April 15, 2021
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Purusha Prakriti

Purusha and Prakriti

The Place of the Purusha in Hindu Philosophy

In some lineages of Hinduism, Purusha (Sanskrit puruṣa, पुरुष “man, cosmic man,” [2]  in Sutra literature also called puṃs “man”) is the “Self” which pervades the universe. [2a] The Vedic divinities are interpretations of the many facets of Purusha. According to the Rigvedic Purusha sukta, [3] Purusha was dismembered by the devas (benevolent supernatural being) —his mind is the Moon, his eyes are the Sun, and his breath is the wind.

In the Rigveda, Purusha is described as a primeval giant that is sacrificed by the gods (see Purushamedha) and from whose body the world and the varnas (classes) are built. He is described as having a thousand heads and a thousand feet. He emanated Viraj, the female creative principle, from which he is reborn in turn after the world was made out of his parts.

Bhagavata Purana describes that Purusha is the first form of Supreme Lord Narayana [4] and this Purusha is the source of everything in the universe. The Purusha in the title of Purusha Sukta refers to the Parama Purusha, Purushottama, Vedic Supreme God Narayana, in his form as the Viraat Purusha (Enormously Huge Being). It describes this form of his as having countless heads, eyes and legs manifested everywhere, and beyond the scope of any limited method of comprehension. All creation is but a fourth part of him. The rest is unmanifested. He is the source of all creation. Purusha along with Prakrti (the basic nature of intelligence by which the Universe exists) creates the necessary tattvas (meaning ‘thatness’, ‘principle’, ‘reality’ or ‘truth’) for the creation of universe. The parallel to Norse Ymir (primeval being born of primordial elemental poison)  is often [5] considered to reflect the myth’s origin in Proto-Indo-European religion. [6] Rishi Angiras of the Atmopanishad belonging to the Atharvaveda (sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas) explains that Purusha, the dweller in the body, is three-fold:

  1. The Bahyatman (the Outer-Atman) which is born and dies.
  2. The Antaratman (the Inner-Atman) which comprehends the whole range of material phenomena, gross and subtle, with which the Jiva (a living being, or more specifically, the immortal essence or soul of a living organism) concerns himself.
  3.  The Paramatman which is all-pervading, unthinkable, indescribable, purifies the unclean, is without action and has no Samskaras. [7]  In Hindu theology, Paramatman or Paramātmā is the Absolute Atman or Supreme Soul or Spirit (also known as Supersoul or Oversoul) in the Vedanta and Yoga philosophies of India. Paramatman is the “Primordial Self” or the “Self Beyond” who is spiritually practically identical with the Absolute, identical with Brahman. Selflessness is the attribute of Paramatman, where all personality/individuality vanishes. [8]  The Vedanta Sutras state janmādy asya yatah, meaning that ‘The Absolute Truth is that from which everything else emanates’ Bhagavata Purana [S.1.1.1]. This Absolute Truth, which is personal in nature, is Purusha personified.

In Samkhya, a school of Hindu philosophy, Purusha is pure consciousness. It is thought to be our true identity, to be contrasted with Prakrti, or the material world, which contains all of our organs, senses, and intellectual faculties.

Tree of Life Attribution

Chokmah, Israel Regardie tells us,” is the vital energizing element of existence, Spirit or the Purusha of the Sankhyan philosophy of India, by which is implied the basic reality underlying all manifestations of consciousness.” [1]


[1]  Israel Regardie, A Garden of Pomegrenates, p. 42; In the notes Regardie explains what he means by that: “Purusha is Sanskrit for “person” or “spirit.” It refers to the eternal, unchanging self.  In Samkhyan philosophy, the purusha is in opposition to prakriti or “”matter.” The bondage of the human soul is caused by a confusion of purusha with prakriti.  Freedom from this bondage is brought about by a disassociation  of purush from prakriti. (Israel Regardie, A Garden of Pomegrenates, p. 59)
[2] The cosmic man, or Macranthropy is a term describing the allegorical portrayal of the universe as a giant anthropomorphic body with the various components of the universe assigned to corresponding body parts. Macranthropy has made appearances in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient India.
[2a] Rigveda 10/81 & Yajurveda 17/19/20, 25.
[3] Purusha sukta (puruṣasūkta, पुरुष सूक्त) is hymn 10.90 of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the “Cosmic Being”. The seer of this verse is Rishi Narayana and this sukta can evoke God-experience in the seeker.
[4] Bhagavata Purana 1.3.1.
[5] Encyclopædia Britannica. Edition: 11 V. 19 – 1911 page 143
[6] Patrice Lajoye, “Puruṣa“, Nouvelle Mythologie Comparée / New Comparative Mythologie, 1, 2013.
[7] Swami MadhavanandaMinor UpanishadsAdvaita Ashrama. p. 11.
[8] T. Depurucker. An Occult Glossary:A Comendium of Oriental and Theosophical Terms. Kessinger Publishing. p. 130.


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