The Path – October 1886

HINDU SYMBOLISM: I — Isaac Myer

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The student of Hindu metaphysical religious philosophy, will find most of its important formulations, veiled under a mystical symbolism; to understand which, is a key to the hints in the Upanishads and other esoteric writings.

We propose to give those interested, a series of illustrations from Hindu drawings with descriptions; in the latter, our study of the Kabbalah has been of great assistance.

The figure is a symbolical representation of Brahman (neuter) intwined in Itself. (1) It is the highest deity of the Hindus, the principle of the universe; the representation is, of It, at the immediate instant of Its revealing Itself in the emanation of the universe, and before Its entrance into any kind of matter and before Its self renunciation. It symbolises the God — dawn between the pauses of emanative creation, its preservation, and the dissolution of created forms. Wrapped in Its cloak-sphere, Brahman conducts Its toe into Its mouth, perhaps to make, an eternal circle of Itself, perhaps to signify the union of the linga and yoni, perhaps to indicate the retrogression of Itself into Itself, or may be the eternity and unfathomableness of Its nature, plunged in the contemplation of Its own essence. Compare with this the great figure of Neith or Typhe, the Heaven goddess of the Egyptian Zodiac of Dendera. Brahman (neuter) or Para-brahma, i.e. the Great Brahma, as an unrevealed deity, has neither temple or image in India. It is in effect considered in Itself without form or figure, but exteriorly It manifests Itself in many figures and symbols. It is the unit and the multiplied in all, at the same instant, smaller than an atom, it is greater than the whole universe, which cannot contain it, and is ineffable and inexpressible in Its essence. The ancient Hindus say of it in the Vedas: — "Brahman is eternal, the being above all others, revealing Itself in felicity and joy. The universe is Its name, Its image, but that first existence, which contains all in Itself, is the soul really existing. All the phenomena have their cause in Brahman, It is not limited by time or space, is imperishable, is the soul of the world and of each particular existence." * * * "That universe is Brahman, it comes from Brahman, exists in Brahman, and it will return to Brahman."

"Brahman, the Being existing in Itself, is the form of all wisdom and of all the worlds without end. All the worlds are made only one with It, because they are through Its Will. That eternal Will is innate in all things. It reveals Itself in the emanation (or creation), in the preservation, and in the destruction (which is also a re-creation), and in the movements and forms, of Time and Space." The Atharva-Veda says: — "All the gods are in (Brahman) as cows in a cow-house. In the beginning Brahman was this (universe). It created gods. Having created gods, It placed them in these worlds, viz: Agni in this world, Vayu in the atmosphere, and Surya in the sky.(2) And in the worlds which are yet higher, It placed the gods which are still higher. Then Brahman proceeded to the higher sphere." This is explained by a commentator to be Satyaloka, (3) the most excellent limit of all the worlds. In the "Taitteriya Brahmana" it is; "Brahman generated the gods, Brahman (generated or emanated) this entire world. Within It are all these worlds. Within It is the entire universe. It is Brahman who is the greatest of beings. Who can vie with It." Brahman (neuter) is the only real eternal true essence; when It passes in to actual manifested existence It is called Brahma; when It develops Itself in the universe It is called Vishnu, and when It again dissolves Itself into simple being, It is called Siva; all the other deities are only symbols or manifestations of the eternal neuter Brahman. (4)

The Vishnu Purana says: "Glory to Brahman, who is addressed by that mystic word AUM, (5) who is associated eternally with the triple universe (heaven, sky, earth), and who is one with the four Vedas. Glory to Brahman, who both in the destruction and renovation of the universe is called the great and mysterious cause of the intellectual principle, who is without limit in time or space, and exempt from diminution and decay, etc. To that supreme Brahman be for ever adoration."

In its highest development, the doctrine of the Vedas is a rational and philosophical pantheism, combined with the most ideal, pure, and absolute monotheism, that the mind can conceive. The doctrines as to Brahman (neuter) in their higher conceptions, arc similar in many respects to the exalted ideas as to the Ain Soph or Non Ego, of the Kabbalah.

Brahman, the Eternal, in Itself, Being, goes out of Its profundity in Its eternity, to emanate the universe of all the things, and undeniably establishes that great law of production, through the opposition and yet a harmonious blending, as to which, all nature offers everywhere a similitude, evidence, and image. Its first emanation is the creating energy, force or potentiality, which manifests Itself in Time, the mother and the matrix of the existences, that is the Sakti, Para Sakti or Maya, the first virgin and first female or plasticity, containing all in germ, symbolized by the Yoni. Its spouse, the spiritualizing, the man-type, is symbolized by the Lingam.

FOOTNOTES:

1. Taken from the Glauben, Wissen und Kunst der alten Hindus, etc., von Niklas Muller, Erster Band, Mainz, 1822. (return to text)

2. Fire, Aether, Light. (return to text)

3. Satya-Loka, the place, world, or region of Truth. — [Ed.] (return to text)

4. See Indian Wisdom by Monier Williams, p. 12 (return to text)

5. This occurs at the beginning of prayers, etc., as our word AMeN occurs at the end. It is so sacred that none must hear it pronounced. Originally its three letters typified the three Vedas, afterwards it became a mystical symbol of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva in unity; See further as to AUM supra. (return to text)


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