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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Prajapati

A Sanskrit term the literal meaning of which is “governor” or “lord” of progeny. Used in the plural it may refer to the seven or ten different “beings” who are the “Producers” and “Givers of Life.” A term applied to several of the Vedic gods, but in particular to Brahmš.

According to Brāmanic speculation, Prajāpati was the product of concentrated spiritual self-discipline and austerity (tapas) through the sequence: in the beginning, non-being, became mind, and then through “heating itself,” giving birth to smoke, light, fire and finally Prajāpati.

In the VEDAS, the Prajāpatis are the ten deities Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasi˜ha, Prachetas (or Daksha), Bhrigu, and Nārada, who were the progenitors of the human race.

In the PURĀNAS, the Prajāpatis are also identified with the great ¬ishis, in which case their number is seven. In the Laws of Manu, Prajāpati is equivalent to Brahmā, as the creator of the universe. In the MAHĀBHARATA, there are twenty-one Prajāpatis.

The Secret Doctrine states that the Prajāpatis “are neither gods, nor supernatural Beings, but advanced Spirits from another and lower planet, reborn on this one, and giving birth in their turn in the present Round to present Humanity” (SD II:611). The Prajāpatis or ¬ishis are seven in number, but they emanated from the three logoi, totalling ten in number. This is identical with the 7 and 10 sephiroth of the Kabbalah, the ten and seven Chaldean Anedots, and the 10 and 7 Amshaspends (six plus Ormazd) of Zoroastrianism.

When identified with the MANUS, we find the explanation for the twenty-one Prajāpatis. “Thus the seven Manus become 14, the Root Manu being the Prime Cause, and the ‘Seed-Manu’ its effect; and when the latter reach from Satyayuga (the first stage) to the heroic period, these Manus or Rishis become 21 in number” (SD I:235).

The genealogies of the Prajāpatis refer to the evolution of the animals. “The whole personnel of the Brāhmanas and Purānas — the Rishis, Prajāpatis, Manus, their wives and progeny — belong to that pre-human period. All these are the Seed of Humanity, so to speak” (SD II:284).

In her article, The Septenary Principle in Occultism, Helena P. Blavatsky writes that “The fact that Manu himself is made to declare that he was created by Viraj and then produced the ten Prajapatis, who again produced seven Manus, who in their turn gave birth to seven other Manus, (Manu, I, 33-36) relates to other still earlier mysteries, and is at the same time a blind with regard to the doctrine of the Septenary chain” (CW IV:576, fn).

There seems to be some uncertainty in theosophical literature over the number of Prajāpatis. In the reference given above Blavatsky mentions ten Prajāpatis, but T. Subba Row in his article The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, refers to “. . . the 9 Brahmas — the 9 Prajāpatis who assisted the Demiurgus in constructing the material universe.” Then again, in his First Principles of Theosophy, (TPH, Madras 1938, p.192), C. Jinaršjadšsa writes, “Associated with the work of the Logos of our solar system are seven beings, who are as seven expressions of His Nature, as seven channels of His inexhaustible Life. These Seven are called the Seven Planetary Logoi. . . . In Hinduism they are called the seven Prajāpatis (Lords of Creatures).” G. de Purucker defining “Prajāpati,” writes “. . . usually reckoned as 7 or 10 in number; actually 12. What in India are called Prajāpatis, among the Persians were called the Amshaspends. In Jewish Theosophy, the Qabbālāh they were called the Sephiroth” (Studies in Occult Philosophy, TUP, Pasadena, 1945, p. 595).

P.S.H.

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