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Daily Invocations
by Swami Krishnananda

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 externalised 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 universalised 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 colours, 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 yajnawhich, 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. In this meditation on the Purusha, which is the most normal thing that can ever be conceived, man realises God in the twinkling of a second.