Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 3: Chapter 10: Verses 1-16
Vidura said : When the Lord had disappeared from view, how many species of life did Brahma, the grandfather of the whole creation, evolve either from his body or from his mind? Pray, also elucidate one after another the points that I have referred to you, 0 worshipful sage, and resolve all my doubts, foremost as you are of those possessing a vast knowledge. Suta continued : Thus requested by Vidura, O Saunaka (a scion of Bhrgu), the sage Maitreya (son of Kusaru) felt highly pleased and proceeded to answer the queries (by Vidura), which he had borne in his mind. The sage Maitreya said : Brahma (the Creator) practised austere penance for a hundred celestial years with his mind fixed on Sri Narayana, as he had been told by the Lord, who is devoid of birth. The lotus-born god now saw the lotus on which he was perched, as well as the water all round, being tossed by the wind, whose fury had been intensified by the period of universal destruction. His knowledge (about creation) and creative power having been greatly enhanced by his ever-growing penance and worship through the Mantras sacred to the Lord, he drank up the wind along with the water. Perceiving the lotus on which he sat, and which rose to the very sky, he thought he should bring back to light the worlds that had disappeared at the end of the preceding Kalpa, by means of that very lotus. Directed by the Lord to carry on the work of creation, Brahma entered the corolla of the lotus and split it up into three parts (viz., Bhuh), Bhuvah and Swat)), although it was so big that it could be divided into fourteen or even more parts. It is these three worlds alone that have been declared (in the scriptures) as constituting the realm where the Jivas (embodied souls) experience the fruit of their actions. As for Brahma, i.e., his abode (the Satyaloka) and the three worlds immediately below it (viz., Maharloka, Janaloka and Tapoloka), they are the rewards of virtue practised without any selfish motive. Vidura said : Tell me in detail, my lord, about the potency-referred to by you under the name of Time-of Sri Hari of marvellous deeds, who appears as many (in the form of the universe). Maitreya said : Time, which in itself is undifferentiated and has no beginning or end, appears in the form of metamorphosis of worldly phenomena. Making it His instrument, the Lord (the Supreme Person) sportfully manifested Himself (in the form of the universe). Having been dissolved by the Maya (wonderful potency) of Lord Visnu, this universe existed (during the period of universal destruction) as no other than Brahma God, then evolved it as a distinct entity through the instrumentality of Time, which is undifferentiated in itself. As the universe exists today, so it was before and so it will continue to be hereafter. Ninefold is its creation, the one proceeding both from Prakrti (God) and Vikrti (Brahma) being the tenth. The reabsorption (dissolution) of the universe, again, is threefold, viz., through Time, elements and the Gunas (modes of Prakrti). (Now as regards the ninefold creation ) the first in order of sequence is the creation of the Mahat-tattva, which takes place only when the equilibrium of the Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) is disturbed by the will of God Himself. The second is the evolution of the ego (Aham), from which proceed the five gross elements as well as the five senses of perception and the five organs of action. The third is the evolution of the subtle elements, which in their turn evolve the gross elements. The fourth is the evolution of the Indriyas, i.e., the senses of perception and the organs of action; while the fifth is the evolution of the deities (presiding over the Indriyas), who are born of the Sattvika ego, as well as of the mind, which is also a product of the Sattvika ego.