Nasadiya Sukta

Nasadiya Sukta

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The Nasadiya Sukta is the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

. It is concerned with cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 and the origin of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. It is known for its skepticism. It ends with:


Who really knows? Who shall declare it here?
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?
None knows when creation has arisen;
Whether He made it or did not make it,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
Only He knows, or maybe even He knows not.

Metre


It consists of seven trishtubhs, although pada 7b is defective, being two syllables short,
"if he has created it; or if not [...]"

Brereton (1999) argues that the defect is a conscious device employed by the rishi to express puzzlement at the possibility that the world may not be created, parallel to the syntactic defect of pada 7d, which ends in a subordinate clause without a governing clause:
"he verily knows; or if he does not know [...]"

Interpretations


The hymn has attracted a large body of literature of commentaries both in Indian theology and in Western philology.

It begins by paradoxically stating "not the non-existent existed, nor did the existent exist then" (), paralleled in verse 2 by "then not death existed, nor the immortal" (). But already in verse 2 mention is made that there was "breathing without breath, of its own nature, that one" ). In verse 3, being unfolds, "from great heat (tapas
Tapas (Sanskrit)
Tapasya in Sanskrit means "heat". In Vedic religion and Hinduism, it is used figuratively, denoting spiritual suffering, mortification or austerity, and also the spiritual ecstasy of a yogin or tāpasá . In the Rigveda, the word is connected with the Soma cult...

) was born that one" (). Verse 4 mentions desire (kāma
Kama
Kāma is often translated from Sanskrit as sexual desire, sexual pleasure, sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, or eros54654564+more broadly mean desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, without sexual connotations.-Kama in...

) as the primal seed, and the first poet-seers (kavayas
Kavi
Kavi may refer to:*Kavi is a Sanskrit term for thinker, intelligent man, man of understanding, leader; a wise man, sage, seer, prophet; a singer, bard, poet, and is applied to:...

) who "found the bond of being within non-being with their heart's thought".

Brereton (1999) argues that the reference to the sages searching for being in their spirit is central, and that the hymn's gradual procession from non-being to being in fact re-enacts creation within the listener (see
The Nasadiya Sukta (after the incipit {{IAST|ná ásat}} "not the non-existent") is the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

. It is concerned with cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 and the origin of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. It is known for its skepticism. It ends with:


Who really knows? Who shall declare it here?
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?
None knows when creation has arisen;
Whether He made it or did not make it,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
Only He knows, or maybe even He knows not.

Metre


It consists of seven trishtubhs, although pada 7b is defective, being two syllables short,
{{IAST|yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná}}
"if he has created it; or if not [...]"

Brereton (1999) argues that the defect is a conscious device employed by the rishi to express puzzlement at the possibility that the world may not be created, parallel to the syntactic defect of pada 7d, which ends in a subordinate clause without a governing clause:
{{IAST|só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda}}
"he verily knows; or if he does not know [...]"

Interpretations


The hymn has attracted a large body of literature of commentaries both in Indian theology and in Western philology.

It begins by paradoxically stating "not the non-existent existed, nor did the existent exist then" ({{IAST|ná ásat āsīt ná u sát āsīt tadânīm}}), paralleled in verse 2 by "then not death existed, nor the immortal" ({{IAST|ná mṛtyúḥ āsīt amŕtam ná tárhi}}). But already in verse 2 mention is made that there was "breathing without breath, of its own nature, that one" {{IAST|ânīt avātám svadháyā tát ékam
Ekam
Ekam Tamil: - "the supreme oneness") is the term used in Akilathirattu Ammanai, the holy book of Ayyavazhi, to represent The Ultimate Oneness. In Thiruvasakam-2 it was stated that it was from this Ekam that all objects, including the separate Godheads, Devas and asuras, of the universe formed...

}}
). In verse 3, being unfolds, "from great heat (tapas
Tapas (Sanskrit)
Tapasya in Sanskrit means "heat". In Vedic religion and Hinduism, it is used figuratively, denoting spiritual suffering, mortification or austerity, and also the spiritual ecstasy of a yogin or tāpasá . In the Rigveda, the word is connected with the Soma cult...

) was born that one" ({{IAST|tápasaḥ tát mahinâ ajāyata ékam}}). Verse 4 mentions desire (kāma
Kama
Kāma is often translated from Sanskrit as sexual desire, sexual pleasure, sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, or eros54654564+more broadly mean desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, without sexual connotations.-Kama in...

) as the primal seed, and the first poet-seers (kavayas
Kavi
Kavi may refer to:*Kavi is a Sanskrit term for thinker, intelligent man, man of understanding, leader; a wise man, sage, seer, prophet; a singer, bard, poet, and is applied to:...

) who "found the bond of being within non-being with their heart's thought".

Brereton (1999) argues that the reference to the sages searching for being in their spirit is central, and that the hymn's gradual procession from non-being to being in fact re-enacts creation within the listener (see
The Nasadiya Sukta (after the incipit {{IAST|ná ásat}} "not the non-existent") is the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

. It is concerned with cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 and the origin of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. It is known for its skepticism. It ends with:


Who really knows? Who shall declare it here?
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?
None knows when creation has arisen;
Whether He made it or did not make it,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
Only He knows, or maybe even He knows not.

Metre


It consists of seven trishtubhs, although pada 7b is defective, being two syllables short,
{{IAST|yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná}}
"if he has created it; or if not [...]"

Brereton (1999) argues that the defect is a conscious device employed by the rishi to express puzzlement at the possibility that the world may not be created, parallel to the syntactic defect of pada 7d, which ends in a subordinate clause without a governing clause:
{{IAST|só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda}}
"he verily knows; or if he does not know [...]"

Interpretations


The hymn has attracted a large body of literature of commentaries both in Indian theology and in Western philology.

It begins by paradoxically stating "not the non-existent existed, nor did the existent exist then" ({{IAST|ná ásat āsīt ná u sát āsīt tadânīm}}), paralleled in verse 2 by "then not death existed, nor the immortal" ({{IAST|ná mṛtyúḥ āsīt amŕtam ná tárhi}}). But already in verse 2 mention is made that there was "breathing without breath, of its own nature, that one" {{IAST|ânīt avātám svadháyā tát ékam
Ekam
Ekam Tamil: - "the supreme oneness") is the term used in Akilathirattu Ammanai, the holy book of Ayyavazhi, to represent The Ultimate Oneness. In Thiruvasakam-2 it was stated that it was from this Ekam that all objects, including the separate Godheads, Devas and asuras, of the universe formed...

}}
). In verse 3, being unfolds, "from great heat (tapas
Tapas (Sanskrit)
Tapasya in Sanskrit means "heat". In Vedic religion and Hinduism, it is used figuratively, denoting spiritual suffering, mortification or austerity, and also the spiritual ecstasy of a yogin or tāpasá . In the Rigveda, the word is connected with the Soma cult...

) was born that one" ({{IAST|tápasaḥ tát mahinâ ajāyata ékam}}). Verse 4 mentions desire (kāma
Kama
Kāma is often translated from Sanskrit as sexual desire, sexual pleasure, sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, or eros54654564+more broadly mean desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, without sexual connotations.-Kama in...

) as the primal seed, and the first poet-seers (kavayas
Kavi
Kavi may refer to:*Kavi is a Sanskrit term for thinker, intelligent man, man of understanding, leader; a wise man, sage, seer, prophet; a singer, bard, poet, and is applied to:...

) who "found the bond of being within non-being with their heart's thought".

Brereton (1999) argues that the reference to the sages searching for being in their spirit is central, and that the hymn's gradual procession from non-being to being in fact re-enacts creation within the listener (see {{IAST), equating poetic utterance and creation (see śabda).

The hymn is undoubtedly late within the Rigveda, and expresses thought more typical of later Indian philosophy
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

, and it has been suspected of being intended as a polemic against the Samkhya
Samkhya
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Sāṃkhya, or Sāṅkhya is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally considered as the founder of the Samkhya school, although no historical verification is possible...

 school.

The hymn has been interpreted as one of the earliest accounts of skeptical inquiry and agnosticism
Agnosticism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable....

.

"The One" repeatedly discussed in the Rigveda has been suggested to have originally referred to the axis mundi
Axis mundi
The axis mundi , in religion or mythology, is the world center and/or the connection between heaven and Earth. As the celestial pole and geographic pole, it expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet...

, and "The One who dwells beyond the seven sages
Saptarshi
The Saptarishi are the seven rishis who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and Hindu literature. The Vedic Samhitas never actually enumerate these rishis by name, though later Vedic texts such as the Brahmanas and Upanisads do so. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the...

" (1.164) as the polar star (at the time perhaps Thuban
Thuban
Thuban also known by its Bayer designation Alpha Draconis is a star in the constellation of Draco. A relatively inconspicuous star in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere, it is historically significant as having been the north pole star in ancient times...

).

RV 10.130


The hymn that immediately follows (10.130) deals with the origin of sacrifice
Yajna
In Hinduism, yajna is a ritual of sacrifice derived from the practice of Vedic times. It is performed to please the gods or to attain certain wishes...

 and similarly refers to a creator figure, {{IAST|puṃs}} "the Man", identified with Prajāpati
Prajapati
In Hinduism, Prajapati "lord of creatures" is a Hindu deity presiding over procreation, and protector of life. He appears as a creator deity or supreme God Viswakarma Vedic deities in RV 10 and in Brahmana literature...

 by Sāyana
Sayana
' was an important commentator on the Vedas. He flourished under King Bukka I and his successor Harihara II, in the Vijayanagar Empire of South India...



The hymn contemplates the first sacrifice performed by human worshippers who by the act were elevated to rishi
Rishi
Rishi denotes the composers of Vedic hymns. However, according to post-Vedic tradition, the rishi is a "seer" to whom the Vedas were "originally revealed" through states of higher consciousness. The rishis were prominent when Vedic Hinduism took shape, as far back as some three thousand years...

s, alluding to the mythical first sacrifice performed by the gods described in the Purusha Sukta
Purusha sukta
Purusha sukta is hymn 10.90 of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the "Cosmic Being". One version of the Suktam has 16 verses, 15 in the meter, and the final one in the meter...

 (RV 10.90)
Verse 6 (trans. Griffith):
So by this knowledge men were raised to Rsis, when ancient sacrifice sprang up, our Fathers.
With the mind's eye I think that I behold them who first performed this sacrificial worship.



The questions in verse 3, "What were the rule, the order and the model? What were the wooden fender and the butter?" refer back to the questions in 10.129 (5b "what was above it then, and what below it?" etc.)

Further reading

  • Joel P. Brereton, Edifying Puzzlement: {{IAST|Ṛgveda}} 10. 129 and the Uses of Enigma, Journal of the American Oriental Society (1999)
  • P. T. Raju, The Development of Indian Thought, Journal of the History of Ideas (1952)
  • Karel Werner, Symbolism in the Vedas and Its Conceptualisation, Numen (1977)

See also


{{wikisource|The Rig Veda/Mandala 10/Hymn 129}}
{{wikisourcelang|oldwikisource|ऋग्वेद: सूक्तं १०.१२९|ऋग्वेद: सूक्तं १०.१२९}}
{{wikisourcelang|oldwikisource|Ṛgveda: sūkta 10.129}}
  • Indian logic
    Indian logic
    The development of Indian logic dates back to the anviksiki of Medhatithi Gautama the Sanskrit grammar rules of Pāṇini ; the Vaisheshika school's analysis of atomism ; the analysis of inference by Gotama , founder of the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy; and the tetralemma of Nagarjuna...

  • Neti neti
    Neti neti
    In Hinduism, and in particular Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, neti neti may be a chant or mantra, meaning "not this, not this", or "neither this, nor that"...

  • Purusha Sukta
    Purusha sukta
    Purusha sukta is hymn 10.90 of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the "Cosmic Being". One version of the Suktam has 16 verses, 15 in the meter, and the final one in the meter...



{{Rigveda}}