Rigveda 10.129 – Nāsadīya Sūkta – “Not of the non-existent”
What I am adding henceforth is an intellectually honest exposition of how the verses “look like” when you read in Sanskrit. So, you could first read the translation, but don’t miss how I have translated and why I have translated so, and how to read the verses in Sanskrit. This is to henceforth help the people realize how verses are like, how much they are deep and poetic.
Audio : Rig Veda. Mandala 10. Sukta 129
na ásad āsīn nó sád āsīt tadā́nīm
na ́āsīd rájo nó vyómā paró yát ǀ
kím ā́varīvaḥ kúha kásya śármann
ámbhaḥ kím āsīd gáhanam gabhīrám ǁ
ná mṛtyúr āsīd amṛ́tam ná tárhi
ná rā́tryā áhna āsītpraketáḥ ǀ
ā́nīda vātám svadháyā tádékam
tásmāddhānyán ná paráḥ kím canā́sa ǁ
táma āsīt támasā gūḷhám ágre
’praketám salilám sárvamā idám ǀ
tucchyénābhv ápihitam yád ā́sīt
tápasas tán mahinā́ jāyatáikam ǁ
kā́mas tád ágre sámavartatā́dhi
mánaso rétaḥ prathamám yád ā́sīt ǀ
sató bándhum ásati níravindan
hṛdí pratī́ṣyā kaváyo manīṣā́ ǁ
tiraścī́no vítato raśmír eṣām
adháḥ svidāsī́d … upári svidāsī́t … ǀ
retodhā́ āsan mahimā́na āsant
svadhā́ avástāt práyatiḥ parástāt ǁ
kó addhā́ veda ká ihá prá vocat
kúta ā́jātā kúta iyám vísṛṣṭiḥ ǀ
arvā́g devā́ asyá visárjanena-
áthā kó veda yáta ābabhū́va ǁ
iyám vísṛṣṭir yáta ābabhū́va
yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná ….
yó asyā́dhyakṣaḥ paramé vyómant
só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda ǁ
Non-existence wasn’t, yet existence wasn’t then.
Dust didn’t exist, nor did space beyond.
What moved back and forth? Where? In whose care?
Did water exist deep, impervious?
Death wasn’t, immortality wasn’t thence.
Day was not distinguished by the night.
Without breathing air, the one by power of self-establishment –
None else beyond that was.
Darkness it was, hidden by darkness, at the point.
Undistinguished, unsteady, all this was.
Hidden by nothing, coming to being, it was.
The one manifested by the greatness of heat.
At the point, passion evolved,
Over the thought, which was the first seed.
The bond of existence they found in non-existence :
The poets, seeking in heart, by wisdom.
Across was stretched, the cord.
What was below …? What was above …?
There were the great establishers of seed.
Self-establishment was beneath Effort beyond.
Who really knows, who could here proclaim
When this has manifested – when – this release.
Towards are the devas, of this wide release.
Then who really knows whence this has come to being!
This wide release, from what it came to be –
Or else if it was “established”, or else if not ….
He who is its overseer in the highest space –
He does indeed know, or else if he doesn’t know….
A vision :
- The first stanza is to be understood in the sense:- (I am writing with better-expounded translations of the same words to give the perspective of how it is when you read it in Sanskrit.
“Neither was unreal, (asat, also “untrue”) nor was real (sat, also “true”) then.
Neither existed the dust (rajas, also “domain power” typical of king, “rajoguṇa”), nor any space beyond.
What moved back and forth (like the wind, like a web of connection), where, in whose (inner secure) care
Did the “Water stream” (waves, sky, clouds) exist, deep, impervious.”
You can also clearly see the seed of the concept of guṇas, as in the words used. (sat/sat-tva guṇa, rajas/rajoguṇa) The hymn as a whole, as we will see, does make sense if read like this too. A very superb poetic core. The word āvarīva- (translated as “moving back and forth”) is used often for the pulse of the universe, similar to breathe, that enters and exits, vivifying everything. It is often connected with metaphors of web and connection, to the herdsman who herds back and forth through the grasslands, and is homologous to the connection which sages will find between existence and non-existence through their wisdom in the lines to follow.
- If you read the second stanza in Sanskrit, this is what it looks like:-
“There was no death. There was nothing im-mortal then. (without mṛtyu, there is no definition for a-mṛta)
By no night was the day clearly distinguished (perceived, discriminated)
Without breathing air (/vāta), by the power of self-establishment (the “force” that which is lauded as determination of the universe) that “one” existed
Beyond that, nothing else was.
Self-establishment (sva-dhā) is an abstract Vedic concept, which is apparently the force that drags everything through the path of time. It is typically lauded as the power of Yama (the fashioner of the path of “time” – I will discuss the Vedic Yama in detail later) and the dead ancestors. It is also the self-establishment that causes the universe to “pulsate”, to “live”. Svadhā is beyond biological life and time.
- Third stanza:-
“Tamas (darkness/ignorance – tamoguṇa) existed, hidden by tamas (darkness/ignorance – tamoguṇa) at the (beginning) point.
Not distinguished/not perceivable, “flowing” (/unsteady/chaotic) was this all.
Covered/hidden by nothing, that which came into being existed;
By the power of tapas (/heat, /inner heat) the one manifested.”
- “Passion, at that point, evolved upon the mind, as its primeval seed.
The bond of existence (/real, /true) they found in non-existence (/unreal, /untrue)
In their hearts, seeking, the poets through wisdom.”
- “Across extended (stretched apart, often used in the context of measuring, and especially as the poets stretching the threads of their metres to create the Vāk) was the cord (/ray) (for measuring).
Below what was ……? (the verse actually has this, in the form of a pluta. Please hear the audio to understand what I am speaking about)
Above what was ……? (here too, the verse has the pluta)
The great establishers of seed existed.
Self-establishment was below, Toiling/offering was above.”
- “Who” really knows, “who” could here proclaim,
From where thence manifested, from where, this wide-release (sṛṣṭi, literally “release”, becomes the word for “creation” in the later ages. “Release” had a “productional” meaning as much as we have it now in English, in the context of software “release” and likes.)
Towards (this side, our side) are the devas, of this wide-release.
(They are released towards us)
So then, here, who does know, from what this came to being!”
The poetic function of the verse is quite explicit. As devas are released towards us, using the skills they represent, we might be answering these questions which is, in a sense, about our own existence. On the other hand, the devas as “beings” are created by us, so the verse can also be read as a puzzlement of how our “created divinities” “know” from where this came to be.
- Quite a deep and extremely poetic, word-word untranslatable, stanza – so I try my best to show what it looks like:-
“This wide-release, from whatever it has come to be –
Or if it was “established” (by some “creator”) or if it was not …. (pause) (could it be that it was not ???)
The eye-over-it in the highest space –
He indeed knows …. (intended to remind the pause earlier) or if he doesn’t know?”
I have expounded on the meanings of this sūkta and translated it several times (in all possible ways), so this time I am leaving for you to ponder on this sūkta and observe how it has been translated.