Engaging with Vastness

Prof. BN Goswamy


“From Time flow forth all beings, 

From Time advance to their full growth, 

And in Time, again, return home, — 

'Time' is the formed (murti) and formless, both.” 

— Maitri Upanishad 


“Kara-aravindena pada-arvindam mukha-arvinde viniveshayantam 

Vatasya patrasya putey shayanam baalam-mukundam manasaa smaraami” 

[With his beautiful lotus-like hands, placing his beautiful lotus-like toe in his mouth beautiful like the lotus, He rests on the tender shoot of a vata leaf: Upon that bala-mukunda form (of the Lord) I meditate.] 

— Krishnakarnamrita of Bilvamangala, Thirteenth century 


From time to time one is astonished at the strivings of the Indian mind — constant, persistent, striving — as reflected in our ancient texts. Understanding the nature of Time, that incomprehensible, immeasurable, immanent entity — agyeya, asamkhyeya, aprameya — remains an abiding concern; equally so does wonder about Space; its nature, extent, origin. How did it all begin, this vast universe that we are all parts of? Questions that challenge oneself are asked; myths are woven around them; thought takes leaps. It is truly astonishing: at once mystifying and uplifting. 

I do not have even a sliver of competence to enter this field. But two images in which some of these questions — or is it an attempt at answers? — are reflected, keep surfacing in my mind. One, that of Hiranyagarbha, the Golden Egg; and, the second, that of the Vatapatrashayi, ‘the Lord resting on a Floating Leaf.’ The Hiranyagarbha, containing as it does speculations about the Origins of Creation, the Beginnings of it All, is not spoken of in just one text. Soaring, maddeningly beautiful references keep coming in from different sources. In one of the most ancient texts known to man, the Rigveda, there is a whole composition named after it, singing praises of a single, supreme creator deity. The Hiranyagarbha is spoken of as being

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