu is the lord of all including time, how is it that Kaala (which isn’t time itself, but it is the spirit of time) can disturb the balance? The only way this can happen is if there is method in the madness. In other words, this disturbance was part of Vishnu’s design. So time is really not external to Vishnu at all.
Following this, a lotus stalk emerged from Vishnu’s navel and then an immense lotus flower bloomed. Vishnu’s spirit rose in the stalk and emerged in the flower in the form of Brahma. He thought of himself as Svayambhuva, born of himself, knowing all the Vedas, and looking at four directions through his four heads. The waters of the infinite sea whispered to him “tapa, tapa, tapa”, which lead him to tapasya, or deep meditation. After hundred cosmic years, he suddenly saw Vishnu, immediately attained enlightenment and knew the purpose of his existence, to be the creator.
Brahma created the four Kumara Rishis from his mind, Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatkumara and Sanatana, and told them go forth and multiply. Typically, the kids refused to do work and wanted to go in search of Moksha. The Rishis said, we want to attain enlightenment as well while you are asking us to work to create the universe. I have to admit I had a bit of a chuckle. Even the gods have problems with their kids. I feel better now.
But guess what? Even Brahma feels anger. He was utterly furious. Well, I am not surprised, it is not like he is asking for a cup of tea, you really cannot get any more important than the task of creation. So while he controlled himself, his anger was seething. This anger of his manifested himself in the form of a howling child. Brahma named him Rudra and asks him to go dwell in the heart, senses, life, sky, air, fire, water, earth, sun, moon and tapasya. Quite an interesting time, those few moments when Brahma was getting on with his work of creation. I am a project manager and while I also create a project starting with a project plan or business plan, it’s a tad different from what Brahma goes through. At least no children spawn off my forehead even though some veils might pop.
Brahma created ten more sons from his body, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhrigu, Daksha, Marichi, Vasista and Narad. Not just sons, but metaphysical concepts such as Dharma, Adharma, Desire and Anger were born from his body, soul, heart and brow. His shadow became another son called as Kardama.
Then he really got down to the nitty gritty by issuing all the physical matter in the universe, the galaxies, the stars, the planets, the cosmic dust, etc. The four Vedas emerged from each of his faces and merged into one. Brahma divided himself into two genders, male and female called as Svayambhuva Manu and Satarupa who in tern produced Akuti, Prasuti and Devahuti (daughters) and two sons, Priyavrata and Uttanapada. People of tender dispositions look away now, because Brahma gave Akuti to Ruchi (who seems to appear out of nowhere, who is he? Where did he come from?), Devahuti was given to Kardama Muni (I guess her uncle) while Prasuti was married off to Daksha Prajapati. These six people, three couples, are the ancestors of mankind.
A rather simple straight forward tale but truly cosmic in conception and imagination. While I had read that Brahma had created creation, I did not know about the details. Some of the relationships are a bit fruity, eh? But then again, from a metaphysical basis, when everything is part of Vishnu, you really do not worry about mere aspects such as Incest or genetic problems of consanguineous marriages. Good start, made me wish to keep on going. In the next part, I will be talking about Varaha, the cosmic boar who brought the Earth to Humans, Rishis and Gods.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!