Recently as media circus focused its attention on the anticipated celebrity marriage between Mr. Abhishek and Ms. Aishwarya, a part of limelight also fell on the Brahma temple – the only one of its kind – situated in the Rajasthan district. The temple was visited by Ms. Aishwarya to seek the blessings of the Lord Brahma.
Brahma temples are rare. Why is Lord Brahma not ritualistically worshiped like the Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu across the peninsular India? Sanskrit literature is full of metaphoric stories including the one where Shiva is supposed to have cursed Brahma that he shall not be worshiped on Earth (ref: Skanda Puraan).
Metaphorical stories are a peculiarity of the Sanskrit literature. The job of these stories is to motivate members of the society to do a certain thing or to deter them from doing certain other thing.
The true philosophical reason why Brahma is not worshiped like the other deities is as under: Worship involves faith and faith to certain degree means accepting supremacy of someone without questioning. Brahma, on the other hand, represents true knowledge. The knowledge and faith are philosophically antithetical concepts. Knowledge blooms in self-doubt, constant questioning, criticism and discussions and it lapses in faith. Ichnographically, Brahma is shown sitting on a blue lotus flower (Pushkara in Sanskrit). Anyone who is familiar with lotus will know that they bloom through a complicated network of root system submerged in the soft mud. This muddy foundation of the Lotus flower is an artists pictogram of intellectual ferment.
Ritualistic worship of Brahma who is an embodiment of the true knowledge, would have been a philosophical contradiction and to present reasoned out principles to society has been the endeavour of most scholars of the bygone era. This also is the principle reason the philosophical doctrines of Indian philosophy has withstood the vagaries of history and time for more than five millenniums.
As sage Aniruddha in his digest vrutti (1. 26) says :
na hy aaptavacanaan nabhasonipatanti mahaasuraaH |
yuktimad vacanam graahyam mayaanyaishca bhavadvidhaiH ||
(Huge giants do not drop from the skies simply because a competent person/s says so . Only sayings which are supported by reason should be accepted by me and others like yourselves . – translation by Dr. S Radhakrishnan © 1930 )
This has been the foundation of the great philosophy.
What unsettled my intellectual sensibilities is that the media coverage claimed that offering Pooja at the Pushkara temple of Brahma washes all the sins and leads to wish fulfilment. A gross trivialisation of a thought. Acquisition of true knowledge neither washes the sins nor does it fulfil wishes because acquisition of such a true knowledge makes both these aspects irrelevant.
Note: There are a few ritualistic traditions like shanties performed at funeral rites where Brahma in a form of a creator is revered and offered oblations to.
"lastly and most importantly, most of the scriptures of antiquity surprisingly address a society that was far more advanced in thought, culture and conduct and far more receptive vis-à-vis the society of today, which is in ferment."
well said! very true!
thanks a lot for bringing out these points: i would like to clarify the following
in the above blog post i have used both words worship and faith interchangeably. however, at all instances of using these words i mean “mechanical sacerdotalism” then there should be no ambiguity that such a mechanical concept is antithetical to reasoning and questioning. i must agree that ‘shraddhaa’ in sanskrit does not have an equivalent english translation.
i have not said that purans contain only metaphorical stories or all that they contain are mere metaphorical stories. i have said a portion of them does and a large section of sanskrit literature does carry these stories.
your contention about western thoughts and western scholars is correct. however, in my experience of research in indology i have found that even we, the modern indians, are poorly equipped to handle the concepts expressed in vedas, upanisheds and puranas. reason for this is embodied in our way of education today, which is strictly western. we are more comfortable reading a book with a systematic array of thought expressed by a particular author and must confess to intellectual bankruptcy when faced with a collection of thoughts written by varied scholars who have only hinted at several suggestions, which at times appears completely contrary to each other.
lastly and most importantly, most of the scriptures of antiquity surprisingly address a society that was far more advanced in thought, culture and conduct and far more receptive vis-à-vis the society of today, which is in ferment.
metaphorical stories are a peculiarity of the sanskrit literature. the job of these stories is to motivate members of the society to do a certain thing or to deter them from doing certain other thing.