Religious Beliefs

How does Hindu tradition talk about the origins of the universe?

Early Vedic hymns as well as later sources reflect deeply and evocatively on the marvels of the world. They propose tentative possibilities as to how it came to be. Perhaps it all began as an embryo or fertile egg, out of which all the divine powers emerged from potentiality into action, separating the gold of Heaven from the silver of Earth. From the egg’s outer membrane arose the mountains, from the inner membranes the clouds, and from its veins the rivers. Perhaps there was once, before time began, an ocean of milk on which the serpent of eternity floated in infinite silence. And as Lord Vishnu (“Pervasive”) rested undisturbed in the serpent’s coils, from the divine body emerged a great fecund lotus flower, unfolding to release the creative power (called Brahma). Looking in all four directions Brahma created the world, thereafter to close again with the lotus blossom, and reopen in a new cycle.

Perhaps the world came to be when the gods offered sacrifice to the Ultimate Reality. From the sacred body of the Primal Person offered in sacrifice came all the elements of the universe. From his eyes the heavenly lights, from his nostrils the winds, from his mouth the priestly caste, from his arms the soldier, until all things originated from the divine body. Or perhaps the creative power was unleashed when the deity entered into ascetic meditation. Focusing the divine energy inward, he generated such spiritual fire that it could no longer be contained and burst forth in creation. But an even greater mystery than the “how” of creation is the “why.” Ultimately one can only stand in awe, admitting that the mystery may forever elude the human capacity to know.


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