Considered one of the middle Upanishads, the date of composition is not known but has been estimated by scholars to be sometime around 6th or 5th century BCE. The Aitareya Upanishad is a short prose text, divided into three chapters, containing 33 verses. It is this Atman, the Soul or the Inner Self, that is then portrayed as the creator of everything from itself and nothing, through heat. The text states that the Atman created the universe in stages. Atman then created eight guardians corresponding to these psyches and principles. Thereafter came man, who could not exist without a sense of Self and Soul Atman.
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Sethumadhavan, October Aitareya Upanishad is a common ground for philosophy and physics. Aitareya Upanishad identifies Consciousness as the First Cause of creation.
One of the oldest pastimes of man is to run the search engine of his contemplative and analytical faculties to find out the final answer to the riddle of creation of the universe. This question is not merely academic but it also assumes the colors of religion, philosophy, science and poetry.
We have answers to this enigma in every religion. But the mystery of creation remains as much unfathomed and unsolved today as in the Vedic days. It was considered as an ongoing-process and not an event. He is conceived as a cosmic person with a thousand heads, eyes and feet, who filled the whole universe and extended beyond it. The world form is only a fragment of this divine reality.
The first principle which is called Purusha manifested as the whole world by his Tapas. This view gets crystallized into the later Upanishadic doctrine that the spirit or Atman in man at microcosm is the same as the spirit which is the cause of the world which goes by the name Brahman or Paramatman at macrocosm.
These theories are discussed in elaborate details in the following Upanishads Viz. Among the latter Acharyas the contributions made by Gaudapada, and Adi Sankara to these thoughts are colossal. The universe in this picture is a pulsating balloon in which cycles of expansion and contraction succeed each other through eternity. The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.
Stephen Hawking writes, "Thus, when we see the universe, we are seeing it as it was in the past. One possible answer is to say that God chose the initial configuration of the universe for reasons that we cannot hope to know. Vedanta does not support the "big bang" theory and its mechanistic materialism. We have merely cited certain common ideas to be found in both.
Brahman is the ultimate Reality. Brahman is impersonal-personal God. Impersonal God may be called the static aspect and personal God may be called the dynamic aspect of Brahman.
Knowledge, will and action are inherent in Brahman. God projects the universe by animating His prakriti maya. Astrophysics and Advaita Vedanta agree on certain points. Advaita Vedanta upholds the notion of the pulsating or oscillating universe.
Creation is followed by dissolution and this process will continue ad infinitum. Science used the term "big bang" for the starting point of creation and "big crunch" for the dissolution of the universe. The background material of the scientist cannot be accepted as the source of creation. That is the biggest difference between the two systems. Science is still exploring and remains inconclusive but Vedanta has given the final verdict, which is unassailable.
We have already covered in full the study of the Prasna and Svetasvatara Upanishads and briefly the Mundaka Upanishad in this website. This Upanishad consists of 3 chapters; the first chapter has 3 sections and the remaining two chapters do not have any sections. In the earlier portions of the Aranyaka rituals for the attainment of oneness with Saguna Brahman and their interpretations are dealt with.
It is the purpose of the Upanishad to lead the mind of the ritualist away from the outer cermonials to their inner meaning. Sankara points out that there are three classes of men who wish to acquire wisdom. The highest consist of those who have turned away from the world, whose minds are freed and collected, who are eager for freedom. For such seekers this Upanishad is intended. The other two classes of people are those who want to become free gradually and those who care only for worldly possessions.
The first chapter describes the creation. It provides an allegorical description of the creation of the universe - as also of man — from Consciousness. These two words embrace all possible concepts about God and all known names of God without any contradiction whatsoever. Atman alone exists as the sole Reality prior to the creation of all names and forms of the phenomenal world and during their continuance and after their dissolution as well.
It projects the created objects through its wondrous powers of maya. The creation is the spontaneous act of the Creator who is not impelled by any desire or necessity. After creation the Creator enters into the bodies as their living self. Thus is projected the universe of diversity. Next the Upanishad deals with the refutation apavada of this universe in order to arrive at the Knowledge of Atman.
O self-luminous Brahman, reveal yourself to me. O mind and speech enable me to grasp the truth which the scriptures teach. Let me not forget what I learnt. Let me study day and night. May I think truth? May I speak truth? May truth protect me? May truth protect the teacher? Protect me. Protect the teacher. In the beginning all this verily was Atman Absolute Self only, one and without a second. There was nothing else that winked.
He Atman willed Himself: "Let Me now create the worlds". It is the common experience that change can take place only upon a changeless base. The moving waters of a river should have a motionless river-bed. The moving train must have a rigid ground to move upon. Similarly, the world around us is ever changing and the continuity of change gives us the illusion of permanency to it.
For this phenomenon of continuous change, we must have a changeless, permanent factor and all our scriptures are an enquiry into the existence and nature of that permanent Absolute Factor. This Upanishad is one such enquiry. It is just like telling in a cloth shop that before all the varieties of fabrics came into being all those were nothing but cotton. In the same way we are told that before the manifested world got projected, it was all Consciousness alone, all pervading and eternal.
We must note here that the sage has deliberately used the word Atman and not Brahman. This can be explained by means of the example of foam. Prior to its manifestation foam was being called as water and after its manifestation it is called both as water and foam.
The idea is that before the creation of the pluralistic world of objects, names and forms all that remained was the Self Atman —individual Consciousness which is nothing other than Brahman Universal Consciousness for there is no difference between pot space and universal outer space. The Mantra adds that there was no other active principle or entity at that time in the Supreme.
This means that the Supreme did not create the world of plurality out of some material cause that already existed like a potter making a pot out of clay that already existed. In the creation of the world the Supreme himself is the material and efficient cause. It also indicates that creation is a misinterpreted super-imposition upon the truth as the appearance of a snake on the rope is available to the disillusioned and confused person only.
This is called adhyaropa in Vedanta. How did the creation take place? He thought I shall indeed create the worlds. At the end of the cycle, the totality of beings living at that time remains in the form of vasanas or mental impressions.
In the beginning of the next cycle, these vasanas are projected by the Supreme who for this purpose is called Isvara according to the quality of their past actions to seek out their fulfillment in the objective world to appear. The point to keep in mind is that although the creation is the will of Brahman, the resultant product is not based on His arbitrary whims and fancies but on the nature of past actions by the created persons. Thus the story of creation in Aitareya Upanishad starts when there was nothing other than Consciousness, also called Atman, This One and Absolute Consiousness willed to create a world of multiplicity and relativity.
The philosophy of Atman is stated here in brevity in the form of a sutra. Later on, by the demonstration that names and forms are mere illusory superimpositions adhyaropa and then by their refutation apavada will be shown the unreal nature of phenomena and the sole reality of Atman.
The word appears in the verses of many Upanishads, such as the fourth verse of the 13th volume in first chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad. Radhakrishnan states, "almost all the early literature of India was anonymous, we do not know the names of the authors of the Upanishads". The Shvetashvatara Upanishad , for example, includes closing credits to sage Shvetashvatara, and he is considered the author of the Upanishad. There are differences within manuscripts of the same Upanishad discovered in different parts of South Asia, differences in non-Sanskrit version of the texts that have survived, and differences within each text in terms of meter,  style, grammar and structure.
Aitareya Upanishad, Chapter 1, Hymn 11   Paul Deussen summarizes the first chapter of Aitareya Upanishad as follows, The world as a creation, the Man as the highest manifestation of the Atman who is also named as the Brahman - this is the basic idea of this section. It declares that consciousness is what defines man, the source of all intellectual and moral theories, all gods, all living beings man, animals, plants , all that there is. Become immortal, suggests the Aitareya Upanishad, by being you. Which is the Self? Everything are various names only of Knowledge the true Self Everything is led produced by knowledge. It rests on Knowledge. The world is led by Knowledge.