Essence of the Three Secrets | 3. Three Principles

The Three Principles

As stated earlier, those who desire Moksha must understand the five articles. They must also know the relationship of soul and body which is the sixth article.

But the Āchāryas speak of the need to know about the Three Principles:

Of course, these form part of the five articles. The reason for speaking of the Three Principles as separate is that by knowing them, one is free of ignorance.

This ignorance considers the physical body created by Prakriti to be the soul, and that there is no other Lord but the soul or that there is no god at all.

These False notions have to be chased away. This can be done by understanding the nature of the Three Principles:

Hence the śāstras speak in detail about the enjoyer (bhakta), the object of enjoyment (bhogyam) and the Lord who is the Master (Īśvara). It becomes necessary to know these before proceeding to learn of the five articles.

Reality is classified into 3 objects:

Of these, non-sentient things (Acit) are classified as Prakriti (which has the Vitalities of rajas, tamas and sattva), Time (Kāla) and Transcendental Substance (Śuddha Sattva). These are non- intelligent (A-cetana).

The sentient beings are spoken of as Baddha (in bondage), Nitya (eternal) and Mukta (released). They are Intelligent (Cetana).

Īśvara is the third Principle.

Their form (svarūpa), continuance (sthiti) and activity (pravṛtti) have been laid out in the śāstras.

Svarūpa (essential nature) refers to the unique attributes of the thing, sthiti, to its presence in time and pravṛtti to its activity.

When the real nature is observed, its unique attributes and action are seen. Those attributes without which it cannot be understood stand revealed. If those qualities are not mentioned, one cannot understand it. Hence it is important to adumbrate the qualities.

The essential nature of the jīva is to be described as jñāna (knowledge), Ānanda (bliss), Amalā (faultless) and Anu (atomic). It is servitor only to the Lord. He is the slave of the Lord and to none else. He is the Cetanā (sentient being) who is atomic and in Prakriti he is the cetana who is servant to the Lord.

The identity of the Lord is the Cetana who is the Lord and who is not subservient to anyone else.

What is common to the Jīva and the Lord is that they are both cetana (sentient) and pratyak (inwardly luminous). Cetana signifies knowledgeable and pratyaktva means self-luminous.

That is, there is no need for an external Intelligence for the self but realises its self by itself. Since these two qualities are always same for the Jīva and the Lord, the form of the Jīva is to be ever a servant to the Lord.

When it is said that this jivātmā is the slave of the Lord, it should be understood that this servitude continues even in moksha and he would ever be the slave of the Lord. However, as desired by the Lord, the jivātmā should serve the devotees also. Such is the true nature of the Jīva.

The jivātmā’s pravṛtti (action) is always being obedient to the Lord, doing everything for Him and enjoying everything for Him. The Lord makes the Jīvātmā do and enjoy action for His sake. Hence all the activities of the Jīva are for the Lord.

Of the Cetanās the Baddha (bound) can be identified by the manner in which he is bound by avidya (ignorance), keeps performing karmic action and experiences the fruits of such action.

From Brahma to the tiniest plants, everyone is in bondage. The differences among them can be recognised by observing the kind of knowledge, happiness and other experiences each of them comes to have.

The Jīvas who are in bondage will use their nature and intelligence to carry around the bodies given to them by the Lord according to their karmic performance.

As they uphold by their nature, the body is not destroyed and remains awake. Holding up the body in time is useful for the jīvas to perform action like sacrifices to gain the ends of life such as Swarga.

For him who has surrendered and has prepared the way for Moksha, the body is useful to perform services to the Lord on earth. For sinners, holding up the body becomes the means to go to hell and be born again.

One may ask:

If the Jīva is the cause of the body, then how come the body continues to exist even after life has withdrawn from it?

But once the Jīva leaves the body, many of the things that hold it together get dispersed. What we call the body is only what we see externally. Actually that is not the body. All the things that go to make this body (the five elements) become the body of the Lord. When the Jīva leaves it, the body disintegrates.

These sentients who are in bondage are different from other Cetanās in the condition of living. This earthly life continues till one reaches moksha. These Cetanās in bondage are either doing good or bad action or that which is neither, like winking the eyes.

The essential nature of the Muktas is a condition where the obstacles to their moksha have been removed:

The essential nature of Jivātmā is to be like the Paramātma, an illumined image, faultless and full of Ānanda. When he is in bondage, this image disappears due to karmic connections.

Once Moksha is attained, the karmas are gone, and the essential nature stands revealed. Thereafter nothing new gets attached to him.

Their condition of being has only a beginning but no end at any time. Among the Muktas there is no difference that comes because of the movement of time. All are equal as there is no end to any.

Their work is the shoreless service that they can do as they wish to, a right they had lost from times immemorial.

The essential nature of the Nityās has no beginning and they are, as always, servants to Lord. The specific Feature is the enjoyment of performing service to the Lord and Lakshmi.

As this is common to all Nityās, there are no mutual differences in their existence in time. In their Service, each has a specific duty from times immemorial.

Ananta, Garuda, Viṣvaksena and some other Nityās have specified duties, and so can it be said that all Nityās and Muktas can perform the service they like for the Lord?

The idea is that they are not stopped from performing any service they so desire. There is no competition. Everyone becomes happy by watching the joy of the Lord who is being served by any one of them:

Thus there is no difference in the happiness they all gain in serving the Lord. This is why it is said that all of them have a right to perform service as they like.

There is a substance called Dharma-bhūta Jñāna (attributive knowledge). It is the intelligence possessed by the soul:

It should have been included in Acit, which is non-sentient. But it has not been listed so. The reason is that the substance is part of the Cetana, and hence considered as mentioned along with it.

When the Dharma bhūta Jñāna renders invaluable help in understanding things, that is, when it shows things outside oneself, it remains self-luminous in the soul. When it does not show any outside things, it has no illumination.

This Dharma-bhūta Jñāna is found everywhere, at all times for Īśvara and Nityās. For other souls it will have various shades according to their karmic patterns. Once Moksha is attained, it is ever present. This Dharma-bhūta Jñāna is eternal. It has neither beginning nor end.

The work of this substance is to make known the outside world. Besides, when there is life in the body it controls the body and the senses:

For the soul in bondage, it expands and contracts. It reaches the state of Bhoga. Bhoga is the state of experiencing what is pleasant for oneself or what is evil.

But all things belong to the Lord. Hence all things are agreeable. This is its true nature. If it appears evil at times, it is due to one's karmic results.

For the Lord, the Nityās and the Muktas all things are agreeable.

For those in bondage it depends on Time and the individual soul and the place for things to be sometimes agreeable, sometimes inimical and sometimes neutral.

It is not the true nature of objects that we see. The Lord shows things according to one's karmic fate and gives appropriate results.

The common nature of the Jīvātmā and the Paramātma is self-luminosity. There is no expansion or contraction of this luminosity at any time to anyone mending those in bondage.

When Dharma-bhūta Jñāna reveals what is outside the soul, it remains luminous to the soul.

Here Dharma-bhūta Jñāna is intelligence. The souls are also images of intelligence and Jñāna. Jñāna is also self-luminous. Jñāna and self-luminosity are common to souls and Dharma-bhūta Jñāna.

Dharma-bhūta Jñāna reveals other things or announces it. That is its special nature. This power is not held by the soul. This is known as Pratyaktva or inwardness.

Jñāna is defined as illumining something. The soul illumines itself. Hence that which illumines oneself or anything apart from the self is Jñāna.

Self-luminous means that one is not dependent on something else to reveal oneself. This is common to Dharma-bhūta Jñāna and the soul. The speciality of Dharma-bhūta Jñāna is illumining something apart from itself. The soul does not have this quality.

We have already mentioned that the soul’s special quality is Pratyaktva. Pratyaktva is the ability to illumine oneself. Just as we say something is illumined by something else, here we say that illumines itself. Dharma-bhūta Jñāna does not have this quality.

The non-sentient beings are of three kinds. They can be apprehended only by others. They have no intelligence. When we say they can be apprehended only by others, it is understood that they cannot be apprehended by themselves.

This condition of non-intelligence and the inability to be self-luminous are common both to non-sentient beings and Dharma-bhūta Jñāna.

The 3 non-sentient beings are: Tri-guṇa (Matter), Time and Śuddha-Sattva.

Matter and Time are Jada. Jada means that which is not self-luminous.

Some say Śuddha-Sattva is also Jada. But since Pāñcharātra Shastra says that Śuddha-Sattva is pure Jñāna or luminosity, some say this too is self- luminous. Since Śuddha-Sattva has no intelligence, it has been listed as non-sentient.

These three non-sentient things take varied forms as desired by the Lord.

Of these three, the substance of Matter is the place for the three guṇas. This keeps changing variously. The three guṇas are sattva, rajas and tamas.

When all the three are evenly balanced, it leads to pralaya or total dissolution.

It is when one of them is more or less than the other, then there is creation and sustenance. When one of the guṇas increases and the other two decrease, the world is created.

The śāstras speak of 24 tattvas Including Matter (Prakriti):

Of these, Prakriti is all pervading, that is three-fourths is Śuddha-Sattva and one fourth is Prakriti mandala. The one-fourth portion is full of Prakriti:

In that portion, the guṇas undergo unevenness giving rise to the tattva called Mahan. Ahaṁkāra and the rest follow.

The 24 Tattvas (Principles) are:

Prakriti, Mahat, Ahaṁkāra, 5 tanmātras (sound, touch, form, taste and smell), the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, wind and space), and 5 senses of knowledge (eye, nose, tongue, skin and ear), 5 senses of action (hand, foot, mouth, the anus, procreative organ) and the Mind.

Aspirants performing upāsanā should know about these different divisions and their presiding deities. We must also understand that the soul is quite independent of these twenty-four Principles.

The nature of this non-sentient Triguṇa is to help the souls in bondage by making their bodies work through their senses, by taking on changes that mark its unevenness so the souls can attain Moksha.

Using Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, it will hide the truth from the bound souls, give them wrong knowledge and immerge them in worldly pleasures.

The same will also improve Sattva guṇa, infuse right knowledge, make the soul recognise Truth and help it attain moksha. All these activities help the Līlā of the Lord.

Śuddha-Sattva forms three-fourths of the whole. This is a space which has no infusion of Rajas or Tamas in it.

The unique quality of Śuddha-Sattva is that it is temporary in some places and eternal elsewhere:

The Tirumamani Mandapam, spires and the rest in Śrī Vaikuṇṭha, the transcendent form of the Lord, his Vyūha forms, immortals like Ananta and Garuda are eternal.

The bodies of Nityās, Muktas and that of the Lord which take shape at different times are impermanent.

The Vedas say that if the Muktas have certain desires like seeing their fathers, it gets fulfilled. These forms that take shape are impermanent.

When different forms are shaped of Śuddha-Sattva, they become the means of enjoyment for the Lord. He is the Master. This would help his servant the soul to perform Kaiṁkarya.

Time is also non-sentient. It has no intelligence. This is spread everywhere and is called Vibhu.

Again, Time is Matter, non-sentient. It’s essential nature is to be non-sentient and it has a universal presence. Since it has no measure, it is ever present. Its action helps creation through divisions such as minutes and day.

Prakriti, Time and Śuddha-Sattva are always present in nature:

Though they are eternal, as they have a characteristic to receive different forms, some of them are considered perishable. That is they are like water flowing in the flood, and in that sense they are eternal.

That is the old form yields to a new one. Mahat, Ahaṁkāra and other tattvas were there earlier and in the following Kalpas too.

The essential nature, the state of their being and activity of all these substances are dependent upon the Lord. Their essential nature and other attributes depend upon the Lord and his will.

Hence all substances are kept in an agreeable state by the Lord. Thus everything is agreeable to the Lord, the Nityās and the Muktas. 

It is only to the Baddhas who are in bondage that things are agreeable or inimical according to their karmic results. But the Lord considers the souls of even these bonded ones to be agreeable.

If one thinks of oneself, and says things belong to him or desires things for himself, these souls will be on the other side of the Lord. When right intelligence dawns and it is realised that everything belongs to the Lord, all manner of things will become agreeable to Him also.

Let us now draw closer to the essential nature of the Lord. It has been said that the existence of things depend upon Him.

There are separate attributes that reveal His nature. They are Satya and the rest. Hence His essential nature has Truth (Satya), Knowledge (Jñāna), Infinitude (Ananta), Bliss (Ānanda) and Purity (Amalā).

Once He is seized by the attributes listed above, they would reveal his unequalled image and other faultless qualities: Of his qualities, knowledge, strength, lordship, valour, energy and Splendour are the six which reveal him unequivocally as the Supreme.

Saulabhya or easy accessibility and Vatsalya or Spontaneous love reveal that He can be attained easily.

All the qualities are always in His essential nature. All the qualities are with Him and a Few of them are spoken of specially to help people in their personal upāsanā to reach Him.

The Lord reveals Himself  as Para (transcendent), Vyūha (emanation), Vibhava (incarnation), Antaryāmī (indwelling universal) and Arcā (Consecrated images).

Para is the transcendent form in Śrī Vaikuṇṭha. The six qualities enumerated above are all found in this state.

Vyūha if variously referred to as three or four in number: Vāsudeva, Pradyumna, Sankarṣaṇa and Aniruddha are the four Vyūhas.

However, since there is no difference between qualities, form and rules regarding upāsanā between Para-Vāsudeva and Vyūha-Vāsudeva, it is appropriate to speak of three Vyūhas.

Vyūha-Vāsudeva also has 6 qualities. These are divided into two each in three Vyūhas; so Sankarṣaṇa has knowledge and strength, Pradyumna has lordship and valour, Aniruddha has energy and splendour.

Apart from these are the 12 Vyūha forms (emanations) like Keśava and Nārāyaṇa. Each of them has its individual quality. All these are forms seen in Śrī Vaikuṇṭha.

There are more than thirty Vibhava (incarnational) forms. Of these Matsya and others making ten are very popular and are spoken of with special interest.

In the incarnations called Vibhava, the Lord reveals or hides his qualities appropriate to the need of the situation:

There are sub-divisions in incarnations as well. The Krishna incarnation is associated with several forms. One must learn about many incarnations in this manner. Some are to be taken as entering the Jīva directly and engaging itself in the action of the hour.

Arcā is the image installed in temples. Arcā is the consecration of the Supreme for those who want to see themselves the images of Para, Vyūha and Vibhava.

These five forms, including the Para are pure. They have no karmic connections. In Śrī Vaikuṇṭha the image is pure Śuddha Sattva. It has nothing to do with Matter.

All these incarnations are true. Though the Lord takes several incarnations in this world, His qualities like knowledge never get exhausted.

All His images are Śuddha Sattva as seen in Śrī Vaikuṇṭha. It is not like the human form. It is the Lord’s will that leads to these incarnations. They manifest when dharma has to be safe-guarded.

The Gita says that those who know this truth about incarnations will gain moksha.

By knowing this truth about the Lord's glorious qualities the aspirant who seeks prapatti (surrender) as the means gains supreme confidence.

Śaunaka says that the Arcā incarnation also grants moksha:

“By making a lovely image of gold, silver or other material, the seeker salutes the image, performs worship, meditates upon it, gets rid of his sins this way and gains moksha.”

The Āḻvārs knew of this and prayed to the Lord in many ways, had visions of Him and gained Realisation. The Lord is happy to be engaged in action like creation and finally grants us moksha as well.

The Lord pervades the Arcā image as it is made by the aspirant.

The Lord's presence in the heart in His subtle form is known as Antaryāmī. As this helps meditating upon the Supreme who dwells in all hearts, the form is known as Antaryāmī.

This Lord is always united with Lakshmi:

He has kept to Himself the power to punish those who commit wrong. Lakshmi retained for Herself Purusha-karatva (of leading) which helps us draw closer to the Lord.

Though the Lord and Lakshmi have identical qualities, it will be seen that the Lord has some qualities which are manly and Lakshmi has some which are feminine.