Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 25
udyanthi ghnanthi khelanthi pravishanthi svabhavatah
It is incredible that in the infinite ocean of myself waves of beings arise, fight, play and disappear according to their nature
The marvel of creation.
To understand the teachings of Ashtavakra, it is important to know the symbolism he used to describe the nature of Self and creation. In the individual jivas, the Self is the limitless ocean. The mind and body represent creation. Whatever modifications, thoughts, feelings, sensations and other phenomena that arise in them represent the diversity of beings and objects (jeevaveechayah). They are compared to the waves in the oceanic Self. The mind and body remain active during the wakeful state. In deep sleep, they disappear as the Self alone shines. Hence, they are transient. Their support is the Self itself, and their purpose is to entertain the Self.
Now, you superimpose this model on the universe itself. Brahman or the Supreme Self is the limitless ocean. He is beyond space (Akasa) and all other elements that make up the materiality of the universe. The material universe and all the beings who appear in it constitute the waves or the transitory phenomena. They rise and fall or appear and disappear in the oceanic Self. They are made up of the tattvas and gunas of Nature (Prakriti). Since the jivas are motivated by their predominant gunas, which compete with each other, beings also engage in conflicts and competition according to their desires and essential nature (svabhava). Hence, Ashtavakra specifically referred to this propensity of the jivas to engage in conflicts (ghnanti) and competition.
The marvel of creation
Creation may be an illusion or a projection, but it is an incredible phenomenon. If you can manage to condense the whole act of creation into a play of short duration, you will be astounded by the incredible imagery that appear and disappear before your eyes just as your thoughts. As you see waves upon waves of incredible phenomena such as things, beings and worlds appear and disappear in the space of your consciousness, you will be amazed or frightened by the diversity and splendor of God’s creation.
It will be a great spectacle such as the one witnessed by Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita when he saw the universal form of God. You will have a vague idea of that experience if you go out and spend a night alone under the starry sky, watching it and meditation upon it to comprehend its vastness and immeasurability. The world in which we live is also an incredible phenomenon, so also all that appears and disappears in it. We may not be consciously aware of all the drama that takes place in us or around us, since we are preoccupied with our own concerns and priorities and do not live mindfully. However, the Self always watches, without becoming involved. It is the ultimate enjoyer.
God’s indescribable experience as the Self of all
We cannot fully comprehend our own being and our own existence. What can be said about the whole existence? Imagine if you can simultaneously live a trillion lives and exist in a trillion bodies at the same time, and experience all that which each of the beings goes through in their daily existence. No words can be sufficient to describe that vision. None of our computers or technology can capture and store that data.
Such is the experience of the limitless Self, who exists in all as the ultimate enjoyer of all. As the inner witness of everything that exists in creation he witnesses the whole play in the whole creation. Quantum physics suggests that a subatomic particle can exist at two places in two corners of the universe at the same time. It is a marvel in itself. Scientists are yet to grasp how that is even possible. Our scriptures suggest that the same Self exists at infinite places at the same time. Now, who can explain this incredible possibility?
Ignorant people blame God, but God is not separate from your experience. He is part of your being and shares all your joys and sorrows as your very Self. Through the bodies of millions upon millions of beings and material objects which he pervades and envelops, he enjoys watching the great drama of creation, both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm, without being tainted by any of its impurities and modifications. The incredulousness or the wondrous feeling with which the Self witnesses the creation is expressed in this verse by Ashtavakra. The same idea is symbolically expressed in the Bhagavata Purana in the flowery descriptions of Krishna simultaneously playing with thousands of village maidens as their intimate lover.
For the Self, creation is like a dream or an imagination. Unlike our dreams, the dream of the Self is more organized, systematic and persisting. Because it lasts longer than our dreams and out lasts everyone, we have the illusion of it being permanent and stable. However, in reality, creation is just a temporary wave in God’s Time or Timelessness, which will disappear someday in our time in the distant future, when everything is dissolved or withdrawn.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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- Brahmacharya or Celibacy in Hinduism
- Atheism and Materialism in Ancient India
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- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary Process
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- Understanding Death and Impermanence
- Lessons from the Dance of Kali, the Mother Nature
- Letting your God live in You - The True Essence of the Hindu Way of Life
- prajnanam brahma - Brahman is Intelligence
- Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs From The Perspective Of Hinduism
- The Definition and Concept of Maya in Hinduism
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- Hinduism - Sex and Gurus
- The Construction of Hinduism
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- The True Meaning of Prakriti in Hinduism
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- Why Hinduism is a Preferred Choice for Educated Hindus
- Essays On Dharma
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- Symbolism in Hinduism
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- General Essays
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