“[In the beginning] there was neither being nor non-being â€¦ [but] who really knows? â€¦ [for] the gods came afterwards.” This questioning attitude, might also have led to the invention of a god whose name was the interrogative pronoun, [ka.] For the creator once asked Indra, “Who am I?” Indra replied, “Just what you said: Who.” And this is how the creator got the name, Ka or Who.
In all humility, and with due reverence to all the sages and scholars who have interpreted the famous 'nAsadIya sUkta', I have attempted a compilation of some interpretations of the SUkta, adding my own thoughts to the discussions.
It is intended to lay a basis for further meditation on it.All the seven verses will be taken up one by one.
To gain consensus on translation, many available ones are given.
nAsadAsInno sadAsIttadAnIm | nAsIdrajo no vyomA paro yat |
kimAvarIvaH kuhakasya sharmann | aMbhaH kimAsIdgahanaM gabhIram || 1 ||
Existence was not then, nor non-existence,
The world was not, the sky beyond was neither.
What covered the mist? Of whom was that?
What was in the depths of darkness thick?
Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping
Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?
The non-existent was not, the existence was not;
then the world was not, not 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?
There was then neither what is nor what is not,
there was no sky, nor the heaven which is beyond.
What covered? Where was it, and in whose shelter?
Was the water the deep abyss (in which it lay)?
Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty:
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, bottlemlessly deep?
At first was neither Being nor Nonbeing.
There was not air nor yet sky beyond.
What was wrapping? Where? In whose protection?
Was Water there, unfathomable deep?
nAsad = na + asat - non-existence; AsIn - sitting; tadAnIm - then, at that time.
nAsI drajo = na + AsId + rajas; rajas - atmosphere, air, firmament; vyoman - sky, air, ether, heaven.
AvaraNa - cover; kuha - where? (MVD), a rogue, cheat; kuhA - fog, mist, kuhAvRuta - foggy; sharman - shelter, refuge; happiness, comfort, joy;
ambhas - celestial waters; gahana - an abyss, depth, impenetrable darkness; gabhIram - not to be penetrated or investigated or explored; uninterrupted (time); deepsounding, hollow-toned.