Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 18 Sep 2021


Purusha The Ultimate Goal

Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

[Dr. Nikhil asked: Padanamaskarams Swamiji, I feel the following two verses from the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (3.10–3.11) clearly indicate that awareness is not the ultimate God.

indriyebhyaḥ parā hyarthā arthebhyaśca paraṃ manaḥ .
manasastu parā buddhirbuddherātmā mahān paraḥ .. 10..
mahataḥ paramavyaktamavyaktātpuruṣaḥ paraḥ .
puruṣānna paraṃ kiṃcit sā kāṣṭhā sā parā gatiḥ .. 11..

Beyond the senses (indriyāḥ) are the objects (arthāḥ);
Beyond the objects is the mind (manaḥ);
Beyond the mind is the intellect (buddhiḥ);
Beyond the intellect is the Great Ātman;
Beyond the Great Ātman is the unmanifest (avyaktam);
Beyond the unmanifest is the Puruṣa (unimaginable God).
Beyond the Puruṣa there is nothing: this is the end, the Supreme Goal.

I have tried to understand these verses, however, I am not sure, whether my interpretations are correct. I therefore request You to kindly clarify the meaning of each of the terms and the overall meaning of the verses. Following are some of my observations and interpretations related to these two verses:

Dr. Nikhil said: 1. These verses seem to analyse the Human Incarnation of God and not an ordinary human being. This is because, the Puruṣa, who is beyond the unmanifest (Avyaktam), is found at the end of this analysis. Although even the individual awareness can be said to be Puruṣa, it is not beyond the unmanifest (primordial energy). Only the unimaginable God is beyond the unmanifest. This means that the Puruṣa identified at the end of the analysis must be the unimaginable God. That unimaginable God is only present in a Human Incarnation of God and not in an ordinary human being. The first verse in the third chapter (third Valli) of the Upaniṣad also supports the existence of two Puruṣas (in the same body). It says, “ṛtaṃ pibantau sukṛtasya loke guhāṃ praviṣṭau parame parārdhe. chāyātapau brahmavido vadanti pañcāgnayo ye ca triṇāciketāḥ .. 1..” The same concept is also found in other upaniṣads (Dvā suparṇā…—Muṇḍaka Up. 3.1.1; Śvetaśvatara Up. 4.6).

Swami Replied:- It is a correct conclusion that the description of the human being mentioned in this verse is incarnation, which may be 1st energetic incarnation or subsequent energetic incarnation or subsequent human incarnation. Same situation occurred in the Veda while explaining the 4 states (Jāgrat, Svapna, Suṣupti and Turīya). In that context also, the human incarnation taken as example only satisfies the text.

Dr. Nikhil said: 2. The meaning of ‘Arthāḥ’ is unclear. Arthāḥ do not seem to mean the external objects of the senses. Each of the senses has its own objects, which are sounds, sensations of touch, forms, tastes and smells respectively. If Arthāḥ had meant the external objects of the senses, it would not match the sequence presented in the verses. The sequence of items listed in increasing order of greatness (beyond) seems to be external to internal. If Arthāḥ had meant external objects, the sequence presented in the verses should have been the sense-objects < senses < mind and so on. Hence, an alternative meaning of ārthāḥ is required. I feel, in the given context, the meaning of ārthāḥ should be the identification of the external object. This identification is basically the knowledge or understanding attained on the basis of the sensory signals received from the senses.

Swami Replied:- The word Artha means not only the external object, but also the knowledge of the external object that is identified (Samjñānam) and stored (Smaraṇam) by the awareness. The word Cit stands for general awareness that identifies the object and the word Citta stands for the stored knowledge of the object that can be recollected again. It is told that the word and its meaning are inherently associated (Vāgarthāviva sampṛktau…). Here, the word Artha means not only the object but also the identified knowledge of the object. Name and form (Nāmarūpam) stand for Vāk and Artha respectively. If you take the meaning of Artha as the identified knowledge of the object, the whole subject becomes internal only without touching the external items. Even if you take the entire subject as internal, without external objects, the knowledge of identification of the object does not take place. If the object is absent, there is no identification of the object. However, if you are particular about the subject of internal items only, it is better to take the meaning of the word Artha as the knowledge of identification of the object than mere external object.

Dr. Nikhil said: 3. The mind is said to be greater than this identification, since it is the mind that makes the identification possible. The intellect is superior to the mind because it finally arrives at a decision based on the various options presented by the mind.

Swami Replied:- The awareness starts from mind only and not from inert senses. The senses also become alert and active due to the mind or awareness present in it. However, mind (Manovṛtti) does not go outside the body through senses as told in the early days. The mind is within the body only.

Dr. Nikhil said: 4. Out of the four internal instruments (antaḥkaraṇas), there is no mention of ego (ahaṃkāra) and memory (citta). Also, there is also no special place given to pure awareness (śuddha caitanya). Perhaps, the verses take their existence for granted and so they are not separately mentioned. The mind and intellect are mainly responsible for perceiving and identifying external objects from the respective sensory signals received from the senses. But this perception and identification inevitably requires the person to first have ego (self-identification; ahaṃkāra). It also requires the person’s memory (smaraṇe) to be working so that the perceived object can be compared with other objects perceived in the past. Moreover, this entire process of perception (saṃjñānam) must occur in awareness. So, there is no need to separately mention ego, memory and awareness. The four internal instruments are mere modifications of the pure awareness. Therefore, mentioning only the mind and intellect is sufficient and ego, memory and the pure awareness are to be understood. Another reason for not getting into too much detail about awareness and its modifications is that there is nothing divine about awareness; it is merely a form of energy. In order to find divinity, or the greatest item, one has to proceed further with the analysis. So, it is unnecessary to carry out an in-depth analysis of awareness.

Swami Replied:- You are correct in your conclusion that the search for unimaginable God does not require much analysis about ego and memory in the way of analysis. Once mind is mentioned, its basic material called awareness is spontaneously referred. Along with mind, intelligence is mentioned since the intelligence decides the information of the object on correct lines with the help of sharp analysis.

Dr. Nikhil said: 5. Thus, when the mind and intellect are mentioned, awareness along with all its modifications are covered. If the analysis had stopped at this point, we would have said that these verses present the analysis of an individual soul, who is the knower of objects. But the analysis continues to include the Great Ātman, the un-manifest and the Puruṣa. There is no evidence for the existence of these three items in an ordinary individual soul. This means that the verses must be presenting the analysis of a Human Incarnation of God.

Swami Replied:- Mahat is called as great Ātman, which means the space only. The space is subtle energy. The boundary of the space is unimaginable where unimaginable God gets mentioned. Hence, the next word after Mahat is Avyaktam, which means unimaginable domain or unimaginable God only. There can’t be two unimaginable items and hence, unimaginable domain means unimaginable God. It is very difficult or impossible to meditate upon the unimaginable God (Kleśo'dhikatarasteṣām…- Gītā). For this reason, the unimaginable God (Parabrahman) entered the 1st energetic form created by Him and merged with it to become God Datta or Father of heaven. This God Datta is the meaning of the last word “Purusha” or mediated God as proposed by Raamaanuja and Madhva. Even the Purusha taken by Shankara also means the same God Datta taken as His soul inside the energetic body with which the unimaginable God fully merged. Shankara neglected the external energetic body. Hence, even Shankara has taken the energetic soul of God Datta, which is a created imaginable item only. Raamaanuja and Madhva have taken both soul and body of Datta with which the unimaginable God merged (Antarbahiśca…- Veda). In this way, there is no difference among the three divine preachers regarding the medium also. The medium is only the imaginable relative reality called energy (body or soul or both) only. Hence, all the three preachers have taken mediated God called as Purusha. Purusha means an item that spreads all over the 2nd item (Puri śete iti Puruṣaḥ). Hence, the ultimate item is only the mediated God called Purusha or energetic or human incarnation. If the body is taken as the tree, both the relative soul of God Datta and the unimaginable awareness (Parabrahman) can be taken as the two birds described in the Veda (Dvā suparṇā…- Veda). In the case of human being only one bird (relative soul) exists that enjoys the fruits of deeds. In the case of the incarnation, both birds are said to be bonded with love or devotion since the soul-bird is devoted to God-bird.

Dr. Nikhil said: 6. The Great Ātman seems to be the Energetic Incarnation which is present in the Human Incarnation. The use of the adjective ‘great’ (mahān) for Ātman supports this idea. Compared to the individual awareness, which is part of the human medium, the Energetic Incarnation, which has merged with it, is greater. 

Swami Replied:- The word Mahat can be also taken in the sense of Parabrahman, who has become God Datta or 1st energetic incarnation because the word Mahat stands for God also (Mahat Brahma iti proktam). This idea can be further supported by saying that the unimaginable God or non-mediated God called as Avyaktam is beyond the mediated God. But, again it is told that Purusha is none other than God Datta or mediated God, who is the ultimate God already represented by the word Mahat. To avoid this confusion, one of the following two ways can be adopted in this place:-

a) Mahat means the first created energetic body and energetic soul by unimaginable God before His merge with both. Since Mahat is already told to be space or subtle energy, there is no contradiction in saying that the created first energetic body and energetic soul are space. The creator or unimaginable God or Avyaktam is certainly greater than the created energetic form of God Datta (Mahat). Now the unimaginable God entered and merged with the energetic form or Mahat to become Purusha so that the unimaginable God becomes imaginable for the sake of worship. Due to this advantage of expressed God, the mediated God or Purusha becomes the ultimate greatest.

b) Mahat means the first energetic form with which the unimaginable God merged to form the 1st energetic incarnation. The unimaginable God (Avyaktam) is greater than the 1st energetic incarnation because the unimaginable God alone creates further. This means that we shall not think that the imaginable 1st energetic incarnation is doing the further creation because the unimaginable God merged with the 1st energetic form alone is doing the creation. Now, the word Purusha means human incarnation in which God Datta (Mahat) exists. Purusha is the ultimate God for humanity since He is imaginable and visible to humanity. Up to intelligence, every human being can be taken as an example. Starting from Mahat, the subject of God comes up ending with the Purusha.

In any case, the unimaginable God alone existed before the creation. This unimaginable God created some space and 1st energetic form with which He merged to become God Datta. Later on, some energetic and human incarnations resulted due to the merge of God Datta with energetic beings or human beings respectively. God Datta created the primordial energy with which the creation was extended. The subtle energy can be also called as Avyaktam and Avyaktam can be also used to mean the unimaginable God. This is the basic fact of the process of creation of this imaginable universe.

Dr. Nikhil said: 7. The unmanifest could be the primordial energy, which is the source of the medium of the Energetic Incarnation. It is also the source of the rest of creation. The primordial energy is space, which appears to be ‘nothing’ and hence it can be called the unmanifest.

Swami Replied:- You can take the word Avyaktam in two senses based on which the above explanations were given. Avyaktam means that which is not expressed. The non-expressed item may be imaginable or unimaginable. If it is imaginable, Avyaktam may be taken as the primordial energy that was created by God Datta for the sake of further creation. If you take Avyaktam as non-expressed item to the imagination, Avyaktam means the unimaginable God. Whatever may be the way of interpretation, the above told sequence of creation stands as the basic fact.

Dr. Nikhil said: 8. Beyond the primordial energy is the ultimate unimaginable God, who is said to be Puruṣa. There is nothing above or beyond this Puruṣa (puruṣān na paraṃ kiñcit) and He is the ultimate goal (sā kāṣṭhā sā parā gatiḥ).

Swami Replied:- If Purusha stands for God Datta, there is nothing beyond Purusha because unimaginable God merged with this 1st energetic form. Since God Datta (means unimaginable God) merged with the human incarnation, there is nothing greater than the human incarnation because the unimaginable God merged with this human form also.

Dr. Nikhil said: 9. Alternatively, it can also be assumed that the analysis up to the intellect pertains to an ordinary individual soul (jīvātman). The Great Ātman could mean a separate Human Incarnation, who is similar to the ordinary individual soul externally, but different in terms of the unimaginable God present in Him. This alternative interpretation is acceptable also because, some of the previous verses in the same chapter seem to be discussing only about an ordinary individual soul (Ātmānaṃ rathinaṃ viddhi…3.3; Yastvavijñānavān…3.3)

Swami Replied:- Whether it is the 1st energetic incarnation or the subsequent energetic incarnation or the subsequent human incarnation, the final fact is one and the same because the same unimaginable God exists in God Datta or in any subsequent energetic incarnation or in any subsequent human incarnation.

Dr. Nikhil said: 10. The adjective ‘great’ used to qualify Ātman is meant to differentiate it from the ordinary individual soul (jīvātman). If the Great Ātman is assumed to mean the Human Incarnation, who is different from the ordinary human being, then there is no further need to distinguish the Human Incarnation from the Energetic Incarnation. The discussion does not include the gross body in any case. It only includes the analysis of the awareness (senses, knowledge, mind, intellect). The awareness of the Human Incarnation and the awareness of the Energetic Incarnation only differ in the mechanism by which each of them is produced. These mechanisms of producing awareness depend on their gross bodies, which are material and energetic respectively. However, the fact that both types of awareness are converted forms energy is common to both. As far as the process of knowing is concerned, there is sufficient commonality. So, there is no need to distinguish between the Human and the Energetic Incarnations. Both types of Incarnations can be assumed to be one and referred to by the term Great Ātman. Beyond the Incarnation is only the primordial energy, which is the cause of its medium (energetic or material) and beyond it is the unimaginable Puruṣa. I seek Your kind clarifications on this topic. Your servant, Nikhil

Swami Replied:- Whether Mahat means simply the subtle primordial energy or the 1st energetic incarnation, the final basis of the explanation is one and the same as explained above.