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.

About the Teacher

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Deborah Willoughby
The founding editor of Yoga International magazine, Deborah Willoughby holds a master’s degree in English... Read more