Brahma

Brahma

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Krishna, the Supreme Person, communicates Vedic knowledge to Brahma via transcendental sound

Brahma is the title given to the engineer and manager of the universe. He is the first created entity within the universe.

The Supreme Person Krishna, in His role as Vishnu, creates the material world. He then empowers a Brahma to act as the engineer and manager within each universe. Of all the demigods in charge of generating various species of life and managing universal affairs, Brahma is the chief.

Brahma is also the original spiritual mentor of everyone within the universe. Krishna entrusts him with the sum total of all knowledge—the Vedas—by which everyone can attain success in life and ultimately return to the spiritual world. Brahma, in turn, sees to it that Vedic knowledge is spread everywhere by his representatives. This mission is known as the Brahma-sampradaya, or school of theistic thought originating from Brahma.

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Brahma's birth is an extraordinary event occurring at the beginning of creation. Vishnu lies down within the universe and manifests a lotus flower from His navel, the stem of which contains all the planetary systems. Brahma appears on top of this lotus flower and performs prolonged meditation before beginning his work. The Bhagavad-gita says that Brahma lives for hundreds of trillions of years.

Whenever a crisis arises within the universe that the administrative demigods can't solve, Brahma approaches Vishnu for assistance. The Srimad-Bhagavatam reveals Brahma's close relationship with the Supreme Person, and includes some of Brahma's prayers, which are extraordinary insights into transcendental reality.

The painting shows Krishna, the Supreme Person, communicating Vedic knowledge to Brahma via transcendental flute sound.

I thought the universe had many gods. What about the Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva)?

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The first tier of universal management consists of three executive heads: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Each is such a powerful controller that they are sometimes given equal status within Vedic literature—and inaccurately called “the Hindu Trinity” by Western scholars. The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that Vishnu is God, or a full expansion of Krishna, whereas Brahma is a finite soul, and Shiva is in a category of his own, slightly less than God. Both Brahma and Shiva are servants of Vishnu, empowered by Him for universal work.

  • Vishnu is in charge of primary creation, as well as maintenance and the mode of goodness
  • Brahma is in charge of secondary creation and the mode of passion
  • Shiva is in charge of destruction and the mode of ignorance

Working under these powerful controllers are many demigods, or devas, empowered to fulfill universal duties. As departments within a city government manage the delivery of water and electricity, the devas oversee the material world.

We should not mistakenly worship the devas as God. We are indebted to them, but they supply life's necessities on God’s behalf using His energies, and we can pay our debt to them by worshiping Him. By satisfying Krishna, all His servants are satisfied.

Our Place in Lord Brahma’s Lifetime

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In Ancient India’s Vedic literatures we find a cosmic calendar that shows the cycle of ages—and how to break out of it.

How long we live greatly depends on what kind of body we have. For example, an insect might stay around for only a month, while a human being sometimes lasts for 100 years. And as the time-honored Bhagavad-gita informs us, the inhabitants of planetary systems higher than ours have bodies of a still higher quality and so live much longer than we do here. In fact Lord Brahma, the administrative demigod who resides on the highest planet in the universe, lives not a moment less than 311 trillion 40 billion years.

Of course, modern scientists have some inkling that a single 24-hour span on some higher planets may equal an earth year or maybe more, but they have no idea just how much more. Bhagavad-gita ( 8.17) tells us this about the length of Lord Brahma?s day and night:

sahasra-yuga-paryantam
ahar yad brahmano viduh
ratrim yuga-sahasrantam
te ho-ratra-vido janah

By human calculation, 1,000 great ages taken together is the duration of Brahma?s day. And such also is the duration of his night.?

Here's the calculation in detail. First, we add up the 4 yugas (ages) shown in the chart. This is 1 divya-yuga (great age), or 4.32 million years. Now, when we multiply by 1,000, what we come up with - and this is a mere 12 "hours" (1 daytime) in Lord Brahma's life - is 4.32 billion earth years. His daytime plus his nighttime comes to 8.64 billion years. What's more, 360 of these days and nights make 1 of Brahma's "years," and he lives for a full 100 of these "years."

All of this may seem fantastic to us, but as Einstein learned some years ago, time is relative. Take, for example, an amoeba, whose life span is less than an hour. If we could explain our life span to the amoeba, just think how flabbergasted he would be. In the same way, although we may be astounded by Brahma's life span, to him it seems quite normal and, if anything, rather short.

Understanding the Overseer

On a grand, cosmic scale, Lord Brahma is an overseer - he manages the process of creation within this universe. At the beginning of each of his days, all varieties of life forms appear, and when his night comes there is a partial annihilation until the next day, when he sets everything in motion all over again. Although Brahma lives for such a vast span of time and has such awesome responsibilities, we can get a rough idea what his life is like.

Brahma starts his day by meditating on the Supreme Lord. He prays that he may "engage in the Lord's service in the creation of the material world," and that "I may not be materially affected by my works, for thus I may be able to give up the false prestige of being the creator." ( Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.9.23)

Although he holds such an exalted place in our universe, Brahma acknowledges God's supremacy and does not want to become illusioned into thinking that he is independently powerful. He wants to remember always that the original cause of everything is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just as a gardener doesn't create seeds but simply sows and waters them to make a garden grow, so Lord Brahma does not create life (the soul), but receives power from the Supreme Lord to place certain souls into certain types of bodies.

So at the beginning of his day, Brahma places each one of us - each individual spiritual soul - into a particular body. As Brahma's day wears on, we transmigrate from one body to another, sometimes to the upper planetary systems and sometimes to the lower ones; sometimes to the body of a pigeon and sometimes to that of a prince - until, after 4.32 billion earth years have passed, Lord Brahma's day ends. Then we go into a dormant state, until his next day begins and the whole cycle starts again.

We may take exception to all this information, since we can't recall any of it. But after all, what can we recall of even our present lifetime? For instance, we know for sure that we were once in our mother's womb, but can we remember that experience? And what to speak of past lifetimes in other bodies? Brahma, however, sees our futile wanderings and feels compassion. He sees us suffering from various types of miseries - anxiety, anger, disease, insomnia, natural disturbances - because of our forgetfulness. "The material miseries are without factual existence for the soul," he assures us. Still, many of us refuse to hear about our actual identity and our relationship with the Supreme Lord, and as a result, we keep on suffering in this material world.

A Look Inside 1 Divya-yuga (Great Age) in Lord Brahma?s Day

Beyond Brahma

In Bhagavad-gita (8.16) Lord Krishna tells us exactly what our situation is and what we can do about it: “From the highest planet in the material world - Lord Brahma’s residence - down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated creation and annihilation take place. But one who attains to My abode never comes to this material world again.”

As long as we live here in the material world, we can know that we face three times of bodily annihilation: (1) the moment of our death, (2) the end of each of Brahma’s days (when there is a partial annihilation), and (3) the end of Brahma’s lifetime (when the entire universe becomes unmanifest for thousands of aeons, until the Lord again manifests Brahma and the rest of the universe).

This has been going on in the past, and it is still going on. “Again and again this multitude of living entities become active; and again and again they are helplessly dissolved.” (Bg. 8.19) No one can calculate how long we have been revolving in the cycle of creation and dissolution. But by using our intelligence properly, we can get out of this insane cycle and save ourselves from a bleak future.

“Yet,” Lord Krishna promises, “there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to the manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. That supreme abode is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Bg. 8.20-21)

As we’ve seen, the soul’s sojourn from body to body throughout Brahma’s lifetime is pitiable and pointless. Now that we have the human form of life, we have a rare chance to understand our real situation—a chance to see that with each rising and setting of the sun, our inevitable demise is coming closer, and that all the wealth in the world can’t stop it. Lower life forms don’t have enough brain substance to understand this process, but human beings can read Vedic literature and take its advice: “Do not spend your time uselessly in mundane affairs; all these things will be finished at the time of annihilation. Instead, look toward the eternal world. Learn how to go back home, back to Godhead.”

As we can see on the chart, the age that we’re living in (the Kali-yuga) is an ocean of faults. But we have one exceptional opportunity: simply by chanting the names of God, we can become freed from Lord Brahma’s cycle of creations and then return home, back to Godhead. Five centuries ago the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and personally taught this sublime process of God realization. At that time even Lord Brahma came to this planet to take part in the Lord’s mission. And Brahma—along with Lord Chaitanya’s other followers to the present day—always chants the names of God recommended in the Vedic literature: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva

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Clearing up some misconceptions about the "Hindu Trinity"

From Back to Godhead Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 6 (June 1982)


The three interesting-looking persons depicted here are Brahma, the world-creator, Vishnu, the world-maintainer, and Shiva, the world-destroyer. Perhaps you’ve heard them characterized in that very misleading cliché of introductory World Religions texts as “the Hindu trinity.” And perhaps you’re simply inclined to dismiss them as the fanciful projections of a primitive mythologizing imagination run riot. But, if you go to the proper sources, the venerable Vedic texts Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, you’ll find Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva accurately explained in the context of an exacting and comprehensive account of God and His creation, an account that is unrivaled in completeness and coherence by any other philosophical, scientific, or religious literature, and that is not only intellectually satisfying but also aesthetically captivating and spiritually fulfilling.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam you’ll encounter the important distinction between the idea of “God” and the idea of “Absolute Truth.” “God” refers to any powerful controller, while “absolute truth” designates the ultimate source of all energies. There can be many gods, many controlling departmental heads of universal affairs, but only one absolute truth. This absolute truth is ultimately a person— Krishna. From Krishna everything emanates; by Krishna everything is maintained; to Krishna everything returns at the time of dissolution. This is what is meant by “absolute truth.” Anything that exists is either Krishna or Krishna’s energy.

Krishna’s main energies are three: His internal energy is manifest as the transcendent spiritual kingdom; His external energy, as the temporary material world. His marginal energy is comprised of all living creatures, the individual animate souls. Souls are “marginal” because they can dwell either in the spiritual kingdom, serving Krishna in bliss and knowledge, or in the material world, forgetting Krishna in darkness and suffering. The Sanskrit word for the soul is jiva (“living entity”), and the marginal energy is also called jiva-tattva, the category of the jiva.

Not only does Krishna expand through His energies, but He also expands Himself personally, directly. Krishna’s direct, personal expansions are called vishnu-tattva, the category of Godhead. Like the persons of the trinity in Christian doctrine, the vishnu-tattva expansions are one, but because Krishna is unlimited, His personal expansions are not merely three but unlimited divine persons, all manifested to perform unlimited divine pastimes.

One of Krishna’s pastimes is to emanate, sustain, and reabsorb the material creation in periodic cycles, and this Krishna does in the persons of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, who are called guna- avataras. Material nature acts in three ways or modes (gunas). When there is creation—construction, generation, procreation, etc.—material nature acts in the mode of passion (rajo-guna). When there is sustenance—maintenance, preservation, endurance, etc.—nature is working in the mode of goodness (sattva-guna). When there is destruction—decay, dissolution, devastation, etc.—nature acts in the mode of ignorance (tamo-guna).

Brahma is the controller of nature in the mode of passion; he is the engineer who creates the universe. Every universe has its Brahma, who appears as the first created being in it. Although Brahma is usually in the category of jiva, he is designated an avatara (incarnation) of Krishna because he is especially empowered with Krishna’s own creative potency. Using the ingredients furnished by Krishna and following Krishna’s blueprints, Brahma constructs the material universe, and then he begets the offspring, called Prajapatis, whose descendants populate all the planets.

Vishnu, who controls nature in the mode of goodness and sustains the creation, is directly the Supreme Lord. In the spiritual kingdom of God, where everything is everlasting, the quality of goodness exists without either passion or ignorance. Therefore it is appropriate that Vishnu personally controls this quality even in the material world, where it becomes bracketed by ignorance and passion.

Shiva, the lord of the mode of ignorance, devastates the universe at the end by his wild, all-annihilating dance. Shiva is a personal expansion of Krishna, not a jiva, yet because he comes into intimate contact with the quality of ignorance and with matter (which is innately ignorant), you cannot receive the same spiritual restoration by worshiping him that you do by worshiping Krishna or Vishnu. Shiva is therefore given his own category, shiva-tattva.

Srimad-Bhagavatam ( 2.7.39) sums it up like this: “In the beginning of creation there are penance, myself [Brahma], and the Prajapatis, the great sages who generate; then, during the maintenance of the creation, there are Lord Vishnu, the demigods with controlling powers, and the kings of different planets. But at the end there is irreligion, and then Lord Shiva and the atheists full of anger, etc. All of them are manifestations of the energy of the supreme power, the Lord."

Enlightened Introspection

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Introspection. You need it. Take a break and think about what your life is about.

Put your routine aside, put your plans aside, put your everything aside, and take the time to think: What is my life for? Where am I going, and where do I want to go? If I stay on my present track, what will my life come to—and is that all right, or is it drab, disappointing, crummy, empty? “Russell Jones keeled over in front of his television set. He is survived by … “

From Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn that when Brahma, the first created being, first awoke after having been created, he found himself seated on a great lotus, surrounded by cosmic darkness, the lotus swaying in the wind. And he began to ask himself: Who am I? Why am I here? What is this lotus? And where has it come from?

He looked in all directions and could find only darkness. But finally, amidst that darkness, he heard a transcendent sound, a cue from the Personality of Godhead, a mantra, a liberating instruction. And acting on that instruction, he steadied his mind in meditation and at last saw before him a vision of the spiritual realm and the Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Brahma had attained perfection in Krishna consciousness.

By the grace of Krishna he could now understand everything about his own self, his purpose in life, the lotus, the darkness—everything. Such is the wonderful power of introspection, guided by transcendental sound.

Introspection alone—however honest, however intense, however deep—isn’t enough. It falls short, collapsing along the way. But when our power of introspection is uplifted and reliably guided, when it takes help from transcendental sound—from Krishna—then success is sure.

By deep introspection, by a sincere inner search, and with help from the Personality of Godhead, our eternal Krishna consciousness can be revived. Then every question is answered, every problem solved, every perplexity unraveled, every obstacle overcome. The mental clouds that have covered us, the routines that have dulled us, the smiling falsities that have bewitched and bound us—with the help of Krishna, we can then see them for what they are and go free.

That help from Krishna is available to us in the Krishna sound. There is no difference between Krishna the Personality of Godhead and Krishna the transcendental sound. So our introspection can best be guided by Krishna’s words of enlightenment, as found in the Bhagavad-gita, or by the sound of the Krishna mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By that Krishna sound, Krishna is present. And when Krishna is present, illusion can no longer prevail.

So take a deep break, look within, take guidance from Krishna’s words, chant Hare Krishna. Krishna will help you, and your life will again be sublime.

Lord Brahma

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Beginning of Creation

Of the tri-murtis (the so-called Hindu trinity)—Brahma, Vishnu and Siva—Lord Brahma is the ruler of the mode of passion and the one who, under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, creates the material universe. From him all the species of life within the universe descend. As the first created being, Lord Brahma was personally manifested and initiated into spiritual realization by Lord Krishna Himself, who revealed Vedic knowledge in Brahma's heart at the dawn of creation. Lord Brahma wrote the Brahma-samhita, a poem that glorifies Krishna. The fifth chapter of this book was discovered by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in South India. These hymns tell of various aspects of Lord Krishna and describes in detail His spiritual form, features, pastimes, and abode.

Pushkara—The Place of Lord Brahma

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Chosen by the chief created being in the universe as the site for his temple, it has attracted sages and ascetics for thousands of years.

Once Lord Brahma, the empowered creator of the universe, desired to have a place on earth dedicated to him, so he threw three lotus petals toward the earth. When the petals landed, three holy lakes sprung up. Because the lakes had been created from the flower (pushpa) thrown from Brahma’s hand (kara), the area became known as Pushkara. The three lakes became known as Jyeshtha Pushkara (“senior Pushkara”), Madhya Pushkara (“middle Pushkara”), and Kanishtha Pushkara (“junior Pushkara”), or Budha (“old”) Pushkara, as it is more commonly known today.

The Blessings of Pushkara

The glories of Pushkara are mentioned in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Padma Purana, and other scriptures. Srimad-Bhagavatam ( 12.12.61) states, “One who controls his mind, fasts at the holy places Pushkara, Mathura, or Dvaraka, and studies this scripture will be freed from all fear.”

In the Mahabharata, while describing to Bhishma, the grandfather of the Pandavas, the glories of many tirthas, or holy places of pilgrimage, the sage Pulastya mentions Pushkara Tirtha first. He says that Pushkara is famous throughout the universe and that anyone who goes there becomes as exalted as Lord Brahma. Pulastya says, “One’s sins are cleansed by just thinking of Pushkara.” Among various blessings obtained by bathing at Pushkara: one may be elevated to the heavenly planets, even the planet of Lord Brahma.

Some time after Brahma had empowered Pushkara to grant these extraordinary blessings, some of the devas, or demigods, complained to him that he had made it too easy for people to attain the heavenly planets. They feared that people would neglect their religious duties and the earth would be plagued with irreligion and its consequences. Lord Brahma conceded and proclaimed that from that time on, the boon of elevation to heaven by bathing at Pushkara would be granted only during the last five days of the month of Karttika (October-November). Today tens of thousands of people visit Pushkara during that period, and a great festival takes place.

The Position of Lord Brahma

The Vedic scriptures tell us that Lord Brahma was born from a lotus flower sprouted from the navel of Lord Garbodakashayi Vishnu, an expansion of Lord Krishna. Because Brahma was not born in the ordinary way, he is known as Atma-bhu, “the self- born.”

Though Brahma is called the creator of the universe, he creates by the power invested in him by Lord Vishnu. In fact, the position of creator, which Brahma occupies, is a post to which Vishnu assigns a highly qualified living entity. Unlike Lord Vishnu, the unlimited Supreme Person, Brahma is a jiva like us—one of the unlimited number of infinitesimal living entities who emanate from the Supreme Person.

Though Brahma is posted above all the other devas except Siva and Vishnu, his main qualification is that he understands himself to be an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord. Pilgrims to Pushkara, aware of Lord Brahma’s exaltedness, generally petition Brahma for material rewards, such as elevation to the heavenly planets. But people with a higher understanding know that such rewards cannot match the gift of pure devotion to the Supreme Lord, which Lord Brahma can also give.

The first verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam says that the Supreme Lord awakened transcendental knowledge within the heart of Brahma. After much penance, Brahma realized that the Absolute Truth is Lord Sri Krishna, of whom all living entities—including Brahma—are eternal servants. Lord Brahma is the head of one of the four Vaishnava Sampradayas, or disciplic lines of devotees of Vishnu or Lord Krishna. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself, aligned Himself with the Brahma Sampradaya. Therefore the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which descends from Lord Chaitanya, is also part of the Brahma Sampradaya, and its members may pray to Brahma for pure devotion to Lord Krishna.

Lord Brahma’s Sacrifice

This history is found in the Padma Purana, Srishtikhanda, Chapter 17:

Accompanied by brahmanas and other devas, or demigods, Lord Brahma once went to Pushkara to perform a sacrifice. Such sacrifices are to be performed along with one’s wife, so when the arrangements for the sacrifice were complete, Lord Brahma sent Narada Rishi, the sage among the devas, to bring Sarasvati, Lord Brahma’s consort. But Sarasvati was not ready to leave, so Narada returned to Pushkara alone.

According to astrological calculations, the sacrifice had to begin at once, so Brahma asked Indra, the king of the heavenly planets, to provide him a suitable wife to assist in the sacrifice. Lord Indra chose a cowherd girl, but the sacrifice required that the girl be of the brahmana caste. So the devas purified the girl, or elevated her caste, by passing her through a cow (into the cow’s mouth and out the other end), because in Vedic culture cows are considered pure and of the same caste as the brahmanas. The girl then became known as Gayatri, “one who was pulled through a cow.”

When Sarasvati arrived to find seated next to her husband another woman—Gayatri—she became angry and cursed him and some of the other devas present. But Gayatri adjusted the curses so that they would turn out favorably. For example, although Sarasvati had cursed Brahma that he would be worshiped only on the full-moon day of the month of Karttika, Gayatri declared that whoever worshiped Brahma would be blessed with wealth and a good family and would be reunited with Brahma.

Sarasvati Devi left the sacrifice in anger and went off to a nearby hill to perform penance.

Today pilgrims to Pushkara can visit temples of both Sarasvati Devi and Gayatri Devi.

Sarasvati Devi is also present in this world in the form of a river. Five branches of that river—Sarasvati, Supapra, Candra, Kanaka, and Nanda—flow in the Pushkara area, but at present they are invisible to ordinary eyes.

The Place of Sages

Pushkara has been known as a holy place for millennia, and today various sites around Pushkara honor well-known Vedic sages who performed penance there, including Agastya, Pulastya, and Markendeya. It was at Pushkara that the heavenly maiden Menaka distracted Vishvamitra, a warrior performing meditation to become a brahma-rishi, a brahmana sage. Later Vishvamitra attained his goal at Pushkara.

Today, thousands of years after the time of Vishvamitra, pilgrims still come to Pushkara to fulfill their desires. Those with the highest understanding pray to the holy place—and its presiding deity, Lord Brahma—to fulfill only one desire: that they may someday develop pure love for Krishna.

The Camel Fair

A camel fair is held in Pushkara each year for five days up to and including the Karttika Purnima, the full-moon night of the month of Karttika (October-November). Since this had long been the time when the most people visited the holy place for a sacred bath, it was natural that pilgrims would use the occasion as a chance to trade. What began with a few small, impromptu exchanges has grown into the largest camel fair in the world.

A tent city spreads out on the plains west of Pushkara, and a grand festival takes place, complete with camel traders, horse traders, snake charmers, camel races, ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, handicrafts shops, ash-covered holy men, brightly clad Rajasthanis—practically all the color and excitement of the culture of Rajasthan. The fair attracts about 200,000 people, along with their 50,000 cows, camels, horses, and water buffaloes.

Pilgrimage to Pushkara

Pushkara, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, is 130 kilometers southwest of Jaipur. The population of Pushkara is about 15,000. The city of Ajmer (400,000) is 13 kilometers to the south. A scenic road from Ajmer to Pushkara winds up and over Snake Mountain. The elevation of Pushkara—1,500 feet above sea level—helps create a moderate climate during Rajasthan’s stifling hot season.

When to Go—September-March.

How to Get There—Jaipur is easy to get to from many cities by air, rail, or bus. From Jaipur take a train or bus to Ajmer or a bus to Pushkara. Jodhpur, another major city in Rajasthan, is about 230 kilometers from Pushkara.

Where to Stay—For its many visitors, Pushkara has plenty of hotels. The state of Rajasthan runs the comfortable Sarovar Tourist Bungalow, pleasantly situated on the banks of the lake. If you plan to go during Karttika Purnima (and the camel fair), reserve several months ahead. During the fair the Rajasthan government provides comfortable lodging for tourists in tents. To reserve either a tent or a room at the Sarovar Tourist Bungalow, write to Central Reservation Office, Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, Ltd., Chanderlok Building, 36 Jan Path, New Delhi 110 001, India. Ajmer, a short bus-ride to Pushkara, also has many hotels.

Where to Eat—Restaurants in Pushkara are allowed to serve only vegetarian food. The Brahma temple has its own restaurant, known as the R. S. Restaurant.

The Temples

Pushkara has about 400 temples, many of them dedicated to various demigods, but the main temple is that of Lord Brahma.

Brahma Temple—The Lord Brahma temple is situated on the west side of town. Next to the four-headed deity of Brahma sits Gayatri Devi on the left and Savitri (Sarasvati) Devi on the right. Throughout the temple compound are shrines of demigods, such as Indra, Kuvera, Siva, and Durga, and saints and sages, such as Dattatreya, Narada Muni, and the Seven Rishis.

It is not known when the original deity of Brahma was installed in the temple. That deity was destroyed by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb in the seventeenth century. The present temple was built in 1809.

Savitri Temple—The temple of Savitri, or Sarasvati, Lord Brahma’s first wife, sits on a hill about three kilometers from the Brahma temple. (Sarasvati Devi went to this hill in anger after cursing Brahma and the other demigods.) Since reaching the temple requires a strenuous one- hour walk, many pilgrims are content to view the temple from a distance. Savitri Devi faces east, looking wide-eyed and happy. The hill offers a full view of Pushkara.

Gayatri Temple—This temple sits on a hill on the opposite side of town from the temple of Savitri.

Varaha Temple—A beautiful white- marble Deity of Lord Varaha, Lord Krishna’s incarnation in the form of a boar, sits in a temple on a small hill, facing south. The present Deity was installed in 1784. The original temple was 150 feet high. It was attacked by Moguls at least three times, beginning in the twelfth century.

Ranganatha Temple—Located in the middle of town, this temple is home for a beautiful six-foot- tall Deity of Venu Gopala (Krishna playing the flute). There are also Deities of Radharani (Krishna’s consort in Vrindavan), Rukmini (Krishna’s consort in Dvaraka), Lakshmi- devi (the goddess of fortune), and Nrisimhadeva (Krishna’s half-man, half-lion incarnation).

Rama-Vaikuntha Temple—This temple of Lakshmi-Narayana is also known as the new Ranganatha Temple. It is on the east side of town.

Krishna Temple—This is the main temple of Madhya Pushkara, which is about two kilometers from Jyeshtha Pushkara, the central area.

Servant of Pushkara Tirth

During an initiation ceremony in New York City, 1971, Srila Prabhupada gave a new disciple the name Pushkara Dasa (“servant of Pushkara”). Prabhupada said, “Pushkara Dasa. There is a sacred lake in India, Pushkara Tirtha. Anyone who takes bath in that lake becomes a devotee. So you try to bring all people of the world to take bath in Pushkara.”

The Lila of the Bewilderment of Brahma

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The Lila of the Bewilderment of Brahma

Brahma-vimohan front

Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are sung by you personally and by your pure devotees, certainly conquer your Lordship, although you are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds. (Lord Brahma’s Prayers to Lord Krishna, Srimad-bhagavatam 10.14.3)

Today I’ve posted a painting Brahma Honors Krishna and an excerpt from its commentary from the book Intimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection. The commentary, by art historian John Seyller, briefly tells the Brahma-vimohan lila (the pastime of the bewilderment of Brahma). Some nice details about the painting’s design are included.

The hearing of, and contemplation upon the lilas of Krishna, (especially as found in Srimad-bhagavatam) comprise what is widely considered an essential limb in the practice of bhakti-yoga. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll try to delve a little deeper into the Brahma-vimohan lila. Besides posting more art, I will be sharing some of Brahma’s prayers and my thoughts on them. There is much to discuss in terms of theology, Vedanta philosophy, yoga and rasa (in this context, an experience a particular relationship with God). I’ll be calling on some of The Bhakti Collective’s contributing writers to share insights and I invite readers to chime in as well.

Thanks.
Kaustubha das

Brahma Honors Krishna

Page from a dispersed series of the Bhagavata Purana
Northern India, probably Delhi-Agra region, c. 1525-40
Opaque watercolor and ink on paper
7 1/8 x 9 1/2 inches (18.1 x 24.1 cm)

This painting, which falls at the beginning of the fourteenth chapter, marks the culmination of an episode that leads the god Brahma to acknowledge Krishna’s limitless existence. Having witnessed Krishna perform one supernatural feat after another, Brahma tests him once more, this time by employing magic to abduct a group of cowherds and their kine from Krishna’s presence. Krishna recognizes Brahma’s handiwork when he is unable to locate the missing cows and cowherds, and simple multiplies himself to replicate each one. The replacements resemble the original cows and cowherds in every detail, but they so strongly embody the divine presence that their mothers’ affection for them grows exponentially. This remarkable development and Brahma’s subsequent vision of each figure being transformed into Krishna in all his splendor move him first to marvel at Krishna’s ability to transcend his own deception and then to recognize the deity’s omnipresence with this, he dismounts his swan vehicle and prostrates himself before Krishna. Raising himself to his feet, Brahma joins his hands together in veneration, and begins a long hymn of praise to Krishna.

The artist pays tribute to the momentousness of the revelation by isolating each of the deities within a separate colored field. The stout, four-headed Brahma appears against a cool green background; Krishna, the object of his devotion stands opposite, his superiority indicated not only by his receptive gesture, but also by the brilliant red rectangle positioned immediately and exclusively behind him. Krishna’s theological advantage is carried through even to the trees that bracket and divide the two figures. Whereas Krishna stands erect on one leg between two trees with absolutely straight trunks, Brahma is backed by a date tree whose trunk bends close to him and his vehicle as if in imitation of his earlier prostration. A black sky and un undulating band of clouds set off the trees’ luxurious foliage and a flowering creeper, which entwine in the upper reaches of the composition to bind the two halves together. The result is a painting whose masterful design matches its religious eloquence. JS

Brahma-vimohan detail

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The Hymns of Brahma

Complexity: 
Medium


An ancient text offers us a vision of the spiritual world--a vibrant, transcendentally variegated world of devotion to Krishna.

The article that follows is adapted from the Introduction to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust edition of Sri Brahma-samhita, a celebrated Vaishnava text. This important new publication is an expanded edition of the first English-language version of Brahma- samhita—published in India in 1932—featuring the translation and commentary of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami (1874-1937). Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, a great Vaishnava saint and scholar, was the guru of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

The origins of the text known as Sri Brahma-samhita are lost in cosmic antiquity. According to Vedic tradition, these “Hymns of Brahma” were recited or sung countless millennia ago by the first created being in the universe, just prior to the act of creation. The text surfaced and entered calculable history early in the sixteenth century, when it was discovered by a pilgrim exploring the manuscript library of an ancient temple in what is now Kerala State in south India. Prior to the introduction of the printing press, texts like Brahma-samhita existed only in manuscript form, painstakingly handwritten by scribes and kept under brahminical custodianship in temples, where often they were worshiped as shastra - Deity, or God incarnate in holy scripture.

The pilgrim who rescued Sri Brahma-samhita from obscurity was no ordinary pilgrim, and His pilgrimage was meant not for self-purification, as is the custom, but for world-purification. He was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—saint, mystic, religious reformer, and full incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Sri Krishna, descending into the present epoch for the salvation of all souls.

At the time of His discovery of the text, Sri Chaitanya was touring south India, preaching His message of love of Krishna and promulgating the practice of sankirtana - congregational singing of the holy names of God. Sri Chaitanya commenced this tour shortly after becoming a monk (sannyasi), at age twenty-four, and the tour lasted approximately two years. After a southward journey from Puri (in Orissa State) to holy places such as Sri Ranga-kshetra, Setubandha, Rameshvaram, and finally Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), He turned northward and, traveling along the bank of the Payasvini River in Travancore State, reached the temple of Adi-keshava in Trivandrum District.

Sri Chaitanya’s principal biographer, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, writes in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya- lila, Ch. 9) that upon beholding the holy image of Adi-keshava (Krishna) in the temple, Sri Chaitanya swooned in spiritual ecstasy, offered fervent prayers, and chanted and danced in rapture, a wondrous sight that was beheld with astonished appreciation by the devotees present.

After discussing esoteric spiritual matters among some highly advanced devotees, Sri Chaitanya found “one chapter of the Brahma-samhita.” (What we now have as Brahma-samhita is, according to tradition, only one of a hundred chapters composing an epic work lost to humanity.) Upon discovering the manuscript, Sri Chaitanya felt great ecstasy and fell into an intense mystic rapture that overflowed onto the physical realm, producing a profusion of tears, trembling, and perspiration. (We would search the literature of the world in vain to find a case in which the discovery of a lost book inspired such unearthly exhilaration!) Intuiting the Sri Brahma samhita to be “a most valuable jewel,” Sri Chaitanya employed a scribe in hand copying the manuscript and departed with the copy for His return journey north.

Upon His return to Puri ( Madhya-lila, Ch. 11), Sri Chaitanya presented Brahma-samhita to appreciative followers like, Ramananda Raya and Vasudeva Datta, for whom Chaitanya arranged copies to be made. As word of the discovery of the text spread within the Vaishnava community, “each and every Vaishnava” copied it. Gradually, Brahma-samhita was “broadcast everywhere” and became one of the major texts of the Gaudiya-Vaishnava canon. “There is no scripture equal to the Brahma- samhita as far as the final spiritual conclusion is concerned,” exults Krishnadasa Kaviraja. “Indeed, that scripture is the supreme revelation of the glories of Lord Govinda, for it reveals the topmost knowledge about Him. Since all conclusions are briefly presented in Brahma- samhita, it is essential among all the Vaishnava literatures” ( Madhya-lila 9.239-240).

In spite of the seemingly topical complexity of the text, the essential core of the Brahma-samhita consists of a brief description of the enlightenment of Lord Brahma by Lord Sri Krishna followed by Brahma’s extraordinarily beautiful prayers elucidating the content of his revelation: an unearthly, beatific vision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, and His eternal, transcendental abode, Goloka Vrindavana, beyond the material cosmos. This core of the text stretches from verse twenty-nine through fifty-six, and a brief, subsequent exposition by Lord Krishna on the path of Krishna-bhakti, love of God, brings the text to a close.

The Brahma-samhita’s account of Lord Brahma’s enlightenment is quite interesting and can be summarized here. When Lord Garbhodakashayi Vishnu desires to recreate the universe, a divine golden lotus flower grows from his navel, and Brahma is born from the lotus. As he is not born from parents, Brahma is known as Svayambhu, “self-existent” or “unoriginated.” Upon his emergence from the lotus, Lord Brahma begins—in preparation for his role as secondary creator—to contemplate the act of cosmic creation but, seeing only darkness about, is bewildered in the performance of his duty. Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, appears before him and instructs him to meditate upon the kama-bija mantra, promising that this mantra “will assuredly fulfill your heart’s desire.”

Lord Brahma thus meditates upon Lord Krishna in His spiritual realm and hears the divine sound of Krishna’s flute. The kama-gayatri mantra, the “mother of the Vedas,” is made manifest from the sound of Krishna’s flute, and Brahma, thus initiated by the supreme primal preceptor Himself, begins to chant the Gayatri. As Srila Prabhupada puts it, “When the sound vibration of Krishna’s flute is expressed through the mouth of Brahma, it becomes gayatri” (Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, p. 322).

Enlightened by his meditation upon the holy Gayatri, Brahma “became acquainted with the expanse of the ocean of truth.” Inspired by his profound and sublime realizations, his heart overflowing with devotion and transcendental insight, Lord Brahma spontaneously begins to offer a series of poem—prayers to the source of his enlightenment and the object of his devotion, Lord Sri Krishna. These exquisite verses form the heart of Brahma- samhita.

There is nothing vague about Brahma’s description of the Lord and His abode. No dim, nihilistic nothingness, no blinding bright light, no wispy, dreamy visions of harps and clouds; rather, a vibrant, luminescent world in transcendental color, form, and sound—a sublimely variegated spiritual landscape populated by innumerable blissful, eternally liberated souls reveling in spiritual cognition, sensation, and emotion, all in relationship with the all-blissful, all- attractive Personality of Godhead. Here is a sample:

"I worship Govinda [Krishna], the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of lakshmis or gopis.
I Worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept in playing on His flute, with blooming eyes like lotus petals, with head decked with peacock’s feather, with the figure of beauty tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and His unique loveliness charming millions of Cupids… .
I worship [Goloka Vrindavana] … where every tree is a transcendental purpose tree; where the soil is the purpose gem, all water is nectar, every word is a song, every gait is a dance, the flute is the favorite attendant, … where numberless milk cows always emit transcendental oceans of milk."

The commentator [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati] reminds us that in the transcendental region of Goloka are found the same elements as are found in the mundane worlds, but in their highest purity and beauty: “trees and creepers, mountains, rivers and forests, water, movement, speech, music of the flute, the sun and the moon, tasted and taste …” Krishna’s divine abode, Goloka Vrindavana, is a world in the fullest and most real sense.

There are those who will have difficulty with Brahma’s highly graphic and personalistic depiction of the spiritual world and of the liberated state. Some, for instance, whose conception of transcendence is determined by a certain logical fallacy based on the arbitrary assumption that spirit is the literal opposite of matter (and thus that because matter has form and variety, spirit must necessarily be formless and unvariegated), conceive of ultimate reality as some sort of divine emptiness. However, any conception of transcendence that projects or analogizes from our limited sensory and cognitive experience within the material world is, by its very nature, limited and speculative and thus unreliable. No accumulated quantity of sense data within this world can bring us to knowledge of what lies beyond it. Residents of the material world cannot get even a clue of transcendence, argues our Brahma-samhita commentator, “by moving heaven and earth through their organic senses.”

The Brahma-samhita teaches that transcendence, truth, ultimate reality can be apprehended only by the mercy of the supreme transcendent entity, the Absolute Truth Himself, and that perception of ultimate reality is a function not of speculative reason but of direct spiritual cognition through divine revelation. This revelation is evolved through bhakti, pure, selfless love of God. Only by such spiritual devotion can Krishna be seen: “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord … whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love” (Brahma-samhita Bs. 38). Further, as our commentator explains, “the form of Krishna is visible [to the eye of the pure spiritual self] in proportion to its purification by the practice of devotion.”

Bhakti as a state of consciousness, then, is attained through bhakti as a practice, a discipline. For this reason, Lord Krishna, in His response to Brahma at the end of the text, summarizes the path of bhakti in five aphorisms. This devotional discipline goes beyond conventional piety. It necessitates “constant endeavor for self-realization” ( Bs. 59), involving both a turning from worldliness and sense gratification and an adherence to spiritual practices and behavior, under the guidance of authorized scripture. Through such practice, then, the materialist is soon purified of his tendency toward philosophical negation and comes to understand the nature of positive transcendence.

Others will find Lord Brahma’s vision of the spiritual realm problematic for a related, but perhaps more subjective, emotional reason that goes to the heart of the human condition. There is a kind of ontological anxiety, a conscious or subconscious apprehension about being-ness or existence itself, that goes along with embodied life in-the- world—that accompanies the soul’s descent into the temporal, endlessly changing world of matter. Material bodies and minds are subjected to a huge variety of objective and subjective discomfitures, unpleasantries, and abject sufferings. Viewed philosophically, embodied personhood, false- self (ahankara), is, to a greater or lesser degree, innately a condition of suffering.

Because personal existence has been experienced by materialists as essentially painful, writes Srila Prabhupada in his Bhagavad-gita commentary, “the conception of retaining the personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void” ( Bg. 4.10, purport). Entering the path of bhakti, however, such persons can gradually begin to experience their real, spiritual selves and a release from egoistic anxiety. In that purified state, they become able to relish Brahma’s vision of blissful, personal spiritual existence in Goloka.

Still others, however, might criticize Brahma- samhita on the grounds that the text, being quite specific and concrete in its depiction, merely offers another limited, sectarian view of God and His abode—a view in conflict with other, similarly limited views. Such persons prefer a kind of genericized Deity who doesn’t offend variant theological views with definable, personal attributes. Brahma-samhita, however, is not a polemic against “competing” conceptions of the Deity (except those, of course, which would deny His transcendental personhood). Vaishnava tradition does not dismiss images of the Divine derived from authoritative scripture from beyond its own cultural and conceptual borders. It respects any sincere effort at serving the Supreme Person, although it holds its own texts as most comprehensive and authoritative. It promotes neither an arrogant sectarianism that would constrain transcendence to exclusive cultural, ideational, or linguistic forms (while burning a few heretics), nor a syncretistic ecumenism that would try to pacify all claimants on the truth by departicularizing it into bland vagary. Let the syncretists and the sectarians come together to appreciate, at least, the aesthetic magnificence of Lord Brahma’s theistic epiphany.

What we are experiencing through Lord Brahma in his samhita is not mystic hallucination or quaint mythologizing or an exercise in pious wishful thinking. We are getting a glimpse, however dimmed by our own insensitivities, into the spiritual world as seen by one whose eyes are “tinged with the salve of love.” We are seeing, through Brahma, an eternal, transcendental world, of which the present world is a mere reflection. Goloka is infinitely more real than the shadowy world we perceive daily through our narrow senses. Brahma’s vision of the spiritual realm is not his alone. It is shared by all those who give themselves fully unto the loving service of Lord Krishna—though Brahma admits that Goloka is known “only to a very few self-realized souls in this world” ( Bs. 56). We are asked not to accept Brahma’s account of transcendence uncritically and dogmatically but to avail ourselves of the spiritual discipline, bhakti-yoga, that will gradually lead us to our own experiential understanding of this highest truth.

In his commentary to the twenty-eighth verse of the Brahma-samhita Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati writes that Lord Chaitanya “taught this hymn to His favorite disciples inasmuch as it fully contains all the transcendental truths regarding Vaishnava philosophy,” and he asks his readers to “study and try to enter into the spirit of this hymn with great care and attention, as a regular daily function.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciple Srila Prabhupada was very fond of Brahma’s prayers to Lord Krishna, and there are several recordings of Srila Prabhupada singing these prayers with intense devotion. We therefore invite readers to dive deeply into the sweet, transcendental ocean of Brahma’s hymns as a daily meditation.