Subala Upanishad of Shukla-yajurveda

by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar | 1914 | 5,729 words

This is the English translation of the Subala Upanishad (belonging to the Shukla Yajurveda): a minor Sanskrit treatise selected amongst a collection 108 extant upanishads, dating to at least the 1st millennium BC. The Subala-upanishad is presented in the form of a dialogue between Raikva (Subala) and Prajapati. It discusses various topics, such as...

Chapter I (first khaṇḍa)

Then he (Raikva[1]) asked: "What was at first?" To which (He the Lord) replied:

"There was neither Sat[2] nor asat nor Sat-asat. From it, tamas (darkness) was evolved. From tamas came bhūtādi;[3] from bhūtādi came ākāś, from ākāś, vāyu; from vāyu, agni (fire); from agni, āpas (water); and from āpas, pṛthivī (earth). Then it became an egg. After remaining so for one (divine) year, it split into two and became earth below,[4] the ākāś above and in the midst, the infinite Puruṣa of a divine form of myriads of heads, eyes, feet and hands. Prior to the bhūtas (elements), he had evolved Mṛtyu (time or death) of three letters[5], three heads, and three feet, and having a khaṇḍa-paraśu[6] (broken axe). To him, Brahma (the Puruṣa) spoke. He entered Brahma himself and evolved mentally the seven sons[7] and these Havirāts (or sons) as well as the seven prajāpatis (progenitors). Brāhmaṇas[8] were born from His mouth, Kṣattriyas from His hands, Vaiśyas from His thighs, and from the feet were born the Śudras. The moon was born from His manas (mind), the sun from His eyes, vāyu from (His) ears and prāṇas from (His) heart. Thus all things were born."

Footnotes and references:


In the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, Raikva is said to be the imparter of Samvargavidyā.


The absolute (Parabrahman) is neither Sat (Be-ness) nor asaṭ (not-Be-ness) nor a commingling of both. It is neither spirit nor matter nor a commingling of both.


Bhūtādi is tāmasa ahaṅkāra according to Viṣṇu Purāṇa.


"Above and below" refers not to the position but only to the state, of matter, gross or subtle. "In the midst" implies that ākāś and earth are soaked in and with spirit.


This refers to the first triune manifestation of Purusha or spirit through time when only there is activity, Mṛtyu or Kāla is the first manifestation whereas Yama (or the God of death) is the secondary one dealing with the death of creatures lower down.


Khaṇḍa means divided or with parts. Parasu literally injuring another. Hence Mṛtyu with his khaṇḍa-parasu divided eternal time into its parts and conditions the absolute through primordial matter. In the Purāṇas and other books, Mṛtyu and Yama are represented as having an axe broken in a conflict.


This refers to the septenary manifestation from the triune one; also to the sub-septenary ones.


In other words beings of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and an admixture of these were born.

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