Prasthanatrayi Swaminarayan Bhashyam (Study)

by Sadhu Gyanananddas | 2021 | 123,778 words

This page relates ‘Maya and the Creation of the Universes’ of the study on the Prasthanatrayi Swaminarayan Bhashyam in Light of Swaminarayan Vachanamrut (Vacanamrita). His 18th-century teachings belong to Vedanta philosophy and were compiled as the Vacanamrita, revolving around the five ontological entities of Jiva, Ishvara, Maya, Aksharabrahman, and Parabrahman. Roughly 200 years later, Bhadreshdas composed a commentary (Bhasya) correlating the principles of Vachanamrut.

3.8. Māyā and the Creation of the Universes

Svāminārāyaṇa has given a large description of the process of creation in various discourses.[1]

In the Prasthānatrayī Svāminārāyaṇa Bhāṣya Bhadreśadāsa meticulously narrates the whole process of creation:

paramātmā akāmayata samaṣṭivyaṣṭirūpajagat sṛṣṭyarthaṃ saṃkalpayāñcakāra | tatsaṃkalpaprakāramāha bahu syāṃ prajāyeyeti devamanuṣyadirūpeṇa bahu syām | jagadutpādayituṃ prakṛtipuruṣadvārā pradhānapuruṣādirūpeṇa bhaveyamiti saṃkalpitavān |” (Taittiriya-upaniṣad 2/6/3, p.378)

Parabrahman resolved, may I be many, may I grow forth through the creation of Prakṛti-Puruṣa, Pradhāna-Puruṣa, devas, humans, etc.”

Now we explain the creation in detail according to Brahmasūtra (2/3/16, p.229) and Bhagavad-Gītā (9/10, pp.207-208).

The Bhāṣyakāra also puts forward this point:

tasmāccaikasmāt pradhānapuruṣayugalādekaṃ brahmāṇḍamudpadyate” (Bhagavad-Gītā 9/10, p. 208).

“From each pair of Pradhāna-Puruṣa is produced a brahmānda (what we have loosely been calling ‘world’).”

Focusing now on a single brahmānda, he further explains that the brahmānda which itself comprises fourteen lokas (realms). Since there are ananta Pradhāna-Puruṣas, and brahmāndas are produced. In the process first Parabrahman inspires Akṣarabrahman. Then a series of creations emerge from Pradhāna-Puruṣa. As a result, the body of the world is produced. We have to keep it in mind that this brahmānda in the form of īśvara, Vairāja Puruṣa is a sentient entity.

When we look at the entire creation a natural question emerges that who is the efficient cause and the material cause of this creation? The answer is Parabrahman. By re-entering and empowering each new element of the order is created, He takes the process further.

The Bhāṣyakāra provides a statement from the Brahmasūtras commentary:

tasmācca vairajapuruṣād brahmā viṣṇur maheśaceti mitho bhinnacetanāstrayo devā samudpadyate |” (Brahmasūtra 2/3/16, p.229).

“From Vairāja Puruṣa originates Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśa, each with own īśvara-selves, and then from Brahmā (enabled by Parabrahman and Akṣarabrahman) extends the rest of the creation for jīvas.

This starts with Marici, the first son of Brahmā, and others like him who supervise the procreation and protection of life, and hence are called Prajāpatis (literally, ‘lords of the people’). Then, Kaśyapa and others emerge who are like him and also inherit the role of Prajāpatis. Finally, from them are formed Indra and other devatās (divinities), daityas (demons), humans, animals, vegetation, and all other moveable and immovable life-forms.[2] Exclusively, each brahmānda is said to encompass fourteen realms or lokas. Of these, the eighth from the bottom, called Mṛtyuloka, relates to the earth, where humans inhabit. Above Mṛtyuloka, the higher realms (jointly called ‘svarga’) are inhabited by devatās, seers and higher beings, while the lower regions (called ‘pātāla’ as a group) are inhabited by daityas, nocturnal creatures, and lower beings. Individually, fourteen-realm brahmānda is stated to have aṣṭa āvaraṇa, or ‘eight sheaths’. These material components refer to, in ascending order, pṛthvī, jala, teja, vāyu, ākāśa, ahaṃkāra, mahattattva and prakṛti (i.e., both Pradhāna-Prakṛti and Mūla-Prakṛti).

The definition and description of prakṛti aforesaid largely refer to Mūlaprakṛti alone. It is the Mūlaprakṛti (Mahāmāyā) that is beginningless, eternal, unborn, uncreated, and unmodified (nirvisesa). The three guṇas, namely sattva, rajas, and tamas are its properties. The state of equilibrium of three guṇas (samyavastha) is known as Mūlaprakṛti. It is the Mūlaprakṛti that is described as nirviseṣa, because it stands for the state of equilibrium of three guṇas during which it remains unmodified into its evolutes such as pṛithvi, jala, etc. 157

The Mahāmāyā i.e. Mūlaprakṛti is the power and instrument wielded by God Parabrahman.

The Sruti says:

Māyām tu prakṛtim viddhi mayinam tu mahesvaram.” (Svetāśvatara-upaniṣad 4/10)

Mūlaprakṛti is māyā; and the Lord of māyā (i.e.Māyin) is Parabrahman. In other words, the Lord (supreme), the supporter (ādhara), the controller (niyantā) or (preraka) and the Immanent Self (of Mūlaprakṛti) is Parabrahman (the Lord of lords). Prior to all creations, an infinite number of pradhānas (lower prakṛtis) and their lords (puruśas/īśvaras) lay dormant in seed-like forms in the womb of Mūlaprakṛti.

Since they all lie in a subtle unmanifest form in the womb of Mūlaprakṛti, it is described as the Original/First Unmanifest (Mūla-avyakta/Prathamaavyakta) and as the subtlest (sūkṣmarūpa). As it is an unconscious-unintelligent principle, it is bereft of knowledge and self-luminosity. It, therefore, is called ‘jada’ i.e. inert. However, when it is united with its lord Mūlapuruṣa, because of his permeation and presidency (adhisthana) over it, Mūlaprakṛti too as if becomes sentient (like a human body by being pervaded by the soul from within), and hence, at times described as ‘caitanyarupa’. Mūlaprakṛti, by its very nature, in itself unconscious-inert, appears to be sentient on account of entry and pervasion of Mūlapuruṣa in it, and hence becomes caitanyarupa. The conscious (cidrupa) souls (jīvas) and cosmic selves (īśvaras) rest dormant in the bosom of Mūlaprakṛti during the period of final dissolution (atyantikapralaya). Therefore, Mūlaprakṛti, which in itself is inert, but has cetana-varga (jīvas and īśvaras) resting in it, -is called ‘Jada-cidatmika’.

It is called ‘parartha’ because it evolves for the (purpose) benefit of jīvas and īśvara. It does not evolve for self-enjoyment but evolves for the sake of jīvas and īśvaras.

The Sruti says:

“It (Mūlaprakṛti) procreates innumerable offsprings (pradhāna / lower prakṛtis) of its kind.” (Chāndogya-upaniṣad XII 6/2/1)

In other words, from the Mūlaprakṛti originate an infinite number of lower prakṛtis called pradhāna as its offsprings (prajā). It also is regarded as the resting field (kśetra) of all the jīvas and īśvara together with all evolutes of pradhāna. This point is explained thus: The māyā-prakṛti is like the soil on the earth. The jīvas resting dormant in it are like the seeds lying buried in the soil. Puruṣa i.e. īśvara is like a cloud pregnant with water. Just as by the shower of the rain from the clouds the water comes in contact of seeds lying in the soil and they sprout, so do the jīvas lying dormant in mays wake up to activity by the contact of puruṣa (īśvara) with māyā, prakṛti, at the will of Parabrahman.

Footnotes and references:


Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā I/12, Gadh. 1/13, Gadh. 1/41 and also Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā I/51, Gadh. 2/31


To understand the creation thoroughly we can look at the chart given in the appendix.

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