Indian logic or the school of Tarka argues that only that which existed previously can come into existence yet again. No novel object comes into existence unprecedented. This is a logical argument that extends to the concept of creation as well, and is agreed upon by the other schools of Indian philosophy as well. In other words, the word ‘śṛṣṭi’ is not so much novel creation, but rather a ‘remanife station’ from the imperceptible. The word śṛṣṭi has long been translated to the English word, creation, and still holds, thereby magnifying this confusion. The Ṛg-Veda states,
सूर्याचन्द्रमसो धाता यथापूर्वमकल्पयत्।
दिवं च पृथिवीं चान्तरिक्षमथो स्वः॥
sūryācandramaso dhātā yathāpūrvamakalpayat|
divaṁ ca pṛthivīṁ cāntarikṣamatho svaḥ||
The creator makes manifest as before, the sun, the moon, the heaven, the earth and the ether, unaided.
In other words, not only does the creator create in accordance with a model that existed previously, he was also doing so unaided either by an external material or agent. This process of creation is likened to the weaving of a cobweb by the spider, where the spider draws the material required to weave the web from its belly. This spider evinces no mutation after having woven the web, for it does not appear emaciated from the expended material or energy. Similarly, the process of creating, being the material cause for creation, and abiding in creation as the spark of animism do not bring mutation to immutable Supreme.
यथोर्णनाभिः सृजते गृह्णाते च यथा पृथिव्यामोषधयः संभवन्ति।
यथा सतः पुरुषात्केशलोमानि तथाक्षरात्संभवतीह विश्वम्॥
yathorṇanābhiḥ sṛjate gṛhṇāte ca yathā pṛthivyāmoṣadhayaḥ saṁbhavanti|
yathā sataḥ puruṣātkeśalomāni tathākṣarātsaṁbhavatīha viśvam||
Just as the spider casts forth and retracts (its webs), as trees sprout from the earth, as hair shoot forth in the person (body) of a living being, so too does the universe arise from the immortal (Supreme).
This process of creation however, is described in the Vedas and the Purāṇas, with minor differences in sequence. These differences are better understood as flavors attaching to the process of creation at different times. While the basic process itself remains unchanged, admittedly, the sequence seems to vary from time to time.
Scriptures state that the creator, the act of creation and creation itself are all embodiments/manifestations of the Supreme. Philosophical viewpoints vary with regards to He who is referred to as the creator in these scriptures. The creator can either be a personified Godhead, or a disembodied seat of Supreme potency, depending on the philosophical school of thought. For instance, the monistic school of Ādi-Śaṅkara would argue for a formless, beyond-attributes Ātman, making itself apparent as creation. A dualistic school of dvaita on the other hand, would argue for a personified Godhead such as Viṣṇu or Śiva, creating beings in their image. The dualistic school of Sāṅkhya would argue that creation results from the combination of the three attributes of satva, rajas and tamas in Prakṛti.
While philosophical differences exist, all philosophies agree that creation and annihilation are an endless cycle maintained in the illusory fabric of time. They also agree that the process of creation and annihilation are corollaries, and in combination, represent the nature of the universe as being ephemeral. Annihilation has been categorized into two major kinds, nimitta-pralaya and prakṛti-pralaya. The former is explained as the destruction of the lower worlds of Bhū, Bhuvaḥ and Suvaḥ at the end of Brahmā’s day, while the latter is explained as the disintegration of the entire universe until everything is returned to an imperceptible state of oneness with the Supreme.
Creation too, as a result, falls into two basic categories. The creation that begins after nimitta-pralaya and therefore comprises of the manifestation of the lower three worlds, and the creation that succeeds prakṛti-pralaya, and therefore comprises of the manifestation of all created beings including Brahmā. The cycle of creation that succeeds nimitta-pralaya is secondary and is called pratisarga. In this cycle of creation, Brahmā awakens from slumber and finds the lower worlds destroyed. The earth, one amongst the three lower worlds, lies immersed deep in cataclysmic deluge. The Supreme Being then assumes the form of the cosmic wild-boar (Varāha-mūrti) and plunges into the ocean. Bhūmi-Devī who lay in the deep bowels of the ocean, beholds him with grateful eyes and pleads with him, “pray lift me from this depth as you have done in the days of yore”. Besieged thus, the compassionate lord lets out a murmur that resembled in its tenor, the Sāma-Veda. Bearing her upon his pearly tusk, the cosmic boar rises from the deluge, while his hooves make indents in the bottom of the ocean, through which water begins draining into the nether world.
The might of his breath as he rose, scatters the pious sages who inhabited the higher world called Janaloka. Stirred to their depths with devotion, they begin eulogizing the cosmic boar, who was essentially wisdom embodied. To the tumult of devout outpourings of sages, Varāha-Mūrti places Bhūmi upon the surface of the ocean and wills that she does not sink back in. Assuming the potency of Brahmā, the creative spark of the Supreme, the Supreme lord then wills for mountains, land masses and other objects to sprout upon earth. He then divides the earth into seven great continents as it were before the deluge. He recreates the other worlds that had been destroyed in the calaclysm. With the basis for created beings now ready, Brahmā further creates the inhabitants of these worlds in accordance with the karmic storage of each soul. Although Brahmā is the perceived creator, the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa states that he is only the instrumental cause. Creation itself issues forth from the power and the will of the Supreme, Hari.
ब्रह्मरूपधरो देवस्ततोऽसौ रजसावृतः।
चकार सृष्टिं भगवांश्चतुर्वक्त्रधरो हरिः॥
brahmarūpadharo devastato’sau rajasāvṛtaḥ|
cakāra sṛṣṭiṁ bhagavāṁścaturvaktradharo hariḥ||
The Supreme Lord, Hari, assuming the attribute of rajas, donned the role of the four-faced Brahmā and indulged in creation.