The Lord | Tattvatraya | Manavala Mamunigal


Īśvara | The Lord

In this Section, we deal with the essential nature and attributes of Īśvara (the Lord), who controls the other two entities dwelt upon at length, in the two preceding chapters.

141 - 143: Free from all evils and imperfections, which afflict all other beings, and adorned by a host of auspicious attributes, the Lord is characterised by Supreme bliss and knowledge.

He is infinite, possesses knowledge (Jñāna), power (Śaktī), strength (Bālā), sovereignty (Aiśvarya), valour (Vīrya), dazzling splendour (tejas), mercy (Dayā) and tender solicitude (vatsalya).

He creates, sustains and dissolves the worlds.

He is the object of worship by the 4 types of persons, namely:

1. the sorrow-stricken,
2. the cravers of worldly pleasures (wealth and power),
3. the seeker of knowledge of self-realisation as distinguished from God-realisation, and
4. the man of wisdom, who out of unbounded love for the Lord does not brook separation from Him.

He is the sole Granter of the 4 highest values, sought after by individual souls - Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kāma (fulfilment of desires), and Moksha (salvation).

Possessor of a haloed personality, very distinct from all else, He is the loving consort of Śrī Devī (Maha Lakṣmī), Bhūdevī and Nīlā Devī.

He stands diametrically opposed to all evils and imperfections and is inaccessible to defects of transformations, increase or decrease of knowledge etc., like lamp unto darkness and the white-necked eagle (Garuda) unto snakes.

He is Ananta, that is, He is Eternal and immeasurable in terms of time, territory and things.

It is not as if He exits in one region and not in another, is at one time and not at another. Not being circumscribed by Time and Space, He pervades all sentient and non-sentient beings as the Internal Ruler of all.

144 - 145: If the Lord does not keep aloof from the sentient and non-sentient beings, but pervades them and stays inside them, will not their imperfections stick to Him?

No, they will not, because the reason for his entry into the body is not the same as that which made the individual soul to enter it.

Whereas the individual soul enters a particular body, as a result of his Karma or past actions, the Lord enters it as a matter of grace (anugraha).

Even though the states of childhood, youth etc., pertain to the body, with its growth and decay, and not to the individual soul, the latter reaps the fruits of his Karma and suffers pain and perversion, by virtue of his association with the body.

The Lord is not so affected, as He is not bound by Karma and its consequences.

146-147: The Lord is Jñānanandaika- Svarūpa, (i.e.,) He possesses knowledge of the form of bliss. It is self-luminous knowledge, which is favourable throughout and hence blissful.

148: His essential nature, being blissful and self-luminous knowledge, the auspicious attributes which flow therefrom are now dwelt upon:

The Lords attributes of knowledge, power, strength, sovereignty, valour, splendour, mercy, tender solicitude, easy accessibility, condescension, softness, straightforwardness etc.,

are eternal, unlimited, innumerable, devoid of limiting adjuncts, flawless, peerless and unsurpassing.

149: The aforesaid qualities, could be brought under three broad groups, namely,

(1) Vatsalya, or tender solicitude like unto mothers love, condescension, easy accessibility, softness and straightforwardness etc.,

(2) Śaurya, (i.e.) valour, aggression etc., and

(3) Jñāna, Śaktī etc., (i.e.,) knowledge, power, strength etc.

Of these,

- the qualities comprised in the first group are displayed towards the friendly (i.e.) the devotees or God-bound souls,

- the second group qualities are directed against the enemies or the ungodly, while

- the qualities in the last group which are, as it were, the fountain sources from which the qualities comprised in the other two groups are derived, are applicable to all.

150: Apart from the above broad classification, the individual scope of some of the Lords attributes is now indicated:

- The Lord’s knowledge (jñāna) is for the benefit of the ignorant.
- The Lord’s power (Śaktī) is for the benefit of the weak.
- The Lord's Mercy (Dayā) is for the benefit of miscreants.
- The Lord’s Tender Solicitude (vatsalya) is for the benefit of the sinful.
- The Lord’s Condescension (Sauśīlya) is for the benefit of the lowly.
- The Lord’s Straightforwardness (Ārjava) is for the benefit of the crooked
- The Lord’s Friendliness' (Sauhārda) is for the benefit of the hard-hearted.
- The Lord’s Softness (Mārdava) is for the benefit of those afraid of separation from Him.
- The Lord’s Easy accessibility (Saulabhya) is for the benefit of those who pine for his darśan.

This is just by way of illustrating how each one of the Lords several auspicious traits could be helpful to the individual souls.

Those who would otherwise be inclined to be scared away from the Lord, in view of His supremacy (Paratva and sovereignty) can draw solace from His Saulabhya (easy accessibility).

Those, who look upon themselves hard-hearted, can be heartened by His friendliness and so on.

151:  And now we see how these auspicious qualities are exercised by the Lord in relation to His devotees:

Being merciful, He is moved by the sufferings of others and pities them; His friendliness keeps Him well disposed to His devotees always.

As one who subserves his devotees, He gives of Himself to them like the moonlight, the cool southerly breeze, sandal paste and water unto their beneficiaries.

Being impartial, He rises above considerations of high and low, as regards birth, attainment of knowledge, manner of living, conduct etc. among His devotees.

As one, who protects even those who do not seek His protection, He becomes the sole refuge of the destitute who, as a matter of fact, have none else to fall back upon.

As one, who truly fulfils all the wishes of His devotees, He performs the rare feat of restoring to Śandīpani, His preceptor, during His incarnation as Krishna, his son killed at sea long back and reclaiming from the celestium and restoring to a Brahmin of Dvārakā all his four sons whom he had lost as soon as they were born.

As a Satya-Sankalpa, the maker of solemn Resolve, He gave Dhruva, the young lad, the boon of ruling at the end of his life on Earth, over a region (pole-star), which he set up anew in the upper region of Swarga.

He gifts away Himself and all His possessions to His devotees for unrestricted use, in the same way as one enjoys one’s own properties. When the desires of His devotees are fulfilled, He feels satisfied as if they were His own achievements.

He keeps remembering always the mere gesture of His devotees in seeking refuge in Him, but never thinks of the benefits continually bestowed on them, by Him. This reveals His keen sense of gratitude (Krita jñātā).

Described by the scriptures as Rāsa or bliss, the Lord is sweet, in all states, so as to wean His devotees away from the material pleasures, to which they have been addicted from time immemorial. This is characteristic of His Mādhurya or sweetness.

His Cleverness helps to shelter the faults of His devotees, like the man who is tactful enough-to appear indifferent to the lapses of his wife and sons.

So firm is His hold on the devotees on account of His attribute known as Sthairya, that He opposes even His most beloved consort, Mahā Lakshmi, when she points an accusing figure at His devotees and defends them firmly.

Like the intoxicated lover, who relishes his lady-love with all her dirt, the Lord lovingly accepts His devotees with all their blemishes, incidental to their material associations.

As a result of His straight-forwardness, he sincerely works, by word, deed and thought for the uplift of His devotees, like one who pumps water, up to highlands.

The grief of His devotees over separation from Him dwindles down to such minute proportions, in comparison to His own over their separation, as between water contained in the hoof-mark of a cow and the vast ocean.

By virtue of His easy accessibility (saulabhya) and condescension (Sauśīlya), he descends to the level of His devotees from His high pedestal and makes Himself pliable for mixing with them all freely, even to the extent of their tying Him with a rope and beating Him (c.f., Śrī Bhāgavatam - boyhood days of Śrī Krishna).

So great is His attachment to His new-found devotees, that He would befriend them even to the exclusion of Maha Lakshmi and the Nitya Sūrīs.

This can be likened to the cow, which fondles its new-born calf, while attacking, with its horns and hooves, the elder progeny, as well as those who bring her fodder. This, in a nutshell, is His rare trait of vatsalya, tender solicitude.

152 - 159: The Lord constitutes the cause for the emergence of the entire universe.

Some (Buddhists, Jains and Vaiśeṣikās) look upon atoms as the cause of the worlds:

This is, however, at variance with the scriptures, apart from that atoms are not proved by perception or inference.

The Sānkhyas (followers of Kapila faith) hold that Pradhāna or primordial matter is the cause of the worlds:

Even as mud is the cause of the earthen pot, the universe moulded by the three Guṇas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) with its cloak of pain, pleasures and allurements, should have, according to them, emanated from Pradhāna, the unmodified cause of the three Guṇas.

This, however, cannot be the case, as Pradhāna is non-sentient and cannot undergo changes of state, except when presided over by the Lord and creation and dissolution are regulated by Him.

By a process of elimination we come on to the other entity, namely, the sentient being. Could a sentient being be the cause of the worlds?

- No, he cannot, being bound by Karma and consequently involved in grief.

Brahma and Indra too, fall under' the category of sentient beings, as defined here, and creation of the universe cannot vest in them.

So then, creation of the universe is possible only by the Lord, who is omniscient, omnipotent, full of bliss and unfettered by Karma.

160 – 171:  The Lord is the supreme cause of creation of the universe, performing His own free will, unlike the lower order of creation of man and animals by other men and animals through karma and nescience, and by Brahma, under the orders of the Lord.

Being done out of His sankalpa or will, creation is effortless and does not involve any fatigue incidental to physical effort.

The sole purpose behind this creation is the Lords love of sport, like a game of dice or chess, indulged in by the Princes, as a pastime, or castles built of sand by the little ones, as a matter of play.

No doubt, creation is meant to provide repeated opportunities to the individual souls, through a process of purification, trials and tribulations, being the cathartic agents.

But then the all-powerful Lord, Whose all wishes are fulfilled, can as well elevate them all at one stroke, instead of leaving them to plod through tears and toils and stand or fall by their Karma vis-a-vis the Śāstric injunctions?

If the latter course was not adopted by Him, it was out of His love of the Sport, the spontaneous joyous creative activity. Therefore these worlds are known as the Lord’s Līla Vibhūti or the arena of His sport.

But then, it might be asked whether His sport does not get spoiled by dissolution of the universe (saṁhāra)?

Well, dissolution is part of the sport, even as creation of sand houses and destruction thereof by the boys during play time are but different stages of the play.

As the Lord transforms Himself into the worlds of forms and names, He is the material cause of the universe, just like mud for pat, cotton for cloth and so on.

The Lord is the instrumental cause like the potter for the pots, weaver for the cloth etc.

When the period of the great Pralaya draws to its close, the Lord, remembering the constitution of the worlds prior to Pralaya and at His volition (saṁkalpa) of “May I become manifold”, separates into its constituent elements the whole mass of the enjoying souls and objects (of enjoyment).

The Lord is also the operative cause, His Jñāna (knowledge), Śaktī (power) etc. being analogous to the potter’s wheel and staff, the weaver’s woof, bobbins and treadle etc.

The Lord is thus not merely the instrumental cause, but also the material and operative cause of the universe.

By His transformation into the world of men and matter, is meant His immanence as the internal controller of all, revealing the underlying unity of Brahman, qualified by the sentient and non-sentient things.

He is thus the Viśeṣya or substance present in all things qualified by the Viśeṣaṇa or attributes, namely, sentient and non-sentient beings.

While the attributes or modes undergo transformations, the Viśeṣya undergoes no changes and is Nirvikāra, His essential nature, as described in the foregoing aphorisms undergoing no modification whatsoever.

The Lords evolutionary transformation, as above, can be appreciated from the well-known analogy of the spider, mentioned in the scriptures:

The spider weaves the cob-web without impairing its own essential nature and is the material cause of the cob-web. So is the Lord in relation to the universe 

He does not undergo modifications, but His inseparable attribute of body comprising matter and the individual souls does.

Creation actually means that He makes the non-sentient undergo the changes of state and endows the individual souls with bodies and sense-organs, thus providing the necessary scope for expansion of their knowledge.

172: Of the three-fold dispensation of Creation, Sustentation and Destruction (dissolution), Creation has thus far been dealt with.

And now, by the Lords Sustentation of the world is underlined His protection of the created things, by, entering them all beneficially, like a column of water sustaining the crops.

173: The last stage, namely, Destruction (saṁhāra) is the destruction of the sense-organs, misused for sensual enjoyment.

The dissolution of the worlds is also a gesture of the Lords grace, as it prevents further sinning by the individual souls, who have prostituted, for the uninhibited enjoyment of sensual pleasures, the sense-organs endowed by the Lord for their redemption.

This is like unto a father keeping in fetters, his wayward and disobedient son, by way of reforming him.

174 - 177:  Each of the aforesaid Creation, Protection and Dissolution is of 4 kinds.

When He creates the worlds, He is possessed of the attribute known as Rājas and remains as the Internal controller (Antaryāmī) of:

(1) Brahma, the creator of the 14 worlds,
(2) The 10 Prajāpatis, created by Brahma to assist him in the work of creation,
(3) Time, which sets the pace for creation and
(4) The Sentient Beings;

while, extending protection,

(1) He incarnates as Vishnu and thereafter assumes several forms to suit the purpose of His incarnations, from time to time,

(2) propagates through sages Manu, Yājñyavalkya, Parāśara, Vālmīki, Śaunaka etc., the study of scriptures and Purāṇas, thereby revealing the path of good conduct,

(3) remains the internal controller of Time as well as all Beings which are mutually dependent, and

(4) protects them all, animated by the attribute of Sattva.

At the time of destruction,

He remains as the Internal Controller of Rudra, Agni, Yama and other agents who help the Lord in the final dissolution of the Universe, as well as of Time and all beings, impelled by the attribute of Tamas, which aids unrelenting destruction.

178 - 179:  A doubt might arise whether the disparities in the created things, some being happy and others sorrowful, will not render the Lord guilty of partiality and cruelty?!

Such charges cannot, however, be laid at His door, because He creates only on the basis of the Karma of the individuals

and with an eye on their welfare, like unto a mother who inflicts a deterrent punishment on the young one, indulging in the unhealthy habit of swallowing mud.

The inequalities are the direct results of the actions of individual souls and their sufferings are intended to chasten them and cure their ills through a cleansing process.

180: It is not a formless and colourless Lord, who creates the worlds abounding in a vast variety of colours and forms, but the Lord associated with a form, who does it.

Nammāḷvār in his Tiruvāymoḷi II-2-1 refers to the cloud-hued Lord who created the world, surrounded by oceanic waters.

181:  As between the Lords form (Divya-maṅgala-vigraha) and His essential nature (Divya-Ātma svarūpa), the former is far more delectable than the latter, being an inexhaustible fountain of bliss.

Admirably suited to Him, His Form is eternal, like His essential nature and of unique grandeur. Being aprākṛta (transcendent), it is made up of pure Sattva. It illuminates the Lords divine nature within, like unto gold kepi in u small casket of translucent ruby.

This is in dire contrast to the bodies of sentient beings, which serve to dwarf and conceal their essential nature.

Of limitless splendour, it is the seat of a large array of auspicious qualities such as tender softness, exquisite beauty, natural aroma, etc., and the object of constant meditation by Yogins.

With its intoxicating charm, it attracts to itself one and all, besides creating a positive distaste and aversion in the minds of the individual souls to everything else.

It is the object of perennial enjoyment by the eternally free (Nitya Sūrīs) and the emancipated souls in Heaven, who drink deep of the nectarine beauty of the Lords Divine person.

It is refreshing like the fragrance of a lotus pond, rooting out pain and fatigue.

It is the base for the Lords numerous incarnations.

Protector of all, it is the resort of all here, there, and everywhere and is adorned by an array of jewels and decorative weapons.

182: And now we come on to the 5-fold form or manifestation of the Lord, namely,

- Para, Vyūha, Vibhava, Antaryāmī and Arcāvatāra.
(These five manifestations are referred to in Tiruvāymoḷi VI-9-5).

The first-named, (i.e.), Paratva or transcendental form, refers to the state of the Lord in the High Heavens, the land of unalloyed, unlimited and everlasting bliss,

beyond the mischief of Time, in a glorious setting surrounded by the Ever-free and emancipated souls, lustrous and charming, drinking deep of His insatiable nectarine form.

Vyūha is the operative form of the Lord, (i.e.), the galaxy of Samkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, for the purpose of creation, protection and destruction of the worlds,

the seat of operation shifting from the High Heavens to the Milky Ocean, literally within the ear-shot of the ardent devotees crying out for their immediate deliverance from the worldly ills and evils.

In the transcendental (Para) state, all the six chief attributes of the Lord, (i.e.) - knowledge, power, etc., (already dealt with, in detail) are in their full complement,

while in the Vyūha state, only 2 of these 6 attributes will be dominant in each of the three forms of Sankarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

In the Sankarṣaṇa Form, the attributes of knowledge (Jñāna) and sustaining power (Bala) are pronounced, so as to preside over the individual souls, and segregate them, at the time of creation, from the non-sentient matter with which they lay mixed up unrecognisably.

Thereafter, passing into, the state of Pradyumna, He disseminates the Śāstras (Vedas, etc.), and is also eventually responsible for the dissolution of the world.

Pradyumna possesses, for discharging these functions, the attributes of Sovereignty (Aiśvarya) and valour (Vīrya).

He presides over the Mind (manas) and preaches Dharma or virtuous conduct as stipulated in the Śāstras.

He also creates what is described in the Viṣvaksena Saṁhitā as the group of pure souls, beginning with the 4 Manus or the 4 couples of 4 different castes, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaiṣyas and Śūdras, who emerged from His face, shoulders thighs and feet respectively.

The pure souls are those God- centred souls strictly conforming to the scriptural code of conduct, serving the Lord lovingly, seeking no personal gains and pleasures and ultimately attaining to the Lord.

Aniruddha, though possessed of all the attributes invokes the qualities of Power or Energy (Śaktī) and splendour (Tejas) to suit His functional activities, namely,

- Sustentation of the Universe, propagation of the right type of knowledge to enable the individual souls to attain salvation,

- creation of Time and of the group known as Mixed Souls:

The Mixed Souls as distinguished from the Pure Souls, referred to earlier, are those born in the different castes, dominated by the attribute of Rājas,

ritualistic, straying away into the worship of lesser gods and denunciation of the Supreme Lord, treading the path of desire and fulfilment, seeking enjoyment of ephemeral pleasures either in Swarga or in the slower worlds and thereby getting involved in the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Vibhava or the incarnate forms of the Lord are infinite in number, with this difference that some of them are primary (mukhya) while the others are only secondary.

The primary avatars like Rāma, Krishna (in human forms), Fish, Tortoise, etc., (in sub-human forms), the dwarf mango tree in Daṇḍakāraṇya (immobile plant), etc., arose through the Lord's will.

Likewise, the Secondary Avatars also came off through His will only, but these neither partake of His essential nature nor are associated with His supernal form.

To the Mumukshu or aspirant for salvation, only mukhya (Primary) avatars are the objects of meditation and worship, as they alone possess all the glories of the Lord’s essential nature and have their basis the Lord’s transcendent form, like lights lit up from the original lamp.

On the other hand, the forms of Brahma, Śiva, Agni, Varuṇa, Vyāsa, Paraśurāma, Arjuna (Kārtavīrya as well as Pāṇḍava), Kubera,' etc., are secondary manifestations of the Lord, where He, merely presides over and which has egoism, are not proper, forms of meditation for the aspirants to Moksha:

These forms, if worshipped, will not be helpful to those aspiring for salvation, as the Lord merely acts through these individual souls, who derive special strength and power to carry out certain divine purposes through His special impact on them.

And then, there are certain distinguishing characteristics between the Lord’s manifestations of Para, Vyūha etc., and even among His primary (important) avatars,

such as the differences between Nityodita (perpetual rising) States of Para Vāsudeva worshipped by the Ever-free and emancipated souls in the transcendental region (Heaven) and the Vyūha Vāsudeva, said to be in Santodita state.

Then there are the 4-fold distinctions of waking, dreaming, sleeping and transcendental meditation in the forms Vyūha;

the 12 well-known forms of Keśava, Nārāyaṇa, Mādhava, Govinda etc., viewed as located in different parts of the body, forehead etc.,

the 36 incarnations beginning with Padmanābha (mentioned in Viṣvaksena Saṁhitā); the specific incarnations of Upendra, Trivikrama, Dadhibhakta, who gave nectar to Indra, Hayagriva, Nara, Nārāyaṇa, Hari, Krishna, Matsya, Kurma, Varaha etc., Their hands, weapons, complexions, places of residence etc.

These are all found in' the Pāñcharātra and other texts, which are, however, not dealt with here for two reasons, namely,

(1) they are not easy to grasp and
(2) what is even more important, they are held as most secret, being the secrets pertaining to the Lords incarnations (Avatara-Rāhasyas).

The cause of incarnation, as already stated, is the Lords free will or Sankalpa.

The objectives are 3-fold (i.e.)

- protection of the good,
- destruction of the wicked and
- resuscitation of righteousness,

In the authoritative Itihāsas and Purāṇas, it has no doubt been stated that the Avatars took place as a result of the curse laid by Sage Bhrigu and others.

And yet, there is no involvement of Karma in the Lords incarnation, for the curse etc. is just a pretext and not the cause which, it may be reiterated, is His Icchā or free will.

The next aspect of the Lord, Antaryāmitva, signifies

(1) His pervading individual self from within through His essential nature and

(2) the entry of His supernal form into the region of everyone’s heart, everywhere, be it Swarga or Hell, so as to be the internal Controller of all, the friend of all sentient beings, in all stages.

The fifth aspect, the Arcā form is the iconic manifestation of the Lord, a perfect combination of:

(1) appetiser (inducing love for Him in the hearts of the individual souls, by making Himself visible to one and all and attracting them by His exquisite and exhilarating form),

(2) easy refuge of all and

(3) a great draw, the embodiment of every conceivable object of enjoyment, extremely attractive and all-absorbing.

Put in a nutshell, the Arcā form consists in the images of the Lord, which accommodate themselves to the various tastes of the creatures, their worship having no fixed form, but that which the worshipper may choose and desire to have of Him;

- having no fixed name, but that by which the worshipper may choose to call Him;
- all-knowing but seeming as if not knowing;
- all-powerful but seeming as if powerless;

- all-sufficient but seeming as if needy, thus seeming to transpose His true nature as Master of all, and exchange places between the worshipped and the worshipper

and choosing to be visibly manifest in temples and homes, at all places and at all times desired, unlike the incarnations which are confined to certain places and certain periods only.

Worship of an Image is not different from the worship of the Supreme Lord, Who not only pervades the image through His all-pervading power but,

by virtue of His extraordinary attribute of Saulabhya , makes it His special abode, according to the worshipper’s wish, so as to be within their easy reach.

Thus ends Tattvatraya.