Section 3: The Universal Vaisvanara, The Mandukya Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda
Virat is a name that we give to Consciousness as animating the physical universe. This animating Consciousness is the Antaryamin, so called because of His being immanent in all things, hidden behind all things, secretly present in everything, whether conscious or unconscious. For this Virat-Purusha, there is no difference between living being and dead matter. There is no such thing as inorganic substance and biological stuff, the distinctions that scientists do make, because inanimate matter, the vegetable kingdom, the animal world and the human species are distinctions made on account of the observation of degrees in the manifestation of Reality, by us, as human beings. No such distinction obtains to the Virat Himself.
He is present in the inanimate as well as in the animate by means of what are called the Gunas of Prakriti - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas - composure, activity and inertia - properties of matter. When He manifests Himself through Tamas alone, we call it inanimate existence. Such objects as stone, rock, which, from our point of view, do not seem to have any consciousness animating them, are revelations of the Virat-Purusha through Tamoguna Prakriti, a quality of Prakriti in which Rajas and Sattva are hidden, Tamas predominating over Rajas and Sattva.
When Rajas and Sattva slowly reveal themselves more and more in larger quantity and extent, there is animation, life creeps into existence, and from the inanimate we come to the animate. The first manifestation of life is through what we call Prana - the vital sustaining power in all living beings. While Prana does not operate in inanimate objects like stone, there is Prana functioning in the world of plants, vegetables, etc. Plants breathe; they do not merely exist like rock.
But plants do not think as animals do. The function of thinking belongs to a higher order of Reality we call the animal world, with all its instincts and sensations. Here we have a still greater degree of the manifestation of Reality. There is an approximation to Sattva in the human level, where we have not only functions of breathing and thinking, but also of understanding, ratiocination and logical discrimination. This is the condition of Vijnana as distinguished from Manas, to which alone the animal world is confined, and from Prana, to which alone the vegetable kingdom is constrained, and from Anna, to which alone the inanimate world is restricted. But the Vijnana to which we have reached at the human level, the fourth degree, we may say, of the revelation of Reality, is not all. There is a higher step that we have to take above the human, beyond the Vijnana. That step which is above Vijnana or the human level is the realm of Ananda or divine delight.
So, from Anna we come to Prana, from Prana to Manas, from Manas to Vijnana, from Vijnana to Ananda.
This Ananda is equivalent to Chit and Sat - Consciousness and Being. All that was in the lower levels gets absorbed into this Ananda. Whatever meaning we saw in the inanimate level, in the levels of the plants, animals and humans, all this meaning is found in the level of Reality as Ananda; and here, existence, consciousness and bliss become one, while in the lower levels they get separated. There is only existence or 'Sat' in rocks, no Chit and Ananda. Rocks exist, but they do not think; they do not feel; they do not understand; and do not experience joy. But a slow process of the revelation of thought-functioning takes place in the higher levels, until it reaches a kind of perfection in the human consciousness. Here we have Sattva mixed up with Rajas and Tamas, on account of which we are very active; sometimes lethargic, and due to the element of Sattva manifest as a fraction, we feel happy at times, though not always. But happiness at times is of no use, being undependable.
All our efforts in life are towards the attainment of a permanent happiness, which is the attainment of Ananda. For this we have to reach pure Sattva, unfettered by the chains of Rajas and Tamas. These distinctions obtain in the realm of the Jivas. We see these distinctions; but the Virat does not have these distinctions. To the Virat, it is all 'I', without a 'he', 'she', or 'it'. "Aham asmi", 'I-AM" - is the awareness of the Virat, while our awareness is "I am, and you also are, in addition to me". "I am, and the world is also there outside me". But, to the Virat, the Consciousness is, "I am; there is no world outside Me". The whole world is 'I'; therefore He is called Vaisvanara, the Cosmic Being, the Person who feels, and has the Consciousness that He is all-this-cosmos.