In the Shruti sources we find many statements that Lord Prajapati is Supreme Self. For example Shatapatha Brahmana of YajurVeda in states

Verily, Prajâpati alone was here in the beginning. He desired, 'May I exist, may I reproduce myself!' He toiled, he practised austerity (or, became heated). From him, worn out and heated, the waters were created: from that heated Person the waters are born.

So, it means Lord Brahma alone was in the beginning and he existed as per his desire. This shows he is a Supreme Self. There are also other plenty of verses in Vedas which show that Lord Brahma is Supreme Lord.

But the same Shatapatha Brahamana also states:

Pragâpati conceived a passion for his own daughter... 'May I pair with her!' thus (thinking) he united with her. This, assuredly, was a sin in the eyes of the gods. 'He who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister, [commits a sin],' they thought. The gods then said to this god who rules over the pashus (Rudra), 'This one, surely, commits a sin who acts thus towards his own daughter, our sister. Pierce him!' Rudra, taking aim, pierced him.

Now, the above passages hints that Prajapati is just a transmigrating Jiva as it shows he is attached to Karmas. There are also other instances like his birth is stated:

He who is the first among the Gods, that Rudra who is the great seer who is higher than the Universe, he is the one who saw Hiranyagarbha being born. (Taittariya Aranyaka 11.12)

So, Vedas at some place say that Prajapati is Supreme Self, all is his form, he is Atman of all etc.. etc... At some places Vedas also say that he is attached to Karmas, seen being born (ie. Having birth etc.. ) which is character of Jiva. So there is contradiction itself in the Vedas.

Do any scripture solve this exact issue raising the points from both sides of Shruti? Have any philosopher / commentator solved the above contradiction about whether Prajapati should be seen as Supreme Self or Transmigrating Jiva by raising the points from Vedas?

  • All vedics should worship indra brahma and other gods Dec 20, 2017 at 9:37
  • It's Prajapati, not Pragapati. The english minded translators started writing J as G, but even a native English speaker tends to read it as praGApati instead of praJApati. It confounds readers and deviates them from real pronounciation.
    – user12826
    Mar 10, 2018 at 14:15
  • @Tezz thanks that you used it as Prajapati in most of places in your question and answers. The western minded translators always do any stuff on our language, like really. What is प्रगापति !?
    – user12826
    Mar 10, 2018 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


Adi Shankara in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhasya 1.4.6 raises this exact issue by citing both sides of Shruti and also gives solution for the seemingly contradiction:

अत्र विप्रतिपद्यन्ते - पर एव हिरण्यगर्भ इत्येके । संसारीत्य परे ।
Here there is a difference of opinion. Some say that Hiraṇyagarbha is the Supreme Self, others that he is the transmigrating individual self.

पर एव तु मन्त्रवर्णात् । "इन्द्रं मित्रं वरुणमग्निमाहुः" इति श्रुतेः । "एष ब्रह्मौष इन्द्र एष प्रजापतिरेते सर्वे देवाः" इति च श्रुतेः। स्मृतेश्च - "एतमेके वदन्त्यग्निं मनुमन्ये प्रजापतिम्" इति, "योऽसावतीन्द्रियोऽग्राह्यः सूक्ष्मोव्यक्तः सनातनः । सर्वभूतमयोऽचिन्त्यः स एव स्वयमुद्द्वभौ । इति च।

The first group says: He must be the Supreme Self, for the Śruti says so, as for instance in the passage, ‘They call It Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa and Fire’ (Ṛ. I. clxiv. 46), and also in, ‘It is Brahma, It is Indra, It is Prajapati and all these gods’ (Ai. V. 3). And the Smṛti too, ‘Some call It Fire, others Manu and Prajapati' (M. XII. 123), and ‘That (Supreme Self) which is beyond the organs, imperceptible, subtle, undifferentiated, eternal, consisting of all beings, and unthinkable, manifested Itself’ (M. I. 7)

संसार्येव वा स्यात्। "सर्वान्पाप्मन औषत्" इति श्रुतेः । न ह्यसंसारिणः पाप्मदाहप्रसंगोऽस्ति । भयारतिसंयोगश्रवणाच्च । 'अथ यन्मर्त्यः सन्नमृतानसृजत" इति च । "हिरण्यगर्भ पश्यति जायमानम्" इति च मन्त्रवर्णात् । स्मृतेश्च कर्मविपाकप्रक्रियायाम् - "ब्रह्मा विश्वसृजो धर्मो महानव्यक्तमेव च । उत्तमां सात्त्विकीमेतां गतिमाहुर्मनीषिणः" इति ।

Or, according to the second group: He must be the individual self, for the Śruti says, ‘He burnt all evils’ (I. iv. 1). There can be no question of the burning of evils in the case of the Supreme Self. The Śruti also mentions his having fear and dissatisfaction, and also, ‘That he, although mortal himself, projected the immortals’ (this text), and ‘Behold Hiraṇyagarbha as he is being born’ (Śv. IV. 12; Mn. X. 3). Further, the Smṛti treating of the results of rites says, ‘Sages are of opinion that the attainment of oneness with Brahma, the world-projectors (Manu and others), Yama (the god of justice), Hiraṇyagarbha and the Undifferentiated is the highest result produced by Sattva or pure materials (rites coupled with meditation)’ (M. XII. 50).

After giving the points of both two sides itself from Shruti, Shankara then gives solution for the above (apparent) contradiction:

Should it be urged that such contradictory statements being inadmissible, the scriptures lose their authority, the answer is: Not so, for they can be harmonised on the ground that different conceptions are possible. That is to say, through his relation to particular limiting adjuncts he can be conceived of as different That the transmigratory character of Hiraṇyagarbha is not real, but due to limiting adjuncts, is known from such Śruti texts as the following: ‘Sitting, It roams far, and lying, It goes everywhere. Who else but me can know that effulgent entity which is endowed with joy and its absence as well?’ (Ka. II. 21). Essentially he is but the Supreme Self. So Hiraṇyagarbha is one as well as many. The same is the case with all beings, as the Śruti says, ‘Thou art That’ (Ch. V. viii. 7 etc.). But Hiraṇyagarbha, possessing limiting adjuncts of extraordinary purity, is described by the Śrutis and Śmṛtis mostly as the Supreme Self, and seldom as the transmigratory self. While ordinary individuals, owing to an excess of impurity in their limiting adjuncts, are mostly spoken of as the transmigratory self. But when divested of all limiting adjuncts, everyone is spoken of by the Śrutis and Smṛtis as the Supreme Self.

So, as per Adi Shankara Hiranyagarbha (Prajapati) should be seen as Supreme Self and the limited adjuncts present in Hiranyagarbha are also of extraordinary purity (suddha aatisayA), and the transmigratory characters described in few places are also not real (they are just like Leela). Hence Hiranyagarbha should be seen as Paramatma (Supreme Self).

  • What’s transmigratory self?
    – Adiyarkku
    Aug 3, 2021 at 12:15
  • 1
    @Archit it means typical 'samsari jeeva'....
    – Tezz
    Aug 3, 2021 at 12:54

The reply given above is correct. We have Anandagiri commenting on what Shankara has said above: कस्तर्हि हिरण्यगर्भे विशेषो येनासावस्मदादिभिरुपास्यते तत्राह - हिरण्यगर्भस्त्विति | ननु श्रुतिस्मृतिवादेषु क्वचित्तस्य संसारित्वमपि प्रदर्श्यते, सत्यं तत्तु कल्पितमित्यभिप्रायेणाह - संसारित्वं त्विति |

Translation/gist: What excellence is there in Hiranyagarbha that makes him worthy of worship by beings such as we? The reply is as stated by Shankara:हिरण्यगर्भस्तूपाधिशुद्ध्यतिशयापेक्षया प्रायशः पर एवेति श्रुतिस्मृतिवादाः प्रवृत्ताः । [ Hiraṇyagarbha, possessing limiting adjuncts of extraordinary purity, is described by the Śrutis and Śmṛtis mostly as the Supreme Self]. Objection: In the scriptures sometimes he is spoken of as samsarin? Reply: That is true, but that is a deliberate concoction.

Thus, from the confirmation of Anandagiri of Shankara's opinion, too, the position is: Hiranyagarbha/Brahma is the Supreme Brahman.

The status of Hiranyagarbha according to Shankara and others

An article on the above topic is available here: https://adbhutam.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/the-status-of-hiranyagarbha-as-per-shankara-and-others/

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