The Golden God, the Self, the immortal Swan

Leaves the small nest of the body, goes where He wants.

He moves through the realm of dreams; makes numberless forms,

Delights in sex; eats, drinks, laughs with His friends;

Frightens himself with scenes of heart-chilling terror.

But He is not attached to anything that He sees;

And after He has wandered in the realms of dream and awakeness,

Has tasted pleasures and experienced good and evil,

He returns to the blissful state from which He began.

As a fish swims forward to one riverbank then the other,

Self alternates between awakeness and dreaming.

As an eagle, weary from long flight, folds its wings,

Gliding down to its nest, Self hurries to the realm

Of dreamless sleep, free of desires, fear, pain. — from “The Golden God,” from the Upanishads. Sanskrit translated by Stephen Mitchell.

The Upanishads are a body of philosophical texts considered to be an early primary source for Hindu practice and belief. Unlike the Veda texts, which are considered received texts from the gods, the more than 200 Upanishads are considered a mixture of divine and non-divine texts. They date from the pre-Buddhist era of India to as late as 1926 A.D. “The Golden God” was written sometime between 800 and 500 BC as a devotional hymn.

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