In the first two mantras of the Purusha Sukta, the greatness of the Purusha has been highlighted in various ways. The mantras describe the Purusha’s capability by stating he has thousands of heads, arms and legs. The two mantras also reveal that the Purusha lords over Mahalakshmi, the abhimani of Prakruti, and also over the constructs of Prakruti such as the Universe itself. Purusha is also declared as being the controller of all the Jeevas of the past, present and the future, both those in Samsara and those in Mukti.
One who contemplates the above mantras is bound to get a question. Are the Purusha’s capabilities described completely by these two mantras? In other words, is the Purusha’s capability limited to what the two mantras describe? Are his capabilities only that much?
The third mantra answers this question authoritatively.
एतावानस्य महिमाsतो ज्यायांश्च पूरुषः |
पादोस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि || 3 ||
The Purusha’s greatness extends beyond, and is much greater, than these (what is stated earlier). The Universe and its sentient and insentient beings possess only a quarter (fraction) of his attributes. Three fourths (unlimited) of his form is immortal and resides in the upper worlds.
This word points to the greatness of Purusha described in the previous two mantras.
Sri Raghavendra Swamiji explains the ‘tone’ of this word very beautifully. He says that the word is to be construed in a way as if a question laced with sarcasm or doubt is being raised. The tone of the word is काकुस्वर he says!
अस्य पुरुषस्य सहस्रशीर्षत्वविश्वव्याप्तत्त्वमुक्तामुक्तसर्वनियन्त्रुत्वादिरूपप्रागुक्तो महिमा ‘एतावान्’ इति काकुस्वरः
The word ‘etaavaan’ is used in the sense of a sarcastic objection asking if the Purusha’s mahima is limited to the previously stated possession of thousand heads, etc and the omnipresence everywhere in the Universe and control over unliberated and liberated souls.
The answer to this of course अतो ज्यायान् इति. His greatness is much more than these.
Rayaru says that the Purusha possesses infinite ज्ञान, आनन्द, बल and ऐश्वर्य – knowledge, bliss, strength and capability – that go beyond what is described earlier. Therefore, his abilities go beyond and exceed these – ज्यायान्.
Sri Raghavendra Swamiji explains that the word विश्वा is to be read along with भूतानि as विश्वानि भूतानि by following the Panini Sutra सुपां सुलुक्. The word that was ending in the accusative “–am” will now be read in the Prathama vibhakti.
These two words are combined with पादोस्य and explain that the greatness of the Purusha is such that the entire Vishwani and the entire Bhutani i.e. the entire Universe and all the sentient and insentient are a result of a tiny fraction of the Purusha’s mahima.
The attributes of the Purusha such as Jnana, Ananda, Bala, Aishwarya and others reflect in the Universe and the beings in a very small magnitude.
एतच्छतुर्गुणपरिमितज्ञानानन्दादिमान् हरिरिति यावत्
It can be said that Sri Hari possesses four times these attributes.
Rayaru says, quoting the Sutra ‘बुद्ध्यर्थः पादवत्’ that the measures of one-fourth and three-fourths used in this mantra are only meant to explain the concept to people with ordinary levels of comprehension. It is to ensure they understand that the greatness of Purusha is manifold. In reality, his greatness on all attributes is infinite!
Rayaru provides an excellent example to explain this principle:
ज्ञापनार्थाय लोकस्य यथा राजेव देवराट्
To educate the word it is said that (the glory of) Indra is like (our) King
Ordinary people cannot grasp the greatness, royalty and wealth of the lord of the Devatas Indra. Therefore it is custom to compare him with an opulent King seen in this world. That does not mean that Indra is only as powerful and wealthy as a King on Earth. Indra’s glory is many times more. Yet the comparison facilitates an understanding. The same is the approach in this mantra when the Purusha’s greatness is said to be four-fold more. The truth is that the Purusha’s mahima cannot be measured.
त्रिपात् अमृतं दिवि
Having stated previously that the Universe reflects a tiny fraction of his mahima, this phrase reveals that the main form of Purusha, being अमृत or immortal, resides as Narayana, Vasudeva and Vaikunta in the three द्यु (represented by the word दिवि) lokas. These three worlds are Shwetadweepa, Anantasana and Vaikunta and are collectively known as the द्यु lokas. The word अमृत also means original or moolaroopa.
In the Shwetadweepa, Purusha is present in the form of Narayana. In the Anantasana, Purusha is present as Vasudeva and in the Vaikunta loka he is present bearing the same name Vaikunta.
Sri Raghavendra Swamiji quotes the Bhashya of Sri Madhwacharya for the Chandogya Upanishad wherein the latter has explained that the Jeevas are known as Bhinna-amsha as they possess a tiny fraction of resemblance (in attributes) to the Paramatma. On the other hand, the forms of Narayana, Vasudeva and Vaikunta are the Swaroopa-amsha of the Paramatma.
भिन्नपादाः सर्वजीवाः तस्य सादृश्यमात्रतः | स्वरूपपादा विष्णोस्तुत्रयोsपि दिवि संस्थिताः | नारायणो वासुदेवः वैकुण्ठ इति ते त्रयः | इति छान्दोग्यभाष्योक्तेः अत्र त्रिपाच्छब्दार्थः भगवान् |
Finally, Rayaru quotes a statement from the Srimadbhagavatam third skanda which says ‘सुदर्शनास्त्रं भगवान् प्रायुङ्क्त दयितं त्रिपात्’ that reveals that the word त्रिपात् stands for Vishnu himself.
Therefore, the phrase त्रिपात् अस्य अमृतं दिवि means ‘The three original forms of Vishnu reside in the dyu lokas’.