Whenever a reference is made to the body/attributes of Brahman/Ishwara/avatAra it is said to be ‘aprAkRta’. It would be beneficial to know exactly what this term means. The dictionary gives these: 1. not vulgar 2.Not original 3. Not ordinary, extraordinary 4. special.
Of these the first two are out of our context. The latter two may be considered. However, it is often sought to be made out that this ‘aprAkRta’ is something that is not a product of prakRti. To be specific, something that is not a product of the three guNas, the five elements. In other words it is ‘apAnchabhautikam’. Now a question arises as to what exactly this means. What is this ‘substance’ ? In the scripture we have two things that are talked about: 1. Brahman/Atman, also called Chit, PuruSha, etc. and translated/translatable as ‘spirit’. 2. prakRti or triguNAtmikA mAyA, also called jaDa tattva, matter. A third entity is not there spoken of anywhere.
So, if something is ‘aprAkRta’ does it mean that it is non-matter or non-material? Going by the ‘only’ two tattvas as above, that which is ‘apraakRta’ has to be Chit or spirit. If it is not matter/material, it has to be spirit. If it is not either, then what is the ‘substance’ with which the body of Brahman/Ishwara/Vishnu made? We better take it as ‘chinmayarUpam’ if we want to ward off praakRta/pAnchabhautika rUpa and its consequences. It is a vivarta of Brahman.
Then, is the body of Brahman only spirit/Chit? Now, we have the scripture itself declaring that the spirit is ‘avikArI’/’avikAryaH’. If the Chit is of such a nature, how is it that the shape/form of a ‘ body’ is taken on by Chit? How is this possible when the Chit is avikAri? Also, whenever we talk of a form, it is paricchinna, finite. How can the ‘shareera’, aprAkRta, though, still be aparicchinna/sarvavyApaka? In the शेषशयन ViShNu’s case, we can see that VishNu is reclining on the snake-bed which is itself placed in the ksheera sAgara. Now, the body of VishNu is certainly not pervading the snake-bed or the milk-ocean. It is finite. If it is said that Vishnu is infinite then we have to take that the snake-bed, the ocean, Lakshmi, etc. are all VishNu alone appearing in those names-forms. This will be no different from saying that He is vishvarUpa, akin to the vishvarUpa darshana of the Bh.Gita. सहस्त्रशीर्ष-सहस्रपात्-सहस्राक्षः will all be meaningful only if we look at the situation as: all the heads, feet, hands, eyes, etc. that are there in the world are His/He alone. Otherwise we will be imagining a multi-headed hydra or a centipede or millipede-kind of creature of ViShNu.
Shankaracharya has used this word in the Gitabhashya 4.9 thus:
जन्म मायारूपम्, कर्म च साधुपरित्राणादि, मे मम दिव्यम् = अप्राकृतम् – ऐश्वरं एवं यथोक्तं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः …
Interestingly Shankara has commented for the preceding verse thus:
तां प्रकृतिं स्वाम् अधिष्ठाय वशीकृत्य संभवामि देहवानिव भवामि जात इव आत्ममायया आत्मनः मायया, न परमार्थतो लोकवत्।
And Bhagavan Himself has said that this prakRti/mAyA is His: मम माया दुरत्यया.
Here we get the hint that it is only ‘controlled prakRti’ that is called ‘aprAkRtam’. In other words, when prakRiti is handled in such a way that it does not bind a person, it is aprAkRtam. It is the shuddha sattva/rajas/tamas guNas that are involved as against the malina sattva, etc. that characterize the jiva’s samsara/samsaritva.
I have also heard that ‘aprAkrtam’ janma/karma means that it is not the way a jiva comes to take birth: owing to ajnana, through past karma, to reap the effects thereof and work for creating new janma-s. That alone is the difference between the janma/karma of a bound-jiva and Brahman taking a birth/body. It also admits of reason that a difference is made between the avatAra body and its growth, old-age, etc. and final disappearance AND the ‘eternal’ body of VishNu such as seen reclining on the anantha. In the former case, all the prAkRta functions are seen even though great miraculous displays of power do manifest. Even these have to be seen as within the vast, infinite, scope of maayA, prakRti. In the case of bound jiva-s the manifestation of only limited powers of prakRti is seen whereas in the avatAra’s case the extraordinary powers of prakRti come to the fore.
The shruti says: अशरीरं शरीरेषु अनवस्थेषु अवस्थितम्. महान्तं विभुमात्मानं मत्वा धीरो न शोचति ( Kathopanishat 1.2.22)
न संदृशे तिष्ठति रूपमस्य न चक्षुषा पश्यति कश्चनैनम् । हृदा मनीषा मनसाऽभिक्लृप्तो य एतद्विदुरमृतास्ते भवन्ति ॥ 2.3.9 ॥
In the above we find that the Upanishad is categorical about Brahman not having a form. None can ‘see’ Brahman with the physical eye. One can however ‘know’ that it is Brahman that appears as the vishvarUpa. Again, one can know through the disciplined mind that Brahman which is without any form whatsoever.
However, as Shankara says in the BSB, Brahman/Ishwara can and does take on a form, any including the ones spoken of above, to bless/help an aspirant in his sadhana.:
स्यात्परमेश्वरस्यापि इच्छावशात् मायामयं रूपं साधकानुग्रहार्थम् । (1.1.vii.20) (Ishwara, out of compassion, takes on, by His Maya, a form to grace the spiritual aspirant.)
The case of हिरण्यश्मश्रुः is about a form, of golden hue, described by the Upanishad for upAsana purpose. It says such a One’s finger-joints are the Rg.Veda, etc. We cannot say that this kind of a form of Brahman is ‘niyata’ because we know that Rg.veda etc. have come out of Brahman as Its Breath: यस्य निश्शवसितमेतदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदो…. (Also do we not see VishNu picturised as clean-shaven!!) The ‘hands’ are described in the Purusha sUkta as representing the kShatriya. Such varied descriptions of Brahman’s form and the various parts only show that these cannot be the niyata rUpa of Brahman. The above quoted Katha shruti and the Mundaka: दिव्यो ह्यमूर्तः पुरुषः सबाह्याभ्यन्तरो ह्यजः. अप्राणो ह्यमनाः शोभ्रो ह्यक्षरात् परतः परः ॥ (2,1,2) teach in unequivocal terms that there is no form/body/mind, sense organs for Brahman. There is nothing in these mantras to suggest that ONLY the prAkRta body, etc. are negated here. There are no statements to say that Brahman has a specific, natural body, with parts, mind, etc. that are ‘aprAkRta’ either. The body/forms of Brahman described in purANa-s and painted by artists following such descriptions only serve as an aid to sadhakas to concentrate their mind upon them, by withdrawing from the forms that the world of senses provide.
It is only because we, as humans, have an adhyAsa-based attachment to our body/senses, relationships, tastes, behaviours, etc. that the scripture, on the nyAya of यक्षानुरुपो बलिः depicts Brahman variously as with a human-type body शिरःपाण्यादिमान् देह्ः, with a female consort, a family, an abode, etc. There are ways to ‘satiate’ Brahman’s hunger through a variety of neivedyams, a lot of services, upachAra-s, nRtya, geetha, ashvArohaNa, gajArohaNa, etc. ..everything meant to sublimate our own slavery to these tastes, behaviours, requirements, etc.
To conclude, ‘aprAkRtam’ means only ‘controlled prAkRtam’ and ‘mAyAmayam’. It can take the name of ‘IshvarEcchA’ too. In any case it does not constitute the true, absolute nature of Brahman as taught in the Upanishads, some of which we have seen above. Not getting aged/diseased, etc. of a divine form is also within the infinite, unimaginable powers of Maya: अघटितघटनापटीयसी माया. Sri Krishna too says in the Gita that there is no limit to His vibhUti-s.
In all such discourses we have to remember that everything, the divine form, vibhUti pradarshanam, etc. is never without the jiva-jagat (paratantra) in mind. It is by default परतन्त्रसापेक्षक. Anything that is dependent on the paratantra for its manifestation/display/existence cannot be deemed to be the स्वरूपभूतस्वभाव of the स्वतन्त्रब्रह्मन्. It is ‘for the sake’ of the jiva/jagat that Brahman, as Ishwara, takes on form/s. If this ‘sake’ is not there, there is no need for Brahman to assume such form/s.
Venkatachala Nilayam Vaikunta Pura Vasam
Pankaja Netram Parama Pavitram
Shanka Chakra Dhara Cinmaya Rupam
Venkatacala Nilayam Vaikunta Pura Vasam ||
Read the entire lyrics and also hear the song here:
Om Tat Sat