An ancient exposition illuminating our identification with infinity

The following is a translation of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad’s chapter three, from The Principal Upanishads by S. Radhakrishnan. This Upanishad belongs to the Shukla Yajurveda. The verses have been edited for clarity.

1. The one who spreads the net, who rules all the worlds with his ruling powers, who remains one, while existence arises and continues, those who know of That become immortal.

2. Truly Rudra is one—there is no place for a second—who rules all these worlds with His ruling powers. He stands opposite creatures. He, the protector, after creating all worlds, withdraws them at the end of time.

3. That one God, who has eyes, faces, arms and feet on every side, creates heaven and earth, forging them together by his arms and wings.

4. He who is the source and origin of the Gods, the ruler of all, Rudra—the great seer­—who of old gave birth to the golden germ (Hiranyagarbha), may He endow us with clear understanding.

5. Rudra, your body which is auspicious, unterrifying, showing no evil—with that most benign body, O dweller in the mountains, look upon us and manifest yourself before us.

6. O Dweller among the mountains, make auspicious the arrow which you hold in your hand to throw. O Protector of the mountain, injure not man or beast.

7. Higher than this is Brahman, the Supreme, the great hidden in all creatures according to their bodies, the one who envelopes the universe, knowing Him, one becomes immortal.

8. I know the Supreme Purusha (cosmic identity) of sunlike luster, beyond the darkness. Only by knowing Him does one pass over death. There is no other such path.

9. Who is higher, who is smaller, who greater than the One who stands like a tree established in heaven? By Him, the Purusha, is this whole universe filled.

10. That which is beyond this world is without suffering. Those who know that become immortal, but others go only to sorrow.

11. He who is in the faces, heads and necks of all, who dwells in the cave of the heart of all beings, who is all-pervading, He is the Lord and therefore the omnipresent Siva.

12. That Purusha indeed is the Great Lord, the impeller of the Highest Being. He is of the purest attainment, He is the Ruler, the Imperishable Light.

13. The Purusha is the inner Self, ever dwelling in the heart of all. He is the Lord of the know­ledge framed by the heart and the mind. They who know that become immortal.

14. The Purusha has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet. He surrounds the Earth on all sides and stands ten-fingers’ breadth beyond.

15. The Purusha is truly this whole world, whatever has been and whatever will be. He is also the Lord of immortality, and whatever grows up by food.

16. On every side it has a hand and a foot, on every side an eye, a head and a face. It has an ear everywhere. It stands encompassing all in the world.

17. Reflecting the qualities of all the senses and yet devoid of all the senses, it is the Lord and ruler, it is the great refuge of all.

18. The Purusha is the Lord of the embodied soul residing in the city of nine gates (the body), performing actions in the outside world. It is the controller of the whole world—of the stationary and the moving.

19. Without foot or hand, yet swift and grasping, He sees without eyes, He hears without ears. He knows whatever is to be known. Of Him there is none who knows. They call Him the Primeval, the Supreme Purusha.

20. Subtler than the subtle, greater than the great is the Self that is set in the cave of the heart. One beholds Him as being actionless and becomes freed from sorrow, when through the grace of the Creator they see the Lord and His majesty.

21. I know this undecaying, ancient, primeval Self of all, present in everything on account of infinity, of whom they declare there is stoppage of birth. The expounders of Brahman proclaim Him to be eternal.