From the literary evidence in Puraanas, we know that Vyaasa divided Vedas into 4 parts, seeing the fall in the grasping capacity of the masses. He composed a Puraana Samhita with 18 Parts to explain the meaning of Vedas to every Varna. Lomaharshana studied Puraana Samhita under Vyaasa. He taught the same to his son, Ugrashrava. They both respectively narrated the same to Shaunaka, in the form of 18 Puraanas which are available today. Apart from this Vyaasa composed an Itihaasa named Jaya( जय) or Mahaabhaarata which also has 18 parts. The Bhagavad Gita, which is a part of the Mahabharata, also has 18 Chapters.
Is it a coincidence? Is it a way of organization? Or is it some code?
Long answer short… ‘ No, it’s not a coincidence.’
It has been discussed that Brahm and its immanent nature is the primary subject of Puraanas. Along with that, Puraanas talk of Creation through Sarga, Pratisarga, Maanvantra, Vamsha and Vamshanucharita. Creator and it’s creation have been explained by Vyaasa through Puraanas. So the learned individuals in the tradition agree that number 18 has a lot to do with the concept of Creation in Vedas.
The 8th kanda of Shathpath Brahman talks of a Ritual named Srishti, in which 17 Ishtikas or Bricks are used. The reason for the same is that that the 17 bricks are symbols of 17 types of creations, whose cause is Prajapati. Thus 17 types of creations and 1 Prajapati make up number 18. Then it says that there are 12 months and 5 seasons. It makes up 1 संवत्सर. The root cause of all this is Prajapati.
तस्य द्वादश मासाः, पञ्चर्तवः,संवत्सर एव प्रतूर्तिः – Shathpath Brahman-188.8.131.52
And प्रतूर्तिरष्टादशः – Yajurveda- 14.23
These verses testify that number 18 is concerned with creation.
Vedas also talk of Creation of through Chhandas ( छन्द). Vedic Mantras are in a meter called छन्द। Vedas also talk of Creation via these meters. Chhandas named Viraat and Gayatri are said to be concerned with creation. Since the creation has explained taking the land surface as a reference point, Gayatri has been linked with the Prakriti and the land. गायत्री वा इयं पृथिवी – Shathpath Brahman – 184.108.40.206. Viraat is linked to Purusha and space. वैराजो वै पुरुषः – Tandya Brahman- 2.7.8. Thus the earth and space are said to be mother and father of everything we see on this planet – द्योष्पिता पृथिवी माता। And it is well known that Gayatri Chanda contains 3 padas of 8 letters. Viraat has 10 letters in a Pada. अष्टाक्षरा गायत्री – Aitreya Brahman- 6.20 and दशाक्षरो विराट- Taitreya Upanishad- 220.127.116.11. So we see 10 and 8 make 18. Thus from this perspective as well, number 18 is linked with creation
Vedas have declared Brahm as the instrument and material cause of all existence. That’s what Vyaasa explained in Brahma Sutra via these aphorisms – जन्माद्यस्य यतः-।1.1.2।। तत्तु समन्वयात् –।1.1.4।। Since Brahm is not a subject of words, therefore certain illustrations have been given by our sages. Brahm or Consciousness is compared to a potter. First, a potter is filled with a desire to create a pot. Then it looks for material, say clay, to create it. He applies force upon that material to give it desired shape. Thus he obtains a pot. The same way he can create many other objects through that clay. If you know the nature of the clay, you know the nature of every object. Here instrument cause of objects is potter and material cause is clay. But Brahm is the instrument as well the material. This Brahm is Consciousness and has also been addressed as Aatma, or self. This Aatma is the creator as well as the creation. This whole arrangement called the Universe is created by the Shakti or power of Brahm. This power is called Maya or Prakriti. There is no difference between the power and the powerful, just as there is no difference between the flame and its heat. Yet some say they both are two different entities. The same way Maya means मा+या = that which is not. From the vantage point of सर्व खल्विदं ब्रह्म (Everything indeed is Brahm) Maya doesn’t exist, otherwise, there is Maya all around. Maya has been said to be त्रिगुणात्मिका ( one that possesses three forces). These three forces are Rajas – the force that leads to all work or action at every level of existence. Second is Tamas – Inertness at every level of existence. The third is Sattva – the balance between Rajas and Tamas. Just as Sun leads to the formation of clouds, through which Sun appears to be covered, but in fact, it’s not. Same way due to existence of Brahm, Maya appears to be covering Brahm through various layers, that lead to creation. These layers lead to the formation of the body called the Universe.
Such a sentient origin is explained by Mundaka Upanishad – 1.8 –
तपसा चीयते ब्रह्म ततोऽन्नमभिजायते।
अन्नात् प्राणो मनः सत्य लोकाः कर्मसु चामृतम्।।
Here the various layers which constitute a universe are explained. This mantra says just as a seed swells up while sprouting, same way Brahm swells up or expands, and Prakriti comes into play. Word अन्न (Anna) here refers to Prakriti. From Prakriti Praana( force of action) or Hiranyagarbhaa or Brahma is born. From it emerges Ahamkaara or the feeling of being something. Word मनः here refers to Ahamkaara. Ahamkaara leads to matter or Pancha Bhoota. The gross form of these Pancha Bhootas are Sky, air, fire, water and earth. सत्य is used for matter. This matter leads to various universes or लोकाः. In these universes happens karmas and karma’s results are experienced in these worlds.
Now if we try and understand this mantra, we find that – Karma is happening in the universe. Universe is due to matter. The matter is perceived through Ahamkaara- the feeling of being something. Ahamkara emerges from Hiranyagarbhaa. Hiranyagarbhaa is born from Prakriti. Prakriti or Maya repose in Brahm. So the Consciousness covered through these layers is Ishwara( God). The same consciousness at the level of a human being or any other creature in a universe called Jeeva. One consciousness appears to be in many forms. Just as the space in a pond is not different than the whole of the space. The nature of space is the same, whether in a pond or anywhere else. The same space is also seen as a reflection on the water surface of the pond. In the same way, the Consciousness of the universe and that of a body in the universe is one. And the feeling of individuality due to reflection of this Consciousness in the brain is Chidaabhas- चिदाभास।
This thing is very well explained in the Adhyaatma Ramayana 1.(45-46) –
जलाशये महाकाशस्तदवच्छिन्न एव हि। प्रतिबिम्बाख्यमपरं दृश्यते त्रिविधं नभः।। 45।।
बुद्धयवच्छिन्नचैतन्यमेकं पूर्णमथापरम्। आभासस्त्वपरं बिम्बभूतमेवं त्रिधा चितिः।। 46।।
At the level of Jeeva, the Consciousness expresses itself through three bodies:
• The Physical body (स्थूल शरीर) – an arrangement of gross forms of 5 Bhootas- earth, water, fire, air and sky. It’s the visible body born of parents. It is sustained through nutrition we intake. This is the body which is experienced in waking state.
• The subtle body (सूक्ष्म शरीर ) – senses and outer aspects of mind which contain sensory potentials of touch, vision, taste and smell. This subtle body expresses itself through the physical body. And this subtle body experiences the results of karma, not the real self Aatma. When we are dreaming, we experience subtle body minus the physical body. The aspects of mind due to their diverse functions are called – Manas, Buddhi, Chitta and Ahamkara. It’s Ahamkara, which makes us identify as body or mind. So long as there is life, there is Ahamkara.
• Causal Body ( कारण शरीर) – It’s that part which consists of tendencies which we acquire through karmas of present and past births. These tendencies lead to the cycle of births. It also contains the three forces above mentioned – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. We experience this body in higher states of Yoga such as Samadhi. It is this body which expresses itself through the subtle body. It is the causal body which is born again and again along with the subtle body, not the real self Aatma.
At the level of Ishwara, the physical body is a universe. The subtle body of Ishwara consists of various Gods of that universe, the senses, and outer aspects of mind which contain sensory potentials. The potentials are seats of these gods. These Gods preside over Jeeva too. These Gods are Dig( God of directions) for sound potential, Vaayu (Lord of air) for the potential of touch, Surya (Sun) for vision potential, Varuna for taste potential, Ashwini kumaras for smell potential. Brahma is Buddhi, Rudra is Ahamkara, Chandra is Manas and Prakriti is Chitta – (Bhagvata- Skanda-2, Chapter.5-6)
All existence, with Ishwara as a reference point is called samashti( समष्टि). And when the reference point is jeeva, the existence is Vayashti( व्यष्टि). Through तत् त्वम् असि – That art thou. (Chandogya Upanishad), Vedas urge upon the creatures to know themselves as Brahm, shattering all barriers and limitations. This oneness of Jeevatma and Parmaatma is the Jnaana( the highest knowledge).
Now this order of existence will disclose the secret of number 18.
Since this Aatma or consciousness is classified as three, for the process of Creation.
• Kshetrajna ( क्षेत्रज्ञ) : The one who resides in a particular area(क्षेत्र) is called Khetrajna( क्षेत्रज्ञ). This Aatma resides in a region called Universe, or at human level, in the body. This Aatma is क्षेत्रज्ञ। That’s what Krishna says in Gita( 13.1-2) –
इदं शरीरं कौन्तेय क्षेत्रमित्यभिधीयते।
एतद्यो वेत्ति तं प्राहुः क्षेत्रज्ञ इति तद्विदः।।1।।
क्षेत्रज्ञं चापि मां विद्धान सर्वक्षेत्रषु भारत।
क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोर्ज्ञानम् यत्तज्ज्ञानं मतं मम।।2।।
• Antaraatma – ( अंतरात्मा) When Aatma experiences happiness-sorrow, and other dualities, it’s called Antaraatma. This forms the 5 Koshas at human level. In other words subtle body and causal body form Antaraatma.
जीवसंज्ञोऽन्तरात्माऽन्यः सहजः सर्वदेहिनाम्। येन वेदयते सर्वं सुखं दुखं च जन्मसु।। Manu smriti, chapter-12।।
• Bhootaatma – ( भूतात्मा) : When Aatma performs karma it’s called Bhootaatma. This is testified by Manusmriti too: योऽस्यात्मनः कारयिता तं क्षेत्रज्ञ प्रचक्षते। यः करोति तु कर्माणि स भूतात्मोच्यते बुधैः।।Now this Kshetrajna is further classified as :
• Paraatpar (परात्पर) – The Aatma, which has the potency to give rise to a number of universes.
• Avyaya (अव्यय) – When Aatma which never undergoes any sort of change, is encased within a body.
वेदाविनाशिनं नित्यं य एनमजमव्ययम्। Gita- 2.21।।
• Akshara ( अक्षर) – Is the instrument cause of all existence.
• Kshara (क्षर) – The material cause of existence.
This classification as क्षर And अक्षर is based on Gita – 15.16-17.
Antaraatma is further classified as:
• Avyaktaatma (अव्यक्तात्मा) – one is alive due to Avyaktaatma.
• Mahanaatma ( महानात्मा) – the repository of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. In other words aforementioned causal body
• Vijnanaatma ( विज्ञानात्मा) – It is the विज्ञानमयकोश( Vijnanamaya kosha). It leads to all Dharma-adharma, knowledge-ignorance, attachment-detachment etc. Buddhi along with senses form this sphere.
• Prajnanaatma – ( प्रज्ञानात्मा) – Manas (मन) along with senses forms this sphere. The desire towards a particular thing, and actions in pursuit of it, are governed by it.
• Praanaatma ( प्राणात्मा) – the vital force of life, which is of 5 types due to its different roles.
Kathopanishad 1.3.10-11 mentions it :
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यःपरं मनः। मनसस्तु परा बुद्धि: बुद्धेरात्मा महान् परः।।
महतः परमव्यक्तं अव्यक्तात् पुरुषः परः। पुरुषान्न परं किञ्चित् सा काष्ठा सा परा गति:।।
Bhootaatma is primarily classified as Shareer( शरीर), Hamsaatma( हंसात्मा) and Divyaatma( दिव्यात्मा).
• Shareer- the physical bodies of all creatures is Shareer.
• Hamsaatma- it has been explained as:
स्वप्नेन शारीरमाभिप्रहत्यासुप्तः सुप्तानभिचाकशीति। शुकमादाय पुनरेति स्थानं हिरण्यमयः पूरुष एकहंसः।
प्राणेन रक्षन्नवरं कुलायं बहिः कुलायादमृतश्चरित्वा। स ईयते अमृतो यत्र कामं हिरण्यमयः पूरुष एकहंसः।।
Meaning: This Hamsaatma, walks out of this body, even when one is alive, and comes back after having what it wanted. But it can never be severed from its body, for it is connected with the body via a thread called Praana. After the death of the body, it’s abode is destroyed, therefore it builds a new abode. It can actually be seen sometimes even after death, it talks too.
Vyaasa too after the Mahabharata war showed the Hamsaatma of the dead of Kauravas to Gandhaari.
• Divyaatma – It’s further of 3 types. Namely Vaishvaanar( वैश्वानर), Taijas( तैजस) and Praajna( प्राज्ञ). Vaishvaanar are those bodies wherein consciousness finds minimum expression e.g. Rocks, stones etc. Taijas are plants and animals. Praajna are the ones where there is the maximum expression on consciousness, that is humans and certain animals
This Praajna is further classified as Karmaatma( कर्मात्मा), Chidaabhas( चिदाभास) and Chidaatma( चिदात्मा). No one can stay without performing karma. Karma is derived from Sanskrit root kri, which means to do something. The vital force or Praana is incomplete without karma. That’s why Shruti says: अकृत्स्ना उ वै प्राणाः ऋते कर्मणः।तस्मात् कर्माग्निसृजत् ( Shathpaath). Karma is ephemeral. Despite that, it is hard to free oneself from the Samskaara( tendency) developed due to it. One can’t attain Mukti without shattering theses samkaaras. These Samskaara are Karmaatma. Chidaabhas is rays of the sun called Aatma. This Chidaabhas is a reflection of pure Consciousness in the mind, due to which, senses, vital force and other aspects of existence perform their functions. And Chidaatma is pure Consciousness, which is all immanent. It doesn’t do anything. But it’s mere induction is making everything happen. This Chidaatma is further classified into 3 parts – Vibhuti Lakshana( विभूति लक्षण), Shri Lakshana( श्री लक्षण) and Urka Lakshana( उर्क लक्षण) on the basis of Gita-10.42. So Bhootaatma thus 9 types in total.
So we conclude:
⁃ क्षेत्रज्ञ- 4 types
⁃ अंतरात्मा: 5types
⁃ भूतात्मा: 9types
Thus 4+5+9= 18.
ONE Aatma, for the sake of Creation, is seen as 18. That’s what Shri Krishna explained in 18 Chapters of Bhagavad Gita. That’s what Vyaasa explained through 18 Parvas of Mahabharata and Purana Samhita. This is the code of Veda Vyaasa.
Pandit Madhusudan Ojha has written a lot about this code in his Purana related works. He also opines that the sequence of 18 Puranas too has a secret behind it. This too is connected with creation. Here his opinion with on the number 18 is being explained.
The sequence of 18 Puranas In most of the Puranas is :
• Brahma Purana
• Padma Purana
• Vishnu Purana
• Shiva Purana/ Vaayu Purana
• Bhagvata Purana
• Naradiya Purana
• Markandeya Purana
• Agni Purana
• Bhavishya Purana
• Brahmavaivarta Purana
• Linga Purana
• Varaha Purana
• Skanda Purana
• Vaamana Purana
• Kurma Purana
• Matsya Purana
• Garuda Purana
• Brahmaanda Purana.
This sequence is available in detail in Matsya Purana- ( अध्याय 13), Vishnu Purana – (3.6.20-24), Bhagwat Purana – (12.13.3-8).
Devi Bhaagwat too names these Puraanas in the following shloka:
मद्वयं भद्वयं चैव ब्रत्रयं वचतुष्टयम्।
अनापद लिंग-कू-स्कानि पुराणानि पृथक्- पृथक।।
2 Puranas named with म- Matsya and Markandeya
2 Puranas with भ- Bhagvata and Bhavishya
3 Puranas with ब्र- Brahma, Brahmaanda, Brahmavaivarta.
4 with व – Vaamana, Vishnu, Vaayu,Varaha.
5 with अ ना पद लिंग कूस्क,- Agni, Naarada, Padma, Linga, Garuda, Kurma, Skanda Purana
This sequence is deemed to be of a great significance for the creation aspect. You must have seen or heard of the story in which Vishnu is resting of Sheshnaaga, and a lotus emanates from his navel. This lotus is the seat of 4 headed Brahmaa, and then creation happens.
The above-mentioned sequence of Puraanas explains the creation order in Puraanas, as per Pandit Ojha.
• Brahma Puraana explains that the creation happened through Brahma or Hiranyagarbhaa.
Mundakupnishad too says ब्रह्मा देवानाम् प्रथमः संबभूव. This Brahma is the root of Creation as per Shathapath Brahman- 18.104.22.168. This Brahma is dealt with in Brahma Purana.
• Padma or Lotus is a source of Brahma. Padma Purana explains it. But it must be clearly understood that word Padma connotes not literal lotus. तच्च पद्मं पुरा भूतं पृथिवीरूपमुत्तमं। यत्पद्मं सा रसा देवी पृथिवी परिचक्ष्यते।। This verse from Padma Purana says that this lotus is ‘The earth’. This Padma, in the beginning, was radiant and was like a fireball. This fireball later turned into earth. And the ‘Agni’ or temperature within this Prithvi is it’s a vital force. It’s Brahma or Hiranyagarbhaa which is 4 headed. That is it expands in all directions. Later moon emerged. And thus with Agni – fire & Soma – moon, considering earth as a reference point, अग्निषोमात्मक world came into being. एतदेव महापद्मभूत हैरण्यमयं जगत – These words of Padma Purana too explain the same.
• The source of this Lotus/Padma called earth is Vishnu. Vishnu is 12th Aditya. Thus this Vishnu is Sun, from where Lotus called earth emanated
• The Vaayu Purana describes the base of Vishnu. Vishnu upholds our 3 Lokas i.e. भू भुवः स्वः। The region beyond these Lokas, is called महः. This is the Shesha on which Vishnu rests. Vaayu Puraana or Shiva Puraana explains it.
• This Shesha exists in the cosmic ocean which is called परमेष्ठी Parameshthi. Bhagvata Purana is called Parameshtha samhita – पारमेष्ठय संहिता। It is also called Jana जनः लोक।
• The base of जनः is Swayambhu region which is called Tapas or तपः Loka. The cosmic ocean called parameshthya consists of Apa, अप। अप is called नार or Nara. आपो नारा इति प्रोक्ता आपो वै नरसूनवः। and नारद – नारों ददाति इति नारदः। the source of Nara is Naarada. This Swayambhu region is addressed as Naarada. That’s what is explained in Naarada Purana.
• Manu smriti’s first Chapter is a testimony for this order:
ततः स्वयंभूर्भगवानव्यक्तो व्यञजयन्निदम्। महाभूतादिवृत्तौजाः प्रादुरासीत्तमोनदः।।
सोऽभिध्याय शरीरात् स्वात्सिसृक्षुर्विविधाः प्रजाः। अप एव ससर्जादौ तासु बीजमवासृजत्।।
तदण्डमभवद्धैमं सहस्त्रांशुसमप्रभम्। तस्मिञ्जज्ञे स्वयं ब्रह्मा सर्वलोकपितामहः।।
आपो नारा इति प्रोक्ता आपो वै नरसूनवः। ता यदस्यायनं पूर्वं तेन नारायणः स्मृतः।।
तस्मिन्नण्डे स भगवानुषित्वा परिवत्सरम्। स्वयमेवात्मनो ध्यानात्तदण्डमकरोद् द्विधा।।
ताभ्यां स शकलाभ्यां च दिवं भूमिं च निर्ममे। मध्ये व्योम दिशश्चाष्टवपां स्थानं च शाश्वं।।
Here Naaraayana has been used for Brahma only. This Naaraayana is Vishnu in Puraanas.
But it’s well known that एकमूर्तिस्त्रयो देवा ब्रह्मविष्णुमहेश्वराः. So Manu uses one word for Naaraayana as well as Swayambhu from the vantage point of non-duality.
Then the sequence of remaining Puranas is the sequence of diverse ideologies with respect to creation.
⁃ Some believed Prakriti to be the root of Creation. This ideology is depicted in Markandeya Purana
⁃ Some say Agni is the root of existence. So this Agni is discussed in Agni Purana
⁃ Some say the Sun, from which earth emerged and hence from which Agni emerged, is the root of existence. This Surya is discussed in Bhavishya Purana
⁃ Then the idea that all creation is an illusion which appears to be true due to the existence of Brahm. Creation is a ‘vivarta’ (विवर्त)of Brahm. This is explained by Brahmavaivarta Purana.
This creation is due to Brahm.
Brahm also assumes various forms and incarnates in it.
⁃ Linga and Skanda, these are incarnations of Shiva.
⁃ Varaha, Vaamana, Kurma, Matsya are incarnations of Vishnu.
On the basis of these incarnations Linga Purana, Skanda Purana, Varaha purana, Matsya Purana and Kurma Purana are named.
⁃ In this creation karmas are performed. Karmas lead to various cycles of births and rebirths. This is explained in Garuda Purana.
⁃ The expanse of this creation is explained in Brahmaanda Purana.
Thus the sequence of 18 Puranas has been linked with the creation.
But one thing is to be noted… All this sequence is in respect with one universe. Puranas talk of many a universe. Each universe has its own Vishnu, Brahma etc. Here all explanation is in regard with only one Universe.
The secret of number 18, is hence decoded.
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