Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hymn of Creation

At first was neither Being nor Nonbeing.
There was not air nor yet sky beyond.
What was wrapping? Where? In whose protection?
Was Water there, unfathomable deep?

There was no death then, nor yet deathlessness;
of night or day there was not any sign.
The One breathed without breath by its own impulse.
Other than that was nothing at all.

Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness,
and all was Water indiscriminate, Then
that which was hidden by Void, that One, emerging,
stirring, through power of Ardor, came to be.

In the beginning Love arose,
which was primal germ cell of mind.
The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom,
discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.

A crosswise line cut Being from Nonbeing.
What was described above it, what below?
Bearers of seed there were and mighty forces,
thrust from below and forward move above.

Who really knows? Who can presume to tell it?
Whence was it born? Whence issued this creation?
Even the Gods came after its emergence.
Then who can tell from whence it came to be?

That out of which creation has arisen,
whether it held it firm or it did not,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
He surely knows - or maybe He does not!

-Translation by Prof. Raimundo Panikkar

This  hymn in the Rigveda (10:129) known as The nAsadIya sUkta, starting with : "nAsad AsInno sad AsIt tadAnIm, ...." (Ref. 1=), meaning, "Then neither Being nor Non-Being was..." has, for several reasons, attracted the attention of many Vedic scholars, philosophers - both eastern and western. (I am giving the translation of this mantra at the end of this article.) This sUkta of Cosmology (sometimes referred as the Creation Hymn) has generated volumes of discussion because of its importance in the Vedic literature. The seeds of Upanishadic thoughts are sown in mystical hymns like these. Some are excited at it; here are a few excerpts:

"The Veda recognizes the Supreme being overseeing all, but leaves unanswered the question of whence -from what material - this creation came into being. In the 'Purusha sUkta' hymn the Veda gives a symbolical answer through analogy of sacrifice. .. .. Here [ in this nAsadIya sUkta], to a logical query, to which a literal answer is required, no reply is given. This shows that a question is better left open. This attitude, typical of higher thought, leads to a very delicately poised sense of truth, which precludes every type of dogmatism. .. ..This [hymn] takes us to the loftiest heights of philosophy. It is doubtful whether the human mind ever surpasse[s] these heights." - Prof. Abinash Chandra Bose
"The vision of this hymn comes out of a profound insight into the mystery of reality. It is the product of a mystical experience that far transcends the limits of logical thinking; it is a religious chant - for only in music or poetry can such a message be conveyed - invoking in splendid verses the Primal Mystery that transcends all categories, both human and divine....." - Prof. Raimundo Panikkar
"..... and there are hymns, though few in number, in the Vedas, so full of thought and speculation that at this early period no poet in any other nation could have conceived them. I give but one specimen, the 129th hymn of the tenth book of the Rigveda. .. It is a hymn, which long ago attracted the attention of that eminent scholar H T Colebrooke ...." - Frederich Max Muller
" In its noble simplicity, in the loftiness of its philosophic vision it is possibly the most admirable bit of philosophy of olden times. .. .. .. No translation can ever do justice to the beauty of the original." - Paul Deussen 

Hymn of Creation

At that time there was neither
existence nor non-existence,
neither the worlds nor the sky.
There was nothing that was beyond.
There was no death, nor immortality.
There was no knowledge of the day and night.
That one alone breathed, without air, by itself.
Besides that there was nothing.
Darkness there was enveloped by darkness.
All this was one water, without any distinction.
It was inactive, covered by void.
That one became active by the power of its own thought.
There came upon it at first desire,
which was the first seed of the mind.
Men of vision found in their meditative state,
the connection between the Being and the Non-Being.
All gods were subsequent to this creative activity.
Then who knows from where this came into existence!
Where this creation came from ,
whether He supported it or not,
He who is controlling it from the highest of the heavens,
He perhaps knows it or He knows it not !

                                  (Rig Veda X.129)