Brahma is the Hindu god of creation. He
appears in a tremendous amount of Hindu myths, due to his critical role in
bringing about existence. And yet, there is very little worship of this god.
Because of that fact, which we’ll explain
below, many of us are not as familiar with Brahma as we should be. Many people
around the world have at least some passing recognition of Vishnu, Shiva, and
Krishna — yet when we understand the god Brahma, we come into contact with
answers to some of the most profound questions we are ever to ask about our
lives and the world we live in.
This god who exists at the heart of creation,
whose existence is an eternal yes to
being, can help us keep in touch with our own powers of generation. Whether it
is having children, creating art, or starting a business — we must all tap into
Brahma’s energy if we are to follow our dharma.
In Hindu texts, Brahma is described as having
four heads, each face pointing in one of the cardinal directions. From each of
his four mouths comes one of the Vedas: the Rigveda,
the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, and the Atharvaveda.
Brahma also has four arms, and in each of his
hands he holds a symbol of knowledge and creation. The items he holds are
usually the following:
<!--[endif]-->The Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism
<!--[endif]-->Mala, beads on a string that are used to
<!--[endif]-->Sruva, ladles that remind us to feed the
<!--[endif]-->Kamandalu, a water bearing utensil that point
to the source of creation
He is typically shown with a white beard,
denoting great age that is a sign of wisdom. He sits upon a lotus or his vahana (vehicle), which is a swan or
At the dawn of time, Brahma created his
consort Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. As the consort of Brahma, we need
to understand her just as much, for the gods and goddesses are inextricably
Saraswati is most often shown in Hindu
iconography as a beautiful woman clad in white, sitting on a white lotus or
swan. She is often holding a book and pen or a string instrument called a veena. With her four hands she holds
very similar items to Brahma, linking their powers and force in the universe
Brahma takes part in so many myths that we
often find these depictions repeated. He presents an auspicious figure, one
whose image links us to deep truths about the creation of the universe.
But who exactly is Brahma? And what else can
knowing about this Hindu god of creation teach us about life?
is the central trinity of gods for many, though not all, Hindus. These three
gods take on one role in the infinite rhythm of the universe. The trimurti is
made up of:
<!--[endif]-->Brahma: God of Creation
<!--[endif]-->Vishnu: God of Preservation
<!--[endif]-->Shiva: God of Destruction
For those who adhere to the idea of the
trimurti, these three gods each take turns turning the cosmic wheel of time.
The universe is in a constant flux, moving between states of being and
non-being. Just like our own soul’s incarnations, the universe is born, lives,
and dies — only to be reborn again.
The timescale on which this happens is truly
massive, as we’ll see later, and this helps us orient ourselves to the enormity
of the cosmos. But we must remember that for each of us, we will return to this
long time period over and over again until we experience liberation.
Brahma is upheld as a tremendous and noble god
for his duty and power to create the universe. It is through this generation of
all energy and matter (which, at heart, is a form of energy) that anything can be.
Paradoxically, it is this creation that also
allows for void and destruction. In many esoteric disciplines around the world,
including in India where spiritual science reaches the height of its
sophistication, the concept of everything and nothing are deeply intertwined.
As the Kabbalists say, “All is one, and one is none.”
Brahma’s work is necessary for Vishnu to do
his. And if these two gods conduct their labors, Shiva is able to destroy. It
is only when Shiva destroys that Brahma is able to create — because Shiva makes
the vacuum that Brahma can fill. Likewise, Shiva can only destroy if there is
something to destroy.
Vishnu, in the middle, is the link that allows
for something to be, keeping all of existence from being a ping-pong ball
bouncing back and forth between the moment of creation and the moment of
So we see that, really, all three are deeply
united. And in fact, Hindus who espouse the idea of the trimurti believe that,
underneath everything, these three gods are really one and the same — if we
could only see clearly. And these three gods are also contained in all of us,
in all things, even. This supreme god that unites all is referred to as
If the trimurti is really all the same god,
why not simply have one to describe it? Because the human mind needs help
grasping these immense functions of the universe. By breaking the single god
into three, we are able to sense the true nature of the eternal.
One of the most popular Hindu myths of
creation, of which there are many (each with their own vital lessons about
existence to unveil), begins in a great cosmic ocean.
This dark and placid seascape is finally
broken after fathomless time by a great golden egg named Hiranyagarbha. The egg
cracks and shatters, revealing inside it Brahma. Liberated from the egg, Brahma
then creates the universe and all the beings who live inside it.
In this tale, we see that Brahma is the only
one who can be his own cause. He is the only god capable of birthing himself.
But as Hinduism developed over the last few
thousand years, Brahma’s realm of creation has generally been reduced. This
happened for multiple reasons, but it created one very compelling idea of the
In many post-Vedic Hindu texts, the universe
is said to exist on two levels. The highest and never changing, never ending
level is Sarga. This is the
metaphysical level which all of our souls are yearning to be liberated to. But
inside this level of reality is the physical, mundane one that we are all
trapped inside of. It is here, in the Visarga,
that Brahma rules creation. For it is in this “normal” level of reality that
existence ebbs and flows in an infinite cycle of creation, preservation, and
Brahma’s importance, then, has been somewhat
diminished over time. And due to the rising popularity of views that center the
Devi, Shiva, or Vishnu, Brahma has continued to fall in prominence. There are
now many myths depicting this fall, often with Vishnu or Shiva cutting off a
fifth head of Brahma in punishment of some crime or indecency.
Nevertheless, even in this restricted
capacity, Brahma is important for us to consider — perhaps even more important.
When we limit his powers of creation to our realm of reality, we actually bring
him closer to us and our own experiences. When we invoke the Brahma within us
to help us generate new relationships, new enterprises, and even give birth to
children, his example is there to guide and empower these endeavors.
One other way contemplating Brahma can begin
to make the universe clear is by looking at time through the eyes of this god
It is well attested that for Brahma, time does
not move the same way as it does for us.
Humans are caught in the cycle of yugas. There are four, going in the same
order every time. At the end of this cycle, they repeat. But you’ll notice that
each yuga is half as long as the one that preceded it, just as each yuga is a
quarter as much in line with dharma as the last one.
<!--[endif]-->Satya Yuga: Almost two million
years, totally in line with dharma
<!--[endif]-->Treta Yuga: A little over one
million years, three quarters in line with dharma
<!--[endif]-->Dwapara Yuga: Under a million
years, half in line with dharma
<!--[endif]-->Kali Yuga: Half a million years, a
quarter in line with dharma
This entire cycle takes about 4.3 million
years. But for Brahma, 1000 of these cycles make up a single day, called a kalpa. That’s 4.3 billion years! His
nights last just as long, and in these nights nothing exists. So a single day
and night for Brahma is 8.6 billion years long.
But we can go even further.
An Age of Brahma, called a maha kalpa, lasts 100 years. Each year
lasts 360 days and nights — a number connecting to the degrees of a complete
circle. If we do the math, an Age of Brahma is over 311 trillion years.
The end of an Age of Brahma does not mean the
end of the universe. It simply means that a new larger cycle of creation,
preservation, and destruction begins.
And so, we see that the Vedas use Brahma as a way to measure time. For this god not only
creates existence but the time that beings must pass through while incarnated.
The scale is enormous, far beyond our ability
to understand. When we go through this math, we are quickly lost. But Brahma
gives us something to relate it all to — the simple passing of days and nights,
and how these slowly build up to a lifetime.
Brahma is the way we can come to personalize
and intuit the grand cycles of time and existence. He is our road to greater
vistas than we ever thought we would witness.
When we combine this insight through Brahma
with the idea that he is relegated to creating the level of the universe that
we inhabit, we see that he is in some respects the closest to us of the great
He is even closer still, for remember that it
is he who speaks the Vedas, which are
our guides to all this incredible knowledge.
By contemplating Brahma, we slip into a mode
that grants us access to the deepest secrets of being. And therefore we must
never lose sight of this magnificent deity.
But how are we to keep these insights with us
through our ordinary life? And how can we bring ourselves into a closer
relationship with this deity and his secrets?
Perhaps the easiest way is through the reading
of the Vedas. This not only brings us
in regular contact with the great gift he gave the world, but it also helps us
in all spiritual endeavors.
There are other things we can do as well,
small things. When we check the time, look back on our past, or think about the
future, we are dealing in Brahma’s world. When we create something new, we are
— on our own, small scale — acting as Brahma would.
When seen this way, it appears that Brahma is
around us always. And if we remember where this all comes from, we draw
ourselves closer to the divine.
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