Vedānta Series 32

Tattvabodha now proceeds to explain the formation of the gross body. Gross body is formed when the five elements unite with tamo guṇa and this process is called pañcīkaraṇa (Panchikarana). There is a separate tiny treatise by name Pañcīkaraṇam by Śaṅkarācārya, which clearly indicates the importance of pañcīkaraṇa (Panchikarana) or quintuplication. The other two scriptures dwell on this subject is Pañchadaśī and Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣhad. Pañcadaśī is authored by Śrī Vidyāraṇya Swamī. Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣhad belongs to Atharva Veda. It is presumed that the author of this Upaniṣhad could be Māṇḍūkya, a ṛṣi.

Pañcīkaraṇa (Panchikarana) is an interesting theory. Tamo guṇa of the five elements divides into two halves. The one half remains as it is and the other half further gets divided into four parts. The half portion that was not divided conjoins with the one fourth part of the other half of another element. The following chart for space, one of the five elements will explain this.

Percentage of the five elements

The following will explain the formation of the elements:

Space = 50% of space + 12.50% of air +12.50% fire +12.50% water + 12.50% earth = 100%

Air = 50% of air +12.50% space +12.50% of fire + 12.50% water + 12.50% earth = 100%

It is the same for the other three elements also. When this division is complete for all the elements, it signals the completion of pañcīkaraṇa (Panchikarana) or (five fold) of the five elements. When the pañcīkaraṇa (Panchikarana) is completed, the formation of gross body is also completed.

The scripture Pañcīkaraṇa (Panchikarana) says, “pañcīkṛta-pañca-mahābhūtāni tatkāryaṁ ca sarvaṁ virād iti ucyate पञ्चीकृत-पञ्च-महाभूतानि तत्कार्यं च सर्वं विराद् इति उच्यते”. It says that virāṭ is the sum total of quintuplicated (five fold) five elements and their effects. It further says, “etat sthulaśarīram ātmanaḥ एतत् स्थुलशरीरम् आत्मनः” which means ‘this is the gross body of the Ātman’. Ātman which identifies itself with the jāgrat state (active state, one of the stages of consciousness) and the sthulaśarīra (gross body) is known as Viśva. The seventeen components that were discussed (series 12) earlier is the subtle body of the Ātman, known as hiranyagarbha. When the Ātman identifies itself with the subtle body during dream state, it is called taijasa.

Bound by the reflection of the Self, māyā hides the Self, which is the cause for both the gross and subtle bodies is known as avyakta. This is the state of unmanifest. This stage is said to be both existent and non-existent, because of the involvement of māyā. During the state of deep sleep, thoughts cease to exist and the intellect begins to take rest, thereby signalling the commencement of the deep sleep state. When the Ātman identifies itself with the causal body and the state of deep sleep, it is called prājñā. When the Ātman realises its true nature, i.e. the Brahman, it is called samādhi, leading to realisation. When the Ātman understands that it is the Brahman only, it is called realisation of the Self or aham brahmāsmi or I am the Brahman.

Tattvabodha thus establishes the identity between microcosm and macrocosm. The individual gross body is called piṇḍāṇḍa (microcosm) and sum total of all piṇḍāṇḍa-s is brahmāṇḍa (macrocosm). The individual soul is nothing but a part of the Brahman and realising this truth is known as Self realisation. Due to the veiling effects of māyā, Ātman continues to forget its true nature.

Further Readings:


Types of Vedanta Philosophy

Vedanta - Five Sheaths