SOOKTAS FROM MAHAANAARAAYANA UPANISHAD (MNU)
(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, MARCH 2012)
Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad is from Krishna Yajurveda. This Upanishad contains mantras used in rituals and worship and also many popular sooktas. Some of the important ones are Narayana sooktam, Aghamarshana Sooktam, Medhaa Sooktam and Durgaa Sooktam. Sookta means 'that which is well said' or 'a true description'. Chanting of the Vedic Mantras and some of the Sooktas is very common during the performance of the Hindu rituals-–be they in a temple or at devotee's place. Common and popular though they are very few persons including the priests who chant them with correct intonations know their meanings, much less the beauty, sublimity and philosophy contained therein. When chanted with intonations one feels the divine atmosphere with holy vibrations all around. This needs initiation by the learned guru and regular practice. These are also often called Mantra Pushpas or floral mantras offered to the Supreme. We are all familiar with the popular Vedic Mantra Pushpam "yopam pushpam veda", that has been explained in the discourse on Poojaa Vidhaanam.
It makes more meaningful and purposeful if the meanings of Sooktas and mantras are understood and then meditated upon for spiritual evolution. Kathoepanishad says: "Yastu vijnaanavaan bhavati samanaskah sadaa suchih | sa tu tatpadam-aapnoti yasmaad-bhooyoe na jaayate || (He who is endowed with discriminating intellect and has his mind purified by various disciplines and who remains always pure attains that highest goal from where he will not be reborn. He will be blessed with eternal peace and happiness.)
We are already familiar with the Uttaraanuvaka (later part) of Purusha Sooktam. This Upanishad also contains Hiranyagarbha-Sooktam whose theme is the same as Purusha Sooktam. This discourse contains the other popular and spiritually gratifying mantras of Medhaa Sooktam, Aghamarshana Sooktam, Mrittikaa Sookta, Narayana Sooktam and Durgaa Sooktam from Mahanarayana Upanishad. This Upanishad also contains mantras used in fire sacrifices (Yajnas and Homas) like Vaisvadevahoma, Viraaja homa, Vyaahriti homa etc. It also contains mantras of Daharavidya related to the essential nature of Parabrahman. Hiranyagarbha Sooktam is more close to Daharavidya which includes prayer mantras to the Suprme Being. These will be covered by another discourse. It is no wonder that this Upanishad is considered amongst major Upanishads though we do not find unity in the treatment of the subject matter it contains. It is a concise Veda by itself including mantras from Vedas and other Upanishads.
This contains a bunch of Vedic Mantras for meditation on Medhaa-Devi for granting intelligence. With the blessings of Goddess after chanting these mantras we will be speaking nice and good words only to others that will carry force and make life pleasant and more meaningful and make us useful citizens. This is also a prayer to grant us wealth. These mantras are also appropriate to Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Sarasvati.
These Mantras will be quite appropriate to chant during the graduation pooja conducted at home and temples. It is customary to conduct Saraswati Pooja for students on the event of their graduation after which they will be moving out from their parents in pursuit of higher studies. It is also appropriate to chant these during the Upanayanam ceremony though Vedic studies are not made any more.
Medhaa devee jushamaanaa na aagaad-viswaachee bhadra sumanasya-maanaa |
Tvayaa jushtaa jushamaanaa duruktaan brahmad-vadema vidadhe suveeraah ||
May the Goddess of Intelligence who pervades all things and who is always associated with good-will towards all, come to us with love. Oh Goddess! May we who were previously indulging in vile words, speak words that are good and virtuous, after being blessed in that endeavor!
Tvayaa jushta rishir-bhavati devi tvayaa brahma-aagatasree-ruta tvayaa \
Tvayaa jushtas-chitram vindate vasu saa noe jushasva dravineno na medhe ||
Oh Goddess! one becomes a wise person (seer) being blessed by you; one becomes Brahma,one who attains spiritual wealth and knowledge; one who gains fabulous wealth blessed by you; Oh Goddess Medha of that fame, please bless us with that wealth!
Medhaam ma indro dadaatu medhaam devee sarasvatee |
Medhaam me asvinau devaa vaa-dhattaam pushkara-srajaa ||
May Indra grant us intelligence! May Goddess Sarasvati grant us intelligence1! May the Asvin twins grant us intelligence adorned with lotus flower garlands! [Goddess Lakshmi is the presiding Goddess for Indra and others]
Apsaraasu cha yaa medhaa gandharveshu cha yan-manah |
Devee medhaa manushyajaa saa maam medhaa surabhir-jushataam ||
May the glorious intelligence that abounds in the divine nymphs (apsaras), gandharvas and divines and noble men come to me! [In essence may the intelligence found in all others come to me]
Aamaam Medhaa surabhir-visva-roopaa hiranya-varnaa jagatee jagamyaa |
Oorjasvatee payasaa pinvamaanaa saa maam medhaa suprateekaa jushataam ||
May the Goddess Medhaa who is the most celebrated, who is the cosmic energy with golden hue and who is ever on the move come to me!
Mayi medhaam mayi prajaam mayaa-agnis-tajoe dadhaatu | mayi medhaam mayi prajaam mayeendra indriyam dadhaatu | mayi medaham mayi prajaam mayi sooryo bhraajo dadhaatu ||
May Agni the God of Fire bless me with intelligence, progeny and fame! May Indra the God of the Divines bless me with intelligence, progeny and sense organs! May Soorya bless me with intelligence, progeny and brilliance!
(Mantras for wearing the sacred Earth on head)--(Mriddhaarana Mantraah )
Bhoomir-dhenur-dharanee loka-dhaarinee |
Uddhritaaci varaahena krishnena satabaahunaa ||
Oh Goddess of Earth! You are well known as Cow (Dhenu), Supporter (Dharanee), and Supporter of the World (Lokadhaarinee). You were lifted up by Krishna with his hundred (mighty) arms in your incarnation of Boar (Varaaha).
[This and following mantras are prescribed for the Mridgrahana ritual or collection of the sacred mud of earth. This mantra also refers to the Puraanic incidence when Goddess Earth drowned in waters was lifted up to its original position by the Divine Boar (varaaha) by placing it on its tusk, separating the Earth from the bottom of the Anda (universe). The word Krishna here means, one who delights the earth as Krishna's incarnation took place much later. She is called cow because all desires are granted by her, like the cow which gives all things for our living. She is called Dharanee because she supports us in all our physical activities providing a stable base. ]
Mrittike hana me paapam yan-manaa dushkritam kritam |
Tvayaa hatena paapena jeevaami saradah satam |
Mrittike dehi me pushtim tvayi sarvam pratishthitam ||
Oh Goddesas Earth! Please destroy my sins; destroy whatever bad deeds done by me. May I live a hundred winters (hundred years) after my sins have been destroyed by your blessings! Please bestow on me nourishment—everything is established in you!
Gandhadvaaraam duraadharshaam nityapushtaam kareeshineem |
Easvaree(ga)m sarvabhootaanaam taamihopahvaye sriyam ||
Oh Goddess Earth! I invoke you to come to us. You are the ruler of all entities. You are known by your odor; you are invincible by sins; you are ever full; you are associated with cow-dung and others.
[Earth is known by its quality odor and so Gandha means earth. Sriyam generally refers to Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu. Earth is also the other consort of Vishnu. Here sriyam refers to earth only. This is a famous mantra chanted while applying sandal paste on idols or Saalagrama, after bathing ceremony (abhisheka) in daily rituals of worshipping idols. This Mantra is also found in Sri-Sooktam of Goddess Lakshmi]
The Tamil word for Naamam is Tirumann in Tamil. "Tiru" means sacred and "mann" means md; therefore Tirumann means sacred mud. This is the sacred Earth worn by Vaishanva Brahmins rergularly and by other Vaishnavas on special occasions during Pooja or ritual or temple visit. Srivaishnavites chant Vedic mantras while wearing the Tiruman and also smear the left over paste on their head thus honoring Mother Earth. It is also worn on head on special occasions.
Namam sticks are made out of purified white china clay obtained from Tirunarayapuram in Karnataka, Srirangam, Srimooshanam, and Madurantakam in Tamil Nadu, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh and Pushpak in Rajasthan. Tirumann or Naamam stands for the Trtuth that everything is of the Earth and mingles with it, that is Vishnu, all pervasive. It is not a caste mark as many think it to be. It is worn by all castes from the present day Brahmins to the so called Harijans in Hindu society who have special preference to Vishnu, his incarnations and his retinue as their Ishta devatas (preferred deities).
DOORVAASOOKTAM (Eliminating of Bad Dreams)
Sahasra-paramaa devee satamoolaa satankuraa |
Sarva(ga)m haratu me paapam doorvaa dus-svpana-naasinee ||
Destroy all my sins! May the tender sprout of the grass, more celebrated than thousands of sprouts, in combination with hundreds of roots be the destroyer of bad dreams! Destroy all my sins.
[Tender sprouts of grass are worn on head chanting this mantra at the time of ablution for destroying bad dreams. By wearing these auspicious tender grass the prosperity of children and dependents are guaranteed. Tender grass is considered holy and embedded in cow dung it is worshipped during Ganesha pooja]
Asvakraante rathakraante vishnukraante vasundharaa |
Sirasaa dhaaritaa devi rakshasva maam pade pade ||
Oh Mother Earth! You forbear the trampling of horses and chariots and the strides of Vishnu. I bear you with reverence on my head. Please protect me always!
[Oh Mother! You are not here only to bear our footsteps. But you are to be worshiped being carried on our head.]
There are more mantras in the Andhra version.
AGHAMARSHANA-SOOKTAM—(Mantras for purification for sins)
Vishnudharma-sookta prescribes teertha-yaatra as one of the universal dharmas (saamaanya dharma) or common duties one has to perform in one's life. A holy dip in waters is presumed to destroy one's sins, give religious merit and ensure purity of mind. A bath in holy waters enables one to go to heaven. It is also a common belief that if anyone by chance drowns in holy waters (not intentional suicide) he will reach heaven.
Teertha means that by which it is crossed—that which helps in crossing the ocean of trans-migratory existence, repeated births and deaths. Yatra means journey. These places are filled with spiritual vibrations. The spiritual atmosphere of these places is conducive to meditation. The presiding deities of holy waters are Indra, Varuna, Brihaspati, Agni and Savitar. The saastric injunctions on teertha–yaatra and holy dip in waters have their origin in Vedas and Upanishads. Rigveda refers to the holiness of the place where white (Ganga) and black (Yamuna) rivers merge in Prayaag. The discourse on "Pilgrimage centers in India we visited" gives a detailed description of some of these theertha-yatra centers in India.
Aghamarshana-sookta deals with this sanctification with holy waters. It prescribes mantras to pay obeisance to the deities residing in waters. Even while you take regular bath in normal waters these mantras have the power to invoke the deities of waters to wash off your sins while contemplating on these deities and paying your obeisance. These mantras are ideal for taking purifying baths before conducting rituals and poojas.
It is customary to establish a Kalasa (pot filled with water) before starting any ritual and also sanctify the place with that worshipped water after invoking various holy rivers into the water contained in the pot. This has the origin in this famous ancient Sookta. Agha means sin, marsana means destroy; thus the sookta contains mantras that help to overcome past sinful actions.
Hiranya-sringam varunam prapadye teertham may dehi yaachitah |
Yan-mayaa bhuktam-asaadhoonaam paapebyhyas-cha pratigrahah ||
Yan-may manasaa vaachaa karmanaa vaa dushkritam kritam |
Tanna indroe varunoe brihaspatis-savitaa cha punantu punah punah ||
I take refuge with Varuna, the wielder of beautiful weapon. Please grant me your holy presence in the waters sought by me! May Indra, Varuna, Brihaspati and Savitar purify all my sins
committed by me by eating food from malicious people, by acts of accepting gifts from sinners or committing sins by word, deed or thought . May Indra, Varuna, Brihaspati and Savitar purify all of these again and again!
committed by me by eating food from malicious people, by acts of accepting gifts from sinners or committing sins by word, deed or thought . May Indra, Varuna, Brihaspati and Savitar purify all of these again and again!
Sumitraa na aapa oshadhayah santu |
Dur-mitraas-tasmai bhooyaasur-yo-asmaan dveshti yancha vayam dvishmah ||
May the holy waters and ocean be good friends to us! May they become hostile to those who hate us and whom we despise!
Namo-agnnaye-apsumate nama indraaya |
Namo varunaaya namo vaarunyai namoe-adbhyah ||
Yadapaam krooram yad-amedhyam yad-asaantam tadapa-gacchataat ||
Obeisance to Agni who resides within the waters; Obeisance to Varuna:; Obeisance to the wife of Varuna; Obeisance to waters. May that which is harmful, that which is impure and that which is disturbing to waters be cleared!
Atyaasanaad-ateepaanaat yachcha ugraat pratigrahaat |
Tanme varuno raajaa paaninaa hyavam-arsatu ||
May Varuna, the King of waters wipe out with his own hands that sin which was caused by eating prohibited food and drinking prohibited drinks and also that sin caused by receiving gratification from the terribly sinful hands!
Soeham paapoe virajo nirmukto mukta-kilbishah |
Naakasya prishtham-aaruhya gacchet brahma-salokataam ||
May I, whose sin is wiped out by you, on becoming sinless freed from the quality of rajoeguna, freed from the defects of rajoeguna, and in essence freed from all defects go to the world of Supreme Being (Brahman) climbing the region of heaven. [Rajoeguna constitutes egos that promote sinful acts. Rajas means dirt as well as sin. Water is a purifier of both. Brahman is even beyond the heavens. Heaven is only a temporary place of enjoyment and short-lived, reaping the benefit of past good deeds]
We are all familiar with the sloka that is chanted while taking bath or while invoking the holy waters into the pot (kalasa) containing water: Gange cha yamunaa chaiva godaavari sarsvatee | Narmadaa sindhu kaaveree jalesmin sannidhim kuru—Oh Holy Rivers Gangaa, Yamunaa, Godaavari, Sarasvatee, Narmadaa, Sindhu, Kaveree, please come into these waters to grace us! The above sloka used in worship is inspired by the following Vedic Mantra:
Imam mae gange yamune sarasvati sutudris-toema(ga)m sachataa parushniyaa |
Asikniyaa marud-vridhe vitasya-arjikeeye srunuhyaa sushoemayaa ||
Oh! Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Sutudri, Marud–vridha along with the rivers Parushni, Arjikiye along with Asikini, please come here along with Vitasta and Sushoma rivers. Having arrived please listen to my following prayer to the Supreme Being!
[The two mantras above are chanted while sprinkling holy waters on the head called Prokshana]
Oh holy rivers, having come to this place please listen to my following prayers:
[The following Mantras are for meditation on the Supreme Being glorifying his systematic creation of the universe describing the same as in the previous Kalpa. No one knows when the first creation took place. So it is said that creation took place as in the previous Kalpa. As you all know we are in Svetavaraha Kalpa now which has been explained several times before.]
Ritancha satyancha abheeddhaat tapaso-adhyajaayata |
Tatoe raatrir-ajaayata tatas-samudro arnavah ||
Samudraad-arnavaa-dadhi samvatsaro ajaayata |
Aho-raatraani vidadhad visvasya mishato vasee ||
Soorya-chandaramasau dhaataa yathaa-poorvam-akalpayat |
Divancha prithiveencha-antariksham-athoe suvah ||
At the time of creation by the Supreme Being who is known by the name Tapas and who is characterized by the splendor of the form of his true will, the non-sentient matters called 'Ritam' were born which are of ever changing nature and the sentient matters which are called 'Satyam' which are never changing in their essential nature were born. The night called 'Ratri was born then. It is called Ratri because of its ignorant nature. There the ocean (samudra) was born. Samudra signifies
huge volumes of water as well as the large group of elements. Then the Arnava or Brahmanda, that is the resultant products of the elements were born. Then after the cosmic egg, was born Samvatsara, i.e. Prajaapati the four-faced Brahma was born.
huge volumes of water as well as the large group of elements. Then the Arnava or Brahmanda, that is the resultant products of the elements were born. Then after the cosmic egg, was born Samvatsara, i.e. Prajaapati the four-faced Brahma was born.
The ruler of the Universe that gained existence, namely "Dhata' that is Brahma, the four-faced creator created the sun and the moon as in the previous Kalpa for the purpose of ordaining day and night. He also created the Dyuloka, Prithvi, Antariksha and Suvarloka.
['Divah' is the world above the place of Dhruva (poles). It is said to be the border of Satyaloka. Antariksha is the mid-region between the Sun and the Earth. 'Suvah is the world which is in between the Sun and the Dhruva. These three mantras above are chanted while taking bath in water.]
These mantras explain that Paramatman created the world with his own true will in a systematic manner. Matter as well as Jeevatman (Self) are eternal and are not products of creation. They were one with Paramatman in a subtle state. Creation therefore means only differentiation in state. Chandogya Upanishad says he brought the subtle matters to the state of Tejas. The evolution of the elements and quintuplication of them and the formation of the Brahmaanda and the creation of the first born signify relative creation. The articulation of names and forms through four-faced Brahma signifies individual creation. The creation of Samvatsara and Prajaa- pati marks the beginning of the individual creation. In Purusha-sookta we talked about "Virajo adhi poorushah". From Virat sprang Viraj. This refers to the creation of Brahma there also.
Yat prithivyaagam rajah svam-antarikshe virodaci |
Imaa(ga)ms-tad-aapo varunah punaatu-aghamarshanah ||
May these waters and their presiding deity Varuna who is the destroyer of sins, purify all my sins done in both the worlds namely Earth and the other world!
Esha bhootasya bhavye bhuvanasya goptaa |
Esha punya-kritaan lokaanesha mrityor-hiranmayam ||
Dyaavaa-prithivyor hiranmaya(ga)m sagg-sritagam suvah |
Sa nassuvassa(ga)m sisaadhi ||
This Varuna is the protector of the world that was in the past and that will be in the future also. He is the protector of the worlds that are gained by those that have done good deeds. (He is the preserver of the acquired Punya).
He protects the golden world. The golden world is the world above earth called suvah. This is also protected by him. May you of such great powers lead us to the world of the Lord called "Suva" (Svarga). [It is said that even while living in this earth one can reap the benefit of Svargaloka]
Aardram-jwalati jyotir-ahamasmi | jyotir-jwalati brahma-aham-asmi \
Yoham-asmi brahma-aham-asmi | aham-evaa-aham maam juhomi svaahaa ||
The self effulgent waters shine. Fire is effulgent. I am that self luminous one. I am Brahman. I, who is one such, am having Brahman as my (subtle body being different from physical body) Self. Being in that form as I am, I offer myself as oblation unto the Lord. [This mantra reiterates that Aatman or Self is different from the physical body, sense organs and others. Bhagavadgeeta says in 4-24: Brahmaarrpanam Brahma havih Brahmaagnau Brahmana hutam"—Brahman is the oblation Brahman is the clarified butter. The oblation is poured by the Brahman into the fire of Brahman. It means I am having Brahman as my Aatman. Being different and distinct from others and being of the form of Consciousness.]
Akaarya-kaarya-vakeernee stenoe bhroonahaa guru-talpagah |
Varunoe-apaam-agharshanas-tasmaat paapaat pramuchyate ||
One who does what ought to be not done, one who has fallen from the vow of celibacy, one who commits theft, one who has killed a fetus (aborted), one who has a sexual intercourse with the wife of a teacher—all these be freed from heinous crimes when they take ablution in waters because Varuna who is the presiding deity of waters is the destroyer of sins. [By merely taking a bath in waters chanting the mantra sincerely one will be freed from all sins. This is the fruit of taking a holy dip as prescribed in Saastras.]
Rajobhoomis-tvamaagam rodayasva pravadanti dheerah |
Punantu rishayah punantu vasavah punaatu varunah punaatu aghamarshanah ||
"May this Karmabhoomi (land of Karma or action) make others weep vehemently" say the wise. May the rishis (seers) purify me! May the Vasu purify me! May Varuna purify me! May the destroyer of sins purify me!
[This mantra is chanted as one leaves the waters after the bath. He leaves with the pleasant feeling of termination of suffering from the pains of sins at the hands of God of death.]
Aakraant-samudrah prathame vidharman-janayan prajaa bhuvanasya raajaa |
Vrishaa pavitre adhisaano avye brihat somo vaavridhe suvaana induh ||
Ocean (samudra) is the cause of this universe, the protector of the world, pervading everything after creating the people. He is the one who showers all desires; He is the greatest of on account of his immense qualities; he delights everything like the Moon; he holds all powers of the ruler; he is the one who bestows all objects sought after; This Paramaatman flourishes in his Supreme Abode, that is pure, immutable and stands distinct from the visible universe. [In this mantra the glory of the Lord is expounded and the nature of His eternal abode, Paramapada is described which one aspires for after liberation.]
These Mantras are called "Aghamarshani Sookta" –good sayings for eradication of sins. Individual in his prayer realizes his utter dependence on Brahman and that he is not at all independent. He also expresses his realization of the greatness of the Lord. If one realizes the greatness of the Lord he will not commit sin. That is why these prayers are for eradication of sins committed without realizing the greatness of the Supreme Being.
Durgaa-sooktam contains Mantras recited to the Supreme Being (Paramaatman) for transcending all sins, as prayers to Goddess Durga and Agni [Jaatavedase]. It includes mantras for assigning Agni to its original abode after performing the fire sacrifice (agni homa) called Upasthaana Mantra [agnetvam]. Jaataveda in this sookta refers to Brahman and Durga to Saguna Brahman and the Primordial Energy. However this Sookta is popularly used for Durga worship and Pooja rituals for the female deities.
Durga is the most splendid manifestation of Devi. Virginal and sublime, containing within her the power of all the gods combined, she is the invincible power of Nature. Durga means one who is difficult to approach or difficult to know. She is the power inscrutable by which the whole universe is permeated and energized. She is the personification of wealth power beauty and also virtue. She is the embodiment of Yajna (sacrifice), Paravidya (the storehouse of spiritual knowledge) as well as Aparavidya (highest secular science). It is she who bestows wealth, both material and spiritual, dispels difficulties and annihilates the evil ones. Since the Devi was once born as the daughter of sage Kata by name she is known as Kaatyaayini. She is the totality of the powers of the Hindu Trinity. She is the most celebrated in Rigveda along with Sarasvati.
Jaatavedase sunavaama soma-marateeyato nijahaati vedah |
Sa nah prshad-atidurgaani viswaa naaveva sindhum durita-atyagnih ||
Let us offer soma juice (symbolically oblation used in the fire sacrifice) to the omniscient God of Fire (Jaataveda). May the wealth (indicated by the word Veda) of our enemies while caught in the action behaving so be destroyed by you! May the Lord a Agni (here Supreme Being is addressed as Agni) who is our protector lead us to cross the ocean of our sins just as one crosses the ocean with the help of a ship. [This is the Mantra for transcending all sins one commits.]
Taam-agni-varnaam tapasaa jwalanteem vairochaneem karma-phaleshu jushtaam |
Durgaam devee(ga)m saranam-ahma prapadye sutaras tarase namah ||
I seek refuge in Goddess Durga. She has the beautiful lilac color of fire; she is resplendent on account of austerities; she shines out brilliantly; she is the one to whom we pray for removing all hurdles for reaping the rewards for our action (karma-phala). Obeisance to Devi in the form of Primordial Energy! Please save us from all sorrows effectively! [This mantra is a prayer to Goddess Durga for deliverance from sorrow. This Sookta also ends with Gayatri mantra of Durga exclusively though Agni is celebrated vividly.]
Agne tvam paarayaa navyo asmaan svastibhir-iti durgaani viswaa |
Pooscha prithvee bahulaa na urvee bhavaa tokaaya tanayaaya samyoh ||
Oh Agni! You are ever youthful! Free us from all our terrible sins by means of your sacred will. May the prosperous cities (pooh) and the vast earth come to our control! Please be the one who bestows happiness to our children and grand-children!
Viswaani noe durgahaa jaatavedah sindhum na naavaa duritaati-parshi |
Agne atrivan-manasaa gunaano-asmaakam bhootvavitaa tanoonaam ||
Oh omniscient Lord Agni! Guide us cross over our ocean of sins just as one cross the ocean with the help of a ship and protects us as well, for you are the destroyer of sins. Perceiving everything with the mind like the great sage Atri, do take over the role as protector of our bodies.
Pritanaa-jita(ga)m sahamaanam-agnim-ugra(ga)m huvema paramaat sadhasthaat |
Sa nah parshd-ati-durgaani viswaa kshaamad-devo ati duritaaty-agnih ||
We invoke and extend our invitation to Lord Agni (Paramaatman) who is the conqueror of the army (pritunaa) of our enemies, the one who has the patience to bear with the grave sins of his devotees, and, who at the same time is terrible to his enemies. Please come out of your Supreme Abode. May that Supreme Being (Agni) who is the forgiver of the faults of his devotees be our protector (parshat) by taking us across the ocean of our sins!
Pratneshi kameedyo adhvareshu sanaaccha hotaa navyascha satsi |
Svanccha-agne tanuvam pipriyasva-asmabhyamcha sau-bhgam aayajasva ||
You are the glorious one in all sacrifices. You bestow happiness to your devotees. You are the perpetual endeavor of benefits. You are always young and energetic. O Agni! Be happy with our oblations to your body. Please bless us with prosperity.
Gobhir-jushtam-ayujo nishiktam tavendra vishnor- anusancharema |
Naakasya prishtham–abhi samvasaano vaishnaveem loka iham aadayantaam ||
You are the power that is vested in Indra. You are never tainted by sinful things; you are ever associated with sacred things; you are always bathed in divine nectar; you are all pervading. Those divines who are at the Supreme Abode bless me being ardent devotee of Vishnu as the beneficiary even in this very world!
Kaatyaayanaaya vidmahe kanyakumaari dheemahi | Tannoe durgeeh prachodayaat ||
We meditate upon Goddess Durga who belongs to Kaatyaayini lineage (gotra) and who is the resplendent maiden. May that Durga prompt us in our meditation on Kaatyaayini!
The popular Narayansooktam is from Taittireeya Aaranyaka X-13, whose idea forms the basis of meditation on the Supreme Being. It is contained in Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad. This sookta is recited along with Bhagavadgeeta, Vishnusahasranaamam etc., daily. Smriti texts prescribe its use in various rites and ceremonies including Homams and Yajnas.
Naaraayana alone is the one Supreme, non-second Reality (Truth) that is the internal ruler (Antaryaami) in all other entities sentient and non-sentient. The essence of Naaraayana sookta is the exposition of Naaraayana as the Supreme Principle and surrender unto him as the supreme means of attainment of Brahman.
Naaraayana is the most popular name of Vishnu, the Preserver. The word Naaraayan implies several meanings:
- One who is the final goal of all beings;
- One who has made the casual water his abode;
- One who has made the hearts of human beings his abode;
- One who is the abode of all human-beings.
The first one is derived from, "Naaraayanasya jnaanasya ayanam prapyasthaanam" meaning the goal of all knowledge. The second one is derived from, "aapo naaraa iti proktaa ayanam sthaanamasya" meaning residence in the water of existence. The second meaning has given rise to description of Naaraayana for the iconic form which is common and popular.
After the destruction of the Universe in the previous cycle and before the creation of the next, Naaraayana, the Supreme God, falls asleep on his bed of the great serpent called Ananta, which is floating on the waters of Ksheerasaagara (ocean of milk). One of his legs is resting on the lap of his consort Lakshmi who is gently pressing it. When he is dreaming, as it were, of the next creation, a lotus springs from his navel along with god Brahmaa seated on it. After waking up, he commands Brahmaa to proceed with creation.
Ananta means endless or infinite, stands for cosmic time which is endless. Worlds that are created come into being in time and are sustained in time. This is what is understood by thousand hoods supporting the worlds, indicating innumerable divisions of time. Ananta also means Sesha (he is called Seshasayee), which means remainder, what is left over at the end. Since creation cannot proceed out of nothing it is assumed that something is left over from the previous creation which forms the seed, as it were, for the next. Sesha represents the totality of the Jeevaatmas in their subtle form left over from the previous cycle and needing more opportunities for regulation.
Narayan is the object of meditation in all meditative acts. He is meditated upon as Brahman.
"Om Namoh Naaraayanaya" mantra is called Ashtaaksharee Mantra for it contains eight syllables in Sanskrit. It is customary to chant Naaraayana sookta during the homam dedicated to Narayana for health, wealth, peace and prosperity and offer oblation.
Mantras of Naaraayan Sookta
Sahasrasheersham devam viswaaksham visvasambhuvam | viswam Naaraayanam devam aksharam paramam prabhum
Narayana is all that constitutes this universe--who has thousand heads, who has his eyes everywhere and who works out the good of all the worlds, who is the immutable supreme Lord and the one who bestows rewards for all our deeds. [Thousand heads means He is having heads everywhere. He is capable of perceiving everything directly.]
Viswataha paramaannityam viswam Naaraayana(gu)m Harim | viswamevedam purushaha tad-viswa-mupajeevati
He is the most supreme and the eternal because of his being in everything. This universe is Narayana, Hari. This universe is Purusha alone. This universe exists on account of that Purusha. [The entire universe depends upon Him for its existence and functioning.}
Patim viswasyaatma-eesvara(gu)m saasvatagum sivamachyutam | Naaraayanam mahaagneyam viswaatmaanam paraayanam |
Narayana is the Lord of the universe. This master is the ruler of himself. He is the eternally auspicious one and he is constant and unchanging. This Narayana is the highest thing to be known. He is the inner-psyche of all. He is the supreme object and the highest goal of attainment. [The nature of the entire universe is to glorify Him alone by all its deeds. His nature is always the same]
Naaraayana param Brahma tatvam naaraayanah paraha | Naaraayana paroe jyotihi aatmaa Naaaraayanaha paraha | naaraayana paroe dhyaata dhyaaanam Naaraayanaha paraha |
Narayana is the supreme Brahman. Narayana is the supreme Reality. Narayana is the supreme Light. Narayana is the supreme Self. Narayana is the most excellent meditate and meditation.
[Repeating the word Narayana in this mantra is to establish without any doubt the fact that Narayan alone is the object to be meditated upon (upaasya) in all Brahmopasana (meditation on Brahman)]
Yaccha kinchit jagaty-asmin drisyate srooyate-pi vaa | antar bahischa tat sarvam vyaapya Naaraayanaha sthitaha |
Whatever object is seen because of his proximity or heard through report because of its distance in this world, Narayana resides pervading all these objects within and without.
Anantamavyayam kavi(ga)m samudrentam viswasambhuvam | padmakoesa-prateekaasa(ga)m hridayaanchaap-yadhoemukham |
We should meditate upon the Supreme, the Infinite, the Immutable, the Omniscient, the one whose abode is the ocean, the one who is dwelling in the sea of one's own heart as the goal of all struggles. The location of his meditation is the space in the heart which is comparable to an inverted lotus bud. [He is not limited by time, space or object. He is the omniscient principle. He is of the same nature always and there is no change in h His nature at any time.]
Adhoe nishtyaa vitastyaam tu naabhyaam upari tishthati | jwaalamaalaakulaa bhaatee viswasya-aayatanam mahat |
The heart, which is located just at the distance of a finger span below the Adam's apple and above the navel, shines as if wreathed in fire, is the great abode of the universe. [He is the inner controller of all entities—sentient and non-sentient. In His manifestation in the heart of the one who meditates, he is at the same time the object of meditation.]
Santata(ga)m siraabhistu lambatyaa koesa sannibham | Tasyaante sushira(ga)m sookshmam tasmin sarvam pratishtitam
The heart is like a slightly closed bud, hangs down being well covered by veins. At the end of that is a subtle hole called sushumna. The Supreme Brahman, the Self of all is located there.
Tasya madhye mahaanagnir viswaarchir viswatoe mukhaha; soegra-bhug vibhajantishtan aahaara-majarah kavih ||
In the midst of that heart is a blazing fire spreading in all directions with huge flames surging in all directions. He, the ever awake, the ever roaring stands there, classifying the food and he himself consumes the food first.
Tiryagoordhva madhaha saayee rasmayas tasva santataa | santaapayati svam dehamaapaada-tala-mastakaha |
The fire remains assimilating the food consumed, the rays of which spread scattering themselves vertically and horizontally and which warms the body from bottom of its foot to the crown of the head.
Tasya madhye vahnisikhaa aniyordhvaa vyavasthitah | Neelatoe-yada-madhyasthaa vidyullekheva bhaasvaraa | neevaara sookavattanvee peetaa bhaasvat yanoopamaa
In the midst of that there is a flame of fire which is subtle and rising above, which is shining like a streak of lightning in the midst of a blue cloud, which is very subtle like the tip of grain, which is self-luminous and which is incomparable.[Though the gastric fire is located in the stomach below, the subtle flame raging above through the tiny hole into the heart contains within itself the auspicious form of Paramaatman which is like a blue cloud. That form of the Lord is resplendent like a line of lightning]
Tasyaaha sikhaayaa madhye Paramaatmaa vyavashtitaha | sa Brahmaa sa Sivaha sendraha soeksharaha parmah svaraat |
The Supreme self is established in the midst of that flame. He is Brahma, Siva, Indra, the material and efficient cause of the universe, the supreme self luminous pure Consciousness, the most liberated master of Karma.
Ritagam satyam param Brahma Purusham krishnapingalam | Oordhvaretam viroopaaksham viswaroopaaya vai namah |
Obeisance to the Supreme Brahma, the Lord of the cosmic form, who is all-pervading, immutable, the one who has an auspicious form of a black-tawny color, who has eyes that are uncommon in nature.[The color of the auspicious form of the Lord is a happy blend of dark blue with the golden hue of Goddess Lakshmi.]
Om Naaraayanaaya vidmahay Vaasudevaaya dheemahi tannoe Vishnuhu prachodayaat
Vishnu Gayatri—we meditate upon Narayana. For that we devote ourselves on Vaasudeva. May that Lord Vishnu invigorate and impel us!
PURUSHASOOKTAM-TRUE DESCRIPTION OF THE UNIVERSAL PERSON
(Hymn of praise on Supreme)
The Rishis of yore recognized the divine vision of the Oneness of the world-of-plurality and a "Hymn of Praise" to the Supreme Principle Divine was raised by someone amongst them. This is "Purusha-sookta", the famous hymn in our Vedas. Every Vedic mantra has a Rishi as the author, a Chhandas or meter and a Devata, the deity to whom it is addressed. This pattern is also found in our Aagamas and Tantras. Each of the Chhandas or meter is believed to be presided over by a deity like Agni, by whose grace only the metrical composition is possible, and hence the importance given to Chhandas in the mantras.
Purushasookta as it is chanted to-day is based on the composition from Taittareeya Aaranyakam-Taittareeya Prasna. Sometimes mantras from "Vishnusookta" another well known hymn, a part of the Rigveda Samhita are clubbed together by tradition. The first sixteen mantras are in "Trishtub" meter and the rest in "Anushtub" meter. The first 18 mantras are designated as Poorvanarayana and the rest as Uttaranaaraayana. The mantras of Uttaranaaraayana and Vishnusookta do not seem to have any coherence with first 16 mantras of the Rigveda Samhita, though by tradition clubbed together. The name of the original Rishi of this mantra is not known, but indications show that the Rishi of this mantra is Narayana, probably an assumed pen name. Uttaraaranaaraayana Anuvaaka (portion) is only found in Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad.
Purushsookta texts are found in Rigveda Samhita (10.7.90.1-16), Taittareeya Aaranyaka (3.12, 13), Vaajasaneeya Samhita (31.1-6), Samaveda Samhita (6.4), Atharvaveda Samhita (19.6), Sat-pata Brahmana, Taittareeya Brahmana, Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad, Bhagavata (2.5.35 to 2.6.1-29), Mahabharata (Moksha-dharma Parva 351 and 352) and Mudgilopanishad. It is also one of the most commonly used vedic hymns in almost all religious ceremonies. It is chanted in the worship of deity at homes and in temples, daily recitation of religious scriptures, Vedic rites establishing the sacred fire or even in the cremation ceremonies. It is considered as one of the important Mantrapushpas. A couple desirous of begetting a worthy son is advised to perform worship and homa with the first 16 mantras. During Shoedasa-Upachaara Pooja to Lord Vishnu and his incarnations, Purushasookta is chanted while giving sacred bath to the deity.
The Supreme identifying with the total causal body, is the Lord of the Universe, Easvara; when he expresses as the total sublime body, He is identified as the "Creator of the Universe"—Hiranyagarbha; and when He projects forth through the Total Gross Body He comes to play as the Universe (Viraat). Cosmic form of the Lord (Viraat) is here Purusha. Sookta means that which is well said, "a true description". Purushasookta is a hymn that gives the true description of the Purusha, the Primeval Being or God, the Creator. The Universe produced from the one undivided Atman by the on-rolling process of manifestation thus is a unified system, of a mighty organism in which the inmost nucleus, the pervading spirit of Self is the one abiding Being, the one Supreme person, "Purusha" in the twin aspect of "Brahman" the Word and "Easvara" the Lord. Purusha, derived from the root pri (to protect; to fill up) represents that principle or power which has filled the whole universe and protecting it. Purusha is thus the God Himself, by which term we address him in all our prayers. Purusha is the manifested state of the un-manifested Brahman, the origin and substratum of the Universe. Aadipurusha (the Primeval Being), Paramaatma, the Supreme Lord, Naaraayana (the refuge of all the human beings) and Bhagavaan (the being endowed with immense great qualities) are some of the other names by which He is addressed.
The translation of the 24 mantras, and of the mantra from Vishnusookta are as follows:
Traditional chanting of Purushasookta begins with a Shantimantra or a peace invocation which is chanted at the end also.
Om| tacchamyoraavrineemahay | gaatum yajnaaya | gaatum yajnapatayay | daivee svastirastu na-h | svastir maanushebhya-h | oordhvam jigaatu bheshajam | sam no astu dvipaday | sam chatushpaday || Om shaanti-h shaanti-h shaanti-h || (Invocation)
We pray to God who dispels our sorrows and gives us the fruits of our rituals. We pray to Him to get the results of our rites and rituals as well as for the good of the one who performs the sacrifice.
May we attain the same kind of good that the gods in heaven get! May all the human beings also attain auspiciousness! In future also, let all the evils of life dispel! May the human beings and the domestic animals under our care remain happy!
Om sahasra-seershaa purusha-h | sahasraakshah sahasrapaat | sa bhoomim visvato vritvaa| atyatishtad dasaangulam || (Mantra 1)
The Purusha has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet. He has enveloped this world from all sides and has even transcended it by ten angulas (or inches).
Purusha evaeda(ga)m sarvam | yad-bhootam yaccha-bhavyam | uta-amritatvas-yaesaana-h | yad –annenaati roehat(i || (Mantra 2)
Whatever is born now and whatever is yet to be born in the future, all is He alone, not only this, even for the gods He is the controller; and hence He transcends the mortal state (that which is sustained by food mainly is also the Puruasha).
Etaavaan-asya mahimaa | atoe-jyaayaa(ga)ms-cha-poorushah-h | paadoe-asya viswaa bhootaani | tripaadasya-amritam divi || (Mantra 3)
This much is his glory only. And Purusha is much more than all these. The entire universe of happenings and creatures constitute but a quarter of Him. The remaining three quarters of his glory consists of immutable Consciousness (established in the immortal heaven).
Tripaadoordhwa udait purusha-h | Paadoe-syaehaat-bhavaat-puna-h | tatoe vishwang-vyakraamat | Sa-asana-nasanae-abhi || (Mantra 4)
The three-quarters of the Purusha have ascended beyond the changing universe. The one-quarter of Him, again and again comes to play as the universe. Thereafter, He pervades all beings that eat, and things that never eat (sentient beings and insentient objects).
Tasmaat-viraat- ajaayata | viraajoe adhi poorusha-h | sa jaatoe atyarichyata | paschaad bhoomi-mathoe pura-h || (Mantra 5)
From the Purusha was born the Viraat, the universe-in-seed (Brahmaandam) and identifying with Viraat, the universe-in-seed condition, the Viraatpurusha was born. The new born one became manifest into the plurality (he multiplied himself). Then He created the earth and the bodies (the living beings).
Yat purushaena havishaa | devaa yajna matanwata | vasantoe-asya aasee-daajyam | greeshma idhma-h sarad-dhavi-hi || (Mantra 6)
When the gods invoked Purusha (in the beginning) they considered Him as their very oblation; the spring season as melted butter, the summer season as fuel, and the rainy season as grains needed for the offering (oblation materials like the purodaasa or rice cake).
Sapta-asya-asan paridhaya-h | tri-h-sapta samidha-h kritaa-h | devaa-yad-yajnam tanvaana-habadhnan purusham pasum || (Mantra 7)
For this sacrifice (yajna) they established seven Vedies (fuel pieces serving as border) and created twenty-one kinds of fuel sticks in all. The very Lord whom devas desired to invoke with their sacrifice, that very Purusha (prajaapati) was tied to the sacrificial post, as the animal (pasu) offering.
Tam yajnam barhishi praukshan | purusham jaatamagrata-h | tena devaa ayajanta saadhyaa rishyascha yae || (Mantra 8)The first born Purusha was offered as an oblation to the sacred-fire after sprinkling him with water by the sacrificial grass, and by this divine act gods, celestials, rishis-all became victorious.
Tasmaad-yajnaat sarva-huta-h | sambhritam prishadaajyam | pasoo(ga)m-staag-s-chakrae
aaranyaan graamyaas-cha ye || (Mantra 9)
From this sarvahutah sacrifice, wherein the Cosmic Being himself was used as the oblation, curds mixed with melted butter, birds flying in the air, animals roaming in forests and the domestic cattle were created.
Tasmaad-yajnaat sarvahuta-h | richa-h saamaani jagnirae | cchandaa(ga)msi jagnirae tasmaat | yajus-tasmaad ajaayata || (Mantra 10)
From that Sarvahuta sacrifice the Riks (the mantras of the Rigveda), and the saamans (mantras of the Saamsveda) were born. From it again meters (like Gayatri) were born. From it alone came the mantras of the Yajurveda.
Tasmaadaswaa ajaayanta | yae-kay-cho –bhayaadata-h | gaavoe-ha yajnirae tasmaat | tasmat-jaataa ajaavaya-h || (Mantra 11)
From the sacrifice came horses, and all creatures with two-rows-of-teeth. Cows, sheep, and goats were also born.
Yat purusham vya-da-dhuh-hu | katidhaa vyakalpayan | mukham kimasya kow baahoo | Kaa ooroo paadaa uchyaetae || (Mantra 12)
When the gods meditated upon the Virat-purusha in what ways did they conceive Him to be? What came out of His face divine? What came out of His two arms? What came out of His sacred thighs and feet? (These are the questions raised by the sages).
Braahmanoe asya mukham aaseeth | baahoo-raajanya-h krita-h | ooroo-tadasya-yat-vaisya-h
padbhyaam soodroe ajaayata || (Mantra 13)
From the face of the Viraat-purusha were born the Brahmins (thinkers); from his arms Kshatriyas (rulers); from his thighs the Vaisyas (traders) and from his feet the Soodras (service personnel).
Chandramaa-manasoe jaata-h | chakshoe-ho sooryoe ajaayata | mukhaad-indrascha agnischa | praanaad vayur-ajaayata || (Mantra 14)
Moon came out from the Viraat-purusha's mind; from his eyes the Sun; from his mouth Indra and Agni (fire god), and from his breath came the very atmospheric air.
Naabhyaa aaseed antariksham | seershnoe dyau-hu samavartata | padbhyaam bhoomir disaa-h srotraat | tathaa loekaa(ga)m akalpayan || (Mantra 15)
From the Virat-purusha's navel emerged the inner-space (the space between earth and heaven) and from His head outer space (Dyau-loeka). From his feet the Earth, and from his ears the quarters (dik-special directions) manifested. Thus, the world came into existence.
Vedaahametam purusham mahaantam | aadityavarnam tamasastu paarae | sarvaani roopaani vichitya dheera-h | naamaani-kritwaa abhivadan yad-aaste || (Mantra 16)
I have realized that First Person, resplendent like the Sun, ever shining, beyond all darkness, who, having created all forms and names, in His wisdom, exists as though functioning through them all.
Dhaataa purastaadya-mudaajahaara | sakra-h pravidwaan pradisa-h chatasra-h | tamevam vidwaan-amrita iha-bhavati | naanya-h panthaa ayanaaya vidyate ||Mantra 17)
Him whom Prajaapati proclaimed as the Viraat-purusha in the ancient days, Him whom Indra propagated in the four quarters of the universe, He is the one by realizing whom the realized masters become immortal, even in this life. There is no other way for liberation.
Yajnena yajna-mayajanta devaa-h | taani dharmaani prathamaa-nyaasan | tehanaakam mahimaana-h sachantae | yatra poorve saadhyaa-h santi devaa-h || (Mantra 18)
The Devas worshipped the Lord of all yajnas (sacrifices). Therefore, dedicated sacrifice (yajna dharma) became the noblest thing in the world. The heaven where earlier performers (Saadhyas) of this sacrifice live, there will enter and live (those that perform it).
Adhbya-h sambhoota-h prithivyai rasaaccha | viswakarmana-h samavartataadhi | tasya tvshtaa vidadhad-roopameti | tatpurushasya viswa-maajaanamagrae || (Mantra 19)
The Viraat Purusha manifested himself from out of (the all pervading) waters as also the essence of the element of earth. This Viraatpurusha was (actually) born out of the greatness of the Paramapurusha, the Creator. The (Paramapurusha known as) Tvashta engaged himself in the act of creating the (fourteen worlds) (which form the expanded) figure (of the Viraatpurusha). (Thus) the entire creation (related to the Viraatpurusha) came into existence in the very beginning of creation.
Vedaahametam purusham mahaantam | aadityavarnam tamasa-h parastaat | tamaevam vidwaan-amrita iha bhavati | naanyah panthaa vidyatae ayanaaya || (Mantra 20)
I have known that great Purusha who is brilliant like the Sun and who is beyond all darkness. One who knows him thus becomes immortal (even) here. There is no other path for liberation other than this.
Prajaapatischarati garbhae anta-h | ajaayamaanoe bahudhaa vijaayatae | tasya dheeraa-h parijaananti yonim | mareecheenaam padamicchanti vaedhasa-h || (Mantra 21)
Prajaapati (the Lord of all beings) moves inside the cosmic womb. (Though) unborn, he takes birth in a variety of ways. The wise ones know his (real nature) as the origin (of the universe). The (secondary) creators desire to attain the positions of Marichi and others.
Yoe daevaebhya aatapati | yoe devaanaam puroehita-h | poorvoe yoe daevaebhyo jaata-h | namoe ruchaaya braahmayae || (Mantra 22)
Obeisance to Him, the self-luminous Brahman who shines for the gods, the leader of the rituals for the gods, and born even before the gods.
Rucham braahmam janayanta-h | devaa agrae tadabruvan | yastvaivam braahmanoe vidyaat | tasya devaa asan vasae || (mantra 23)
In the beginning of creation, the gods, manifesting the light of Brahman, addressed Brahman thus: "That braaahmana who realizes (you) thus, all the gods will come under his control".
Hreescha te lakshmeescha patnyau | ahoeraatrae paarsve | nakshatraani roopam | aswinau vyaattam | ishtam manishaana | amum manishaana | sarvam manishaana | Om shaanti-h
shaanti-h shaanti-h || (Mantra 24)
O Purusha! The goddess Hri (Modesty) and Sri (wealth) are your consorts. Day and night are your lateral limbs. The stars are your form. The Aswins are your widely opened mouth. O Purusha ! Fulfill our desire for self-knowledge as also our desire for the enjoyment of this world (like longevity, cows and horses). Give us all that we need!
[Mantras 9 to 24 are only found in Mahaanaaraayana Upanihad. These mantras clear beyond doubt Sriman Narayana is the Supreme God. Brahma, Siva and others are all declared as the creation of Naaraayana. These mantras follow the beginning mantra "ambhasyapaare'' in Mahaa Naaraayana Sookta followed by other mantras which are descriptive of Naraayaana reclining on the bed of Adisesha served by Lakshmi floating on the milky ocean}
The important mantra that is usually sung along with Purushasookta from Vishnusookta, is as follows:
Tad vishnoe-ho paramam-pada(ga)m sadaa pasyanti sooraya-h | diveecha chakshu-hu aatatam | tad vipraasoe vipanyavoe jaagrivaa(ga)m sassamindhate | vishnoer-yat-paramam-padam ||
The learned are looking at the abode of Vishnu (Paramapadam) just like looking at the Sun that pervades the sky. The learned sages reach the abode cautiously without much difficulty.
[These mantras appear at the end of Vishnusookta. This mantra is invariably chanted during 16- step Pooja during Aarati or waving of the lamp in temples and at home.]
SOME REFLECTIONS ON PURUSHASOOKTA TEXT
Purushsookta is a difficult text to comprehend. It is part of Rigveda which is itself an enigmatic text due to its hoary antiquity. Its language is archaic which does not lend itself easily to interpretations based on the knowledge of modern Samskrit. Various terms and concepts, though closely allied to vedic rituals, appear to be symbolic and esoteric. However, they are the earliest concepts on Purusha, Viraat, Purush-yajna by the Devas, the Saadhyas and Rishis, birth of four Varnas, Creation, Jnaana, Moksha and the nature of realization, cardinal Dharmas and prayer for the fulfillment of desire.
In Purushasookta, Purusha appears as the self-sacrificing source of the objective universe; only one quarter of him is seen. Three quarters remains beyond all objective thought and experience. It implies that what appears as the universe is but a very limited aspect of Purusha, while what remains un-manifest is unlimited, which is incomparably great. It does not mean that Purusha is capable of actual division so that one measurable part appears as the universe while three equally measurable parts lie beyond.
Purusha the timeless, space-less Being, cannot be really divided. Purusha in the aspect that becomes this universe is as full and complete as the aspect that transcends the universe and remains as undimmed and unchanged without undergoing in any way any dimunition what so ever.
This can be seen from another famous verse of the Vedas, perhaps the later one which tries to define this relation between the two aspects of Purusha, in a quite different manner. In the form of paradox, it declares:
Om poornamada-h poornamidam poornaat poornamudachyate| Poornasya poornamaadaaya Poornamevaa-vasishyate | Om saanti-hi saanti-hi saanti-hi ||
That which lies beyond is plenum (full and undiminished). That which appears here (i.e. as the universe) is also plenum, equally full and undiminished. Out of plenum, plenum arises. Plenum having been taken away, out of plenum, what remains is still the same (Brihadaaranyaka Up. 5.1)
This is a state of affairs which cannot be possibly be formulated in any logical statement whatsoever without contradiction. However, we can explain it somewhat by some examples:
In the domain of biology, in the division of a single vital cell into many, each new cell appears to have the same amount of material as the original one, apparently without any diminution, even when the original cell is divided many times later.
Another illustration of the process may be what is called in psychology "dissociation of personality"-each new personality seems to be as complete and self-constituent and which at the same time, seems to remain in every way unaffected.
In the sphere of physics, ions and electrons would seem to be but "points of strain" or "energy units" in a storehouse of universal energy whether this store-house be regarded as the "ether" as formerly postulated by physics or something else. Each of these energy units seems to be as inexhaustible as the entire storehouse, from which it is produced, as a center and fountain of energy.
In the field of hypnotism of the West and Yoga of the East the unconscious holds all that is "lost" and forgotten of the previous experiences of life of the individual, so that the "lost" memory of such experiences can be brought up to the surface consciousness. The surface consciousness behaves as though it was an entity quite apart from and independent of the unconscious, which, as a matter of fact, is its true background. The two exist together.
Upanishads describe the Purusha at several places as "anoeraneeyaam mahatoe maheeyan", smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest. Purushasookta gives a vivid picture of the "Maheeyan". He at the same time existed in the least significant minute particles of even the insentient crystal pillar. In order to rescue Prahlaada from Hiranyakasipu, the being Divine, appears in all glory of THAT one from a crystal pillar in which in all fullness, Divinity had remained hidden, deeply buried, at the inmost core of every particle in that cold dead structure.
Purushasookta deals with the subject of primary and secondary creations. In this context, it is worth recalling the Hymn of Creation found in Rigveda X-129:
"At that time there was neither non-existence nor existence, neither the world, nor the sky, nor anything beyond. What covered everything and where and for what enjoyment, was there water unfathomable and deep. Death was not there nor immortality, no knowledge of night or day. That one thing breathed without aid by its own strength; apart from it nothing existed. Darkness was there wrapped in yet more darkness; undistinguished all these was one water, which was the incipient layer covered by void. That one thing became creative by the power of its own contemplation. There came upon it at first desire, which was the prime seed of the mind and men of vision searching in their hearts with their own intellect found the link to the existent to the non-existent….There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action of here and energy of yonder."
"The Gods are later than this creative activity, who knows, then from where this came into being?
"Where this creation came from, whether one supported it or not, He who was supervising it from the highest heaven, He indeed knows or He knows not".
Brahman, derived from the root "brih" is sometimes translated as "the word" which literally means "word THAT (Tat) which grows great".—Tat in the famous mantra "Tat tvam asi". This is undoubtedly "Vridh" in another form. If so, the English "word" is ultimately the same as the Vedic Brahman even etymologically. It is interesting to recall here the Biblical statement that "In the beginning there was the Word, and the word was God".
Creation needs two fundamental objects; matter and life. The Purusha created these in the first phase. This forms the primary creation. He manifested out of Himself, the Viraat, the immense being, the totality of all objects in their seed or root form. He again entered into it, and brought out devas or the "bright ones", the gods, so that they could carry on the secondary or further creation as per his directions. He also manifested out of Himself the five subtle elements like the Earth.
The Devas and Sadhyas were the various centers of power and action (indriyas and Praanas) in the body of the Viraat, energized by the further infilling of life-forces and Consciousness by the Purusha himself. Dewas means, the power of consciousness (div=to shine) and Sadhyas means capable of bringing about (sadh= to bring about) further creation and Rishis means those endowed with intuitive knowledge (rish=to know). These Dewas who were also Sadhyas and Rishis under-took further creation.
The secondary creation was done by a yajna or sacrifice. Since it was before creation, when no materials were available for such a yajna these Dewas performed the yajna mentally, by imagining various parts and processes involved in it. Vedic Yajna needs several things like havis (sacrificial materials like purodaasa or rice cake), aajya (ghee or melted butter), idhma (fuel), pasu (animal) like a goat for immolation and offering into the fire and so on.
In the early period, vedic sacrifices were extremely common as the primary aspect of religion in practice, comprising three parts—dravya (materials needed), devataa (the deity to be propitiated), and tyaaga (oblation). Yajna was resorted to, for fulfilling any desire or for bringing about a great result. Bhagavadgeeta calls all good deeds of service as yajna. Hence, Purushsookta describes the secondary creation resorted to by devas as yajna. In this yajna, the divine beings who are all emanations from the Purusha himself, conducted the maanasa yajna (mental sacrifice) and upaasana or meditation. In their mental sacrifice devas offered spring season (vasant ritu) as ghee (aajya) into the sacrificial fire. It is during spring season, milk, curds and ghee will be available in plenty, when the flora and fauna will be at its best. It should be remembered here neither ghee nor spring season existed at the time of secondary creation, therefore it is the mental imagination of the devas, who perhaps could remember the previous cycle of creation. Similarly, this logic could be equally extended to, their other items of the sacrifice.
In this process of mental yajna, seven vedic meters (chhandas), 12 months, 3 worlds, five seasons, all objects of pleasure and enjoyment, various types of animals, and the four Vedas , meaning there-by that every conceivable object of creation was produced. Man was the last object of creation in the process.
The author of Purushasookta puts this in a picturesque imagination. Devas offered various limbs of the Virat- purusha, who himself has been treated as the animal for the sacrifice (pasu), into the sacrificial fire with all sorts of imagination, for creating a composite society. Thus were created divines of the four Varnas--Braahmanas emerging out of the face (mouth), Kshatriyas (called Rajanyas) from the arms, the Vaisyas (business people) from the thighs , and the Soodra from the feet of the Viraat-purusha, in the symbolic mental sacrifice. The creation process continued further. The moon was born out of his mind; the Sun out of his eyes; Indra and Agni out of his mouth; Vaayu (air) out of his vital breath (praana); antariksha (intervening space between heaven and earth) from his navel; heaven from the top of his head; earth from the feet; directions from the ears, as also the world.
The creation of human beings to the four well known Varnas or social groups and describing their emergence from the different limbs of Viraat-purusha, especially of the Soodras from the feet has raised bitter controversies and debates. "Nobody can understand the caste system of India to-day until he has freed himself from the mistaken notion based on the current interpretation of the so called Institute of Manu, that there were four original castes. No four original castes ever existed at any time or place, and at the present moment the terms Kshatriya, Vaisya and Soodra have no exact meaning as a classification of existing castes" writes Mr. Vincent A Smith in The Oxford Book of History of India. The fact should be recognized that the ancient sages who composed the Smritis and Dharmasaastras said that when people dislike a custom or social system they can give it up and substitute it by better ones (vide Manu-smriti 4.176; Yaajnavalkya-smriti 1.156). A braahmana could take food in the house of a soodra who was serving him in some form (Vide Manu-smriti 6.253; Yaajnavalkya-smriti 1.166; Paraasara-smriti 11.9).
Moreover, Puraanas and history clearly reveal that soodars had never been denied the spiritual knowledge and wisdom, which is the birthright of every human being. There have been many great Saints from among the soodras and even from the out-castes as illustrated by Valmiki, Vyasa, Dharmavyada, Vidura, Nandanar, Nammazhwar, Ravidas, Kanakadasa, Tiruppan Azhwar and a host of others. Srikrishna was born into soodra family. Brahmin-hood had to be earned and was not a birth-right. Viswamitra earned his braminhood after severe penance and austerities, so was Valmiki. Important religious works like Mahabharata (Vanaparva 181.20-26) have declared that the brahminhood depends not on the accidental birth but on possession of godly virtues. In the Bhagavadgeeta Lord Krishna says: "Chaturvarnam mayaa srishtham gunakarma vibhaagasa-h"—the four divisions--based on aptitude and vocation—of human society were created by Me. He then describes the qualities of such men not based on birth but on the aptitude:
"The intellectuals who have serenity, self-control, austerity, purity, patience, honesty, transcen-dental knowledge, transcendental experience, and belief in God are labeled as Brahmanas(18-42). Those having the qualities of heroism, vigor, firmness, dexterity, not fleeing from the battle, charity, and administrative skills are called Kshatriyas or Protectors (18-43). Those who are good in cultivation, cattle rearing, business, trade and industry are known as Vaisyas. Those who are good in service and labor type of work are classified as Soodras (18-44).
It is nevertheless, an undeniable fact that the caste system as it obtains to-day has very little in common with the original spirit of Varnaashrama-dharma. Much of the discontent among the Soodras is mainly due to two factors—the notion that the head is superior and the feet are inferior in status; the nasty treatment that they have sometimes received at the hands of the upper class of society. The first two varnas have sometimes misused their position to harass or oppress the last group. Such oppression however has happened in all societies of the world in its long history. But in India, this has been more an exception than a rule. Social hierarchy is an inevitable fact of life which cannot be washed away in any society. This is the unfortunate Vedic mantra chosen to mis-interpret by the upper class, used to demean, and even ill-treat the lower level of the society in India.
The Viraat-purusha is the Cosmic man, the Supreme identifying with the entire gross forms available in the Universe. Naturally, there cannot be anything higher or lower in the macrocosmic form. All are his divine parts—each is important and holy as the other part. Mother Earth whom the Hindus worship as Bhoodevi, and who is also a consort of Vishnu is born out of the feet of this Viraat-purusha. The relative importance of our limbs varies as occasion demands. In soccer the head and feet are of equal importance. For laying foundation stone for a building it is hand (amrita-hasta) that gets predominance and not the head. While honoring the elders, especially religious leaders, worship is done to the feet and not to the head. While tending little children with love, we keep them in our lap (thighs) and not on our crown. "The verses give a highly figurative, imaginative theory of creation. Both Brahmana and Agni (fire) come from the mouth of the Purusha, just as the servile Soodra and earth both proceed from his feet. No suggestion of the existence of the caste group is made. "Mankind is simply and roughly classified under four heads according to occupation, the more honorable profession being naturally assigned the more honorable symbolic origin. It is absurd to treat symbolical language of the poem as a narrative of supposed fact", says Mr. Vincent A Smith.
Without the feet, the body cannot stand erect, in a state of balance. So too society cannot exist without the supply of physical labor, which was the chosen occupation of the Soodras since they did not have the aptitude for the other three occupations. In seven holiest cities in India it is Vishnupaada, the feet of the Lord that receives priority pooja. In Vamana avataara it is the feet of the Lord that was employed to punish the evil as the most effective part of the body. Therefore feet as the inferior part of body and Soodra as the inferior member of society does not hold grounds In the context of Varnasahrama Dharma concept developed in those days amomg divines and which is not the degenerated birth-right caste system of modern days. Naamam is also symbolic of Vishnu's feet and considered as most sacred by Vaishnavites who wear it on their forehead.
Moksha according to Rishis is rediscovering of our eternal relationship with Purusha. This is possible only through Jnaana or knowledge of the Self-realization and not just intellectual understanding. Purushasookta teaches us this fundamental Truth, and it serves the purpose of guiding an aspirant in the path of meditation on the Supreme Purusha also.
Hinduism stresses that spiritual wisdom has to be obtained by competent guru. Purushsookta automatically stresses this point when it declares that Purusha taught this wisdom first to Dhaata (the four faced Brahma, the creator) who taught it to Sakra or Indra, who then spread it in all directions through worthy rishis or sages.
Dewas have been allotted the task of secondary creation by the Purusha, who had supplied them the raw material, in the form of Viraat-purusha. They used this raw material, performed the maanas-yajna and completed the task of creation. Thus by doing their prescribed duty they worshipped Purusha. This has a lesson for us. God has given us a ready -made world well regulated by cosmic laws. Even the gods worked and are still working within the ambit of these laws for the good of the world. A yajna in spirit means just this—offering the individual good into the cosmic or universal good, by performing one's duties to the best of one's ability and always keeping in mind the cosmic good. If such a person performs his allotted duty or svadharma, not only does the world run smoothly but also the very svadharma karma becomes worship of the Lord, leading to spiritual fulfillment.
Purushasookta's main stress is on mukti or libertation through the knowledge of Purusha. It also refers to Naaka, the world free from all sorrow, the heaven, where the ancient dewas and sadhyas live, where they contemplate on Purusha to attain the status of Prajaapatis like Marichi, Atri, and others.
Purushasookta ends with an obeisance to the self luminous Purusha by the gods who also declare their subservience to any person who succeeds in knowing that Purusha. Purusha is identified with Narayana with his two consorts Hri and Lakshmi. Day and night are his two lateral limbs. The stars along with the moon form his body as it were. Heaven and earth seem like his two halves of the open mouth. Here Bhoo (earth), the usual consort of Vishnu, Narayana is replaced by Hri, the Goddess of Modesty. Wealth, beauty and other embellishments, if not controlled by modesty (Hri) will lead to disaster. Therefore, wealth and modesty together are stated.
Purushasookta thus gives us in a capsule form, the philosophy and wisdom of the Vedas, the Vedanta, Bhagavadgeeta equally stressing on Upaasana (meditation), Jnaana (knowledge of the Supreme), Karma (rituals and performance of one's duty). No wonder then that this Sookta is highly venerated and sung extensively today in our religious observances. It is also not a big surprise that this universally well read Sookta is commented upon, both by theists, and atheists.
Geetaa recollects Purushasooktam:
Sarvataha paani-paadam tat-sarvatoeksha siroemukham | Sarvataha srutimalloeke sarmamaavritya tishthati ||
With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, head and mouth everywhere, with ears everywhere, Supreme Spirit exists in the world, enveloping all.
Geetaa 10—42 (PS 4)
Athavaa bahunaitena kim jnaatena tavaarjuna | Vishtabyaahamidam kritsnam-ekaamsena sthitoe jagat ||
But of what avail to thee is the knowledge of all these details O Arjuna! I exist supporting this whole world by one part of myself.
Geeta 15—7 (PS 4)
Mamaivaamsoe jeevaloeke jeevabhoota-h sanaatana-h |
An eternal portion of me has become living soul in the living world…
Geetaa 7—7 (PS 5)
Matta-h parataram naanyat-kinchidasti Dhananjaya | Mayi sarvamidam proetam sootre maniganaa iva ||
There is nothing whatsoever other than me O Dhananjaya! All this is strung in me, as a cluster of gems on a string.
Geeta 4—24 (PS—6)
Brahmaarpanam brahma havi-h brahmaagnou brahmanaa hutam | Brhmaiva tena gantavyam brahmakrma samaadhina ||
The ritual is Brahman, the offering itself is Brahman, the fire is Brahman and Brahman is the goal reached by the one who offers. Such absorption in Brahman takes him to Brahman.
Geeta 3—9 (PS—6)
Yajnaarthaat karmanoe-anyatra loekoeyam karmabandhana-h | Tadartham karma Kaunteya muktasangha-h samaachara ||
The world is bound by actions other than those performed "for the sake of sacrifice—yajna". Do then, therefore O son of Kunti! Perform that action for that sake (for yajna alone) free from all attachment.
Geetaa 3—11 (PS—7)
Devaan-bhaavayata-anena te devaa bhaavayantu na-h | Parasparam bhaavayanta –h sreya-h param-avaapsyatha ||
With this (Yajna) you cherish the gods; may those devas cherish you in return; thus cherishing mutually each other, you shall attain the best
Geetaa 4—13 (PS—13)
Chaaturvarnyam mayaa srishtham guna-karma –vibhaagasa-h
Supreme Spirit is the creator of the four classes of people on the basis of guna and karma ( in-born qualities and aptitude)
Om sahanaa vavatu | saha nau bhunaktu | saha veeryam karavaavahai | tejasvi naavadheetamastu maa vidvishaavahai | Om Shantih shantih shantih
May the Mantra protect us both together! May we both gain power! May we not quarrel with each other! May we both work together with great energy! May our studies be vigorous and be effective! May we not hate each other!
Om Saantih! Saantih! Saantih
Om, May there be peace! May there be peace! May there be peace!
The three chants are directed to cosmic disturbances (like lightning, thunder, torrential rains, floods, earthquake etc.) called Aadhidaivikam, external disturbances around us called Aadhibhautikam and inner disturbances, internal disturbances within us called Aadhyatmikam.
The first Om is chanted loud; second one soft; and the third one mellow. OM is the symbol of Brahman.
This discourse is prepared for the Vedanta Class at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville T.N. U.S.A. by N.R. Srinivasan drawing considerable help from the following publications:
- Swami Devarupananda, Mantra Pushpam, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mumbai, India.
- Dr. N.S. Ananta Rangacharya, Principal Upanishads, Volume 1, Bangalore, India.
- Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, India.
- Swami Harshananda, Hindu Pilgrim Centers, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, India.
- Swami Harshananda, The Purushasukta, Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore, India 6.
- Swami Chinmayananda, The Universal Person, Central Chimaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India 7.
- T.N.Mukundan, A Concept of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
- Vincent A Smith, The Oxford Book of History of India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
- J.C.Chatterji, The Wisdom of The Vedas, Master Mind Books, Bangalore, India.