How Isvara Manifests in Different Worlds

Brahma, the Creator God

Brahma, the God of Pure Consciousness

by Jayaram V

Question: If Brahman pervades the whole creation and exists in all, he must equally be present in everything and everywhere. Then why are we having diversity, upper and lowers worlds or good and evil beings? If the same divinity is present in all, from where does this diversity arise?

Brahman represents the highest and purest (maha) state or yoga, described in the scriptures as an ocean of pure consciousness, in which everything exists. The same pure consciousness exists in all as the Self. However, since it is incorporeal, it can be neither perceived nor experienced objectively. Being unmanifested (avyakta), it is also difficult to worship Brahman as an object or being. This is clearly stated in the Bhagavadgita (12.5). The Upanishads also affirm this when they declare that Brahman is beyond the mind and the senses, incompressible, unknown and indescribable.

Although the state of Brahman is present in all of us as the Self (Atman), it does not participate in creation except as the witness or the enjoyer. Just as Brahman, the Self is also unknowable and ungraspable by the mind and the senses. It is why we do not directly worship Brahman in sacrificial ceremonies or in domestic rituals or directly offer our prayers to him. In spiritual practice, he is only contemplated upon so that the mind can mirror his supreme state. We worship his other manifestations as represented by the colorful Hindu pantheon.

Instead of Brahman, we worship Isvara. Who is Isvara? He is the highest and the foremost manifestation of Brahman, who arises from the ocean of pure consciousness, resting upon his own materiality, which symbolized in the Puranas as Adishesha, the thousand-hooded, infinite serpent. He is the Brahman with names and forms.

It is said that at the beginning of creation, Prakriti (the primal energy or materiality of Brahman) becomes active and embodies a part of Brahman. The resultant cosmic being is known as the manifested Brahman or Isvara. Isvara embodies the purest and exalted state of Brahman. Hence, he is also described as Brahman with form and movements.

He contains within himself as his essence pure consciousness infused with the power of Shakti (chidshakti). Nature is his dynamic force; Brahman is his pure Self, and bliss is his essential nature. Hence, he is also called Satchidnanda. Vaishnavas call him Maha Vishnu or Narayana. Devotees of Shiva call him Isvara, Paramesvara, Sadasiva, Mahesvara, Sachhidekam and so on.

The Shaktas worship Shakti as the manifested Brahman with form and dynamism (Isvari). Hence, they worship Shakti instead of Isvara. In Brahman, the primal Nature (mula Prakriti) remains dormant and indistinguishable, but in Isvara it becomes active and diverse.

Isvara is the creator God of Hinduism. He is the source and supporter of all. All actions arise from and subside in him only. He performs them either directly as himself or through various divinities, beings and entities. Isvara is the reflection of Brahman in the infinity of Nature or Shakti. His purity, luminosity and power of manifestation depend upon Nature. In the purest aspects of Nature, his exalted state (brihat tattvam) becomes fully manifested and in the impure aspects it remains concealed or suppressed.

Thus, Brahman manifests in the created worlds (or the body of Isvara) differently. In the higher and subtlest worlds his manifestations are pure. There the beings (gods) possess subtlest bodies and embody the light of Isvara Brahman to the fullest extent. They embody his divinity and his essential nature and perform their duties as a sacrifice, absorbed in his pure consciousness and inseparably connected to him within themselves.

You cannot separate them or distinguish them from their source. Their forms are temporary, but their consciousness is eternal and indestructible. Since they represent a dynamic aspect or function of Isvara, their actions reflect the will and power of God and manifest the desired reality with full force. They may reside in their own realms, but their worlds are forever connected to the world of Brahman, and attaining them is the same as attaining liberation.

In the middle worlds, such as ours, he becomes partially manifested, since the beings in these worlds possess both gross and subtle bodies. In the mortal world, he remains hidden behind a veil of impurities and becomes self-evident to the extent people practice yoga and engage in self-purification. He shines more in those who have the predominance of sattva and cultivate divine qualities, and much less in those who have the predominance of rajas and tamas and who are motivated by demonic nature and evil desires.

In the lower worlds the beings come increasingly under the influence of Nature and gross material bodies, making it increasingly difficult for them to represent him or his duties. Engaging in desire-ridden actions, caught between the dualities of life, they experience egoism, attachment and the deluded notion that they are separate from others and the world. Their actions arise from God. However, due to delusion, they assume ownership and doership and suffer from the consequences.

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