RIG-VEDA Translation

Tenth Mandala

Anuvaka Eleven

10. 11. 1

The deity is Paramatma, the author of the creation,
preservation and dissolution of the various entities
(bhavas), these being the subjects treated in the
hymn; the Rishi is Paramatma, under his appellation
Parameshthin. The meter (chhandas) is Trishtubh.


1. The non-existant was not, the existant was not; then the world was not, nor the firmament, nor that which is above the firmament). How could there be any investing envelope, and where? Of what (could there be) felicity? How (could there be) the deep unfathomable water?

2. Death was not nor at that period immortality, there was no indication of day or night; That One unbreathed upon breathed of his own strength, other that that there was nothing whatever.

3. There was darkness covered by darkness in the beginning, all this (world) was undistinguishable water; that empty united (world) which was covered by a mere nothing, was produced through the power of austerity.

4. In the beginning there was desire, which was the first seed of mind; sages having meditated in their hearts have discovered by their wisdom the connextion of the existent with the non-existant.

5. Their ray was stretched out, whether across, or below, or above; (some) where shedders of seed, (others) were mighty; food was inferior, the eater was superior.

6. Who really knows? Who in this world may declare it? Whence was this creation, whence was it engendered? The gods (were) subsequent to the (world’s) creation; so who knows whence it arose?

7. He from whom this creation arose, he may uphold it, or he may not (no one else can); he who is its superintendent in the highest heaven, he assuredly knows, or if he knows not (no one else does).

Notes on 10. 11. 1

1. THE NON-EXISTANT, ETC.—To render this phraseology intelligible we must restrict the meanings of sat and asat (“ens” and “non-ens”) to visible and invisible existence, or Hindu cosmology to matter and spirit (prakriti and purusha), in the Vaidik system would not, as in the Sankhya, have a distinct existence, but would be blended and lost in the invisible, immaterial, incomprehensible First Cause, or Brahma, in the intervals of creation. The language used in describing this is usually somewhat vague, but the notion is evidently that the First Cause was in the beginning undeveloped in its effects, and existed before either inactive matter or active spirit, and considered as distinct; it is not intended to be said that no cause or origin, no Author of the universe, existed before creation, but that nothing else existed, neither matter or spirit and consequently that he created both.

ANY INVESTING ENVELOPE.—The Scholiast refers to the Puranus for an explanation, and accordingly see Vishnu Puranas, p.16 and note 25. Each element as created or developed is invested by its rudiment.

OF WHAT COULD THERE BE FELICITY.— I.e. of whom or what living being could enjoyment, or fruition, whether of pain or pleasure, be predicated, there being no life?

HOW COULD...........WATER.—Sayana explains away another text, idam agre salilamasit “this in the beginning was water,” by saying that that referred to another period.

2. BREATHED OF HIS OWN STRENGTH.—Sayana takes swadha as meaning Maya or Prakriti (illusions of nature), the source of the worlds of phenomena. He understands saha “ breathed along with Maya”.

3. THROUGH THE POWER OF AUSTERITY.—Tapas is said not to mean penance, but the contemplation of the things which were to be created.

4. THERE WAS DESIRE.—I.e., in the mind of the Supreme Being.

5. THEIR RAY WAS STRETCHED OUT.—[This, according to Sayana, refers to the suddenness of creation, which was developed in the twinkling of an eye, like the flash of the sun’s ray. It was so quick, he continues, that doubtful whether the things in the central space (understood as “across”) were created first, or those above or those below; in other words, creation took place simultaneously in all three portions of the universe. Sayana tries to reconcile this with the received notion of creation in a series (viz., that from atma came the akasha, and from the akasha the wind, from the wind fire, etc.) by saying that this was the order in which things were created, but the development of the world was like a flash of lightning, so that the series could not be distinguished.]

WHETHER ACROSS, OR BELOW, OR ABOVE.—The word tirashchinah “across” perhaps refers to the tirksrotas, “that in which the stream of life is horizontal,” i.e., the animal world. The epithets in the second line of the verse are unusual and obscure; according to Sayana, the meaning is that among the created objects some were living creatures, others great, as the sky, etc., the former being the enjoyers (bhoktarah), the latter the things to be enjoyed (bhojyah), so the creation was distinguished as the food and the feeder.

6. WHENCE WAS IT ENGENDERED.—I.e., from what material cause, and from what creative cause, did it arise?

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