Purusha Sukta


Purusha Sukta

The Significance of the Purusha Sukta

The Purusha Sukta of the Vedas is not only a powerful hymn of the insight of the great Seer, Rishi Narayana, on the Cosmic Divine Being as envisaged through the multitudinous variety of creation, but also a shortcut provided to the seeker of Reality for entering into the state of Superconsciousness. The Sukta is charged with a fivefold force potent enough to rouse God-experience in the seeker. Firstly, the Seer (Rishi) of the Sukta is Narayana, the greatest of sages ever known, who is rightly proclaimed in the Bhagavata as the only person whose mind cannot be disturbed by desire and, as the Mahabharata says, whose power not even all the gods can ever imagine. Such is the Rishi to whom the Sukta was revealed and who gave expression to it as the hymn on the Supreme Purusha.

Secondly, the mantras of the Sukta are composed in a particular metre (chandas) which makes its own contribution by the generating of a special spiritual force during the recitation of the hymn.

Thirdly, the intonation (svara) with which the mantras are recited adds to the production of the correct meaning intended to be conveyed through the mantras, and any error in the intonation may produce a different effect altogether.

Fourthly, the Deity (devata) addressed in the hymn is not any externalized or projected form as a content in space and time, but is the Universal Being which transcends space and time and is the indivisible supra-essential essence of experience.

Fifthly, the Sukta suggests, apart from the universalized concept of the Purusha, an inwardness of this experience, thus distinguishing it from perception of any object.

The Sukta begins with the affirmation that all the heads, all the eyes, and all the feet in creation are of the Purusha. Herein is implied the astonishing truth that we do not see many things, bodies, objects, persons, forms, or colors, or hear sounds, but rather only the limbs of the One Purusha. And, just as when we behold the hand, leg, ear or nose of a person as various parts we do not think that we are seeing many things but only a single person in front of us, and we develop no separate attitude whatsoever in regard to the various parts of the person’s body —because here our attitude is one of a single whole of consciousness beholding one complete person irrespective of the limbs or the parts of which the person may be the composite — in the same manner, we are to behold creation not as a conglomeration of discrete persons and things with which we have to develop a different attitude or conduct, but as a single Universal Person who gloriously shines before us and gazes at us through all the eyes, nods before us through all the heads, smiles through all the lips and speaks through all the tongues. This is the Purusha of the Purusha Sukta. This is the God sung in the hymn by Rishi Narayana. This is not the god of any religion, and this is not one among many gods. This is the only God who can possibly be anywhere, at any time.

Our thought, when it is extended and trained in the manner required to see the universe before us, receives a stirring shock, because this very thought lays the axe at the root of all desires, for no desire is possible when all creation is but one Purusha. This illusion and this ignorance in which the human mind is moving when it desires anything in the world — whether it is a physical object or a mental condition, or a social situation — is immediately dispelled by the simple but most revolutionary idea which the Sukta deals to the mind with one stroke. We behold the One Being (ekam sat) before us, not a manifoldness or a variety to be desired or avoided.

But a greater shock is yet to be, for the Sukta implies to any intelligent thinker that he himself is one of the heads or limbs of the Purusha. This condition where even to think would be to think as the Purusha thinks — for no other way of thinking is even possible, and it would be to think through all persons and things in creation simultaneously — would indeed not be human thinking or living. Just as we do not think merely with one cell of our brain but think with the entire brain, any single thinker forming but a part of the Purusha’s Universal Thinking Centre, ‘a Centre which is everywhere with circumference nowhere’, cannot afford to think as is usually attempted by what are called jivas, or individual fictitious centres of thinking. There is no other way — na anyah pantha vidyate. This is Supramental thinking. This is Divine Meditation. This is the yajna which, as the Sukta says, the Devas performed in the beginning of time.

The Purusha-Sukta is not merely this much. It is something more to the seeker. The above description should not lead us to the erroneous notion that God can be seen with the eyes — as we see a cow, for instance — though it is true that all things are the Purusha. It is to be remembered that the Purusha is not the ‘seen’ but the ‘seer’. The point is simple to understand. When everything is the Purusha, where can there be an object to be seen? The apparently ‘seen’ objects are also the heads of the ‘seeing’ Purusha. There is, thus, only the seer seeing himself without a seen.

Here, again, the seer’s seeing of himself is not to be taken in the sense of a perception in space and time, for that would again be creating an object where it is not. It is the seer seeing himself not through eyes, but in Consciousness. It is the absorption of all objectification in a Universal Being-ness. 

With deep gratitude to Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society 


Purusha Sukta, the Hymn

सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् ।

स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वात्यतिष्ठद्दशाङुलम् ॥1॥

पुरुष एवेदं सर्वं यद्भूतं यच्च भव्यम् ।

उतामृतत्वस्येशानो यदन्नेनातिरोहति ॥2॥

एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः ।

पादोऽस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि ॥3॥

त्रिपादूर्ध्व उदैत्पूरुषः पादोऽस्येहाभवत्पुनः ।

ततो विष्वङ् व्यक्रामत्साशनानशने अभि ॥4॥

तस्माद्विराळजायत विराजो अधि पूरुषः ।

स जातो अत्यरिच्यत पश्चाद्भूमिमथो पुरः ॥5॥

यत्पुरुषेण हविषा देवा यज्ञमतन्वत ।

वसन्तो अस्यासीदाज्यं ग्रीष्म इध्मः शरद्धविः ॥6॥

तं यज्ञं बर्हिषि प्रौक्षन्पुरुषं जातमग्रतः ।

तेन देवा अयजन्त साध्या ऋषयश्च ये ॥7॥

तस्माद्यज्ञात्सर्वहुतः सम्भृतं पृषदाज्यम् ।

पशून्ताँश्चक्रे वायव्यानारण्यान् ग्राम्याश्च ये ॥8॥

तस्माद्यज्ञात्सर्वहुत ऋचः सामानि जज्ञिरे ।

छन्दांसि जज्ञिरे तस्माद्यजुस्तस्मादजायत ॥9॥

तस्मादश्वा अजायन्त ये के चोभयादतः ।

गावोः ह जज्ञिरे तस्मात् तस्माज्जाता अजावयः ॥10॥

यत्पुरुषं व्यदधुः कतिधा व्यकल्पयन् ।

मुखं किमस्य कौ बाहू का ऊरू पादा उच्येते ॥11॥

ब्राह्मणोऽस्य मुखमासीद् बाहू राजन्यः कृतः ।

ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत ॥12॥

चन्द्रमा मनसो जातश्चक्षोः सूर्यो अजायत ।

मुखादिन्द्रश्चाग्निश्च प्राणाद्वायुरजायत ॥13॥

नाभ्या आसीदन्तरिक्षं शीर्ष्णो द्यौः समवर्तत ।

पद्भ्यां भूमिर्दिशः श्रोत्रात्तथा लोकाँ अकल्पयन् ॥14॥

सप्तास्यासन् परिधयस्त्रिः सप्त समिधः कृताः ।

देवा यद्यज्ञं तन्वाना अबध्नन्पुरुषं पशुम् ॥15॥

यज्ञेन यज्ञमयजन्त देवास्तानि धर्माणि प्रथमान्यासन् ।

ते ह नाकं महिमानः सचन्त यत्र पूर्वे साध्याः सन्ति देवाः ॥16॥

For transliteration and meaning


An Interpretation of Selected Verses

[We offer a preliminary and somewhat tentative interpretation of a selection of the verses (1 to 7 & 16) from the Sukta here. The reader should follow this up with a more detailed study if interested. There are multiple interpretations of this hymn from multiple sources — Ed.

सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् ।
स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वात्यतिष्ठद्दशाङुलम् ॥1॥

The Purusha of a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet (Sahasra, or thousand, is not a literal figure here but symbol of many, numerable, countless; all heads and eyes and feet, all beings, are Purusha only) who pervades all this universe and extends infinitely into the ten directions (symbolized by the ten fingers) and still exceeds all measure.

पुरुष एवेदं सर्वं यद्भूतं यच्च भव्यम् ।
उतामृतत्वस्येशानो यदन्नेनातिरोहति ॥2॥

Purusha is all this that is, all that has existed and all that shall ever exist; Purusha is also the God of Immortality (amrit signifies immortality and liberation from birth and death) and thus, when utterly consumed (as food is consumed) by this Purusha, one attains to immortality.

एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः ।
पादोऽस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि ॥३॥

Whatever is seen and known here is the glory and greatness of Purusha; and beyond the known and seen is also Purusha. Whatever is manifest in this universe is but one fourth portion of Purusha, three fourths of Purusha remains unmanifest in its changeless, immortal transcendence.

त्रिपादूर्ध्व उदैत्पूरुषः पादोऽस्येहाभवत्पुनः ।
ततो विष्वङ् व्यक्रामत्साशनानशने अभि ॥4॥

Three fourth of Purusha (or tripad, three feet) remains ever in transcendence, raised high above all manifestation and the one fourth portion (one pada, feet) of Purusha manifests (out of Purusha) recurrently as the universe.

तस्माद्विराळजायत विराजो अधि पूरुषः ।
स जातो अत्यरिच्यत पश्चाद्भूमिमथो पुरः ॥5॥

From that original, primal Purusha arose this whole universe and in that primal Purusha rests all this. This Purusha is the support of all that is manifest, the Purusha is the substratum. From this Resplendent Purusha arose the godhead that then created this earth (bhumi, that which bears) and thenceforth, all other forms.

यत्पुरुषेण हविषा देवा यज्ञमतन्वत ।
वसन्तो अस्यासीदाज्यं ग्रीष्म इध्मः शरद्धविः ॥6॥

With the Purusha as the Sacrificial Fire, the Deva, the Resplendent One, as the Sacrificer, this vast Sacrifice (yajna) of Creation continues. The seasons arose out of that Sacrifice: Spring arose as ghee (clarified butter), summer as fuel and autumn as the offerings for the sacrifice. 

तं यज्ञं बर्हिषि प्रौक्षन्पुरुषं जातमग्रतः ।
तेन देवा अयजन्त साध्या ऋषयश्च ये ॥7॥

The First Divine Men were created as the Holy Water sprinkled with the Kusa (used in ritual sacrifices) Grass in that Yajna, the Sacrifice symbolic of Creation. The First Divine Men were the Sadhya Devas (perfected beings) and the Rishis (the illumined seers), who were created by the great Resplendent One, the Vast (Virat) who performed the Yajna. (The Rishis, like the Saptarshis or the seven illumined seers, were manifested directly out of Purusha). 

यज्ञेन यज्ञमयजन्त देवास्तानि धर्माणि प्रथमान्यासन् ।
ते ह नाकं महिमानः सचन्त यत्र पूर्वे साध्याः सन्ति देवाः ॥16 ॥

The Devas performed the outer Yajna by meditating on the real Yajna within, by contemplating the Purusha shining behind all existence; and thus they first obtained the Dharma directly from the oneness of the Purusha.

By meditating on Chidakasha (the Blissful Spiritual Space behind all beings, which, in essence, is the Purusha), during those earlier times, the Spiritual Aspirants themselves became the Radiant One, Purusha. 

Subscribe for our latest content in your inbox

[contact-form-7 id="1578" title="Contact form 1"]
Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this