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Purusha Sooktam

Date: Wed Mar 01 1995 - 07:51:31 PST

vedAhametam puruSHam mahAntam | 
AdityavarNam tamasastu pAre|
sarvANi roopANi vicitya dheera: |
nAmAni krtvAbhivadan yadAste ||

(yat) That (dheera:) valorous puruSHa (Aste) who is, who has
(vicitya:) materialized (sarvAni) all (roopANi) forms, and (krtya:)
 made (sarvAni) all (nAmAni) names, (abhivadan) and maintains all 
of these, (etam) that (mahAntam) glorious (AdityavarNam)
sun-brilliant (puruSHam) puruSHa, (astu) who is (pAre) 
beyond(tamas) darkness, (aham) I (veda:) Know him.

This verse is probably closest to the Sri Sampradaya visualization
of Sriman Narayana, as creator and maintainer of all, ( refer back to 
'namo bhagavate tasmai krSHNaya adbhuta karmaNe roopa
 nAma vibhedena jagat kreedati yo yata:'), full of kalyANa guNas
such as mahimA, brilliant as the sun, and beyond all darkness.
What is the advantage of knowing this then ? This is explained in
later verses. Also, in sAyaNa's commentary " mantradraSHtA
svakeeyam dhyAnAnubhavam prakatayati". This mantra is how
to visualize him for meditation, and thus to know him. Compare 
this to Vishvamitra in the Ramayana " aham vedmi mahAtmAnam
rAmam satya-parAkramam / vasiSHto api mahAtejo ye ceme
tapasi sthitA:" - I know the great souled Rama, of deeds beyond measure, 
powerful in truth, more brilliant than Vasishta, who 
protected my yagnya well". Or Mandodari's praise of Rama as
Mahavishnu in the same, " tamasa: paramo dhAtA shankacakra
gadhAdara" - O Creator, who bears the Conch, the Disk, and
the Mace as weapons, who is Supreme above all darkness. The
image of the sun here is especially effective, as the tamas 
referred to here is the darkness of the soul, ignorance and

I Know Him,
Glorious, Valorous,
Who Names, Forms, 
And Keeps all this,
Bright as the Sun,
Beyond all Darkness.


dhAtA purastAdhyamudAjahAra | 
shakra: pravidvAn pradishashcatasra: |
tamevam vidhvAnamrta iha bhavati |
nAnya: panthA ayanAya vidhyate ||

(ayaNaya) To moksha, liberation (na vidhyate) I know not of 
(anya:) other (panthA:) paths. (yam) Whom (dhAtA) Bramha
(udAjahAra:) saw as the Supreme Being, and revealed (purastAt)
in the beginning, (yam) whom (shakra:) Indra (pravidvAn) knew 
well, (pradishas-ca-tasra) in the four quearters, and everywhere,
(vidvAn) who knows (tam) Him (evam) in this manner (bhavati)
becomes (amrta:) immortal (iha) in this very birth.

In the beginnning, Bramha said to the puruSHa, "You are who
was before me.. You are my guide in this", naming him the cause
of himself, and all. Indra learnt of the glory of the parama 
puruSHa from vAmadeva, and from the four directions - 

The object of almost all vedic rites was to make life, or death, a
little less dangerous ( see, eg., Wendy Doniger-O'Flaherty). The 
refrain of the mantras for these rites is 'Who knows this conquers
death'. Even the stories in several bramhaNas involves seers 
'seeing and praising with this hymn or metre, and thereby 
conquering death'. It is interesting to note that the goal is not life 
eternal (chiranjeevitva) but a-mrta, or not-dying. This is a matter of 
the soul rather than the body, a difference worth appreciating.

The puruSHa is manifested by the chanting of this mantra, to
who chants this, in thheir hearts. This is thebeginning - of the 
world, of contemplation of the worlds, of knowledge. In this
knowledge, in knowing this by the heart, by the soul, is the beginning 
of liberation. To know of no other way but this reflects
mahAvishvAsa - great faith. This, 'nAnya: panthA vidhyate
ayanAya' refrain is also found in several upanishadas.

Who the Creator saw
And revealed, as the Cause
Of whom Indra learnt
In all the quarters
Who knows him thus
Conquers death now.
I know of no other
Ways, than this.


yagnyena yagnya-mayajanta deva: |
tAni dharmANi prathamAnAsann |
te ha nAkam mahimAna: sacante |
yatra poorve sAdhyA: santi devA: ||

(yagnyena) By sacrifice (devA:) did the Gods (ayajanta)
sacrifice (yagnyam) to sacrifice. (tAni) The (dharmANi)
associated dharmas (Asan) became (prathamAni) the first.
(te mahimAna:) By the glory of these very dharmas (sacante)
will the great ones achieve (yatra nAkam) that heaven where
(poorve) the ones who were, before, (devA:) and the Gods 
also called (sAdhyA:) the achievers,  (santi) are.

Here then is the importance of the sacrifice. The two words
yAga and tyAga are both related, and may be translated as the
one word, sacrifice, giving us a clue to the nature of the rite. The
world is established by sacrifice - the puruSHa giving his all,
which is his self, his body, to form this world, the lives on it,
giving them name and form. Why did this happen ? The
nAsadiya sookta relates, when neither being nor non-being was 
(na sat Aseet, na asat Aseet), the One breathed, without air. But 
then, "kAmastadagre samavartatAti" - desire first moved it.
desire to be. And in its being, the world is. This One, we call 
puruSHa, Sriman Narayana, God. And this is sat - Existence,
along with Knowledge and Bliss,  part of the nature of the
divine. So the next time someone tells you St. Augustine was
the first to define God as the verb "to be", you can refute them
with this.. =).

All that is, is born of this love, this desire. And all was given
(sarvahut) to bring this about. This is the nature of this being.

This is the sacrifice,  whose results were the beginning of all.
This is why the verse says "tAni dharmAni prathamAni Asan" -
these dharmas became the first. They are the fruits of the
sacrifice, that provide us the means to our own liberation, 
our very own stairway to heaven.

By Sacrifice did the Gods
Sacrifice to Sacrifice
By the fruits of this,
The first harvest, 
Do the great ones
Ascend to where the Gods
The first ones,
Those who made straight the way