- The term purusha has two meanings. In the ancient RIG VEDA, X. 90, the Purusha (usually spelled in English with a capital P) is the divine being who existed before time and was sacrificed to create both the transcendent and the material realms. The major Vedic ritual, the AGNICHAYANA, was seen as a reenactment of this primordial cre-ation, and Purusha was seen as being sacrificed once again to mirror the myth. In that context the Purusha began to be called PRAJAPATI.The second sense of the word purusha is found in the SAMKHYA and YOGA traditions, where puru-sha is the individual self. In the early understand-ing the purushas were infinite in number and all eternally distinct from one another. In the later understanding, affected by VEDANTIC thinking, the purushas merged with the ultimate self, or ATMAN, when they achieved liberation. In current yoga, the term purusha is just another term for atman or “worldly self.”Further reading: S. N. Dasgupta, History of Indian Phi-losophy, 5 vols. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1971–75; Klaus Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994); Heinrich Zimmer, Philosophies of India (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univer-sity Press, 1974).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.