Sunday, February 25, 2007

Opinions: Nasadiya Suktam

One of the most famous Suktams in Rig Veda, which is perhaps more famous in western world (I mean, among 'Indologists') than here in India, is NAsadIya sUktam. Most people in India are happy with their PuruSa sUktam (for good reasons). I think freshers to this suktam should go here and update themselves with its meaning.

The part that catches the attention is the last line of the suktam:
The last line in Sanskrit is :
yo asyAdhyashkshah paramE vyOman sO anga vedA yadi vA na vEda

It is generally translated as:
He who surveys it in the highest heavens,
He surely knows, or may be He does not!

The 'it' here is, of course, the urge for creation, or the Creation itself, born in the mind of the Creator. The seer here opens up the possibility that the Creator himself does not know why he created. And since JnAna and Brahm can be equated, If Brahm does not have jnAna about something, that Brahm is no longer Brahm by very definition. And if Brahm is not Brahm (what?) then who else is Brahm?

There are three beautiful opinions in this regard:

1) According to A.K.Coomaraswamy the last line should be translated as:
"He knows and He knows not!"
The idea is that outcome of every act is not really fixed at all till the last second. The grace can act at last minute, there is no exception. The Creator does not need to plan ahead. Thus, both statements 'He knows' and 'He knows not in advance' are true. He does not specify the way of conclusion in advance, since such a specification limits His Own Power and by definition, the Supreme Person has no limitations.

2) According to Swamy Nikhilananda, since the suktam specifies a 'He' instead of 'It', the seer actually means 'SaguNa Brahm' and not 'NirguNa Brahm', and it is not surprising that SaguNa Brahm does not know something since He is a lesser consciousness than NirguNa Brahm. This view came up from Mr.Ramakrishna, another Shishya of my Guru while our little discussion was going on. But my Guru opines that since the entire RigVeda as 'sah' (He) instead of 'tat'(It), this theory has needs some more exploration before complete acceptance.

3) According to SAyana BhAshyam, the last line has a different meaning. The penultimate word 'na' in the verse is usually translated as 'not', but it can also mean 'who else'. My Guru gives several references where 'na' is used as 'who else'. Hence, the translation becomes: "He knows, and [if not] who else knows."

And finally, Guruji sums up after explaining all this: "Jo hai, so hai." (What is, is!). Thats is a quietened mind talking! It will take some time for me to accept the blunt reality in the sentence.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The word 'Anna' in PuruSa Suktam

Late yes, but not forgotten.

The word, as pointed out by Flute occurs in the phrase 'yadannenAtirohati' (yat + annena + atirohati).
It means "That which (yat) ascends (atirohati) by anna (annena--thRtIya vibhakti)".

Taken from Late Dr.S.K.Ramachandra Rao's 'PuruSa sukta':
It is usual to derive the word from 'ad' which has the sense of eating. Anna is what is eaten by living beings. It is also what eats or consumes them... i.e., karma phala. Therefore, anna means the material objects taken in by living beings to survive, and it means the karma proclivities acquired by living beings while procuring food and consuming it. All living beings are born of such food and survive on food.

There is another interpretation which takes anna in almost the same sense: the word refers to the world of actions and the results appropriate to them, comprehending this physical world that is unreal, and also the heavenly realms which are reached by ritualistic and religious actions, and which are also unreal. But the expression 'atirohati' is here taken in altogether a different sense: 'a-tirohati', 'does not dissappear or vanish'. The import is that the amrtatva (in the previous phrase) of which, the purusa is the lord, is not obscured or obliterated by the phenomenal world of actions and reactions. It is the real, and cannot be undone by appearances.

However, the nirukta nighantu asks "what is anna?" and answers: 'anna is so called because living beings incline or bend in its direction, or because it is consumed'. The word 'annam' derived from 'ad' as seen earlier, can also be derived from 'an', 'to breathe'. The nighantu gives:
1. andha: that by which creatures live,
2. brahma: that which makes the creatures grow, and which grows because of the creatures, and
3. varcha: that which gives lustre to the body
as synonymous with anna.
anna, derived from the root which has the meaning of movement or going, has by the same fact the meaning of knowledge. anna, therefore would mean knowledge. According to Siddhanta-Kaumudi, anna means the Sun. Thus, definition given in nairukta nighantu would apply equally justifiable to all these words: food, prAna, brahma, jnAna, surya.

Mundaka upanishad declares:: by tapas Brahma emanated; and from Brahma came forth anna, and from anna emerged prAna, as also manas, satya, lokAh, and amRta in actions.

The expression 'atirohati', which literally means mounts up, ascends, climbs suggests an upward movement, a transcendence, growth into a higher state or level of being. There are several mantras in RigVeda (RV) where the same expression is employed mostly with reference to Surya.
Now, Agni (the devatA of the earth region) is frequently mentioned in connection with anna in RV and likewise, Indra (the devatA of the mid-region) is associated with anna almost as often. Thus the expression 'annena atirohati' becomes meaningful, when viewed against the background of surya's mission of rising from the earth region and mid-region into the celestial region, assisted by Agni and Indra.

There is a lot more written in this connection in the book.