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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Naasadiya Suktam

What is cosmos? How did this cosmos come about? Naasadiya Sukta, a passage from the Rg Veda tries to answer this question the best. The sentiments expressed in this sukta are honest and humble.

I have mentioned this passage from the Rg Veda in some of my earlier essays. Although this sukta is mentioned in several of our texts, it is not that well-known. Scholars from other cultures and traditions seem to appreciate it more. For example, Professor Frank Close, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, starts his book with the intriguing title of “Nothing – A very short Introduction”, with a passage from this Sukta and ends the book with another quote.

It is the 129th hymn, in Chapter 10 of the Rg veda. It is called Naasadiya because it starts with the words: naasat aasit no sad aasit which means “in the beginning there was no asat (opposite of sat, un-manifest, no-being), nor was there any sat, being”.

Here is my own translation of the Sukta with one word of caution. I am no scholar in either Sanskrit or in the vedas.

“In the beginning there was no asat (opposite of sat, un-manifest, no-being), nor was there any sat, being. Then, there was no earth, no sky. In that state, who (what) was covering what? And for what purpose? Was there deep water? (Sloka/Stanza1)

There was no death; no immortality either; There was no means for finding out the difference between day and night. Not moved by any wind, it was breathing by its own power. There was nothing else. (Sloka/Stanza 2)

Some say that there was darkness or there was water enveloped in darkness. But, that all powerful Brahman covered by Maaya came into manifestation by austerity and transformation from that one Brahman. (Sloka/Stanza 3)

The seed of the mind of this, which first came into existence, became desire (kaama) (to create the world). Great minds have seen that this is the initial relation between the manifest and the unmanifest. (Sloka/Stanza 4)

A ray fell transversely between them. If you say It was below, It was also above. Some of these grew bigger pervading on one side by Its own prowess and pervading everything on the other side. (Sloka/Stanza5)

Who is there who can explain how the manifest developed and from whom? Who knows for sure? Even the gods came only after the sat came into being? Then, who is to know from where it came? (Sloka/Stanza 6)

The adhyaksha (the Primordial One) may know how the development of the manifest came about or did not come about. Perhaps, even He may not know that!(Sloka/Stanza 7)