The Creation and Dissolution of the Material World

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Quotations from Srimad-Bhagavatam and from the commentary ("purports") on the Srimad-Bhagavatam by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describe how the universe is created and destroyed.


Compiler's note: The text is straight quotes. In one or two places I adjusted the grammar for clarity in the context of this compilation. Brackets indicate words added for clarity or to allow for the flow of the text. Srimad-Bhagavatam references have been abbreviated as

Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi in Vaikuntha

Beyond the material sky, further than we can see with our eyes and beyond the . . . universe, there is . . . an unlimited span of spiritual sky generally known as the brahmajyoti. Within this effulgence there are innumerable spiritual planets, and they are known as the Vaikuntha planets. Each and every Vaikuntha planet is many, many times bigger than the biggest universe within the material world, and in each of them there are innumerable inhabitants who look exactly like Lord Vishnu. These inhabitants are . . . persons directly engaged in the service of the Lord. They are happy in those planets and are without any kind of misery, and they live perpetually in full youthfulness, enjoying life in full bliss and knowledge without fear of birth, death, old age or disease. (Bhag. 1.14.35–36, Purport) In those planets there is no difference between the body and the soul, nor is there any influence of time as we experience it in the material world. (Bhag. 2.5.39, Purport)

Maha-Vishnu Generates the Universes in the Causal Oceal

In a corner of the spiritual sky of brahmajyoti a spiritual cloud sometimes appears, and the covered portion is called the mahat-tattva. The Lord then, by His plenary portion as Maha-Vishnu, lies down within the water of the mahat-tattva. . . . While Maha-Vishnu sleeps within the water, innumerable universes are generated along with His breathing. These universes are floating, and they are scattered all over the water. They stay only during the breathing period of Maha-Vishnu. (Bhag. 2.5.33, Purport)

This material manifestation is necessary to give a chance to the conditioned souls who are unwilling to associate with the Lord in the relationship of loving transcendental service. . . . Instead, they want to enjoy themselves as imitation Gods. The living entities are constitutionally eternal servitors of the Lord, but some of them, because of misusing their independence, do not wish to serve; therefore they are allowed to enjoy the material nature, which is called maya, or illusion… because the living beings under the clutches of maya are not factually enjoyers, although they think that they are. (Bhag. 2.6.42, Purport)

Garbhodakashayi Vishnu and the Goddess of Fortune, Lakshmi Devi

In each and every universal globe, the same Maha-Vishnu enters again as Garbhodakashayi Vshnu and lies there on the serpentlike Sesha incarnation. From His navel sprouts a lotus stem, and on the lotus, Brahma, the lord of the universe, is born. (Bhag. 2.5.33, Purport)

Brahma . . . is the father of all living beings and the master of all the demigod engineers engaged in the perfect design and working of the universal order. Within the stem of the lotus there are fourteen divisions of planetary systems, and the earthly planets are situated in the middle. Upwards there are other, better planetary systems, and … downwards from the earthly planetary system there are seven lower planetary systems. (Bhag. 1.3.2, Purport)

The Wheel of Time

This gigantic manifestation of the phenomenal material world as a whole is the personal body of the Absolute Truth, wherein the universal resultant past, present, and future of material time is experienced. (Bhag. 2.1.24) The personal weapon used by Lord Krishna, the disc, is called hari-chakra, the disc of Hari. This chakra is the wheel of time. (Bhag. 5.14.29)

The Creation of Human Beings

Brahma, who was empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thought of generating living entities and begot ten sons for the extension of the generations. . . . [Among them] was born . . . Daksha from a thumb, [and] Marichi from the mind.... Sage Kardama, husband of the great Devahuti, was manifested from the shadow of Brahma. (Bhag. 3.12.21–24, 27)

When Brahma saw that in spite of the presence of sages of great potency there was no sufficient increase in population, he seriously began to consider how the population could be increased. Two other forms were [then] generated from his body. They are still celebrated as the body of Brahma. The one who had the male form became known as the Manu named Svayambhuva, and the woman became known as Satarupa, the queen of the great soul Manu. [Manu] begot in Satarupa five children—two sons . . . and three daughters. . . . The father, Manu, handed over . . . the middle daughter, Devahuti, to the sage Kardama, and the youngest, Prasuti, to Daksha. From them, all the world filled with [human] population. (Bhag. 3.12.50, 52, 54, 56, 57)

Manu, the father of mankind, is the emblem of His [Krishna’s] standard intelligence, and humanity is His residence. (Bhag. 2.1.36) Human life … offers the conditioned soul sufficient intelligence to perceive the Absolute Truth. (Bhag. 11.9.28)

Kashyapa & the Daughters of Daksha

Daksha was [in his first birth] the son of Lord Brahma . . . but because of his . . . insulting . . . Lord Mahadeva [Shiva], he . . . became the son of the Pracetas [in another birth]. (Bhag. 4.30.48, Purport) [In his second birth] Daksha begot sixty daughters in the womb of his wife Asikni. . . . It is because of the union of these sixty daughters with various exalted personalities that the entire universe was filled with various kinds of living entities, such as human beings, demigods, demons, beasts, birds, and serpents. (Bhag. 6.6, Summary)

Kardama Muni's daughter Kala, who was married to Marichi, gave birth to … Kashyapa (Bhag. 4.1.13) Kashyapa received seventeen daughters [in marriage from their father, Daksha]. (Bhag. 6.6.2) [These are] Kashyapa's wives . . . [who] are the mothers of almost all the population of the entire universe, and [whose] names are very auspicious to hear. They are Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kashtha, Arishta, Surasa, Ila, Muni, Krodhavasha, Tamra, Surabhi, Sarama, and Timi (Bhag. 6.6.24–26), [as well as] Vinata [Suparna], Kadru, Patangi, and Yamini. (Bhag. 6.6.21–22)

The Creation of the Demigods

Aditi [is the] mother of the demigods (Bhag. 8.23.4). Indra was her eleventh son. (Bhag. 6.18, Summary). Vinata (Suparna) gave birth to Garuda, the carrier of Lord Vishnu, and to Anuru, or Aruna, the chariot driver of the sun-god. (Bhag. 6.6.21–22) From the womb of Muni the angels took birth. (Bhag. 6.6.27) The Rakshasas, or bad spirits, were born from the womb of Surasa. (Bhag. 6.6.28)The Gandharvas were born from the womb of Arishta (Bhag. 6.6.29–31) The celestial species of human beings, like the Gandharvas, Vidyadharas, Caranas, and angels, all represent His [Krishna’s] musical rhythm, and the demoniac soldiers are representations of His wonderful prowess. (Bhag. 2.1.36)

Aquatics & Vegetation

From the womb of Timi all the aquatics took birth. (Bhag. 6.6.24–26) All the various creepers and trees were born from the womb of Ila. (Bhag. 6.6.28)

Insects & Animals

Yamini gave birth to locusts. (Bhag. 6.6.21–22) Krodhavasha was the mother of the mosquitoes. (Bhag. 6.6.28) From the womb of Sarama the ferocious animals like the tigers and lions took birth (Bhag. 6.6.24–26), and from the womb of Surabhi the buffalo, cow, and other animals with cloven hooves took birth. (Bhag. 6.6.27) Animals whose hooves are not split, such as the horse, were born from the womb of Kashtha. (Bhag. 6.6.29–31) The horse, mule, camel, and elephant are [considered the] nails [of the Lord’s form as the universe], and wild animals and all quadrupeds are situated in the belt zone of the [universal form of the] Lord. (Bhag. 2.1.35)

Birds & Reptiles

Patangi gave birth to many kinds of birds (Bhag. 6.6.21–22), and from the womb of Tamra the eagles, vultures, and other large birds of prey took birth. (Bhag. 6.6.27) Varieties of birds are indications of His [Krishna’s] masterful artistic sense. (Bhag. 2.1.36) Kadru gave birth to different varieties of serpents. (Bhag. 6.6.21–22) The sons born of Krodhavasha were the serpents known as dandashuka, as well as other serpents [and reptiles]. (Bhag. 6.6.28)

Winding Up the Material Manifestation

At the end of the millennium, when the Personality of Godhead Lord Narayana [Maha-Vishnu] lies down within the water of devastation, Brahma begins to enter into Him along with all creative elements. (Bhag. 1.6.29) The merging of the living beings into the body of Maha-Vishnu takes place automatically at the end of Brahma's one hundred years. But that does not mean that the individual living being loses his identity. The identity is there, and as soon as there is another creation by the supreme will of the Lord, all the sleeping, inactive living beings are again let loose to begin their activities in the continuation of past different spheres of life. (Bhag. 1.10.21, Purport)

According to human calculations one day of Brahma is equal to one thousand ages of four millenniums (4,300,000 years) each, and the same period is calculated to be his night also. A Brahma lives for one hundred such years and then dies. (Bhag. 2.6.11, Purport) The four millenniums are called the Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali yugas. The aggregate number of years of all of these combined is equal to twelve thousand years of the demigods. The duration of the Satya millennium equals 4,800 years of the years of the demigods [1,728,000 Earth years]; [Treta-yuga yuga lasts 1,296,000 Earth years]; the duration of the Dvapara millennium equals 2,400 years [864,000 Earth years]; and that of the Kali millennium is 1,200 years of the demigods [432,000 Earth years, of which about 5,000 have already passed]. . . .

In the Satya millennium mankind properly and completely maintained the principles of religion, but in other millenniums religion gradually decreased by one part as irreligion was proportionately admitted. . . . After the end of Brahma's night, the creation of the three worlds begins again in the daytime of Brahma. . . . At the end of [Brahma's] day, under the insignificant portion of the mode of darkness, the powerful manifestation of the universe merges in the darkness of night. By the influence of eternal time, the innumerable living entities remain merged in that dissolution, and everything is silent.

When the night of Brahma ensues, all the three worlds are out of sight, and the sun and the moon are without glare . . . and fire emanate[s] from the mouth of Sankarshana [the serpentlike Sesha incarnation]. . . . All the seas overflow, and hurricane winds blow very violently. Thus the waves of the seas become ferocious, and in no time at all the three worlds are full of water. . . .

[At this point in human history,] the first half of the duration of Brahma's life is already over, and the second half is now current. The duration of the two parts of Brahma's life, as above mentioned, is calculated to be equal to one nimesha (less than a second) for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is unchanging and unlimited and is the cause of all causes of the universe. (Bhag. 3.11.18, 19, 21, 23, 28–31, 34, 38) All the universes in seed are emanating from the breathing of the Maha-Vishnu, who is but part of a partial expansion of the Lord, and all the universes presided over by the Brahmas vanish when the Maha-Vishnu withdraws His great breath. In this way, the material worlds are being created and vanished by the supreme will of the Lord. (Bhag. 2.1.25, Purport)

About the Author: 

Urmila Devi Dasi

Urmila Devi Dasi (Dr. Edith Best) joined ISKCON in 1973 in Chicago. She received first initiation in 1973 and second initiation in 1975 from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In 1996, Urmila and her husband, Pratyatosa, entered the renounced order of vanaprastha. They have three grown married children and twelve grandchildren.