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Editor's Note - 74 (July 1, 2014)

Chith, Achith And Iswara — The Triad Of Reality

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

There are two sets of triads that are very important, in fact, define our philosophy Visishtaadvaitha. Understanding them clearly is a pre-requisite to get a grip over other tenets of our Sampradaya. They are: the Triad of Reality (Thathva-thrayam) and the Esoteric Triad (Rahasya-thrayam). Let us have a look at the former in this Note.

Of the two, the knowledge of the Three Realities has to be gained first. Swami Desika, in his Thathva Padhavee — a collection which is a part of Chillarai Rahasyangal — states as follows:

முத்திக்கருள் சூட மூன்றைத் தெளி முன்னம்
இத்திக்கால் ஏற்கும் இதம்
(Amrutha Ranjani - 3)

“To be blessed with the means to Moksha, thoroughly understand the treble first up”. The three Thathvas (truths) are Chith (the sentient), Achith (the non-sentient) and Iswara (the God – Sriman Narayana, that is, the super-sentient).

Therefore, to start with, one has to thoroughly understand Thathva-thrayam before learning the more complex Rahasya-thrayam which would pave the way for initiating Saranagathi and later the Moksha.

Swami Desika has elaborately, yet lucidly, explained the three elements of Reality in ‘Thathva-thraya Chinthana Adhikaaram’, Chapter- 5 of Srimath Rahasya-thraya Saaram. Some crucial points in a nut-shell are as follows:

Chith (the sentient):

Both Jivaathma and Paramaathma come under ‘the sentient’. However, as the latter is dealt with under the head ‘Iswara’, here it can be limited to the Jiva.

‘Jivas’ are forever dependent on the Lord for everything. Moreover, they are subservient only to the Lord (and His Consort) and none else. They are of three types: Bhadhdhan, Mukathan and Nithyan.

A ‘Bhadhdhan’ is one who is bound in this world going through the grind of ups and down according to his Karma.

A ‘Mukthan’ is one who has attained Moksha on his death after getting relieved from the cycle of births in this world — either through Bhakthi (devotion) or Prapaththi (surrender).

A ‘Nithyan’ is a permanent resident of Srivaikuntam with a free-will, like Anantha, Garuda and Vishvaksena.

Achith (the non-sentient):

Substances that are ignorant and inert are called ‘Achith’. Neither can it know itself nor can it understand about anything else. The three types of 'non-sentient' are Prakruthi (which comprises the three attributes - Sathva, Rajas and Thamas) Time (known as Kaalam) and Sudhdha Sathva (only pure matter which is changeless).

Of the three attributes, ‘Sathva’ is a quality which encompasses all that is good and harmonious; ‘Rajas’ is marked by unrest and greed; ‘Thamas’ sluggishness and inaction.

Another school of thought includes 'Dharmabhuta Jnaanam' also in the category of 'Achethanam'. However, Swami Desika, in his masterpiece Rahasya-thraya Saaram says that Achethanas are of only three types and in fact mentions the word 'thrividha' (three types) as an adjective to explain the 'non-sentients' (Chapter 5, Thathva-thraya Chinthana Adhikaaram).

On the question of 'Dharmabhutha Jnaanam', which can be described as 'attributive consciousness', it is established that it has no entity of its own. It can reveal itself and others like 'Chith' (sentient). However, it is dependent on its confluence with Jivaathma or Paramaathma to function. So, it is not classified either under Achethanas or Chethanas.

Iswara (the God):

The qualities attributed to ‘Iswara’ are Sudhdha-Sathvam and timelessness. Sriman Narayana is the ‘Iswara’. It is always Sriman Narayana (Narayana together with His Consort Lakshmi) who is the Lord Supremo. He is the ultimate master and does not depend on anyone or anything. He is limitless either by knowledge, time or space.

It must be noted that Lakshmi is the means for attaining salvation as much as Narayana Himself and she also has the role of a mediator (Purushakara), often pleading the case of the Jiva with Her Consort. She is infinite in nature (Vibhu) like the Lord Himself. She is also Paramaathma as much as Narayana Himself.

The Supreme Lord is present in five forms.

1. Para: In Paramapadham or Srivaikuntam, that is, His permanent abode.

2. Vyuha: Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradhyumna and Anirudhdha, and includes sub-Vyuha forms in the Dwaadasa Namas from Kesava to Damodara.

3. Vibhava: Like the Avatharas the Lord has taken, 10 of which are foremost (Mathsya to Kalki).

4. Antharyaami: Who exists in the heart of every Jiva or living being.

5. Archa: The idol form as we worship in Divyadesams and other temples.

The signature Paasuram which brings out the essence of this chapter is as follows:

தேற இயம்பினர் சித்தும் அசித்தும் இறையும் என
வேறுபடும் வியன் தத்துவ மூன்றும் வினையுடம்பில்
கூறுபடும் கொடு மோகமும் தான் இறையாம் குறிப்பும்
மாற நினைந்தருளால் மறைநூல் தந்த வாதியரே.
(Adhikaara Sangraham – 12)

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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