Trilogy of God, Soul, and Matter in the Vedas introduction
According to the Vedas, the three entities, viz. God (Cosmic Spirit), Soul (the individual spirit) and matter are the most basic entities existing by their very nature, that is, they are ever existent, beginning less and causeless. They were never born and will never cease to exist; they were always there and would always remain there. Their attributes, properties and characteristics are eternal, too. These three entities form a co-existing trinity. It should be the Endeavour of every soul to realize the true nature of these entities so as to lead towards absolute pleasure, peace and liberation from the cycle of birth and death, called salvation. Their brief properties now follow.
Matter, called Prakṛti is ever existent. Its characteristic of intrinsic existence is called Sat. That is, it exists by itself. But it is void of consciousness. Nor is it with absolute pleasure. Being void of consciousness and absolute pleasure, it does not deserve to be worshipped.
The individual soul is conscious besides being ever existent, called Sat and Cit. But it too is void of absolute pleasure. Its knowledge is limited. It’s located at a particular location and has limited powers and strength. Within overall limitations, it is free to perform karma with its instruments of body and mind. It reaps the rewards of its own actions as administered by a superior force. It always seeks pleasure, absolute pleasure in particular.
God is ever existent, conscious and in bliss, called Sat, Cit and Ānanda. That is, God always exists and has consciousness, and is always in bliss – the absolute pleasure. God is omniscient and almighty. Individual souls glorify, pray and worship God in order to improve upon their limited knowledge and taste the bliss. Yoga practices lead to realization of God, and thereby, the soul strengthens itself spiritually as well as tastes the nectar of bliss.
The above trinity has been beautifully described in the Vedas and Upanishads, sometimes with the help of some analogies. One example follows from Ṛgveda 1.164.20 – “There are two birds on a tree. Both are friends and live together. One of them tastes the fruits of the tree while the other one merely witnesses the first one without itself eating.” The metaphor represents the tree as the material world made of matter. Two conscious beings’ co-habitat the world. One of them is the individual soul that performs karma and reaps the rewards thereof. The other one is God witnessing the souls and administering the justice by the Law of Karma. Śvetāśvatara Upanișad further elaborates it by stating that the individual soul is the enjoyer; the matter is to be enjoyed and God is the creator of the entire universe. The universe is thus three-fold Brahma – a term meaning great. Elsewhere this Upanishad says, God is one and only one and He is omnipresent and all-pervading, and therefore, He pervades within the individual souls. He is the giver of life to all individual souls and rewards them according to their karma. He is the witness to our every karma, righteous or sinful. He is all-knowing, pure consciousness, unequalled by anyone and superior to all, and void of manifestations.
Similar views are contained in Yajur-Veda (40.1) which is Īśopanișad 1 as – “All that exists in the ever-moving universe is pervaded by God. He exists within every minutest particle. Knowing this truth, one should utilize everything without unduly getting attached to them and with a view to perform one’s duty only. Don’t be greedy about anything.”
God is the superfine stratum in the entire universe, ruler and controller of everything in the universe. Individual souls are to benefit from the creation and the matter manifests in the form of the universe. These are the three primary entities described herein. The entire Vedic literature describes this trinity. Now they would be described separately.
द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते। तयोरन्यः पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्यनश्नन्नन्यो अभिचाकशीति।। (ऋग्वेद 1.164.20, मुण्डकोपनिषद् 3.11)
Dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṁ vṛkṣaṁ pariṣasvajāte. Tayor-anyaḥ pippalaṁ svād-vaty-anaśnann-anyo abhi-cākaśīti. (Ṛgveda1.164.20, Muṇḍakopaniṣad 3.11)
भोक्ता भोग्यं प्रेरितारं च मत्वा सर्वं प्रोक्तं त्रिविधं ब्रह्ममेतत्। (श्वेताश्वतर उपनिषद् 12)
Bhoktā bhogyaṁ preritāraṁ ca matvā sarvaṁ proktaṁ trividhaṁ brahmametat. (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 1.12)
3. एको देवः सर्वभूतेषु गूढः सर्वव्यापी सर्व भूतान्तरात्मा। कर्माध्यक्षः सर्वभूताधिवासः साक्षी चेता केवलो निर्गुणश्च।। (श्वेताश्वतर उपनिषद् 6.11) )
Eko devaḥ sarva-bhūteṣu gūḍhaḥ sarvavyāpī sarva bhūtāntar ātmā. Karmādhyakṣaḥ sarva-bhūtādhi-vāsaḥ sākṣī cetā kevalo nirguṇaśca. (Śvetāśvatara upaniṣad 6.11)
4. ईशा वास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत्। तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम्।।(यजुर्वेद40.1; ईशोपनिषद् 1.1)
Īśā vāsyam-idaṁ sarvaṁ yatkiñca jagatyāṁ jagat. Tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasya-svid-dhanam. (Yajurveda 40.1 & Īśopaniṣad 1.1)