You can read the previous post in this series here: Part 2
sa īkṣateme nu lokā lokapālānnu sṛjā iti ॥
so'dbhya eva puruṣaṃ
That thought, “Let me create protectors of this universe." So, That shaped the Purusha from the water (etc.).
Quick Summary of Previous Verses:
In this Aitareya Upanishad, the first two verses discussed the initial stages of creation. In the beginning, there was the singular Formless Divine.
That Formless Divine is beyond description and gender. Yet, saints viewed it as per their convenience. Also, the name of that Formless Divine varied with tradition. Like, The Divine Mother, The Formless Shiva, The Formless Vishnu, or The Brahman.
Then, when creation started, that divided into two. One part became the Inner Divine, which gets viewed as masculine. The other part is Creative Energy, known as feminine. That is the concept of Ardha Nareeshvara in the case of Shiva’s devotees. Or Shiva Shakti Ikhya Rupini for Devi’s devotees. For the followers of Vishnu, it is Sri and Hari.
The Current Verse:
Now, this verse moves into the physical form of the Divine. The Formless Divine resides in all, and this universe is Maya or an illusion. Whenever we feel Divine presence, we are experiencing that Formless Divine. Many tend to understand that intellectually. Yet, it is tough to experience and practice.
Our spiritual goal is to identify the Formless Divine within and sustain that presence forever. Until we experience that truth firsthand, the scriptures recommend the worship of deities.
Initially, the gods were not in the forms we recognize like Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi. There was a primary deity known as Purusha or The Person. He personified the masculine principle discussed in the previous verses.
Like all physical forms, idols get made out of Nature’s building blocks as well. Those are the five elements: water, air, fire, earth, and space/aether. This verse states water, but the other four go without saying.
We may or may not be able to see the Divine with our eyes. And, things may not happen as per our wish. Most of us may not sense the Divine presence in everything. So, idols became a representative of the Divine. Having a form helps in building an attachment to the Divine.
Additionally, this verse says that the purpose of all deities is our protection. Building an attachment to the Divine can be our anchor during difficult times. It gives us hope and the internal strength to deal with our issues. Our inner strength is the grace that the Divine bestows on us as our protection.
You can read the next part in this series here: Part 4