Origin of World – The Creation Story
Where did we come from? Where did this universe come from? Why is our Universe the way we see it to be? And what will ultimately become of it? These are the fundamental questions which have long been intriguing mankind even from the pre-historic era. The journey towards understanding the creation has been long. Since the 1929 discovery that Universe is expanding, man has made some significant steps in understanding how the Universe began and how it must have evolved to be what it is today. We know this: galaxies and clusters of galaxies formed from tiny fluctuations in the early Universe. We can measure these fluctuations by mapping the cosmic background radiation and relate them to the structures which we observe today.
The picture of universe we see today is more complete and much richer. The cosmos is said to have begun 13.7 billion years ago with the big bang. A fraction of a second after the beginning, the universe was a hot, formless soup of the most elementary particles, quarks and leptons. As it expanded and cooled, layer on layer of structure developed: neutrons and protons, atomic nuclei, atoms, stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and finally super-clusters. The universe has so far been discovered to host 100 billion galaxies, each containing 100 billion stars and probably a similar number of planets. Galaxies themselves are held together by the gravity of the mysterious dark matter. The universe continues to expand and indeed does so at an accelerating pace, driven by dark energy, an even more mysterious form of energy whose gravitational force repels rather than attracts.
All this is amazing, intriguing and mind-boggling! However, we are now discovering that the concepts about origin of universe given in the old Sanskrit text Rig Veda also seem to stand the scrutiny of scientific minds. The parallels between Rig Veda Creation Story and what is being theorized by modern day physicists and confirmed by modern science are astoundingly and astonishingly similar. How and what could have led to the discovery of these scientific facts by the sages who did not even have any sophisticated instruments at their disposal except their well-developed consciousness? We need to have an honest peep into what they said and understand their way of working to get an idea of the greatness of their work and put things in the right perspective.
Rig Veda Creation Story does not talk about any external creation or creator. The universe is a result of manifestation of Para-brahman, the supreme consciousness. Hence, there is nothing externally created.
Rig Veda Creation Story professes there are times when the universe takes form and times when it dissolves back into nothingness. The in-between times are known as the days and nights of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.
It is interesting to note that Rig Veda in its 10th Mandala explains beautifully the concept in a Suktha called Nasadiya Suktha.
Rig Veda 10:129 – Nasadiya Suktha
Neither existence nor nonexistence was there. Neither matter nor space around. What covered it, where it was and who protected? Why, that plasma, all pervading, deep and profound?
Neither death nor immortality was there. And there was neither day nor night But for that breathless one breathing on its own. There was nothing else, surely nothing.
It was darkness concealed in darkness. And an uninterrupted continuum of fluid. Out came in material form and shape. That one lying deep inside, on its own intent.
In the cosmic mind, all pervading. Desire, the primal seed made its first appearance. And the wise men, seeking deep in their heart; could see the link between ‘that is’ and ‘that is not’.
Reins of the link, a grid of crisscross lines, Holds all the seeds and mighty forces, Microcosmic forces within And macro forces out above.
Who really knows, who can declare. When it started or where from? And where will the creation end? Seekers and sought entered later – And so who knows when all this manifested?
That one, out of which the creation came, May hold the reins or not, Perceiving all from above, That one alone Knows the beginning – may not know too.
Before time began there was no heaven, no earth and no space between. A vast dark ocean washed upon the shores of nothingness and licked the edges of night. A giant cobra, Sheshanaga, floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent. Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams or motion.
From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Om. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy. The night had ended. Vishnu awoke. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu’s navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Vishnu’s servant, Brahma. He awaited the Lord’s command.
Vishnu spoke to his servant: ‘It is time to begin.’ Brahma bowed. Vishnu commanded: ‘Create the world.’
A wind swept up the waters. Vishnu and the serpent vanished. Brahma remained in the lotus flower, floating and tossing on the sea. He lifted up his arms and calmed the wind and the ocean. Then Brahma split the lotus flower into three. He stretched one part into the heavens. He made another part into the earth. With the third part of the flower he created the skies.
The earth was bare. Brahma set to work. He created grass, flowers, trees and plants of all kinds. To these he gave feeling. Next he created the animals and the insects to live on the land. He made birds to fly in the air and many fish to swim in the sea. To all these creatures, he gave the senses of touch and smell. He gave them power to see, hear and move.
The world was soon bristling with life and the air was filled with the sounds of Brahma’s creation.
However, a wicked demon appeared and stole the world. He threw it far out into the cosmic ocean.
Vishnu quickly killed the demon and changed into animal form to rescue the world. Brahma was delighted at the world’s safe return from the depths, for he was then able to finish his task of forming the land and all living things.
But one day, this Universe, like all others before it, will be wiped out when Lord Shiva, the destroyer, grows angry with the world’s evil. At this time, he will dance Tandava – his ferocious dance of destruction and once again there will be a time when nothing exists but Brahman.
Now, let us compare all this idea in Rig Veda Creation Story with the current Cosmological findings.
Beginning of Time
Cosmology: There is no physics. Theory cannot account for conditions existing or not existing
Rig Veda: Neither existence nor nonexistence was there; Neither matter nor space was there;(1st two lines of 1st Verse)
10-32 seconds after Big Bang
Cosmology: The inflationary mode ends, having made the universe smooth and almost homogenous. Matter, anti-matter, and radiation are a bubbling opaque stew.
Rig Veda: And an uninterrupted continuum of fluid……(2nd line of 3rd Verse)
10-4 seconds after big bang
Cosmology: Universe expands. Matter and anti-matter annihilate each other. There is slightly more matter and this excess comprises the matter in the universe today forming galaxies.
Rig Veda: ….. Out came in material form and shape That One lying deep inside, on its own intent(Last 2 lines of 3rdVerse)
In the sixth verse, it says – who will know and who can declare when and where from it all started since we, the seekers were not there and also the causative forces were not present. They came later.
Even gravity broke away from the presumed unified force later. Veda makes it clear that so long you are in search of the causative forces only, you will not get the answer.
There is a theory in the scientific world envisaging a cosmos that oscillates forever passing through infinite number of moments of creation in a never-ending cycle of birth, death and repetition. This has the advantage of being able to answer the question – What preceded the explosion?
Veda also says that this creation and its ending is a repetitive cycle.
End in darkness
Modern cosmology, on the basis of available evidence, envisages the end will come in darkness. Beginning follows the end.
Veda describes the beginning in the same way – darkness concealed in darkness was the state of things.
Herbert Reeves, the famous astrophysicist, after discussing about the primordial force of Big Bang and subsequent distinct forces like gravity, asks a relevant question: “Did not the universe, somewhere, aim at achieving self-awareness through the creation of human mind?” (His article in Figaro-Magazine of February 1983)
The answer is available in Rig Veda for all thinkers of all ages. The answer does not limit human beings only, but extends to all animate and inanimate worlds. The last verse is more profound in its meaning. That One, the “author” of all events should know the beginning. Veda says, “That One also may not know! That breathless One is breathing on its own. The beginning of universe, its expansion, demise and re-emergence – entire process is like involuntary inhaling and exhaling. If someone puts a question to any other one, when did you start that particular inhalation, the obvious answer will be – I do not know.
Even the “author” may not know…
It is a continuous process of which I hardly take notice of. The process is a continuum. Beginning and end are relevant to us, parts and parcels of universe. We float and sink in the ocean of time but not that continuous flow of events or its “author”.
So, according to Vedic Philosophy, the universe (or Multiverse) had no origin, but always has been and always will be, but is perpetually in flux. Space and time are of cyclical nature. This universe is simply the current one, which is in flux and constantly changing, when it finally ceases to manifest, a new one will arise. In a number of stories from the Puranas the continual creation and destruction of the universe is equated to the outwards and inwards breaths of the gigantic cosmic Maha Vishnu.
Hindu scriptures hold that Lord Vishnu, the protector and caretaker of all creation, sleeps in the middle of a vast ocean on the giant snake Sheshanaga. When the cycle begins, Lord Brahma is born out of the ‘Anda‘, an allusion to the egg which is the origin of all life. This ‘Anda’ comes from the navel of Lord Vishnu. The first sound of Lord Brahma is Om, the origin of all creation.
At first the ultimate truth “Brahman” was there, from whom came out Shiva without any birth or death. Vishnu is formed from the vaam-anga of Shiva or the left body. Shiva is the extreme male power of the universe. He is the destroyer or annihilator of the universe.
From him manifested the extreme female power of the universe, Sati.
Then the preserver of the universe Vishnu took three forms, Karnodakasayi Vishnu or Maha-Vishnu, Garbhodakasayivishnu, and Ksirodaksayi vishnu. Maha Vishnu has several Garbhodakasayivishnus in the spiritual sky (the ocean of Karana). Each Garbhodakasayivishnu exhales and inhales and with each breath a Brahma is born who lives for 100 Brahma years and dies with the breath of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu. Each Brahma creates a universe which comes to an end with partial annihilation.
After several Brahma years the annihilation of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu takes place and at the last stage, the dissolution of the whole Karan Sagar with Maha Vishnu by Shiva with Tandav; and this cycle begins again. This cycle of formation and annihilation is seen in Hinduism.
The puranic view asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years (a kalpa or one day of Brahma the creator) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named pralaya (Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion human years), which represents Brahma’s lifespan. Similarly at any given time there are an infinite number of Brahmas creating each of these universes, which are infinite in number.
Brahma is the creator but not necessarily regarded as God in Hinduism. He is mostly regarded as a creation of God or Brahman.
This ‘oscillation’ is portrayed in Hindu texts, especially in the Bhagwad Gita, as Shrishti followed by Vinaash. The period of Vinaash is one of extreme chaos where the very laws of Nature fail.
Rig Veda viewpoint of modern cosmology
This is similar to the Cyclical Universe Theory in physical cosmology. The Big Bang is described as the birth of the universe (Brahma), the life of the universe then follows (Vishnu), and the Big Crunch would be described as the destruction of the universe (Shiva).
An interesting parallel to these ideas can be found in the ekpyrotic model of the universe.
Some Hindu scholars draw metaphorical parallels between modern cosmology and the Hindu theory of ‘Srishti’. According to them, the ‘Anda’ itself resembles the hypothetical energy point from which the Big Bang and hence the Universe emerged. They also claim that the true intonation of Om is very long and drawn out, it is described as an all pervading sound. Its parallel is the cosmic background radiation, currently at a temperature level of 2.725 Kelvin, which pervades the Universe.
Some Hindus claim that even the string theory finds a place in their ancient texts. The first thing that ever was and will be is ‘Shabda’ or sound. This energy is produced by vibrations in energy produced by the powers of the Trinity (Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva). Although at a very high level, this resembles the multidimensional vibrations of the ‘Gunas’ or strings, which are said to be the basis of all creation.
The Rig Veda viewpoint of the continuous cycle of creation, destruction and rebirth is attuned to the theory of Big Bang – Expansion – Contraction – Big Crunch. If the Big Crunch happens, the movement of galaxies towards each other will produce very strong gravitational fields which may make relativistic effects perceptible at a great magnitude. The physical phenomena which we are used to may change wildly or be non-existent.