Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Kalyan Gullapalli, ShortStory 2021 Longlist

The Creator!

Brahma smiled with relief as he saw Vishnu and Mahesh walk into to his divine abode. With folded hands, he greeted them. “Namaste, O! Maha Vishnu! Namaste, O! Maheshwar!”

Vishnu & Mahesh wished him back, “We bow to you too, O! Brahma, O! Shristhikarta – the creator of the Brahmanda! Namah Te!”

Brahma solemnly invited his guests to take their respective seats. Vishnu sat in Padmasana on the gold plated platform to Brahma’s right. Mahesh quickly pulled out a tiger skin from under his armpit, rolled it out on the ice-frozen platform to Brahma’s left and sat in Siddhasana. Their divine chauffeurs, Garuda – the eagle, and Nandi – the bull, followed their host – the nameless Swan. Brahma sat on his own lotus, his left leg lay folded beside him, while his right leg lay dangling comfortably. All guest-host formalities were conducted and concluded satisfactorily.

Vishnu spoke first. “My dear Brahma, what is the matter? Why did you summon us at such short notice?” Mahesh chipped in, “O! Shristhikarta, you seem preoccupied. I can make out something is bothering you. Please let it out. Maybe we can help.”

Brahma let out the biggest sigh of his life. Vishnu and Mahesh looked at each other. The situation looked serious!

Brahma said seriously, “My dearest brothers! As you rightly said, I am Shristhikarta – the creator! I have created the Brahmanda and all the lokas in it with painstaking care.

Let’s start with Bhuloka. I first created the Panchabhutas - earth (Prithvi), water (Apas), air (Vayu), fire (Agni) and ether (Akash). And by unique permutations and combinations of these five primordial elements, I created all matter, from tiny specks of dust to the farthest galaxies.

I created the splendid Akashganga, the Milky Way - and studded it with millions of stars, planets and planetary systems. I am especially proud of the Solar System. And I must have definitely poured special attention onto the lovely Earth. Just look at its gorgeous landscapes, generous proportions of water and optimal composition of air! You must surely agree that I am genius for having created the most fantastic element on earth – Life.

I contrived for Life to begin as a single-celled microbe, allowed it to evolve into early, simple, multi cellular organisms and further into complex aquatic creatures. Gradually, life moved out of water and first became amphibian and then solely terrestrial. Somewhere in between, I allowed for life to take wings and soar the skies too. Parallel to these Animal species, called Chara – life that can move – I created the Achara – the immobile life, commonly known as Plant Life, which provides food for sustenance of all life on earth. I am often amazed by the sheer number and variety of both Charas and Acharas on Earth.

This evolutionary journey needed suitable life supporting conditions. So I first placed the Earth at just the right distance from the Sun – not too close, not too far – so that all life on Earth is Solar-powered.

Next, I endowed three-fourths of Earth with life-enhancing water and diluted the surrounding air so that its composition was optimal for life-energizing Prana. I also designed ingenious cycles, like the rotation revolution cycles, day-night cycles, seasons, water-cycle, oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle and many more to allow for continuity and perpetuity.”

Vishnu & Shiva heard him patiently. They knew there was more.

“For a very long time, evolution was predominantly physical. Then I gave the story a significant twist. When monkeys became apes, evolution was still primarily physical. But another dimension had started its play – the mind – “manas”. Manushya was born. The story of evolution accelerated with rapid developments of Manushya’s manas. With smart use of his mind, like with tool-making, communication,

language, community-building etc., Manushya soon climbed to the top of the evolutionary ladder. Isn’t it apt that he is also called Human or Man?”

Seeing Brahma ooze pride, Vishnu glanced at Mahesh, wondering where all this was leading. Mahesh shrugged and threw him a quick, naughty wink. Brahma ignored the gestures and continued.

“I could see that man was struggling to come to terms with his rapidly evolving mind. He was ambitious, exploitative, violent … and eternally unhappy. So, I played my master stroke. I added the most potent dimension to evolution – Consciousness.

I created parallel universes – six of them above Bhuloka, as stations for man at various stages of growth of his consciousness. Man can evolve to Bhuvarloka by transcending his Karmic cycle and become semi divine, then move up to Swarloka, where the 33 million Devas, all the Gandharvas and Apsaras are stationed, further up to Maharloka and Janaloka, where realized beings, who through tapas have acquired more power than the devas, exist. Next, man can proceed to Tapaloka, where he joins other immortals and finally to Satyaloka, which is my abode – the abode of the Supreme Brahman. Man can climb this consciousness ladder and eventually achieve Eternal bliss.

I also allowed for man to get demoted to seven lower lokas of consciousness – Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala – based on negative karmic tendencies, where he suffers the company of Rakshasas, Daityas, Danavas, Yakshas and Nagas.”

Brahma took a deep breath and closed his eyes, as if checking if he had missed anything.

“My dear brothers, this is the Brahmanda I created. It is beautiful, it is fair and it works – like a well oiled, perpetual machine. I like it. I am proud of it” he summarized, looking and feeling immensely satisfied with his narration as well as his creation.

“And Oh! Before I forget, I must graciously acknowledge your roles too. Though fair, my Brahmandic machinery is not perfect. It break downs from time to time. Like the time when the Vedas were stolen from me, or when the Asura brothers Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, Ravana and Kumbhakarna wrecked havoc! That is when, you, O! Maha Vishnu, descended in form of one of your Avatars, did your

jazz, and restored the system configurations back to normal. You have been the perfect maintenance

man for the Brahmanda. And the entire Brahmanda loves you for that and calls you the Preserver!” Brahma looked towards Vishnu and gave a formal bow. Vishnu acknowledged the compliment.

“And you, Mahesh. Though reclusive, you have loved every creature in Brahmanda as your own. Though detached, you have never shied away from coming to their rescue when they were in trouble. Most importantly, when the machine has, from time to time, not responded to maintenance, you have chipped in and rebooted the system altogether. Shut down and Switch on! The Terminator! The Brahmanda respects you for that!” Maheshwar brushed off of the compliment with a friendly wave of his hand.

Vishnu took the cue and coaxed Brahma to get the point. “So, the Creator, the Maintenance expert and the Terminator are doing a good job with the Brahmanda after all. What then is your problem, O! Brahma! What is ailing you?”

Brahma sighed a deep sigh again.

“My damn problem is – I feel unappreciated.” Brahma said with sudden vehemence. “I don’t get the respect I deserve. I don’t get the credit due to me.”

“Feel unappreciated? Don’t get respect? By whom? Don’t get credit? What are you talking about?” asked a perplexed Vishnu. “The entire creation treats you with utmost reverence. Who do you mean doesn’t give you the respect you deserve?”

“Man!” came the angry reply. “See how unfair it is!

Man, my own child, my own creation, has not built a single temple dedicated to me. Not a single temple dedicated to Brahma, the creator, the Shristikarta!

Look at Jambudweepa. There is a temple in every nook, every corner, every road of this immense land. There must be at least a lakh of them dedicated to you, Vishnu & another lakh dedicated to you, Mahesh. What’s more, for the two of you, there are temples in not one name, not one form, but scores of them. Hundreds of kings and men of renown have spent untold personal wealth in building these elaborate scientific and architectural wonders, some of which have stood for millennia. In those temples, hymns are dedicated to you as Shlokas, Sutras, Strotras and even Sahashranamas. So much so, that these idiots have segregated themselves as Vaishnavites and Shaivites, and they argue about which of you is greater. But there is not a single Brahmite on Earth.

I want to know – the creator wants to know – why is it that man feels the need to pray to and propitiate the maintenance man and the terminator so much, but has scant regard for the manufacturer himself?” Brahma was panting with anguish as he vent out his ages-long frustration.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five seconds of pin-drop silence and stunned faces looking at each other. Then Vishnu and Mahesh burst out laughing. Mahesh rolled on the floor with laughter. Vishnu bellowed with mirth, eyes streaming with tears. Brahma turned pink with embarrassment. Vishnu and Mahesh had one

look at Brahma’s face, tried to control themselves, gave up and gave in to their urge to laugh their hearts out.

Now, Brahma was really hurt. “I called you to share my feelings with you and you…” Brahma could not finish, eyes welling, voice choking with a sense of betrayal.

Vishnu and Mahesh immediately became sober. Vishnu quickly wiped his mirth-tears away and Mahesh blew his nose into his handkerchief.

“So, the issue here is - you feel that man, your own creation, has more regard for us than he has for you!” Vishnu said gently, crystallizing the problem statement. Brahma nodded in despair.

Vishnu lowered his head as if in thought. A moment later, he looked at Mahesh first and then towards Brahma and said with enormous kindness, “First of all, O! Brahma! Let’s clear a few Bhramas – misconceptions.”

Number one - Brahma did not create man!” pronounced Vishnu. Mahesh nodded in agreement.

Brahma was stunned. What is going on?, thought Brahma. Unworthy thoughts occurred to him. Are these younger Gods playing divine politics? Are they going to suggest that one of them is the creator? He had heard some theories floating in the market – some suggesting that Maha Vishnu was the Karta Dharta of the Brahmanda, solely responsible for everything from creation to dissolution. Some other suggested that someone called Rudra roared, creating primordial bangs which caused the expanding Brahmanda. There were many more parallel theories.

So far, Brahma assumed that Vishnu and Mahesh didn’t take them seriously. But now, things looked different. One of them was going to take the credit. Brahma waited in anticipation, now amused by the turn of events.

“Number two – Neither did Vishnu nor I create man!” clarified Mahesh, as though divining Brahma’s thoughts. Vishnu nodded in agreement this time.

Now, Brahma was stumped! Speechless, he just gaped at his guests.

Mahesh continued, “God didn’t create man. Man created God!”

Brahma sat up as if stung. No words came out.

Vishnu smiled kindly at Brahma and explained, “Yes, O! Brahma, Manushya – rather, his manas - created all the 33 million gods and the three Gods of the Holy Trinity, also called Trimurty. We - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar - are all his creation!”

A small, low voice squeaked – “Man created me, us?”

Mahesh explained. “The single biggest truth that all of us - 33 million gods and the three Gods - should realize is that, in this whole of Brahmanda, we do not exist anywhere other that in Manushya’s mind!

Tell me, in the whole of Brahmanda, where do we exist? Where does a billion year old being, with a white, flowing beard, sitting on a swan, exist? Where does this handsome, king-like Vishnu exist, sleeping on an infinitely coiled serpent, on an ocean of milk, with a gorgeous consort at his feet? Where does a recluse called Maheshwar exist, on snowy-capped mountains, adorned with snakes and skulls, escorted by ghosts, ghouls and a goddess? And where do all the 33 million gods exist, along with their entourage of Apsaras and Gandharvas?”

Vishnu answered rhetorically - Nowhere other than in man’s manas.

“And tell me, if a God exists, why does he almost always look like man? Why is there no earthworm-like Brahma, or a bat-like Vishnu, or a scorpion-like Maheshwar?” posed Mahesh.

“Because God is an idea created by Man.”

“God is an idea?” Brahma repeated tentatively, with misgivings. “What idea?”

Vishnu explained.

The three of us – Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar – represent three different stages of evolution of the human mind. Let’s first understand what idea Brahma represents.

Brahma represents pure, naked potential of human mind – a tremendous possibility, a great capacity – to create, to manifest, to aspire, to achieve. Nothing is impossible for the human mind. The human mind is the most powerful creative machine in existence – potentially.

“Why only potentially?” asked Brahma.

For two reasons! First, ignorance!

Most of the time, the human mind is ignorant of its own capabilities. When a child is born, it is born with infinite potential – truly infinite! You would imagine that when it grows, it will try and realize its potential and be genuinely happy. But no! It gets conditioned to ignorant belief systems, created and propagated with authority, by equally ignorant people. So, half the time, the tremendous possibility of the human mind is unused. And an unused human mind can cause tremendous misery – to itself.

Second reason – Ambition without control!

There is a small proportion of people, who realize how powerful a tool they have within themselves. And they use it - but without control. An uncontrolled, ambitious human mind can also cause tremendous misery – to others! Just look at men like Ravana, Hiranyakashyapu, Hitler, Stalin and other such humans who did use their mind, but without control. And just look at the suffering they caused to their fellow human beings and to nature.

“This, O! Brahma, is what you represent – infinite potential, but ignorant or ambitious without control”, asserted Vishnu.

“Realized human beings have always been wary of their mind. They know it is a double-edged sword – is a powerful tool, but can cause infinite misery. Little wonder then that you are a deity, but you are not worshipped unconditionally. You are worshipped in conjunction with your consort – Goddess Saraswati – who represents knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge drives away ignorance, and wisdom brings in controlled growth. That’s when humans realize – Aham Brahmosmi! – I am infinite! – and use this knowledge with humility.”

So saying, Vishnu concluded his point about Brahma and let him digest what he heard. After a prolonged gap, Brahma reluctantly nodded his acceptance.

“What, pray, does Vishnu represent?” he asked next. Mahesh took this question.

Vishnu represents a controlled and growing mind – growth being tempered with balance and sensitivity!

Firstly, Vishnu represents a human mind that recognizes its own potential and endeavors to grow and fulfill it. It is not a passive, submissive mind. It has broken free from its conditioning and yearns to grow.

However, it acknowledges that growth is never “just my growth”. Every moment of life is an engagement with another life. Hence it becomes necessary to recognize others’ potential too and see others’ hunger to fulfill their potential. So, Vishnu represents a mind that has transformed its ambition to a purpose.

Ambition is “I want to fulfill my potential.”

Purpose is “I want all of us to fulfill our potential.”

A man, with such a mind, naturally becomes a leader – one who is sensitive to others’ potential, non judgmental of their insecurities and considerate of their needs – all along, leading the masses towards a common purpose, for mutual benefit. Such a man becomes Ram, Krishna, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Abraham Lincoln.

Such a man may even achieve phenomenal personal success, even tremendous material wealth. Like Bill Gates, Dhirubhai Ambani or Steve Jobs. Which is why Goddess Lakshmi, who represents wealth and prosperity, is the consort of Vishnu. She follows people who demonstrate such a mindset.

Vishnu’s material growth is also tempered with a parallel spiritual growth. Hence, Vaishnavites wear three vertical lines on their forehead – the outer two lines, representing material growth, cupping the middle line, which represents spiritual growth. When such people go through inevitable periods of mis fortune, they are still tranquil and ride out those phases with equanimity.

Since a Vishnu-like mind represents wonderful aspects that humans care for, like peacefulness, love, strength of character, sensitivity and equanimity, and since such a mind is bound to attract material success, wealth, prosperity, popularity and good will, Vishnu is probably the most popular God of the

Trinity. There are lacs of temples deifying him. Actually, man is worshipping not Vishnu – the God, but just the ideas representing Vishnu.

Brahma nodded towards Mahesh, acknowledging how well he had articulated his point.

“Now, what idea does Maheshwar signify?” he asked Vishnu. Vishnu looked at his good friend, Mahesh with genuine fondness and explained to Brahma.

Maheshwar signifies a mind that has transcended material growth. Maheshwar represents a mind which has recognized that all things material – success or lack of it – are temporary and fleeting. And makes a conscious attempt to transcend it.

So, Maheshwar is a recluse, who shuns the material world, lives in caves and on mountains, away from the world, and delves deeper into the recesses of the human mind – and transcends it. Such a mind attains super-human Siddhis and eventually realizes the Brahman – the Infinity!

While I, Vishnu, signify engaging with the world and controlling the mind, Maheshwar signifies dis engaging with the world and transcending the mind, represented by the three horizontal lines worn on Shaivites’ foreheads.

That is why Vaishnavites and Shaivites always seem to be at loggerheads. While in reality, both Vishnu and Mahesh are different approaches to achieve the same goal – realize the Brahman within.

A long silence followed as Brahma resigned to accept the presented points. Finally, he sighed and said, “We are mere ideas?”

Vishnu shook his head emphatically. “We are not mere ideas. We are profound ideas! We are powerful ideas! We are eternal ideas – Sanatana ideas!”

Even as ideas, we are guides to man. To believers, we inspire as religion. To seekers, we inspire as milestones in their spiritual journey. Both believers and seekers become better human beings when they understand us for what we truly signify rather than as Gods.

In any case, we are not any less significant because we are ideas. In fact, we are more powerful as ideas. When man sees us as Gods, he believes we are responsible for his life and world. We become objects of prayer. We become scapegoats for his failures. But when he sees us as ideas, he takes complete responsibility for his life and world. He is inspired to become the ideas we represent. Isn’t that what we want?

Vishnu and Mahesh got up from their asanas to leave. As Mahesh kept his hand over Brahma’s shoulder, he rallied for one last time. “I can’t believe that I have to accept that we are not real,” he said heavily.

Mahesh smiled and replied calmly, “O! Brahma. All that is real is not true. All that is true may not be real.

Even though we are not real, we are the Truth – The Ultimate Truth.” Vishnu & Mahesh departed.

All alone, Brahma was restless. This was not what he had expected to happen when he had invited Vishnu and Mahesh. But it made sense. It was probably the Truth. His junior Gods had shown him who he was and why he was who he was. It was unpleasant.

He left Satyaloka, went to a random place in north-western Jambudweepa, selected a quiet place and sat in meditation. Days turned to months, months into years and years into centuries. One fine day, he opened his eyes. And lo! A temple had been built around him, with him as the deity. One solitary person stood in front of him. The creator and the created stared at each other for a few seconds. Finally, the creator turned and walked back to discharge his earthly duties in downtown Pushkar.

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