Tatvas aid souls to attain liberation. Tatvas can be interpreted as principles. Saiva Siddhanta schools advocate 19, 25, 36 or 96 tatvas. But vadantic scholars, though do not oppose these tatvas as such, but accept only 36 or 96 principles with a lot of disagreements with siddhantic schools. Maya or illusion is the fundamental functional factor of living beings, from which tatvas emanate. The veil of maya is cast around soul, making it susceptible to afflictions arising out of karmas or actions. But the Supreme Brahman is beyond the concept of tatvas as He is all pervading. Soul and the Brahman are not the same. If they are indistinguishable, then soul should be beyond the purview karma. There is a difference in using self and Self or atman and Atman. Uppercase letters indicate the Brahman and the lower case letters indicate the soul. The more appropriate difference between the two would be their subjective and objective nature. Both the Brahman and soul are subjects.
When soul unites with an object, it becomes objective. Therefore, soul is prone to modifications on becoming objective. But the Brahman cannot become an object at any point of time. He is eternal, omnipresent and pure. He is beyond karmas, which is one of the unique natures of the Brahman. Tatvas or principles begin to unfold from the gross level. This is considered as appropriate as we have to learn to realize the Supreme only from the lower levels. The closeness to the Supreme is realised gradually. The process should be gradual but steady. Many of the materialistic teachers firmly believe only in four major principles air, fire, water and earth. They are unwilling to consider even the akash or ether, where cosmic energy is available in plenty. The potential power of intellect is not accepted by them as they consider intellect as yet another product of gross body. According to them, variation in the levels of intelligence is due to bodily powers that vary from person to person. They are not willing to recognise soul and Atman. Intellect is an important component that evolved from ‘mulaprakriti’. Mulaprakriti is the root and un-manifested form of creation. Many are not willing to look beyond mulaprakriti, which is topping the entire list of tatvas. Matter can assume still finer form. Due to unwillingness to explore beyond ‘avyakta’ or mulaprakriti, mind and intellect are wrongly identified as soul and the Brahman respectively. In fact soul is covered by rarer and finer forms of matter causing the soul to become more advanced spiritually and intellectually. Three gunas or qualities satvic, rajas and tamas form an integral part of mulaprakriti and in its un-manifested form known as ‘avyakta’, these gunas are present in equilibrium. Every single soul is covered by these gunas. Nature of a person is determined based on the predominance of any single guna making someone as an angel and another one as algae. These qualitiesor gunas are known by different names such as Vishnu, Rudra and Brahma. To enable common man to understand this principle, they are signified as Gods.
The soul or jiva thus veiled by the effects of gunas is mistaken for God. This mistaken identity happens due to the lack of adequate and supreme knowledge, resulting in not attaining liberation. Only the Brahman alone is capable of granting liberation, not the soul or atman. Then how to differentiate between self and Self? The Supreme Self is without attributes and the other self is subject to modification, ultimate decay and full of attributes. To understand the Brahman better, the prakasha and vimarsha forms of the Brahman have been populated. While the prakasha form is self illuminating and vimarsha form is not, both remain changeless. If transition in faith from saguna Brahman (Brahman with attributes) to nirguna Brahman (without attributes) does not happen over a period of time, the soul never gets liberated. Worshipping saguna Brahman has to pave way for merging with nirguna Brahman. It is difficult to pack an idol that was worshipped for decades offering them nothing. The delusion continues to play its role by not making such thing happen. God does not need such persons remaining afflicted with bondage and attachment. Attachment to an idol or photo of a god is considered as bondage. When such transition happens, the soul advances from human birth to the higher levels of demigod or goddess. Such souls are seldom born again as mortals. The sankhya philosophers take into account this soul as the 25th principle.
The fact that soul is being taken into account as one of the tatvas clearly indicate that atman or soul is not the Absolute, as Absolute is beyond tatvas. Based upon the fact of omnipresent nature of the nirguna Brahma, He has to exist in all mortals being covered by saguna Brahman. The soul falsely identified as the pure Brahman, making the practitioner to continue to dwell in darkness and ignorance. For realising the nirguna Brahman, the highest knowledge is required to delineate Him as quite often this knowledge itself is mistakenly identified as the nirguna Brahman. During this process of delineating, maya or illusion is to be understood thoroughly as without the aid of maya, one cannot realise the Brahman. But at the exact time of realization that could last for a few seconds, maya removes its veil and fades out exposing the eternal self-illuminating light that can be realized. This light can never be seen with biological eyes, but only with the divine eye situated between two eyebrows.