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The five Characteristics that make up Everything

Each of the myriad of things that can be found in this manifested universe is made up of five basic characteristics:

  1. Each one is. It exists. It has beingness.
  2. Each one shines with an inner light. It has luster. It is innately alive with energy.
  3. Each has a deeper purpose. It has a reason for its existence. It is dear and a source of joy.
  4. Each has a specific name, a category or designation.
  5. Each has a given form, either tangible or subtle. It has a distinguishing feature.

These, then, are the five characteristics that are found in everything that can be spoken of. Whether tangible or intangible, once something has been conceived of, we can say that it exists, it shines, it has a purpose, it has a name, and it has a form.

The first three of these five characteristics make up the eternal truth which never changes. This is the permanent reality. It is the atma, it is God, it is the indweller, it is the divinity. It is referred to in Sanskrit as sat-chit-ananda, meaning existence, consciousness, bliss. For sat-chit ananda there is no birth and there is no death. Sat-chit-ananda may be described as the mark or signature of the divinity. The remaining two characteristics speak of the body of the divinity. Name and form are only transient and illusory. They are really just imagination. So, of the five basic characteristics that make up everything, three make up the underlying divinity which never changes, and the other two are the changing names and forms which make up the world.

Realize that all the created things which you see in the world are artificial. They all have come at some time and will go some time in the future; in other words, they are subject to birth and death. They can be compared to relatives. Relatives come for a while to stay with you and then go back. They will not stay in the house permanently. Just like relatives, happiness and grief come and go. Similarly, everything having name and form is impermanent. To understand spirituality, you must realize that all created things are transient and temporary. Any day these things will disappear; they are constantly undergoing change. Grieving over such things which are impermanent is foolish indeed.

If you want to understand the three underlying qualities which are permanent, you have to develop certain noble qualities and virtues. As has been declared by Krishna in the chapter on devotion, the aspirant who has attained the 26 noble qualities is very dear to the Lord. But there is no need to have all 26 qualities. In a match-box you will find a large number of matches. If you want a fire, you do not have to strike all the matches; only one needs to be struck to provide all the fire you want. If you fully develop one or two of these virtues within you, then the others will also develop of their own accord. But they must become an indelible and integral part of you before you can hope to understand the principle of the atma. In striving to acquire these virtues, you will encounter certain negative qualities within you. They are your internal enemies. They will try to keep you from manifesting these virtuous qualities.