View Full Version : senses and elements in vedic philosophy

18 April 2010, 02:08 AM
sight - fire (light)

touch - air (vibration)

hearing - ether (space, medium/'stage' of sound/matter)

All these I understand. The next two perplex me a little bit.

Taste - water

Smell - earth

Especially smell. Is taste associated with water because of saliva? do things have taste because of moisture? would something without any moisture have taste? and if so can I taste something without saliva and only my tastebuds?

As for smell, why is it associated with earth? The others all make sense and smell and earth are the only element and sense left over but other then that why is smell associated with earth?

25 April 2010, 01:19 PM
hariḥ oṁ

namasté raincity (et.al)

Lets take a look at tattva-s. My view is predicated upon svāmī Lakṣman-jū's teaching of kaśmir śaivism. What does that imply? In the saṁkhya point of view there are 25 tattva found in prakṛiti (24) + puruṣa (1); in kaśmir śaivism there are 36. There are the same 25 in kaśmir śaivism, yet a few more are recognized, but that will not be the point of this post.

Lets first consider the definition of tattva ...this always helps to start at the beginning. Tattva is defined as true or real state , truth , reality; it is considered a true principle.
Some look at it this way, tata-tva. This tata is defined as covered over by, extended , stretched , spread , diffused , expanded . This tva can mean 'one' or 'several' ( such is the flexibility of saṃskṛt ). So this tata-tva can mean One extended, covering over, and imply brahman; or it can mean many covering over or extended and that infers the tattva-s or elements you have brought up in your post above.

Many see tattva as That-ness. This implies 'That' and infers brahman once again; the 'That' -ness of everything i.e. the Truth and Reality of everything. A beautiful and flexible word.

When we talk of tattva-s or these 36 elements ( again the kaśmir śaivism POV), we have them in groups:

pañca mahābhūta-s -__5 (pañca) great (mahā) elements (bhūta-s)
pañca tanmātra-s -___ 5 (pañca) merely that , only a trifle, ~subtle~ (tanmātra-s) elements
pañca jñānendriya-s -_ 5 (pañca) organs of sense, of cognition (jñāna + indriya-s)
pañca karmendriya-s - 5 (pañca) organs of action (karma + indriya-s)
antaḥkaraṇa-s -______internal organs (antaḥ + karaṇa-s); this is mind, intellect and ego.
ṣaṭ kañcuka-s - ______6 (ṣaṭ = ṣad = 6) coverings, husks, shells (kañcuka-s)
śuddha tattva-s -_____ pure (śuddha) elements (tattva-s)Your question regarding the senses resides in 3 places shown above in blue. These 3 areas work together to bring experience to the human being.
So to answer your question in a meaningful way we need to look at these 3 areas and see how they co-mingle together. We will take a look in the next post.


25 April 2010, 07:19 PM
hariḥ oṁ


Let's take a look at these pañca mahābhūta-s or 5 (pañca) great (mahā) elements (bhūta-s) . This will help us build the info on smell, taste, sight and the like.
We know them as :

ākāṣa - space, perfect space that allows all things to exist. This ākāṣa permeates all the other tattva-s on this list.
vāyu - air, atmosphere, gases, vapors, etc.
tejas¹ - fire, light, heat, illumination; flame or ray , glow , glare , splendour , brilliance , light , fire some call agni
jala - water; any fluid; it also means 'of a river'
pṛthvī¹ (some prefer pṛithvī ) - in the feminine gender it is earth.Note the order and beauty offered. Ākāṣa provides the space for all the tattva to exist. Yet the list is cumulative. That is, ākāṣa is in vāyu; ākāṣa & vāyu reside in tejas; ākāṣa & vāyu & tejas reside in jala. Ākāṣa & vāyu & tejas & jala reside in pṛthvī.

What manifests first from brahman is this ākāṣa and is the most subtle element (tattva) when we consider the pañca mahābhūta-s.

When we look to the pañca tanmātra-s , the 5 (pañca) ~subtle~ (tanmātra-s) elements, they correspond to the pañca mahābhūta-s. This begins to answer raincity's questions in post number 1 above.

gandha (smell) tanmātra arises from the mahābhūta of pṛthvī. And here we need to stop to go a bit deeper in the knowledge . When 'smell' is offered here as a tanmātra it is not exactly smelling of the nose, it is the abode of smell; where smell resides. We are not to the nose yet, as that would be ghrāṇa jñānendriya, the organ of smelling.See the order here? There is the mahābhūta (element) that corresponds to the tanmātra ( or abode or reservoir of that element) that corresponds to the jñānendriya ( organ of experience or cognition).
The element of earth -> abode of smell -> organ of smell , the nose.
Let's look at the others:

rasa (taste) tanmātra arises from the mahābhūta of jala (water); this coresponds to the jñānendriya of rasanā (the organ of tasting i.e. the tongue)
rūpa (form) tanmātra arises from the mahābhūta of tejas (fire); this coresponds to the jñānendriya of cakṣu ( the organ of perceiving, the eye - note we say eye and not eyes)
sparśa (touch) tanmātra arises from the mahābhūta of vāyu (air); this coresponds to the jñānendriya of tvak ( the organ of touch, the skin)
śabda ( sound) tanmātra arises from the mahābhūta of ākāṣa (space); this coresponds to the jñānendriya of śrotra ( the organ of hearing, the ear ; again 1 ear not ears)So, this word tanmātra is most important to understand don't you think? This will help us better understand this overall environment.
Recall we said tanmātra is not so much the act of smelling or seeing or hearing or touching, but it is the abode, the reservoir of that element.
Let's look at tanmātra like this tan + mātra :

tan = to put forth, to spread or propogate
mātra = an element , elementary matter i.e. tattva. It also means measure , quantity , sum , size , duration , measure of any kind Hence tanmātra is to put forth or propogate the sum or measue of elements, tattva.

It seems to me the question raincity asks can now be answered from the information above... it is the connection back to the essential element that is the building block of one's experience. The organ of sense is tightly coupled to the tattva.



tejas is rooted in tej meaning to sharpen; to become sharp or firm
pṛthvī has many other defintions; if we look at pṛth it means to extend. So, pṛthvī also has the definition of broad , wide , expansive , extensive , spacious , large

26 April 2010, 11:26 AM
hariḥ oṁ


In the saṁkhya point of view there are 25 tattva found - prakṛiti (24) + puruṣa (1); in kaśmir śaivism these two also exist. Yet why do we not see sattva, rajas and tamas called out as essential tattva-s? This is due to the understanding that a tattva is 'essence' of someting, its most simplist refined form . Svāmī lakṣman-jū says tattva-s are creators , they are not created. Hence the 'creator' or essence of the 3 guṇa-s is prakṛiti and hence is considered the 'parent' tattva.

Let's extend this idea just a bit. For this next part one needs to be mindful on how I will use the word guṇa. It will be used per one of its definitions as an 'attribute'. This is not too far fetched, but now I will apply it to the knowledge of the last several posts where we reviewed the pañca mahābhūta-s and the pañca tanmātra-s in posts 2 and 3 above. Please review this for a moment if one needs to get their bearings on these items.

This next section is not part of Svāmī lakṣman-jū's teachings, but aligns in principle to his knowledge offered. It is given to allow one to think from different directions.

Each pañca mahābhūta has a quality or qualities ( an attribute) aligned to it. It is worth taking a look at these to increase one's understanding of this whole tattva conversation.

ākāṣa - (perfect space) has śabda , or sound for its guṇa and the ear for its organ of experience
vāyu - (air, atmosphere, gases) has tangibility ( it can be felt) and sound ( śabda ) for its guṇa-s ; the skin is the organ of experience
tejas - (fire, light, illumination) has shape & color, tangibility (can be seen), and sound ( śabda ) for its guṇa-s ; the eye is the organ of experience
jala - (water, any fluid) has flavor , shape , tangibility (can be felt) , and sound (śabda) for its guṇa-s; the tongue is the organ of experience
pṛthvī (earth ) - has smell, flavor , shape , tangibility (can be felt) , and sound (śabda) for its guṇa-s; the nose is the organ of experince.Note in this case the guṇa being offered is equivalant to the pañca tanmātra-s aligned to it. Here is the point to be made:
Recall the definition of tanmātra written like this ... tan + mātra :

tan = to put forth, to spread or propogate
mātra = an element , elementary matter i.e. tattva. It also means measure , quantity , sum , size , duration , measure of any kind.Hence tanmātra is to put forth or propogates the elements ( tattva ). That is, the pañca mahābhūta-s are 'put forth' submitted into creation if you will, via the tanmātra-s and considered an attribute or guṇa of the more subtle element ( the mahābhūta ).


27 April 2010, 10:48 AM
hariḥ oṁ


there is much more we can talk about on this tattva matter, but will await any additional posts of interest. That said, let me offer one additional idea I find quite appealing. The observation of the structure of the tattva's from gross to subtle.

This in itself is a very suitable condition to make use of. That is, going from the gross field of existence to the suble field of existence suggests to the wise multiple techniques to transcend.

Transcending is a meditative technique that allows you to transcend the relative field of live and experience stillness, the silence of Being.

The tattva's suggest that any one of them can be used as a vehicle to reverse the process called pratiprasava¹ and arrive at a condition of silence, Being, some like to call samādhi.

Yet if you notice the order shown abouve śabda (or sound vibration) is a great vehicle for this pratiprasava approach. Why so? it is subtle to beging with. Recall the following:

ākāṣa - (perfect space) has śabda , or sound for its guṇa and the ear for its organ of experience

Note that this śabda operates within a very suble element ( tattva) of ākāṣa to begin with, so as a vehicle it is refined. Using sound ( mantra) then is a reasonable approach to begin the march of the mind in reverse order , marching back ( reversing the birthing order of a thought or intention) to a pure state of consciousness.

Here's the point: There are less levels to go though if one uses sound vibration ( this is my POV on this matter). Sound vibration becomes a very reasonable method/techniue ( upāya) for meditation.



Let me take pratiprasava as tatpuruṣa ( a compund word) prati + prasava :

prati प्रति means back , again , in return + prasava प्रसव means being set in motion. It also means birthplace and procreation. So when we add this together prati or back, return + prasava or birthplace = returning back, or reversing the birth process , or returning back to the original state.
parivṛtti परिवृत्ति- turning, or returning