Meditation on the triad, Names, Forms and Actions as the Manifestations of Hiranyagarbha


This vast complex world can be reduced to a triad of name, form and action – nama, rupa and karma. Speech is the cause, the support, the common factor in all names; sight in all forms and body in all actions. The essence of all these three is prana. This immortal principle is veiled by the empirical world.


Everything in this world can be classified into names, forms and actions. Trayam va idam, nama rupam karma:Name, form and action are the three categories into which everything can be brought together. What we call name is one of the characteristics of objects. The appellation or the nomenclature of objects is called name. It is a part of language, and so what we call name is nothing but speech; says the Upanishad.

Speech is language, and the way in which an object is named is the joint activity of various other aspects of the personality, the main function being the mind working in conjunction with the organ of expression, namely, speech. Whatever be the difference among the names given to the various objects, there is a common substratum among all these names, that is, the basic vibration which is the principle of language.

Just as the various colors have a basic substance which, by different permutations and combinations, takes varying shades called colors, likewise the different appellations, the names given to objects, even the different languages of the world, are the various shapes taken by a single vibration called the mode of speech. Speech is therefore not the particularized word that we utter, nor even the particular language that we speak, but that which is prior to the expression of speech itself. And that generalized form of the very intention to express by name any particular object is what we may call the fundamental speech.

The Upanishad says that speech is the common equalizing factor existing and operating behind and prior to all ordinary expressions by way of naming, wording, etc. Etad esam brahma, etadd hi sarvani namani bibharti: Speech is Brahman itself, because it supports in a universal form, as it were, every type of verbal expression or linguistic manifestation.

In the same way as all names or word-formations are basically rooted in a fundamental universalized source, namely, the transcendent speech, all forms that we perceive or visualize have a common background. There is a general form which manifests itself as particular forms. What we call form is nothing but a kind of abstraction which the senses make, a function of isolation performed by the senses from the general reservoir of forms which has many other forms within it, apart from the one that we perceive with our eyes, even as a block of stone may contain many statues inside it. You cannot know how many statues are inside a block of stone.

Whatever form you wish, you can extract from that stone. Likewise, from this general ocean of form, you can extract any particular form. That depends upon the structure of the eyes and the nature of the light rays that fall upon the object, and many other things. It is the manner in which the general universal form is received or reacted upon by the structure of our eyes that is responsible for the type of perception of forms with which we are familiar in this world. Hence, there is the visual isolation of a particular aspect of the universe of forms for the purpose of perception, assisted by every other sense-organ.

Universal sound is there; universal taste is there; universal touch is there. And from this universality of sensation, a particular aspect is segregated, isolated or extracted by a particular given sense of an individual or a species of individuals, and then we have a common world of perception, as we call it.

The common form is the equalizing factor behind particular forms. Sarvaih rupaih samam: Thisis common among all forms. Just as the same wood may be present in various types of furniture The Universal Form is Brahman, as is the Universal Name, which is everywhere.

Likewise, there is a general form of action and a particular type of it.The individuality is the source of action, which is the complex of body, mind, etc., the intellect included. Action proceeds from individuality. The nature of the action that one performs is determined by the nature or the pattern of individuality into whose mould one is cast. Otherwise, there is no such thing as any determined action.

The way in which one conducts oneself in a given atmosphere is what is called action. Now, this manner of conducting oneself depends upon the nature of the individuality itself. The determining force behind the way of conducting oneself in the world is the nature of one's personality which is not merely the body, but everything that is inside it, also, the five vestures, or three layers, as we may call them. So, this is, also a kind of abstraction. There are many ways in which one could conduct oneself. There are many types of action possible, other than the one we are performing, but we do only certain types of action, because they alone are possible under the circumstances of this particular individuality of ours. Thus, there is a general reservoir of possibility out of which particular actions emerge on the basis of different types of individuality.

In this general possibility of action, God's action, which we may call Hiranyagarbha's action, or Virat's action, there is potentiality of every type. From that source, the particular possibility arises. Theuniversal possibility is the equalizing factor behind all particular possibilities of action.The general form of possible action matches at the root every particular manifested action. Etad esam brahma:This universal action is Brahman itself, because it is common to all, and etadd hi sarvani karmani bibharti, because it supports all particular actions.

Tad etad trayam sad ekam ayam atma, atma ekah sann etat trayam. tad etad amrtam satyena channam, prano va amrtam, nama-rupe satyam; tabhyam ayam pranas channah:

The Cosmic Form is called Amrtam. Name and form are called Satyam;the apparent reality is Satyam; the visible world is Satyam. It is real from its point of view and to the extent it is workable, but the immortal is behind it.

The Ultimate Reality is different from the appearance. Cosmic Prana, Hiranyagarbha, Universal Energy, the Supreme Being, is Amrta, or the immortal. From it, everything proceeds. It is all names, all forms, and all actions. There, the senses do not differ from one another. It is not that the eyes can only see and the ears only hear. Anything can be done by any other function or an aspect of Being. That is why, perhaps, the scriptures tell us that everywhere it has feet and everywhere it has eyes and everywhere it has heads, which means to say, any limb of it is equal to any other limb, and everywhere any function can be performed by it, different from the way in which individuals act on account of the limitations of the body-mind complex.

The Cosmic Being who is called Prana here is immortal, and that is the ocean of all possibilities of name, form and action, whereas what we call ordinary name and form from our point of view, the visibilities and the possibilities of formation are only temporarily real. They are Nama-Rupa; they are Satya or true for the time being only, not eternally. The eternal Reality is Amrta-Prana, Immortal Force. This Supreme Being is covered over by Nama-Rupa Prapancha - the name and form world. We are unable to see the ocean because of the waves dashing on the surface. We see only the movement of waves. The basic substratum is not visible on account of the activity on the surface. There is a substratum behind every name, every form, and every action. If that could be discovered and plunged into, one becomes immortal at once, and frees oneself from the clutches of births and deaths, which are the characteristics of all particularized names and forms.

This is the philosophy and the advice given to us in the concluding portion of this chapter of the Upanishad.



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