Prajapati lay with his eyes closed. Between head and breast an ardor burned within him, like water seething in silence. It was constantly transforming something: it was tapas. But what was it transforming? The mind. The mind was what transformed and what was transformed. It was the warmth, the hidden flame behind the bones, the succession and dissolution of shapes sketched on darkness–and the sensation of knowing what was happening. Everything resembled something else. Everything was connected to something else. Only the sensation of consciousness resembled nothing at all. And yet all resemblances flowed back and forth within it. It was the “indistinct wave.” Each resemblance was a crest of that wave. At the time, “this world was nothing but water.” And then? “In the midst of the waves a single seer.” Already the waters were the mind. But why that eye? Within the mind came the split that precedes all others, that implies all others. There was consciousness and there was an eye watching consciousness. In the same mind were two beings. Who might become three, thirty, three thousand. Eyes that watched eyes that watched eyes. But that first step was enough in itself. All the other eyes were there in that “one seer” and in the waters.
The waters yearned. Alone, they burned. “They burned their heat.” A golden shell took shape in the wave.” This, the one, was born from the strength of the heat.” And inside the shell, over the arc of a year, the body of Prajapati took shape. But “the year didn’t exist” then. Time appeared as the organ of a single being, nesting inside that being, who drifted on the waters, with no support. After a year the being began to emit syllables, which were the earth, the air, the distant sky. Already he knew he was Father Time. Prajapati was granted a life of a thousand years: he looked out before him, beyond the cresting waves, and far, far away glimpsed a strip of earth, the faint line of a distant shore. His death.
Prajapati was the one “self-existing” being, svayambhu. But this did not make him any less vulnerable than any creature born. He had no knowledge, didn’t have qualities. He was the first self-made divinity. He didn’t know the meters, not in the beginning. Then he felt a simmering somewhere inside. He saw a chant–and finally let it out. Where from? From the suture in his skull.
. . .
Born of the waters’ desiring, Prajapati begat “all this,” idam sarvam, but he was the only one who couldn’t claim to have a progenitor–not even a mother. If anything he had many mothers, for the waters are an irreducible feminine plural. The waters were his daughters too, as though from the beginning it was important to show that in every essential relationship generation is reciprocal.
from Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India, by Roberto Calasso