Tag Archives: sankhya

Pancha-mahabhutas: the five subtle constituents of matter

If everything is consciousness (Brahman), then how does this conscious energy put on the appearance of material solidity.  Why does the table appear solid?  In order to bridge the gulf between consciousness and apparently durable matter, ancient Indian sages postulated (or “divined”) that all physical things are constituted of five subtle elements  called Pancha-Mahabhutas – earth, fire, water, air, ether.  These are not the elements known in the conventional sense (e.g. “water” does not imply the water, and “earth” does not mean soil) but are actually subtle conditions which together create the perception of forms which can be sensed by the human mind.  The actual names of these five elements are Akasha (ether), Vayu(aeriality), Agni(fire), Apas(liquidity) and Prithvi(compaction).  The descriptions of these five constituents are quite similar across Sankhya, Tantra and Buddhist philosophy and even Greek Stoic texts.  Furthermore, as I point out later in this article, what is amusing is that these five elements were codified, probably inadvertently, in the Vishnu iconography seen in Indian temples!

Continue reading

The latent Consciousness within Matter

In the Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhrigu is asked by his Guru to (spiritually) realize : “Matter is Conscious!”.   The ancients believed that Matter was also a form of Consciousness and that this fact could be uncovered through Yoga.  This consciousness within Matter discloses itself as the will in the atom, the symmetry of the crystals, the fatigue in metals, etc.  There is an Intuition in Matter which holds the action of the material world from the electron to the sun and planets and their contents.  To the modern rational mind, any such proposition seems preposterous and untenable.  Modern science has found that Matter and Energy are interchangeable but it has not yet been able to resolve the mind-body dichotomy.   On this topic, Sri Aurobindo said, “Only by an extension of the field of our consciousness or an unhoped-for increase in our instruments of knowledge can the ancient quarrel be decided.The Life Divine – I: The Two Negations: The Refusal of the Ascetic   In the absence of such an advance on either side, all one can do for now is examine and anticipate the possibilities…

Continue reading