WHAT IS MAHAT- TATWA ?
Material CreationThe material creation in its very first stage is called pradhana – the eternal, subtle, undifferentiated sum total of all material elements, the unmanifested eternal combination of the three modes of material nature.
Pradhana is sometimes also related to as saguna-Brahman, since it is basically Brahman but with the presence of the three modes of material nature. Nevertheless, these modes do not yet clearly manifest causes and effects (SB 3.26.10).
The pradhana contains the following 24 elements in a dormant state:
- 5 subtle elements (sound, touch, form-color, taste) – 5 gross elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth) – 5 knowledge aquiring senses (ears, skin, eyes, tongue, nose) – 5 working senses (tongue-mouth, hands, legs, genital, anus) – 4 internal, subtle senses (mind, intelligence, ego, contaminated consciousness)
Time is considered to be the 25th element; it is the mixing and agitating element. The Supreme Personality of Godhead can be perceived as time (SB 3.26.11-18).
The pradhana or saguna-Brahman becomes then agitated by the time factor which represents the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus and by the influence of the three modes of material nature the creation comes to the level of mahat-tattva, or prakrti, where the elements actually can manifest themselves. The mahat-tattva is the breeding source of all varieties and brings forth all the different material bodies and material objects; it contains all the universes and is the root of all cosmic manifestations. The mahat-tattva is annihilated at the time of the annihilation, the end of Brahma’s life.
Next the Supreme Personality of Godhead impregnates the mahat-tattva with His internal potency which are the living entities. Agitated by the destinations of the contitioned souls the material nature, or mahat-tattva, delivers the cosmic intelligence (Hiranyamaya). The mahat-tattva is thus “lit up” by the sum total of the consciousness of all the conditioned souls (SB 3.26.19-20).
The Caturvyuha expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, namely Sri Vasudeva, Sri Aniruddha, Sri Pradyumna and Sri Sankarshana occur and take charge of various aspects of the material creation.
In the beginning pure goodness, the vasudeva stage of consciousness, prevails within the mahat-tattva. This point of creation is controlled by Sri Vasudeva, the Superknower. Due to the pure goodness the consciousness has the qualities of complete serenity, clarity and freedom from any distraction; one is free from the infringement by material desires. Therefore one can see a reflection of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and if one worships Sri Vasudeva one can come to the platform of pure goodness (suddha-sattva), thus understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead (SB 3.26.21).
Through the desire to enjoy and control seperately from Krishna, the misuse of independence by the living entities which are impregnated into the material nature, material ego or false ego is caused to spring up from the mahat-tattva in pure goodness. This false ego is endowed with active power of three kind – good (serene), passionate (active), ignorant (dull). From the false ego in different modes of material nature mind, senses, elements as well as all the other ingredients and objects of the material nature are produced. Therefore every object within the material creation is seen as identical with false ego since it has the false ego as its source. Sri Sankarshana controls that false ego and in order to become free from it one is adviced to worship Sri Sankarsana. He is worshipped through Lord Siva; the snakes which cover the body of Lord Shiva are representations of Sri Sankarsna, and Lord Shiva is always absorbed in meditation upon Sri Sankarshana (SB 3.26.23-24).The mahat-tattva is directly connected with the supreme consciousness of the Supreme Being, but still it appears as matter. The mahat-tattva, or shadow of pure consciousness, is the germinating place of all creation. It is pure goodness with the slight addition of the material mode of passion, and therefore activity is generated from this point. SB 3.5.27, Translation and Purport: Thereafter, influenced by the interactions of eternal time, the supreme sum total of matter called the mahat-tattva became manifested, and in this mahat-tattva the unalloyed goodness, the Supreme Lord, sowed the seeds of universal manifestation out of His own body. In due course of time, the impregnated material energy was manifested first as the total material ingredients. Everything takes its own time to fructify, and therefore the word kāla-coditāt, "influenced by time," is used herein. The mahat-tattva is the total consciousness because a portion of it is represented in everyone as the intellect. The mahat-tattva is directly connected with the supreme consciousness of the Supreme Being, but still it appears as matter. The mahat-tattva, or shadow of pure consciousness, is the germinating place of all creation. It is pure goodness with the slight addition of the material mode of passion, and therefore activity is generated from this point. Mahat Tattva is the subtle matter created outside the Brahmanda from the Satva, Rajas and Tamo gunas. Lord Brahma is the Abhimani (Controller) of this Mahat Tattva. His body is said to be created from this very Mahat Tattva. Mahat Tattva is formed by the conglameration of 3 Parts of Rajo Guna and 1 part of Tamo Guna. By this, one should not mistake that there is no Sattva guna in Mahattatva. As Rajo guna and Tamo gunas themselves are mixtures of the three gunas, Rajo Guna and Tamo Guna contain portions of Sattva Guna also. In fact Satva portion is present in more quantity in Rajo Guna than Rajo portion itself. Similarly, in Tamo Guna, Sattva portion is more than the Tamo portion.
So, why call a guna as Rajas or Tamas if Sattva portion is considerably present in both of them?
The answer to this question is. Taking away the common factor which Sattva portion, a Guna which has great portions of Rajas than Tamas is called Rajo Guna. An a Guna which has greater portions of Tamas than Rajas is called Tamo Guna.
Taking into account even the Sattva portions present in the Mahattatva, the overall composition of Mahat Tattva is 10 S: 1 R:1/10 T (S = Satva Guna R = Rajo Guna T = Tamo Guna)
That is if there are 10 parts of Satva Guna in Mahat Tattva, one part will be Rajo Guna and 1/10 part will be Tamo guna. This is the reason why it is also called as Shuddha Sattva. Sri Brahma is the controller of this Tattva. This consciousness manifested itself in the form of Universe ruled by the three gunas and their sway. The original soul, the Universal Spirit altered its appearance, meaning, it became the cause as well as the effect, the Seer as well as the seen, the Doer as well as the Deed. The disturbance in the equilibrium of the Gunas was the cause of the manifestation of Prakriti. Out of Prakriti was evolved the Mahat-tattva (=buddhi,’intellect”). Mahat is all light. It swallowed the darkness which had enveloped everything during the great annihilation, the great Deluge during the previous Kalpa. The Mahat tattva became transformed into the Aham-tattva (sense of individuality, ego). Aham-tattva is Kriya Shakti, the power of action. Aham-tattva is seen to have three aspects: Sattvic Aham-tattva which is also called Vaikārika (subject to change), Rajas Aham-tattva which is also called Taijasa (brilliant), Tamas Aham-tattva which is also called Tamasa (darkness). Out of the Sattvic Aham-tattva is born the mind, Manas. Out of the RājasicAham-tattva are born the Indriyas, the sense organs. Out of the Tamasic Aham-tattva are born the five Maha-bhutas (material elements). The essential features of the Aham-tattva are again three: Karya- action itself because of the Tamasic aspect. Kartutva- the power of becoming a performer of action, as a result of the Sattvic aspect. Karanatva- causing the performance of the action which is the result of the Rājasic aspect. Peace, which is Shānti, anger which goes by the name Raudra, ignorance which is named Avidya, are again three more characteristics of Sattvic, Rājasic and Tamasic Aham-tattvas. Because of the Sattvic Aham-tattva the mind begins to function. The power to think is there and out of it are born perception and desire. The Karmendriyas, the organs of action, and the Gñyanendriyas, the organs of perception are born of the Rājasic Aham-tattva. Out of the Tamasic Aham-tattva are born the Maha-bhutas, the elements, and the Tan-matras (objects of the senses). The first is the Shabda matra, sound, the subtlest of the five: in association with it is born Ākāsha, the sky, ether. Ether conducts sound and it is, like sound, all-pervading. Sparsha Tan-matra occurs next: the sense of touch, and in association with it, Vāyu, the air which, again, permeates everything. Sparsha has in it the quality of Shabda also. Vāyu conveys sound as well as touch, both these sensations. Incidentally, the air is slightly more tangible than the ether, and to that extent, it is grosser than ether. Then is formed Rūpa Tan-matra: what can be perceived since it will have a form. With this Tan-matra, in association with it was born Fire or Light. Rūpa Tan-matra now has three qualities, Shabda, Sparsha and Rūpa. It is evidently more gross than air as it is more tangible. The next Tan-matra is to be formed is Rasa Tan-matra and complimentary to it, water. Water has four qualities: Shabda, Sparsha, Rūpa and Rasa. The last and the grossest of them all is formed last. Gandha Tan-matrā, the sense of smell, and with it is born the Earth. The Earth has all the five qualities in it, Shabda, Sparsha, Rūpa, Rasa and Gandha. Prakriti is also known as Saguna Brahman (having attributes) as against the Nirguna Brahman (attribute-less) which is the Brahman in the absolute form. The power underlying the five Mahābhūtas is collectively known as Dravya Shakti; the power lying in the Indriyas is known collectively as Kriya Shakti, the power of Prakriti and the Ishwara presiding over this is known as the Gñyāna Shakti. Prakriti is made up of: Priťhvi Earth } Āp Water } Tejas Fire or light } The five Mahā-bhūtas (gross elements) Vāyu Air } Ākāśh Ether or sky } Gandha Smell } Rasa Taste } Rūpa Sight } The five Tan-matras (subtle elements) Sparśha Touch } Śhabda Sound } Śhrotra Ears } Tvach Skin } Chakshus Eyes } The corresponding Indriyas (senses) Rasana Tongue } Ghrana Nose } Vāk Speech } Pani Hands } Padam Foot } The Karmendriyas (5 organs of action) Upastham Generative organ} Payu Excretory organ } The Antah-karana (internal organs) is of four kinds: Manas, Buddhi, Ahamkāra and Chitta. These twenty-four features namely the five Mahabhutas, the five Tan-matras, the five Indriyas, the five Karmendriyas along with the four Antah-karanas comprise the Saguna Brahman. Kāla, time, is also considered as the twenty-fifth feature. Some thinkers deem Kāla to be that ultimate end of which men are frightened, men who are ignorant of the glory of Ĩshwara and who are caught up in the web spun by Prakriti, men who are deluded by the ego which manifests itself and becomes all-powerful. Ĩshwara who is without the Gunas who is the cause of the manifestation of Prakriti is the twenty-fifth feature. With His Māyā and with the help of Kāla, Ĩshwara inhabits every living and every created being: the living beings as Purusha and the outside as Kāla which is the end of everything and the beginning too. The supreme aspect of the Antah-karana is reflected in the Mahat-tattva which is all light. Purursha is ever found in the Mahat. This is to be worshipped as Vāsudeva (Shri Krishna), the highest Purusha. Ananta, the thousand headed, who pervades the Bhūtas, the Manas and the Indriyas has to be worshipped Sankarshana (Shri Balarāma) in the Aham-tattva Sankarshana has to be worshipped since he is the Ahamkāra in its absolute form: the Ego before any transformation takes place. Manas Tattva is the power of thinking, particularly in the field of feelings, Kāma or desire, likes and dislikes, mental bondage and similar feelings. This aspect of the Aham-tattva is worshipped as Aniruddha (Krishna’s grandson), dark and charming like a blue lotus, flowering during the season, autumn when the skies are blue and not marred by the rain-bearing clouds. Chitta is the Buddhi which functions through the brain of created beings. This is more intellectual than emotional and Pradyumna is the form in which the Chitta is worshipped. The Adhishtata, the controlling power, for the Mahat-tattva which is worshipped as Vāsudeva is Kshetra-gñya. For Ahamkāra worshipped as Sankarshana, the Adhishtata is Rudra. Chandra (moon) is the Adhishtata for Manas which is worshipped as Aniruddha while Brahmā is the Adhishtata for the Chitta or Buddhi which is worshipped as Pradyumna (God of Love, Krishna’s son). Vāsudeva is also said to represent the Vishva (intellectual faculty), Sankarshan, the Taijasa (life energy, spirit, power), Pradyumna, the Prāgñya (intelligence), and Aniruddha, the Turiya (the fourth state of pure spirit).”
If we are looking at mahat from a tattva perspective , we can be directed to the sāṃkhya view of reality and the 24 principles ( some say 25); yet if we looked to a śaivism ( trika system ) point of view we will find 36 tattva's called out.
So lets consider just a few ideas... these may seem esoteric, yet after further review I am in hopes you see the practicality of the knowledge.
mahát + tattva - lets look at both. Many see mahát as the intellect/buddhi. Tattva is often viewed as 'element'. Now we have the 'element of intellect' as part of the sāṃkhya view of reality , yet there is more to the story.
mahát is rooted in mah meaning great, large. tattva is ~ thatness~ . It is also tata-tva which means : tata = extended , stretched , spread , diffused , expanded tva = one Hence tata-tva is the one that is expanded; Who is that ? It is brahman. By the defintion of His own name brahman means 'growth , expansion'.
Hence in this instance we have 'thatness' that is great, large, expansive, and can be considered the ~ultimate thatness~ which is brahman.
So, now the question... can one meditate on this vastness, this greatness of Being. Yes, say the wise, by pursuing one's own SELF.