Wednesday, February 6, 2013

EARLY VEDIC THOUGHTS ON CREATION AND BRAHMAN

EARLY VEDIC THOUGHTS ON BRAHMAN AND CREATION
(Discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, August 2012)
Brahman is the ultimate cause of this universe and everything else is dependent on that one supreme cause. The saying “ONE, wise call by many names” is found in the early Rigvedic Brahmodya Text RV1:164. The universe was created in a systematic manner according to the will of this Supreme cause is also revealed very early in Rigvedic texts. Subalopanishad in consolidating early Rigvedic thoughts on creation establishes that the Supreme Brahman is the Antaryamin or inner controller in all other entities. Therefore the wise call him by many names for Brahman pervades all of them. Our struggles for liberation from repeated births have to take place in this world alone in which we are born, live and, struggle. Hence, it is necessary to know about this world, how it came into being, how it is sustained and its ultimate destiny. Rigveda speaks on Brahman and creation earliest that engaged the attention of Upanishadic Rishis to enquire into these fundamental questions.

Purushasookta describes the creation of the world through a primeval sacrifice of primordial being Purusha by the Gods, who themselves however were created by this sacrifice. We have gone through this in detail as to the nature of the sacrifice and the results it achieved earlier. Yet another Sookta that deals with Creation is perhaps the even earlier Nyasadeeya Sookta in Rigveda 10:129. This hymn is also a Mantrapushpa chanted like Purushsookta for it mentions for the first time “Tadekam” that ONE ultimate entity which is one of the major interests of Upanishadic Rishis. Therefore this Sookta is added as an Appendix to this discourse. The ONE is the transcendental unity behind the diversity of the phenomenal world. The Sookta however ends in powerfully expressed pessimism.

Walter H. Maurer in his Selections from The Rigveda, Pinnacles of India’s Past, summarizes the text of Nasadeeya Sookta as follows:

“Not non-existent was it nor existent at that time;
There was neither atmosphere nor the heavens which are beyond.
What existed? Where? In whose care? Water was it? An abyss unfathomable!

Neither mortal was there nor immortal then; not of night, of the day there was distinction;
That alone breathed windless through inherent power.
Other than That there was naught else.

Darkness it was, by darkness hidden in the beginning:
An undistinguished sea was all this.
The germ of all things which was enveloped in void,
That alone through the power of brooding thought was born.

Upon That in the beginning arose desire, which was the first off-shoot of that thought.
This desire, sages found out to be the link between the existent and the non-existent after searching with the wisdom in their heart.


Straight across was extended their line of vision: was That below, was That above?
Seed-placers there were, powers there were:
Potential energy is below, impulse above.

Who after all, knows? Who here will declare whence it arose?
Whence this world? Subsequent are the gods to the creation of this world.
Who then, knows whence it came into being?

This world—whence it came into being, whether it was made or whether not—
He who is the overseer in the highest heavens surely knows—
Or perhaps He knows not!”

The “overseer in the highest heavens” is none other than Easwara or the Creator. He is all- knowing. He will surely know if the world has been created. If he does not know, then it may mean the world has not been created from his point of view. The question then does not arise to know its existence if the world has not been created. Therefore it does not contradict His omniscience.

There is yet another hymn in Rigveda, RV 10:72, Asatah Sadajaayata where the creation of the world is portrayed as something of a paradox:

“Devaanaam nu vayam jaanaa pra voechaama vipanyayaa | uktheshu sasyamaaneshu yah pasyaaduttare yuge ||(1)
Let us now, while rejoicing, proclaim the creation of the Gods in well recited hymns so that someone shall see them at a later age. (1)
“Brahmanaspathiretaa sam karmaara ivaadhamat | devaanaam poorvye yuge asatah sadajaayata || (2)
Brahmanaspati forged them together like a blacksmith (on the anvil). In the earliest age of the Gods Being was from the Non-Being. (2)
“Devaanaam yuge prathame asatah sadajaayata | tadaasaa anvajaayanta taduttaaana- padas- pari || (3)
In the first age of Gods, Being was born from Non-Being. The quarters of the world arose thereafter. The world was born from a Non-Being. (3)
“Bhoorjajna uttaanapadoe bhuva aasaa ajaayanta | aditer-dakshoe ajaayata dakshaadvaditihi pari || (4)
The earth was born from the one with spread out legs, and from the earth were born the quarters. Daksha was born from Aditi, and from Daksha Aditi was born. [Daksha is masculine and literally means skillful. Aditi is feminine means infinite. These are the male and female principles involved in creation] (4)
“Ashtau putraasoe aditerye jaataastanva-spari | Devaa upa praitsaptabhih paraam maartanda-maasyat || (8)
There are eight sons who were born from Aditi’s body. She went forth to the Gods with seven. She cast off Marthaanda. (8)

“Saptabhih putrairaditiroopa praitpoorvyam yugam | prajaayai mrityameva tvat punar maartaanda-maabharat || (9)
Aditi went forth into the first age of the world with seven sons; Martaanda on the other hand, she brought back for procreation and death. [Martha-anda literally means “Mortal Egg”. From the shapeless mass arose among other things, the Sun from which in turn the creature of this world came about. (9)

Yet another Rigvedic Text “Asaccha Saccha” RV 10:5 says Agni was the first creation, born from Being and Non-Being, from Daksha and Aditi.
“Asaccha saccha parame vyoeman dakshasya janmannditir-upasthe | agnirha nah prathamajaa ritasya poorva aayuni vrishbhascha dhenuh || 7 ||
Being and Non-Being are in the highest heaven, in the birth of Daksha, in the lap of Aditi. Agni is our first born Truth, in the first age; he is the bull, who is also the cow. [As we know fire is generated by Arani, by two pieces of wood by friction by churning. Therefore it consists of both male and female components.]

Yet another passage “Hiranyagarbha and Ka (Prajaapati)”, in Rigveda 10:121, gives the following description:
“Hiranyagarbah samavartataagre bhootasya jaatah patireka aaseet | sa daadhaara prithaveem dyaamutemaam kasmai devaaya havishaa vidhema || 1 ||
In the beginning a golden embryo unfolded. It was born as the one Lord of Creation. It held in place the earth and this sky. Which God shall we worship with oblation?
“Ya aatmadaa baladaa yasya visva upaasate prasisham yasya devaah | yasya cchaayaamritam yasya mrityuhu kasmai devaaya havishaa vidhema || 2 ||
Who is the giver of self, the giver of strength, whose order do all serve, whose order the gods also serve, whose shadow is immortality, whose shadow is death—which God shall we worship with oblation?
“Prajaapate na tvadetaanyanyoe viswaa jaataani pari taa babhoova \ Yatkaamaaste juhumastannoe astu vayam syaama patayoe rayeenaam ||
Oh Prajaapati, no one but you surrounds all these creatures in creation. With what desire we offer to you, let that be ours! May we be rulers over riches!

Again Rigvedic Brahmodyas RV 1:164 describes the Creator and the divine and human population he created as follows:
“Chatwaari vaakparimitaa padaani taani vidur-braahmanaa ye maneeshinah | guhaa treeni vihitaa nengayanti tureeyam vaachoe manushyaa vadanti || 45 ||Indra mitra varunam-agnimaahurathoe divyah sa suparnoe garutmaan | Ekam sadvipraa bahudaa vadanti agnim yamam maatarisvaanamaahuh || 46 ||
Language is measured in four quarters; the Brahmins (divines) who are insightful do know these.
Three quarters (major portion) kept secret, they do not let that circulate (means it need to be hard earned); Human beings (only) speak the fourth of a language (Truth is not revealed to them; they have limited knowledge). They call it Indra, Mitra, Varuna and Agni: and it is also Garutman, the divine Eagle. Being just ONE the wise call it manifold. They call it Agni, Yama Maatarisvaan etc.

There is yet another Mantra called Aghamarshana Mantra (attributed to Sage Aghamarshana) from Rigveda which is usually chanted as a prayer for destruction of sins. This Mantra is also chanted regularly by Arya-samjists as Havan Mantra while performing Havans. This also describes the creation as follows:
“Om ritam cha satyam cha abheeddhat tapasoe adhyajaayata | tatoe raatri ajaayata tatah samudroe arnavah || Om samudrat arnavaat adhi samvatsaroee ajaayata | ahoe raatraani vidadhat viswasya mishatoe vasee ||Om soorya-chandramasau dhaataa yathaa-poorvam akalpayat | divam cha prithaveem cha antariksham athoe svah || (Rigveda Mandala 10; Sootra 190; Mantra 1, 2 and 3)
This world was brought into being by the resplendent Brahman who is the impeller of all activities in accordance with the laws of creation and dharma, the laws of life (Satyam). Primordial matter which was lying dormant in darkness began to evolve. By evolution the great expanse of sparkling particles of matter began to gain momentum. Space and time came into existence from this motion of particles. Thereafter as a continuation of this process of evolution the Creator of the world divided it into day and night in accordance with His laws. The sustainer of the World caused the Sun and Moon; the luminous bodies (divam) and the Earth; the heavenly region; and the self-luminous world, as in the previous cycle of creation. (Nobody knows when the first ever creation took place except Him).

The later Sabalopanishadic Upanishadic passage in 1-3 puts all these postulations together thus:
“They ask “what was in the beginning?” Brahman said: “There was no Being, no Non-Being, no Being-Non-Being. From that darkness was born, from darkness the subtle elements (mentioned in Sankhya philosophy later); from the subtle elements ether, from ether, air, from air, the waters, from the waters the earth. That became an egg. Having lived for a year (for time is needed for incubation), the egg made itself split into two, with the earth below, the sky above. In the middle there was a divine Purusha (to distinguish from human being) thousand headed, thousand eyed thousand footed and thousand armed (please see Purushasookta).

He first created death for the beings, three eyed (attributed to Siva later), three headed, three footed Khandaparasu (cutting his enemies to pieces with axe-refers to Siva and Vishnu). His name is Brahman (neuter). It did indeed enter into Brahman (masculine). He created seven mind-born Truth-sons; they are the Prajapatis. The Brahmin was his mouth; the Raajanya made his arms; Vaisyas are His thigh; from the feet came Sudra. The moon arose from his mind, from his eyes arose the Sun; from the ear both wind and vital breath: from the heart arose this entire world. (Please see Purushasookta)

From the down-breathing arose the Nishadas (tribals living in the jungle), Yakshas, Rakshasas, Gandharvas (all kinds of human and super-human beings). Of this Great Being this is just an out-breath, namely the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda, phonetics, Ritual Saastras (Nirukta), Grammar. In the end, he having burnt up all beings, as the earth dissolves in brilliance (fire), the non-manifest dissolves the imperishable, the imperishable dissolves in darkness, darkness becomes one with transcendental God. Beyond there is no Being nor Non-Being nor Being-and-Non-Being. This is the instruction on blowing out (the ultimate release). This is the instruction of Veda”. It is thus the Sabalopanishad sums up both Creation and Dissolution described in the previous Rigvedic texts.

This lecture has been prepared by suitably extracting, abridging and editing texts from the following sources:
1) Hans Heinrich Hock, An early Upanishadic Reader, Motilal Banarasidas Publishers Private Ltd, Delhi, India
2) Swami Bhaskaranada, The Essentials of Hinduism, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, India.
3) S.K.Ramachandra Rao, Darsanodaya, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Bangalore, India.
4) Mantra Pushpam, Ramakrishna Math, Kalkota, India.
5) N.S. Anantarangacharya, Selections from Upanishads, Bangalore, India.
6) Girish C Khosla, Havan Mantra, Arya Samaj, Michigan, U.S.A.

APPENDIX
NAASADEEYA SOOKTA

[Naasadeeya Sookta makes a reference to creation like Purushsookta. It calls the Purusha by the expression Prajaapati and describes how he became responsible for creation. At the beginning there was only water. Prajaapati took shape and floated on its surface on the leaf of a lotus plant. In his interior, in his mind, then arose a desire (urge, impetus or primordial will) to create. Purusha is not used in the later sense of “man” in Vedic hymns. Purusha etymologically signifies that which goes ahead (purati agre gacchati) that which fills all with strength. Puranas later identified Prajapati with Brahma, the creator.]

Naasadaaseennoe sadaaseet-tadaaneem naaseedrajoe noe vyoemaa paroe yat |
Kimaavareevah kuha kasya sarmannambhah kimaaseed gahanam gabheeram || 1 ||
There was not Non-Being, nor was there Being; then there was neither air, nor was there heaven above. What kept on moving? Where? And, under whose care? What was the water that was impenetrable and deep?

“Na mrityuraaseed-amritam na tarhi na ratryaa aaseet-praketah |
Aaneedavaatam swadhayaa Tadekam tasmaad-dhaanyanna parah kim chanaasa || 2 ||
There was neither death nor immortality at that time. There was no sign of night or day. That ONE breathed windless on its own. Nothing else existed beyond IT.


“Tama aaseet-tamasaa goolhamagre apraketam salilam sarvamaa idam |
Tucchyenaabh- vapahitam yadaaseet tapasastan-mahinaa-jaayateikam || 3 ||
In the beginning there was darkness, hidden by darkness. All of this was a flood without sign. That was force closed in vacuum. The ONE was born by the strength of mental heat.

“Kaamastadagre samavartataadhi mansoe retah prathamam yadaaseet |
Satoe bandhumasati niravindan hridi prateeshyaa kavayoe maneesha || 4 ||
At the commencement desire unfolded on it, which was the first seed of the mind. The sages found the bond of Being in Non-Being, searching in their hearts, by thinking.

“Tirascheenoe vitatoe rasmireshaam adhah svidaaseedupari svidaaseet |
Retoedhaa aasa-mahimaana aasantsvadhaa avastaat-prayatih parastaat || 5||
There measuring chord was spread athwart. Was there below by any chance? Was there above?
There were seed-spreaders, there were powers. Desire was below, will was beyond.

“Koe addhaa veda ka iha para voechat kuta aajaataa kuta iyam visrishtih |
Arvaag-devaa asya visarjanenaathaa koe veda yata aababhoova || 6 ||
Who indeed knows? Who will announce here? From where did this Creation come about? The God’s are later creations than this world. So, who knows whence it came about?

“Iyam visrishtir-yata aababhoova yadi vaa dadhe yadi vaa na |
Yoe asyaadhyakshah parame vyoemantsoe anga veda yadi vaa na veda ||7 ||
This creation whence it came about? Whether it was created? Whether not? Who is the overlord of this world in the highest heaven, he surely knows, unless he does not know!