GRAND DESIGN OF THREE PURUSHAS
We said of the purushha that when he identifies himself with the body and the senses he is the experiencer. He it is that enjoys and suffers, he it is that is subject to pleasure and pain and he it is that thinks he is the doer and the experiencer. But deep within him, within this purushha, there is another purushha, the changeless, non-participating witness, the Sakshi. (XV - 16) Beyond the kshhara there is the silent, immutable, all-pervading motionless self-existent Self -- <sarvagatam achalam (II-24). He is the akshharapurushha -- <purushha, the Imperishable. He is nirguNa, impersonal. The guNas have fallen now into a state of equilibrium. He is therefore dissociated from the doings of the guNas. He is the inactive non-doer and witness. He is aware that prakRti is the doer and himself only the witnessing self (XIII - 29).
The concept of the two purushhas -- or two poises or roles of the one purushha -- and a consequent grand design of a triple purushha, is an essential contribution of the gItA to the understanding of the eternal Upanishads. In order to explain this grand design to ordinary people different masters give different illustrations. Vidyaranya's Panchadasi gives a beautiful analogy in its 4th chapter. The analogy that Vidyaranya gives and sustains throughout his work is so graphic that no presentation of prakRti and purushha as adumbrated in Advaita Vedanta can be complete without mentioning Vidyaranya's analogy.
Imagine an empty pot. Even though empty, it encloses space (= AkASha). We may call this enclosed space, the pot-space (= GhaTAkAsha). This is not different from the universal space (= mahAkAsha) which is outside the pot -- except that the pot-space is space enclosed, conditioned by the material of the pot, whereas the universal space is unconditioned (= nirupAdhita). Now fill up the pot to the brim with water. The pot-space has vanished. We only see water now but in the water we see the universal space reflected. This reflection shows the sky, the stars or whatever there is in the sky or the space, like buildings, trees, clouds, etc. with all their different shades of colour. This reflected presentation of the outside space may be called water-space ( = jalAkAsha).
Important remark: Water-space shall not mean 'the space occupied by water' but shall mean the reflection, in the water, of the mahAkAsha, which is everywhere.
Now the water-space hides the real space, namely the pot-space within and projects a falsity of an outer space, inside. This is the grand delusion in which we are all in.
The water-space corresponds to the jIva (the individual soul) or the kshhara-purushha. It hides the presence of the pot-space within. The pot-space is the akshhara purushha. Without the substratum of the pot-space there cannot be any water-space. We in our delusion think that the water-space is all there is. We forget that there is a pot-space within and it is the real space and that the water-space is only a false projection of the reality. Without the substratum of the imperishable purushha within, the jIva or the kshara purushha or what we think as our personality has no existence. The imperishable purushha is also called (XV-16) kUTastha, the immovable, or the immutable, that which remains like the unchanging iron-piece (anvil) on which the blacksmith does all his hammering.
[kUTastha also means the top of a mountain which remains unchanged and undisturbed.
kUTa also means the changeable universe amidst which the unchangeable remains fixed.]
The water in the pot is the mind or intellect. It is the reflection in our intellect of the universal consciousness that generates the feeling, an individualised feeling, in us, of 'I' and 'mine'.
The mind of Man has two alternatives -- either to be bound by prakRti in the mutations of quality and personality or to be free from Her workings in immutable impersonality. On one side there is the status of the akshhara purushha or kUTastha and his immutability. On the other there is the action of the kshhara purushha or JIva and its mutability in prakRti. Both these coexist. They coexist as two contrary sides, aspects or facets of a supreme reality (mahAkAsha) which is limited by neither of them. This reality which is the Ultimate, is the uttama purushha, different from the other two. (XV - 17 ). He is the purushottama. That is His param bhAvam. (supreme nature of existence). He is the sarva-bhUta-maheSvara, the great Lord of all beings. People foolishly think that the visual manifestation is all there is (IX - 11 ). They allow the water-space to hide the real pot-space within and revel in the virtual glory of the water-space. But deep within us, by clearing our minds of all its 'contents', -- by clearing the pot of all its water -- we must get to the pot-space, that is the akshhara purushha. It is the substratum which makes way for all the actions of the individual purushha. The actions themselves are because of the prakRti -- its three strands -- which in the analoogy is the reflecting capability of the water-mind. We should be able to transcend the mind and the reflections that it carries with it and delve deep into our real Self, the silent watching Self. This latter is nothing but the all-pervading Space (brahman) except for the limitation by the material of the pot. Thou art That!
In summary therefore, to answer our question as to who the doer is: It is one's self which has identified with oneself. This identification itself is due to the fact that the intellect has allowed the JIva to hold the fort rather than overcome them and turn the identification towards one's Self. PrakRti comes in the picture because the VasanAs are one's prakRti. ).
But both the purushhas are only the fragment of the Ultimate, which is the 'third purushha'. XV – 17 says:
uttamaH purushhas-tvanyaH paramAtmety-udAhRtaH /
yo loka-trayam-AviSya bibharty-avyaya IsvaraH //
Other than these two is that highest spirit called the Supreme Self, who enters the three worlds and upbears them, the imperishable Lord.
He transcends the perishabliliy as well as the immutability. Therefore He is called the Ultimate, Supreme, Transcendental, purushha. The One word for this is purushottama. When we go to the analogy of VidyaraNya this becomes clear: The water-space is the perishable purushha; the pot-space is the immutable purusha; and the universal space is the purushhottama. And all of them are ultimately One.
The Purushhottama of the gItA is the controller of the other two purushhas as well as the prakRti. (He is just the all-pervading space of Vidyaranya's analogy). It is He that appears as the other two purushhas and it is He that creates, sustains and dissolves, through His prakRti. In the kshara, He puts forth his own prakRti and manifests himself in the soul. And each soul works out its own nature (= svabhAva ) according to the law of the divine being in it. But it is worked out in the egoistic nature by the bewildering play of the three guNas upon each other. One can get beyond this play of the guNas only by transcending the guNas.
As Purushhottama however, He is neither merely impersonal nor merely personal. He is one and the same being in both aspects. Infinity of the Spirit does not just mean infinite immensity; it also implies infinitesimal littleness. Though impersonal in its vastness, it has become personal also in creating individual beings. He is the impersonal-personal, nirguNo-guNI. guNabRn-nirguNo mahAn, says the VishNu-sahasra-nAma.
Man as the individual self owing to his ignorant self-identification with the work and the becoming is bewildered by his ahamkAra or egoism. (cf. ahamkAra-vimUDhAtmA --III-27). ahamkAra is nothing but the notion that this conglomeration of the senses and the mind which are the cause for all the actions, is the Self ( Atman). This egoism, or ahamkAra, is not just the feeling 'I am'. The feeling 'I am' is not wrong. But the feeling 'I am the body, I am the mind, I am the intellect' or the feeling 'I am a combination of these' is wrong. It is this attitude, this supposition, this feeling, this impression, that is wrong. This ahamkAra is not just arrogance; it is far higher in the hierarchy of undesirable qualities - it is in fact at the top. For, the very nature of ahamkAra is that one does not know that one has ahamkAra. It is this false identification of the Self with the actions and the instruments of thought and action that constitutes the root cause of all the trouble, called samsAra.
Consequently one is enslaved by the guNas, now hampered in the dull ease of tamas, now blown away by the strong winds and currents of rajas, and now limited by the partial lights of satva. Man has to distinguish and isolate himself from the prakRtic mind, by his discretionary intelligence. If he allows himself to be mastered by the guNas, then he will have to suffer pain and pleasure, grief and happiness, desire and passion, attachment and disgust. Thus he has no freedom. If he wants freedom – and happiness --, he must exist in oneness with the akshhara Purusha, the immutable and impersonal Self, tranquilly observing and impartially supporting the action, himself calm, indifferent, untouched, motionless, pure, one with all beings in their self, not one with prakRti and Her works. This Self, though by its presence authorises (cf. IX–10 : mayAdhyakshheNa prakRtiH sUyate sacarAcaraM ) the works of prakRti and supports them by its all-pervading existence, does not itself create works or the state of the doer or the linking of the works to their fruit. (V - 14):
na kartRtvaM na karmANi lokasya sRjati prabhuH /
na karma-phala-samyogaM svabhAvastu pravartate //
It only watches prakRti in the kshhara. It accepts neither the sin nor the virtue of the living creatures born into this birth. (V – 15: nAdatte kasyacit pApaM na caiva sukRtaM vibhuH ). It always preserves its own spiritual purity. He who thus understands the purushottama is no longer bewildered either by the appearances of the world or by the apparently contradictory purushhas; He is the whole-knower; He loves and worships in all the perfectly illumined ways - says the Lord in XV - 19:
yo mAmevam-asammUDho jAnAti purushhottamaM /
sa sarvid-bhajati mAM sarva-bhAvena bhArata //
It is only at this point the Lord says that He has now given the greatest secret, the Secret of Secrets. This is the second time, of the three times He uses the same expression. This is the second Secret of Secrets.