by Swami Krishnananda
ōm sahasraśīrṣā puruṣaḥ sahasrākśaḥ sahasrapāt,
sa bhūmiṁ viśvato vṛtvā'tyatiṣṭaddaśāgulam.
Thousand-headed is the Purusha, thousand-eyed and thousand-legged. Enveloping the earth from all sides, He transcends it by ten fingers’ length.
Note:—This is the first mantra of the famous Purusha Sukta of the Veda. Here the transcendent totality of all creation is conceived as the Cosmic Person, the Universal Consciousness animating all manifestation. The word ‘earth’ is to be understood in the sense of all creation. ‘Dasangulam’ is interpreted as ten fingers’ length, in which case it is said to refer to the distance of the heart from the navel, the former having been accepted as the seat of the Atma and the latter symbolic of the root of manifestation. The word ‘ten’ is also said to mean ‘infinity’, as numbers are only up to nine and what is above is regarded as numberless.
puruṣa evedaṁ sarvam yadbhūtaṁ yacca bhavyam,
etāvānasya mahimā ato jyāyāgïśca pūruṣaḥ,
pādo'sya viśvā bhūtāni tripādasyā'mṛtaṁ divi.
All this (manifestation) is the Purusha alone— whatever was and whatever will be. He is the Lord of Immortality, for He transcends all in His Form as food (the universe). Such is His Glory; but greater still is the Purusha. One-fourth of Him all beings are, (while) three-fourth of Him rises above as the Immortal Being.
tripādūrdhva udaitpuruṣaḥ pādo'syehābhavātpunaḥ,
tato viśvaṅ vyakrāmatsāśanānaśane abhi.
tasmādvirāḍajāyata virājo adhipūruṣaḥ,
sa jāto atyaricyata paścādbhūmimatho puraḥ.
That, Three-footed (Immortal) Purusha stood above transcending (all things), and His one foot was this (world of becoming). Then He pervaded (everything) universally, the conscious as well as the unconscious. From That (Supreme Being) did the Cosmic Body (Virat) originate, and in this Cosmic Body did the Omnipresent Intelligence manifest itself. Having manifested Himself, He appeared as all diversity, and then as this earth and this body.
yatpuruṣeṇa haviṣā devā yajñamatanvata,
vasanto asyāsīdājyam grīṣma idhmaḥ śaraddhaviḥ.
taṁ yajaṁ barhiṣi praukśan puruṣaṁ jātamagrataḥ,
tena devā ayajanta sādhyā ṛṣayaśca ye.
When (there being no external material other than the Purusha) the Devas performed a universal sacrifice (in contemplation by mind), with the Purusha Himself as the sacred offering, the spring season was the clarified butter, summer the fuel, autumn the oblation. They set up for sacrifice the Purusha as the object of their meditation—Him who was prior to all creation; and they, the Devas, Sadhyas and Rishis, performed (this first sacrifice).
tasmādyajñātsarvahutaḥ saṁbhṛtaṁ pṛṣadājyam,
paśūgïstāgïścakre vāyavyānāraṇyān grāmyāścaye.
tasmādyajñātsarvahutaḥ ṛcaḥ sāmāni jajñire,
chandāgïsi jajñire tasmātyajustasmādajāyata.
From that (Purusha), who was of the form of a Universal Sacrifice, the sacred mixture of curds and ghee (for oblation) was produced. (Then) He brought forth the aerial beings, the forest-dwelling animals, and also the domestic ones. From that (Purusha), who was the Universal Sacrifice, the Riks and the Samans were produced; from Him the metres (of the mantras) were born; from Him the Yajus was born.
tasmādaśvā ajāyanta ye ke cobhayādataḥ,
gāvo ha jajñire tasmāt tasmād jātā ajāvayaḥ.
yatpuruṣaṁ vyadhadhuḥ katidhā vyakalpayan,
mukhaṁ kimasya kau bāhū kā vūrū pādā vucyete.
From Him were born horses and whatever animals have two rows of teeth. Verily, cows were born of Him; from Him were born goats and sheep. And when they contemplated the Purusha (as the Universal Sacrifice), into how many parts did they divide Him (in their meditations)? What was His mouth called, what were His arms, what were His thighs, what were His feet called?
brāhmaṇo'sya mukhamāsīd bāhū rājanyaḥ kṛtaḥ,
ūrū tadasya yad vaiśyaḥ padbhyāgï śūdro ajāyata.
candramā manaso jātaḥcakśoḥ sūryo ajāyata,
The Brahmana (spiritual wisdom and splendour) was His mouth; the Kshatriya (administrative and military prowess) His arms became. His thighs were the Vaisya (commercial and business enterprise); of His feet the Sudra (productive and sustaining force) was born. The Moon (symbol of the mind) was born from His (cosmic) mind; the Sun (symbol of self and consciousness) was born from His eyes. Indra (power of grasping and activity) and Agni (will-force) came from His mouth; from His vital energy air was born.
nābhyā āsīdantarikśam śīrṣṇo dyauḥ samavartata,
padbhyāṁ bhūmirdiśaḥ śrotrātathā lokāṁ akalpayan.
saptāsyāsṇ paridhyasṛitaḥsapta samidḥa kṛtaḥ,
devā yadyajñam tanvānā abaḍhnaṇ purūṣaṁ paśum.
(In that Universal Meditation as Sacrifice) the firmament came from His navel; the heavens were produced from His head; the earth from His feet; from His ears the quarters of space—so they constituted the worlds. The enclosures of the sacrificial altar were seven (the seven metres like the Gayatri), and twenty-one (the twelve months, the five seasons, the three worlds and the sun) were the logs of sacrificial fuel, when the gods (the pranas, the senses and the mind) celebrated the Universal Sacrifice with the Supreme Purusha as the object of contemplation therein.
yajñena yajñamayajanta devāḥtāni dharmāṇi prathamānyāsan,
te ha nākaṁ mahimānaḥ sacante yatra pūrve sādhyāḥ santi devāḥ.
By sacrifice (universal meditation) did the gods adore and perform (visualise) the sacrifice (Universal Being). These were the original creations and the original laws (that sustain creation). Those great ones (the worshippers of the Cosmic Being by this type of meditation) attain that Supreme Abode in which abide the primeval contemplators (the gods mentioned above) who thus worshipped that Being.
vedāhametaṁ puruṣaṁ mahāntamādityavarṇaṁ tamasaḥ parastāt,
tameva viditva'timṛtyumeti nānyaḥ panthā vidyate'yanāya.
I know this Great Purusha who shines like the sun beyond darkness. By knowing Him alone does one cross beyond death; there is no other way of going over there.
ōṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ.
Om. May there be Peace, Peace, Peace.