Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 35

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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V - An account of the process of manifestation

In Taittiriya Upanisad, we have one of the accounts of the process of manifestation. It says that the first element to manifest is äkäça (space). It does not mean that from Brahman comes äkäça. It means that from Brahman, which has for its adjunct mäyä or avidyä, which is in the causal, undifferentiated form, äkäça in its subtle form is projected by mäyä. The characteristic of äkäça is sound. From subtle äkäça, that is, Brahman with the limiting adjunct of mäyä as äkäça [243] comes subtle väyu (air), which has the characteristic of touch. Similarly, from subtle väyu comes subtle agni (fire), which has the characteristic of form. Similarly, from subtle agni comes subtle äpa (water), which is characterized by taste. Similarly, from subtle äpa comes subtle påthvé (earth) characterized by smell. Äkäça, väyu, agni, äpa and påthvé are called païca-bhütas or five elements. These in their subtle form containing their own characteristic attribute are called tanmätras. Every thing, that is, Éçvara, jéva and jagat, is constituted of only païca-bhütas.


Äkäça, which appears first, is the subtlest and later appearances are of progressively lower subtlety. Even as subtlety decreases, the element has more qualities and when grossified, becomes available for perception through more sense organs. While space has the quality of only sound and can only be heard, air, in addition to its own quality of touch, has also the quality of sound and can be felt and heard; fire in addition to its own quality of form has the qualities of sound and touch and can be seen, heard and felt; water in addition to its own quality of taste has the qualities of sound, touch and form and can be tasted, heard, felt and seen; and finally, earth has in addition to its quality of smell has the qualities of sound, touch, form and taste and can be smelled, heard, felt, seen and tasted. None of the elements in their subtle form is perceptible to any sense organ.


From the subtle elements are formed the gross elements through a process of grossification. [244] Each element divides into two halves. Then, one half of each subtle element combines with one eighth each of the other four subtle elements to make one gross element. Even though each gross element is a mixture of all the elements, it retains the name of the element preponderant in it.


The manifestation can be viewed either in its entirety as macrocosm or individually as microcosm [245]. They carry different names at each stage of manifestation and they are given below.


State of Manifestation

Total                    (prapaïca or jagat)

Individual (jéva)

Causal (käraëa)



Subtle (sükñma)

hiraëyagarbha [246]


Gross (sthüla)







Antaryämi means the internal controller as it refers to the causal state of entire manifestation. Its individual product is called präjïa or one who is more or less ignorant (of its true nature) [247]. This state is called “mass of consciousness” as everything is in the undifferentiated, indiscernible state. Hiraëyagarbha, whose literal meaning is golden foetus, is the subtle level of manifestation in which differentiation of what is potential has started. It is also called süträtman or the thread passing through and connecting the manifestation [248]. Its individual product, taijasa means the one full of light or thoughts. The gross universe is called virät [249] or the completely manifest visible universe. Its individual product is called viçva, since it is manifest in diverse ways.


243.This is true of väyu, agni, äpaand påthvé as well, as äkäça and others cannot bring about manifestation by themselves.
244.The process of grossification is called pañcékaraëam.
245.Macrocosm is called brahmänḍam and microcosm is called piëḍänḍam.
246. This is equivalent to Brahmaji.
247.Präyeëa ajñyaù|
48. It is also referred to as präëa in Båhadäraëyaka Upaniñad, 3.9.9.
249.Vividaà räjate iti virät|

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