PURUSHA SOOKTA HOMAM
(DISCOURSE BY N.R. SRINIVASAN—2011)
The Lord's body encompassed the whole universe. He was the cosmic substance, Prakriti, that gives shapes to existence; he was also the cosmic spirit, Purusha, that gives meaning to life. He was infinite Space and Eternal Time. He was everything past, everything present and everything that will be. He was Virat Purusha, the entity that is Cosmos. Purusha Sookta is the hymn on this Purusha. Purushasookta is not only an integral part of the Vedas, but also one of the most important expositions of its teachings. It contains in all 24 hymns. These hymns constitute the mantras for the homam.
Brahma said, "Without a Sacrifice, Yajna, nothing can be obtained. To create a new world what shall I sacrifice?"
"Sacrifice Me" said Vishnu.
"What shall I use as the sacrificial ladle, the sacrificial altar and the sacrificial post?" asked Brahma.
"Use Me," said Vishnu.
"Where do I find the sacred fire and the sacred mantra?"
"In Me", said Vishnu."
"Who will be my presiding deity?" "
"It will be Me. I will also be the offering and reward", said Vishnu.
Vishnu, the embodiment of every aspect of the cosmic sacrifice, came to be known as Yajna Purusha.
Lord Krishna reminded the same to Arjuna in Bhagavadgeeta:
Brhamaarpanam Brahma Havir Brahmagnou Brahmanaa hutam |
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam Brahmakarma samaadhina ||( 4-24)
Aham Kratau ahnam yajnah svadhaaham aham oushadham |
Mantroeham aham evajyam aham agnir aham hutam || (9-16)
Supreme Spirit (Brahman) is the oblation. Brahman is the clarified butter. The Oblation is poured by Brahman into the fire of Brahman. Brahman shall be realized by the one who considers everything as manifestation or an act of Brahman.
I am the ritual; I am the sacrifice; I am the offering; I am the herbs; I am the mantra; I am the clarified butter (Ghee); I am the fire; and I am the oblation.
These quotes from Geeta are the recollections of Purushasookta where the first ever Yajna took place as a model for future Yajnas.
Purushasookta is one of the most commonly used Vedic Hymns in almost all rituals or religious ceremonies even today. Whether it is the Vedic rites establishing the sacred fire, or the worship of the deity either in a temple or at homes, or daily recitation of religious scriptures or mantra for meditation or even the Cremation of a dead body, this Sookta is invariably employed. It is chanted in sixteen-step worship (Shoedasoepachaara Pooja) in all Hindu temples.
A well known ancient text Rigvidhaana deals with its usage, the fruits it can give (Phalsruti) and also its greatness and importance. For example, a couple desirous of begetting a worthy son is advised to perform a worship and Homa (ceremonial oblation into the duly consecrated fire) with the first sixteen mantras of this Sukta.
Purushsookta is an integral part of the Rigveda Samhita (10.7.90.16), Taittareeya Aaranyaka (3-12, 13), Vaajasaneeya Samhita (31.1-6), Samaveda Samhita (19.6) and also quoted in Svetavatara Upanishad, Satapata Brahmana and Puranas. A nice summary is also given in Mudgilopanishad. Thus its importance can be felt in all of our holy scriptures.
Purushasookta describes secondary creation as carried out by Devas or Gods as a Yajna or sacrifice. In the concept of our Rishis nothing can be achieved without a sacrifice. Yajna essentially consists of three parts—Dravya (materials needed); Devata (the deity to be propitiated); and Tyaaga (oblation). Yajna was resorted for fulfilling any desire or for bringing about a great result, where human efforts were considered too inadequate to achieve the task and Divine intervention alone could accomplish it. Any task which needed great efforts and sacrifice was ternmed as Yajna (though symbolically) and the practice continues to the present day.
The literal translation of Purushsookta gives a horrified picture and is a subject of great controversy for those who do not understand the Vedic language and thought. Since it was before Creation when no materials were available for such a sacrifice, these divines performed mentally the yajna, imagining the various parts and processes involved in it. Then why did they think of a sacrifice? These Divines remembered their past practice of conducting Yajans whenever things were beyond their control for they had a good memory of their past birth. For them the body of the Virat Purusha himself was the sole basis of material out of which they had to conduct the sacrifice. Since this Purusha was everything including Pasu (animal for sacrifice) in that sacrifice it may be called Purusha Yajna.
For a proper understanding of Purushasookta its unique significance and answers to some adverse comments on it as well as to the general practice of Yajnas, please go through the detail lecture on Purushasookta and Yajnas (in preparation).