Among the numerous works of Sri Raghavendra Swamiji are also his lucid commentaries on the Purusha Sukta. While Sri Madhwacharya gave us the Rig Bhashya which provides guidance on how the Vedas ought to be correctly interpreted, Sri Raghavendra Swamiji takes this further by providing a Vyakhyana on the most important Sukta of the Rig Veda.
The Purusha Sukta is verily the essence of the Vedas. Hence a commentary on this Sukta is in effect a commentary on the entire Vedas themselves. And a correct understanding of the Purusha Sukta is actually the first step in the correct understanding of the Vedas. Hence it is a divine gift of Rayaru bestowed on the devotees to help them in their journey of the understanding the entire ocean of Vedas.
Sri Raghavendra Swamiji begins his Vyakhyana with a mangala shloka in which he prays to Sri Narayana, his Guru Sri Purnabodha (Madhwacharya) and says that he will attempt a commentary on the excellent Sukta of the Purusha, according to the best of his ability.
नत्वा नारायणं देवं पूर्णबोधान् गुरूनपि |
व्याख्यास्यामि यथाबोधं पौरुषं सूक्तमुत्तमम् ||
Rayaru then proceeds to give a short introduction to his commentary in which explains a few basic things about the Sukta. He gives the प्रयोजन of this Sukta by stating that it extolls the virtues of Vishnu, the Sarvottama and hence automatically becomes an excellent mantra. Since it talks and glorifies him who is the most Supreme and he who is the cause for Mukti, the Sukta naturally is the best (amongst the Vedas).
The question of how exactly this Sukta is understood to be describing Vishnu is addressed next. There are a couple of phrases such as यत् पुरुषेण हविषा and अबध्नन् पुरुषं पशुम् in the Sukta that could cast a doubt. These shlokas seem to be addressing a ‘Pashu-Purusha’. How are they extolling Vishnu? Similarly, the phrases पुरुष एवेदं सर्वं and यद्भूतं यच्च भव्यं can seem like imposing a dependency upon the Purusha of a material body. How can this be reconciled with Vishnu?
Rayaru clears these doubts by quoting a number of pramanas. He quotes the Braahma Smruti which emphatically declares
यथैव पौरुषं सूक्तं नित्यं विष्णुपरायणम्
Sri Raghavendra Swamiji further quotes two Shruti Vakyas and establishes that there is no doubt amongst all sat-pramanas about Narayana being Purusha. He adds a further pramana from the Skanda Purana.
……वेदादिभ्योsतिशयेन विष्णोरेव प्रतिपाद्यत्वोक्त्या…..
In the Vedas and other shastras, it is Vishnu who has been extolled abundantly……
As is the custom, Rayaru then provides details of the Rishi, Chandas and Devata of the Purusha Sukta. Sri Narayana is himself the Rishi. The first 15 riks are in Anushtup Chandas and the last one is in Trishtub.
The abhimani Devata of Anushtup is Sarasvati while the abhimani of Trishtup is Shachi. Sri Narayana, addressed as Purusha, is the Devata of this Sukta.
Rayaru reveals that the purpose of describing the great virtues of the “body” of Vishnu is in order to make it possible to describe the creation of the Brahmanda and others easy.
With this he moves on to the commentary of the first rik.
सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्ष सहस्रपात् |
स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वाsत्यतिष्ठद्दशाङ्गुलम् ||
Purusha, who pervades the bodies of all beings, possesses thousands of heads, eyes and legs. He is all-pervading and stands apart, even pervading beyond Lakshmi, the abhimani of Prakruti, who is also known by the name of Bhumi, by an unlimited amount.
Sri Raghavendra Swamiji explains again, by quoting the Shruti Vakyas such as पुरुषः सवा अयं and पुरुषो ह वै नारायणः that the reference is to Narayana alone when the word Purusha is used. Elsewhere in the Shruti is it stated as
परमो हरि आदि अनन्तोsनन्तशीर्षोsनन्ताक्षोsनन्तबाहुरनन्तगुणः….
Rayaru quotes this and explains that the word सहस्र used in the first rik is to be understood as अनन्त or infinite/unlimited.
Even though there is a reference in this Sukta to the ‘body’ of Purusha, it does not conflict with numerous Shruti and other pramanas which declare that he has no shareera. The latter only mean that he is not bound by any material body.
The word भूमिं is used in this rik. Rayaru explains that, just as the word जगत्यां in the Eshavasya Upanishad is referring to entire prakruti, so is the word Bhumi in this rik. In fact, by the choice of this specific word, the meaning conveyed is that Purusha is beyond Prithvi (Bhumi) and the other four Bhutas i.e. he is beyond the pancha-bhutas.
The word दशाङ्गुलम् in this mantra stands for सर्वं or all. Sri Raghavendra Swamiji uses the explanation given in the Aitareya Upanishad which says दशेति सर्वं (ten means all). Therefore, the phrase अत्यतिष्ठद्दशाङ्गुलम् means he, the Purusha, goes beyond ALL, including time, space and even the Lord of all matter Lakshmidevi.
While contemplating the first rik, and the subsequent mantras, one may get a question over the all-pervasive nature of such a Purusha. The mantras talk about him being in the body and in the हृदय. What if he is limited to these only? Rayaru clarifies that the Purusha Sukta itself explains this in no uncertain terms. The words विश्वतो वृत्वा indicates that he is all pervading over the Universe.
भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वा दशाङ्गुलम् अत्यतिष्ठद्दशाङ्गुलम् is another way of interpreting the last part of the mantra, according to Rayaru. By this form of anvaya, the meaning that can be derived is that the Purusha, who is all-pervading in the Universe, is also pervading the hearts of the jeevas which are limited to दशाङ्गुलम्.
Thus, Sri Raghavendra Tirtha beautifully explains how the first rik of the Purusha Sukta unabashedly glorifies the all-pervasive nature of Vishnu.