by Swami Krishnananda
The Satarudriya, Purusha Sukta, Narayana Sukta and Sri Sukta are generally recited in a series in most of the temples of worship, especially during the performance of the holy ritual of abhisheka. These hymns, which are from the original Vedas, represent in quintessence an invocation of the Almighty manifest as Rudra-Siva, Narayana as the Virat-Purusha, and Lakshmi as the Goddess of Prosperity.
The Satarudriya, which is also known as the Rudra-Adhyaya, occurs in the Yajurveda and is a magnificent vision of the Creator of the universe, designated here as Siva or Rudra, in His aspects as an awe-inspiring immanence in everything that can be found or even conceived of in creation. Here the ordinary notions of religion and even of God are lifted from the limitations of human thinking and made to cover the vast variety which God has revealed as all this manifestation. In this comprehensive attitude of devotion to God, the Satarudriya resembles the description found in the Purusha Sukta.
The Purusha Sukta is a hymn dedicated to the Cosmic Person—we may call this Divine Person as Narayana, or Virat-Purusha, as we like—and here is also to be found the cosmological suggestion that God pervades all things, not merely as a sort of enveloping or as entering into everything, but even forming the very stuff and substance of creation as a whole. All that was, is, and will be is hallowed and adored as the one Supreme Purusha. The great Indian tradition that all life is yajna, or sacrifice, has its origin in this sublime hymn of the Veda, where the act of creation by God is regarded as the First Sacrifice performed by God Himself, as it were, by way of a Self-alienation of Himself into this objective universe. Thus, every form of self-alienation which is involved in any sacrifice or service rendered by the human being is indwelt, even in its lowest form, by this highest spirit of the original Divine Sacrifice.
A sacrifice is the way by which one becomes another; the subject sees himself in the object and looks upon the object as one would look upon one’s own self. This is the beginning of dharma—tani dharmani prathamanyasan. These original principles of creation became the primary roots of all dharma, virtue, or righteousness in this world.
The Purusha Sukta, also, for the first time, makes mention of the fourfold classification of human society into Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra, representing the spiritual, political, economic and working aspects of human society. What a wonderful inclusiveness of contemplation we find in this small hymn, which embodies in itself the mightiest seeds of philosophic, spiritual and social values!
The Narayana Sukta, again, is a hymn on the Supreme Being as the Father of creation, inconceivably transcendent and yet hiddenly present in the heart of everyone, being nearer than even the nearest of things. This is a tiny but incisive form of meditation by which the human spirit endeavours to commune with the Supreme Spirit.
The Sri Sukta is an invocation to Mahalakshmi as the Divinity presiding over all prosperity in every form—material and social, as well as spiritual. Intriguingly, the feminine gender is used in addressing Lakshmi as the Goddess of Fortune, in keeping with the tradition in human thought that the universe is the Glory of God, the Power of God, conceived almost as the Consort of God, for purpose of popular adoration and worship. This would explain the mystery behind the gender. In fact, God and His Powers are beyond the range of human evaluation or values, and thus above the ideas of male and female.
These hymns are presented here in their original Sanskrit with the transliteration and English translation for the benefit of the public which, we hope, will be of immense utility in people’s daily prayers.