Are the Vedic Gods Prajapati and Brahma the same?


Are Prajapati and Brahma the same?

I think the Vedic Brahma and Prajapati are two different notions. But In Puranas Brahma is Prajapati.

Let’s take a look at some verses from Upanishads and Vedas , which are giving us different accounts before reaching at some conclusion.

There is a story in The Chandogya Upanishad 4.8 - Page no. 304 - about Prajapati declaring nature of Atman and then Indra and Virochana going to Prajapati to learn about Atman.

Here in the verses below we can see that the translator (Swami Krishnananda) translated the word Prajapati as Brahma.

Uda-sarava atmanam aveksya yad-atmano na vijanithah, tan me prabrutam iti, tau hoda sarave’veksamcakrate, tau ha prajapatir-uvaca kim pasyatha iti; tau hocatuh, sarvan evedam avam, bhagavah, atmanam pasyava, a lomabhya a nakhebhyah pratirupam iti. ||1||

Now Brahma said, “Please go and look at yourselves in a pan of water and see what is there; if you cannot understand anything about the Atman, then let me know.” They went and saw themselves in a pan of water. Then Brahma asked them, “What do you see?” They immediately gave the answer: “Up to the hair and the nails, everything that we are, we see exactly reflected in this water. This is what we see. We see ourselves as we are.”

Tau ha prajapatir-uvaca, sadhv-alankrtau suvasanau pariskrtau bhutvoda-sarave’veksetham iti, tau ha sadhvalankrtau suvasanau pariskrtau bhutvoda-sarave’veksam-cakrate, tau ha prajapatiruvaca, kim pasyatha iti. ||2||

Then Brahma said, “This is the Atman.” Now what Brahma said was highly significant. But the mystery behind the instruction was so deep that it was again grossly misunderstood by the disciples. Whatever we see is God— this is generally what we say. It is a true statement, no doubt. But it is also an untrue statement. The untrue aspect of it can simply take us astray. But the true aspect of it will.

Here in this book The Principal Upanishads page no -47 - see what Swami Nikhilananda is saying - : Some of the oft-repeated epithets of saguna brahman in the upanishads are Brahma ,Prajapati ,Hiranyaghrabha ,Virat ,Prana ,Sutra and Sutrama .they are all in general way denote the world soul ,the cosmic mind , cosmic Person.

Also See what Swami-krishnananda saying in the commentary of Chandogya Upanishad -4.15 - Parting Advice to the Pupil 1. - Page no 345 -In the below verse We can see that he is explaining two terms mentioned in Vedic literature Brahma and Prjapaties - What is meant by saying that Brahma spoke to Prajapati? It may be that the supreme Brahman spoke to the creator Hiranyagarbha also known as Brahma.

Taddhaitad brahma prajapataya uvaca, prajapatirmanave, manuh prajabhyah acaryakulad-vedam adhitya yatha-vidhanam, guroh karma (krtva) atisesena abhisamavrtya, kutumbe sthitva, sucau dese svadhyayam adhiyanah, dharmikan vidadhat, atmani sarvendriyani sampratisthapya, ahimsan sarva-bhutany-anyatra tirthebhyah, sa khalveam vartayanyavad-ayusam brahma-lokam abhisampadyate, na ca punar-avartate na ca punaravartate.

This is what the great Creator Brahma spoke to his children who are called the Prajapatis,—Marichi, Asvini, Kasyapa, Angirasa, and others. This Knowledge has come down through Guru-parampara and not through books. Books cannot give this knowledge. By word of mouth has this knowledge been communicated. “Brahma spoke to Prajapatis.” Here too, there is difference of opinion in regard to the interpretation of the meaning of the Upanishadic words. What is meant by saying that Brahma spoke to Prajapati? It may be that the supreme Brahman spoke to the creator Hiranyagarbha also known as Brahma. Or it may be that Narayana spoke to Brahma as we hear it in the Srimadbhagavata, for instance. Or, according to Sankaracharya who has commented on the Upanishad, Brahma, the Creator, spoke to Kasyapa and other progenitors of the family of the universe who are known as Prajapatis. And these Prajapatis spoke to Manu, the first man, the Adam of our Creation. Then Manu gave this knowledge to others. So it has gradually come, stage by stage, from Guru to disciple, and finally to us.

Here is the Prajapati sukta from Rig Veda Mandala 10 – Sukta 121 -

Here it’s said that Hiranyagharbha is also known as “ka” Or Prjapati. which in that hymn heads each line in the question, "To what god shall we offer with “ So it’s unclear from this sukta whether are Prajapati and Brahma the same or different.

Here in Valmki Ramayana Prajapati is said to be Brahma.

प्रजापतिसमश्श्रीमान् धाता रिपुनिषूदनः ।
रक्षिता जीवलोकस्य धर्मस्य परिरक्षिता ।।1.1.13।।

प्रजापतिसमः equal to Brahma

Auspicious like Brahma, Sri Rama is the sustainer of this world, destroyer of enemies and protector of all living beings and of the moral code.

Conclusion – By looking at the above verses it looks like the Vedic Brahma and Prajapati are two different notions. In vedic literature Brahma means cosmic Person , Brahman and the Prajapati is the creator of the worlds. But In puranic accounts Brahma and Prajapati are same. Also note that it’s also not clear from Prjapati Sukta that who is the Prajapati. Either Daksha , Vishwakarma OR Brahman OR puranic Brahma. So for time being it’s difficult to definitely say that Prajapati and Brahma are the same as we have in hand different accounts from different texts about your question.

Note – It’s also mentioned in THIS book that Prajapati later Became Brahma. -Page no 145

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