Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": 'HOW MAY VARUNA AND I BE UNITED?'


('Rig Veda,' VII, 86)

1. The tribes of men have wisdom through his greatness who stayed

even spacious heaven and earth asunder,1

Who urged the high and mighty sky to motion, and stars of old,

and spread the earth before him.

2. With my own heart I commune on the question how Varuna and

I may be united.

What gift of mine will he accept unangered? When may I calmly

look and find him gracious?

3. Fain to know this my sin I question others: I seek the wise, 0

Varuna, and ask them.

This one same answer even the sages gave me, surely this Varuna

is angry with thee.2

4. What, Varuna, hath been my chief transgression, that thou wouldst

slay the friend who sings thy praises?

Tell me, unconquerable Lord, and quickly sinless will I approach

thee with my homage.

5. Loose us from sins committed by our fathers, from those wherein

we have ourselves offended.

O king, loose, like a thief who feeds the cattle,3 as from the cord a

calf, set free Vasishtha .4

6. Not our own will betrayed its, but seduction, thoughtlessness,

Varuna! wine, dice, or anger.

The old is near to lead astray the younger. even slumber leadeth

men to evil-doing.

7. Slavelike may I do service to the bounteous, serve, free from sin,

the god inclined to anger.

This gentle lord gives wisdom to the simple: the wiser god leads

on the wise to riches.

8. 0 lord, 0 Varuna, may this laudation come close to thee and lie

within thy spirit.

May it be well with us in rest and labour. Preserve us evermore,

ye gods, with Blessings.


Notes

1 Heaven and earth, originally united, are 'propped apart' and established by Varuna, the upholder of the cosmic order (rita).

2 Varuna 'binds' with fetters those who transgress; ritually or morally, his universal law. The poet, perhaps suffering from illness, seeks to confess the sin for which he is being punished, so that Varuna may forgive and 'release.' His guilt is an uneasy burden while his sin goes unnamed, and the praiser of Varuna seeks only to restore a right relationship with the god.

3 Or, 'like a cattle-stealing thief' (A. A. Macdonell, A Vedic Reader for Students [London: Oxford University, 19171, P. 138.)

4 A well-known 'seer' (rishi).


Translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith, in his The Hymns of the Rigveda, III (Benares, 1891), pp. 106-7

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