Devas, Asuras and Naras

Part 1


The word tittiri is mentioned along with a legend in Taithiriya Samhitha (will be referred to as TS hereafter). The word also occurs in Rg Veda (RV). A paraphrase of the legend in TS is as follows:

Tvashtr is the divine architect who creates a variety of forms both according to RV and TS. His son or creation, viz. Vishwarupa, the all-form had three heads; with one head he imbibed Soma, the delight of existence; with the second he drank sura, the liquor; and with the third head he ate food (anna). Indra realising the dangers of Vishwarupa becoming all-powerful separated the three heads. The head, which imbibed Soma, became kapinjala; that which drank sura became kalavingka(கள்ளுகுடிக்கிரவன்!); and that which ate food became tittiri (அன்னவிசாரி – தித்திரி, தித்திரி என்று திரிபவன்!).

The text mentions only these names and does not specify that they are birds. Kapinjala means rays of spiritual Sun, (ka:who, pin:drinks, jala:waters); it is synonym of the chataka bird which drinks the waters coming directly from the sky before it touches the earth. Kalavingka means one who destroys (la) the knowings (vingka). To understand tittiri, note that it occurs in RV (1.36.7) as titir- vamsa. Sri Kapali Sastry in his Rig Veda Bhashya translates it as “that which overcomes the foes (such as ignorance).”

The symbolism behind the legend is easy to understand. The three heads correspond to the three types of beings namely gods or devah, demons like Vrtra and finally naras. (Both asura and nara have a human body.) The Gods made of Light enjoy the Delight or Soma; the demons like liquor; naras depend on food. Indra the lord of Divine Mind foresees that if this All-form (vishwarupa) should become all-powerful, the demonic head would become all powerful. Hence he separates the three heads even in their formative stages. The form which came from the gods merged or became the rays of spiritual Sun (kapinjala); the demonic form rejoined the forces of ignorance which hide the knowledge and energies from the humans.

Recall that tittiri is said to come from the head which eats anna, i.e., it represents the naras. Thus tittiri symbolises the forces or beings which help human beings in getting the knowledge which overcomes the psychological foes such as ignorance and falsehood. This title gives an excellent clue to the contents of TS.

Part 2

In part 1 we saw the origin of Deva, asura and nara from the hatham or killing of Trisiras or Viswarupa as he was called as was narrated in the Rg Veda. Now we are going to see a variation to their origin in the following story from Shukla Yajur veda, more specifically in its Satapatha Brahmana and Brihadhaaranyaka Upanishad.

Viraat Purusha

“Naiveha kinchanaagra aaseeth. Mrthyur naivedhamaavrudhamaaseeth, asanayayaa. Asanaayaa hi mrthyuhu.” (Brihadhaaranyaka Upanishad)

In the beginning there was nothing whatsoever. This universe was enveloped by death called Hiranyagarbha because of hunger. And hunger is death.

Why so?

The beginning we are talking about is the beginning of time called ‘Kalpa’. This beginning also happens to be the end of the previous kalpa. Time indeed is a phenomenon that has a beginning, life and end. Like all phenomenon, it is cyclical. Well then, What is a kalpa? A kalpa consists of 4 yugas called Sathya yuga, Thretha yuga, Dwapara yuga and Kali yuga and like the day succeeds another day, a kalpa succeeds another kalpa. The principle of entropy works through the four successive yugas during which Dharma loses its glory steadily and at the end of Kali yuga complete adharma prevails.

Why and how did the previous kalpa end?

In all periods of time, what sustains the creation is the Dharma. Prakrthi is made up of opposites and so there is also adharma that opposes Dharma. Whenever adharma takes an upper hand, Vishnu as the preserver incarnates to restore Dharma to its glory. (परित्राणाय साधुनाम विनाषाय च दुष्कृताम धर्म संस्थापनार्थाय स.म्भवामि युगे युगे) As it happened at the end of last Kali yuga all orders broke and complete anarchy prevailed. Vishnu the preserver felt that the restoration ofDharma is impossible in such condition and so he decided to end the adharma by totally destroying the creation!

He knew that food sustains the creation and so he decided to sap the food by means of Vedic Karma. He sapped the food of all living organisms and they died and merged into Prithvi (earth) from where they had arisen. He then sapped the food ofPrithvi and Prithvi died and merged into water from where it arose. He then sapped the food of water and so it merged into fire from which it had arisen. He sapped the food of fire and it merged into air from which it came. He sapped the food of air and so it merged into space which was its source. He finally sapped the primordial sound that is the food of the space and the space collapsed and merged into him. What remained then was this great destroyer, this Mrithyu, this death completely devoid of food and in great hunger. (म्रुत्युवेस्वाहा म्रुत्युवेस्वाहा )

So we say hunger is death.

We do not know how long this death remained as death because there was no time to measure. As we said before there was nothing at all except death.

“Sa vai naiva reme, thasmaadhekaakee na ramathe; sa dwitheeyamechathu.”

In fact He did not at all feel happy. Therefore one (still) does not feel happy being alone. He desired a mate.

Do you not say “I have every mind to do this” or “I have no mind to do this”? Thus we know that without mind nothing can be done. “May I be possessed of a mind” desired He, this Mrithyu, whom we now can call as Hiranyagarbha (literally a golden potent of all creations) and he produced the mind. This mind became his consort that is why at the time of marriage the bridegroom takes an auspicious thread and says, “Maangalyam thanthunanena mama jeevana hethuna.”, “by this you become the cause and reason of my life”, and ties it round the neck of the bride as the neck is the residence of the mind. From then on the void is filled by the wife even to this day.

With a wife with him, Hiranyagarbha is now qualified to perform a yagna (sacrifice), because only a Grihastha – a man with a wife – is qualified to perform Vedic Karma. For, again, without a yagna nothing could come about. The yagna he performed is called Brahmahooth. Since there was nothing besides him, he himself became the pasu or sacrifice. From this yagna came Virat or Brahma the creator. Brahma then embarks on the creation called Pravrthi.

He churned his mouth and rubbed his hands and produced fire. Whatever is liquid in the world He created from his seed. Soma the Moon (who has a liquid body) is indeed the food. And fire is the eater. This universe is this much only. The food and the eater. This mortal created Agni and Soma the Gods who are immortal! Therefore this is a surpassing creation!

He created from his mind seven Prajapathis called Saptha Rishis known as Marichi etc. and asked them to create. They first created women whom they gave away in marriage to each other. Then they produced two sets of beings called Devas and asuras. Devas were few in number and were good guys and the asuras were many but were bad guys. They fought each other bitterly for world domination. Not satisfied with this state of affairs, Brahma called the Prajapathis and told them, “Look, if your creation is so self destructive, then there is no hope for creation. So I want you to go back and do it again.”

So the Prajapathis went back and this time produced Yakshas and Rakshasas. The Yakshas are merry go lucky guys like the hippies who sang and danced and roamed the universe. Brahma looked at them and shook his head. He was unimpressed of their creative abilities in furthering the creation. Then he turned his attention to the Rakshasas who were cruel to others and were even cannibals. Brahma‘s hair shot up in shock and in utter disgust. When the hair curled Snakes and vermins were produced. He was not at all satisfied with the creative process that had taken place so far. So he said to himself, “These Prajapathis are useless, let me create more Prajapathis out of my mind” and he created 4 charming young men known as Sanath Kumaras. Brahma asked these new Prajapathis to create. Being smart as they are, these young boys asked Brahma, “Father, what are you going to do?” Brahma replied, “I am going to reflect on the Self.” The curiosity of the boys increased and they asked of their father if reflecting on the Self is superior to creation. Brahma replied that it is the parama purushartha or the ultimate objective of any being. That answer proved disastrous for Brahma for the children told the father they would rather know about the self which is superior rather than embark on creation. That is why the maxim in all times is that a Brahmana who sets out to know his real Self cannot be faulted for not performing karma.

The Sanath Kumaras then went to Dhakshinamoorthi and surrendered to him and Dhakshinamoorthi taught them the knowledge of the Self in silence (mouna vyaakyaana prakatitham) by means of Chin Mudra indicating that the jeevathma (individual self) and paramaathma (universal Self) are one and the same. Thus Dhakshinamoorthi became the first Guru. “Dhakshinamoorthy samaarambam, Sankaracharya madyamaam, asmat acharya paryantham, vande guru paramparaam.”

Now back to Brahma, who found himself at square one, sighed to himself: “There is no point in delegating any work to any Prajapati. They are all useless, I will take over the job of creation myself”, he declared. He instantly split himself like a pea into two, as male and female. The female was shy and wanted to hide herself from the male and she became a cow. The male became a bull and united with her and from them the cows were born. Then she turned into a she-goat and he changed to a he-goat and propagated. Then they took the forms of mare and stallion and propagated. In this manner they continued to reproduce. She became a Naari and he became a Nara and propagated the men and women. This way he set out the great pravaham of pravrthi.

(This whole creation is nothing but the mind! He creates the mind, enters it and roams in it! As He expands the universe, He finds ‘ruchi‘ or taste in it and gets attached to it! – Maanasa sancharare! Abhimaanasa sancharare!)

From the unmanifest world He manifested the world of names and forms. So even now this manifest world is of names and forms only. This Supreme Self penetrated into all these bodies just as a razor lies in its sheath. People do not realize it when they view it from its particular function such as when it is breathing, it is called Prana. Because such a view is incomplete. He is the eye of the eye, ear of the ear, and mind of the thoughts. Eye, ear and so on are only names due to functions. If we know each aspect then our knowledge is incomplete. So the totality called the Self alone should be meditated upon for knowing of which everything else is known.

“Thadhethathpreyaha puthraathu, preyo vitthaathu preyonasmaathsarvasmaath antharatharam”

This Self is dearer than a son, dearer than wealth, dearer than all other objects because it is the dearest than all.

Why dearer?

Because all others will perish but not the Self.

Part – 3

In this meditation we will be dealing with body, which we saw earlier as Tvashtar’s fashioning. So let’s begin.


Actually there are three bodies called sthula sareeram, sukshma sareeram and kaaraNa sareeram. Sthula sareeram is the gross body with which we naras walk around and work during waking time. Pain and suffering are manifest to this body.

Sukshma sareeram is the one that moves around in our dream time. It is thejasvi the lustrous one throwing its own light on things that are seen in dream while the gross body is flat on the bed and kept alive by praaNa.

The body that is called a KaaraNa sareeram is the ego called Ahamkara (one who calls himself the “I”). This “I” alone exists in manifestly form (while the other two bodies remain unmanifest to him). He is in total ignorance of who he is and the world at large during deep sleep. The reason we say this body remains manifest in ignorance is because he enjoys the bliss of himself devoid of any pain or suffering during deep sleep and only because he is manifest during deep sleep he could recall later that he slept happily. He is ignorant in deep sleep because his two other bodies of sthula sareeram and sukshma sareeram as well as the world at large are folded into unmanifest form into this Ahamkaari in deep sleep. Thirdly he is called KaaraNa sareeram (causal body) because he folds the world into unmanifest form when in deep sleep and project them back when he wakes up.

In waking time we have all three bodies remaining manifest. In dream-time the sthula sareeram or gross body is unmanifest but the other two bodies are manifest. In deep sleep only the kaaraNa sareeram is manifest.

A body is assumed (born into) and discarded (or dead from) by every jeeva as a consequence of his deeds in previous janma/s and this is the body through which he enjoys and suffers those fruits of karma. So all bodies are kaarmic in essence. Also thru his sthula sareeram he performs new karmas that are then carried by his sukshma sareeram into future lives. It is the Ahamkara that really enjoys and suffers and he does so because he is ignorant that of his own real swaroopam is Aananda or bliss.

We talked of the three beings called Deva, asura and Nara but there is yet another called pithr, the dead one, who is really the transit person between these three.

One thing you have to clearly understand is that you as a jeeva is eternal i.e. beginningless and endless. It is by your karma you keep being born again and again to not only enjoy the fruits of your past karma but also to perform new karmas. The fruits of karma is the very reason that you alternate between being Deva, asura and Nara! Pithr is the dead person who is on his sojourn to Devaloka to be a deva there or remain suspended in the middle waiting to come back as a nara or asura or even as plant, animal etc.

Deva is an enjoyer and not a sufferer. As I said before, that suffering is manifest only in the gross body, therefore the deva does not have a gross body. He has only sukshma sareeram and kaaraNa sareeram. Pithr also has only two bodies because he had just lost his gross body! He may not suffer pain anymore but he is eager to come back into the world that he was unwilling to leave and so he suffers the restlessness in his sukshma sareera. We see similar sufferings in our dream time.

It is the nara and asura who have gross bodies with which good and bad karmas are done. Naras are those who do the good karma such as raising food and sharing the food. This is the most important function for all bodies will die without food. Asuras steal from the naras and prevent them from feeding the Devas.

Part – 4

Anna Vichaaram

Now let us begin our meditation on Annam or food.

Why food?

Without food all bodies both inert and sentient cease to exist.  Food alone sustains the creation.

“Yatsapthannani Medhyaa Thapasaajanayathpithaa”|

The father produced seven kinds of food through meditation and rites.

Here father means not only Hiranyagarbha but every father subsequent to him.  Medha means knowledge of the Veda through which the results were produced as otherwise it is not possible to produce. Thapas means Karma through which they were produced as enunciated in the Brahmana portion of the Vedas. This would then translate into desire (let me have a wife) for results viz. the projection of a world.

Now we are stating the varieties of food.

“Ekamasya Saadhaaranam.”  One is common to all eaters.

Since this food is common to all one should not take more than his share for that would cause grief and pain to others. Those who take more than their share would therefore become robbers and sinners. There is a Vedic Manthra that says: “I eat that person as food who eats food without giving part of it to others.”

“Pasubya Ekam Praayachathu”|

He gave one to to the animals. What kind of food is this? It is the milk. How is it determined that the animals are owners of this food? Because men and animals first live on milk alone.

Note:  The animals practically have only the gross body as the sookshma sareeram and the kaaraNa sareeram in them never completely manifest.  Thus they are only predatory and not productive.  This is the reason for the Father to give only one food to the animals.

“Dwe Devaanabaajayathu”|

He apportioned two foods to the gods.  That is why even today we make one oblation in the fire and the second one as neivedhyam at the end.

Why two foods to the gods?

Because they have two bodies. They are Sookshma Sariram (subtle body) andKaarana Sariram (causal body) and the bodies are made of food only (Annamaya kosam).

Note: Devas (as also pithris) are enjoyers and not karmis (workers).  Therefore they have only two bodies.  Devas (but not pithris) can temporarily manifest a gross-body but the gross body is never a permanent abode of the devas.

“Threenyaathmane Akurutha”|

He fixed three foods for himself. Why? Because he has three bodies. They are theSthoola Sariram (gross body), the Sookshma Sariram (the subtle body) and theKaarana Sariram (the causal body).

The gross body is known only in the waking state.

Vaak’ or speech represents the Sookshma Sariram that is known in the dream state. Main feature of this sareera is the understanding of events that take place.Vaak represents understanding.  ‘Manas’ or mind represents Kaarana Sariram. Being ignorant of the Real Self which is beyond cause and effect; mind becomes the residence of cause and effect. Thus this mind causes the projection of one’s world when he wakes up and its dissolution when he goes into deep sleep.

Because it is ignorant, it does not know of its own existence and of the world in deep sleep.

Hiranyagarbha by his manifestations has the composite body (samashti) of the three worlds called earth, sky and heaven, the three Vedas called Rk, Yajur and Saaman, the three different beings called Devas, Pithrus and Manushyas  (humans) and three members of the family called mother, father and child which in turn came about from Vaak, Manas and the Vital Force (praaNa).

On what basis did it happen?

These are what is known, what is desireable to know and what is unknown. Whatever is known is a form of the Vaak or Speech for he is the knower.

Why so?   Because what is spoken is what is known.  |One cannot speak that is unknown to him.

Whatever is desireable to know is a form of  Manas or Mind for Mind is what is desireable to know.

Why so? Because that which is to be known cannot be pursued without a desire and such desire resides in the mind.  Therefore the mind is the entity of what is desireable.

Whatever is unknown is a form of Praana or Vital Force for Vital Force is what is unknown. This because a person comes to live because of it and dies without it – both of these events ever remain unknown.

(to be continued)

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