Story of Brahma And the Pillar of Light (from the Shiva Purana)

While commuting to work, I came across a poem by Guru Nanak that cautions against the dangers of ego. The poem provides numerous illustrations, taken from Purana Epics, of the harmful consequences of ego. It begins with the line "Brahmai Garab Kiya Nahi Janiya," meaning "Brahma had ego but did not comprehend." Intrigued by this reference, I delved into the story of Brahma's ego and discovered a renowned tale from the Shiva Purana, with multiple versions available on the web. I have included a few of these stories below.

According to legend, Brahma's ego led to a curse from Lord Shiva, resulting in limited worship of Brahma on Earth. Though just a story, it carries a valuable lesson. Despite being the creator in the Hindu trinity and the source of the Vedas from his four heads, Brahma receives little to no devotion in prayers.

Among Hindus one can find ample Vaishnavites and Shaivites. Ram, considered an incarnation of Vishnu, is widely revered among Hindus, while Krishna, another avatar of Vishnu, also commands a significant following. Shiva has a large following in India as well. However, Brahma doesn't seem to have a substantial number of devotees.

Ram-navami and Janam-ashtami, honoring the births of Ram and Krishna respectively, are celebrated with great enthusiasm in India. Shivratri is similarly widely celebrated. Ganesh Chaturthi, marking the birthday of Ganesh (son of Shiva), is also celebrated. However, the birth of Brahma is not widely observed or celebrated. Although a date for Brahma's birth is likely specified somewhere, I have not yet been able to locate it. I have come across the celebration of Brahmotsav, but it doesn't seem to be specifically a celebration of birth.

The story of Brahma's curse likely arose due to the lack of Brahma devotees. To explain this, the storyteller likely invented this tale. Regardless, the story effectively highlights the harmful effects of ego, including lying, which is often driven by ego.

It's intriguing that ego is linked to the deity of creation in Hindu trinity, although it's also sometimes connected to Shiva (although not as much as anger). Ego is particularly relevant to Brahma, because Brahma is the creator and it seems it's natural to feel pride in one's creations. This is why we often have a special attachment to our own children, as we have brought them into being.

Guru Nanak gives the solution for the ego problem: Have a master, a Guru and attribute all creation to Him; everything I think I am doing, is actually being done through the Guru. I would not be able to do anything without the Guru. Music and songs that I think I create, are all a direct result of Guru's creation not mine. My kids are the guru's kids. All creation bearing my name is actually his. And I don't have to sustain them either. The one who created them, will take care of them.

The Guru enlightens, clears the fog and liberates. There's no arrival or departure, only the Guru exists.

Story of Brahma And The Pillar of Light

Once upon a time, Brahma and Vishnu were exploring the universe and came across a pillar of light that extended further than their eyes could see in either direction. They were curious and decided to split up to determine if either of them could find an end to the pillar. Vishnu went one way and Brahma went the other. After some time, they both returned to their starting point and Vishnu reported that he couldn't find an end no matter how far he traveled. Brahma claimed to have found a beginning, but he was lying. Upon hearing this, the pillar of light transformed into the form of Shiva, who accused Brahma of lying and sentenced him to be little worshipped in divine ceremonies. This is why there are not many religious rituals dedicated to Brahma.

Another version of the story.

Once Brahma and Vishnu argued over who was superior, with Brahma claiming he created Vishnu and Vishnu claiming he sustained Brahma. Shiva was consulted to settle the dispute and created a pillar of light, declaring the one who found its end would be deemed superior. 
Brahma and Vishnu went in search of the end of Shiva's pillar of light. Brahma transformed into a swan and flew to the sky to find the top of the pillar, while Vishnu became a Varaha wild boar and burrowed underground to search for the bottom. They searched for thousands of years, but couldn't find the end of the light. Despite their tireless effort, they were unable to discover the limits of the light.

Vishnu stopped his search and returned to the earth, humbled. Meanwhile, Brahma spotted a Ketaki flower falling from the sky. He asked the flower where it came from and the flower replied that it was placed as an offering at the top of the pillar of fire. Despite not finding the top himself, Brahma decided to use the flower as evidence of reaching it. 
In the end both Brahma and Vishnu came back to earth. Shiva asked them both if they had found the end of the pillar.  Vishnu replied truthfully that he had not been able to find the feet of the fiery pillar. However, Brahma lied that he had reached the head of the pillar of fire and  brought the ketaki flower as proof of having reached the top.  This lie angered Shiva and he  cursed Brahma that he would have no temple dedicated to his worship. He also cursed the ketaki flower for bearing false witness: she would henceforth never be used in the worship of Shiva.

Excerpt from Guru Nanak's Poem:

Brahma acted in pride, and did not understand.
barahmai garab kee-aa nahee jaani-aa.

Only when he was faced with the downfall of the Vedas did he repent.
bayd kee bipat parhee pachhutaani-aa.

Remembering God in meditation, the mind is conciliated. ||1||
jah parabh simray tahee man maani-aa. ||1||

Such is the horrible pride of the world.
aisaa garab buraa sansaarai.

The Guru eliminates the pride of those who meet Him. ||1||Pause||
jis gur milai tis garab nivaarai. ||1|| rahaa-o.

Without the Guru, pride cannot be eradicated.
bin gur garab na mayti-aa jaa-ay.

Following the Guru`s Teachings, one obtains Dharmic faith, composure and the Lord`s Name.
gurmat Dharam Dheeraj har naa-ay.

O Nanak, singing the Glories of God, His Name is received. ||12||9||
naanak naam milai gun gaa-ay. ||12||9||


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