Purusha Sukta

16 Vedic Mantras that Describe Pure Consciousness

June 12, 2013    BY Deborah Willoughby

Sanskrit pronunciation by D.C.Rao

Yoga introduces us to our deepest self—to the all-pervading Purusha (pure consciousness), which is our core being. One of the obstacles we face in meeting this subtle aspect of ourselves is our unfamiliarity with the concept of pure consciousness. What—or who—is Purusha? In what way does it involve me and the world around me?

The Purusha Sukta, a group of 16 Vedic mantras, describes pure consciousness as the Cosmic Being from which the world and all it contains emanates. Step by step these mantras show Purusha as the cause and the substrate of the universe. One of the metaphors traditional commentaries employ to make this insight more accessible is this: Purusha pervades the world as clay pervades a pot. Just as the cause (clay) is not different from the effect (pot), the universe is not different from Purusha. Purusha is at once the cause of the universe and its every effect.

The essence of this Vedic revelation is set forth here in this first mantra. Purusha pervades and transcends the universe. It is through pure consciousness that we think, for his is the head of all living beings. We see through his eyes, walk on his feet. This is not a metaphor, but reality in its most literal form—a realization that becomes an unshakeable conviction with the advent of samadhi, or spiritual absorption.

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Deborah Willoughby
The founding editor of Yoga International magazine, Deborah Willoughby holds a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Virginia. After a career in Washington, DC, as a writer and editor, she turned her attention full-time to the study and practice of yoga. She studied with Swami Rama and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait while serving as President of the Himalayan Institute from 1994 to 2008. She is the editor of Pandit Tigunait’s new book, The Secret of the Yoga Sutra: Samadhi... Read more>>


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