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Vishwa Concept in Hinduism

The most popular connotation of the word Vishwa is the whole world or the universe. According to Gaudpada, Vishwa is the first apparent manifestation of the self as one experiences the external world while being awake (vishwa or Vaishvanara atma), the second and third being what one experiences in dream state and deep sleep. There are, however, different theories about the world and is creation from the prana (vita activity); as vibhuti (expansion) of that cause from which it has proceeded; of its being like a svapna (dream) and maya (magic); as proceeding from the will of Bhagavan; or that it proceeds from time; for the bhogartham (enjoyment) of Bhagavan or for His kridartham (play), for such is the svabhava (nature) of Bhagavan, that He creates but has no longing, as all His desires are in a state of fulfillment. The different schools of philosophy have viewed the vishwa according to their traditions, and even now people continue to have different beliefs about its origin and nature.

The concept of a world being related to the universe as the self of man to his body is very old and traced to Rig Vedic period (X.121. 1; Hiranyagarbhah samavartagre bhutasya jatah patireka asit), also referred to in Svetavatara Upanishad (II.4 and IV.12). His mythical character however, is apparent from the references.

World appearance to be false and a mere product of maya (illusion) has been discussed at length in Shankara’s School of Vedanta and elsewhere.

As a pronoun, Vishwa also stands for ‘all, whole, entire, universal’ and is compounded with numerous worlds like vishwa-atman, visva-karman, visva-jit, visva-natha, vishwa-yoni, Vishwarupa and so on.