Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Story of Brahma And the Pillar of Light (from the Shiva Purana)

On my way to work, I was reading today a poem from my dear Guru Nanak that warns against the evils of Ego. He gives several examples in the poem of characters in Hindu epics (see below for complete poem) of the negative impact of Ego. He starts out with, "Brahmai Garab Kiya Nahi Janiya" which roughly means "Brahma had Ego, he did not realize" Curious, about this reference I looked up the story of Brahma's Ego. I found that there is a famous story from Shiva Purana and found several versions of the story on the web. I have posted a couple of these stories below.

It is said that it was because of Brahma's ego, Lord Shiva cursed him so he would not be worshipped much on Earth. It is just a story, but one with a important moral. The one who creates everything (Brahma is the creator in the Hindu trinity), and writes all the vedas (apparently the vedas came from Brahma's four heads), there are very little if any prayers offered to that diety.

There are Vaishnavites, there are Shivaites. Raam is an avatar of Vishnu, and is revered by many Hindus. Krishna is also an avatar of Vishnu and is revered by many Hindus. There are many Shiva bhaktas in India as well. But I have not heard of a large number of Brahma devotees.

Raam-navami (Raam's 9th) is celebrated with great fanfare in India. So is Janam-ashtami (Krishna's 8th). Shivratri is celebrated with great fanfare too. Even Ganesh Chaturthi (Ganesh's 4th) ... (Ganesh is the son of Shiva). But the birth of Brahma is not celebrated much, if at all. I am sure there must be a date for Brahma's birth prescribed somewhere, but I can't find it yet. I could find a "Brahmotsav" celebration but that doesn't seem to be a celebration of birth.

The story was likely created after the fact -- there were not many Brahma devotees and therefore the writer of the story likely explained this by conjuring up this fantasy. But the story rightly points out the negative impact of Ego, and maybe of lying (After all, we lie primarily because of our Ego. If we did not have an ego, we do not need to lie.)

It is interesting that Ego is related to the diety of creation in Hindu trinity (it is also sometimes associated with Shiva, but less often than anger). Ego is related to Brahma more than others because it is difficult to create something and not have the pride of creating it. That is why we love our kids more than others' kids. Because we have created them.

My dear Guru Nanak gives the solution for the ego problem: Have a master, a Guru and attribute all creation to Him; everything I think I am doing, is actually being done through my dear Guru. I would not be able to do anything without my dear Guru. Music and songs that I think I create, are all a direct result of Guru Nanak's creation not mine. My kid's are my dear Guru Nanak's kids. All creation that I think I did, is not mine. And I don't have to sustain them either. The one who created them, will take care of them.

My dear Guru has opened my eyes, and removed my fog. I am free. There is no coming; there is no going. There is only my Guru.

Story of Brahma And The Pillar of Light:

Brahma and Vishnu were touring the Universe one day and found a pillar of light which extended farther than they could perceive in two directions. They were curious and decided to split up to see if one of them could find an end. Vishnu went in one direction and Brahma the other, After some time, they returned to their staring place. Vishnu said that he was unable to find the beginning, no matter how far he traveled. Brahma said that he found a beginning. He lied. Thereupon, the Pillar of light immediately changed into a form of Shiva who called Brahma a liar and sentenced him to be little observed in the divine ceremonies. This is why you will not find many pujas to him.

Another version of the story.

Once there was a fight between Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma said, "I am superior because I created you". Vishnu said, "You cannot live without me sustaining, so I am superior." After much argument, Shiva was consulted. To solve the dispute, Shiva created a pillar of light and Shiva said whoever can find the end of this light, will be superior.

It was decided that Brahma would go up (towards the sky) and try to find the head of this pillar of Light (Shiva) and Vishnu would go down (under the earth) to find the foot of Shiva. Brahma then assumed the form of a swan and began his journey into the sky. Vishnu on the other hand, assumed the form of Varaha (wild boar) and bored through the earth to descend into the very depths of the world. The two of them went thus on their quest for thousands of years and even still could find no end to the pillar of light (as light has no limit). After proceeding in their quest for so long, the two of them got tired.

Vishnu decided to end his search (becoming humbled) and proceed back to the earth. At the same time, Brahma saw a Ketaki (fragrant screw pine – Pandanus Sativa, kewra in hindi and thazhampu in tamil) flower slowly wafting downwards from the sky. He stopped the flower on its way down and asked it where it was coming from. On being questioned by the creator, the flower replied that it had been placed at the top of the pillar of fire as an offering by a devotee and had fallen from there. Unable to find the head of the pillar, Brahma decided to end his search and instead use the ketaki flower as evidence of him having reached the head.

Both Brahma and Vishnu came back to the earth in the end and when asked, Vishnu replied truthfully that he had been unable to find the feet of the fiery pillar even after a very long search going to the very ends of the universe. Brahma on the other hand (to prove his superiority over Vishnu) lied by saying that he had in fact reached the head of the pillar of fire and that he had brought the ketaki flower from the top as proof of having reached there. This false claim angered Shiva and he revealed his true form and then cursed Brahma that he would have no temple dedicated to his worship as he was undeserving (as a result of his falsity) and he also cursed the ketaki flower that henceforth she shall not be used in the worship of Shiva (as she had given false testimony when questioned).

Guru Nanak's Complete Poem:

bRhmY grbu kIAw nhI jwinAw ]
Brahma acted in pride, and did not understand.
barahmai garab kee-aa nahee jaani-aa.

byd kI ibpiq pVI pCuqwinAw ]
Only when he was faced with the downfall of the Vedas did he repent.
bayd kee bipat parhee pachhutaani-aa.

jh pRB ismry qhI mnu mwinAw ]1]
Remembering God in meditation, the mind is conciliated. ||1||
jah parabh simray tahee man maani-aa. ||1||

AYsw grbu burw sMswrY ]
Such is the horrible pride of the world.
aisaa garab buraa sansaarai.

ijsu guru imlY iqsu grbu invwrY ]1] rhwau ]
The Guru eliminates the pride of those who meet Him. ||1||Pause||
jis gur milai tis garab nivaarai. ||1|| rahaa-o.

bil rwjw mwieAw AhMkwrI ]
Bal the King, in Maya and egotism,
bal raajaa maa-i-aa ahaNkaaree.

jgn krY bhu Bwr APwrI ]
held his ceremonial feasts, but he was puffed up with pride.
jagan karai baho bhaar afaaree.

ibnu gur pUCy jwie pieAwrI ]2]
Without the Guru`s advice, he had to go to the underworld. ||2||
bin gur poochhay jaa-ay pa-i-aaree. ||2||

hrIcMdu dwnu krY jsu lyvY ]
Hari Chand gave in charity, and earned public praise.
hareechand daan karai jas layvai.

ibnu gur AMqu n pwie AByvY ]
But without the Guru, he did not find the limits of the Mysterious Lord.
bin gur ant na paa-ay abhayvai.

Awip Bulwie Awpy miq dyvY ]3]
The Lord Himself misleads people, and He Himself imparts understanding. ||3||
aap bhulaa-ay aapay mat dayvai. ||3||

durmiq hrxwKsu durwcwrI ]
The evil-minded Harnaakhash committed evil deeds.
durmat harnaakhas duraachaaree.

pRBu nwrwiexu grb pRhwrI ]
God, the Lord of all, is the Destroyer of pride.
parabh naaraa-in garab par-haaree.

pRhlwd auDwry ikrpw DwrI ]4]
He bestowed His Mercy, and saved Prahlaad. ||4||
parahlaad uDhaaray kirpaa Dhaaree. ||4||

BUlo rwvxu mugDu Acyiq ]
Raawan was deluded, foolish and unwise.
bhoolo raavan mugaDh achayt.

lUtI lµkw sIs smyiq ]
Sri Lanka was plundered, and he lost his head.
lootee lankaa sees samayt.

grib gieAw ibnu siqgur hyiq ]5]
He indulged in ego, and lacked the love of the True Guru. ||5||
garab ga-i-aa bin satgur hayt. ||5||

shsbwhu mDu kIt mihKwsw ]
The Lord killed the thousand-armed Arjun, and the demons Madhu-keetab and Meh-khaasaa.
sahasbaahu maDh keet mahikhaasaa.

hrxwKsu ly nKhu ibDwsw ]
He seized Harnaakhash and tore him apart with his nails.
harnaakhas lay nakhahu biDhaasaa.

dYq sMGwry ibnu Bgiq AiBAwsw ]6]
The demons were slain; they did not practice devotional worship. ||6||
dait sanghaaray bin bhagat abhi-aasaa. ||6||

jrwsMiD kwljmun sMGwry ]
The demons Jaraa-sandh and Kaal-jamun were destroyed.
jaraasanDh kaalajmun sanghaaray.

rkqbIju kwlunymu ibdwry ]
Rakat-beej and Kaal-naym were annihilated.
rakatbeej kaalunaym bidaaray.

dYq sMGwir sMq insqwry ]7]
Slaying the demons, the Lord saved His Saints. ||7||
dait sanghaar sant nistaaray. ||7||

Awpy siqguru sbdu bIcwry ]
He Himself, as the True Guru, contemplates the Shabad.
aapay satgur sabad beechaaray.

dUjY Bwie dYq sMGwry ]
Because of the love of duality, God killed the demons.
doojai bhaa-ay dait sanghaaray.

gurmuiK swic Bgiq insqwry ]8]
By their true devotion, the Gurmukhs have been saved. ||8||
gurmukh saach bhagat nistaaray. ||8||

bUfw durjoDnu piq KoeI ]
Sinking down, Durodhan lost his honor.
boodaa durjoDhan pat kho-ee.

rwmu n jwinAw krqw soeI ]
He did not know the Creator Lord.
raam na jaani-aa kartaa so-ee.

jn kau dUiK pcY duKu hoeI ]9]
One who makes the Lord`s humble servant suffer, shall himself suffer and rot. ||9||
jan ka-o dookh pachai dukh ho-ee. ||9||

jnmyjY gur sbdu n jwinAw ]
Janameja did not know the Word of the Guru`s Shabad.
janmayjai gur sabad na jaani-aa.

ikau suKu pwvY Brim BulwinAw ]
Deluded by doubt, how could he find peace?
ki-o sukh paavai bharam bhulaani-aa.

ieku iqlu BUly bhuir pCuqwinAw ]10]
Making a mistake, for even an instant, you shall regret and repent later on. ||10||
ik til bhoolay bahur pachhutaani-aa. ||10||

kMsu kysu cWfUru n koeI ]
Kansa the King and his warriors Kays and Chandoor had no equals.
kans kays chaaNdoor na ko-ee.

rwmu n cIinAw ApnI piq KoeI ]
But they did not remember the Lord, and they lost their honor.
raam na cheeni-aa apnee pat kho-ee.

ibnu jgdIs n rwKY koeI ]11]
Without the Lord of the Universe, no one can be saved. ||11||
bin jagdees na raakhai ko-ee. ||11||

ibnu gur grbu n myitAw jwie ]
Without the Guru, pride cannot be eradicated.
bin gur garab na mayti-aa jaa-ay.

gurmiq Drmu DIrju hir nwie ]
Following the Guru`s Teachings, one obtains Dharmic faith, composure and the Lord`s Name.
gurmat Dharam Dheeraj har naa-ay.

nwnk nwmu imlY gux gwie ]12]9]
O Nanak, singing the Glories of God, His Name is received. ||12||9||
naanak naam milai gun gaa-ay. ||12||9||

Other Interesting Info On Brahma

From Facebook:

(ii) Shatarupa Episode:

When Brahma was creating the universe, He made a female deity known as Shatarupa (one with a hundred beautiful forms). Brahma became immediately infatuated with Her. Shatarupa moved in various directions to avoid the gaze of Brahmā. But wherever She went, Brahma developed a head. Thus, Brahma developed five heads, one on each side and one above the others. In order to control Brahma, Shiva cut off one of the heads. Also, Shiva felt that Shatarupa was Brahmā's daughter, having been created by Him. Therefore, Shiva determined, it was wrong for Brahmā to become obsessed with Her. He directed that there be no proper worship on earth for the "unholy" Brahmā.

(iii) Sage Brahmarishi Bhrigu Episode:

According to another legend, Brahma is not worshiped because of a curse by the great sage Brahmarishi Bhrigu. Once a great fire-sacrifice (yajna) was being organised on Earth with Bhrigu being the high priest. It was decided that the greatest among all Gods would be made the presiding deity. Bhrigu then set off to find the greatest among the Trimurti. When he went to Brahma, he was so immersed in the music played by Saraswati that he could hardly hear Bhrigu's calls. The enraged Bhrigu then cursed Brahma that no person on Earth would ever invoke him or worship him again.

B) Brahma Temples:

There are very few temples dedicated to Brahma alone as thousands of temples dedicated to the other deities.

(i) Pushkar (Rajasthan) Brahma Temple:

Brahma Temple - The Brahma temple is an important pilgrim center for the Hindus. It is nestled in the Pushkar valley, which lies beyond Nagaparvat and the Anasagar Lake. This place, full of natural beauty, holds a special place in the hearts of Indian for it is believed that Lord Brahma, together with all the gods and goddesses, performed a Yagya here. Legends also has it that the ancient lake Sarovar had appeared miraculously, when a lotus fell from the hands of Lord Brahma and dropped into this valley. Brahma Temple The most famous temple in Pushkar, this is the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma (the creator of the universe according to Hindu mythology) in the entire country. You can identify it by its red spire and by the image of a hans (the goose considered sacred to Lord Brahma). This temple built with marble is decorated with silver coins and there is a silver turtle on the floor of the temple.

(ii) Other Brahma Temples:

1) Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu)

2) Thirunavaya in Kerala:

Regular pujas are held for Lord Brahma at the temple in Thirunavaya and during Navrathris, this temple comes to life with colourful festivities.

3) Asotra village in Balotra Taluka of Barmer district in Rajasthan known as Kheteshwar Brahmadham Tirtha

4) Brahma-Karmali village in Sattari Taluka in Goa

5) Khedbrahma in Gujarat

6) Khokhan village in the Kullu Valley, 4 km from Bhuntar, in the state of Himachal Pradesh

7) Sri Kalahasti near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh

(iii) Some more places of Brahma Worship :

There is also a shrine for Brahma within the Bramhapureeshwarar temple in Thirupattur, near Trichy and a famous murti of Brahma at Mangalwedha, 52 km from Solapur district in Maharashtra, the largest of which is in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. In Khedbrahma, Gujarat, there is a statue of Brahma. A six feet tall statue was also discovered at Sopara near Mumbai.