Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Three of Life 3: Episode I


Initially used by Buddhists and Hindus, the Sanskrit Word Nirvana was used to describe the final stage of enlightenment that every human being should strive his entire life to achieve. When attained, greed, hate, suffering, sadness, pain, or any other everyday emotions and worries would no longer affect a person as he sees the big picture of life and has an answer to whatever that may confront him, for Nirvana brings its possessor unmatchable strength and purity by which he and his life become under his control. Once you have reached Nirvana, you become the ultimate human being…


(errhh, I mean:)

EPISODE I: The light of Dawn

In continuation of our efforts at a better understanding of people around us with a hope for all of us to live in harmony, I continue my humble role with the trilogy I had begun last month. I will break the rule again and jump backwards to Episode I instead of II. Why? Well, we talked about what happens after the everything ends, and I thought it would be more appropriate to go to the other extreme and see how it all began. Bear with my impulses…


Getting right into it, have you ever heard of the infamous 1948 Big Bang theory by the Russian-American Physicist George Gamow ? It is the theory that the majority of people (especially in the scientific milieu) embrace in one way or the other. Here is what it says: at first (12-14 billion years ago) there was only an extremely compressed primary atom/particle that (for some reason) experienced a massive inner explosion from which lead to a great amount of scattered subatomic particles (electrons, protons, quarks, etc…) which reacted chemically together due to the high temperature and density from the explosion leading to the formation of the basic components of life, and from then things started to evolve into what we see right now, and the universe has been expanding ever since. Although it seems furiously ridiculous at first, a great deal of science does stand behind this theory. When looked at it from a different perspective, isn't it strange that those particles would combine in a random(?) fashion to produce what we see now? Life, the human body, or even just the eye, or… Oh wait, I wrote about that in October. What I want to say is that religions do not necessarily stand against this theory because of that last very logical perspective. But other than incorporating the Big Bang into their cultural/religious thought, how do others explain the creation of life?

2 Billion Stories!
To start off, let's look at what nearly two billion Chinese think. I believe that is a very economical beginning, don't you think? Well, in the beginning, the heavens and earth were still one and all was in chaos. The universe was like a big black egg, carrying the creator named Pan Gu. Waking up after 18000 years feeling suffocation, he wielded a mighty axe with which he cracked open the egg. The light matter floated up and formed the heavens, while the cold & turbid matter stayed below to form earth. Pan Gu stood in the middle to provide support, his head touching the sky, his feet well steadfast on the earth. The heavens, the earth, and Pan Gu himself grew at a rate of ten feet per day, until after another 18000 years the Sky and Earth as we know them were created and between them was a distance of 9 million Li (a traditional Chinese measuring unit). Upon Pan Gu's death, his breath became the wind and clouds, and his voice the thunder, while one of his eyes became the sun and the other the moon. His body and limbs turned to five big mountains and his blood formed the water. His veins became far-stretching roads and his muscles fertile land. The innumerable stars in the sky came from his hair and beard, and flowers and trees from his skin and the hairs on his body. His marrow turned to jade and pearls. His sweat flowed like the good rain and sweet dew that nurtured all things on earth. Some say that the fleas and lice on his body became the ancestors of mankind. Until today, even with atheism being China's main belief as a Communist/Maoist state, Pan Gu is still referred to a lot and many everyday proverbs refer to him. In China, instead of saying: "It's been over a long time ago", they could say "It's been over since the days of Pan Gu."

The Lotus and the Navel
Going to the West from China, we come across one of the places where mysticism plays a major part in people's everyday life: India, the home of Hinduism and the birthplace of Buddhism. As Hinduism is considered to be the father of Buddhism, we shall focus on it for efficiency-purposes (blame modern Business theory and price-cuts!). According to the most popular of many creation stories (versions could be a more accurate term), it is believed that before time began, there was no heaven, earth, nor anything else. A vast dark ocean was all that existed, upon which a giant cobra floated. Within the protective serpent laid Lord Vishnu sleeping (either as himself or while disguised as the most famous hero in Indian belief, Krishna, who was Vishnu disguised as a human named Krishna to save humanity: check the Mahabharata), undisturbed by anything as there was nothing to be disturbed by.  Yet from the depths a humming began to sound. It grew and spread filling the emptiness with energy, bringing the night to an end, and Vishnu awakening. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu’s navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Brahma awaiting the Vishnu’s command, who told him that the time has come for the beginning. Vishnu commanded: ‘Create the World.’ Then, a wind swept up the waters as Vishnu and the Cobra disappeared, while Brahma remained in the lotus flower, floating and tossing on the sea. He lifted up his arms to calm the wind and the ocean, then he split the lotus flower into three. He stretched one part into the heavens, another part into the earth, while with the third part of the flower he created the skies. From then on, he began creating all creatures while giving them their ability to move, hear, see, smell, taste, etc.. and thus life as we know it came to exist. Buddhists also offer many different accounts of creation, some exactly like that of Hinduism, others are variations of the Hindu story, while others are totally different. However, the perspective differs. The majority do not believe in Gods, at least not in the common sense, but believe that life is an illusion that the human being created for himself. If I dwell further on that, I may need 30 more pages to try to make you understand ideas that no one (including myself; the writer!), not even the majority of Buddhists, understands. So, I shall stop right here.

Feathers of a Raven
Moving to North America, we find a great amount of stories of how this universe was created, with each native tribe having one more story exclusive or shared story. In general, however, there is a common element: the role of animals. Animals and other creatures are said to have a major role in the creation of life, and the line-up includes coyotes, bears, spiders, turtles, and especially the Raven (my personal favourite), from which I chose two of its most famous stories. For the Eskimo, in the beginning, only the Raven was born out of the darkness. Feeling week and ignorant of what or why he is whatever he is, he decided to learn more about the area where he was, going around feeling trees, plants, and grass. He thought about such things and soon realized that he was the Raven Father; the Creator of All Life. With newly gathered strength he spread his wings and flew out of the darkness to find new land that he later called the earth. Raven wanted living things to be on the earth, so he made plants. But one day, Raven was flying overhead and saw a giant peapod, and out came a man who was the first Eskimo. Father Raven fed the man, creating caribou and musk oxen for him to eat. Father Raven did this for many days, while teaching the man in devotion to respect his fellow creatures, and not much later the woman was created, and Raven taught the pair to make clothing, build homes, and make a canoe. The two became parents. Other men came from the peapods, and Raven fed and taught them too. When they were ready, Raven made women for these men and they, too, became parents. Soon the earth had many children. For another tribe, the Raven is the Bringer of Light. This is the main version of their tale. One day, long ago, Raven was on a desolate beach. Alone, he needed company and came upon a half-open clamshell. When he examined the shell, he saw tiny people inside. The people were shy and slowly peeked out of the shell. "Come out! Come out!" called Raven. The tiny beings opened the shell and climbed onto the sandy earth. These were the first Haida, and from them came humanity.

In Africa, there are tons of creation stories, each belonging to the many dispersed tribe, and are usually short and detail-free. For example, the famous Zulu tribe believe that Unkulunkulu is the creator, who came from the aquatic grasses and from them he created people and cattle before creating everything else there is, and then teaching the Zulu how to hunt, how to make fire, and how to grow food. The Shilluks of the Nile region, for example, tell a story in which humankind is fashioned out of clay. In each region of the world in which the creator traveled, he created humans from the materials available, making some white, others red or brown, and the Shilluk black. He then took a piece of earth and gave them arms, eyes, etc. This story says much about their values and culture. In distributing the characteristics to man, he chose first to give them the ability to do work through the use of their arms and legs. They were then given the ability to see and taste their food. Finally, they were given speech and hearing with which to entertain oneself ("An African Story"). This shows the value system at work among the Shilluk, that work comes above all else. It also attempts to explain the differences between men of various races by telling of how they came about. The Boshongo (Bantu tribe in Central Africa) hold that in the beginning there was only darkness, water, and the great god Bumba (yeah yeah, I know what you're thinking!). One day Bumba, in pain from a stomachache, vomited up the sun. The sun dried up some of the water, leaving land. Still in pain, Bumba vomited up the moon, the stars, and then some animals: the leopard, the crocodile, the turtle, and, finally, some men, one of whom, Yoko Lima was white like Bumba.
At first was… The Kangaroo!
In Australia/New Zealand region lives a group of people called the Maoris who preserve their habits and beliefs until this very day since the days of Pan Gu (check above if you forgot about what that meant ( ). They believe that at first there were only Rangi (heaven) and Papa (Earth) who lived with their six children Gods, of which each one was responsible for a certain task, in darkness. This darkness drove their children insane, and thus they decided that something had to be done. One of them devised a plan to separate their parents so that light would appear into the world, which was finally accepted by all excepted one: Tawahiri-ma-tea, the God of Winds.. Each one of the conspiring brothers tried and failed until one of them succeeded, and separated to their two God-Parents, making light shine all over and reveal that their parents had created many (dormant?) human beings all over the land. Tawahiri began to revolt against his brothers, igniting a struggle that lead to the deaths of all the brothers except the human-god, Tu-Matauenga. From then on, life continued as it is, with Rangi and Papa as heaven (sky) and earth, and Tu-Matauenga following up on  human beings.

Huitzilopochtli, Nephthys, and Coyolxanuhqui!
Going back to the past a bit, we are left with two more stories to tell. I am trying to get a bit out of each region as you see. In Mexico, during the Aztec days and until now by some indigenous people, the mother of the Aztec creation story Coatlique (the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes), decorated with skulls, snakes, and lacerated hands. Coatlique first gave birth to Coyolxanuhqui, goddess of the moon, and to a group of male offspring, who became the stars. Then one day Coatlique found feather ball and she brought it near to her body. When she looked for it later, it was gone, at which time she realized that she was again pregnant. Her children, the moon and stars did not believe her of course and decided to kill her out of shame. But while they were preparing to kill her, Coatlique gave birth to the fiery god of war, Huitzilopochtli, who killed them both with the aid of a fire snake. He beheaded Coyolxanuhqui and threw her body into a deep gorge in a mountain, where it lies dismembered forever. Due to the fight, the cosmos was born of catastrophe as the heavens literally crumbled to pieces. The earth mother fell and was fertilized, while her children were torn apart by fratricide and then scattered and disjointed throughout the universe, creating human beings all over.
To end this demonstration, we go back to the Egyptian Story of creation, in which only the ocean existed at first. Then Ra, the sun, came out of an egg (or a flower, in some versions) that appeared on the surface of the water. Ra brought forth four children, the gods Shu and Geb and the goddesses Tefnut and Nut. Shu and Tefnut became the atmosphere. They stood on Geb, who became the earth, and raised up Nut, who became the sky. Ra ruled over all. Geb and Nut later had two sons, Set and Osiris, and two daughters, Isis and Nephthys. Osiris was the successor of Ra as king of the earth, helped by Isis, his sister-wife (at a certain time, pharaohs used to marry their brothers and sisters). Set, however, hated his brother and killed him out of jealousy by tempting him to sit in a magnificent coffin, only to lock him up and send him away to his death. Isis then found and embalmed her husband's body with the help of the god Anubis, who thus became the god of embalming. The powerful magic of Isis brought Osiris back to life, who became king of the afterlife. Horus, who was the son of Osiris and Isis, later defeated Set in a great battle and became king of the earth, and the universe came to full stable existence thereon. The Greek account of creation is too long to be included here due to space, so I will not add it although I had planned to.
Finally: Phew! That was a huge load of info. What do you think? Any thoughts, questions, ideas you'd like me to write about? You know how to reach me: ravensnirvana@yahoo.com and CC to teenstuff@link.net. People, write or ask me anything, even just a Hi. I'd be honoured to get your emails. I thank everyone who takes time to write me, because you help me a lot and thus make a good difference in what others read. I would also like to thank everyone who had sent me kind words during my sick days. This is the first chance I had to write you this (although it reached you very late). I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow alot of creation MYTHS.good work.Pics would be a nice touch.

11:23 AM  

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