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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119

I'm a fifth-grader from Saudi Arabia. I was born in New Jersey, U.S.A. My parents are Hindu. I am Hindu too. I would like to know how man was made and how the earth was made too. I would love it if you wrote me a letter and told me how they were created.

Miss Anjna Nain 
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Our reply:

Modern scientists invent many theories about creation, but because material scientists are limited and defective in so many ways, none of their accounts are trustworthy. In the West people are attracted to such speculative theories because the description of creation in the Bible is so skimpy that it doesn't satisfy their curiosity. But if we turn to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the foremost of the ancient Vedic literatures of India, we find an account of creation that is both complete and trustworthy, because it is delivered by the Creator Himself, who is in the best position to know.

The material cosmos is much older and much vaster than we could ever discover from our own observations. The universe in which we live is now about 155 ½ trillion years old and has about the same amount of time left before it will be destroyed. But the creation of our universe was not the first creation, nor will it be the last. Nor is ours the only universe.

In fact, material universes are created and destroyed in regular cycles, and these cycles have been going on endlessly, since time immemorial. During each cycle of creation, hundreds of billions of universes come into being. Yet this whole material creation is only a tiny part of God's kingdom. Because this part is material, it is created and destroyed, but beyond this is the eternal, spiritual world, where there is no creation or destruction. There the liberated souls eternally live on spiritual planets in direct association with the Personality of Godhead. This material creation, like a prison house in God's kingdom, is the place for conditioned souls who want to forget God and be independent of Him. But here they can also be reformed and learn how to return to their forgotten, eternal homeland. God's personal abode.

At the beginning of creation there forms in one corner of the limitless spiritual sky a kind of cloud called the mahat-tattva, God's material energy, where all the material elements and forces are merged together. Later they are separated out one by one (this is described in detail in Srimad-Bhagavatam), just as cream, whey, curds, butter, ghee, and so on can be separated from milk. Within this cloud a gigantic expansion of Krsna called Maha-Visnu lies down in mystic slumber. Whenever He breathes out, billions of seedling universes come gushing out of His nostrils and skin pores. These universes develop into hollow balls that float on themahat-tattva ocean like clusters of soap bubbles. They last for many trillions of years, until Maha-Visnu breathes in and draws them back into Himself. After many more trillions of years He breathes out again, and there is a new creation as before.

After the universes come out of Maha-Visnu, an expansion of His called Garbhodakasayi Visnu enters into the hollow interior of each one and fills it half full of water. Garbhodakasayi Visnu then lies down on this water, floating on a bed made by an expansion of His called Ananta Sesa, who appears like a many-headed serpent. From the navel of Garbhodakasayi Visnu a lotus grows; the bud opens, and in the center sits Lord Brahma, the first created being. He is the engineer of the universe.

After eons of severe penance, Brahma becomes inspired by Krsna with the knowledge to complete the creation. Krsna also provides the seeds of the creation as well as the ingredients, and Brahma then creates all the planetary systems, controlling deities, and species of life. (Thus the acts of creation described in the beginning of the Bible are performed not by God Himself but by His deputed agent, Brahma.) Brahma produces offspring from his own body, and these multiply and go forth to become the human races on the various planets in our universe. Brahma also helps the Lord reclaim fallen souls from the material world by forming a spiritual party for preaching Krsna consciousness throughout the universe. This party, called the Brahma-sampradaya, is still active today in the form of the Krsna consciousness movement.

Of course, this is just a brief summary of the creation. We hope you will go on to read more about it in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

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In your magazine you recommend that Bhakti Yoga [devotional service to Krsna] is most applicable for self-realization in Kali-yuga [the present age]. But what about Lord Shiva? Has Shiva gained self-realization? What is his position as far as knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is concerned? Can we say that Shiva is one with the Father? How did Shiva come to be the ruler of a planet in which there is no occurrence of birth and death? Is he ever in misery?

Gita Jankie
Princes Town, Trinidad
Republic of the West Indies

Our reply:

Yes, Lord Siva is certainly self-realized in fact, he is more than self-realized, because he is a pure devotee of Lord Visnu (Krsna), the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sometimes he is even described as the most exalted devotee of Lord Visnu (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh).

The position of Lord Siva is unique. He is not the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, so he is not on an equal level with Visnu. But he is also not an ordinary living being like you and me. He is in an exalted position all his own.

The Brahma-samhita describes that Lord Siva is almost on the same level as Lord Visnu, the Supreme Lord. The difference is that Lord Visnu never comes in touch with the material energy. When He sets the material creation in motion at the beginning of the universal creation. He does so merely by His glance, from a distance, and He Himself remains in a completely transcendental position, in the company of His spiritual energy, represented by Sri Laksmi. Lord Siva, however, by Lord Visnu's desire, comes directly in touch with the material energy. In fact, his consort known as Devi, Durga, Parvati, or by many other names personifies the material energy.

The Brahma-samhita explains the relationship between Lord Visnu and Lord Siva by giving an example. When milk comes in touch with something sour, its quality changes, and it becomes yogurt. Yogurt is actually nothing but milk, but it is not quite the same. Similarly, Lord Siva is identical with Lord Visnu Himself, but because Lord Siva comes in touch with the material energy, his identity is associated with material qualities. So he is not in a position as exalted as that of Lord Visnu, the supreme transcendental Lord.

Lord Visnu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, and Lord Siva is one of the demigods. They are never to be considered equal in all respects. Lord Visnu is the supreme master of all, and Lord Siva is His eternal servant.

Because Lord Siva is a great devotee of Lord Visnu, he has intimate knowledge of Lord Visnu, and he is also free from all material miseries. He has a special abode, between the material world and the spiritual world, that is free from the birth and death of material existence.