Aitareya Upanishad | by Shankara | I i 1-4


auṁ ātmā vā idameka evāgra āsīnnānyatkiṁcana miṣat . sa īkṣata lokānnu sṛjā iti .. 1..

In the beginning [all] this verily was Ātman only,
one and without a second.
There was nothing else that winked.
He bethought Himself: “Let Me now create the worlds.”

Ātmā vai, the absolute Self:

The word Ātmā, Self, is derived in the sense of comprehending, engulfing or pervading, and by it is signified one that is the highest, omniscient, omnipotent, and transcendental to all such worldly attributes as hunger;

and is by nature eternal, pure, conscious, and free; and is birthless, undecaying, immortal, fearless, and without a second.

Idam, this— all that has been referred to as this world, diversified through the differences of name, form, and action.

This world agre, in the beginning, before the creation of this world, āsīt, was; ātmā ekaḥ eva, but one Self.

Objection:  Has It ceased to be the same one entity?
Answer: No.

Objection: Why is it then said, “It was”?


Though even now that very same single entity endures, still there is some distinction. The distinction is this:

The universe in which the differences of name and form were not manifest before creation, which was then one with the Self, and which was denotable by the word and idea “Self”,

has now become denotable by many words and concepts as well as by the word “Self”, because of its diversification through the multiplicity of names and forms.

The case is analogous with that of foam and water:

Foam is denoted by the single word and concept water before the manifestation of names and forms distinct from water;

but when that foam becomes manifested as (an entity) distinct from water, owing to the difference of name and form,

then the very same foam becomes denotable by many words and concepts, viz. foam and water, as well as by only one word and one concept, viz. water.

The same is the case here.

Na anyat kiṁcana, there was nothing else whatsoever; miṣat, winking, that was active. (Nor was there) anything else (that was inactive).

Unlike the Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas which is an independent entity classed with the non-Selves, and unlike the atoms of the followers of Kaṇāda, there remained here nothing whatsoever apart from the Self.

What existed then? The Self alone existed. This is the idea.

Saḥ, that Self; being naturally omniscient, Īkṣata, thought; even though It was but one.


Since the Self was devoid of body and senses, how could It think before creation?


This is no fault because of Its nature of omniscience, in support of which fact is the mantra text, “Without hands and feet He grasps and goes” etc. (Šv. III. 19).

With what motive (did He think)?

The answer is sṛjai, let Me create; lokān, the worlds— (viz.) ambhas etc. which are the places for the enjoyment of the fruits of work by creatures.

Having visualised, i.e. deliberated, thus,


sa imāɱ llokānasṛjata . ambho marīcīrmāpo'do'mbhaḥ pareṇa divaṁ dyauḥ pratiṣṭhā'ntarikṣaṁ marīcayaḥ ..
pṛthivī maro yā adhastātta āpaḥ .. 2..

He created these worlds:

Ambhah (the world of water-bearing clouds),
Marīchi (the world of the solar rays),
Mara (the world of mortals),
and Āp (the world of waters).

Yon is ambhah, above heaven;
heaven is its support.
The Marichis are the interspace.
Mara is the earth.
What is underneath is Āp.

Saḥ, that Self; asṛjata, created, imān lokān, these worlds;

just as in the world an intelligent architect, or others, think, “I shall construct a palace etc. according to this plan”, and builds up the palace etc. after that deliberation.


It is logical that architects and others, possessed of materials, should raise up palaces etc.

But how can the Self, devoid of materials, create the worlds?


This is nothing wrong:

Name and form, which remain identified with the Self in their unmanifested state just like the (undiversified) foam with water, and are hence denotable by the word Self, can become the material cause of the universe, as water becomes that of the manifested foam.

Therefore there is nothing incongruous in saying that the omniscient Being creates the universe by virtue of Its oneness with the materials — viz. name and form — which are identified with Itself,

Or the more reasonable position is this:

Just as an intelligent juggler, who has no material, transforms himself, as it were, into a second self, ascending into space,

similarly the omniscient and omnipotent Deity, who is a supreme magician, creates Himself as another in the form of the universe.

On this view, the schools that hold such beliefs as the unreality of both cause and effect have no legs to stand on and are totally demolished.

Which are the worlds that He created?

They are being enumerated: Ambhas, Marīcīḥ, Maram, Āpāḥ.

Starting with space, he created in due order the cosmic egg, and then created the worlds—ambhas etc. As for these, the Upaniṣad itself explains the words ambhas etc.

Ada, that one — the world that is there; pareṇa divam, beyond heaven; is ambhas, is denoted by the word ambhas, It is called ambhas because it holds ambhas, water (cloud).

Of that world, viz. ambhas, dyauḥ pratiṣṭhā, heaven is the support, Antarīkṣam, the sky — that there is below heaven is the (world called) marīci.

Though this (last) world is one, it is used in the plural number as marīcīḥ (or rather marīcaya) because of the diversity of the space covered by it.

Or it is so used because of its association with the marīcayaḥ, rays (of the sun).
Pṛthivī, the earth, is mara, since beings die (mriyante) on it.

Yāḥ adhastāt, the worlds that are below — below the earth; tāḥ, they (are); āpa, called āpa, (lit. water) the word being derived (from the root āp) in the sense of being attained.

Though the worlds are constituted by the 5 elements, still, because of the predominance of water (etc. in them), they are referred to, by the synonyms of water (etc.) - as ambhas. marīcīḥ, maram, āpaḥ.


sa īkṣateme nu lokā lokapālānnu sṛjā iti .. so'dbhya eva puruṣaṁ samuddhṛtyāmūrchayat .. 3..

He bethought Himself:
“Here now are the worlds.
Let Me now create world-guardians.”
right from the waters He drew forth the Person
[in the form of a lump] and gave Him a shape.

Having created the 4 worlds that provide support for the fruits of action, as well as the materials for those fruits, for all creatures, saḥ, He, God; īkṣata, deliberated; again; iti, thus

"Ime nu lokāḥ, these then are the worlds, viz. ambhas etc., created by Me, which will perish if they are devoid of protectors. Accordingly, for their preservation, nu sṛjai, let Me create; lokapālān, the protectors of the worlds.'’

Having deliberated thus, saḥ. He: samuddhṛtya, having gathered up; puruṣaṁ, a human form, possessed of head, hands, etc., adbhyah, from the water, itself—

from the 5 elements in which water predominated, and from which He had created (the worlds, viz.) ambhas etc.—just as a potter gathers up a lump of clay from the earth;

amūrchayat, (He) gave shape to it—that is to say, fashioned it by endowing it with limbs.


tamabhyatapattasyābhitaptasya mukhaṁ nirabhidyata yathā'ṇḍaṁ mukhādvāgvāco'gnirnāsike nirabhidyetaṁ nāsikābhyāṁ prāṇaḥ .. prāṇādvāyurakṣiṇī nirabhidyetamakṣībhyāṁ cakṣuścakṣuṣa ādityaḥ karṇau nirabhidyetāṁ karṇābhyāṁ śrotraṁ śrotraddiśastvaṅnirabhidyata tvaco lomāni lomabhya oṣadhivanaspatayo
hṛdayaṁ nirabhidyata hṛdayānmano manasaścandramā nābhirnirabhidyata nābhyā apāno'pānānmṛtyuḥ
śiśnaṁ nirabhidyata śiśnādreto retasa āpaḥ .. 4..

He Brooded over Him (the lump). From Him, so brooded over,

the mouth was separated out, as with an egg;
from the mouth, [the organ of] speech;
from speech, fire (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the nostrils were separated out;
from the nostrils, [the organ of] breath (prāṇa);
from breath, air (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the eyes were separated out;
from the eyes, [the organ of] sight (cakṣuḥ);
from sight, the sun (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the ears were separated out;
from the ears, [the organ of] hearing (śrotra);
from hearing, the quarters of space (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the skin was separated out;
from the skin, hairs (i.e. the organ of touch);
from the hairs, plants and trees
(i.e. air, the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the heart was separated out;
from the heart, [the organ of] the mind (manas);
from the mind, the moon (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the navel was separated out;
from the navel, the [organ of] the apāna;
from the apāna, Death (i.e. Varuṇa, the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the virile member was separated out;
from the virile member, semen (the organ of generation);
from semen, the waters (the controlling deity of the organ).

Tam, with regard to Him, (Virāṭ of) that human form; He abhyatapat, undertook tapas (lit. austerity), i.e. He deliberated over, or resolved about, Him; for a Vedic text says,

Whose tapas is constituted by knowledge” (Mu. I. i. 9).

Tasya abhitaptasya, of that (Virāṭ), of the lump (that was Virāṭ’s body), when subjected to the tapas or resolution of God; mukham nirabhidyata, the mouth parted—a hole in the shape of the mouth emerged, just as the bird’s egg bursts.

Mukhāt, from (that) mouth, that had parted; was brought into existence vāk, the organ of speech: vāca, from that vāk; was produced Agniḥ, Fire, (the deity) that presides over vāk and is a regional protector.

Similarly nāsike nirabhidyetām, the nostrils parted; nāsikābhyām prāņa from the nostrils emerged the sense of smell; prāṇat Vāyuḥ, from the sense of smell was formed Vāyu, Air.

In all cases, the seat of the organs, the organs, and the deity—these 3 emerged in succession.

Akṣiṇī, the 2 eyes; karṇau, the 2 orifices of the ears; tvak, skin—(all these which are the seats of the organs), (and) hṛdayam, heart (which is the) seat of the internal organ; mana mind, the internal organ, nābhi, the navel (i.e. the root of the anus), which is the focal point of the vital forces.

The organ of ejection (seated at the anus) is called Apāna, because of its association with Арānа (the vital force that moves down).

From that originated its presiding deity mṛtyu, Death. As in the other cases, so śiśnam, the seat of the organ of generation was formed:

Its organ is retas, semen — the organ meant for discharging semen being called semen from the fact of its association with semen. From semen (i.e. the procreative organ) emerged (its deity) āpaḥ, Water.