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Ancient ideas on creation of the universe
Some or other time in the life we confront a fundamental question that how and why the universe was created? Was there any creator who fashioned this universe out of his whims or did he have any definite purpose? Or was the universe as it is since time infinite without any creator?
Mythologies of all the civilizations have stories of their own to tell about the creation of the universe and life. Similarities in many the myths are startling, though that sometimes have prompted thinkers to deduce if all civilizations were closely related sometime in the distant past.
To most it unquestionably was the God, as we read in many mythologies, bored with his idleness thought of making the universe and creatures on the sacred planet earth. Since mankind was his favored creation he made the mankind just alike him.He gifted him with wits and religion.
As per Greek mythology, before the creation, there neither was dark nor light but vast space that was filled up with Chaos. Then appeared mighty Titans those fought with each other to gain the supreme ruler ship over others. Titans were defeated by Cronos and then the legacy went on until Zeus established his supreme rule with his sister/wife Hera. Titans were punished heavily and the rule was divided among the gods to control other elements. Zeus chose Olympus to be his divine abode whereas Hades chose the underworld for his rule, the death. In a way it was human imagination that personified every and natural phenomena in the form of Gods and Gods were alike them, having vices and virtues of human mind.
For Indian mythologies, there was neither dark nor light when the sperm of creation was sowed in the primordial universe. Hebrews thought it was god who created universe in six days and went to rest on seventh, the tradition that was followed by Christians too. Interestingly Hebrews had many Gods before they reached a juncture where they begun to think God must be one.
However the quest to understand and befriend or fear natural elements that either were life giving or life taking was alive in every civilization we are talking about. Being intelligent animal humane always thought they were close to the gods and so wove the stories in their highly imaginative form, the myths and rituals.
We come across almost no civilization those had no gods. No civilization thought God could be one in primordial times though most of them turned to pray only god or messiah, an only supreme command that could redeem them, in the course of development of the philosophical thoughts. Multitude of gods, representing various elements is however common in ancient heritage. In a way it served purpose of those people who looked at the world as an admixture of versatile propositions presented to them by the mysterious creator. Fear for life and losing the wealth or power made them more cautious and invented the rituals to please the plethora of the Gods. Old Gods, in course of the time were replaced by new ones, and yet the symbolism continued in same zeal, as it can be seen in case of Sumerians and Hindu’s with others.
Concept of God can be attributed to the very human instinct that for them there must be a unknown force that helps flourish the life, rise of the sun and its setting, the mysterious course of moon, fire that at one hand can take life out of them or help them in many ways. Greeks too believed that every element had separate entity when they started their probe in matter of elements though ultimately they too reached to an ultimate fact that it was a single element that created the universe. This was a finding, close to today's science and the way other civilizations too reached to only conclusion that either there was single god or it was zero that caused creation of the universe. Whether religious, scientific or philosophical musings, to the conclusion they reached was one and the same, oneness.
Except Greeks who chose systematic probe in the creation, those who too confronted fundamental questions and those who had no scientific thought developed for their approach made them relate every natural phenomenon to the almighty God who had powers over every element.
Indus culture worshiped sexual organs in form of Shiva and Shakti, the way it happened almost in every civilization, where a mystery surrounded around the reproduction. The initial dualism later was philosophically developed to non-dualism by unifying Shiva and Shakti, both creators, preservers and destroyers of the universe. Shaivait religion thus transformed from primordial sexual-organ worship to embrace the whole universe and its cause of existence. The Shaivism survived and culturally kept India unified since millenniums.
Vedic people worshiped natural elements such as fire, wind, rain, earth, land, directions, sun, and dawn through oblations in sacred fire. They too probed in very question that who created this universe? They found their answer, later in Prajapati to whom they credited the creation. Mayans and Inca’s, Egyptians and Assyrians, Iranians and ancient Jews and Greeks did the same in slightly different manner.
As many truths dawned upon human race in course of the time, after undergoing philosophical musings and preaching, it was inquisitive mind of very human being that could challenge bounties of different Gods too as they begun to realize all elements weren’t any but manifestation of a single force. “Truth is one but wise sometimes prefer to see it differently”, says a Vedic verse. “No matter how many god you do worship, every prayer reaches me.” Says Krishna in Geeta. The idea of oneness attracted the people of every continent.However philosophically the debate, whether the truth (or creator) is one or multiple has been fought vehemently in the philosophical circles.
The philosophical debate that whether truth was one or multiple was debated in India in the past. “Sat” (Existence) stood for positive force whereas “asat” (Non-being) stood for negative force. There has to be either sat or asat. But when Indian scholars pondered over this they found there must be a neutral force too to compensate imbalance. So they invented another force, neutral, impassive force that wouldn’t participate in any action but had its presence everywhere. But simultaneously they also debated over the issue that if all three entities that could have caused birth and continuance of the universe together, who created the these elementary entities?....a question that we still are fighting to find solution for!
Buddha and Mahavira’s ideas on the creation we shall discuss in next installment.
(to be continued…)