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Samkhya Principles of Manifestation

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Samkhya Principles of Manifestation

Creation of the Body, Mind and Sense Organs
Maha Bhutas (Five Elements)


In the unmanifested universe, the gunas are stable and Purusha and Prakruti are in union.  The pulsations of the cosmic life force cause the gunas to destabilize and the first principle of manifestation occurs.  Prakruti is the first principle of manifestation.  Prakruti contains all the knowledge of the universe.  In the light of Purusha, Prakruti becomes aware of Purusha and it is from this awareness that the second principle of manifestation known as Mahad occurs.  Mahad is supreme universal intelligence and stores the blueprint for all manifestation.  Mahad puts all things in their proper place, whether in the cosmos or in the individual.  From Mahad, the third principle of creation known as Ahamkara manifests.  Ahamkara is the “I-ness” or feeling of self that is created the moment identification with an object of perception occurs. In the human being Ahamkara is defined as the ego.  The moment “I” is formed, Mahad is reflected in the individual as Buddhi (wisdom faculty.)


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Once Purusha and Prakruti separate and Mahad/Buddhi and Ahamkara are established, the individual mind and body manifest. From the movement of rajas upon sattva, the manas (cognitive function), the jnanendriya (sensory faculties) and the karmendriya (motor faculties) manifest. The five senses of jnanendriya are to hear, feel, see, taste and smell.  The five motor faculties of karmendriya are speaking, grasping, moving, procreating and eliminating.

In order for manas, jnanendriya and karmendriya to function they need a body and five senses.  From the movement of rajas upon tamas, the tanmatra (sense qualities) and the maha bhutas (five elements) manifest.

Each element has a jnana indriya (organ of knowledge) a karma Indriya (organ of action) and a tanmatra (sense quality) associated with it. The organs of knowledge are what the five senses use to perceive the world and the organs of action are what the five senses use to act upon what they perceive. 

The jnana indriya (organs of knowledge) are the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose and perceive the world through the sense of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling, respectively.  The karma indriya (organs of action) are the vocal cords, hands, feet, genitals and anus and act upon the world through speaking, grasping, walking, procreating and eliminating, respectively.  The maha bhutas of ether, air, fire, water and earth each have a tanmatra (sense quality) of sound, touch, form, taste and odor respectively. 


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Ether (Akasha) is the space in which everything happens. It is both the field that is the source of all matter and the space in which matter exists. It is through space that sound travels, providing the medium through which the entire spectrum of vibration exists. In the development of matter, Ether comes first.  Ayurveda holds that within Ether there is a pure presence of spiritual energy that manifests as nuclear energy.

Tanmatra (sense quality): Sound
Jnana Indriya (organ of knowledge): Ears
Karma Indriya (organ of action): Vocal cords
Jnanendriya (sensory faculty): To hear
Karmendriya (motor faculty): Speaking

Air (Vayu) is existence without form.  It is the gaseous form of matter which is mobile and dynamic.  It is the key element required for fire to burn.  Within the body, air in the form of oxygen is the basis for all energy transfer reactions. Air is the principle of movement necessary for keeping the body in constant motion and manifests as electrical energy. Prana is the basic principle of the Air element.  It is the flow of consciousness from one cell to another in the form of intelligence.  Sensory stimuli and motor responses are the subtle movements of prana. 

Tanmatra (sense quality): Touch
Jnana Indriya (organ of knowledge): Skin
Karma Indriya (organ of action): Hands
Jnanendriya (sensory faculty): To feel
Karmendriya (motor faculty): Grasping

Fire (Agni) is considered a form without substance. Fire possesses the power to transform the state of any substance.  It is the power to transform solids into liquids and liquids to gas and vise versa.  Where there is movement, there is friction.  Where there is friction there is fire.  Fire governs the transformation of food into energy, the regulation of body temperature, digestion, absorption and assimilation of food.  Within each of the doors of perception – ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose – there is a subtle fire component that is necessary for sense perception and processing that perception into knowledge.  Fire is carried through the blood and plasma as heat.  If the blood supply to a body part is cut off, that body part will be cold.  The Fire element is radiant energy and is present in the body as the flame of attention.

Tanmatra (sense quality): Form
Jnana Indriya (organ of knowledge): Eyes
Karma Indriya (organ of action): Feet
Jnanendriya (sensory faculty): To see
Karmendriya (motor faculty): Moving

Water (Apas) is a substance without stability.  Water is the universal chemical solvent and all biochemical functions are governed by it.  Water is necessary for the survival of all living things. The plasma in our blood is composed of approximately 90% water and carries oxygen, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from one cell to another.  Within the medium of water, all the elements maintain their function.  Water is associated with chemical energy and is known as the Water of Life. 

Tanmatra (sense quality): Taste
Jnana Indriya (organ of knowledge): Tongue
Karma Indriya (organ of action): Genital
Jnanendriya (sensory faculty): To taste
Karmendriya (motor faculty): Procreating

Earth (Pruthivi) is considered a stable substance. It represents the solid state of matter and contains all five elements.  It manifests stability, permanence, and rigidity. All solid structures in our body such as bones, teeth, cartilage, nails, hair and skin are manifestations of the earth element.  Earth is associated with mechanical energy.

Tanmatra (sense quality): Odor
Jnana Indriya (organ of knowledge): Nose
Karma Indriya (organ of action): Anus
Jnanendriya (sensory faculty): To Smell
Karmendriya (motor faculty): Elimination
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