Puruśa evedaḿ sarvaḿ yadbhútaḿ yacca bhavyam;
Utámrtasyesháno yadanye nátirohati.
The meaning is: “Parama Puruśa knows everything.” Evedaḿ sarvaḿ jánáti sarvaḿ eva– “He knows everything;” yadbhútaḿ – “whatever has been”; yacca bhavyam – “whatever will be”; utámrtasyesháno – “He is the master of both heaven and hell;” yadanye nátirohati – “no one is His master.” This is the literal meaning of the shloka.
This shloka is a rk from the Rgveda’s tenth mańd́ala, puruśa súkta. This reminds me of something. If a shloka is from the Rgveda then it is called a rk rather than a shloka. This is a convention of the Rgveda. The singular is rk and the plural is rcá. Some mistakenly pluralize rcá and say rcáyeṋ [in Hindi], but rcá is already a word with a plural ending. For example, many people pluralize the word santa and say santoṋ [in Hindi]. This is incorrect because the word santa is itself plural. Santoṋ means “honest individuals”.
In the shloka it is said that Parama Puruśa knows everything. Parama Puruśa knows what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present and what will happen in the future. What does Puruśa mean? Pure shete yah, or purasi shete yah sah Puruśa, that is, he who is lying in the pura [city] of the body and observing everything is Puruśa. He is seeing everything but doing nothing. The second meaning is “he who is lying in front”, for example, purasi hitaḿ karoti yah sah purohitah.
Yadbhútaḿ yacca bhavyam. The meaning of puruśa knowing everything is that whatever has been or will be is inside of him, not outside. Nothing exists outside of him. Momentum comes from him. In the rk there is no mention whatsoever of the present. Now the question may arise: Does Parama Puruśa only know the past and the future, and not the present? Here nothing is said about the present because actually there is no such thing as the present. For example, no one hears the words I am saying at this moment; they hear them slightly afterward. When someone hears my words they are present for that person but for me, they are in the past. We call something present when we are not aware of it being past or future, that is, we combine the two into one. What do we do then? We take a little chunk of the past and a little chunk of the future, join them together, and make the present. In actual fact, this is not the present. There is no such thing as the present. For this reason there is no mention of the present in this rk. Yadbhútaḿ yacca bhavyam.
Utámrtasyesháno. Uta means “hell”. Tala, atala, talátala, pátála, atipátála, rasátala – these are the different levels of hell. Rasátala is the lowest of them all. When a person has become completely degenerate then people say about them that they have gone to rasátala. Just as there are seven levels in the downward direction, there are also seven levels in the upward direction – bhúh, bhuvah, svah, mahah, janah, tapah, and satya. Among these seven worlds, svah is heaven. And down below, the pátála, the imaginary pátála, is called hell. Parama Puruśa is the master of heaven and He is also the master of hell. People want to be saved from hell. He who is the master of the mortal world is also present in hell. This is a complex question. In the same way, the immortal world is also arranged in seven levels – bhúh, bhuvah, svah, mahah, janah, tapah, and satya (vyáhrti: vi – á – hr + ktin). Parama Puruśa is the master of both heaven and hell. Now the thing is that these seven lower levels are not spatial entities. In the Vedas all these levels have been described: Asúryáh náma te lokáh andhena tamasávrtáh – “Hell is the asúrya world, that is, where the light of súrya [sun] cannot enter, that which remains always covered in profound darkness.” It is where the darkness is so dense, so deep, that a person cannot even see himself. That kind of darkness is called andhatamisrá. And when a person cannot see someone else, then it is called andhakár. What is hell like? It is where there is no sun, that which is covered in andhatamisrá. That person who does not do spiritual practices moves in the direction of this world of darkness. This is the correct meaning of this shloka.
Uta means “hell”, that is, the world of darkness. This world of darkness is arranged in six layers – tamah, tamasá, tamisrá, andhatamah, andhatamisrá, and andhatamasá. In the Upaniśad it is said: táḿste pretyábhigacchanti yeke cátmahano janáh [to which all will go who deny their own souls]. That world of darkness is called the asúrya world. It is depicted as if from within that deep darkness even more darkness is vomited up. If one looks towards that deep darkness then it seems, as if, even a deeper darkness is tearing the heart of that darkness and coming out.
Now the question arises: whose movement is towards that darkness? It is the movement of that person or those persons who do not perform spiritual practices. Táḿste pretyábhigacchanti. Now Parama Puruśa is present even in this world shrouded in profound darkness. Here the purport of the shloka is that since Parama Puruśa is the master of both heaven and hell, He also has to go to hell from time to time to supervise or look after things.
Tamáhuragryaḿ puruśaḿ mahántam. So this Parama Puruśa is all-pervading, moving everywhere. He is present in the so-called heaven and in the world of darkness where the sun does not shine. How will you know Him? You do not even know why you have come to this earth. How will you know where He is hiding and what He is doing? But He knows what you are doing or thinking in secret. When we meditate on Parama Puruśa we must think that Parama Puruśa is taking me as the object of His cosmic mind; He is seeing me. One should have this kind of thought in one’s mind.
For this reason it is said: sa vetti vedyaḿ na ca tasyásti vettá tamáhuragryaḿ puruśaḿ mahántam. That Puruśa, that is, Parama Puruśa, is called agryapuruśa or mahán. Agryameans “he who remains in the front or the forefront of everything”. Agryapuruśa means “representative Puruśa, best Puruśa, first Puruśa”. What does mahán mean? The first person singular of the word mahat is mahán. In the Sanskrit language two very important words are brhat(1) and mahat. What is the fundamental difference between them? Similarly, two very similar words are vishála and brhat. That which is very big but which can be measured is vishála, for example, the Himalayas. They are nearly fifteen hundred miles in length but in spite of being extremely big they can be measured. We depict the Himalayas in our maps. And that which is so big that it cannot be measured, we call mahat. There is only one such entity that is so big that it cannot be measured, and what is that entity? Brahma. It is said: brhattvád brahma brḿhańatvád brahma.
So brhat means “so big that it cannot be measured”. And what does mahat mean? That which is not big in the physical sense but which is big or very big in the psychic sense is mahat. In other words, something which is brhat belongs to the external world, the world of the sense organs which we can see with our eyes, and that which belongs to the mental world, which cannot be perceived in the external world but which exerts a great influence over other things in the psychic sense, we call mahat. Take, for example, a renunciant who is small in stature but who possesses tremendous intellect and understanding. We will not call him or her brhat. Seen externally, he or she is a person of small size. Actually he or she is mahán. For this reason, Parama Puruśa is called agryapuruśa or mahán puruśa in the Vedas.
A.V. Part-09, Chapter-16