Friday, February 12, 2010

Lord Hari - the Creator, Sustainer, and Dissolver of the universe (Jagatkaranatvam)

In the last post, we started exploring how the great Acharyas of the Vedantic traditions have described the glory of the Supreme Lord Narayana. We saw that Adi Sankara and other Acharyas have described Him as both

  1. Transcendental i.e., beyond the realm of the material universe comprising the five elements.
  2. Immanent i.e., pervades in and controls all of His creation, as the inner-soul (antaryAmi), and hence is praised by the Vedas as the one who has all the three worlds as His body.
Let us now proceed to explain further the relationship between Lord Hari and his creation, the material universe. The Vedantic Bhakti traditions praise Him as the creator, sustainer, and dissolver of the entire universe. Let us examine this aspect, like we did last time, from the works and quotations of Acharyas.

The great philosopher of the dvaita tradition (dualistic school of Vedanta), Srimad Madhvacharya
(madhvAcArya, also known as Anandatiirtha or pUrNapraj~na AcArya) writes in his commentary to the Brahma Sutra (I-i-2) that Hari, described in the Veda as Brahman, is the first great cause of the world. Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada Acharya also says in the introductory chapter of the Gita Bhashya: "AdikartA nArAyaNAkhyo vishNuH", meaning "the first creator, Vishnu who is known as Narayana". For now, let us return to the nectar, in the form of the following scriptural quotations, offered by Srimad Madhvacharya in I-i-2 of Brahma Sutra Bhashya:
"The person - from whom the origin, subsistence, and dissolution, order, enlightenment, the cover of gloom, bondage, and liberation proceed - that Primordial Lord is none other than Lord Hari."
 (Skanda Purana)

"To Him is (our) obeisance made, in whose abdomen has grown up the lotus, the prop of the worlds, as referred to in the Sruti (Vedas): 'In the navel, of the Unborn' - unto Him the glorious Vishnu who is the cause of all the states of the world and the sole author of the universe"
(Skanda Purana)

"In the navel of the Unborn, that thing is set on which all the worlds stand."
(Rig Veda X-lxxxii-6)

"He who is our immediate progenitor and father, who is the maker and who is cognizant of all the worlds and the things abiding therein."
(Rig Veda X-lxxxii-3)

We next take a look at Shankara Bhagavatpada Acharya's elaborate commentary on the Brahma Sutras, where he quotes the following passages in his explanation to the sUtra II-i-1:

"Hear thence this short statement: The ancient Narayana is all this; he produces the creation at the due time, and at the time of re-absorption he consumes it again."
(Brahmanda Purana I.174)

"I am the origin and the place of reabsorption of the whole world."
(says Lord Narayana as Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, VII.6)

"From Him spring all bodies; He is the primary cause, He is eternal, He is unchangeable"
 (Apastamba Dharma Sutra, I.8.23.2)

Kambar, respectfully and quite aptly known in Tamil Vaishnavite circles as "kambanATTAzhvAr", starts his bhakti-laden poetic work rAmAvatAram (now popularly known as Kamba Ramayanam), the medieval Tamil version of the original Ramayana written down by Valmiki, with the following prayer:

ulagam yAvaiyum tAm uLa Akkalum

nilai peRuttalum niikkalum nI"ngalA

alagu ilA viLaiyATTu uDaiyAr avar

talaivar annavarkkE caraN nA"ngaLE.
உலகம் யாவையும் தாம் உள ஆக்கலும்

நிலை பெறுத்தலும் நீக்கலும் நீங்கலா

அலகு இலா விளையாட்டு உடையார் அவர்

தலைவர் அன்னவர்க்கே சரண் நாங்களே.

The above prayer translates into English as: "We only surrender to that One who is the Lord (of all), and whose timeless, unlimited divine play involves the creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the entire universe."

For the pleasure of the readers, I have attempted to translate the following two similar invocatory verses found in the major works of two Acharyas of the Advaitic tradition:


Srimad Rama Tirtha, a medieval advaitic scholar, also began one of his philosophical works with a similar tribute to the Lord's avatAra as Rama:

praNamya rAmAbhidaM AtmadhIpadaM jagat prasUti-sthiti-samyamAyanam
 (Invocatory verse of upadesasAhasri padayojanikA)
My translation: "Salutations to the One known as Rama, who is the object of cognition for the soul, the abode of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the universe."


Nyaya Makaranda, a work by a 11th/12th-century scholar named Anandabodha, commences with a similar prayer to the Lord:
yadbhAsA nikhilaM vibhAti  viSayo yo na svayaM jyotiSAM    |
yasya AhuH bhuvanodbhavasthitilayAn liilAmayAn sUrayaH     || 
yaM cAgocaramAmananti manasAM vAcAM ca vishvAtmane  |
tasmai shuddhasukhAdvitIyavapushe shashvannamo viSNave     ||
My translation: "That splendor by which the entire material universe, which by itself is devoid of any luminosity, shines - to the one whose oblations - who creates, sustains, and dissolves the universe sportingly - who is beyond the imagination of (even) the greatest of sages and devas - to that Vishnu who is the Supersoul for the entire universe - to that immaculate Vishnu who is without an equal to Him, we offer our salutations."

All of the above hymns have their basis in the vedic mantras such  as Taittiriya Upanishad, which says that Brahman creates, sustains, and dissolves this entire universe:
"Try to know that Brahman, from whom all beings are born ; in whom, they are sustained ; into whom they enter after dissolution."
(Taittiriya Upanishad III-i-1)

Thus, we should meditate on Lord Narayana, the Supreme Parabrahman as the one who creates, sustains, and dissolves the entire universe. Being totally self-contented and having no craving for any achievement, He performs this threefold action as a mere play of His (liilA in Sanskrit). Such is His might and power!

(to be continued)

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