27) The Three Debts

A debt (ṛṇa) is something that we owe to another entity. In modern day, we all feel we are independently living our lives and we often take pride in it. But, are we really independent? One needs to question this every moment. If we are, only then can we act the way we want – as long as we do not disturb others’ lifestyle. But if we are not independent, then we need to live a life that will also help the both sides of dependent parties. Let us explore in this line of thought, what ancients had to offer. I wanted to keep the article short, so did not go into much details. If you have questions of any kind, in relation to this article, please post below. I will try to answer them.

Dependent Living:

According to the seers of all the ancient nations, humanity is never independent in its existence. This has been extolled in many an allegory. Peeling the camouflage, the essence is that the whole LIFE on Earth is a complex web of multiple connections. Each string of this web represents a “Being’s” life and it is connected to many other strings. When one string is plucked or effected, the whole web vibrates, of course different locations of the web will have different magnitudes of vibration, but the vibration is inevitable.

The ancient seers extended this chain of cause-effect relational events to even those kingdoms that are invisible to a modern eye. Let us explore to what depths they have gone in teaching us how to live symbiotically.

Ṛṇa Traya – The Three Debts:

The Hindus categorized all the debts that humanity owes to all the kingdoms of LIFE, into three primary groups. These groups are:

  1. Pitṛ Ṛṇa – The debt to the Reproductive Angels
  2. Dēva Ṛṇa – The debt to the Angels
  3. Ṛṣi Ṛṇa – The debt to the Seers

These debts are to be paid by the three classes or Varnās of humans namely: Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya and Vaiśya. The fourth class of humans, called Śūdrās, were exempted from the rule of paying because of the nature of their lifestyle. These classes are classification of human natures than genetic hierarchy. There is no single scholar who can show these varṇās implying a genetic hierarchy. So, instead of criticizing the baseless criticisms of the profane and wasting our time, I will take the meaning of “Varṇa to imply a classification as per the human nature“. So, a Śūdra, having a life style of “all-service”, it will be meaningless to impose extra rules, which are synonymous to “service”, upon such a person. You will understand this when you read below, what the debts are actually and how we pay them.

To impose the strong notion of paying our aforementioned three debts, the Upanayana Saṃskāra – the second birth initiations – included the paying of these debts as mandatory rules. This is symbolized by the “Three Strands” of the “Yajñopavīta” – the sacred thread, that is worn by all the three classes mentioned above. This thread is always on their body and all of their rituals are linked to this thread and the thread having three strands is a constant reminder to them. A Śūdra need not be reminded, for the lifestyle is resonant with the principle of “paying the debts” and hence the upanayana was unnecessary for that class of humans who took SERVICE (to the whole creation) as their lifestyle.

Now, let us look at what these debts mean:

1) Pitṛ ṚṇaThe debt to the Reproductive Angels:

Our debts starts with our birth. No modern scientist can explain us how a union of sperm and ova creates LIFE. The scientist may explain how the matter is accumulated and the body is formed from the fusion of sperm and ova through gene theory, which itself stops after a few iterative questions of what, how and why, but they can not say how “LIFE” occurs into the fusion. The ancients suggest that the first born kingdom of beings in creation is not matter, but angels. These are called “DĒVĀ kingdoms”. When one is equipped with what we call common sense, which is not so common these days, one can see the light in this statement. For example, there is a dēvā called Kapila. He presides over number consciousness. A kid, who does not even know how to count, can tell the difference between two and 10 chocolates. How? If the sense of number is not inbuilt in human mind, can we speak of numbers at all with him? If you have to freshly teach a person who does not know numbers, how do you start? Can you at all define a number? Similarly, one respires the moment they are born. Does the baby know the physics and biology of breath? We say “genes” carry the information of intelligence. So, genes are just carriers right? How do we “quantify” intelligence? Such questions will eventually lead one to contemplation of deep ancient thoughts of “Dēvā kingdoms”.

Now, Dēvās are of two types: Pitṛ Dēvās and simply Dēvas. Pitṛ Dēvās are generally associated by the majority, to our ancestors who were dead, like our great great grand mother or so. But, that is utterly wrong. How can a dead soul, which is eventually destined to be born due to karmic cycle(s), be a Pitṛ Dēva? A dēva is an immortal conscious principle: Like Hunger (Dēva is Vaiśvānara), Warmth (Dēvā is Agni), Thought (Dēvā is Iṃdra), etc.

So, Pitṛ Dēvās actually mean those conscious principles which help in reproduction of this creation. These are allegoriezed as “Chandra Vaṃśa” in our stories. It is to suggest that the rays of intelligences that reflect from the MOON and arrive onto Earth belong to Chandra Vaṃśa and help in formation of matter of our body. When we leave our bodies and roam body-less as “Prētās = Pra + Ita = Not in the body” and we need to take a birth, these dēvās help us establish into a frame of existence. Just like a hungry stomach, when fed, digests and distributes necessary elements of food to each part of our body (without our intervention) the pitṛs also help us establish in a body.

Our debt is payed to them by maintaining our sexual purity (this itself is a big topic, but one can follow their “conscience” and take help from gurūs/experimental contemplations), having children, helping orphans, etc. The reasons for these are to be linked to the “root principle” of pitṛs and one will easily understand.

2) Dēva ṚṇaThe debt to the Angels:

As mentioned earlier, dēvās are conscious principles. They exist everywhere and in every one/thing. They are in our surroundings – as air we breath. They are in our body as the very functions that body carries on. They are in matter around us, as the dormant potential principles which when utilized, serve us – like radio activity, chemical reactions, etc. So, they are every where and in every thing.

How do we pay them? By maintaining the natural order: Keeping our surroundings and environment clean, not hunting animals for pleasure, but only for food if necessary (hunting for pleasure is the cause for extinctions!), Eating properly and not spoiling our hunger, etc. Such a lifestyle is what is suggested to the three classes. Śūdrās, being service oriented, never harm any one or any thing in nature (by default). We all live because we breath fresh air. IF we spoil the same air in the name of factories, are we not fooling ourselves and skipping the debt to the god of oxygen, for example?

So, one must be vigilant and cautious in their usage of any entity in this world, including their apparently owned body!

3) Ṛṣi ṚṇaThe debt to the Seers:

Seers are those who give this kind of wisdom. They are link between the Dēvā kingdom and human kingdom. They are the friendly bridge. They “see” through the intricate links of the cosmic web and thus help and guide us into living a symbiotic way. Even the present day Science will come under this debt category i.e., the everyday human owes to science, a lot more than he thinks he owes. So, how do we pay them? By not destroying what is already discovered – in the name of religious fights and other wars! One can also pay the debt by contributing to the wisdom path – by becoming a scientist and helping humanity or by becoming a sage and explaining the TRUTH to the seekers, etc.

So, at the least, do not disturb the wisdom and at the most, contribute your lot to it. Thus we pay our debts in this case.


You see, when one follows these three put together, the lifestyle becomes blissful. For example, one will not over eat (dēva debt is paid), one will not misutilize the sexual impulse and thus will not cheat on their partners (if one has uncontrollable urge, one will first mutually agree with all the parties involved so that no one gets hurt, and that means pitṛ debt as well as dēva debt is paid), one will work and help the society that they live in, in their capacity (seer debt is paid). When these debts are not paid, we can see how one over eats and thus gets problems of obesity or loss of hunger, etc. (devā debt is skipped), one will face many problems by multiple inter courses (pitṛ’s and dēvā’s debts are skipped), and one will become lethargic and whiles away all the time in sleeping in a room watching some TV, which again causes many problems (all debts are skipped). 

Thus, three debts are to be payed in order to live a harmonious life. The modern day lifestyle is so much disturbed that to comprehend this kind of lifestyle itself is very difficult. But, we need to strive. It was possible once – in ancient times of all orders! It should be possible even now, with so much advancements! The scientific advancements should not dull our intuitive minds. A calculator should not replace our ability to calculate, it should only supplement. So, my aim in this article was to suggest the ancient’s way of approach to harmonious living to the modern day human!


  1. You have raised many subtle issues here, and apparently, there are no answers. Only the creator knows….why life itself?
    Pitra rin is also about thanking our ancestors for this body..whatever we are; it’s because of them. Not sure, if reproducing further is the only way to thank them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1) why is a question which does not help us in leading life. It helps in satisfying mental agitation. Even if one answers the question of why, like why gravity attracts? there is no alternate way to skip it. We all must have to feel gravity.
      So, I feel that instead of why, we need to concentrate on how to lead life given the facts of nature.

      2) yes we are to be thanking them for sure. But that would be out of respect not a sense of indebtedness. We can not pay our debt to them because they too are like us, indebted beings. They copulated and we are born. But did they “will” us or are we a chance to them? No parent has control over birth of a child. How many cases have seen where, when parents wanted, they could not conceive and when they did not want, they conceived children? So, humans are instrumental only. If it were our “will”, then there is no use of any doctors in our society. (Even they too succeed only partially!)
      Thus, an intelligence that works behind, the deva, is what I was aiming here.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Haha I know… Many points I did not elaborate as well. I erased a lot after writing. I saw the flow was too much and would bore the reader. So, I thought best way is to answer questions that arise from the gaps or subtle aspects, as you just asked! This will give narrow context to my widespread thoughts.

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    3. And yea! Reproducing is not the only way. I guess I gave a line of thoughts in the ways to pay debts. The essence is to first realise that “we are given the reproducing ability” and not that we created it or invented it. So, it is not ours. In fact nothing is ours that is why we have to revere everything and keep everything pious. This sense of train of thoughts is the aim. When we go to someone else’s house or borrow their things, how careful are we with their stuff? The same should be with the apparently owned stuff of ours (like body, mind, water, air, etc.)

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      1. Yes, but our genetic makeup is because of them..the whole lineage thing. I get your point that even they have received it from higher powers and they don’t own it. But they are indeed the carriers of genes (just as you mentioned genes are themselves carrier of intelligence, the way our physical body looks like).
        I am what I am because of my ancestors, although environmental factors do play a role. There is something in all of use with which we are born.

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      2. True, for which we respect them. To pay a debt, they should be existing. Are they existing now? So in our thoughts, we respect their past existence. But as souls, they must have already taken birth. So even if you want to pay debt or respect literally, how do u pay for those? I am now curious as to what you think here!!


      3. Now you have opened a different dimension of thought here.
        Don’t we have memories? People have long gone away from our immediate lives, but we still think of them, love/hate them?
        We dream and then think about it…even though we are fully aware that dream didn’t exactly happen?
        Many other things don’t exist or happen, but we are still attached to our thoughts/desires.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha… That is why I like Q/A sessions. They open new domains of thoughts! 🙂

        Yes. Absolutely. Memories and our attached feelings (of like or dislike). They do exist. But only of those, as you said, who are gone from immediate lives. But what of the linkage you were talking about? But the main qtn is, “How do we pay a debt to the Soul that is departed?”. In case of pitru deva, they exist in us as the functional principle of reproduction and forming bodies. So, paying debt is possible by revering them. But a departed soul, how ever awesome he or she must have been, is gone. Two cases of believes exist. Either the soul is gone forever (nihilistic view) or The soul reincarnate. In either case, you have no contact with them. So, how does any act of thought or action imply paying a respect or debt? Am I on right tracks of questioning? Or did I misunderstand you and sidetracked? Please let me know.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Some people in my family think that I am the spitting image of my great grandmother and some believe that I do not resemble her at all. Though I have never seen her and nor do, I have any photo of her. And I keep asking my family elders about her life, her likes, and dislikes. I think I’ll be able to pay my debt to her if I can do something that she wanted to do but couldn’t do.

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