Brahma Knowledge, by L. D. Barnett, , at sacred-texts.com
§ 9. Origin of Universe from Brahma.—I. Upanishads.—The Upanishads, being the work of Brahmans, are naturally influenced to a great extent by the naturalism of Vedic myth, especially in their conception of the origination of the universe from Brahma. As we saw (§ 4), the Veda already speaks of a primal Being that created a phenomenal world from itself and became its indwelling soul; and thus, by its empiric distinction between the first Being as cause and the world as its effect, the Veda has arrived at a pantheistic standpoint.
From this the Upanishadic authors started, and struggled slowly towards the strictly idealistic position from which the universe, organic and inorganic, subjects and objects, is regarded as a single Idea which is the same as the Idea of the
individual subject of thought. In this progress they still made frequent use of the Vedic ideas and the mythical forms embodying them; they admitted their distinction of Brahma as cause and the world as effect, but admitted it as a mode of empiric thought of merely relative validity, while from the standpoint of transcendental reality they asserted the identity of the two.
Brahma (Ātmā), causing the hitherto unconditioned universe to become conditioned as Name and Form (the elements of cogitable being), entered into it "up to the nail-tips" as immanent soul, B.A. I. iv. 7; cf. Ch. VI. ii. 3, iii. 3, Ait. I. i. 11 f., Taitt. II. 6. Brahma is wholly present as its soul in every living thing, B.A. II. i. 16, iv., III. iv., v., Ch. VI. viii.–xvi. The Cosmic Soul, Hiraṇya-garbha or Brahmā (masculine), enters into creation as firstborn of Brahma (neuter), or highest manifestation, B.A. II. v. ("the brilliant immortal Male," Purusha), Ait. III. iii. (Brahma-Ātmā is intelligence), Kau. I. Brahma is Cosmic Soul, universal subject of thought from which arise the principles of finite thought (mahān ātmā, Kaṭh. III. 10, mahān purushaḥ, Śvet. III. 19). The world is created from and by Brahma as the web from the spider, sparks from fire, B.A. II. i. 20, Śvet. VI. 10, Muṇḍ. I. i. 7, II. i. 1. Brahma is "the Eternal cloaked by (empirical) reality," B.A. I. vi. 3, cf. I. iv. 7, II. iv. 12, v. 18, etc., Ch. III. xiv. 1, IV. iv.–ix., VI. xiii., etc. The
individual soul, according to the Upanishads, does not exist previous to the creation by Brahma.
The universe is created from water, B.A. I. v. 13, Ch. VII. x. 1, Ait. I. 1. Three elements, B.A. I. ii. 2, Ch. VI. ii. (heat, water, and food, successively created one from the other, after which each was blended with part of the others). Five elements (adding ether and wind), Taitt. II. i., Pra. IV. 8.
II. Later Vedānta.—Śankara (on Brahma-sūtra, II. iii. 1 f.) endeavours to reconcile the discrepant cosmogonic theories of Ch. VI. ii. and Taitt.II. i., by laying down that from the Self arises ether, thence wind, thence fire, thence water, thence earth, and that this process is reversed on the dissolution of the universe. With this qualification he follows the Ch. in its derivation of inorganic nature from heat (fire), water, and food (earth). These he regards as primitive subtle elements, which by being mixed together form the gross elements; a gross element is produced by the predominance of the corresponding subtle element in admixture with the other two. For his metaphysical explanation of creation, see § 12.
Śankara does not mention the theory of quintuplication (panchīkaraṇa) adopted by the later Vedānta. This doctrine assumes that there are five elements—ether, air, fire, water, earth—in both subtle and gross forms; in order that a particular gross element, e.g. water, may arise,
it is necessary that a proportion of one-half of the corresponding subtle form of water be mixed with a proportion of one-half of the half of the other four subtle elements. These five elements, according to the same theory, arise from the union of the Cosmic Self or Īśvara with cosmic ignorance, in the order above mentioned (see further below, § 12).