God, Soul and Matter (April 2012)
God, Soul, and Matter
The topic for this month’s assignment is God, Soul, and Matter. Hindu sages have delved into the topic of three eternal entities of this world in great details. These entities are Matter (Prakrati), Soul (Atma), and God (Paramatma). The study has given birth to different philosophies: Trinity (Traitavad), Dualism (Dvaitavada), and Non-Dualism/Monism (Advaitavada). The ‘Tri’ in Trinity, which is the widely accepted philosophy, means three. It maintains that the three eternal entities exist independently. The word ‘dvi’ means two. Per Dualism philosophy, the universe has two entities: Matter and God. And Monoism believes the universe has only one entity: Brahma. We will focus on the Trinity based philosophy.
The universe is made of matter, and the matter has five substances (tattva). They are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. Each substance is subtler than the other in the listed order. In human body, these substances are called Pinda. The attributes of these five substances as it pertains to human body are as follows:
- Earth: It is the most gross, visible, and solid of all. It gives the body its form.
- Water: It is the liquid substance, less grosser than earth. A large part of body is liquid (blood, water, and other liquids). Liquid form ensures food and energy is supplied to different parts of body and waste is discarded.
- Fire: Fire is finer than water. It is present in body in the form of light, heat, pulse, blood pressure, nervous system, and digestion.
- Air: Air is finer than Fire. The human body is two-third oxygen. The human respiratory system is air based.
- Ether: Ether is subtlest of all. It is present where no other element is present. The special attribute of ether is sound.
Matter is inanimate. While it can change because of the environment and time, it cannot bring change to itself. Matter does not have consciousness/intelligence to initiate the change. For instance, based on the temperature, water changes its form (liquid, gas, and solid). But, the change is brought to it – it does not have any intelligence to initiate it.
All living beings have soul. In the Hindu scriptures, the soul is referred as Atma, Jiva, Jivatma etc. The consciousness in the living beings is due to the presences of the soul. The main forms of life in this universe according to the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures are human, animals, and plants. Among them, human have the highest level of consciousness. In humans, the soul is responsible for learning, action, and feeling. According to Nyaya Darshan, the attributes and functions of the soul in human are knowledge, diligence, creation, desire, pleasure, pain, and envy.
While there is a different soul in every body, in itself, soul is neither male nor female. It acts according to the body it resides in.
While the soul has capacity to learn, it is limited by the apparatus (body). It is not present outside of the body. Its actions are influenced by the knowledge and power it has acquired. It is not perfect. It performs right and wrong deeds. It flourishes with righteous actions in the form of joy and bliss and suffers the consequences of blemish actions in the form of mental and physical pain.
God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God has many more attributes and has been given hundreds of names in Vedas and Hindu scriptures. We covered the characteristics of God in Feb’12 assignment (please refer to it). The second principle of Arya Samaj enumerates the attributes of God. i.e., God is existent, and blissful. He is formless, omniscient, unborn, endless, unchangeable, without beginning, the support of all, the master of all, omnipresent, immanent, unageing, immortal, fearless, eternal, and holy, and the maker of all. He alone is worthy of being worshipped.
The large number of attributes should not be mistaken as validation for the plurality of God. The Vedas maintain that there is One God and only One God. Rigveda and Atharvaveda describe the oneness of God as follows: Aikum Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanti. Aikum (The One and Only God) Sat (exists eternally) Vipra (wise persons) Vadanti (have called God) Bahuda (by many names).
God is the embodiment of Sat (eternal), Chit (consciousness), and Ananda (pure bliss). He is ever existing, beginningless, and endless. He is conscious, all knowing, all powerful and omnipresent. At the same time, He is ever happy; He is without sorrow; He is pure bliss.
AUM is the name in the Hindu religion that is reserved for God alone.
Mantra of the Month (MoM)
Third mantra of Ishwar Stuti Prarthana Upasana Mantras
Om Ya aat-madaa bala-daa yasya vishwa upaasate prashisham yasya devaah.
Yasya chhaayaa `mritam yasya mrityuh kasmai devaaya havishaa vidhema.
God is the giver of knowledge of self and all kinds of might and capacity. He is worshipped by all. All righteous people adore Him and accept His rule. Obeying Him leads to liberation and disobeying Him causes destruction. Let us offer our worship for that God.
As always, please take time to discuss this topic with kids, and encourage them to memorize the MoM with meanings.