You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : March 1995

Purusha Sooktam

Date: Wed Mar 01 1995 - 07:49:12 PST

saptasyAn paridhaya: | tri sapta samidha krtA: |
deva yadhyagnyam tanvAnA : | abadhnan puruSHam pashum ||

(asya) For this sacrifice (sapta) even were (paridhaya:) the
sheathing logs, the fences. (tri-sapta) Thrice-seven, that is
twenty one (samita:) the samit-wood firebrands (krtA:) made,
(yad yagnyam) for the sacrifice for which (devA:) the gods as (tanvAna:) 
as performers of the sacrifice (abadhnan) bound
(puruSHam) the puruSHa (pashum) as the beast of sacrifice.

The yAgAgni, the sacred fire of the sacrifice, is invoked on
a vedi, or altar, that is always sheathed, or fenced. sAyaNA
gives us this : 'aiSHtikasyAvAhavaneeyasya traya: paridhaya :
uttaravedikAstraya: Adityashca saptama: paridhi pratinidhi 
roopa:'.Three fences are in the uttaravedi part, three in the 
AvAhaneeya, and Aditya is the seventh sheath, or fence. 

Nothing had been created at this point. So what were the
paridhi-s ? The seven chandas-es, or metres, gAyatri,
triSHtup, brhatee, pankti, uSHNuk, anuSHtup, and jagatee
may be the seven here. However, later verses would seem to
go against this hypothesis. The chandas-es seem to be later 
creations, as the basis of speech. The maitrAyaNi upanishad
suggests prthvi (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire), vAyu ( air),
AkAsha (space), ahamkAra (ego), and buddhi (intellect) as 
these seven . The five elements or panchabhoota-s among these, 
(prthvi, ap, tejas, vAyu, AkAsha), along with the
five subtle principles or tanmAtras, the five active senses or
karmendriyas, the five discerning senses or gnyAnendriyas,
combined with andhakaraNam, darkening, are said to be the
twenty one samit firebrands, in the painkee brAmhaNa.

Seven were the fencing logs
Thrice seven the firebrands made
When the Gods bound the puruSHa
As the beast for  their sacrifice.


tam yagnyam barhiSHi proukshan | puruSHam jAtamagrata: |
tena devA ayajanta | sAdhyA RSHayascha ye ||

(tam) That (puruSHam) purusha (yagnyam) of the sacrifice,
(jAtam) who was (agrata:) in the beginning, (sAdhya:) those
achievers (proukshan) sprinkled him with holy water (barhiSHi)
on the sacrificial bed of straw. (tena) By this means (devA 
RSHayasca:) did the Gods and the seers (ye) who where, (ayajanta) sacrifice.

Here is the puruSHa himself bound as the beast of sacrifice.
This beast has to be sanctificed, on a sacred bed of straw, with
holy water. The word 'barhis' indicates this straw. According
to the Yogaratna, 'virAt' ( the all), 'barhis' and 'prakriti' are 
synonyms. In this sense, all of nature is the stage for this 
sacrifice, and puruSHa the sacrifice to be offered. He was 
firstborn and foremost of creation. The word 'sAdhya' 
according to Ranganathamuni includes all devas, RSHis, 
suras, and dwellers of Vaikuntha. However, in other places,
it has been interpreted to mean something like an analogue to
'bodhisattva' - those who have the potential of freedom from
time, but have not yet actually achieved it. In the sense that 
SAdhyam indicates possibiliy of achievement, I tend towards this view.

Him, firstborn of all of this
The sanctified, on a bed of straw
By Him did the seers,
Those great ones,
By Him did the Gods too