Get ready to have your mind blown. I’m taking a course in the Rig Veda, and our text is Wendy Doniger’s elegant translation (Doniger is also the author of another excellent book, The Hindus). The Rig Veda is the oldest of the Vedas, and it’s full of poetry.
I’m learning how important poetry and poets are in the Vedas, and I’m getting a very puffed up image of myself as a result (my being a poet and all).
This selection is a Creation Hymn (“Nasadiya”), a famous one. There are a number of reasons why I picked it: I love paradoxes and contradictions, rhetorical questions; but most of all I like the use of “that” in it, and of the incredibly useful word “whence” (fallen out of fashion now, and that’s too bad).
Wondering how it all got started? Answers below. Fasten your mental seat belts.
- There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomlessly deep?
- There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. That one breathed, windless, by its own impulse. Other than that there was nothing beyond.
- Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. The life force that was covered with emptiness, that one arose through the power of heat.
- Desire came upon that one in the beginning; that was the first seed of mind. Poets seeking in their hear with wisdom found the bond of existence in non-existence.
- Their cord was extended across. Was there below? Was there above? There were seed-placers; there were powers. There was impulse beneath; there was giving forth above.
- Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?
- Whence this creation has arisen—perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not—the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows—or perhaps he does not know.
Posted by Bobbie