The Three Worlds - Trilokam
The Three Worlds
The spirit of man has two dwellings: this world and the world beyond. There is also a third dwelling place: the land of sleep and dreams. Resting in this borderland, the spirit of man can behold his dwelling in this world and in the other world afar; and wandering in this borderland, he beholds behind him the sorrows of this world, and in front of him he sees the joys of the beyond.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.9. upm, 134
Where Did This Universe Come from?
Supreme God Śiva created the world and all things in it. He creates and sustains from moment to moment every atom of the seen physical and unseen spiritual universe. Everything is within Him. He is within everything. Aum.
God Śiva created us. He created the Earth and all things upon it, animate and inanimate. He created time and gravity, the vast spaces and the uncounted stars.
He created night and day, joy and sorrow, love and hate, birth and death. He created the gross and the subtle, this world and the other worlds.
There are three worlds of existence: the physical, subtle and causal, termed Bhūloka, Antarloka and Śivaloka. The Creator of all, Śiva Himself is uncreated.
As supreme Mahādeva, Śiva wills into manifestation all souls and all form, issuing them from Himself like light from a fire or waves from an ocean.
Rishis describe this perpetual process as the unfoldment of thirty- six tattvas, stages of manifestation, from the Śiva tattva—Parā- Śaktī and nāda—to the five elements.
Creation is not the making of a separate thing, but an emanation of Himself. Lord Śiva creates, constantly sustains the form of His creations and absorbs them back into Himself.
The Vedas elucidate:
“As a spider spins and withdraws its web, as herbs grow on the earth, as hair grows on the head and body of a person, so also from the Imperishable arises this universe." Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
From the imperishable Mahādeva issues forth this vast, impermanent world of galaxies, time, forms and creatures. Creation is an emanation from Śiva Himself, a divine expression and expansion, said to originate from His sacred Vāk, or speech.
What Is the Nature of the Physical Plane?
The physical plane, or Bhūloka, is the world of gross or material substance in which phenomena are perceived by the five senses. It is the most limited of worlds, the least permanent and the most subject to change. Aum.
The material world is where we have our experiences, manufacture karma and fulfill the desires and duties of life in a physical body.
It is in the Bhūloka that consciousness is limited, that awareness of the other two worlds is not always remembered. It is the external plane, made of gross matter, which is really just energy.
The world is remarkable in its unending variety and enthralling novelty. Mystics call it the unfoldment of prakṛti, primal nature, and liken it to a bubble on the ocean’s surface. It arises, lives and bursts to return to the source.
This physical world, though necessary to our evolution, is the embodiment of impermanence, of constant change. Thus, we take care not to become overly attached to it.
It is mystically subjective, not objective. It is dense but not solid. It is sentient, even sacred. It is rocks and rainbows, liquid, gas and conflagration, all held in a setting of space.
The Vedas affirm:
“The knower, the author of time, the possessor of qualities and all knowledge, it is He who envelopes the universe. Controlled by Him, this work of creation unfolds itself—that which is regarded as earth, water, fire, air and ether.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
To most people, the world seems as solid, powerful and real as the elephant does to these men. Fully identified with the five senses, they are enthralled by the novelty of the physical plane, immersed in its charms and unaware of the worlds within.
What Is the Nature of the Subtle Plane?
The subtle plane, or Antarloka, is the mental-emotional sphere that we function in through thought and feeling and reside in fully during sleep and after death. It is the astral world that exists within the physical plane. Aum.
The astral plane is for the most part exactly duplicated in the physical plane, though it is of a more intense rate of vibration.
Beings in the higher Antarloka are trained in technology, the arts and increments of culture to take up bodies in the Bhūloka, to improve and enhance conditions within it.
It is in this more advanced realm that new inventions are invented, new species created, ideas unfolded, futures envisioned, environments balanced, scientists trained and artists taught finesse.
We function constantly, though perhaps not consciously, in this subtle plane by our every thought and emotion. Here, during sleep and after death, we meet others who are sleeping or who have died. We attend inner-plane schools, there to advance our knowledge.
The Antarloka spans the spectrum of consciousness from the hellish Naraka regions beginning at the Pātāla chakra within the feet, to the heavenly realm of divine love in the viśuddhā chakra within the throat.
The Vedas recount:
“Now, there are, of a truth, three worlds: the world of men, the world of the fathers, and the world of the Gods. The world of the Gods is verily the best of worlds.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Nature of the Causal Plane?
The causal plane, or Śivaloka, pulsates at the core of being, deep within the subtle plane. It is the superconscious world where the Gods and highly evolved souls live and can be accessed through yoga and temple worship. Aum.
The causal plane is the world of light and blessedness, the highest of heavenly regions, extolled in the scriptures of all faiths. It is the foundation of existence, the source of visions, the point of conception, the apex of creation.
The causal plane is the abode of Lord Śiva and His entourage of Mahādevas and other highly evolved souls who exist in their own self-effulgent form—radiant bodies of centillions of quantum light particles.
Even for embodied souls, this refined realm is not distant, but exists within man. It is ever-present, ever-available as the clear white light that illumines the mind, accessed within the throat and cranial chakras—viśuddhā, ājñā and Sahasrāra—in the sublime practices of yoga and temple worship.
It is in the causal plane that the mature soul, unshrouded of the physical body’s strong instinctive pulls and astral body’s harsh intellectual stranglehold, resides fully conscious in its self-effulgent form.
The Śivaloka is the natural refuge of all souls.
The Vedas intone:
“Where men move at will, in the threefold sphere, in the third heaven of heavens, where are realms full of light, in that radiant world make me immortal.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
The deepest plane, filled with Divinities, is circled here by a cobra—Śiva as Nāga- rāja, king of serpents. The serpent is venerated as a symbol of immortality, control of instincts, and of kundalini, which empowers yoga and grants access to the Śivaloka.
Does the Universe Ever End? Is It Real?
The universe ends at Mahāpralaya, when time, form and space dissolve in God Śiva, only to be created again in the next cosmic cycle. We call it relatively real to distinguish it from the unchanging Reality. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
This universe, and indeed all of existence, is māyā, Śiva’s mirific energy. While God is absolutely real, His emanated world is relatively real.
Being relatively real does not mean the universe is illusory or non-existent, but that it is impermanent and subject to change.
It is an error to say that the universe is mere illusion, for it is entirely real when experienced in ordinary consciousness, and its existence is required to lead us to God.
The universe is born, evolves and dissolves in cycles much as the seasons come and go through the year. These cycles are inconceivably immense, ending in Mahāpralaya when the universe undergoes dissolution.
All three worlds, including time and space, dissolve in God Śiva. This is His ultimate grace— the evolution of all souls is perfect and complete as they lose individuality and return to Him. Then God Śiva exists alone in His three perfections until He again issues forth creation.
The Vedas state:
“Truly, God is One; there can be no second. He alone governs these worlds with His powers. He stands facing beings. He, the herdsman, after bringing forth all worlds, reabsorbs them at the end of time.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
In unending cycles, the world undergoes epochs of creation, duration and dissolution. Here Lord Śiva presides over the cosmic extinguishing—drawing all forms, time and space, back to Himself until commencing the next grand cycle of creation.
Even as airy threads come from a spider, or small sparks come from a fire, so from ātman, the Spirit in man, come all the powers of life, all the worlds, all the Gods, all beings.
To know the ātman is to know the mystery of the Upanishads, the Truth of truth. The powers of life are truth and their Truth is ātman, the Spirit.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.1.20. upm, 130
In the world of heaven there is no trace of fear. You, Death, are not there. There one dreads not old age. Thirst and hunger transcended and sorrow overpassed, a man rejoices in the world of heaven.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Kaṭha Upaniṣad 1.12. ve, 639
Now this ātman is the bridge and the boundary separating these worlds. Day and night do not cross over this bridge, or old age, or death, or sorrow, or good works or bad works; all evils turn back from it, for this world of Brahman is free from evil.
Thus, after crossing that bridge, the blind man sees, the wounded one is healed, the sufferer is freed from suffering.
Therefore, for the one who has crossed that bridge, even the night is transformed into day, for the world of Brahman is ever illumined.
But the world of Brahman belongs only to those who find it by the practice of chastity and the study of Brahman. For them there is freedom in all the worlds.
Sāma Veda, Chāndogya Upaniṣad 7.8.4. ve, 638
This universe is a tree eternally existing, its root aloft, its branches spread below. The pure root of the tree is Brahman, the immortal, in whom the three worlds have their being, whom none can transcend, who is verily the Self.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Katha Upanishad 6.1. upp, 36
These worlds, tiered one above the other from the lowest to the highest, make up the universe of transmigration. Knowers of Reality describe it as the place of effective experience.
Mṛigendra Āgama, Jñāna Pāda 13.A.2. ma, 286--132
All these visibles and invisibles, movables and immovables, are pervaded by Me. All the worlds existing in the tattvas from Śaktī to prithivī [earth] exist in me. Whatever is heard or seen, internally or externally, is pervaded by Me.
Sarvajñānottara Āgama 2.9-11
May God—who, in the mystery of His vision and power, transforms His white radiance into His many-colored creation, from whom all things come and into whom they all return—grant us the grace of pure vision.
He is the sun, the moon and the stars. He is the fire, the waters and the wind. He is Brahma, the creator of all, and Prajāpati, the Lord of creation.
Thou this boy, and thou this maiden; Thou this man, and Thou this woman; Thou the God who appears in forms infinite. Thou the blue bird and Thou the green bird; Thou the cloud that conceals the lightning and Thou the seasons and the oceans.
Beyond beginning, Thou are in Thy infinity, and all the worlds had their beginning in Thee.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 4.1-4. upm, 91
The gross body with presence prominent, the subtle body that invisible takes shape and the causal body that by inference is—all these bodies disappear when merging in the Lord’s feet.
Tirumantiram 2130. tm
The Lord created the world, the dwelling place of man. How shall I sing His majesty? He is as mighty as Mount Meru, whence He holds sway over the three worlds; and He is the four paths of Śaivam here below.
Those who tread the path of Śuddha Śaivam stand aloft, their hearts intent on Eternal Parā; transcending worlds of pure and impure māyā, where pure intelligence consorts not with base ignorance and the lines that divide Real, Unreal and Real-Unreal are sharply discerned.
Tirumantiram 1419-1240. tm
The universe, animate and inanimate, is His body. The universe, animate and inanimate, is His play. The universe, animate and inanimate, is He. The whole universe, animate and inanimate, is a wonder.
Natchintanai, “Who Can Know?” NT, 86
O Transcendent One extending through both Earth and Heaven! Ever bright with glory! The King of Śivaloka! The Lord Śiva presiding at Tiruperunturai! I have no sustenance other than You.
Tirumurai 8. tt, 159
There is no baser folly than the infatuation that looks upon the ephemeral as if it were everlasting.
Thirukural 331. ww