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Cosmic Time Scale
Creator of all beings
Sri Ramana Maharshi: All metaphysical discussion is profitless unless it causes us to seek within the Self for the true reality.
All controversies about creation, the nature of the universe, evolution, the purpose of God, etc., are useless. They are not conducive to our true happiness. People try to find out about things which are outside of them before they try to find out Who am I? Only by the latter means can happiness be gained.
[Note: Comments by David Godman: Sri Ramana Maharshi had little or no interest in the theoretical side of spirituality. His principal concern was to bring people to an awareness of the Self and, to achieve this end, he always insisted that practice was more important than speculation. Sri Ramana was known to have views which were totally at variance with the common- sense view of the world. As with most other topics he tailored his statements to conform to the different levels of understanding he encountered in his questioners, but even so, almost all his ideas were radical refutations of the concepts of physical reality that most people cherish.
Sri Ramana adopted three different standpoints when he spoke about the nature of the physical world. He advocated all of them at different times but it is clear from his general comments on the subject that he only considered the first two theories given below to be either true or useful.
Literally, drishti-srishti means that the world only exists when it is perceived whereas srishti-drishti means that the world existed prior to anyones perception of it. Although the former theory sounds perverse, Sri Ramana insisted that serious seekers should be satisfied with it, partly because it is a close approximation to the truth and partly because it is the most beneficial attitude to adopt if one is seriously interested in realising the Self.]
Question:How has srishti (creation) come about? Some
say it is predestined. Others say it the Lords leela or sport.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Various accounts are given in books. But is there creation? Only if there is creation do we have to explain how it came about. We may not know about all these theories but we certainly know that we exist. Why not know the 'I' and then see if there is a creation?
Question: In the Vedanta of Sri Sankaracharya the principle of the creation of the world has been accepted for the sake of beginners, but for the advanced the principle of non-creation is put forward. What is your view on this matter?
Maharshi: "There is no dissolution or creation, no one in bondage, nor anyone pursuing spiritual practices. There is no one desiring liberation nor anyone liberated. This is the absolute truth." This sloka (verse) appears in the second chapter of Gaudapadas Karika. One who is established in the Self sees this by his knowledge of reality.
Question: Is not the Self the cause of this world we see around us?
Maharshi: Self itself appears as the world of diverse names and forms. However, Self does not act as the efficient cause (nimitta karana), creating, sustaining and destroying it. Do not ask Why does the confusion of Self, not knowing the truth that it itself appears as the world arise? If instead you enquire To whom does this confusion occur?, it will be discovered that no such confusion ever existed for Self.
Questioner: You seem to be an exponent ofajatadoctrine of advaita Vedanta.
Maharshi: I do not teach only the ajata doctrine. I approve of all schools. The same truth has to be expressed in different ways to suit the capacity of the hearer.
The Ajata doctrine says, Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth or death, no projection or drawing in, no seeker, no bondage, no liberation. The one unity alone exists.
To such as find it difficult to grasp this truth and who ask, How can we ignore this solid world we see all around us?, the dream experience is pointed out and they are told, All that you see depends on the seer. Apart from the seer, there is no seen. This is called the drishti-srishti vada or the argument that one first creates out of ones mind and then sees what ones mind itself has created. Some people cannot grasp even this and they continue to argue in the following terms:
The dream experience is so short, while the world always
When people argue in this way they can be given a srishti-drishti theory, for example, God first created such and such a thing, out of such and such an element, and then something else was created, and so on. That alone will satisfy this class. Their minds are otherwise not satisfied and they ask themselves, How can all geography, all maps, all sciences, stars, planets and the rules governing or relating to them and all knowledge be totally untrue? To such it is best to say, Yes, God created all this and so you see it.
Question: But all these cannot be true. Only one doctrine can be true.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: All these theories are only to suit the capacity of the learner. The absolute can only be one.
The Vedanta says that the cosmos springs into view simultaneously with the seer and
that there is no detailed process of creation. This is said to be yugapat-srishti
(instantaneous creation). It is quite similar to the creations in dream where the
experiencer springs up simultaneously with the objects of experience. When this is told,
some people are not satisfied for they are deeply rooted in objective knowledge.
This method of dealing with the subject of creation is called krama-srishti (gradual creation). But the true seeker can content with yugapat-srishti, instantaneous creation.
There may be any number of theories of creation. All of them extend outwardly. There
will be no limit to them because time and space are unlimited. They are however only in
Creation is explained scientifically or logically to ones own satisfaction. But
is there any finality about it? Such explanations are called krama-srishti
(gradual creation). On the other hand, drishti-srishti (simultaneous creation)
is yugapat-srishti. Without the seer there are no objects seen.
Where are you now? Are you in the world or is the world within you? You must admit that the world is not perceived in your sleep although you cannot deny your existence then. The world appears when you wake up. So where is it? Clearly the world is your thought. Thoughts are your projections. The "I" is first created and then the world. The world is created by the "I" which in its turn rises up from the Self. The riddle of the creation of the world is thus solved if you solve the creation of the "I". So I say, find your Self.
Again, does the world come and ask you Why do "I" exist?
Question: "Brahman is real. The world is illusion" is the stock phrase of Sri Sankaracharya. Yet others say, "The world is reality." Which is true?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Both statements are true. They refer to different stages of development and are spoken from different points of view. The aspirant starts with the definition, that which is real exists always. Then he eliminates the world as unreal because it is changing. The seeker ultimately reaches the Self and there finds unity as the prevailing note. Then, that which was originally rejected as being unreal is found to be a part of the unity. Being absorbed in the reality, the world also is real. There is only being in Self-realisation, and nothing but being.
Question: Sri Bhagavan (Ramana Maharshi) often says that Maya (illusion) and reality are the same. How can that be?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Sankara was criticised for his
He did not stop at the second, because the third explains the other two. It signifies that the universe is real if perceived as the Self, and unreal if perceived apart from the Self. Hence May and reality are one and the same.
Question: So the world is not really illusory?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: At the level of the spiritual seeker you have got to say that the world is an illusion. There is no other way. When a man forgets that he is a Brahman, who is real, permanent and omnipresent, and deludes himself into thinking that he is a body in the universe which is filled with bodies that are transitory, and labours under that delusion, you have got to remind him that the world is unreal and a delusion.
Why? Because his vision which has forgotten its own Self is dwelling in the external, material universe. It will not turn inwards into introspection unless you impress on him that all this external material universe is unreal. When once he realises his own Self he will know that there is nothing other than his own Self and he will come to look upon the whole universe as Brahman.
There is no universe without the Self. So ling as a man does not see the Self which is the origin of all, but looks only at the external world as real and permanent, you have to tell him that all this external universe is an illusion. You cannot help it. Take a paper. We see only the script, and nobody notices the paper on which the script is written. The paper is there whether the script on it is there or not. To those who look upon the script as real, you have to say that it is unreal, an illusion, since it rests upon the paper. The wise man looks upon both the paper and script as one. So also with Brahman and the universe.
Question: So the world is real when it is experienced as the Self and unreal when it is seen as separate names and forms?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Just as fire is obscured by smoke, the shining light of consciousness is obscured by the assemblage of names and forms, the world. When by compassionate divine grace the mind becomes clear, the nature of the world will be known to be not the illusory forms but only the reality.
Only those people whose minds are devoid of the evil power of Maya, having given up the knowledge of the world and being unattached to it, and having thereby attained the knowledge of the self-shining Supreme Reality, can correctly know the meaning of the statement "The world is real." If ones outlook has been transformed to the nature of real knowledge, the world of the five elements beginning with space (akasha) will be real, being the Supreme Reality, which is the nature of knowledge.
The original state of this empty world, which is bewildering and crowded with many
names and forms, is bliss, which is one, just as the egg-yolk of a multi-coloured peacock
is only one. Know this truth by abiding in the state of Self.
From The Mundaka Upanishad
By means of the Higher Knowledge the wise behold everywhere Brahman, which otherwise
cannot be seen or seized, which has no root or attributes, no eyes or ears, no hands or
feet; which is eternal and omnipresent, all-pervading and extremely subtle; which is
imperishable and the source of all beings.
[Note: As the spider sends forth and draws in its thread, as plants grow on the earth, as hair grows on the head and the body of a living man- so does everything in the universe arise from the Imperishable.
"Draws in": That is to say, absorbs within itself. The thread, when drawn in, becomes again part and parcel of the spider. "Plants..": They are not different from the earth. "Hair .": The hair is different from the man. The one is inert and the other living.
These three illustrations stress the spontaneous nature of the creation. Brahman Itself, without the help of an extraneous cause, projects the universe out of Itself. It is both the material and the efficient cause. The first illustration points out that the universe is projected from Brahman and also ultimately merges in Brahman. The second illustration points out that, after the creation, the universe rests in Brahman. According to the third, Brahman, which is Pure Intelligence, projects out of Itself the inert material universe, like the growth of hair from a living man. The creation is not the becoming or transformation of Brahman. Brahman through Its own inscrutable power, appears as the universe of name and form without Itself undergoing any change whatsoever. This is called maya.]
[The following comments refer to the next verse No.8. The successive stages in the evolution of the universe are described. Things did not come into existence all at once, as if someone had thrown a handful of plums.]
Brahman expands by means of austerity, and from It primal matter is produced; from
matter, Prana; from Prana, mind; from mind, the elements; from the elements, the worlds;
thence works, and from the works, their immortal fruits.
[Note: "Expands": The word tapas in the Sanskrit text means, literally,
austerity. It also denotes intense thinking, which precedes any creative act. Here the
word means knowledge, regarding the future creation. Brahman or Pure Intelligence, alone
exists. It is one and without a second. Under the influence of Its own maya there arises
in Brahman the desire for creation, or projection, and forthwith it becomes endowed with
omniscience, that is to say, with the knowledge and capacity of creating, preserving and
destroying the universe.
"From It": Prakriti or primal matter in a state of non- differentiation, being a beginningless entity, cannot be said to be created. What is meant is that it becomes ready for manifestation. The word for primal matter in the Sanskrit text is annam, food; all created beings derive enjoyment from material objects, as a man does from food. Brahman desirous of creation appears as the undifferentiated prakriti, or matter. From the standpoint of prakriti, Brahman is the material cause of the universe, whereas, from the standpoint of Pure Intelligence, It is efficient cause.
"From Matter, Prana": The first tangible and specific manifestation is Prana (Life), known as Brahma, Hiranyagarbha (the Golden Egg), Prajapati (the Creator), and Sutratma (the Atman which, like a thread, holds together the whole universe). He is the World Soul, the Cosmic Person in whom become manifest the knowledge and power of Brahman with regard to creation. He is the sprout, the first shoot of the creation, and contains in seed from the desires and actions of the created beings yet to be evolved.
The Personal Gods of the different religions represent different aspects of Brahma. In the Puranas He is described as a special Person endowed with a form and dwelling in a special world called Brahmaloka, which may be roughly compared to the heavens of the Dualistic religions.
"Mind": That is to say the Cosmic Mind. The individual minds are not yet evolved, Mind is characterised by volition, deliberation, doubt, and determination.
"Elements": The five elements, space (akasa), air, fire, water and earth. When first evolved, they are uncompounded, subtle, and incapable of creating. Then they combine and become gross elements. Each gross element contains one half portion of its subtle counterpart and one eighth of each of the four other subtle elements.
"Immortal fruits": Work (karma) creates desire, and the desire again impels one to action. Thus in the relative universe the stream of work never comes to an end even in a million aeons. The Knowledge of Brahman alone puts a stop to desire and work. Like work, its fruit is also without an end. Hence it is called immortal.
From the relative point of view, creation is without beginning.
Whenever the creation of the world is spoken of, what is really meant is the beginning
of a cycle. A new cycle begins by the will of Isvara (Saguna Brahman,), and its character
is determined by the accumulated actions of the living beings of the previous cycle. (For
explanations on Isvara see page Nature of Reality; refer to the
column on the left). Mere matter, without the help of consciousness or intelligence,
cannot precipitate creation. Whether the created beings in a particular cycle will be
happy or unhappy, wise or ignorant, is determined by the law of karma. In discussing
creation or evolution, it should be remembered that according to Vedanta it is the
illusory superimposition upon Brahman of names and forms.
For him who knows all and understands everything, whose austerity consists of
knowledge- from Him, the Imperishable Brahman, are born Brahma, name, form, and food.
[Note: "Who knows all": That is to say, in general. This refers to the cosmic aspect of Brahman (Brahman with attributes) associated with maya, or cosmic ignorance. Saguna Brahman surveys the created universe as a totality.
"Understands everything": That is to say, in particular. This refers to the individualised aspects of Brahman (that is to say, the jiva or individual soul), associated with avidya, or individualised ignorance.
"Austerity": The word refers to omniscience, endowed with which Brahman creates the universe. In the case of ordinary people austerity is associated with great effort. But Brahman creates the universe without the slightest effort. It appears to be the spontaneous manifestation of Brahman.
"Name": By which a created being is known.
It is well known that any creative work is preceded by deep thinking. The object is at first conceived in the mind of the creator; then it is given a tangible form. The universe is the outcome of the thought of the Creator. In describing the act of creation, the Upanishad says: "He thought." The difference, however, between a human creation and the divine creation is that the former is the result of much effort and labour, whereas, the latter is the spontaneous manifestation of Brahman. "Devasya esha svabhavah-" All this is the very nature of Brahman. The Upanishad gives a spiritual interpretation of the creation as opposed to a mechanistic one.]
Related articles: Wisdom versus knowledge
The Bhagavad Gita
The Blessed Lord said:
Those people who know the day of Brahma which is of a duration of a thousand yugas (ages) and the night which is also of a thousand yugas duration, they know day and night. (Gita, Ch. 8, Verse 17)
[Note: Day means evolution or projection or manifestation of the universe. Night means
involution of the universe known as pralaya. The worlds are limited or conditioned in
The Suryasiddhanta speaks of the same division of time.
The world is absorbed in the avyaktam or the Unmanifested or Mulaprakriti during the
cosmic pralaya (involution of the world).
Nothing that comes under this ever-revolving wheel of cosmic day and night lasts forever. That is the reason why the seers of the Upanishads, the sages of yore lived in the transcendental Supreme Being, the Imperishable Self, the indestructible Purusa, the supreme goal of life, the highest end of man, which is beyond the cosmic day and night. Just as the seeds that are fried can hardly germinate, so also those who have attained to the imperishable Brahman, the Absolute, the Eternal, cannot return to this world of sorrow, pain and misery. They know neither day nor night. They are one with Existence Absolute.
The manifested and the unmanifested dwell in Brahman.
From the Unmanifested all the manifested (worlds) proceed at the coming of the day; at the coming of the night they dissolve verily into that alone which is called the Unmanifested. (Gita, Ch. 8, Verse 18)
[Note: When Brahma awakes, all manifestations, moving and unmoving (animate and inanimate) stream forth at the coming of the day from the Avyaktam or the Unmanifested. When Brahma goes to sleep, all the manifestations merge in the Unmanifested, for the cosmic night has set in.
"Coming of the day": Commencement of creation.
This same multitude of beings, being born again and again, is dissolved, helplessly, O Arjuna, (into the Unmanifested) at the coming of the night and comes forth at the coming of the day. (Gita, Ch. 8, Verse 19)
[Note: Avidya (ignorance), kama (desire) and karma (action) are the knots that bind the individual to samsara. Desire is born of avidya. Man exerts to attain and enjoy the objects of his desires. During this activity he favours some and injures others through the force of raga-dvesa (love and hatred or attraction and repulsion). Therefore he is caught in the wheel of samsara or transmigration. He has to take birth again and again to reap the fruits of his own actions. He repeatedly comes forth and dissolves through the force of his own karma.
The individual souls have lost their independence as they are bound by ignorance,
desire and activity. Therefore they are subject to the sorrows, miseries and pains of this
But verily there exists, higher than the Unmanifested another Unmanifested Eternal Who is not destroyed when all beings are destroyed. (Gita, Ch.8, Verse 20)
[Note: Another Unmanifested is the ancient or Eternal Para Brahman Who is distinct from the Unmanifested (Avyaktam or Primordial Nature), Who is of quite different nature. He is superior to Hiranyagarbha (the Cosmic Creative Intelligence) and the Unmanifested Nature because He is their cause. He is not destroyed when all the beings from Brahma down to the ants or the blade of grass are destroyed.]
All beings, O Arjuna, go into My Nature at the end of a kalpa; I send them
forth again at the beginning of the next kalpa.
[Note: "Prakrti": The inferior one or the lower Nature composed of the three qualities , Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas.
Just as the grass grows from the earth and dries up in the earth, just as the ripples and waves rise from the ocean and disappear in the ocean itself, just as the dreams proceed from the mind and melt away in the mind itself when the dreamer comes back to the waking state, so also the beings which arise from Nature merge into it during dissolution or pralaya.
Pralaya is the period of dissolution.
Animating My Nature, I again and again send forth all this multitude of beings, helpless by the force of the Nature. (Gita, Ch.9, Verse 8)
[Note: The Lord leans on, presses or embraces Nature. He invigorates and fertilises Nature which had gone to sleep at the end of the mahakalpa or universal dissolution and project again this whole multitude of beings. He gazes at each level and plane after plane comes into being.
The term Prakrti denotes or indicates the five kleshas or afflictions, viz., avidya (ignorance), asmita (egoism), raga (likes or attachments) and dvesa (dislikes), and abhinivesa (clinging to earthly life).]
My womb is the great Brahma; in that I place the germ; thence, O Arjuna, is the birth of all beings. (Gita, Ch.14, Verse 3)
[Note: My womb is the great Nature. The cosmos is evolved out of His Nature. Nature is called the great Brahma for she is the resting place of the five subtle elements and also the mahat (cosmic mind). She is called the great Brahma, because through Her the whole manifestation takes place.
I lay in it (the Mahatbrahma) the embryo of life; then all beings begin to come to life therefrom. In the great Brahma or Nature I place the germ or the seed for the birth of Hiranyagarbha; and the seed gives birth to all beings. The birth of Hirahnyagarbha or Brahma (the Creator) gives rise to the birth of beings.
The Primordial Nature is like the clay. She cannot create the forms Herself. She gives
birth to Brahma Who creates all beings just as the potter creates various forms from the
Whatever forms are produced, O Arjuna, in any womb whatsoever, the great Brahma
is their womb and I am the seed-giving father.
[Note: "I am the father": The Primordial Nature is the mother.
"wombs": Such as the gods, men, cattle, beasts, birds, etc.]
Under Me as supervisor Nature produces the moving
[Note: The Lord presides only as a witness. Nature does everything. By reason of His proximity or presence, Nature sends forth the moving and the unmoving. The prime cause of this creation is Nature. For the movable and the immovable, and for the whole universe the root cause is Nature itself.
Although all actions are done with the help of the light of the sun, yet the sun cannot become the doer of actions. Even so the Lord cannot become the doer of actions even though Nature does all actions with the help of the light of the Lord.
As Brahman illumines avidya (ignorance), the material cause of this world, He is regarded as the cause of this world. The magnet is quite indifferent although it makes the iron pieces move on account of its proximity. Even so the Lord remains indifferent although He makes Nature create the world.
As the Lord and the Witness, He presides over this world which consists of moving and unmoving objects. He is a mere witness only.
From The Mahabharata
Yudhishthira said: I desire, O thou of Kurus race, to know what the origin and what the end is of all creatures; what is the nature of their meditation and what are their acts; What are the divisions of time, and what the allotted periods of life in the respective epochs?
Bhishma said: In this connection I shall recite to thee an old narrative of what the
divine Vyasa said unto his son Suka.
Suka said: It behoveth thee to tell me who the Creator is of all beings, as fixed by a knowledge of time, and what the duties are that should be accomplished by a Brahmana.
Vyasa said: Only Brahman, which is without beginning and without end, unborn, blazing with effulgence, above decay, immutable, indestructible, inconceivable, and transcending knowledge, exists before the Creation.
Divisions of time
The Rishis, measuring time, have named particular portions by particular names. Five and ten winks of the eye make what is called a Kashtha. Thirty Kashthas would make what is called a Kala. Thirty Kalas, with the tenth part of a Kala added, make what is known as a Muhurta. Thirty Muhurtas make up one day and night. Thirty days and nights are called a month, and twelve months are called a year.
Persons conversant with mathematical science say that a year is made up of two Ayanas (dependent on suns motion), viz., the northern and the southern. The sun makes the day and the night for the world of man. The night is for the sleep of all living creatures, and the day is for the doing of action.
A month of human beings is equal to a day and night of the Pitris (deceased ancestors). That division (as regards the Pitris) consists in this: the lighted fortnight (of men) is their day which is for the doing of acts; and the dark fortnight is their night for sleep. A year (of human beings) is equal to a day and night of the gods.
The division (as regards the gods) consists in this: the half year for which the sun travels from the vernal to the autumnal equinox is the day of the deities, and the half year for which the sun travels from the latter to the former is their night.
Computing by the days and nights of human beings about which I have told thee, I shall speak of the day and night of Brahma and his years also. I shall in their order, tell thee the number of years, that are thus for different purposes computed differently in respect of the Krita, the Treta, the Dwapara, and the Kali yugas. Four thousand years (of the deities) is the duration of the first or Krita age. The morning of that epoch consists of four hundred years and its evening is of four hundred years. [The total duration, therefore, of the krita Yuga (age) is four thousand and eight hundred years of the deities.]
As regards the other yugas, the duration of each gradually decreases by a quarter in respect of both the substantive period with the conjoining portion and the conjoining portion itself. [Thus the duration of the Treta is three thousand years and its morning extends for three hundred years and its evening for three hundred.]
The duration of the Dwapara also is two thousand years, and its morning extends for two hundred years and its evening also for two hundred. The duration of the Kali yuga is one thousand years, and its morning extends for one hundred years, and its evening for one hundred.
[Note: The Krita extends in all for 4800 years. The Treta for 3600; the Dwapara for 2400; and the Kali for 1200. These are, however, the years of the deities.]
These periods always sustain the never-ending and eternal worlds. They who are conversant with Brahman, O child, regard this as Immutable Brahman.
Duties change according to the Yugas (ages)
In the Krita age, all the duties exists in their entirety, along with Truth. No knowledge or object came to men of that age through unrighteous or forbidden means. In the other yugas, duty, ordained in the Vedas, is seen to gradually decline by a quarter in each. Sinfulness grows in consequence of theft, untruth, and deception. In the Krita age, all persons are free from disease and crowned with success in respect of all their objects, and all live for four hundred years. In the Treta, the period of life decreases by a quarter. It has also been heard by us that, in the succeeding yugas, the words of the Vedas, the periods of life, the blessings (uttered by Brahmanas), and the fruits of Vedic rites, all decrease gradually.
The duties set down for the Krita yugas are of one kind. Those for the Treta are
otherwise. Those for the Dwapara are different.
The learned say that these twelve thousand years (of the deities) constitute what is called a Yuga. A thousand such Yugas compose a single day of Brahma. The same is the duration of Brahmas night. With the commencement of Brahma&