Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):
Swaminarayan philosophy – Ishwar
Ishwar and Brahmand
2. Ishwar is the essence of brahmand. He is the universal soul – the creator, controller, and the efficient cause of whole universe (brahmand). Brahmand is his body. Brahmand is Ishwar’s field (kshetra) of action. Ishwar is the fielder (kshetragna) of brahmand. Each brahmand is evolved from a pair of Pradhān and Purush. Pradhan is a kind of Prakruti limited to a brahmand and is considered as the insentient or material cause of it and Purush (Pradhan-Purush) is the essence of Pradhan and is considered as the sentient, essential, or efficient cause of a brahmand. Pradhan is the primordial form of Mahattattva. Mahattattva (also mentioned as Hiranyagarbha or fire ball in the scriptures) is the primordial form of brahmand (universe). Purush is its essence.
Virat is an existing or sustaining form of a brahmand (universe). Because Purush is the essence of Virat, he is also known as “Virat-Purush.” In the scriptures, Purush or Virat-Purush is known as Ishwar. Brahmand is described as Purushavatar. Just as the soul has three kinds of body, Ishwar or Virat-Purush also has three kinds of body (sharir): Virāt, Sutrātmā, and Avyākrut – equivalent to gross, subtle, and causal bodies, respectively. Similar to the birth, life, and death of a star, Utpatti (birth or creation), Sthiti (life or sustenance), and Pralay (death or dissolution) of brahmand (universe) are the three states (avastha) of Virat-Purush or brahmand.Like jiva, Virat-Purush is also bound to his body called brahmand. Brahmand also undergo a life-cycle of birth, life, and death. Virat-Purush remains bound to his body until he finishes his lifespan. The lifespan of Virat-Purush is two parardhs (each parardh is approximately equal to 155.52 trillion years). The death of a part of brahmand, called triloki (10 out of 14 loks which include swarg lok, mrutyu lok, and pātāl lok), is known as “nimitta-pralay.” It occurs at the end of everyday of brahmand during its lifetime. When the general dissolution or death of whole brahmand occurs it is called “prakruti-pralay.” When this occurs, the whole brahmand dissolves into Pradhān – its material cause, which in turn dissolves into Mahāmāyā or Mul-Prakruti. Purush gets in direct contact with Mahapurush or Mul-Purush, who is “akshar-purush” or “akshar-mukta.”
According to the scriptures, from the navel of Virat-Purush Brahmā was born. Brahmā, Vishnu, and Mahesh are the three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan (Vāsudevnarayan) for the control, operation, and execution of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the brahmand (universe). When jiv worships these three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan, he achieves the three purushārths, namely, dharma, arth, and kām. When jiv worships nirgun forms or the avatars of Vāsudev Narayan he attains moksh. There exist countless universes (brahmands) with their own Brahmā, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Purushottam Narayan known as Vāsudev Narayan, in the form of Purush, enters into and inspires Virāt-Purush to perform his activities of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of Brahmand. Virat-Purush worships Sankarshan, Aniruddha, and Pradyumna (the three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan) during the state of dissolution, sustenance, and creation of Brahmand, respectively. As long as Virat-Purush worships sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan, his association with maya remains intact and when he worships the nirgun form of Vāsudev Narayan he forsakes maya and becomes one with Brahm or brahmrup. Ishwar is the source of all incarnations in brahmand. The scriptures describe that all the avatars in a brahmand are manifestations of Vāsudev Narayan. When Vāsudev Narayan enters and resides in Virat-Purush in the form of Purush he is said to be an avatar. Because of this Virat-Purush is also known as Vairaj-Narayan. Thus, avatars are worshiped in Hinduism because of the presence of Vāsudev Narayan only.
The difference between ishwar and jiv is that ishwar is “sarvagna” (omniscient), whereas, jiv is “alpagna” (little-knowing). Ishwar is limited to brahmand or universe, which is its field (kshetra), whereas, jiv is finite and limited to its body (sharir) only. Another difference is that, Virat-Purush – the ishwar, at the time of dissolution leaves the universe – his body, forsakes maya, and goes directly to the abode of God because he is inherently free from maya but only for the purpose of creation he indulges into maya, whereas, jiv, at the time of death, leaves its body and merges into maya for entering the cycle of births and death, unless and until it becomes free from its bondage with maya.
Brahmands are countless or infinite in numbers (anant koti), each with fourteen realms (loks or lokas) located within it and the eight layers or shields (ashtavaran) covering from the outside of it, as is described in detail in the scriptures. In the whole creation there are groups or strata of brahmands. They are all of their original sizes and dimensions but because of the vastness of the creation they all look merely like atoms wondering around. As there are many brahmands, there are many pairs of Pradhan (kshetra) and Purush (kshetragna). Thus, Kapil rishi in the Sankhya scriptures acknowledges the plurality of Purushas. Mahabharat: Book 12: Shanti Parva, Part 2-3: Mokshadharma Parva: Section: CCCLI-II also mentions the same.