Guiding Light: Inclusive power of three

Dr. S. AinavoluUpdated: Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 01:48 AM IST
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The number three has significance across cultures. In Sanatana Dharma, we have tri-murtis, the Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. They take care of creation, sustenance, and the clearing. There are three gunas attached to any personality. Satva, Rajas, and Tamas, signifying purity, action, and darkness respectively. There are three lokas (universes) – Urdhwa (up), Bhoo (our plane), and Patala (below). Three kaalas (times) used are Bhoota, Vartamana, Bhavishya - past, present, and future, respectively. We have three types of karma phalas, Sanchita, Prarabdha, and Agami. Vamana asked Mahabali for a three-foot space and consumed the entire space. Bhagawan Vishnu’s dwara-palakas Jaya-Vijaya, upon the curse, had to take three lives. Ekadashi Vrat lasts three days. Adi Shankaracharya mentions Bala, Taruna, and Vruddha as the three stages of life, meaning childhood, youth, and old age.

The significance of the number three is found in different contexts as well. We have three parts of the day, the “Dina”, “Ratri” and the cusp periods called “Sandhya”. We also have three broad seasons in a year, summer, rainy, and winter. Ayurveda, the science of well-being talks of three doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata refers to the airy disposition, Pitta is the bile nature, and Kapha is the phlegmatic quality. The balance of these three qualities is the health, and any disturbances are “dis-ease”. Homeopathy mentions three “kingdoms” from which healing remedy material comes – mineral, plant, and animal sources. And its “laws of cure” are three. Thus, what stands throughout here is the number three.

“I” often stands out negatively as ego. Two is “both” but still limited. The number “three” is “we” and sounds inclusive. We know that the seeker is lonely at the start. He is joined by the guru who spots the shishya due to the earnestness displayed. They become two now and the pursuit for THAT makes it three. The guided journey begins. The destination, indeed the journey itself, is “completed” when the sense of three becomes ONE. Three now becomes so inclusive that it becomes ONE, and the seeker is fully immersed in it. The seeker becomes part of ONE now. More people need to begin this journey and complete it successfully.

(Dr. S. Ainavolu is a professor at VPSM, Navi Mumbai. Views are personal. Full version of this article can be found at https://www.ainavolu.in/inclusive-power-of-three)

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