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Tirtha - Liberty Cap - Brahma Purana 1
Brahma co-arose with Vishnu. Beyond Time, beyond space, there is no beginning or end for Brahma, as these are descriptors of Time and Space. At the beginning of Time, things awoke to observe the manifold beings and forms. Waking is a natural consequence of the potentiality of Time; there was no decision to wake, nor any capacity to wake before Time. Time coarises with Space, and wakefulness. Since Brahma cannot be described, for Brahma exists beyond form (which requires space and time), this Brahma Purana describes the proper means of depicting Brahma. Brahma is to appear like a grandfather. Brahma had four heads before being deprived of one of them in an act of mercy: all was known to Brahma, and this resulted in Brahma's distress. Justice without mercy is unDharmic, knowledge without ignorance is unDharmic. Before and after do not apply to Brahma, who coarose with Time, yet when Brahama interacts with what exists and does not exist, Brahma is subject to before, after and form - and many other factors of existence and non-existence.
All beings are subject to existence and non-existence, Brahma is not a being. Brahma is a non-being. Brahma is displayed as a grandfather, to represent this: existing beyond Time is different than existing before Time (what is "before" when there is no Time?), yet if there were something before Time, or after Time, it would be what is beyond Time - if Time could be described as a form, it is spherical, and Brahma is beyond Time, and within Time. Thus, using astronomy, the beginning of Brahma in this universe can be calculated as the beginning of Time. A Grandfather is oldest. A Grandfather is respected. Hence, Brahma is depicted as a Grandfather, with a white beard.
The vehicle of Brahma is a Goose or Swan, a creature able to exist in air, water and land; able to be immersed in water without becoming wet - as Brahma is able to enter existence without becoming a part of existence, as Brahma exists beyond existence. A Goose or Swan can separate food from water, just as Brahma can discern what is Dharmic from what is unDharmic. Every being does this: their actions result in reactions, and reactions to those reactions - "good" leading to "good," "bad" leading to "bad," coming to fruit at just the right time, and in just the right way. No matter how entangled the actions of a person are, how complicated their action is, what is good will result in good and what is bad will result in bad. We are encouraged by the image of the Goose or Swan to imbibe only what is good and discard what is bad - what is valuable or worthless - what is beneficial and harmful. It is this discernment and self-control, of preferring and doing what is good, valuable, beneficial while refraining from what is bad, worthless and harmful that makes a person "good."
Brahma holds in his hands the Vedas, the Dharma itself: having woke, Brahma observed the world. In observing the world, Brahma affected what was observed, and was affected by what was observed. All things that exist must cease existing, but that which is beyond existence "remains" "after" Time - if such a thing could be possible. The Dharma, the nature of things, is Brahma. And a Brahman (Brah-"man") one of self-control and discernment, is as much a super-man, a superior-man, a man beyond other men as Brahma is beyond existence and non-existence; such a Brahman is the Dharma itself. For that is their new nature. The Vedas, if held like Brahma holds them, can transform a person's nature to exist beyond existence, to rise beyond non-existence.
Brahma holds a rosary, and remembers what is so easily forgotten amid the forms of space and time - that there exists that which is beyond existence and non-existence. Brahma remembers Brahma. So too should we remember our own nature - is to continually improve and grow by discernment and self-control, like the Goose or Swan.
Brahma offers water - to refresh the exertion of Brahma's devotees, to refresh Brahma. The continuance of existence and non-existence is a direct result of the nature of non-existence, and Brahma, by nature of simply encompassing and passing through existence and non-existence, gives continuity to the beginning and ending of time and space. Time and space have no ending, nor beginning, but exist to encompass each other, coarising and coterminating. Pouring water while immersed in water, there is current, but no beginning or terminating.
Brahma is seated on a lotus: just as a lotus arises out of the muck and water, beyond sight, to enter the air where it is clearly seen, Brahma is seen only because Brahma is rooted beyond perception, beyond form of space and time. We cannot free ourselves of our nature any more than Brahma, nor the lotus. Yet we may, rooted in our existence as human beings (or whatever being we are), grow and develop by discernment and self-control new natures. We may rise above the surface of the water and see what could not be seen from the muck and water - and be seen.
Brahma is shown with Saraswati, "his" "wife." Though neither male nor female, both Brahma and Saraswati are endowed with masculine and female imagery: they reflect each other, as male and female reflect each other. Saraswati is the knowledge of the vedas - the vedas can only be seen in the reflection of understanding, and cannot be observed directly. Saraswati is white, which reflects all the many colors of light (white light is composed of many colors). Saraswati carries a lyre, a musical instrument, to remind all people they are merely animals. Saraswati carries a book to remind all animals they may learn to become domesticated, tame and useful - by learning. There is no animal (nor any being) which is incapable of learning and undertaking the self-conditioning and self-training required to become a Brahman. Her rosary is white, for she reflects Brahma perfectly. But Saraswati will be discussed later in full - it suffices to explain that we may, also, reflect Brahma by reflecting upon Brahma! We may become Brahmans.
Brahma is sometimes depicted with a spoon or ladle to serve the water, and a utensil for eating.
Finally, Brahma is presented with Vishnu, who reflects Brahma too - but depicted in black, instead of white like Saraswati, seated on a viper instead of a lotus, Vishnu is the peace and quiet that permits an understanding of all things through reasoning and logic: deduction, induction, inference. Vishnu is an inversion of Brahma. The act of inversion itself is Shiva. Vishnu indicates the existence of existence is distress, the nature of that distress, that the distress may end (for it is a nature of existence to cease existing), and the way toward the cessation of that distress. Connected to Brahma by the navel, it indicates the co-arising nature of Vishnu and Brahma: they are each mother's womb and fetus to each other. The connection itself is Shiva.