Aitareya Upanishad- Origin of the Universe & Man (Part-1)

Mantra 2

sa ima.n llokanasrijata. ambho marichirmapo.ado.ambhah parena diva.n

dyauh pratishtha.antariksham marichayah ..

prithivi maro ya adhastatta apah .. 2..

He created these worlds: Ambhah, the world of water-bearing clouds, Marichi, the world of the solar rays, Mara, the world of mortals and Ap, 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 Ap. 

It should be kept in mind that at the very outset, He created the five rudimentary elements. First there emerged four fields for the functioning of the universe. Those have been identified here as 1. The ocean beyond the heavens (Ambaha) supported by Heavens, 2. The region of light (Marichi),  3. The region of death in the form of earth (Mara) and 4. Primeval waters supporting the earth (Apah).

Mantra 3

sa ikshateme nu loka lokapalannu srija iti .. so.adbhya eva purusha.n

samuddhrityamurchayat.h .. 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. 

He then reflected “here are the worlds, let me now create guardians of the worlds to protect it”. He then, like a potter, who first takes a lump of clay in his hands and then gradually gives it a shape, gave a shape to the person in the form of a lump which is called Virat, the gross form of the Cosmic Person (Purusha) of whom all the tangible physical objects are parts.

Mantra 4

tamabhyatapattasyabhitaptasya mukha.n nirabhidyata yatha.andam

mukhadvagvacho.agnirnasike nirabhidyeta.n nasikabhyam pranah ..

pranadvayurakshini nirabhidyetamakshibhya.n chakshushchakshusha

adityah karnau nirabhidyeta.n karnabhya.n shrotra.n

shrotraddishastva~nnirabhidyata tvacho lomani lomabhya oshadhivanaspatayo

hridaya.n nirabhidyata hridayanmano manasashchandrama nabhirnirabhidyata

nabhya apano.apananmrityuh

shishna.n nirabhidyata shishnadreto retasa apah .. 4..

He brooded over Him. From Him, so brooded over,
the mouth was separated out, as with an egg; form 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; from breath, air, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the eyes were separated out; from the eyes, the organ of sight; from sight, the sun, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the ears were separated out; from the ears, the organ of hearing; from hearing, the quarters of space, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the skin was separated out; from the skin, hairs, the organ of touch; from the hairs, plants and trees, air the controlling deity of the organs.
Then the heart was separated out; from the heart, the organ of the mind;
from the mind, the moon, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the navel was separated out; from the navel, the organ of the apana;
from the apana, Death, Varuna, the controlling deity of the organ.
Then the virile member was separated out; from the virile member, semen, the organ of generation; from the semen, the waters, the controlling deity of the organ. 

He brooded over the lump, intending to give it the shape of a man. It will be seen from the stags of evolution of man as described above that the visible instruments are formed first, next the subtle organ which is the real instrument of perception and last the controlling deity which animates each organ. The controlling deity is the guardian of the respective organ.

The process of creation described here is analogous to the development of embryo in an egg or foetus in the womb. The microcosm of man and macrocosm of cosmos follow an identical pattern.

ityaitareyopanishadi prathamadhyaye prathamah khandah

End of Chapter I - Section 1 

atha aitareyopanishadi prathamadhyaye dvitiyah khandah

Chapter I - Section 2
Cosmic Powers in the Human Body 

Mantra 1

ta eta devatah srishta asminmahatyarnave prapatan.h

. tamashanapipasabhyamanvavarjat.h . ta

enamabruvannayatana.n nah prajanihi yasminpratishthita annamadameti .. 1..

These deities, thus created, fell into this great ocean. He, the Creator, subjected the Person (Virat in the form of a lump) to hunger and thirst. They (the deities) said to Him (the Creator): "Find out for us an abode wherein being established we may eat food." 

From now on the word ‘Creator” is being used in place of ‘Atman’. The first-born Purusha, from whom the instruments of perception and deities were separated out was subjected to hunger and thirst. We have to understand that as the Purusha was afflicted with hunger and thirst, His offspring, the deities, were also subjected to them. The deities then asked for an abode where they could live and grow. This allegory emphasizes the basic fact of life that desires, want and their fulfillment are applicable to the whole of creation and none is immune to them.

Sankara’s commentary here is highly illuminating and hence it is quoted in full as follows. “The created Beings fell into the Great Ocean i.e., samsara or the phenomenal world where the great water-currents consist of  miseries created by ignorance, desire, and action and which is filled with vicious crocodiles in the shape of painful diseases, senility and death. Without beginning or end, shoreless and without bottom, it affords relief in the form of the fleeting joy produced from the contact of the senses with their objects. Alas, this ocean is full of high waves of hundreds of evils lashed by the wind of the intense longing of the senses for their objects and it roars with the deafening noise of the anguish and cries arising from its numerous hells.

But there lies in the ocean, a raft of knowledge, in which are stored the provisions of many goodly virtues, such as truthfulness, integrity, charity, compassion, non-violence, control of the body, restraint of the mind, and determination and also a track in the form of holy company and renunciation, which leads to the shore of Liberation”.

The gods or cosmic divinities also belong to the phenomenal world. Therefore, the attainment of oneness with them, as a result of practice of meditation and rituals cannot destroy the miseries of samsara. This being so, the aspirant seeking liberation from the phenomenal suffering, should realize the Supreme Brahman as his own self and the self of all beings. There is no other way to emancipation.

Mantra 2-3

tabhyo gamanayatta abruvanna vai no.ayamalamiti.

tabhyo.ashvamanayatta abruvanna vai no.ayamalamiti .. 2..

tabhyah purushamanayatta abruvan.h sukritam bateti purusho vava sukritam.h .

ta abravidyathayatanam pravishateti .. 3..

He brought them a cow. They said: "But this is not enough for us." He brought them a horse. They said: "This, too, is not enough for us." He brought them a person. The deities said: "Ah, this is well done, indeed." Therefore a person is verily something well done. He said to the deities: "Now enter your respective abodes." 

The allegory continues. The Creator offered the cosmic powers a cow, a horse and finally a man as an abode for them to live in. The deities rejected the cow and the horse but chose the man as a masterpiece. Being satisfied as their residence, they entered into the man through his various sense organs. The choice of man as residence signifies the superiority of human birth whose body can be made use of as a vehicle for performing good and noble actions including realization of God. No other body can give such variety of options.

Mantra 4

agnirvagbhutva mukham pravishadvayuh prano bhutva nasike

pravishadadityashchakshurbhutva.akshini pravishaddishah

shrotram bhutva karnau pravishannoshadhivanaspatayo lomani bhutva

tvachampravisha.nshchandrama mano bhutva hridayam pravishanmrityurapano

bhutva nabhim pravishadapo reto bhutva shishnam pravishan.h .. 4..

The deity fire became the organ of speech and entered the mouth. Air became breath and entered the nostrils. The sun became sight and entered the eyes; the quarters of space became hearing and entered the ears. Plants and trees, the deity of air, became hairs and entered the skin. The moon became the mind and entered the heart. Death became the apana and entered the navel. The waters became semen and entered the virile member. 

Now the Upanishad illustrates the details of cosmic powers which reside in human body and empower his various organs of perception and action. These are tabulated as under.

















Hair (touch)








Generative Organ

Seed (Procreation)


Mantra 5

tamashanayapipase abrutamavabhyamabhiprajanihiti te abravidetasveva

va.n devatasvabhajamyetasu bhaginnyau karomiti . tasmadyasyai kasyai

cha devatayai havigri.rhyate bhaginyavevasyamashanayapipase

bhavatah .. 5..

Hunger and thirst said to the Creator: "For the two of us find an abode also." He said to them: "I assign the two of you to these deities; I make you co-sharers with them." Therefore to whatsoever deity an oblation is made, hunger and thirst became sharers in it.

Seeing other deities occupy their allotted places in man, hunger and thirst also demanded their own abode for themselves. Instead of assigning them an independent abode, the Creator asked them to share the abode with all the other deities. This signifies that desires afflict all the senses and that hunger and thirst are mere sensations which cannot subsist independently without their supporting sense organs; for example mere hunger cannot eat food unless it takes the help of the mouth to eat.

ityaitareyopanishadi prathamadhyaye dvitiyah khandah

End of Chapter I - Section 2

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