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Purusha sukta (puruṣasūkta, पुरुष सूक्तम्) is hymn 10.90 of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the "Cosmic Being". The seer of this verse is Rishi Narayana and this sukta can evoke God-experience in the seeker. One version of the suktam has 16 verses, 15 in the anuṣṭubh meter, and the final one in the triṣṭubh meter. Another version of the suktam consists of 24 verses with the first 18 mantras designated as the Purva-narayana and the later portion termed as the Uttara-narayana probably in honour of Rishi Narayana.
The Purusha sukta gives a description of the spiritual unity of the universe. It presents the nature of Purusha or the cosmic being as both immanent in the manifested world and yet transcendent to it. From this being, the sukta holds, the original creative will (ldentified with Viswakarma, Hiranyagarbha or Prajapati) proceeds which causes the projection of the universe in space and time. The Purusha sukta, in the seventh verse, hints at the organic connectedness of the various classes of society.
The Purusha is defined in verses 2 to 5 of the sukta. He is described as a being who pervades everything conscious and unconscious universally. He is poetically depicted as a being with thousand heads, eyes and legs, enveloping the earth from all sides and transcending it by ten fingers length. All manifestation, in past present and future, is held to be the Purusha alone. It is also proclaimed that he transcends his creation. The immanence of the Purusha in manifestation and yet his transcendence of it is similar to the viewpoint held by panentheists. Finally, his glory is held to be even greater than the portrayal in this sukta.
Verses 5-15 hold the creation of the Rig Veda. Creation is described to have started with the origination of Virat or the cosmic body from the Purusha. In Virat, omnipresent intelligence manifests itself which causes the appearance of diversity. In the verses following, it is held that Purusha through a sacrifice of himself, brings forth the avian, forest-dwelling and domestic animals, the three Vedas, the metres (of the mantras). From his mouth, arms, thighs, feet the four Varnas (classes) are born. The moon, which is also associated with the mind, takes birth from the Purusha's mind and the sun from his eyes. Indra and Agni descend from his mouth and from his vital breath, air is born. The firmament comes from his navel, the heavens from his head, the earth from his feet and quarters of space from his ears. Through this creation myth, underlying unity of human, cosmic and divine realities is espoused, for all are seen arising out of same original reality, the Purusha.
The Purusha sukta holds that the world is created by and out of a Yajna or sacrifice of the Purusha. All forms of existence are held to be grounded in this primordial Yajna. In the seventeenth verse, the concept of Yajna itself is held to have arisen out of this original sacrifice. In the final verses, Yajna is extolled as the primordial energy ground for all existence.
The Vedantins take the Purusha sukta to allegorize the principles of (upasana), knowledge (jnana), devotion (bhakti), and rituals and duties (dharma and karma). The sukta gives an expression to immanence of radical unity in diversity and is therefore, seen as the foundation of the Vaishnava thought, Bhedabheda school of philosophy and Bhagavata theology.
The concept of the Purusha is from the Samkhya Philosophy which is traced to the Indus Valley period. It seems to be an interpolation into the Rig veda since it is out of character with the other hymns dedicated to nature gods. [Refer Indian Philosophy Vol-1 by Dr.S.Radhakrishnan].
The hymn finds place in Vedic texts such as the Atharvaveda (19.6), the Samaveda (6.4), the Yajurveda (VS 31.1-6), the Taittiriya Aranyaka (3.12,13) and it is commented upon in the Shatapatha Brahmana, the Taittiriya Brahmana, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the Mudgala Upanishad. It is one of the few Rig Vedic hymns current in contemporary Hinduism like, the Gayatri Mantra. The Purusha sukta is also mentioned with explanations and interpretations in the Vajasaneyi Samhita (31.1-6), the Sama veda Samhita (6.4), and the Atharva Veda Samhita (19.6). Among Puranic texts, the sukta has been elaborated in the Bhagavata Purana (2.5.35 to 2.6.1-29) and in the Mahabharata (Mokshadharma Parva 351 and 352).
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- The Purusha sukta in Daily Invocations by Swami Krishnananda
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