Lord Brahma is a mysterious figure. In a religion inhabited by a colourful cast of Gods, Goddesses and their Vahanas–Brahma is seen, yet never worshipped. His name is heard, but his story remains elusive. If you ask anyone why Brahma is not worshipped, the answers are colourful, but inconclusive.

In the Brahma Gayatri Mantra, he is accorded the epitaph, “Vedath Manaya… Hiranya Gharbaya…” Collectively, these two phrases pay homage to the Creator of the Vedas and the Self-Born one. He is self-created and he created his progeny through his mind.

Brahma’s vahana is a heron, a swan or a goose. He is a father figure and is often referred to as Pita Brahma or Father Brahma. He is usually seen seated on a lotus. Like his counterpart Saraswati, he holds a rosary in his hand. He also carries a pot. It is said to be filled with amrita, water, milk, ghee and other such sacrificial items. A spoon is another object associated with him; as is the scroll and the book. I once proposed that Brahma is the God of Scripture.

In Hinduism, the iconography of a deity is deeply important. The subcontinent of India, where Hinduism originated, is a linguistically diverse melting pot. The corpus of scripture is largely rendered in Sanskrit, a language that is now reserved largely for religious purposes. In its heyday, however, it was the lingua franca of both India as well as parts of Southeast Asia.

Perhaps as we lost our language–our Mother Tongue–we lost the ability to connect to Brahma? I’ve read English translations of the Hindu scriptures and while they do manage to convey the gist of what the text is saying, it is–in my opinion–almost impossible to truly appreciate and understand the meaning of these texts unless we hark back to the original Sanskrit.

I’ve been to Hindu temples and I have seen depictions of Brahma in the stories that are carved onto the temple walls. Brahma is there with the other two in the trinity–Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. As my practise of Hinduism deepened, I couldn’t help but wonder why the worship of Brahma disappeared.

The fact that both Brahma and Saraswati hold a rosary is not a coincidence. Even though thousands of years have passed since the Vedas were compiled, we Hindus still chant Sanskrit mantras–even though we no longer use the language for communication purposes. It is through this ancient tongue that we connect to our ancestors and their ancestors before them.

It is how we hark back to our origins, even though we do not know ‘where’ or ‘how’ creation happened.

The Creation Story has never been a cause for contention in the Eastern faiths. We know that it happened–even if we do not know how, when, why and so on. Perhaps there is a good reason for this. Imagine going up to your mother and father and asking, “When was I conceived and why?” I’m not sure I want to ask the question, let alone hear the answer.

In the Upanishads, an assortment of creation stories have been written. They are all allegorical. They describe how creation happens and how many elements, gods, deities and so on have to come together to make creation happen. It is not a myth as such. It is a philosophy. There are no animals, no men, no women, no good guys and definitely no bad guys.

The scripture only narrates a philosophy. It is not a factual account nor does it even attempt to be. Creation is something that happens when everything comes together for it to happen. There is no moral judgment.

And it’s true, if you really think about it.

For creation to happen–be it a mind-born creation like an artwork or a human-born creation like a child–many unknowns must come together and align themselves before life is born. When reading the Upanishads, one has the sense that the ancients were in awe of life. They saw it as a gift from Brahman, the Ultimate Reality.

With time and as humanity ‘progressed’, it seemed we no longer saw it that way. Perhaps we had an issue with our Creator. I conclude, then, that the ancient ones simply did not see it that way or even feel that way. They did not see the world as a place of suffering, but rather as one that inspired their curiosity, their musings and even their intrigue.

As I recited the Upanishads over many sessions, I realised that if nothing else, it was not a reminder to return to my primitive mind; but rather, to remind myself to be in awe of this world that has been created for us and given to us as a gift–despite all of its flaws and imperfections.

Our suffering leads us to believe that there is something ‘wrong’ with creation. But if we looked at the world through the eyes of the Upanishads, we would see with our own eyes; all that the Creator has beautifully crafted.

Brahma, Pahari, about 1700 CE

One thought on “The Eyes of the Upanishads | A Story of Lord Brahma

  1. A difficult conclusion to reach. An excellent and thought-provoking piece. Thank you.

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