Janamejaya said, "O regenerate one, are there many Purushas or is there only one? Who, in the universe, is the foremost of Purushas? What, again, is said to be the source of all things?"
Vaisampayana said, In the speculations of the Sankhya and the Yoga systems many Purushas have been spoken of, O jewel of Kuru's race. Those that follow these systems do not accept that there is but one Purusha in the universe. 1 In the same manner in which the many Purushas are said to have one origin in the Supreme Purusha, it may be said that this entire
universe is identical with that one Purusha of superior attributes. I shall explain this now, after bowing to my preceptor Vyasa, that foremost of Rishis, who is conversant with the soul, endued with penances, self-restrained, and worthy of reverent worship. This speculation on Purusha, O king, occurs in all the Vedas. It is well known to be identical with Rita and Truth. The foremost of Rishis, viz., Vyasa, has thought upon it. Having occupied themselves with reflection on what is called Adhyatma, diverse Rishis, O king, having Kapila for their first, have declared their opinions on the topic both generally and particularly. Through the grace of Vyasa of immeasurable energy, I shall expound to thee what Vyasa has said in brief on this question of the Oneness of Purusha. In this connection is cited the old narrative of the discourse between Brahma, O king, and the Three-eyed Mahadeva. In the midst of the Ocean of milk, there is a very high mountain of great effulgence like that of gold, known, O monarch, by the name of Vaijayanta. Repairing thither all alone, from his own abode of great splendour and felicity, the illustrious deity Brahma used very often to pass his time, engaged in thinking on the course of Adhyatma. While the four-faced Brahma of great intelligence was seated there, his son Mahadeva, who had sprung from his forehead encountered him one day in course of his wanderings through the universe. In days of yore, the Three-eyed Siva endued with puissance and high Yoga, while proceeding along the sky, beheld Brahma seated on that mountain and, therefore, dropped down quickly on its top. With a cheerful heart he presented him before his progenitor and worshipped his feet. Beholding Mahadeva prostrated at his feet, Brahma took him up with his left hand. Having thus raised Mahadeva up, Brahma, that puissant and one Lord of all creatures, then addressed his son, whom he met after a long time, in these words.
"The Grandsire said, 'Welcome art thou, O thou of mighty arms. By good luck I see thee after such a long time come to my presence. I hope, O son, that everything is right with thy penances and thy Vedic studies and recitations. Thou art always observant of the austerest penances. Hence I ask thee about the progress and well-being of those penances of thine!'
"Rudra said, 'O illustrious one, through thy grace, all is well with my penances and Vedic studies. It is all right, again, with the universe. I saw thy illustrious self a long while ago in thy own home of felicity and effulgence. I am coming thence to this mountain that is now the abode of thy feet. 1 Great is the curiosity excited in my mind by this withdrawal of thyself into such a lone spot from thy usual region of felicity and splendour. Great must the reason be, O Grandsire, for such an act on thy part. Thy own foremost abode is free from the pains of hunger and thirst, and inhabited by both deities and Asuras, by Rishis of immeasurable
splendour, as also by Gandharvas and Apsaras. Abandoning such a spot of felicity, thou residest alone in this foremost of mountains. The cause of this cannot but be grave.
"Brahma said, 'This foremost of mountains, called Vaijayanta, is always my residence. Here, with concentrated mind, I meditate on the one universal Purusha of infinite proportions.'
"Rudra said, 'Self-born thou art. Many are the Purushas that have been created by thee. Others again, O Brahma, are being created by thee. The Infinite Purusha, however, of whom thou speakest, is one and single. Who is that foremost of Purushas, O Brahma, that is being meditated by thee? Great is the curiosity I feel on this point. Do thou kindly dispel the doubt that has taken possession of my mind.
"Brahma said, 'O son, many are those Purushas of whom thou speakest. The one Purusha, however, of whom I am thinking, transcends all Purushas and is invisible. The many Purushas that exist in the universe have that one Purusha as their basis; and since that one Purushas is said to be the source whence all the innumerable Purushas have sprung, hence all the latter, if they succeed in divesting themselves of attributes, become competent to enter into that one Purusha who is identified with the universe, who is supreme, who is the foremost of the foremost, who is eternal, and who is himself divested of and is above all attributes."
198:1 The commentator explains these verses in this way. So far as ordinary purposes are concerned, both the Sankhyas and Yogins speak of many Purushas. In reality, however, for purposes of the highest truth, there is but one Purusha. I do not see this limitation in the verse itself. The fact is what the commentator says is to be seen in the next Verse.
199:1 The abode of thy feet means thy abode. To this day, in mentioning persons that are entitled to reverence, the Hindu speaks of them as the "feet of so and so".