Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 18

Notes on Tattvabodha
Dr. Vishnu Bapat

Dr. Bapat (72) was the co-founder of an Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Industry and served as its Managing Director for 26 years until retirement. He is associated with several professional and spiritual bodies. He is now fully engaged in the study and practice of Vedanta.




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39. Five fundamental Elements (continued)

To explain this, Swami Paramarthananda says that we must know three basic principles of vedantic cosmology.

1. The first is principle of energy and matter.

God or Brahman is the energy or spirit and maya or prakrati is the matter. The word Brahman is used in respect of macrocosm or aggregate of all beings and things (समष्टि). The word Atman or soul is used when we speak of individual being or microcosm (व्यष्टि). Brahman is consciousness or the truth. So is also the soul. The difference between them arises due to their conditioning which we are going to study later. The Matter or prakrati is inert in nature and is dependent on the presence of energy for its activities and thus it becomes dynamic. The principle of energy is Brahman. Matter is called Maya. It has two aspects; the veiling power or आवरण शक्ति and the projecting power or विक्षेप शक्ति. The latter is the creative power that projects the entire world of names and forms.

2. The second principle is that everything in the world pre-existed in a potential or un-manifest form.

It becomes manifest by evolution. Nothing is created or nothing is destroyed. This manifestation happens in three stages. They are:

 Causal universe. This is beginning-less. This is the primal or potential form.

 Subtle universe has a beginning and end. This is first stage of evolution.

 Gross universe has a beginning and end. This is the current stage of evolution.

What is the difference between the subtle and gross object? This can be explained by an example. Our body is gross and the mind is subtle. Both are matter or modification of Maya. The mind being subtle is not perceivable by others except me. Subtle element is not tangible. Body being gross can be perceived with the sense objects. Causal body is like a seed of the tree. Every seed is but a subtle miniature of tree.

3. The third principle is that of dissolution or involution.

In this stage, the gross becomes subtle and latter folds up as causal universe or Maya. The manifest condition becomes un-manifest condition. As Krishna says in Gita,

अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यनि भारत

अव्यक्त निधनान्येव तत्र का परिवेदन

Now coming back to the text, in this paragraph under discussion, the author gives a blue print of cosmic creation. The following is the sequence.

ततः आकाश: सम्भूतः – From the Maya was born space. It has the quality of sound. It transmits sound.

आकाशात् वायुः – From the space emerged air. It is less pervasive. It has qualities of sound and touch. It can be heard and felt.

वायोः तेजः – from the air evolved fire. It is grosser than air. It has quality of sound, touch, color including form. In Sanskrit, the word रूप or shape is used for the qualities of color and form. Fire can be heard, touched and seen.

तेजसः आपः – from the fire became water. It is less pervasive than the above three. It has the quality of sound, touch, color (form) and taste. So it can be heard, touched, seen and tasted.

अद्भ्यः प्रथिवी –from water emerged earth. It is the grossest and least pervasive. It has the qualities of sound, touch, form (color) taste and smell. So it can be heard, touched, seen, tasted and smelt.


“The process of creation is from subtle to gross. The subtleness of an element is measured by its pervasiveness and the number of perceivable qualities it has got. The more pervasiveness of the object, the more subtle it is; subtlest object has zero qualities. Truth is the subtlest. It is all pervasive and beyond cognition from any instrument of knowledge. It has no attributes.”


Swami Paramarthananda gives an interesting point about the three states of matter namely water, solid and gas. In chemistry the fourth state of matter is recognized. It is called plasma state. It is distinct from the solid, liquid or gas and it is present in stars and a fusion reactor. A gas becomes plasma when it is heated until the atoms lose all their electrons, leaving a highly electrified collection of nuclei and free electrons. Vedanta goes beyond the four states and says that there is another state of matter called Akasha or space. These five elements are evolved from matter or maya. Since maya is the material cause of the five elements the three qualities of maya pervade the five elements.


Which are the three qualities of maya? It is discussed in the next section.

सूक्ष्म प्रपञ्च् सूक्ष्म शरीर स्रष्टि Evolution of subtle universe and subtle body

40. Creation of individual subtle body from Sattva

एतेषां सात्विकांशात्

एतेषां पञ्चतत्वानां मध्ये आकाशस्य सात्विकांशात्

श्रोत्रेन्दियम् सम्भूतम् । वायॊः सत्विकांशाव्त्वगीन्द्रियं सम्भूतम् ।

अग्नेः सात्विकांशाच्चक्षुरिन्द्रियम् सम्भूतम् ।

जलस्य सात्विकांशात् रससेनेन्द्रियं सम्भूतम् ।

प्रथिव्याः सात्विकांशात् घ्राणेन्द्रियं सम्भूतम् ।।

एतेषां – of these पञ्चतत्वानाम् -मध्ये – of the five elements आकाशस्य – of space सात्विकांशात् – from the sattva aspect श्रोत्रेन्दियम् – organ of hearing सम्भूतम् – was evolved वायॊः – of the air सत्विकांशात् from the sattva aspect -त्वगिन्द्रियम् – organ of touch सम्भूतम् – was evolved अग्नेः – of fire सात्विकांशात् – from the sattva aspect चक्षुरिन्द्रियम् – the organ of sight सम्भूतम् – was evolved जलस्य – of water सात्विकांशात् – from the sattva aspect रसनेन्द्रियम् – the organ of taste सम्भूतम् – was evolved प्रथिव्याः – of the earth सात्विकांशात् – from the sattva aspect घ्राणेन्द्रियम् – organ of smell सम्भूतम् – was evolved

From these five great elements, out of the sattvika aspect of the space, the organ of hearing evolved. From the sattvika aspect of the air, the organ of touch evolved. From the sattvika aspect of the fire, the organ of sight evolved. From the sattvika aspect of water, evolved the organ of taste. From the sattvika aspect of the earth, evolved the organ of smell.

In the previous paragraph, the author explained how the five pure, fundamental, un-alloyed elements (पञ्चतन्मात्रा) were evolved. Now in this chapter, the creation of subtle body is explained. We have already studied that the subtle body or Sukshma sharira has got five organs of perception, five organs of action, five pranas, manas and buddhi. Aggregate of this was called सप्तदशकला or seventeen entities. We were also told that the five non-grossified tanmatras were involved in the production of subtle body.


The five organs of knowledge (पञ्च ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि) are श्रोत्रं त्वक् चक्षु: रसना घ्राणम्.These are associated with our knowing faculty. Each of the five subtle elements (तन्मात्रा) has three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. Each of these five tanmatras and their gunas is responsible for the evolution of an organ.


The organs of knowledge are evolved from the sattvika guna of the subtle elements.

आकाशस्य सात्विकांशात् श्रोत्रेन्दियम् सम्भूतम् – From the Sattva guna component of Space developed ears (श्रोत्रं)

वायॊः सत्विकांशात् त्वगिन्द्रियम् सम्भूतम् -- From the Sattva guna component of Air developed the skin (त्वक्)

अग्नेः सात्विकांशात् चक्षुरिन्द्रियम् सम्भूतम् - From the Sattva guna component of Fire developed Eye (चक्षु)

जलस्य सात्विकांशात् रसनेन्द्रियम् सम्भूतम् - From the Sattva guna component of Water developed Tongue (रसना) प्रथिव्याः सात्विकांशात् घ्राणेन्द्रियम् सम्भूतम् - From the Sattva guna component of Earth the generated Nose (घ्राणम्)


This is how the sattvika aspect of the subtle elements or तन्मात्र-s creates the subtle sense organs of knowledge. The main characteristic of sattva guna is knowledge. Each of the five organs of knowledge have specialized cognizing qualities.


We have so far studied the formation of five cosmic elements and five sense organs. We must remember that the sense organs are in the subtle body but not in the gross body. The gross sense organs are just apertures or गॊलक. These sense organs bring information from the external world.


Evolution of organs of Perception from ungrossified Sattva Elements

Table 1


Element of



Organ of























Total of five basic elements

Mind, Intellect, ego and memory

मनः बुद्धि अहंकार चित्त


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