The Aitareya Upanishad, Chapter 1, Section 1

Aitareya World View

Translation by Jayaram V


My speech is harmonized with my mind and my mind is harmonized with my speech. He who is manifested, may He manifest himself before me. Acting as a nail, may He makes the knowledge of the Vedas stay with me. Do not let go what I have learned. With the help of what I have studied day and night, I speak that which is harmonious, I speak Truth. May that protect me, protect the speaker. Aum, peace, peace, peace.

1. The Self only verily all this was in the beginning. Nothing else whatsoever stirred. He (the Self) thought, "Let me now create the worlds."

2. He then created all these worlds. He created the world of rain, the world of sun rays, the world of death, and the world in the water. Above the heaven is world of rain The heaven is its supports. The world of sun rays is the mid-region. The earth is the world death. That which is below is the world in the waters

The Vedic people believed that the cloud bearing region from where rains fell was the world of rains or the ambhas. Below was the heaven of Indra, where gods lived. Below that was the mid-region (antariksha), the world or celestial beings. It separates the heaven from the earth and filled with the light from the sun. Our world is called the world of death because beings here are subject to mortality and it is ruled by the lord of death. The lakes, oceans and rivers are always found below the ground level. Hence, they considered it a separate world, the world hidden in the waters, inhabited by fishes, snakes, etc..

3. He thought, 'Here are now the worlds. Let me create their controllers. So from the waters He brought out the Purusha and gave him a shape.'

This verse refers to the creation of the being, or the primeval person, who is called 'purusam'. The being is the embodied Self, a combination of the Self and aspects of Nature. The controllers are the deities which are symbolized in the body as organs. They are called controllers because they control particular functions in the body and reside in their designated spheres which they rule. The being is also a controller. He controls all the organs in the body.

4. He meditated upon him. From him who was thus meditated upon the mouth was separated, like (a chick coming out of) an egg. From the mouth came speech, from speech fire. The nostrils were separated. From the nostrils, breath, from breath air. The eyes were separated. From the eyes sight, from sight the sun. The ears were separated. From the ears hearing, from hearing the (eight) directions of space. The skin was separated. From the skin, the hairs, from the hair plants and trees. The heart was separated. From the heart the mind, from the mind the moon. The navel was separated. From the navel, the out breath, from the out breath came death. The reproductive organs were separated. From it semen, from semen water.

Creation is a process of differentiation. It is characterized by diversity. The verse explains how the diversity in the beings manifested, or how the different parts of the body came into existence, and how they occupied their respective spheres. Since, the source of all creation is one, it logically follows that one becomes many by differentiating into many or by separating itself into distinct parts and forms. According to this verse the first to differentiate in the body of the person was mouth. It is probably because the newly born baby comes out into the world crying. Therefore, speech is the first sign of life. It is only after crying and breathing, the baby starts looking at the world,, listening to the sounds, and using other senses.

From this we have to presume that the Creator first manifested the Self. He clothed it with a form and a body. Inside the body he manifested different organs and infused them with the force of prana. Finally, he subjected them to death by creating outgoing breath and rebirth by creating reproductive organs. There is a logical progression in the description of the whole process of how a being is formed and given birth. It is possible that the seers of the Upanishad conceived this design by observing life and how beings are born. It is a basic Hindu concept that man is a microcosmic representation of the macrocosm, the Purusha. All the gods and divinities exist in man also, though in a subtle form. The divinities who exist in the macrocosmic form of God (Purusha) as various energies or powers, also exist in His microcosmic aspect ( man or being) as sense organs, the mind, the reproductive organs and so on. Hence, it appears that they took this model of human birth and conceptualized the creation of the macrocosm also.

Aitareya Upanishad Links

Chapter 1, Section 1 | Chapter 1, Section 2 | Chapter 1, Section 3 | Chapter 2 & 3


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