Beach 8: One's Nature vis-à-vis One's Duty
Wave 2: The Secret of Secrets from the bhagavad-gItA
Drop 5: The Secret of Secrets - 2
Page 3: The purushottama
Note: All references on this page, unless otherwise specified, are to the bhagavad-gItA.
It may be necessary to keep a copy on hand.
12. There is a 'third' purusha!
In Vedanta it is Cosmic Energy (prakRti) that is fundamental. The word prakRti may, in one sense be considered as generic for the three guNas satva, rajas and tamas. In another sense, these guNas (badly translated as qualities in English, for want of better words) are what becomes as matter. Thus Matter arises from prakRti. But this prakRti itself is nothing but the Power of the purusha. The two are beginningless, says the Lord in the 13th chapter. The purusha is the experiencer when prakRti is manifest. When prakRti is drawn into purusha there is no experiencing, no action. He who sees therefore the prakRti as the doer sees rightly. It is an iota of fragment (mamaivAmSo, says the Lord) of the purusha that becomes the experiencer, enjoyer, through a life by the very presence of the purusha in the soul (jIva). The essential content of jIva, the individual soul, is the jIvAtmA and is the same as the essential content, the paramAtmA, of Isvara, the Personal Almighty. But as soon as the jIva, the individual soul, comes in the picture, the concept of the two purushas arise, namely the perishable purusha who enjoys and experiences and the immutable purusha, who is only the witness. But both the purushas are only the fragment of the Ultimate, which is the 'third purusha', of the 15th chapter; Verse No.17 says:
uttamaH purushas-tvanyaH paramAtmety-udAhRtaH /
yo loka-trayam-AviSya bibharty-avyaya IsvaraH //
But other than these two is that highest spirit
called the Supreme Self,
who enters the three worlds and upbears them, the imperishable Lord.
He transcends the perishabliliy as well as the immutability. Therefore He is called the Ultimate, Supreme, Transcendental, purusha. The One word for this is purushottama. When we go to the analogy of VidyaraNya this becomes clear: The water-space is the perishable purusha; the pot-space is the immutable purusha; and the universal space is the purushottama. And all of them are ultimately One.
13. Purushottama is both 'This' and 'That'
It is good to use some of the profound explanations of this subject by Sri Aurobindo and summarize from His Essays on the gItA. The Purushottama of the gItA is the controller of the other two purushas as well as the prakRti. (He is just the all-pervading space of Vidyaranya's analogy). It is He that appears as the other two purushas and it is He that creates, sustains and dissolves, through His prakRti. In the kshara, He puts forth his own prakRti and manifests himself in the soul. And each soul works out its own nature (= svabhAva ) according to the law of the divine being in it. But it is worked out in the egoistic nature by the bewildering play of the three guNas upon each other (cf. guNA guNeshu vartante, III-28, meaning, the modes are interacting with modes). The play of the guNas, in the words of Sri Ramakrishna is like clouds clashing against clouds, causing thunder and lightning, but still the Space by itself is untainted. One can get beyond this play of the guNas only by transcending the guNas. In the akshara (Imperishable) on the other hand, He is untouched, indifferent, regarding all equally, extended within all, yet above all. In all these, He is the Lord, the Supreme ISvara in the highest, the presiding and all-pervading impersonality. While being the immanent Will and present active Lord in the kshara, He is free in the impersonality even while working out the play of his personality. That is why He is able to say: Actions do not fix themselves on me, nor have I any desire for the fruits of action (IV - 14). Works do not bind me, for I am seated as if indifferent above, unattached to these actions. (IX - 9).. Therefore He declares: Whoever sees that all action is verily done by prakRti and that the Self is inactive Witness, he sees. (XIII - 29). As Purushottama however, He is neither merely impersonal nor merely personal. He is one and the same being in both aspects. Infinity of the Spirit does not just mean infinite immensity; it also implies infinitesimal littleness. Though impersonal in its vastness, it has become personal also in creating individual beings. He is the impersonal-personal, nirguNo-guNI. guNabRn-nirguNo mahAn, says the VishNu-sahasra-nAma.
14. Transcend the strands of prakRti
Man as the individual self owing to his ignorant self-identification with the work and the becoming is bewildered by his ahamkAra or egoism. (cf. ahamkAra-vimUDhAtmA --III-27). ahamkAra is nothing but the notion that this conglomeration of the senses and the mind which are the cause for all the actions, is the Self ( Atman). This egoism, or ahamkAra, is not just the feeling 'I am'. The feeling 'I am' is not wrong. But the feeling 'I am the body, I am the mind, I am the intellect' or the feeling 'I am a combination of these' is wrong. It is this attitude, this supposition, this feeling, this impression that is wrong. This ahamkAra is not just arrogance; it is far higher in the hierarchy of undesirable qualities - it is in fact at the top. For, the very nature of ahamkAra is that one does not know that one has ahamkAra. It is this false identification of the Self with the actions and the instruments of thought and action that is the root cause of all the trouble, called samsAra. Consequently one is enslaved by the guNas, now hampered in the dull ease of tamas, now blown away by the strong winds and currents of rajas, and now limited by the partial lights of satva. Man has to distinguish and isolate himself from the prakRtic mind, by his discretionary intelligence. If he allows himself to be mastered by the guNas, then he will have to suffer pain and pleasure, grief and happiness, desire and passion, attachment and disgust. Thus he has no freedom. If he wants freedom, he must exist in oneness with the akshara Purusha, the immutable and impersonal Self, tranquilly observing and impartially supporting the action, himself calm, indifferent, untouched, motionless, pure, one with all beings in their self, not one with prakRti and Her works. This Self, though by its presence authorises (cf. IX - 10 ) the works of prakRti and supports them by its all-pervading existence, does not itself create works or the state of the doer or the linking of the works to their fruit. (V - 14). It only watches prakRti in the kshara. It accepts neither the sin nor the virtue of the living creatures born into this birth. (V - 15). It always preserves its own spiritual purity. He who thus understands the purushottama is no longer bewildered either by the appearances of the world or by the apparently contradictory purushas; He is the whole-knower; He loves and worships in all the perfectly illumined ways - says the Lord in XV - 19:
yo mAmevam-asammUDho jAnAti purushottamaM /
sa sarvid-bhajati mAM sarva-bhAvena bhArata //
It is only at this point the Lord says that He has now given the greatest secret, the Secret of Secrets. This is the second time, of the three times He uses the same expression.
October 31, '99 Ó Copyright V. Krishnamurthy