Posts Tagged ‘Mahattattva’

Darshan (Philosophy) XVIII

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Maya

Maya or Prakruti

Maya means matter, in modern terms. It is the material cause of the creation. Maya is described to be trigunātmikā. Just as particles have three inherent properties of mass, charge, and spin; maya also has three inherent qualities called gunas, namely, Satva, Raja, and Tama. These gunas or properties are described in the Moksha-dharma section of Shanti ParvaBook 12 of Mahabharat. Maya is full of darkness and ignorance. It causes illusion. It does not have intelligence. It is lifeless (achetan), insentient, and dead. Scriptures called it jad-chidātmak (analogous to matter and energy or particle and wave form). It is also called the Shakti or power of Purushottam (God). It is the root cause of ignorance (avidya) and attachment of the soul with its body and bodily relatives. It creates the feeling of aham (I-ness) for the body and mamatva (My-ness) for the bodily objects and bodily relatives. It causes attractions for the two objects. It causes bondage or attachment of the soul with the world and worldly things.

Maya in its primordial form is also known as Prakruti. The primordial form of universe is called Pradhān and the primordial form of multiverse or multiple brahmands is called Mahāmāyā or Mul-Prakruti.

3. Pradhan and Purush

Pradhān is a kind of Prakruti. Sometimes, it is also known as Pradhan-Prakruti to differentiate it from the Mul-Prakruti. Pradhan-Prakrutis are infinite in numbers. They are all evolved from Mul-Prakruti. Pradhan is described in the scriptures as the material cause of brahmand. Its essence is known as Purush, called Pradhan-Purush to differentiate him from Mul-Purush. From Pradhan, Mahattattva – the primordial form of brahmand (universe) is evolved. From Mahattattva, three types of Ahamkar are evolved and from them 24 kinds of elements (tattvas) are evolved. From these 24 elements all of the non-living and living beings of the universe are evolved. Pradhan-Purush or Ishwar is the essence of Pradhan and the efficient cause of universe. Virāt form of brahmand, also known as Virat-Purush, is evolved from Pradhan-Purush. All avatars manifest from Virat-Purush. Vāsudev Narayan enters into and resides in avatars through Purush. His presence qualifies the avatar. It is not possible for an avatar to manifest through Virat-Purush without the presence of Vāsudev Narayan (God).

4. Mul-Prakruti and Mul-Purush

Mul-Prakruti (also known as Mahamaya) is mentioned in the scriptures as the root cause or the basic material cause of infinite numbers of universes (ananta koti brahmands). (Mahabharat: Book 12: Shanti Parva, Part 2-3: Mokshdharma Parva: Section: CCCLII) Scriptures describe that from a pair of Mul-Prakruti (also known as Mahamaya) and Mul-Purush (also known as Prakruti-Purush or Mahāpurush) infinite number of pairs of Pradhan and Purush are evolved. From each pair of Pradhan and Purush, each brahmand is evolved. Mul-Prakruti or Mahamaya is the final material cause of countless brahmands or multiverse. Prakruti-Purush or Mahapurush is the final efficient cause of countless brahmands or multiverse.

Mahamaya, Maya in general, is originated from a tiny portion of the luminescence (tej) of Brahm, which sustains in it all of the brahmands. “Vishtabhya aham idam kritsnam ekāmshena sthito jagat” (Bhagwad Gita: 10.42). Meaning, “I support (vishtabhya) this entire (kritsnam) cosmos (jagat) that is being existed (sthito) in a tiny portion or fraction (ekāmshena) of me (my body).” In the scriptures, Aksharbrahm is considered as the sharir (body) of Purushottam (Parabrahm) and Purushottam is considered Aksharbrahm’s shariri (essence or controller). “Yasyāksharam shariram…” (Subāla Upanishad: Khand-7) Meaning, “He, Narayan (God), whose body (sharir) is Akshar.”

Prakruti-Purush, Mahapurush, or Mul-Purush, as he is known by these names, is basically an aksharpurush or akshar-mukta, one of many akshar-like or akshar-rup purushas. This aksharpurush or Prakruti-Purush is desireless (niranna), already liberated (mukta), brahmanized, brahm-like, or has become one with Brahm (brahmrup), and is the cause or source of maya. He is fully contented, happy, and fulfilled (paripurna) with the bliss and happiness of Brahm, who is free from any desire to indulge in worldly or mayik pleasures. Even though he stays within maya he ever remains unaffected by maya. There are many such akshar-like, brahmrup Purushas who worship Purushottam Vāsudev Narayan (God). Mahapurush is born or arise (upajayate) from Aksharbrahm at the wish or will of Purushottam. Mahapurush is the cause of Mahamaya. Mahamaya, as such, is anādi (unborn) or eternal (without birth and death). But at the final dissolution (Ātyantik pralay) it becomes dormant, shrinks or dissolves in a tiny portion of Aksharbrahm, and remains embedded there until the next creation. It is the same Mahamaya that is reactivated or born from the tej or luminescence of Aksharbrahm by Mahapurush. Through Mahamaya, Mahapurush causes the rest of the creation of multiple brahmands. Thus, finally it is Purushottam Vāsudev who, in the form of Brahm, is both – the material as well as efficient cause of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of countless or infinite numbers of brahmands. Taittiriya Upanishad says, “Vignānam cha avignānam abhavat |” (Taittiriya Upanishad: Brahmānanda Valli, Anuvāka: 6) Meaning, “Brahm became the intelligence (sentient being) as well as the non-intelligence (insentient being) of the universe.”

Just as there is a difference between the jiv (an individual soul) and Purush (Virat-Purush or a universal soul and Prakruti-Purush or a multiversal soul), who is an ishwar, there is difference between ishwar and Brahm.

Aksharbrahm, the abode of Purushottam,  is the penultimate reality – the one and only. Purushottam is the Ultimate Reality. Aksharbrahm is the most sought for reality, for the yogis and the devotees of God who seek for the final resting place or the final liberation. The scriptures say that when the whole creation undergoes dissolution, there remains or exists nothing but God, His abode, and the liberated souls. This is the reason why it is called final liberation (Atyantik Kalyan or Moksh).

Darshan (Philosophy) XVII

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Ishwar

Ishwar and Brahmand

2. Ishwar is the essence of brahmand. He is the universal soul – the creator, controller, and the efficient cause of whole universe (brahmand). Brahmand is his body. Brahmand is Ishwar’s field (kshetra) of action. Ishwar is the fielder (kshetragna) of brahmand. Each brahmand is evolved from a pair of Pradhān and Purush. Pradhan is a kind of Prakruti limited to a brahmand and is considered as the insentient or material cause of it and Purush (Pradhan-Purush) is the essence of Pradhan and is considered as the sentient, essential, or efficient cause of a brahmand. Pradhan is the primordial form of Mahattattva. Mahattattva (also mentioned as Hiranyagarbha or fire ball in the scriptures) is the primordial form of brahmand (universe). Purush is its essence.

Virat is an existing or sustaining form of a brahmand (universe). Because Purush is the essence of Virat, he is also known as “Virat-Purush.” In the scriptures, Purush or Virat-Purush is known as Ishwar.  Brahmand is described as Purushavatar.  Just as the soul has three kinds of body, Ishwar or Virat-Purush also has three kinds of body (sharir): Virāt, Sutrātmā, and Avyākrut – equivalent to gross, subtle, and causal bodies, respectively. Similar to the birth, life, and death of a star, Utpatti (birth or creation), Sthiti (life or sustenance), and Pralay (death or dissolution) of brahmand (universe) are the three states (avastha) of Virat-Purush or brahmand.Like jiva, Virat-Purush is also bound to his body called brahmand. Brahmand also undergo a life-cycle of birth, life, and death. Virat-Purush remains bound to his body until he finishes his lifespan. The lifespan of Virat-Purush is two parardhs (each parardh is approximately equal to 155.52 trillion years).  The death of a part of brahmand, called triloki (10 out of 14 loks which include swarg lok, mrutyu lok, and pātāl lok), is known as “nimitta-pralay.” It occurs at the end of everyday of brahmand during its lifetime. When the general dissolution or death of whole brahmand occurs it is called “prakruti-pralay.” When this occurs, the whole brahmand dissolves into Pradhān – its material cause, which in turn dissolves into Mahāmāyā or Mul-Prakruti. Purush gets in direct contact with Mahapurush or Mul-Purush, who is “akshar-purush” or “akshar-mukta.”

According to the scriptures, from the navel of Virat-Purush Brahmā was born. Brahmā, Vishnu, and Mahesh are the three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan (Vāsudevnarayan) for the control, operation, and execution of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the brahmand (universe). When jiv worships these three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan, he achieves the three purushārths, namely, dharma, arth, and kām. When jiv worships nirgun forms or the avatars of Vāsudev Narayan he attains moksh. There exist countless universes (brahmands) with their own Brahmā, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Purushottam Narayan known as Vāsudev Narayan, in the form of Purush, enters into and inspires Virāt-Purush to perform his activities of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of Brahmand. Virat-Purush worships Sankarshan, Aniruddha, and Pradyumna (the three sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan) during the state of dissolution, sustenance, and creation of Brahmand, respectively. As long as Virat-Purush worships sagun forms of Vāsudev Narayan, his association with maya remains intact and when he worships the nirgun form of Vāsudev Narayan he forsakes maya and becomes one with Brahm or brahmrup. Ishwar is the source of all incarnations in brahmand. The scriptures describe that all the avatars in a brahmand are manifestations of Vāsudev Narayan. When Vāsudev Narayan enters and resides in Virat-Purush in the form of Purush he is said to be an avatar. Because of this Virat-Purush is also known as Vairaj-Narayan. Thus, avatars are worshiped in Hinduism because of the presence of Vāsudev Narayan only.

The difference between ishwar and jiv is that ishwar is “sarvagna” (omniscient), whereas, jiv is “alpagna” (little-knowing). Ishwar is limited to brahmand or universe, which is its field (kshetra), whereas, jiv is finite and limited to its body (sharir) only. Another difference is that, Virat-Purush – the ishwar, at the time of dissolution leaves the universe – his body, forsakes maya, and goes directly to the abode of God because he is inherently free from maya but only for the purpose of creation he indulges into maya, whereas, jiv, at the time of death, leaves its body and merges into maya for entering the cycle of births and death, unless and until it becomes free from its bondage with maya.

Brahmands are countless or infinite in numbers (anant koti), each with fourteen realms (loks or lokas) located within it and the eight layers or shields (ashtavaran) covering from the outside of it, as is described in detail in the scriptures. In the whole creation there are groups or strata of brahmands. They are all of their original sizes and dimensions but because of the vastness of the creation they all look merely like atoms wondering around. As there are many brahmands, there are many pairs of Pradhan (kshetra) and Purush (kshetragna). Thus, Kapil rishi in the Sankhya scriptures acknowledges the plurality of Purushas. Mahabharat: Book 12: Shanti Parva, Part 2-3: Mokshadharma Parva: Section: CCCLI-II also mentions the same.

Darshan (Philosophy) I

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Shad Darshan – Sankhya and Yoga:


Since Hinduism has its base in Vedas and Vedas are considered words of God directly revealed to the great Rishis, Hinduism is not considered as a philosophy. Hinduism is the Vedic way of describing the Absolute Truth. Vedas are considered eternal (without any origin), authorless (apaurusheya – means not the work of mankind or beyond human imagination), and infallible (never wrong). The directly revealed words of God are considered as the form of God. “mada vāni, mada rupam”, meaning, “My words are my form.” It is considered as one of the ways of understanding or claiming the Truth, just like any other religious philosophies. It will be surprising to know that almost all religious philosophies agree to believe that the “Truth” or “Absolute” is one, but it is equally surprising that the claimants or claimers are many! Because, Hinduism is not considered as a philosophy but is considered as the first hand or direct information about the truth, the philosophies developed on the bases of the Vedas – the words of God, are called “Darshans.” Darshans are philosophies – philosophical interpretations about the Truth by the great scholars. Darshans literarily means the views, visions, or philosophies and are also known as “Tattvagnān” (also spelled as “Tattvagyan” or “Tattvajnan”). Hinduism is not the “Darshan” or “Tattvagnān.” “Shad” means six and “Darshan” means philosophy. The six major philosophies of Hinduism developed from Vedas and Upanishads are: Sānkhya, Yoga, Nyāya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimānsā (Mimamsa), and Uttara Mimānsā (also known as Vedanta.”) All these philosophies were basically developed before the Common Era except the few major philosophies based on Vedanta.


Sankhya” is the oldest classical philosophical system of Hinduism founded by rishi Kapil. According to Sankhya, there are basically two realities: Prakruti and Purush. Prakruti means the Nature which consists of 24 elements (tattvas). Purush means the essence or the controller of Prakruti. It is ontologically and characteristically distinct from Prakruti and is considered as the 25th element that is transcendental to all other elements. The responsibility of exploring or knowing in detail and further describing the Nature or Prakruti has been taken up by the Science, The responsibility of knowing and describing God or Purush has been taken up by the Religion.

The objective of Sankhya is to obtain discriminative knowledge of the manifest (vyakta) nature (prakruti), the unmanifest (avyakta) nature (prakruti), and the knower (purush). “Tadviparitaha shreyān vyakta-avykta-gna-vignānāt ||” (Sāmkhya Kārikā: 2) According to Sankhya, Vyakta prakruti includes Mahattattva, Buddhi, Ahamkar, five Tanmatra, ten Indriya, and five Mahabhut. Avyakta prakruti is Pradhān. The knower (gnaha) is known as Purush.

Sankhya philosophy maintains multiplicity of Purush. “janana-marana-karanānām pratiniyamādugapatpravruteshcha | Purushabahutvam siddhim traigunyaviparyayāshchaiva ||” (Sāmkhya Kārikā: 18) “Everybody does not born at the same time, does not die at the same time, everybody does not do same activity (karma) at the same time, everybody does activities (pravrutti) according to their psychological state of mind (gunas), such as some do virtuous activities (dharma), some do wicked activities (adharma);  some do cultivate detachment from the worldly object (vairagya) some not; some gain knowledge (gyān), some not. These diversities themselves show the plurality of purushas.”

Sankhya does not separate jiv or soul from sharir or the body. It considers jiv or soul as a part of 24 elements of Nature (also called Pradhān Prakruti) because jiv is intermingled or blended with them so closely that it cannot be separately identified. The 24 elements along with jiv are considered as the field called “Kshetra” and Purush is considered as the fielder called “Kshetragna.” They have controlee and controller relationships, respectively. This can be compared to the Dualism. But, the dualism of body and its life force (soul, atma or jivatma) or the dualism of cosmos (Prakruti) and its super-soul (Purush) and not the dualism of body and mind (According to Hinduism mind or antahkaran is part of the body – ontologically same element or reality) as against Monism. In Sankhya, the intellect or conscious is called “mahat” (mahattattva). Sankhya describes three kinds of proofs or evidences called “Pramānas,” namely, “Pratyaksha pramana” meaning direct perception, “Anumāna pramana” meaning logical inference, and “Sabda pramana” means verbal testimony.

Sānkhya is the eyes (ānkhya) to visualize the Truth. The message of Sankhya is to utilized this material world for improving one’s understanding about the Truth, at the same time developing the detachment from it, and hence to uplift the soul considering that this material world is not that important, permanent, or giver of the happiness or the bliss. It can just give comfort at the most. It is called the Nature or Prakruti – the jad (lifeless), aparā (non-transcendental) Prakruti which is “nāshvant” meaning destructible. The real essence is its life force, motivating force, its cause, its controller called Purush, Ishwar, or God. One should cultivate the attachment with the Truth. Sankhya generally believes in unrestricted use of nature or the worldly products of the nature and then either to forget it or to rationalize it to remain permanently detached from it so that one always remains in the state of bliss and avoid pain and sufferings.

In Sankhya, the question of salvation remains open. If Purush is God and Prakruti is His creation then salvation of Purush is out of question. If Brahmand is Prakruti (Pradhān) and its chief controller is Purush and if there is only one brahmand then the separation of Purush from its brahmand happens at the dissolution. But it doesn’t explain multiplicity of Purushas. If there are many brahmands, and hence many Pradhāns then it explains existence of many Purushas. But then it does not explain the supremacy of one God. One needs to add or explain the existence of the supreme reality. If Prakruti is body and Purush is its essence, called Jiv or soul, then it explains many bodies and many souls – a separate soul for each living being. But then the soul becomes the 25th element and what about God? What about salvation? Who gets salvation and who gives salvation? If souls get salvation, then who gives them salvation? The above ontological questions or flaws in Sankhya philosophy creates the necessity of at least one more reality, either soul or God, which is explained by the next philosophy.


Yoga was developed by rishi Pātanjali for creation of the spiritual bonding or union of a soul with the God. But now it has taken a 360 degree turn to help built physical health globally. The principals of Yoga are mentioned in his text of “Yoga Sutra.” Patanjali’s yoga system accepts the principles and concepts of Sankhya about the 24 kinds of physical elements. Patanjali’s Yoga texts (Yoga Shāshtras) go one step further. According to yoga, soul or jiv is ontologically different than the 24 kinds of physical, material, or worldly elements. So soul or jiv can be considered as the 25th element and God automatically becomes the 26th element. God is still maintained superior to all that makes up the topmost transcendental element or fundamental entity constituting the creation. God in Yoga is personified, Supreme, and of the nature of soul, that is, purely spiritual. He facilitates the attainment of liberation of the souls of His devotees. He remains non-doer or “akrtā.” Meaning, He doesn’t do anything directly by Himself and remain detached from its creation. He is called “Ishwar.” In Yoga, Ishwar is described as one, “in whom there is the seed (bij) or source of unsurpassed (nirātishayam) quality of all-knowing (omniscience),” “Tatra niratishayam sarvagnatva-bijam” Meaning Ishwar is omniscient or all-knower (sarvagna) (Yoga Sutra: 1.25) and “Sa purveshām-api guruhu kālenānavachchhedāt” (Yoga Sutra: 1.26) Meaning, “who is Guru (mentor or the ideal) of also ancient ones (primary creators, such as Brahmā and others), for, He is unbounded (pierced) by time (for He has no beginning and end, meaning eternal, whereas others have beginning and end).” Ishwar is “Purush-vishesha” (Godhead) untouched, unaffected, and free from the “klesha” (afflictions), “karma” (deeds or actions), “vipāka” (fruits of the deeds or actions), and “āshaya” (intentions or desires). “Klesha karma vipākāshayair aparāmrushtaha purusha-vishesha ishwaraha” (Yoga Sutra: 1.24). Souls are pure, eternal, immutable, and are countless in number. They remain attached to the world and worldly things. Souls assume innumerable embodied forms in the cycle of birth and death. In Yoga, the intellect or conscious is called “chittva” (chitt). Unlike the unrestricted use of nature in the Sankhya system, Yoga believes in the restricted use of the nature or in the well controlled and willing (not the forceful and against one’s will) suppression (nirodh) of the thoughts (vruttis) of the conscious (chitt). To understand the elements let us take only one kind of element, say the “Pruthwi” element. It consists of particulate form of more than 112-118 elements of the periodic table. Yoga also describes perceptions, but only of two kinds: “Savikalpa” meaning relative and “Nirvikalpa” meaning absolute perception.

In Yoga, Ashtang Yoga or meditation (dhyān) is used as the means of communion with the Divinity or God. Divinity or self is the object of meditation. Yoga recommends considering the soul, jiv or atma as the distinct (chaitanya) entity from the physical or worldly (lifeless) objects or entities and to develop “Atmabhāv” or “Atma-realization”; and then to worship Paramatma (God) who has definite form (sākār). If we have a physical form, then God has to have, physical but divine (divya sakar), form otherwise the union cannot be strong and fruitful. This is called “sajātiya” union, meaning the union “of a kind” or “of the same kind,” because, Soul and God both are believed to share ontologically common traits. The message of Yoga, as compared to Sankhya, is not to utilize this material world at all or at the minimum necessary level to keep one’s body, mind, and soul healthy and long-lasting keeping in mind that it is just the vehicle in developing the union with the Truth called God or Narayan and attaining the liberation.

Thus, Yoga emphasizes for spiritually leveling or uplifting the “Atma to God” or “Jiv to Shiv (God)” or “one eternal to another eternal” (shāswat) objects, rather than downgrading oneself with the worldly, material, destructible (nāshvant) objects by thinking or being as a part of a physical elements. If a person thinks him or herself as a part of the material world and worships God then his or her union or bonding with the God does not become complete, strong, and permanent. There always remains a flaw or hanging sward over that union and ultimately it breaks with even a trivial reason.

Yoga philosophy explains three basic or fundamental realities and salvation of souls, but it creates one more issue. If one understands Ishwar from Yoga only, being defined as Purush form, God as a person gets many limitations in understanding. One cannot get it how personified God can be all-knower or omniscient (sarvagna), all-controller, inner-guide of all (sarva antaryāmi), all-pervasive (sarva vyāpak), present everywhere at the same time (omnipresent) and absolutely perfect (paripurna).

Yoga was meant for the union of the atma (self or soul) with Paramatma (God) and the object of meditation was self or God. But in modern period of times, the object of meditation is changed from the divinity to diversity and yoga has just remain one of the means of attaining or maintaining well being of the body only, not even of mind and the soul.

Body in Hinduism IV

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Sharir – Tattvas Part I: 

Mahattattva and Ahamkar

Hinduism describes three types of body of jiv. On liberation jiv leaves its three types of body and goes to the abode of God called Brahmdhām. For souls those are not liberated remain attached to their Kāran Sharir (causal body) and is absorbed within Māyā. This kāran sharir is of a form of avidyā and carries accumulated deeds (sanchit karmas) of the jiv. The jiv and its kāran sharir have eternal relationship. On creation, those jivs that are not liberated from the cycle of birth and death and have resided in Māyā along with their kāran sharir get various types of bodies of organisms or creatures including plants and animals, according to their individual karmas, by God’s will. Just as the judge decides the final outcome of the case and sets the reward for the defendant and the punishment to be inflicted on a convicted person after consideration or liberation, God decides which jiv gets which kind of body depending on its deed or karma. This is the reason why, in Hinduism, God is also described as “karma-fal-pradātā”, meaning giver of the fruits of karmas. Both, the Sukshma and Sthul bodies are intimately associated and remained within Kāran body, just as a tree is remained within its seed.

Hinduism also describes that the body of a jiv consists of 24 different elements as enumerated in previous part. These 24 elements are not eternal because they are derived from three types of Ahamkārs, which in turn are derived from Mahattattva. Mahattattva is also not eternal. It is derived from Pradhān-Prakruti, which in turn is derived from Mul-prakruti or Mahāmāyā. According to Hinduism, this Māyā is eternal. Now, let us discuss some of the elements of the body in further detail.


Mahattattva is the primordial form of universe (brahmand). The entire world inherently resides in a subtle form within mahattattva, just as a whole tree resides in a seed or an entire human body resides in an embryo. Mahattattva is like the matter in the fireball from which the whole Brahmānd (Universe) is evolved. It is very bright or luminous (prakāshmān), crystal clear (swachha), without any deformities (nirvikār), without any kind of disturbances or activities meaning quiet (shānt), and is extremely neutral in qualities or gunas (shuddha sattvamaya). It is created from Pradhānprakruti and is a source of 51 elements, namely, three kinds of ahamkars (the source of all other elements), fourteen deities of indriyas and antahkarans, four antahkarans, ten indriyas, ten prans, panch-bhuts and panch-tanmatras. From Mahattattva three types of Ahamkār are evolved and from Ahamkars the 24 elements, the constituents of whole Brahmānd (Universe), are evolved. Mahattattva and chitt are indifferent (abhed). Just as Mahattattva is the primordial form of universe, Chitt is the primordial form of body (sharir). Just as the universe is evolved from Mahattattva, whole body of living organism is evolved from Chitt.


Ahamkar is evolved from Mahattattva. It is of 3 types. Ahamkār is equivalent to the primordial matter in three forms from which the remaining elements of the universe (Brahmānd) are evolved. Ahamkar is “trigunātmak” meaning, it carries the three intrinsic or inherent properties, qualities, or attributes of Māyā, namely, Sattvagun, Rajogun, and Tamogun. By nature ahamkar is quiet (without any internal activities) or passive (shānt), dense (ghor), and totally ignorant or without any physical or cognitive activity (vimudh). Ahamkār is the cause of gross and subtle physical elements (bhuts); indriyas, antahkarans, and their deities; and prāns.

A. Sāttvik Ahamkār:

The main characteristic of sāttvik-gun (sattvagun) is purity, awareness, wakefulness, goodness, neutrality or indistinctiveness, balance, tranquility, wisdom, knowledge, etc. From Sattvik ahamkar the man and the presiding deities (also called Pratyādhi or Devatās) of the indriyas, divine or higher elements, are evolved.

B. Rājas Ahamkār:

The main characteristic of rājas-gun (rajogun) is passion, incoherence, cloudiness, lack of clarity, lacking harmony, lacking connection, impurity, unintelligibility, etc. From Rajas ahamkar ten indriyas, Buddhi, and prāns, basic functional elements, are evolved.

C. Tāmas Ahamkār:

The main characteristic of tāmas-gun (tamogun) is darkness, unconsciousness, passiveness, emptiness, ignorance, etc. From Tamas ahamkar five bhuts (gross elements), and five tanmātrās (subtle elements), basic structural elements, are evolved.

Body in Hinduism III

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Sharir – Sthul, Sukshma, and Karan

Hinduism describes that the non-liberated soul are born (jiv) in “Mrutyu Lok” – the realm of the universe where life exists. They born, live, and die in this realm (lok), so, it is called Mrutyu (death) lok. Scientists have found that life can sustain even in the most extreme or harsh conditions. This is because of the superb structural and functional engineering of the body. Thus, body is an important unit of living being. In Hinduism, body is known as sharir, deh, tanu, or tan (ta´n). The Sanskrit word “tan (ta´n)” rhymes with man (ma´n means mind) and dhan (dha´n means money or wealth). Middle Persian language (3rd to 7th century BCE) also used to have word tan (ta´n) for the body. Hinduism describes all living beings have three kinds of body, namely, Sthul (gross), Sukshma (subtle or psychological), and Karan (causal). This body of living beings is consisting of 24 physical entities, called tattvas.

1. Sthul sharir: It is a gross physical body of the soul or jiv. Sthul body is made of different parts and organ systems called “Ang” and “Upāng” in Sanskrit. For the lower animals and microbes, their gross body is microscopic and they have tiny angs and upangs. Out of 24 elements, the sthul body of living beings consists of five gross elements known as Panch-bhuts. They are: Pruthvi, Jal, Tej, Vayu, and Akash. These five bhuts are created from Tāmas Ahamkār, which in turn is created, along with Rājas and Sātvik Ahamkārs, from Mahattattva. Mahattattva, which is equivalent to Chitt, is the primordial element of the body. Sthul sharir is perceptible by our five senses. According to Hinduism, an important function or the main purpose of Sthul sharir is to gain the ultimate knowledge of the Truth, to enjoy the bliss of God and God related spiritual pleasure in this very life, and to transcend to the abode of God after the death. But because of its nature of experiencing happiness and sorrow of panchvishays it has become an object or vehicle for Bhog-vilās (worldly pleasures) causing more attachments to them, instead of achieving moksh, detaching from worldly pleasures, or achieving the highest spiritually enlightened state.

2. Sukshma sharir: It is subtle, psychological or functional body. For higher animals it is psyche or mental body for the soul. It is not perceptible by our senses or sensory organs but its existence can be inferred and experienced in our day to day life. For the lower animals and plants sukshma sharir is functional and can be understood by their intelligence and activities related to survival and feeling of pleasure and pain, such as, food gathering, cell division and multiplication, mating, hibernation, running away from danger and developing bodily resistance against harsh environment, experiencing shock, sadness, crying, etc. Sukshma sharir carries with it the basic instincts for the protection and survival of a living organism, such as āhār (to eat food), nindrā (to sleep), bhay (to fear), maithun (to procreate), sukh (to feel pleasure), and dukh (to feel plain). In the modern time of luxuries we still feel unhappiness in our life. In the modern time of comfort we still feel that our world’s peace is at stake. This is because we are still harboring, in our sukshma sharir, the vices, such as, lust (kām), avarice (vāsanā), anger (krodh), greed (lobh), egotism (mad), infatuation (moh), jealousy (irshā), enviousness (matsar), hope (āshā), deep and intense desire or crave (ishnā, trishnā or trushnā), grudge or animosity (ver), etc. We create our own mental body around us. For example, I am such and such person of such and such race, with such and such name, with such and such nationality, with such and such skin color, with such and such qualifications, with such and such social and monetary status, and such and such creed. I am doctor, engineer, actor, or businessmen, etc. I am rich or poor. I am brother or sister, father or mother, uncle or aunt, etc. Even animals, tiny creatures, and microscopic organisms also create their own such mental (sukshma) body around their soul and that is why they recognize their kind and also stay, mingle, and mate with their kinds. When we call an animal by its name it will look at us and respond, because, the animal has created a mental body around its soul. Our sexual orientation, irrespective of our chromosomal, hormonal, or physical orientation is the result of our mental (sukshma) body. A common person may think of himself as a king and a king may think of himself as a common person and behave accordingly because of his sukshma body. Sukshma sharir consists of rest of the 19 elements, namely, five Prāns, Vishays, or Tanmatras; ten Indriyas, four Antahkarans, namely, Man, Buddhi, Chitt, and Ahamkar.

Panch-prān-mano-buddhihi dashendriya-samanvitam, a-panchikrut-bhutotham sukshma-angam bhog-sādhanam.

Man (Mana) and Buddhi are part of sukshma or subtle body. Sometimes Ahamkar and Chitt are not included as part of sukshma sharir, which makes the total of 17 elements for sukshma sharir. The reason may be, Hinduism also describes that both Chitt and Mahattattva has indifference (abhedpunu). Because, just as Mahattattva is the primordial form and cause of three kinds of celestial body of Ishwar, namely, Virāt, Sutrātmā, and Avyākrut; Chitt also is the primordial form and cause of three kinds of terrestrial body of  Jiv, namely, Sthul, Sukshma, and Kāran. If this is the case, then chitt obviously, as a cause of other bodily elements, could possibly the part of kāran sharir. From chitt, three types of Ahamkār are evolved and from ahamkārs rest of the 24 elements are evolved. Thus, ahamkar would also become the part of kāran sharir. Probably, because of this reason both Ahamkār and Chitt might not have been included, by some, in sukshma or subtle body, instead they may be included as a part of kāran or causal body. In short, Antahkarans – man, buddhi, ahamkar, and chitt (mind or psych as a whole) is the cause of attachment and detachment with the worldly objects and their relatives. “Man eva manushyam kāranam bandh mokshayoho.”

3. Kāran sharir: Hinduism has described Kāran sharir around our soul. It seems to be, the karan sharir of the soul has not been described before by any other religion except Hinduism. Kāran sharir is a causal body which is the sole cause for the gross and subtle bodies in the next birth of the soul that is not liberated or detached from the causal body. Causal body carries the information or knowledge acquired during the previous births. The infatuation and intense or deep desires for the worldly objects and pleasures, called vāsanā, goes along with it. Soul is firmly attached to this causal body or kāran sharir. Kāran sharir consists elementally of Māyā, so it has all the characteristics of Māyā. It is described to have attributes like, anādi (without the beginning and end), avidyā (ignorant in nature), and anirvāchya (indescribable or inexplicable). On death the sthul and sukshma bodies become “dust unto dust” or parts of natural physical elements. But the causal body or kāran sharir, after death, goes with the non-liberated soul (māyānvit meaning covered with maya) wherever the soul goes, unless, the soul is completely detached or freed from it. Once the soul is completely detached from its causal body made of Māyā, it goes to the abode of God called Brahmdhām.  This liberation of the soul is known, in Hinduism, as final redemption or “Ātyantik moksh”. Thus, final redemption in Hinduism is the detachment of soul from its three bodies consisting of maya and its attributes. It also means liberation forever from the cycle of birth and death, also known as Samsār chakra, because the soul has never have to come back to world again except for the God’s wish.

Body in Hinduism II

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Sharir – 24 Elements (Tattvas)

As we have seen previously that Hinduism believes in the field-fielder (KshetraKshetragna) theory. Prakruti is the field and Purush is its fielder. Similarly, body is a field (kshetra) and the soul is its fielder (kshetragna). According to Sānkhya scriptures, Prakruti or the nature consists of 24 physical entities or elements (tattvas), whereas, Purush, also known as Ishwar, is a quite distinct eternal entity or ontological element (tattva). Similarly, body, being the part of nature, also consists of 24 elements, whereas, soul or jiv is ontologically quite distinct eternal entity from the body. Both, Prakruti or body and Purush or jiv, are characteristically quite different from each other. One is mortal (nāshvant), decayable, destructible, “trigunātmak” (having three gunas or properties of maya), full of ignorance, etc. The other is imperishable or non-aging (ajar), immortal (amar), indestructible (achhedya), indivisible and impenetrable (abhedya), full of knowledge or knowledgeable (gnātā), subtle (sukshma), etc. When jiv behaves as united or intermingled with its body and Purush is intermingled with Prakruti, it is their combined or inseparable form (anvay swarup). When jiv is behaves as quite distinct from its three kinds of body (sthul, sukshma, and kāran) and Purush or Ishwar remain quite distinct from its three kinds of body (virāt, sutrātmā, and avyākrut) body, it is their distinct eternal form (vyatirek swarup).

These 24 elements are as follows:

1. Five gross elements (called Panch-bhuts): Pruthvi, Jal, Tej, Vayu, and Akash. They are explained and translated in English as Earth, Water, Fire or Light, Air or Gas, and Space or Sky, respectively. But this translation is misleading. Rather, they should be translated as they are.

Five Bhuts (pronounced as Bhoots) are five basic structural elements. They are derived from Tāmas Ahamkār – one of the three types of Ahamkārs. The three Ahamkars, namely, Sātvik Ahamkār, Rājas Ahamkār, and Tāmas Ahamkār are created from Mahattattva which is in turn created from Pradhan-Prakruti.

2. Five subtle elements (called Panch-Tanmātrās, PanchVishays, or Panch Prāns): Five subtle or microscopic elements are physical elements at the subatomic level, for example, tanmatras, and physiological elements at the bimolecular level, for example, prans.

Five subtle physical elements are: sound (Shabda), touch (Sparsh), sight/light (Roop), taste (Ras), and smell (Gandh). Each subtle element is a part or meter (mātrā) of each gross element. For example, sound (Shabda) is part (matra) of Ākāsh/Vyom and its main receiving organ is ear, touch (Sparsh) is part (matra) of Vayu/Marut/air and its main receiving organ is skin, sight/light (Roop) is part (matra) of Tej/light and its main receiving organ is eye, taste (Ras) is part (matra) of Aapa/Jal/water/liquid and its main receiving organ is tongue, and smell (Gandh) is part (matra) of Kshiti/Pruthvi/solid and its main receiving organ is nose. Similarly, each vishay is carried by each tanmātrā. Thus, tanmatras are akin to carrier particles of science.

Hinduism has also described five functional or physiological processes at the biomolecular level as five subtle elements, which are collectively known as prāns. Five prāns are: Prān (also spelled as Prāna), Apān (also spelled as Apāna), Vyān also spelled as Vyāna), Samān (also spelled as Samāna) and Udān (also spelled as Udāna). Prans as vital processes are as such not physical elements but as life sustaining entities or forms of energies they are also considered as elements. Along with five prāns, five upa-prāns (pronounced as oopa-praans) are also described in Hinduism. Five upa-prans are: Nāg (also spelled as Naga), Kurm (also spelled as Koorma), Krikara, Devdatt (also spelled as Devadatta) and Dhananjay (also spelled as Dhananjaya)

Five Tanmātrās are five basic carrier elements of vishays to their respective senses. Just as panch-bhuts, panch-tanmatras are also derived from Tāmas Ahamkar, but Prāns are derived from Rājas Ahamkar.

3. Five motor or executive organ systems (called Karmendriyas – (Karma-Indriyas): speech organ (Vāk, Vāni, or Mukh), hands or working organs (Pāni or Hasta), legs or locomotors organ (Pād), excretory organ (Pāyu), and reproductory organ (Upastha).

4. Five sensory organ systems (called Gnanendriyas – (Gnan Indriyas): organ for sound (ear – Karna-Indriya), organ for touch (skin – Tvak or Sparsh-Indriya), organ for seeing (Eyes – Chakshu-Indriya), organ for taste (Tongue – Jihvā or Swad-Indriya), and organ for smell (Nose – Nāsikā or Ghran-Indriya).

Ten Indriyas (five types of motor organs and five types of sensory organs) are derived from Rājas Ahamkar.

5. Four intellectual systems or functional operating units (collectively called Antahkaranantah + karana: inner operative or executive instruments): They are: Man or Mana, Buddhi, Ahamkār, and Chitt. Chitt is equivalent to Mahattattva of the universe. Just as Mahattattva is primordial form of universe, Chitt is primordial form of body. Chitt is first to appear or develop in the body. Ahamkar is derived from Chitt. Ahamkar is of three kinds: Satvik, Rajasik, and Tamasik. Mana is derived from Sātvik Ahamkar. Buddhi is derived from Rājas Ahamkar.

Thus, five bhuts, five tanmatras, ten prans (five prans and five upa-prans), ten indriyas, four antahkarans, and fourteen presiding deities (devatās) of indriyas (namely, Dis, Vāta, Surya, Varun, Ashvins are for gnanendriyas; Vahni, Indra, Upendra, Mrityu, and Prajapati are for karmendriyas; and Chandra, Prajapati, Rudra, Kshetragna are for antahkarans) are all derived from three Ahamkars which in turn are derived from Mahattattva. Thus, Mahattattva is the primordial form of universe. It is like the matter in the fireball from which the whole Brahmānd (Universe) is evolved. This could be the reason why Vedas and Upanishads describe Mahattattva as Hiranyagarbha or the Golden Embryo.

All of the above physical elements that constitute body and universe, according to Hinduism, are part of Maya – one of the five fundamental eternal philosophical elements. The soul or jiv itself makes an ontologically quite distinct fundamental eternal philosophical element. According to Hinduism, all of the above physical elements are considered incapable of doing anything without soul or jiv. And soul or jiv is considered incapable of doing anything without God. God resides in the soul.