Purusa (Sanskrit, «man,» «person») is a spiritual concept in Hindu religion and philosophy. The earliest references in Atharva Veda and Kathaka-Samhita may, according to J. W. Hauer, link purusa with the Vrayta tradition and identify with the Vedic god Rudra.

The famous Purusa-sukta (Rg Veda 10. 90) celebrates purusa as a cosmic demiurge, the material and efficient cause of the universe, whose sacrifice and division gave rise to the Veda and all of creation. The early Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita use the term to mean an individual’s spirit, psyche, essence, or immortal Self.

In Sankhya philosophy, purusa is the first principle (tattva), pure contentless consciousness, passive, unchanging, and witness to the unconscious dynamism of Prakti, primordial materiality. Salvation here, as in Yoga philosophy, results from the discrimination of the two ultimate realities. A.G.H.


Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 780