Brahman has 2 states - manifested and unmanifested. The world we are living in is manifested. After Mahapralaya, everything is dissolved and all that remains is unmanifested state. In Gita, it is said that, in unmanifest state, everything is reduced to the size of half thumb.

Now my question is how it is even possible? God is infinite and when we say it is reduced to the size of half thumb, we are giving it a size which effectively means it has become finite and God cannot be finite.

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    The size you refer to is the size in the human heart - not the size of Brahman in the physical world. Brahman is described as infinite because it touches everything. That which is inherently spiritual by nature has no physical dimensions. Nov 3, 2015 at 11:05
  • @SwamiVishwananda No, I am not talking about the soul. I am talking about the state of cosmos before the big bang which is the size of half a thumb.
    – Pinakin
    Nov 3, 2015 at 11:14
  • Which Gita verse are you referring to? Nov 3, 2015 at 13:10
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    @ChinmaySarupria I tried searching the Bhagavad Gita, and the words thumb and size do not occur at all. I did find a reference to "smaller than the smallest", although that wasn't in the context of describing what is there when the Universe is dissolved: vedabase.com/en/bg/8/9 The only text I know that describes a Purusha the size of a thumb is the Katha Upanishads, not he Bhagavad Gita. But the Katha Upanishads discusses this thumb-size Purusha as living in the heart, it doesn't talk about when the world is dissolved. Nov 3, 2015 at 13:35
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    @KeshavSrinivasan That's quite interesting, thanks for the references!
    – Sai
    Nov 3, 2015 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


The only reference to the size of a thumb in scripture, in several Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras, is when referring to the atman (brahman) inside the heart of an individual being. I am not aware of any other reference as to Brahman before manifestation being the size of a thumb. What it really refers to is the difference between the spiritual and material dimensions. The Spirit has no physical, no material dimensions, so all souls, all of Brahman can exist within the physical size of a thumb - even less. If I remember correctly the Sanskrit actually says 'no bigger than' the size of a thumb the reference is not meant to imply an exact dimension, it is meant to imply that it has no physical dimension, that the Infinite can exist within the smallest physical dimension.

The Brahma Sutras state in I. 3. 24-25 (Swami Vireswarananda translator):

  1. From the very word ("Lord" by which it is referred to in the text) (the being) measured (by the size of the thumb is Brahman).

[and Shankaracharya's commentary] "The being of the size of a thumb, resides in the centre of the body. (Knowing that) Lord of the past and future, one does not seek to hide oneself any more. This is That" (Katha U. 2. 4. 12). The being referred to is Brahman, because he is spoken of as the Lord or ruler of the past and future. It cannot be the individual soul, though the limitation in size and residence in the centre of the body by themselves might be more applicable in its case. Moreover in reply to the request of Naciketa who wanted to know Brahman, Yama refers to this being of the size of a thumb thus: "That which you wanted to know is this."

  1. But with reference to (the space in) the heart (the highest Brahman is said to be of the size of a thumb); (and because) man alone is entitled (to the study of the Vedas).

[and Shankaracharya's commentary] How could the all-pervading Brahman be of the size of a thumb, as stated by the previous Sutra? Because the space in the heart is of the size of a thumb, therefore Brahman, with reference to Its abiding within that space, is described as being of the size of a thumb. Since Brahman abides within the heart of all living creatures, why is the 'thumb' used as a standard? Because man alone is entitled to the study of the Vedas and to the different Upanishads of Brahman prescribed in them, therefore it is with reference to him that thumb is used as the standard of measurement.

Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works, V2, p 409) says:

Infinitely smaller than the smallest particle, infinitely greater than the greatest existence, the Lord of all lives in the cave of the heart of every being. He who becomes sinless sees Him in all His glory, through the mercy of the same Lord.

Christian theologians in the European Middle Ages had a similar question which perplexed them. The question was - how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? The answer being either 1 or infinite. If angels had physical dimensions, then only one can. If they have no physical dimension, then an infinite number can...

Another good reference to this is Brahma Sutras 1.2.7 (Swami Vireswarananda translator), the verse says that Brahman is referred to as this size for "the sake [or convenience] of contemplation", and commentary "otherwise it is difficult to meditate on the all pervading Brahman".

Also Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.3 "He is myself within the heart, smaller than a grain of rice, smaller than a grain of barley" etc.

  • What about the Big Bang? It happened from a point and then everything expanded from that.
    – Pinakin
    Nov 6, 2015 at 11:00
  • @ChinmaySarupria Some say bigbang never happend and Universe has no ending and beginning. techtimes.com/articles/32659/20150214/…
    – The Destroyer
    Nov 6, 2015 at 12:43
  • @ChinmaySarupria How can you say that "singularity" as Hiranyagarba? Timelines of two theories don't match.
    – The Destroyer
    Nov 6, 2015 at 14:36
  • @ChinmaySarupria So do you equate formation of manifest from unmanifest (singularity) as big bang? But big bang happened in physical universe. Manifest contains other worlds beyond physical worlds. Dark matter and Dark Energy can be termed as spiritual worlds( some say they are gateways to parallel universes) but we are not sure about them. What do you mean by big bang exactly?
    – The Destroyer
    Nov 8, 2015 at 11:33
  • @AnilKumar By Big Bang I mean that creation which takes place after Maha Pralaya ends, at the time of new Brahma.
    – Pinakin
    Nov 8, 2015 at 11:49

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