Mystic Passages – 3: Purusha Suktam (An Introduction and stanza-1)

It has been many days since we visited any vedic passage. Today, until few days, let us enter the vast immerse exploration of Purusha Sūkta.

What is a Sūkta?:

SŪKTAM = Su + Uktam -> means a good utterance. Due to lack of words in English, I am sticking with the word “Good”. In absolute sense, a sūktam is an utterance of the splendor of “THAT or IT or HIM or HER” that utters forth through a seer in the highest state of “Existence”. Now, who is PURUSHA? It doesn’t mean MAN in its gender bias sense. Purusha is the ONE in all of us that expresses as “I AM” behind the egoistic “i am”. It is interesting to note here that Purusha and person has same etymological basis. HE or IT is the substratum of the very creation and its entities (matter and non-matter). His splendor which were realized by the seers was uttered forth in the form of this PURUSHA SUKTAM. When we recite it (of course the meaning should run in the background) with the help of all the keys like intonation, astrological, etc., and resonate with it, the PURUSHA expresses in US and we will merge the small i-am in the big I-AM (a collective unit of all the consciousness of this cosmos) – like a drop into an ocean. 

The Structure:

  • Purusha Sukta has 24 stanzas. The 24 stanzas imply the splendor of the whole day from wake to wake through sleep (24hrs) as ruled by this Purusha.
  • It is composed in Anuṣṭup Chandas. ‘Anu’ means to echo and ‘stup’ means to praise. So, a suktam in this meter should echo the splendor of whom we are speaking about.
  • This meter has 8 syllables in each line of a four lined stanza (or a 16 in 2 lined stanza). The number 8 represents the plane of Vasūs or materializing angels. On a side note, the number of teeth 32 has close relation to this meter = 8 x 4 = 16 x 2 = 32; each line of the stanza represents each set of 8 teeth on lower and upper mouths of the Purusha. Teeth or Danta are very important to properly utter a complete meaningful statement in Sanskrit. This meaningful utterances are symbolic to Lord’s creation without an error.
  • Also, in Sanskrit, we have 51 alphabet. Among these alphabet, only 32 are the root syllables from which rest of the 19 syllables can be derived. So, all the syllables for the sake of expressing a WORD, are verily HIS 32 teeth! 
  • Another interesting point to observe, though very subtly hidden, is that the WORD to be uttered is 4-fold (Parā, Paśyamti, etc.) and the teeth are 32. So the number that reverberates in this name is “432. 432 is the basic number for all the calculations of yugās in our scriptures (Kali Yuga = 432000 and the rest of the yugas are nothing but twice, thrice and four times this number) – see the part of cycles of time in  35) Tetractys of Pythagoras.

This whole symbolism forms a backbone for this Sūkta.

Into the Sūkta:

Now let us go into each stanza and look at the import, meaning and explanation. Every sūkta starts and ends with a peace invocation for the welfare of every one. Its a kind gesture and a symbol of selflessness as well as a tradition. This sūktam also has a peace invocation at the start and at the end. I will not contrast the sūktam with the prevailing translations as my aim is only to establish ONE TRUTH and not to compare and contrast the multitude of its variegated expressions.

The reader is requested to keep an open mind as my commentary might vary from orthodox notions, as I include ideas of Master.E.K, my own interpolations and few concepts from basic Sciences.

Stanza-1:

Om sahasra sīrṣā puruṣha 
sahasrākṣah sahasrapāt /
sabhūmiṃ viṣvatō vṛtvā
atyatiṣṭha daśāṃguḷaṃ //

Import:

“The purusha has thousand heads, thousand eyes and thousand feet. He has encompassed the earth and pervaded the space around. He is beyond the count with ten digits/inches.”

Explanation:

Sahasra generally means thousand. But in this context, it should imply infinite. We are comprised of three primary sets — Brain (the seat of mind, intelligence, intellect, etc.), “sense organs (eyes, ears etc.)” and “organs of action (hands, feet, etc.)”. We perceive this universe with help of our sense organs, analyse in the brain and reciprocate with the help of organs of action. As they say “Man is made in the image of GOD“, we can use this axiom and look at purusha as our image. But not in the sense of physical mapping, but in the sense of conceptual mapping. Here, you can see that the seers speaking of Purusha’s HEAD, EYES and FEET. They not only imply the functionality of all the three sets which I mentioned above, as existing for purusha, but also imply that they are expressed in infinite ways, which we can’t comprehend yet (with our limited functionality of awareness). Our set(s) is a subset of HIS. So, that entity or being whom the seers are addressing as PURUSHA, has a multi dimensional functionality. Also, the three sets above can be instead differentiated to only TWO sets — Matter and Non-Matter — i.e. the Intellect, Mind, sense of sight, etc., are non-matter; where as the rest of them are matter. So, the purusha in a way is described to surpass matter and non-matter (basically everything and everyone) in the ways incomprehensible to us .

Instead of earth, one can take the import to mean ‘globe of creation’ and thus the seers are speaking of the whole cosmos as a unit-space here. They are saying that this PURUSHA whom they discovered, is surrounded and filled in the whole COSMOS i.e. he is being the substratum of this creation. Also, it seems that he is beyond the count by ten fingers which would mean that number of ways of his standing beyond is un-countable. But daśāṃguḷam can also mean ten digits. If we take import to be that the purusha has surpassed the creation by ten digits, it will reveal a very nice interesting point. You see, we all are supposed to have 10 fingers (more or less entails of un-commonality). The sense of count  and sense of discrimination that makes us realize we have ’10’ fingers is already in us. This sense or consciousness is called number consciousness. Consider digits from 0 to 9. Any other integer is repetition of these 10 digits in periodical way. i.e. 12 is a second cycle count of 0 to 9 till 2 and symbolized by 1 and 2. So, the basic set is {0,1,2,…..9}. Any thing in this universe can be represented by these 10 digits (if properly coded — as it is a basis set). But the seers say that PURUSHA even surpassed this counting system (that is most natural to us – the decimal) and is beyond these 10 digits.

Note 1: Also, the number 10 has a symbolic meaning — ‘0’ representing cycles or periodicity and ‘1’ representing the Unified or ONE-ness of Purusha and thus 10 = 1 + 0 = 1; meaning how much ever you search this creation which is made up of potencies of 10 digits (numerical mapping of numbers to created entities), what you will find in essence is HIM alone (‘1’). 

Note 2: ’10’ here can imply directions i.e. 8 on a plane (E-W-N-S and NE-NW-SE-SW) and one above and one below — basically to say that he pervaded all directions of space

Note 3: Beyond Comprehension doesn’t mean we will never understand and that seers are just playing around. It means that our way of comprehension is to be fine tuned.

Note 4: Akṣam also means spokes. The one with 1000 or infinite spokes is the SUN. So, Purusha is the inner-SUN of solar god. He is named as Sūrāṃtarvarti. 

Note 5: Speciality of Sahasra: ‘SAHASRA’ is made up of ‘SA + HA + SA + RA’. Close your eyes and listen to the breath that you take, by closing your mouth and only through the nose. The sound it makes, as it passes through nostrils is a hissing sound — symbolized by ‘ssssssss’ or ‘Sa‘. When you exhale, it exists through vocal region causing a “Haaaaaaa” kind of sound symbolized by ‘Ha‘. The secondSA’ symbolizes the recurrence in the breath and hence is symbolic for periodicity. ‘RA‘ is the expressive ability and here, it is the vibration that occurs in vocals which is necessary for externalizing a WORD as an utterance. So, SAHASRA, means the ONE who inhales, exhales and utters the creation as a periodic breath. That is why, the creation is called BREATH of BRAḤMAN. 

Stay tuned for further stanzas …

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25 Comments

  1. Interesting read making a good connection between Atma and Paramatma. About “sa ha sa ra”, I experience different notes. When I do brisk walking, the inhale, exhale sounds can be sa, ha…or two different but connecting words. Sometimes it could be Brahma-Vishnu, Hari Om and many more. Othertimes, they are meaning less or out of the blue, like Baba, Black Sheep. I do not have control over the choice of words, nor do I attempt to change the wordings. Well, that is my experience. Sorry, if it does not relate to your excellent essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When we describe Sanskrit syllables and map them to our physical body, we need to consider the body in poise, for it is unaffected state. Brisk walks and tensed minds are affected by “our will” and so will have affected the “state wave function”, in physics terms, and can not be fit to compare. In fact, it’s other way round. Because the creation has Sa as inhaling root ( Purusha )and ha as exhaling root ( prakriti and hence Sri suktam of his consort starts with Ha i.e., hiranya varnaam ), we too imbibe same nature in our breath when in poise( as above so below).

      Also, there is always a Gaussian distribution to the way anything is attributed. Like, in my example, what of people having breathing troubles or nose injuries ( who take breath from mouth alone and it’s a Haaaaa ) or so on. But then, what is the use of mapping to a disturbed creation? We ourselves try to rectify that situation by medical care. So, any comparision and interlinking mysteries should happen to a so called perfect body and it’s present as well as potential functionalities.

      Haha why sorry? Unless you point it out, how can I be more clear in expressing? Thanks for asking.

      Additional point: So is root of inhalation because air entering nose first. Ha is root of exhalation because it exits the vocals first ( and then through nose may be). If you meditate this way, it creates a pattern of breath and hence pattern of mind which is regularised. This way of meditation is called So-Ham. It is one of the ways.

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      1. Excellent explanation. I’m glad I expressed my opinion which resulted in more details from you. By nature I try to seek practicality of religious thoughts and teachings in day to day life, and relate them to my experiences.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Indeed, Puri Ji. I saw that in your articles. If a religion/science/philosophy is not applicable to daily life, as you put in one of your short essays of yoga not being undertaken by the poor, which is so true, the grandeur of the concepts will loose their charm over the time. As humans,. We are always in pursuit of that which smoothens our life and hence take guidance from those who achieved a state of bliss, better than that we assume we are in. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful. We are all in the observer plane in the true sense of the word waiting for your mind-blowing expositions on further stanzas from this fundamental primordial hymn from where everything emanated.

    As i relate everything to Srimad Bhagavatham as that is the only thing i am somewhat aware of, i am making myself reminded of this chapter –

    Canto 2: The Cosmic Manifestation – CHAPTER SIX: Puruṣa-sūkta Confirmed
    https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/2/6/

    Thank you again for making us beginning to understand what Sanskrit is all about, the alphabets, the syllables, the meters and the significance of various important numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In this regard i was also reminded of the significance of numbers 3,6 and 9 as discovered and expounded by Mr.Nikola Tesla. I am mentioning this because you can’t miss him as a Physics student 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure. Tesla is my manaseega God and none has as much influence in my life as this extremely enigmatic personality…by astroyogi and his mother’s account my date of birth coincides with his by 118 years 🙂 – 28 Jun 1856. https://www.astro.com/astro-databank/Tesla,_Nikola. I have a kind of encyclopedic information about him that I have to dig 🙂 this is bit diggressive from your post but I can’t stop my excitement when something is talked about him or our very own Srinivasa Ramanujan 🙂 an equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God…

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    1. This is very interesting. I faintly know of this due to an old conversation with a divinely person few years ago. May be you can extrapolate from my articles on Pythagoras teractys and Mystic nature of numbers and write a piece on musical harmonies. That would be an interesting search. I am ready to co-research if you guide me to proper music theory.

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      1. There is this principle of acoustic levitation that you must be aware of where the capability of sound frequencies is used to great effect to levitate objects just like how certain sound frequencies has the capability to produce psychedelic effects in the brain, the main points of research in psychedelic bands like pink Floyd. Where they did extensive research in sound frequencies in places like the amphitheater in ancient Italian cities like Pompeii with massive instruments. Since you were mentioning about musical harmonies I am mentioning about my Gods of music since I don’t have any exposure with our very own indian classical music. However I can write passages on the music genres of gnr Aerosmith dire straits Metallica def leppard and the likes 🙂

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  3. Purusha should refer to VIRAT PURUSHA and suktam might have derived or vice versa, from the tamil equivalentant word SUTHTHAM, which means pure, cleanliness.Your writings are highest order of technicalities of ancient wisdoms. please keep it up for self enlightenment after all the soul came from ANANDA chanting, seeking and longing for ANANDA ultimately merge with that of PARAMANANDA.. Best of luck. Keep it UP.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed! That state of bliss is what I am trying to find through expressing. Every one has a way to find a link to that BLISS/Ānanda :).

      My aim is to try to make others understand, what I understood from scriptures, for, Scriptures form a basic unit of our lives. If its technical and hard, kindly let me know so that I can mold it into more understandable language. To the best of my knowledge, I try to keep it “Logical” by giving enough examples to sink in the point.

      In regard to Tamil word, I don’t know it and hence cant comment. But it does not matter which is derived from which as long as the roots are clear, as, the import dominates the way of expression! 🙂

      Thanks a lot for valuable comment and suggestion! Looking forward for further insights where appropriate.

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      1. I am none other than the father of (the blessed son) RAJINIKANTH VEERARAGHAVAN, with whom you interact. Your topics and explanatory notes are excellent. My blessings and the blessings of the Oppliappan, the elder brother of Lord Balaji to you and to your family members. thanks.

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