Considering the Purusasukta – the Song of Praise of Man

Perhaps the most famous poem or prayer in the Rg Veda (or Rig Veda) is the Purusasukta.  It is found in the 10th Mandala and 90th Chapter.  It is a song for a special Man – Purusa (pronounced Purusha).  Because it is found in the Rg Veda it is one of the oldest mantras in the world, and thus it is worth studying to see what we can learn of the way to Mukti or Moksha (enlightenment).

So who is Purusa?  The Vedic texts tell us that

“Purusa and Prajapati is one and the same person” (sanskrit transliteration Purusohi Praja pati)  Madhyndiya Sathapatha Brahmana VII.4:1.156

The Upanishads continue on this same line by stating that

“Purusa is superior to everything.  Nothing [nobody] is superior to Purusa.  He is the end and the highest goal” (Avykat Purusah parah.  Purusanna param kincitsa kastha sa para gati)  Kathopanisad 3:11

“And verily beyond the unmanifest is the supreme Purusa… One who knows him becomes free and attains immortality (Avyakat u parah Purusa … yajna tva mucyate Janturamtatvam ca gacchati) Kathopanisad 6:8

So Purusa is Prajapati (The Lord of all Creation).  But perhaps even more important, knowing him directly affects you and me.  The Upanishad says:

‘there is no other way to enter eternal life (but through Purusa) (Nanyahpantha vidyate – ayanaya) Svetasvataropanisad 3:8

So we will study through the Purusasukta, the hymn in Rg Veda that describes Purusa.  As we do so, I will hold perhaps a strange and novel idea before us to consider:  Is this Purusa spoken of in the Purusasukta fulfilled in the incarnation of Yeshu Satsang (Jesus of Nazareth) around 2000 years ago?  As I said, this is perhaps a strange notion, but Yeshu Satsang (Jesus of Nazareth) is known as a Holy man across all religions and he did claim to be the incarnation of God, and both he and Purusa are sacrificed (as we will see) so this gives us  good reasons to consider this idea and explore it.  The sanskrit transliterations, and many of my thoughts on the Purusasukta, have come from studying the book Christ in the Ancient Vedas by Joseph Padinjarekara (346 pp. 2007)

First verse of Purusasukta

Transliterated from Sanskrit

Translated into English

Sahasra sirsa-PurusahSahasra ksah sahsrapatSa bhumim visvato v rtvaatyatisthaddasangulam Purusa has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet. Encompassing Earth on all sides, He Shines. And he limited Himself to ten fingers

We saw above that Purusa is the same as Prajapati.  Prajapati, as explained here, in the earliest Vedas was considered the God who made everything – He was the “Lord of all Creation”.

We see in the start of the Purusasukta that Purusa has a ‘thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet”,  What does this mean?  ‘Thousand’ is not meant to be a specific counted number here, but means more ‘numberless’, or ‘without limit’.  So the Purusa has intelligence (‘head’) without limit.  In today’s language we would say he is omniscient or All-Knowing.  This is an attribute of God (Prajapati) who is the only one who is All-Knowing.  God also sees and is aware of all.  Saying that Purusa has a ‘thousand eyes’ is the same as saying that Purusa is omnipresent – he is aware of all because he is present everywhere.  In a similar way, the phrase ‘a thousand feet’ represents omnipotence – unlimited strength.

Thus we see in the beginning of the Purusasukta that the Purusa is introduced as an omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent Man.  Only the incarnation of God could be such a person.  However the verse concludes by saying ‘he limited himself to ten fingers’.  What does this mean?  As an incarnate person, Purusa emptied himself of his divine powers and limited himself to that of a normal human – one with ‘ten fingers’.  Thus, though Purusa was Divine, with all that entails, he emptied himself in his Incarnation.

The Veda Pusthakam (Bible), when speaking of Yeshu Satsang (Jesus of Nazareth) expresses exactly the same idea.  It says:

… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2: 5-8)

You can see that the Veda Pusthakam (Bible) uses exactly the same thoughts as the Purusasukta does in introducing Purusa – infinite God incarnating to a limited human.  But this passage in the Bible moves quickly to describe his sacrifice – as Purusasukta also will.  So it is worthwhile for anyone who desires Moksha to explore these oracles further, since, as it says in the Upanishads:

‘there is no other way to enter eternal life (but through Purusa) (Nanyahpantha vidyate – ayanaya) Svetasvataropanisad 3:8

We continue verse 2 of Purusasukta here.