The Vedic View of The Universe Part 1: Macrocosm
Before the variegated world of names and forms, there was only consciousness in its unmanifest state. This was the ‘being’- Brahman.
M?y? Shakti is the potential of Brahman to manifest as the universe. Just as you cannot separate heat from the fire, wet-ness from the water, or sunlight from the sun, similarly, you cannot separate M?y? Shakti from Brahman. Heat depends on fire, wet-ness depends on water, sunlight depends on the sun, but the converse does not hold true. Similarly, M?y? depends upon Brahman, but Brahman is independent of M?y?. We will elaborate upon M?y? in greater detail in a different topic.
Wielding M?y? Shakti, now took place the APPARENT “becoming”, and the universe became manifest (we avoid using the word “created”, as creation implies a creator distinct from creation. If at all our ?ch?ryas have used the word ‘creation’, it is to be taken figuratively with this understanding).
Now, one APPEARS as many, but the fundamental being is still Brahman alone. If you look at a mirror, the mirror is one, even if there are innumerable objects inside the mirror. Those objects cannot be counted in the same breath as the mirror itself, as their reality is virtual. Brahman is akin to this mirror, and the objective universe is like the virtual reflection which bears a dependent status. Take for example a dream world, where people and places manifest out of the singular mind, and they dissolve back into the mind the following morning.
Brahman is both the material cause and the intelligent cause of the universe. Moreover, Brahman is the consciousness- which is the Self of all beings. A verse by the 13th century Sringeri Shankar?ch?rya, Sw?mi Vidy?ra?ya ji, states that the same consciousness that enlivens Chaturmukham Brahm?ji, also enlivens this blade of grass, and that consciousness I am.
As we saw earlier, Brahman wielding M?y? is looked upon as ?shvara.
The ‘being’ is to be understood as absolute, whereas the ‘becoming’ is to be understood only as apparent.
With that we can understand several things: Shiva is the being, Shakti/P?rvati is the “becoming”.
Vish?u is the being, Lakshmi is the “becoming”.
Puru?ha is the being, Prakr?ti is the “becoming”.
Brahman is the being, M?y? manifesting as jagat is the “becoming”, and so on.
The former clause of each statement represents the consciousness principle, whereas the latter represents the matter/energy principle. There can be no “life” without the marriage of the two. Consciousness without matter is an unmanifest universe. Matter without consciousness is an inert universe. Only when the two come together, can there be a beautiful interplay of life. Such should also be the glory one invokes in marriage, as symbolized by the various forms of Bhagav?n and their consorts. It must also be noted that while matter and consciousness are painted as distinct, in essence they are one and the same, and there is no duality. Matter is Mithy?- ever changing, transient; whereas consciousness is Satyam- changeless, eternal. Duality (Dvaita) is only apparent, it is Non-duality (Advaitam) the forms the base for the multi-faceted universe.
Understanding the universe helps us appreciate ?shvara. Appreciating the universe helps us understand ?shvara. May one see the universe as ?shvara, and ?shvara as the universe, not excluding oneself from the same.