“The research scholar finds out the cause and the effect of everything, but research scholars as great as Brahma, Shiva, Indra and many other demigods are sometimes bewildered by seeing the wonderful creative energy of the Lord, so what to speak of the tiny mundane scholars dealing in petty things.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.4.6 Purport)
Proper research involves investigating the cause and effect of the issue at hand. For the journalist, the research relates to a specific news story. Whether it is a murder, accident, or issue of politics, the investigator takes the facts into account and then figures out what happened to cause the result. Research is especially prominent in science because so much is unknown. Through years and years of research, new facts are discovered which will hopefully lead to even newer discoveries in the future. Yet from the Vedas we learn that exalted personalities, whose abilities are beyond belief, are unable to fully understand the complexities of the universe; a fact which should automatically lead to a higher realization.
Who are the personalities we speak of? For the material creation, there are three presiding deities. There is the creator, the maintainer, and the destroyer. Brahma is the creator. Known as chatur-mukha because of his four heads, Lord Brahma takes birth from the stem growing from the lotus-like navel of Lord Vishnu, who is considered the original Supreme Lord. There are actually several different Vishnus descending from the Personality of Godhead, but for all intents and purposes Vishnu is equivalent with God.
Brahma then takes charge of populating the material creation, thus making him the Creator. His title is a little deceiving. Brahma is the father, but the actual source of identity within the created creatures cannot be traced to him. In addition, it is learned in the Bhagavad-gita that Krishna is the seed-giving father. He impregnates the material energy, the mahat-tattva, with jiva souls who are desirous of living in a temporary land. Brahma is a figure who appears to be doing the creating, but the energies and the process of growth already exist beforehand, operating under rules established by Krishna, who is the same original Vishnu.
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)
Lord Shiva appears from Lord Brahma’s forehead, but he is not a conditioned living entity. At the time of annihilation, Lord Shiva remains in his abode, as does Lord Vishnu. While the creation is manifest, Shiva’s role is to destroy when the time is right. So Vishnu takes the role of the maintainer, Brahma the creator, and Shiva the destroyer.
Brahma and Shiva are devotees of Vishnu. They have tremendous powers assigned to them as a result of their status. Brahma can live for thousands of years, and Lord Shiva can focus his mind on the lotus feet of Vishnu without cessation. Both personalities can grant material benedictions to those who please them, though they don’t require such benedictions for themselves. Both Brahma and Shiva are also authorities on bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Each has started a chain of disciplic succession, or parampara, which teaches bhakti-yoga to those who are willing to learn in the required attitude of humbleness.
The point of bringing up Brahma and Shiva is to show that no one can compare to them in stature and ability, especially not us mortal living beings. We assign fame based on greatness in a particular field. Someone who is great in terms of wealth is given more attention than someone who is poor. Someone who is famous for their beauty is remembered more than someone who is not so beautiful. Yet in terms of real greatness, no one can compare to Brahma, who lives for billions of years. And who can destroy on the level of Shiva, who is able to wipe out the entire creation?
These two figures conduct their own research, as they are autonomous living beings beaming with curiosity. “How do the material elements operate? Why does the sun rise and set at predictable times? Why are the seasons the way they are? Why must everyone die at a certain point? Why does the body go through changes? How is it possible to create a brand new life from the union of a man and a woman?” Just as time and space are infinite, so the questions that can be asked about the creation never end. There is not enough research that can be done to find the answer to every question. Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva are amazed by this, and so they humbly pray to Vishnu to have His favor, for God can never be fully understood.
This attitude is indicative of real spiritual life. First there is the inquiry into the Absolute. This inquiry can be the result of an initial approach towards spiritual life or it can be the cause of the initial approach itself. Regardless, once that inquisitiveness is raised and a corresponding qualified teacher is found, the wonders of the creation can be slowly revealed to the point that one realizes that there is no such thing as complete knowledge. This is not a negative, as full knowledge is not required. Rather, what is needed is connection to the divine, which is known as yoga.
When that connection takes place in a mood of love, the resulting pleasure is unmatched. That is the real aim of human life - to approach God, understand Him to a certain degree, and then try to constantly stay in His association – all for the purpose of experiencing transcendental bliss. The research work in other areas actually leads the individual in the opposite direction. With each new discovery, the influence of God is apparently eliminated, though it is never pondered from where such amazing things come. Brahma and Shiva have done the research work for us, and they’ve found that God’s qualities are unlimited. His universe is unimaginably large, and so to try to conduct research into the matter is a futile attempt. As far as you think you can go, Vishnu can expand the reach of the creation, sort of like opening a box to only find another box, and continuing in the process until you get frustrated and give up.
Instead of continuing infinitely with research, Brahma and Shiva think of God and constantly offer Him prayers. The best prayer, which is also the easiest to recite on a regular basis, is the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This mantra was made famous by God’s incarnation of Lord Chaitanya. Know that when the desire to connect with the Lord is sincere, He will Himself reveal enough knowledge to help you maintain the link to Him. Knowledge is only valuable if you know what to do with it, so Brahma and Shiva use their exalted status and their brainpower for deriving the pleasure that comes with connection to the divine.
In Closing :
What of this universe can you know?
For time and space infinitely grow.
Research you can conduct into the matter.
But with notion that you’re God don’t flatter.
More powerful than Brahma and Shiva there are none,
Research into the universe they’ve already done.
That God is wonderful they have concluded,
Worship Him and no longer be deluded.