So where will your Journey of Discovering India begin ? The Beginning 

            obviously. And what would be an appropriate Beginning ? 

  Gautam Mukerjee

           The Creation Hymn from the Rig Veda will be our subject of discussion this 
  Vice Chairman, President            month. It is the beginning of all beginnings and confirmed as that by the 
  The India Foundation            astrophysicist Carl Sagan in his Origin of the Universe episode from the     
             Emmy award winning series the COSMOS. In Sagan's words it is the closest    
             philosophy Man has had on the origin of the Universe in line with today's 
             Quantum Field Theories of Physics.
       The Rig Veda was composed by Poet - Philosophers around 1500 
       BC. It has over a thousand hymns. There are more questions than 
       answers. There are puzzles, some like Japanese Koans. Most are 
       obscure, opaque, convoluted but sometimes crystal clear and 
       shining through to the readers consciousness with so much power 
         that you feel truly enlightened.

           My favourite is the Creation Hymn, probably the most intellectually subtle
           piece of non-logic from Mankind's philosophical past.
           There are many translations but I love Prof. Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty's the
           best. She trained as a dancer with Martha Graham, took up Sanskrit at Radcliff, 
           going onto doctoral degrees in Indian literature from Harvard and Oxford. She
           is the Mircea Eliade Professor of the History of Religions at the University of 
             This is her wonderful translation :




  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 the mind. 
Poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of the 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.

  subject moderators
  social landscapes
  pot pourri  
  Read it at least thrice before moving on and I'm sure you'll begin to taste  
  the beautiful flavor of the intellectual duel inherent in the hymn.
  It would be best to wrestle this one with your Mind but let me sow some seeds
  for your debate to take shape.
  Why specify that there was neither non-existence nor existence then ? The
linear world of western philosophy would have left it at saying no existence.
It is the complex, a step further world of Indian philosophy that says
no non-existence either. Because to accept the negative is to allude to a
positive indirectly. This is logic at its subtle best, isn't it ?
So what is the prime mover of consciousness ? It is Desire. Desire creates
the Will to know, to understand, to live consciously. (Read the detailed
background note I've provided from Dr. S. Radhakrishnan's Oxford Lectures
on Hindu philosophy. The Creation Hymn portion is great for those of you
who want to delve deeper).

Two roads to infinity.


  The third interesting question posed by this lovely Hymn is on the status of 
  the Creator. The classic chicken and egg syndrome. Who came first. The
Creator or the Universe ?
The palpably vibrant query - who created the Creator ? How did he come
to exist ? And the truest answer - WHO KNOWS ? Its really perfect in every
logical sense. The acceptance of a Creator. The mystery of his origin. 
Leaving the question hanging without trying to provide a glib answer.
The background philosophy of admitting that it is impossible to define
the infinite (the source of Creation) by the finite, i.e. our very, very limited
understanding of that infinite. Because once you define the infinite, it is
no longer the infinite and that is just not possible. So pose the question
but do not venture forth to answer it.
Very, very clever.
So how does it feel sharing 3500 year old thoughts of Scribes conjecturing on
Creation ?
  Absolutely amazing I'd say. And if you want a more serious input; look up the
  background reading on the Introduction. That should provide a real intellectual
high !
We have a wide spectrum of subjects covering the many wonderful faces
of India. Each one will reveal beautiful secrets that will build her personality
brick by brick for you.
Bon Voyage and see you next month. Same time. Same place.
    hfghf     Ta,ghfghfghfg


The Universe as an unexpected gift. Watercolor by Greg Mort.






                      Background Readings