Hinduism: Different creation stories and Creator personalities exist side-by-side in Hinduism. The word "OM" (pronounced AUM) is described as the primal sound out of which the universe came forth. The creator-god is usually identified as Brahma, the first god in the Hindu triad. He is brought to birth in a lotus that emerges from the navel of Vishnu, the second god at the head of the Hindu pantheon. Brahma created the universe simply by opening his eyes. When he closes his eyes at the end of each eon, creation ceases to exist. Another cycle then ensues. In the Visnu Purana, Brahma is described bringing forth demons out of his thigh. He then abandons his first body, and it becomes the night. After creating the gods out of his mouth, he abandons his second body and it becomes the day.

In the Laws of Manu 1:5'€“14 a different creation story is told. The eternal "Divine Self-existent...desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters, and placed his seed in them. That seed became a golden egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that egg he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of the whole world...The Divine One resided in that egg during a whole year, then he himself by his thought divided it into two halves; and out of those two halves he formed heaven and earth." (See also Shatapatha Br. 11,1,6, Rig Veda 10,90.)

The Hindu Trimurti (the three highest gods) consists of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Hindus ordinarily refer to Brahma as the "Creator," Vishnu as the "Preserver," and Shiva as the "Destroyer." However, Saivites (followers of Shiva) insist that Shiva is the primal person and source of the universe. Vaisnavites (worshippers of Vishnu) believe that he is the Creator-God and relate him to the omnipresent, primeval waters believed to exist before the creation of the world.

Basic to Hinduism is the belief that the creation came from a primordial substance referred to as prakriti. Many teachers in Hinduism propose a pantheistic, monistic view of creation'€”that the universe, with its substance, laws and phenomena, is actually an emanation of God and that all things in the universe are of one essential substance. This monistic view is termed Advaita'€”a concept that also insists the natural creation is not real. It is an illusion, perpetrated by God'€”a condition called maya.

In absolute pantheism, God does not exist apart from the physical universe. In traditional Hinduism, however, there is both a manifested and an unmanifested aspect to Brahman: simultaneously, he is both immanent (as the underlying life of creation) and transcendent (apart from creation). God being manifested as the universe, both physical and spiritual, was a result of the inner divine constraint, "Let me become many, let me be born." (Taittriya Upanishad 2,6,1)

There are other Hindus who believe in a dualistic approach concerning the Creator and creation called Dvaita. Madhva, one of its main proponents, felt "it is blasphemous to accept that a perfect God changes himself into an imperfect world."1 He also taught that God and the soul are eternally distinct and separate from one another, and that the world is a reality, not an illusion perpetrated by Brahman. According to this worldview, the universe was not created; on the contrary, three things have existed eternally: God, souls and the universe. There is also an interpretation that arrives midway between these two extremes called Vishishtadvaita, which is a qualified non-dualistic approach.

In Hindu cosmogony, there is no absolute beginning point assigned to the creation of the universe. Instead, there are an infinite number of cycles of creation and dissolution. The creation stories are understood to mean the periodic emanations of God into the form of the material universe. Furthermore, the word for creation in Sanskrit is srishti. It does not imply creating something out of nothing; it rather means the transformation of a subtle or spiritual substance into a physical or material one. So the more proper description might be that the universe is the "projection of the Supreme Being," not an act of creation.2 It should also be mentioned that the earth is acknowledged as a deity in Hinduism and is referred to as a goddess with names such as Bhumi or Prithvi.

1 "Dvaita," Miriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1999) p. 307.

2 Bansi Pandit, The Hindu Mind (Glen Ellyn, Illinois: B & V Enterprises, Inc., 3rd ed., 1998) p. 32.