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Ishvara Gita - Srivaishnava Commentary - Chapter 3: Tattva Traya Viveka Yoga - The Process of Transmigration

NOTE: Prior to reading this article, we request you to read the preludes to comprehend the concepts discussed here clearly --- [1][2][3][4][5]. Previous Chapters of the Ishvara Gita is accessed here: [Ch. 1], [Ch. 2]
Chapter 3 of the Ishvara Gita is a discourse on the nature of the embodied self and explains how the self, in conjunction with matter and time, is subject to transmigration or movement in samsārā.  In this chapter, Shiva explains the second question of the rishis - “ko 'nusaṃsarate sadā - Who is always moving?”
“Tattva-Traya” here does not signify Cit, Acit and Ishvara. Rather, it signifies the three tattvas under discussion - Puruṣa, Pradhāna and Kāla.
īśvara uvāca
avyaktādabhavat kālaḥ pradhānaṃ puruṣaḥ paraḥ tebhyaḥ sarvamidaṃ jātaṃ tasmād brahmamayaṃ jagat (1)
Meaning: From the unmanifest prakrti called “avyakta” -- time, the pradhāna which is the cause of bondage (the modifications of prakrti) and the jīvātma called “puruṣa” as it is dwelling in the bodies, came into being. From them (ie, the embodied self in association with prakrti and ruled by time), all these gross forms arose. Therefore, the Universe is said to be consisting of the Self, ie, it is filled with jīvās.
“avyakta” or the unmanifest is the primordial inanimate prakrti in which the beings are entangled. The jīva, pradhāna and kāla (time) abide in the unmanifest prakrti prior to creation and hence are said to arise from it.
The modifications of the inanimate prakrti are the vikārās — attraction, aversion and clinging which are the cause of bondage. Prakrti evolves into gross forms which constitute pradhāna and becomes associated with the jīvātma.
Due to the connection of the jīva with prakrti, as well as time, the gross forms of the Universe came into being. Therefore, this Universe is said to consist of the embodied jīvās who are “Brahma” or vast in knowledge in their natural condition, as they sustain the Universe.
The Universe is full of the jīvās because they are subtle enough to penetrate all spaces. This fact is explained by Shiva in the succeeding shlokas.
sarvataḥ pāṇipādaṃ tat sarvato 'kṣiśiromukham sarvataḥ śrutimalloke sarvamāvṛtya tiṣṭhati (2)
Meaning: That pure self is capable of performing all the actions that can be done if one has hands and feet everywhere. It can carry out the tasks of eyes, head and mouths everywhere. It can do the task of the ears everywhere. It exists encompassing all things in the world.
This is the same as gIta 13.13 and so we have simply reproduced Shri Ramanuja’s commentary.
It does not mean the self has hands, feet etc everywhere literally. The liberated self in its’ pure form can perform the functions of hands, feet etc by itself without requiring the help of these faculties.
The object of this shloka is to show that the embodied selves have penetrated all spaces, filling the Universe. “loke sarvamāvṛtya tiṣṭhati” means that the pure self is atomic, but its’ attributive knowledge is all-pervasive and so through its’ cognition, it is present everywhere.
The idea is that the self can thus penetrate anything that is other than itself on account of its’ knowledge. The next shloka clarifies that despite such penetration in samsāra, the self does not get tainted by distinctions of prakrti in its’ nature.
sarvendriyaguṇābhāsaṃ sarvendriyavivarjitam sarvādhāraṃ sadānandamavyaktaṃ dvaitavarjitam (3)
Meaning: Illuminating the functions of the senses while being unconnected with the senses, supporting all, always blissful in its’ essential nature, unmanifest to the senses and free of duality, ie, partless.
Part of this shloka constitutes gIta 13.14. So, I will again quote Achārya’s commentary here:
Sarvendriya-gunabhasam” means that it is the base for knowledge acquired through the senses. The guṇās of the senses refer to the activities of the senses. However, “sarvendriyavivarjitam” means that it does not require any of the organs. Hence, the combined meaning is that though the pure self can perceive sense objects without the senses, it can also perceive the external world through the operations of the senses.
The rest of the shloka is as follows – the self is blissful by nature, cannot be gauged by the senses. It is free of duality – dvaitavarjitam – meaning, it has no parts and is the same everywhere, being composed of knowledge and bliss.
If the embodied self cannot be gauged by the senses, how are we to know it? Shiva explains in the next 2 shlokas.
Sarvopamānarahitaṃ pramāṇātītagocaram nirvikalpaṃ nirābhāsaṃ sarvāvāsaṃ parāmṛtam (4)
Meaning: It is incomparable, it exceeds the scope of inference, not diverse, it does not shine out (to bound ones), it is abiding everywhere in all beings, it is the immortal entity distinct from matter.
These are the attributes of the self that are to be known.
The self is incomparable because it is wonderful and distinct in kind from every other thing other than itself. This is as per Gita 2.29.
nirvikalpaṃ” – All selves are identical, and there is no diversity.
nirābhāsaṃ” – Not shining out, ie, not made known to the embodied beings. This is because despite abiding in all bodies and being omniscient in its’ natural condition, its’ subtlety and distinctiveness from the body renders it incapable of being known by the embodied beings. There is dehātma bhrama which clouds the knowledge of the self.
It is “parāmṛtam” – the immortal (imperishable) entity which is distinct from (perishable) matter.
abhinnaṃ bhinnasaṃsthānaṃ śāśvataṃ dhruvamavyayam nirguṇaṃ paramaṃ vyoma tajjñānaṃ sūrayo viduḥ (5)
Meaning: It is not split or undivided, but abides as different or divided. It is eternal, unchanging in its’ essential nature, imperishable, devoid of the triguṇās of prakrti, and the highest abode or goal. The wise know that jīvātma which is called “jñānaṃ” (as it is knowledge by essential nature).
abhinnaṃ bhinnasaṃsthānaṃ” – This is explained under gIta 13.16 by Shri rāmānuja as follows:
Though the self is present everywhere in the bodies of devas, men etc., It is 'undivided' because there is no difference in their essential natures. However, to those who are ignorant, it appears divided, by such forms as those of devas etc. - 'I am a deva,' 'man' etc.” They do not realize that the differences only pertain to the body.
“paramaṃ vyoma” – Means the highest abode or goal. Again explained by Shri Ramanuja in Gita 8.21 (where the same is stated as “tad-dhāma paramaṃ mama”) as follows – the pure nature of the freed self is referred to as the highest goal or abode, as it is the highest object of attainment under bhagavān’s dominion. Objects of enjoyment made of prakrti constitute the lower goals under his dominion, but the self is higher than prakrti and attainment of its’ experience is the highest goal under the dominion of bhagavAn.
The individual self is called “jñānaṃ” as it has knowledge as its’ nature and as its’ attribute.
Having defined the embodied self, Shiva now explains how to meditate on the self as distinct from the body. Note that this is meditation on the self in inseparable association with the body, as opposed to the previous chapter which was about the pure self, divested of prakrti.
sa ātmā sarvabhūtānāṃ sa bāhyābhyantaraḥ paraḥ so 'haṃ sarvatragaḥ śānto jñānātmā parameśvaraḥ (6)
Meaning: It is the self of all beings. It is separate from prakrti (parah) that is both within and without. I am that (jīva) which is omnipresent, tranquil, that pervades by its knowledge, and is the Complete Ruler of the body, mind and senses.
This is the teaching in the form of meditation on the jīvātmā. Shiva meditates on himself in this manner and is teaching the same to the others.
The jīvātma is within because it abides in the bodies while performing spontaneous activities like eating, playing etc.  It is without because it does not require the body to exist, ie, it can exist independently of the body. Gita 13.16 mentions this.
“sarvatragaḥ” – It is ubiquitous, present in all bodies.   
śāntaḥ” – It is tranquil as its’ essential nature is not affected by change.
jñānātmā” – The term “ātmā” means “āpnoti iti ātmā” – it refers to pervasion. The jīva pervades by its’ dharma-bhūtā-jñānā and hence is called “jñānātmā”.
“parameśvaraḥ” – Those who think that the body is the self, believe that the self has perished when the body perishes.Therefore, it is necessary to understand that though the body perishes, the indwelling self does not get destroyed. Thus, “parameśvaraḥ” is fittingly interpreted as the imperishable self which is the ruler of the perishable body, mind and senses.
mayā tatamidaṃ viśvaṃ jagadavyaktamūrtinā matsthāni sarvabhūtāni yastaṃ veda sa vedavit (7)
Meaning: This Universe is pervaded by me in my unmanifest form. All beings exist in me. He who knows this (ie, meditates in this manner), is a knower of the knowledge concerning the self.
This shloka occurs in the Bhagavad Gita (9.4) in a slightly modified form. In the Gita, it describes Krishna as the Supreme Lord, the inner controller of all. However, Shiva uses the same shloka in the Ishvara Gita here as a teaching on the meditation of the jīvātmā.  Because there is “paramam sāmyam” between the Supreme Self and the Individual Self, they can be described using similar adjectives. As Shiva is a jīva identical to all other jīvās, he uses “Me” here to denote the entire jīvakoti.
The individual self pervades any entity other than itself and hence, is said to pervade the Universe. “avyaktamūrtinā” means “aprakāsita svarūpena” – whose essential nature is unmanifest to the senses. Here, “mūrti” refers to the essential nature and does not mean “form”.
As the individual selves pervade the Universe, they are to be recognized as the Sesi (masters), who sustain and rule their bodies.
“matsthāni sarvabhūtāni” - All beings abide in me”, meaning, “An enlightened Yogi sees all beings abiding in his self in the sense that he sees the similarity of the selves in himself and in every being” – this is as per Shri Ramanuja. The idea is that when one self is visualized, all selves become visualized because of the similarlity of the selves. He sees sameness everywhere.
So much is the teaching on the embodied selves. Now, Shiva proceeds to describethe nature of prakrti known as “pradhāna”.
pradhānaṃ puruṣaṃ caiva tattvadvayamudāhṛtam tayoranādiruddiṣṭaḥ kālaḥ saṃyojakaḥ paraḥ (8)
Meaning:  Pradhāna (manifest prakrti) and Puruṣa (the self) are the two entities so called. Kāla (Time) is described as that which connects the two together and is beginningless and higher than these.
Before describing the manifest prakrti, Shiva points out that this prakrti is inseparably associated with the self and time is an instrument for this relationship. He has already described Puruṣa. He will describe Kāla in detail later, but in the succeeding few shlokas, he dwells on the second of the three entities, namely, Pradhāna.
trayametadanādyantamavyakte samavasthitam tadātmakaṃ tadanyat syāt tadrūpaṃ māmakaṃ viduḥ (9)
Meaning: These three (Pradhāna, Puruṣa and Kāla) are situated in the uncreated state of Pradhāna which is called the unmanifest (avyakta), without beginning and end. The wise know that form of mine is consisting of that (association with avyakta in sāmsarā), distinct from that (in its’ true condition upon liberation).
The second chapter of the first amṣa of the Viśṇu Purāṇa describes this in detail through the following shlokas:
viṣṇoḥ svarūpāt parato hi te 'nye rūpe pradhānaṃ puruṣaś ca vipra /
tasyaiva te 'nyena dhṛte viyukte rūpāntaraṃ tad dvija kālasaṃjñam // …..anādir bhagavān kālo nānto 'sya dvija vidyate// (viśṇu purāṇa 1.2.24-26)
The gist of this is explained by Shri engalazhwan in Viśṇu Purāṇa Vyākhyana as follows – pradhāna is the manifest gross form of prakrti, the visible Universe. Puruṣa is the Jīvātma. Kāla or Time connects these two and is “para” or higher to pradhana and purusha because time rules over all changes such as creation and dissolution. And time is beginningless.
Avyakta is prakrti during the causal state (kāraṇadasa) and hence not manifest. The pradhāna and Puruṣa, were all absorbed into this avyakta at the time of prākrita praḻaya and before creation, as waters absorb salt, thus, they are said to be situated in avyakta.
This avyakta, the uncreated state of pradhāna, is the source of the universe and is without beginning, birth or end. It is not subject to decay; it does not require anything else as support, it is not measurable by deṣa or kāla (space or time) because it has no dimensions.
Now, for the explanation of Rudra’s words - “tadātmakaṃ tadanyat syāt tadrūpaṃ māmakaṃ viduḥ”:
“tadrūpaṃ māmakaṃ” – “rūpaṃ” means form which signifies a particular state or condition. “tadrūpaṃ māmakaṃ” means that condition of Rudra. By “Rudra”, it is meant the class of Jīvās to which Rudra belongs.
tadātmakaṃ” – That condition of Rudra as situated in samsārā signified by “tadrūpaṃ māmakaṃ” is consisting (ātmakaṃ) of that avyakta. In other words, he, the embodied self, is transmigrating on account of that association with the pradhāna, the gross manifest form of avyakta, connected by Kāla.
“tadanyat” – However, despite that being his condition currently, it is different to his true condition, ie, the pure state of the Jīvātma divested of prakrti. Meaning, this association does not affect the essential nature of the Atma.
When Rudra uses the word “māmakaṃ”, it implies a class of identical selves, of which Rudra is one.
Having defined avyakta, Rudra now elaborates on its’ gross manifest form, the pradhāna in the next shloka.
mahadādyaṃ viśeṣāntaṃ saṃprasūte 'khilaṃ jagat yā sā prakṛtiruddiṣṭā mohinī sarvadehinām (10)
Meaning: That which is said to be prakrti gives birth to this entire Universe beginning with Mahat etc and ending with the distinction (of gross forms). It deludes all embodied beings.
This should make it amply clear that prakrti is called “māyā” not because it refers to any unreality, but only because it deludes the embodied selves in bewildering ways.
How does prakrti delude all beings? It is by virtue of triguṇās which Rudra elaborates below.
puruṣaḥ prakṛtistho hi bhuṅkte yaḥ prākṛtān guṇān ahaṅkāravimuktatvāt procyate pañcaviṃśakaḥ (11)
Meaning: The self (Purusha), when abiding in prakrti, possesses the guṇās of prakrti (sattva, rajas, tamas). As it is devoid of ahaṅkāra, it is referred to as the twenty-fifth principle.
ahaṅkāra” refers to not just bhūtādi ahankāra but all the evolutes of prakrti - the  five elements ākāṣa, vāyu, tejas, āpah and prithvi, along with their tanmātras which are capable of further modification. The idea is that the self is devoid of these. Though the self possesses the triguṇās of prakrti only when stationed in a body, it is not made of matter and these triguṇās are not intrinsic to it. As the self is distinct from them, it stands as the 25th principle.
In the course of describing pradhāna, Rudra also establishes the Purusha as superior to pradhāna here. This shloka is also the essence of the 14th chapter of the Gita (guṇā- vibhāga yoga).
Having described Prakrti in general, Shiva proceeds to describe certain modifications of prakrti individually.
ādyo vikāraḥ prakṛtermahānātmeti kathyate vijñānaśaktirvijñātā hyahaṅkārastadutthitaḥ
eka eva mahānātmā so 'haṅkāro 'bhidhīyate sa jīvaḥ so 'ntarātmeti gīyate tattvacintakaiḥ (12-13)
Meaning: The first modification of prakrti is called Mahat, and it is also called intellect in the form of determination. Through it being the power of cognition (vijnāna -sakti) for the jīva (vijñātā), ahaṅkāra (bhūtādi) arose from it. The great intellect (Mahat) is alone the chief (of the tattvas), and it is called the producer of the power of determination (ahaṅkāra), that which supports life or existence by allowing cognition of the external world (jīva), within the self (antarātma) by those who reflect on the tattvas.
vijñānaśaktirvijñātā” – mahat or buddhi is the medium through which the jīva cognizes the external world. Thus, it is the “vijnāna sakti” or cognitive ability of the jīva called “vijñātā”. As it produces in the jīva the power of determination with a bias, dictated by the inequalities of the attributes, ahaṅkāra arises from it.
mahānātmā – “Atma” means intellect here in the form of being the power of cognition. It is eka or chief of the tattvas.
ahaṅkāra – Mahat is called “ahaṅkāra” as it helps to discriminate between oneself and others. It is the power of determination. It produces in the jīva the power of determination.
Jīva – It supports existence or life by allowing cognition of external things.
antarātma – It is said to be within, ie, situated in the self as it is subservient to and used by the latter.
tena vedayate sarvaṃ sukhaṃ duḥkhaṃ ca janmasu sa vijñānātmakastasya manaḥ syādupakārakam (14)
Meaning: By that (Mahat), is experienced all pleasure and pain in the various births. It is consisting of knowledge in the form of discrimination (vijñānātmaka), with the mind as its’ assistant or subservient.
vijñānātmaka” – Consisting of vijñānā which is discriminatory knowledge.
tenāvivekatastasmāt saṃsāraḥ puruṣasya tu sa cāvivekaḥ prakṛtau saṅgāt kālena so 'bhavat (15)
Meaning: For that reason, there is non-discrimination (of the difference between body and the self) and transmigration of the embodied self (puruṣa) is on account of that.  This non-discrimination originates because of the conjunction of Matter and Time.
Because the jīva becomes an experiencer of pain and pleasure due to Mahat, it identifies itself with the body on account of such experiences. Thus, there is “aviveka” or non-discrimination of the non-sentient matter and the individual self.
This non-discrimination is caused by the conjunction of the two, prakrti and kāla, working together. We have seen so far the descriptions of Puruṣa and Pradhāna. Now, Rudra introduces Kāla or Time to commence discussion on the third tattva in a logical sequence.
kālaḥ sṛjati bhūtāni kālaḥ saṃharati prajāḥ sarve kālasya vaśagā na kālaḥ kasyacid vase (16)
Meaning: Time creates the embodied beings, time destroys their offspring. All are under the control of time, but time is not under anyone’s control.
The usage of “bhūtāni” is to signify that only the embodied selves in samsara subject to change are under the control of time and not Bhagavan or the liberated selves. The usage of “prajāḥ” is to signify that even the offspring, who occur in the future, are destroyed, which also by default includes the beings in the present – this clarifies that Time controls not only the present beings, but also their offspring.
Time cannot be controlled by anyone other than the Supreme Lord. As Bhagavān is not the subject of discussion, so he is not counted here and so it is said Time is not controlled by anyone. It is as the Viśṇu Purāṇa says:
anādir bhagavān kālo nānto 'sya dvija vidyate /
avyucchinnās tatas tv ete sargasthityantasaṃyamāḥ //  (~viśṇu purāṇa 1.2.26)
Bhagavan Kala (Time) is without beginning, and his end is not known; and from him the revolutions of creation, continuance, and dissolution unintermittingly succeed.
Time is said to create and destroy as these activities of creation and destruction are governed by it. This fact is clarified by Rudra in the succeeding shloka.
so 'ntarā sarvamevedaṃ niyacchati sanātanaḥ procyate bhagavān prāṇaḥ sarvajñaḥ puruṣottamaḥ (17)
Meaning: Eternal time enters all this (Universe) and governs it. It is called as the one in which prakrti is situated (bhagavān), the sustainer of all activities (prāṇaḥ), that which knows all entities in the past, present and future, or knows the beginning and end of all creatures (sarvajña) and superior to the embodied self (puruṣottamaḥ).
Time is said to enter the Universe as it is the regulator of all activities going on in the Universe.
Time is called “bhagavān” in accordance with the definition of the term given in the Siva Purāṇa as follows:
bhaṃ vṛddhiṃ gacchatītyarthādbhagaḥ prakṛtirucyate । prākṛtaiḥ śabdamātrādyai prākṛtendriyabhojanāt ।।bhagasya daṃ bhogamiti śabdārtho mukhyataḥ śrutaḥ ।mukhyo bhagastu prakṛtirbhagavāñchiva ucyate।।( ~ Siva Purāṇa 1.16)
Meaning: The word Bhaga means the Prakirti because it increases and flourishes. The Sabda matras etc. evolved out of Prakrti, being enjoyed by the sense organs, the word Bhaga comes to mean that which gives Bhoga. Bhaga is Prakrti and Bhagavān is Siva.
Because the Siva Purāṇa is a tāmasa purāṇa, the interpretation of “bhagavān”, while grammatically correct, is neither adequate as an exclusive epithet of the Supreme Being, nor does it need to be applied only to Siva. As one can see here, the definition of “bhagavān” as “bhago prakrti vidyate yasmin iti bhagavān” - “That in which prakrti is present (controlled by it)” is an accurate description of Time, which is referred to as “bhagavān” in the Ishvara Gita. We have added a note on this at the end of the article.
Creation, preservation and destruction are sustained by time and hence it is called “prāṇaḥ”, the sustainer of life in the form of all activities. As time presides over the past, present and future entities, it is said to know all and is called “sarvajña”. Or, it can be said time knows the beginning as well as the end of all creatures, and so is” sarvajña”. It holds sway over the embodied self (puruṣa) and hence is called “puruṣottamaḥ”.
The Viśṇu Purāṇa contains another definition for “Bhagavān”:
utpattim pralayam caiva bhūtānām āgatim gatim। vetti vidyām avidyām ca sa vācyo bhagavān iti॥   (Viśṇu Purāṇa 6.5.78)
Meaning: One who knows the origin and the end, the arrival and the exit, of all beings, and also vidyā and avidyā is named Bhagavān ".
While this could apply to Time as well, the term “sarvajña” conveys this and so using the Viśṇu Purāṇa’s meaning would lead to redundancy. Hence, we use the meaning given by the Siva Purāṇa.
The discussion on the three tattvas is concluded. Rudra now, in the succeeding shlokas, describes the tattvas in ascending order. This is so as to impart with clarity the understanding of the correct order fr meditation.
sarvendriyebhyaḥ paramaṃ mana āhurmanīṣiṇaḥ manasaścāpyahaṅkāramahaṅkārānmahān paraḥ  (18)
Meaning: Those who meditate on the tattvas say that the mind (manas) is higher than the senses (sarvendriyebhyaḥ). Ahaṅkāra (bhūtādi) is higher than the mind (manas). The Mahat is higher than the Ahaṅkāra.
mahataḥ paramavyaktamavyaktāt puruṣaḥ paraḥ puruṣād bhagavān prāṇastasya sarvamidaṃ jagat (19)
Meaning: The unmanifest prakrti (avyakta) is higher than the Mahat. The embodied self (puruṣa) is higher than the unmanifest prakrti (avyakta). Time (bhagavān prāṇaḥ), to whom this entire Universe belongs, is higher than the embodied self (puruṣa).
This is a summary of what was said earlier. It is said that Time is higher than everything on account of all being under the sway of Time. Now, Rudra explains what exists beyond the tattvas.
Let us split the next shloka (20) into two halves and explain it separately, as close attention to detail is required.
prāṇāt parataraṃ vyoma vyomātīto 'gnirīśvaraḥ  (20.1)
Meaning: Higher than Time (prāṇaḥ), is Sri Vaikunta, the Supreme Abode (vyoma). Higher than the Supreme Abode (vyoma), is the Supreme Lord who is the Ruler of the Mind (agnirīśvaraḥ).
vyoma” – This refers to the supreme abode, Sri Vaikunta. As it is beyond prakrti mandala and not under the sway of time, it is higher than time.
agnirīśvaraḥ” – The term “agni” means “agre nayati” – One who leads or guides. It refers to the mind that guides the senses. Para-Vāsudeva, the Lord of Sri Vaikunta, is the Ruler of the Mind, as the Mind and Speech depars from him, unable to describe his greatness fully in accordance with “yato vāco nivartante aprāpya manasā saha”.
In the next half of shloka 20, Rudra explains how one must realize this paramātma Sriman Nārāyaṇa. The meditation on the Supreme Brahman is also an accessory to attain a vision of the self.
so 'haṃ sarvatragaḥ śānto jñānātmā parameśvaraḥ nāsti mattaḥ paraṃ bhūtaṃ māṃ vijñāya vimucyate (20.2)
Meaning: I am (ie,my inner self is) that all-pervading, tranquil, Supreme Ruler who is the inner-self of the jīvātma known as “jnāna ”. There is nothing higher than me (ie, my innerself). Knowing me (ie, my innerself), one is liberated.   
so 'haṃ”  - I, that is to say, my inner self, who is Nārāyaṇa, for whom I am his body. This is by virtue of sāmānādhikaraṇyaṃ. The study of the individual self is after all not complete without understanding the Lord who is its’ inner controller.
sarvatragaḥ” - That all-pervading Lord who is the inner self of everything.
śāntaḥ” means the Lord is unaffected by the triguṇās of prakrti.
jñānātmā” – The term “jnāna ” is a name of the jīva as mentioned earlier in the Chapter (shloka 5). “jñānātmā” thus means the innerself of the jīva and establishes that the jīva is the body of the Lord. On account of the jīva being the body of the Lord, and the Lord pervading everywhere (sarvatragaḥ), terms like “I” refer to the innermost self.
parameśvaraḥ” – On account of him being my innerself as well as the innerself of all jīvās, he is the Supreme Ruler.
That Rudra is not declaring himself as paramātma is evident by the usage of “sarvatragaḥ” referring to all-pervasiveness and “jñānātmā” referring to the Lord being the innerself of the jīva which is his body. Rudra is saying that the Lord Narayana has the jīva as his body, and he is all-pervading, so he is Rudra’s  innerself and I (Rudra) am his body as well. This is a sāmānādhikaraṇyaṃ vākya in the vein of the Isavasya Upanishad’s declaration – “yosAvasau purusha  sohamasmi” where “sohamasmi”denotes the indweller, who has the self as his body.
Note that Arjuna says in Gita 11.40 - sarvam samapnosi tato 'si sarvah – “You pervade everything and thus, you are everything”. The idea is, as he pervades all and everything is thus his body, he is “all”, ie, the terms like “sarvaṃ” denote him in their ultimate connotation due to sāmānādhikaraṇyaṃ.
Rudra himself tells Krishna in the Harivamsha – “ahaṃ tvaṃ sarvago” – “I am you (Krishna), who are all-pervading”.  The idea is “as you are all-pervading, my innerself denoted by “ahaṃ” is you as well”.
To summarize, Rudra says, “As that Parameśvara (Nārāyaṇa) is all-pervading (sarvatragaḥ), the innerself of the Jīva who is his body (jñānātmā), he is my innerself and I am his body as well (so 'haṃ)”. The “I” denotes paramātma in its’ ultimate connotation.
nāsti mattaḥ paraṃ bhūtaṃ - There is nothing higher than that paramātma Sri Krishna who is my innerself, denoted by “mattaḥ” because of sāmānādhikaraṇya and śarīrātma bhāva. The Lord himself declares in the Gita - mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat (Gita 7.7)
māṃ vijñāya vimucyate - The implication is that, on account of śarīrātma bhāva, one should meditate on rudra-śarīraka-paramātma, denoted by “mām” to be liberated. “vijnāya” refers to  “upāsya”.
This shloka also serves as the base for the next chapter where Rudra describes the Supreme Being who is the means to attain the goal of the self.
So far in the chaper, Rudra had described all the tattvas relevant to purusha, prakrti and kālā individually. In the final three shlokas, he now summarizes how they operate together to cause transmigration of the embodied self. First, he describes how the puruṣa is moving in samsāra.
nityaṃ hi nāsti jagati bhūtaṃ sthāvarajaṅgamam ṛte māmekamavyaktaṃ vyomarūpaṃ maheśvaram (21)
Meaning: The bodies of the world (samsāra) comprising the movables and immovables are not eternal with the exception of me (the pure self) alone, who am not comprehended by the senses (avyaktaṃ), the great lord in relation to the body, mind and senses (maheśvara), whose form is wind, or transmigration (vyomarūpaṃ).  
“bhūtaṃ” refers to the bodies which are movable and immovable. “Except me” refers to the pure self, divested of the body. The idea is that, the bodies are perishable, but, the pure self is imperishable. Note that though “self” is in singular, it denotes a class of identical selves.
“maheśvara” - Gita 13.22 refers to the  jīvātma as “maheśvara” (upadrastanumanta ca bharta bhokta mahesvarah). Shri Ramanuja explains the meaning of the term thus – The individual self is the supporter and ruler of the body, senses and mind, and by making the body subservient to himself, he is called “Maheśvara” or the ”Great Lord”.
vyomarūpaṃ” – The term “rūpaṃ” means “form” as in “condition”. “vyoma” means “wind or air”. The embodied self is transmigrating on account of the body ceaselessly in samsāra like wind which never stays still in one place, and hence is called “vyomarūpaṃ” or having the condition of wind like movement.
avyaktaṃ” – The individual self cannot be grasped by the senses.
Rudra, by this shloka, clarifies that the puruṣa, or the embodied self, is transmigrating only in association with a perishable, non-eternal body and is distinct from the body. As usual, he refers to himself to denote the class of embodied selves.
Next, Rudra describes how the puruṣa interacts with prakrti to cause this movement in samsara.
so 'haṃ sṛjāmi sakalaṃ saṃharāmi sadā jagat māyī māyāmayo devaḥ kālena saha saṅgataḥ (22)
Meaning: I create all these gross forms and I am ever the destroyer of the body. The self-luminous Jīvātmā who is the possessor of prakrti known as “māyā” and who has the body made of prakrti is associated with Time (kālā).
Creation of the world is determined by karmas of the self that cause assumption of different gross bodies like man, deva etc denoted by “sakalaṃ”. In that sense, it is said that the self creates these bodies. Destruction of the body occurs when the self leaves it, thus, such destruction is also attributed to the self. The body is called “jagat” as it is subject to movement in the form of transmigration.
Note that by using “sakalaṃ”, diversity is implied in the form of creation of different bodies like man, deva etc by the karmas of the self. However, for destruction of the body, the term “jagat” is used in the singular. Since all bodies transmigrate and are perishable, there is no need to refer to diversity here, and hence the singular is used to denote the class of perishable bodies.
The embodied self is the possessor of prakrti (māyī) as the latter is meant for the former’s enjoyment and experience. The self is “māyāmaya” because he has the body made of prakrti known as māyā as it is the vehicle for experience of sense objects.
The self called “deva” as it is self-luminous.
In this manner, the embodied self becomes the experiencer of prakrti and undergoes transmigration. This embodied self is also associated with Time. Rudra next describes the manner in which this association with Time plays out.
matsannidhāveṣa kālaḥ karoti sakalaṃ jagat niyojayatyanantātmā hyetad vedānuśāsanam
Meaning: In close association with me (the embodied self), Time (Kālā), which moves infinitely, creates the entire world and controls it. This is the teaching of the Veda.
matsannidhāveṣa” – This means, time is closely associated with the embodied self.
Time governs creation and controls the activities of the world in close association with the embodied self, since everything happens for the experience of the self.
“Anantātmā” – “Atmā” signifies movement on account of the root “ata-“. “Anantātmā” thus can signify infinite movement, describing Time which goes on and on without a beginning and end.
In this manner, the relationship between puruṣa, prakrti and kālā which results in transmigration has been described. With this, the third chapter on the condition of the transmigrating self is concluded.
APPENDIX: An Explanation of the Term “Bhagavān”
In this chapter, we used a shloka from the Siva Purāṇa to explain the meaning of the term “Bhagavān”. We reference it to show how it is an interesting example of how a purāṇa is sāttvika or tāmasīka in its' explanations.
We know the term " Bhagavān" can be used for many entities. In this matter, Sri Viśṇu Purāṇa gives an exacting definition:
śuddhe mahāvibhūtyākhye pare brahmaṇi vartate /maitreya bhagavacchabdaḥ sarvakāraṇakāraṇe // saṃbharteti tathā bhartā bhakāro 'rthadvayānvitaḥ /netā gamayitā sraṣṭā gakārārthas tathā mune // aiśvaryasya samagrasya vīryasya yaśasaḥ śriyaḥ / jñānavairāgyayoś caiva ṣaṇṇāṃ bhaga itīraṇā // vasanti tatra bhūtāni bhūtātmany akhilātmani /sa ca bhūteṣv aśeṣeṣu vakārārthas tato 'vyayaḥ // evam eṣa mahāśabdo bhagavān iti sattama /paramabrahmabhūtasya vāsudevasya nānyagaḥ // tatra pūjyapadārthoktiparibhāṣāsamanvitaḥ / śabdo 'yaṃ nopacāreṇa anyatra hy upacārataḥ // utpattiṃ pralayaṃ caiva bhūtānām āgatiṃ gatim /vetti vidyām avidyāṃ ca sa vācyo bhagavān iti // jñānaśaktibalaiśvaryavīryatejāṃsy aśeṣataḥ / bhagavacchabdavācyāni vinā heyair guṇādibhiḥ //ViP_6,5.72-79 //
Meaning (Quoting Sacred Texts): The word Bhagavat is a convenient form to be used in the adoration of that supreme being, to whom no term is applicable; and therefore Bhagavat expresses that supreme spirit, which is individual, almighty, and the cause of causes of all things. The letter Bh implies the cherisher and supporter of the universe. By ga is understood the leader, impeller, or creator. The dissyllable Bhaga indicates the six qualities of jnana, bala, virya, aishwarya, shakt and tejas. The purport of the letter va is that elemental spirit in which all beings exist, and which exists in all beings . And thus this great word Bhagavan is the name of Vásudeva, who is one with the supreme Brahma, and of no one else. When applied to any other (thing or person) it is used in its customary or general import. In the latter case it may purport one who knows the origin and end and revolutions of beings, and what is wisdom, what ignorance. In the former (Narayana), it denotes the 6 attributes of jnana etc, without end, and without defect.
So, Parāśara Maharśi has given a definition as follows – “Bhagavān” denotes the 6 auspicious attributes when it refers to the Lord, because these attributes are his unique dharmas. It is a general term referring to omniscience in a respectful manner when applied to other beings.
The key takeaway is this – the definition of “Bhagavān” for Vasudeva as given by Shri Parāśara cannot be applied to another entity as no-one else possesses the 6 attributes in the manner he does. Thus, it is a distinguishing definition of Parabrahman. Where “Bhagavān” is applied to other entities, the general meaning is given.
Keeping this in mind, let us look at the definition of “Bhagavān” as per the Siva Purāṇa.
The Siva Purāṇa offers the following definition and tries to elevate Siva as Brahman, as follows:
bhaṃ vṛddhiṃ gacchatītyarthādbhagaḥ prakṛtirucyate । prākṛtaiḥ śabdamātrādyai prākṛtendriyabhojanāt ।।bhagasya daṃ bhogamiti śabdārtho mukhyataḥ śrutaḥ ।mukhyo bhagastu prakṛtirbhagavāñchiva ucyate ।।bhagavān bhogadātā hi nānyo bhogapradāyakaḥ ।bhagasvāmī ca bhagavānanbharga ityucyate budhaiḥ ।।bhagena sahitaṃ liṃgaṃ bhagaṃ liṃgena saṃyutam ।ihāmutra ca bhogārtha nityabhogārthameva ca ।। (Shiva Purana 1.16)
Meaning: The word Bhaga means the Prakriti because it increases and flourishes. The Sabda matras etc. evolved out of Prakrti, being enjoyed by the sense organs, the word Bhaga comes to mean that which gives Bhoga. Bhaga is Prakrti and Bhagavan is Siva. Bhagavan alone bestows the Bhoga of everything. No one else except him bestows the Bhoga. Bhagavan is indeed the lord of Bhaga, therefore he is also called Bharga. Bhaga is meant for Linga and the Linga is meant for Bhaga in this world as well as in the next.
Note this definition is quite grammatically correct. But the tāmasatva of the definition is this – it does not provide a distinguishing meaning for “bhagavān” that unequivocally defines a supreme entity. Why?
Because, the definition given above is not specific to Parabrahman. The above meaning can be applied to the jīvātma as well. Because the jIva is “linga” as it can only be known (by meditation) and cannot be perceived.  It is “Siva” because it is agreeable in nature. It is the master of prakrti as it is the enjoyer. It is the bestower of prakrti as the myriad forms are due to the karmas of the jīvā. It is hence called “bhagavān” as well.
In the Ishvara Gita, we saw that this definition of bhagavān as given by the Siva Purāṇa has been used to denote Time (see shloka 17-18). Thus, the Purana is proven wrong in claiming this definition applies to Siva only.
So, the tāmasatva of this context is this – In claiming to provide a solid definition of “bhagavān” for the Supreme Being, the Siva Purāṇa provides a general meaning which could even denote entities like the Jīvātma or Time rather than give a specific meaning. Thus, one cannot inquire into the nature of the Supreme Being with this definition, as being “Master of Prakrti” is not a unique characteristic only possessed by the Supreme. Contrast this with the Viśṇu Purāṇa, where Shri Parāśara very clearly declares two meanings for “bhagavān” – the specific meaning of being endowed with 6 attributes denotes only Vāsudeva, while the general meaning of omniscience etc denotes any respectable person.
The implication of this is, it is impossible to gain an insight into the true nature of Brahman using tāmasa purāṇās. Not only do they elevate the lesser gods as Brahman, but the qualities they describe as referring to Brahman are not uniquely those of the Supreme, but can also denote other entities like jīvā. Hence, one can become confused as to the actual difference between Brahman and jīvā, and not be able to determine what distinguishes both. After all, both are masters of prakrti!
It can also be said that even the Siva Purāṇa, despite being a tāmasa purāṇā, does not dare to attribute the definition of possessing the 6 auspicious attributes to Siva, when the venerable Parāśara has clearly declared that no-one other than Vāsudeva is to be described in that manner. So, this is a surreptitious acknowledgement of Hari’s supremacy by the tāmasa purāṇā itself!
And thus, the Atharvasiras uses the term " bhagavān " in the manner described by the Viśṇu Purāṇa, to denote Vāsudeva who possesses 6 attributes as follows:
yo vai rudraḥ sa bhagavānyaśca brahmā tasmai vai namonamaḥ yo vai rudraḥ sa bhagavān yaśca viṣṇustasmai vai namonamaḥ ॥yo vai rudraḥ sa bhagavānyaśca skandastasmai vai namonamaḥ (~ātharvasiras)
Meaning: He who is (the indweller of) Rudra, he verily is Bhagavan, who is (the indweller of) Brahma. He who is (the indweller of) Rudra, he verily is Bhagavan, who is Vishnu. He who is (the indweller of) Rudra, he verily is Bhagavan, who is (the indweller of) Skanda....
Note that "bhagavān" here specifically denotes Vāsudeva, who possesses the 6 auspicious attributes as per viśṇu purāṇa. Sri Uttamur Swami had indicated this in our earlier article on the atharvasiras. One cannot use the Siva Purāṇa’s definition here, because calling the antaryāmin as "One in whom prakrti is present" does not differentiate it from the jīvā or time, who are also those in whom prakrti is present!
The idea is that, the Lord with the 6 auspicious attributes who alone is Brahman, who is well-known as Vāsudeva, who is the antaryāmin of Rudra --- that self-same Lord is the antaryāmin of Brahma and Skanda as well, and is verily Vishnu. Thus, the devas realized that their antaryāmin was the same as the antaryāmin of Rudra and that everywhere, the antaryāmin had the same 6 auspicious attribites (neha nānāsti kincana).
This illustrates how "bhagavān " is specifically used to identify Vāsudeva as Parabrahman, unlike the Siva Purāṇa which gives a meaning applicable to entities like jīvā or time, and tries to derive only supremacy from it.
Should illustrate the tāmasatva of the Siva Purāṇa. In this manner, there are many ways to understand how the tāmasa purāṇāsdo not provide a holistic picture of the tattvas. Basic common sense is enough to deduce the superiority of Viśṇu and Bhāgavata Purāṇās in this aspect.

1 comment :

  1. The third chapter of IG is up.

    In essence, this chapter is closely linked to the 13th and 14th chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, as it differentiates Kshetra (body/prakrti) and Kshetrajna, and touching briefly onthe triguNAs of Prakrti. Time is also described here.

    That the Ishvara Gita is one of many discourses on the Jivatma is proven by the words of Krishna in the Gita as follows:

    ṛṣibhirbahudhā gītaṃ chandobhirvividhaiḥ pṛthak।

    brahmasūtrapadaiścaiva hetumadbhirviniśicataiḥ।।13.5।।

    Meaning: The nature and disposition of the body and the self has been sung about in brief and also elaborately by the rishis. This has also been brought out in the Vedas, in various distinctive ways. In the words of the aphorisms which employ reasoning and aim at a decisive, clear conclusion regarding Brahman, this matter has been established.

    ṛṣibhirbahudhā gītaṃ -The nature of the body and the self has been taught and explained, in brief and elaborately by the Rishis like Parashara etc and by Shiva in the Ishvara Gita. "Bahuda" implies that sometimes the discourse may be brief, like a part of a larger narrative, or it could be extensive, as in the case of the Ishvara Gita.

    chandobhirvividhaiḥ prthak - "Chandas" refers to the Veda and not the metre. "Vividhai" means that the Vedic texts are many, and deal with the subject in different ways. Thus you have the Svetasvatara describing the self as "bhokta", the Taittiriya which describes the Jiva as "vijnAnamaya" and the Kaivalya Upanishad which teaches "sannyasa yoga". All these are teachings about the Atman as distinct from the body.

    So, "vividhaih" again signifies different ways of elaborating, difference in length of elaborations etc in the Vedas and thus prattlings of Veerashaivas like "there is no pramANa for jiva-specific upanishads" are laid to dust.

    Then in the Brahma Sutras, the essential nature of the insentient body is described (naviyat, asrute - 2.3.1), the nature of the Jiva is dealt with as well (nātmā'śruternityatvācca tābhyaḥ).

    Thus, the teaching of the individual self is an important subject matter in the Vedanta.


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