thathva thrayam - achith - What is matter?

srimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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Understanding the achith (matter) thathvam through the teachings of the wise men

We are continuing our journey in understanding the three entities (chith, achith, ISwara) through the divine grantham "thathva thrayam" (tattva trayam) of piLLai lOkAchAryar with the help of maNavALa mAmunigaL's beautiful commentary.
  • achith (insentient) is devoid of knowledge and is abode for change/transformation.
  • Since, achith is devoid of knowledge, it purely exists for the enjoyment of others.
  • Unlike chith (sentient - soul), which is unchangeable (does not change its nature), achith undergoes changes.
  • There are three types of achith, namely
    • sudhdha sathvam - pure goodness devoid of any rajas (passion) and thamas (ignorance)
    • miSra sathvam - combination of sathvam (goodness), rajas (passion) and thamas (ignorance)
    • sathva sUnyam (kAlam) - The principle of time which is devoid of  any guNam (sathvam, rajas, thamas)
sudhdha sathvam (pure goodness)

paramapadham - spiritual abode of SrIman nArAyaNan which is full of mandapams, gardens, etc., which are made of divine matter

  • This is pure goodness devoid of any rajas and thamas. This is mainly focussed on all achith (insentients) in paramapadham. 
  • By nature, this
    • is eternal 
    • is source of knowledge and joy 
    • manifests as vimAnams/gOpurams (towers), mandapams (halls), etc by the divine desire of bhagavAn instead of being created by the desire of a jIvAthmA induced by his karmA. 
    • is in an unlimited brilliantly shining form 
    • cannot be quantified/fully comprehended  by nithyas (eternally free from samsAram), mukthas (one who became free from samsAram) and bhagavAn himself. mAmunigaL raises a doubt and clarifies it himself - if bhagavAn cannot quantify/fully comprehend this, would it not affect his sarvagyathvam - omniscience (knower of everything)? He beautifully explains that knower of everything means knowing the true nature of everything - so, bhagavAn knows that sudhdha sathvam is unlimited which is its true nature and that is true omniscience. 
    • is exceedingly marvellous 
  • Some say that, this is luminous and others say that is this is non-luminous. There are two opinions about it.   
  • But there is more weightage for the view that it is luminous. In such case, it will reveal itself to nithyas, mukthas and bhagavAn. But samsAris will be unable to perceive it. 
  • It is different from the soul since
    •  it does not realize itself
    •  it transforms into many forms
  • It is different from knowledge since 
    • it manifests into different forms (knowledge does not take any gross form) without the help of others
    • unlike knowledge which grasps thanmAthras (objects of senses - sound, touch, form, taste and smell), this is abode of the subtle elements.
miSra sathvam (impure goodness)
  • By nature, this is 
    • a mixture of sathvam, rajas and thamas
    • a veil which blocks the jIvAthmA from realising full knowledge and bliss
    • the source of perverse knowledge for the jIvAthmAs
    • eternal
    • an instrument for ISwaran in his pastimes
    • at times   similar to each other and at other times different from each other depending on state (avyaktha - unmanifested state vs vyaktha - manifested state) and time (srushti - creation vs samhAram - destruction time)
    • popularly known as
      • prakruthi - since it is the source of all changes
      • avidhya - since it is tangential to true knowledge
      • mAyA - since  its outcome is marvellous and full of different varieties 
  • As identified by nammAzhwAr in thiruvAimozhi 10.7.10, there are 24 elements of matter, namely
    • pancha thanmAthras - 5 objects of senses - Sabdha (sound), sparSa (touch), rUpa (form), rasa (taste), gandha (smell)
    • pancha gyAnEndhriyas - 5 sense organs of knowledge -srOthra (ears), thvak (skin), chakshur (eyes), jihvA (tongue), grAhNa (nose) 
    • pancha karmEndhriyas - 5 sense organs of actions - vAk (mouth), pANi (hands), pAdha (legs), pAyu (excretory organs), upastha (organs for procreation) 
    • pancha bhUthas - 5 great elements - AkASa (ether), vAyu(air), agni (fire), Apa/jala (water), prthvi (earth)
    • manas - mind
    • ahankAram - ego
    • mahAn - manifested state of matter 
    • mUla prakruthi - unmanifested state of matter
  • Of these, mUla prakruthi is the primordial matter which manifests itself into various states due to the mixture of guNams (attributes)
  • guNams are of three categories - sathvam (goodness), rajas (passion) and thamas (ignorance)
  • sathvam is the inducer/source of happiness and pleasure
  • rajas is the inducer/source of attachment and thirst for material aspirations
  • thamas is the inducer/source of perverse knowledge, forgetfulness, lethargy/laziness and sleep
  • When the 3 guNams are equally distributed, that results in unmanifested state of matter.
  • When they are unequally distributed, that results in manifested state of matter. 
  • mahAn is the first state of manifested matter.
  • ahankAram comes into existence from mahAn.
  • Subsequently all the other elements (thanmAthras, gyAna indhriyas, karma indhriyas, etc) manifest from mahAn and ahankAram.
  • pancha thanmAthras (objects of senses) are the subtle state of pancha bhUthas (gross elements) 
  • bhagavAn creates the manifested universes by mixing these different elements.
  • bhagavAn creates the universes (effect) and their cause. i.e.,transforms the unmanifested mUla prakruthi into the manifested state of elements by his sankalpam (effortlessly).
  • All entities which live in the universes are created by bhagavAn through other living entities such as brahmA, prajApathi et al (by guiding them being their antharyAmi - in-dwelling super-soul)
  • Innumerable universes exist.
  • They are created simultaneously and effortlessly by bhagavAn just by his sankalpam.
  • Each universe has 14 layers. mAmunigaL explains in great detail about the structure of the universe based on various pramANams. 

Structure of leela vibhUthi (samsAram - material world)
  • 7 bottom layers
    • From the top, they are named - athalam, vithalam, nithalam, kapasthimath (thalAthalam), mahAthalam, suthalam and pAthAlam  these are occupied by demoniac people, snakes, birds, etc
    • there are many beautiful towers, palaces, etc which are more enjoyable than even svarga lOkam
  • 7 top layers
    • bhU lOkam - where humans, animals, birds, etc live. Split into 7 large dhvIpams (islands). We are living in jambhUdhvIpam.
    • bhuvar lOkam - where gandharvas (celestial singers) live
    • svarga lOkam - where indhran (a post which is to manage the activities of bhUlOkam, bhuvar lOkam and svarga lOkam) and his associates live
    • mahar lOkam - where the retired indhrans and the ones who desire/waiting to be indhran live
    • janar lOkam - where many great sages like brahmA's 4 sons sanaka, sanakAdhika, sanAthana and sanandhana, etc live
    • thapa lOkam - where prajApathis (primordial progenitors) live
  • sathya lOkam - where brahmA, vishNu and Siva and their devotees live Each universe (made of 14 layers) is surrounded by 7 layers of protection - water, fire, air, ether, ahankAram, mahAn and finally by mUla prakruthi.
  • gyAnEndhriyas acquire knowledge about subtle and gross elements. karmEndhriyas
    are used in performing various physical actions. Mind is common to all and helps in
    every aspect. 

  • panchIkaraNam is the process by which bhagavAn mixes the various elements and leads to the manifestation of the universe as we see it now.
sathva sUnyam - kAlam (time)

  • By nature, time
    • acts like a catalyst in the tranformation of matter (from unmanifested state to manifested state and subsequently as well).
    • manifests in different scales of measurement (like day, week, fortnight, etc).
    • is eternal - meaning there is no beginning or end for time
    • helps ISwaran in his pastimes
    • is also a form (body) of emperumAn himself
  • mAmunigaL quotes naduvil thiruvEdhip piLLai bhattar who explained classification of time into many parts.
    • nimEsham (moment, winking of the eye - equal to a second) is the lowest unit of time
    • 15 nimEshams = 1 kAshta
    • 30 kAshta = 1 kalai
    • 30 kalais = 1 muhurtham
    • 30 muhurthams = 1 dhivasam (1 day)
    • 30 dhivasams = 2 pakshams (fortnights) = 1 mAsam (month)
    • 2 mAsams = 1 ruthu (season)
    • 3 ruthus = 1 ayanam (6 months - uttarAyanam and dhakshiNAyanam)
    • 2 ayanams = 1 samvathsaram (year)
    • 360 human samvathsaram = 1 dhEva samvathsaram
  • Other two achith thathvams (sudhdha sathvam and miSra sathvam) are the enjoyable items, abode of enjoyment and instrument of enjoyment.
  • sudhdha sathvam (divine matter) is boundless at the top/sides and bounded at the bottom (it is fully present in paramapadham - the higher/spiritual universes)
  • misra sathvam (matter) is boundless at the bottom/sides and bounded at the top (it is fully present in samsAram - the lower/material universes)
  • kAla thathvam is present everywhere (both in paramapadham and samsAram).
  • It is said that time is permanent/eternal in paramapadham and temporary/transient in samsAram. mAmunigaL quotes periyavAchAn piLLai's explaination - "time is of uniform (eternal) nature in both paramapadham and samsAram" in his thathva thraya vivaraNam (a grantham which is not to be found these days). So, that is considered as the ultimate authority. But since some AchAryas have explained the difference in nature of time between paramapadham and samsAram - it has to be understood that because of its ever changing nature in samsAram, it is considered as temporary here.
  • Some say time does not exist. But since it defies logic and SAsthramm that cannot be accepted.
Thus we have seen a bit about the achith (matter) thathvam which falls under 3 categories (sudhdha sathvam - divine matter in paramapadham, misra sathvam - matter in this samsAram and sathva sUnyam – time, common to both places). As said before, this subject matter is very complex and this article is aimed at creating interest to hear this subject matter under an AchAryan in the form of kAlakshEpam for true enlightenment.

srImathE ramyajAmAthru munIndhrAya mahAthmanE
srIrangavAsinE bhUyAth nithyasrI nithya mangaLAm

mangaLAsAsana parai: madhAchArya purOgamai:
sarvaischa pUrvai: AchAryai satkruthAyAsthu mangaLam

Up next,  We will see in detail about Iswara thathvam (God).

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

Sources: thathva thrayam

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