We have examined the religious systems associated with the names of Vishnu and Siva, and Brahma, the last of the great. Hindu Trinity remains. It might appear strange indeed that, while the religions of Vishnu and Mahadeva are flourishing and have millions of votaries and devoted worshippers among the Hindus to this day, the very name of Brahma is forgotten and only a few temples but two in number remind the stray pilgrim of a deity who once reigned supreme along with Vishnu and Mahadeva.
It is said that Narada, the son of Brahma, once cursed his sire and said that his mystic worship, performed with hymns, amulets, and established forms, will disappear from the face of the world; and it is as a result of it that he is remembered no more. But this explanation can hardly be satisfactory. It is more likely that the religion of Brahma was absorbed in some other forms of religion, even as Buddhism was merged into Hinduism; and this, as we shall see, explains what actually took place. It was partly broken into two divisions Buddhism and Jainism and partly absorbed in the Tantra or the worship of Sakti, the female creative energy of the universe, identified with Nature or Prakrti.
Brahman and Brahma: We have pointed out that the word Brahman in Sanskrt belongs to the neuter gender and Brahma is its masculine form. The implication of this would appear to be that when we speak of Brahman we do not know whether the supreme creator is male or female, Purusha or Prakrti, and it is for us to solve the problem. We have shown how in the Upanishads Brahman is spoken of as the supreme creator of the universe in the light of all systems of Hindu Philosophy, and the very opening verse of the Vedanta Sutra refers to him. This might at first sight appear to contradict the theory that the religion of Brahma is a special counterpart of the principal Sankhya system, with its range of thought extending from the character of the Mind to that of the senses of knowledge and action. In the Sacred Books of the Hindus, however, a single name or idea, by reason of its universal character, is often made to represent a number of points of view; and, as we have shown, Brahman in the Upanishads is the supreme Deity of all systems of Hindu Philosophy, although their points of view are so different. In this way the religion, specially associated with the name of Brahma, comprehends the character of the Mind and the senses of knowledge and action.
Four Aspects of Brahma Religion; Buddhism and Jainism: As we have explained, the principal Sankhya system, to which the religion of Brahma specially corresponds, extends from the Mind to the senses of knowledge and action, and it has four points of view2 in the light of the character of the Mind we hold that Purusha and Prakrti or God and Nature, are joint creators of life, but the share of God is a little less than that of Prakrti, in the light of the senses of knowledge we have two points of view: that God has a small share in the work of creation, or that he is a mere spectator of the work of Prakrti; and in the light of the senses of action we hold that there is no place for God in the scheme of the universe, and that Prakrti is the sole supreme creator of all life.
These four points of view may be divided into two parts, and this gives us Buddhism and Jainism, each having two schools of thought the Mahayana and Hinayana, and Svetambara and Digambara respectively. The whole idea may be represented as follows:
|Creative Energies||Soul||Buddhi||Mind||Senses of Knowledge||Senses of Action|
|Brahmism||Mind||Senses of Knowledge||Senses of Action|
|Buddhism||Mind (Mahayana)||Senses of Knowledge (Hinayana)|
|Jainism||Senses of Knowledge (Svetambara)||Senses of Action (Digambara)|
We shall see how far this would explain the character of all these systems of religion.
The Character of Brahma: We have observed that the range of the religion, specially associated with the name of Brahma, extends from the character of the Mind to that of the senses of knowledge and action. We shall see how far this agrees with post-Vedic and Puranic thought which gave rise to the different systems of Hindu Religion.
The Birth of Brahma; Mind Energy: It is said in the Mahabharata that Narayana, the great Vishnu, lay on the Waters (Prakrti), when from his navel a lotus issued forth, and from that lotus was Brahma born. This obviously signifies that the Brahma idea is born out of the union of Purusha (Vishnu) and Prakrti (Waters), for Vishnu is said to lie on the Waters, and the latter represent Prakrti. Again, the union of Purusha and Prakrti refers to the idea of the Mind; and so we might associate Brahma with the creative energy of the Mind.
In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana we are told that Brahma sprang from the abdomen of Vishnu, and that he is the husband of Savitri, who too issues forth from Krshna and sits face to face before her husband, who has many fair issues by her. Again it is said that "from the abdomen of Krshna came the fourfold Brahma with his wife. ... The nymph that emerged along with Brahma had the grace of a hundred moons". We have explained that the Moon refers to the Mind; and so we get the idea of the union of Purusha and Prakrti in the region of the Mind in connection with Brahma.
Brahma and Senses of Knowledge: We have explained that Purusha and Prakrti are conceived of as united together in one with reference to the character of the Mind. But in connection with Purushic Ether or the senses of knowledge Purusha is associated with Prakrti indeed, but not intimately. He has either a small share in the work of creation or else is a mere spectator of its work.
Corresponding to this we are told that Brahma looked wistfully at Rati, the consort of Kama, the god of Love or Desire, characteristic of Mind energy. His desire was roused at her sight, and out of his vital energy that flowed forth arose Fire, Water, Varuna and his consort Varuni, Air, and the Golden Egg, from which has been created the Earth and the world of life teeming with animate and inanimate objects.8 This, we might observe, is a picture of the Nyaya point of view of the creation of the universe, where Purusha has no physical contact with Prakrti, and yet creation takes place.
It may be of interest to observe that the ancients, personified systems of Philosophy in this way. When God creates Water or a Woman out of himself, we have the idea of Vedanta; when a god or a sage (Rishi) sees a woman or nymph (Apsara), and his vital energy flows out and he creates, Yoga is personified. When he is filled with desire and the two are united together in physical contact, we have the Vaisesika. When a woman is more powerful than man, or when she creates at the mere sight of a man, we have Nyaya; and when she is able to create without reference to a man, we have the Sankhya point of view. As we shall see, all systems of Philosophy are pictured and personified in this way in the Mahabharata.
Further, we are told that Brahma is himself called Hiranyagarbha or the Golden Egg. We have pointed out that the Egg refers to Ether or Aka, and the connection of Brahma with Ether or the senses of knowledge, as given in the Upanishads, has already been explained.
Brahma and Senses of Action or Prakrti: The last energy associated with Brahma is that of the senses of action, transformed into the Prakrtic energy of the Heart or Prakrti, on which is based the Sankhya system of thought. We have already shown how Brahma is associated with Water or Prakrti in the Upanishads. Then we are told that "Brahma is the substratum of the active principle of Nature or Prakrti"; that "Nature is the image of Brahma, constant and eternal;" and that Nature "represents all power and typifies the all-pervading might of godhead", and "is just like a mother to all". Nature is called the Sakti of the Divine Spirit, are told that everything from Brahma to partakes of the character of Nature.
Brahma and Buddha: Enough has been said to show that the Brahma-idea includes the character of the creative energies of Mind and the senses of knowledge and action. But if this theory of the religion of Brahma be correct, we should be able to show the connection between Brahma and Buddha, for we have observed that Buddhism embraces the knowledge, corresponding to which we have its Mahayana and Hinayana schools.
Thus we are told that Buddha (Sakyamuni) is the highest Brahman, the Mind; and he is said to be in reality the one and everlasting Brahma. Again, Brahma is closely associated with Buddha and his religion. He is spoken of as a friend and follower of Buddha, and the religion of Brahma is said to have been established by Buddha. Sometimes, however, the worshipper of Brahma is denounced, but this has a very limited significance in the text, and refers to some abuses, "low arts and lying practices" which appear to have crept in at the time. More generally, however, Buddha and Brahma are closely allied in all sacred Buddhist literature, and Buddha is said to know Brahma, the world of Brahma, and the path which leads thereto. Then we are told that for Buddhists Arhatship and birth in the world of Brahma are the two highest rewards of universal love; and the Bodhisat (true Buddha) is said to be reborn in Brahmaloka (world of Brahma). Again, the Buddhist idea of Nirvana or final liberation and that of Brahma-nirvana are one and the same, and the ascetic who has reached Nirvana is said to be a true Brahmana in the Jaina Sutras too.
Brahma and Jainism: We have observed that the two schools of Jainism, Digambara and Svetambara, correspond to Sankhya-Nyaya or atheism and agnosticism respectively the one holding that there is no room for God in this world, and the other that if God exists, he is a mere spectator of the drama of life. Jainism, therefore, has no real need of God or Brahma; but inasmuch as it is theoretically based on the Brahma-idea, it cannot altogether dispense with him, and so has to accept him in some form. Hence we get the idea of Arhat or Jaina divine being who has attained to perfection in every way; and we are told that Brahma is an attendant of one of the twenty-four Tirthankaras or Jaina deities; and Brahma, in his neuter gender or form, is the great Jaina deity himself.
Further, we have explained that the theory of Jainism is based on the idea of Nature or Prakrti as the sole supreme creator of the universe; and of action so long as a creature lives, but regard knowledge as the final end. The last stresses the renunciation of all actions, of whatever kind, and holds that knowledge alone is the end. Hence the final goal of the Tantra as well as of Buddhism and Jainism, included in the religion of Brahma, is knowledge, and not action. We shall revert to this subject when we deal with these systems of religion. It is enough to mention here that knowledge more than action is usually associated with Brahma as the supreme Deity of the universe.