Nasadiya

THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its

own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.
Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.
Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder
Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
TheGods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

(Rig Veda – 10:129)

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This has been a most mystifying and thought-provoking sukta, known as the [[Nasadiya Sukta]] in the Rig Veda (to myself, and many others so it seems).

The translation I picked was by Ralph Griffith (http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Rig_Veda/Mandala_10/Hymn_129).

I just finished reading a book titled the "Magus of Java" by Kosta Danaos (a Greek martial artist) and somehow after reading it the Nasadiya flashed in my mind.

In the book, the Taoist Master John Chang tells his student Kosta about the nature of Creation and Tao.

First there was only Yin or [[Wuji]] (Wu Chi), contained within itself (in a circle) and then a spark/speck of Yang arose within it. With the arousal of Yang the the Taichi was formed, with differentiation into Yin and Yang, with which began the flow of Chi.

See [[Creation Myth]] for more similar stories.

Now it is a known fact that in the TaiChi system, Yin is the adaptive/absorbtive form of Energy (or Chi) and is often allegorically/metaphorically referred to as Water.

And Yang is the expanding kinetic form of Chi and "Desire" does fall in this category. So do we see a correlation here?

The Rishis spoke about this:

THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?

The water, unfathomed depth of water was self-contained and there was no duality (neither the existent or the non-existent existed).

Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever

There was no duality of death, life, no distinction between night and day. Only that One Thing (Tao/Brahman) breathed without breathing and there was no differentiation.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.

I think Griffith's translation of of the sanskrit "salilam sarvamAdim" to "indiscriminated chaos" is incorrect.

It should read:

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was indiscriminated water.
All that existed then was void and formless: by the the great power of heat (spiritual austerity) was born that Unit.

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So there was no distinction between night and day, but only darkness existed, indiscriminated Yin (water). All that existed was without form (a void — all absorptive, contained within itself). And then by the Tapasya of the One, something was born.

hereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit.
Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.

I have an issue with Griffith's translation of this as well. The actual verse reads as follows:

"kAmasta dagre samavartata adhi manaso retaha paramthamam yadAsIt"

So the translation should read as follows:

hereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal source of the Mind.
Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.

Like we have discussed in earlier, Desire (Kama) is Yang Energy and with it rose the Mind (Consciousness). The Sages who meditated long and deep realized this relationship between the Substantial and the Insubstantial (Yang and Yin).

Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder

The line (distinction) between the two (sat and asat/substantial and insubstantial/Yang and Yin) was thus generated. This was the formation of Duality (Tai Chi). The rest of the verse is description of this "split".

Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

This creation is beyond time itself, so who can verily state when it all began and when or why? The Gods/Deities are the creation of this world (humans) and even they do not know of it's origin.

He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

This verse says that the Rishis speculated on whether Brahman/Tao itself knew why it all was formed —

 

  • the form from the formless
  • the existent from the non-existent
  • the substantial and the insubstantial
  • the yang and the yin

It could be argued that either culture (Vedic or Taoist) might have got this from the other. Or it could be argued that the Sages of both systems independently came to this conclusion. Given what we know about the reclusive nature of the Vedic seers and Taoist sages, it is more than likely that they did meditate on the nature of things and came to the same conclusion.

But the interesting thing is, when you look at how a non-practitioner interpreted this Sukta, the real meaning of it got lost. This is has been a common phenomenon (especially in the past couple of hundred years), with academic Sanskritists and Philologists/Philosophers jumping to some conclusions based on poorly translated versions of the original scriptures, while at the same time not having the experiential knowledge (even a beginner's level such as yours truly) would misinterpret the inner meaning.

 

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