Tattvas (elements), part one...

Excerpt from the book Kashmir Shaivism, The Secret Supreme, Chpt 01. This is the transcript of the audio. You can read the edited first chapter of the book with a diagram of the tattvas on our website too.

“These thirty six elements are the most important points for entering in Shaivism.”

Swami Lakshmanjoo and John Hughes family


JOHN: To be attended by John and Denise Hughes of Swamiji Shree Lakshmanjoo at his ashram in Srinagar, Kashmir on November 26th, 1971 at 2:30 pm. This will be the first lecture given by Swamiji to the two of us.
[general talk]
SWAMIJI: For the time being I would like to tell you regarding tattvas.
JOHN: Tattvas?
SWAMIJI: Tattvas.
JOHN: Tattvas are very important because I was . . . I have a very hard time . . .
SWAMIJI: In Vedānta we have got, we explain twenty five tattvas.
JOHN: Twenty five.
SWAMIJI: Yes. But in Shaivism there are thirty six.
JOHN: Thirty six.
SWAMIJI: And those thirty six tattvas you must hear . . . first I want to tell you regarding the explanation of tattvas. I will begin from the lowest degree of tattvas, I mean the gross. The gross tattvas are called pañca-mahābhūtas, five great elements.

[Pañca mahābhūtas – Five Great Elements]

JOHN: Mahābhūtas.
SWAMIJI: Mahābhūtas, yes. Earth, water, fire, air and ether [pṛithvī, jala, tejas, vāyu and ākāśa]. These are gross and these are called mahābhūtas because the whole universe is based on these five bhūtas.
JOHN: These five elements: earth, air, water, fire and ether-ākāśa, they are pretty much the same for most Indian philosophies. Is that right?
JOHN: Same.
SWAMIJI: Yes, these are the same.
JOHN: In Greek philosophy too they are pretty much the same.

[Pañca tanmātras – Five Subtle Elements]

SWAMIJI: And then you move up, to the tanmātrās, five tanmātrās. Five tanmātrās are gandha from earth, gandha tanmātrā. Gandha means smell. It’s not exactly smell; it is the abode of smell, where smell lives. That is called gandha tanmātrā, and that has risen from earth, the element earth.
JOHN: I don’t know how you . . . [???]
SWAMIJI: Shall I get one?
JOHN: No, I have one here. It’s just that . . .
SWAMIJI: [to Denise] You will also write, yes.
SWAMIJI: There is not harm.
This is called gandha tanmātrā.
JOHN: Gandha.
SWAMIJI: Gandha tanmātrā
And the next one has come out from water mahābhūta, i.e. jala.
JOHN: These tanmātrās correspond to these mahābhūtas.
SWAMIJI: Yes. From earth gandha tanmātrā, and from jala [water] rasa tanmātra [taste].
JOHN: Rasa?
SWAMIJI: Rasa. Where the impression of taste resides is called rasa tanmātrā. And then from agni [tejas, fire] comes out rūpa tanmātrā.
JOHN: Rūpa, form.
SWAMIJI: Yes. Rūpa, form.
JOHN: Form, so this sight then.
SWAMIJI: Yes. It is not form, it is not exactly form but it is the residence of form, residence of the impression of form. Where impression of forms reside is called rūpa tanmātrā.
JOHN: Where this is being in conjunction with the sight.
SWAMIJI: Yes. This is the conjunction with the sight. That will come afterwards.
JOHN: Oh afterwards.
SWAMIJI: Yes. And then from air [vāyu] mahābhūta, air is the forth one . . .
JOHN: Apa, is that apa?
SWAMIJI: Air, vāyu, vāyu.
JOHN: Vāyu.
SWAMIJI: . . . comes out sparśa tanmātrā [touch], tanmātrā of touch, touching sensation. The impression of touching sensation, the residence where it resides is called sparśa tanmātrā, the impression of touching sensation. And afterwards finally comes from ākāśa, śabda tanmātrā, sound. Śabda tanmātrā comes out from ākāśa mahābhūta. Ākāśa means ether.
These are most important points for Shaivism, to enter in Shaivism.
JOHN: To enter, these five . . .
SWAMIJI: No these thirty six elements.
JOHN: These thirty six tattvas.
SWAMIJI: These thirty six tattvas.
JOHN: Now, is ākāśa . . .
SWAMIJI: Ākāśa means ether.
JOHN: Ether but that is not perceptible.
SWAMIJI: Not perceptible, it gives you room to walk.
JOHN: Like space, something like space?
SWAMIJI: Yes space, it is space.
JOHN: But it is not vacuum, it is not . . .
SWAMIJI: Something like that. Vacuum without air.
JOHN: Without air. It is just space, air filled.
SWAMIJI: Air fills in it.
JOHN: Fills in.
SWAMIJI: And these tanmātrās are clear now.
JOHN: These ten tanmātrās, these are all . . .
SWAMIJI: No, five tanmātrās, five mahābhūtas.
JOHN: Five tanmātrās, five mahābhūtas.

[Pañcakarmendriyas – Five Organs of Action]

SWAMIJI: And then come out five karmendriyas, organs of actions.
SWAMIJI: Organs of actions.
JOHN: These are all objectives elements here?
SWAMIJI: These are all objective.
JOHN: All objective.
SWAMIJI: All objective elements.
JOHN: Even karmendriyas?
JOHN: These are objective.
SWAMIJI: Objective, with body, with mind, with even ātman also, it is called object in Shaivism.
JOHN: So then only . . .
SWAMIJI: Only that super being is subjective.
JOHN: . . . being is subjective.

SWAMIJI: And then comes five organs of actions. First is gandha, no . . . śabda, sparśa, rūpa, rasa, gandhaḥ . . . it is now – vāk, pāṇi, pāda, pāyu and upastha [karmendriyas, organs of action] – Vāk.
JOHN: Vāk.
SWAMIJI: No, not vāk. Vāk is the last one. Upasthaḥ.
JOHN: Upastha. For creating is upasthaḥ?
SWAMIJI: Upastha is karmendriya organ, active organ of sex. It is not of sex; actually it is not of sex. It is for moving stools or urine. This is not sex.
JOHN: Moving stools and that.
SWAMIJI: Yes. And upastha is next one removing the urine, water, the organ of making water.
JOHN: Is upastha?
SWAMIJI: Upastha.
JOHN: So what was the first one? Upastha was the second one, what was the first one?
SWAMIJI: No upastha was the first one. Pāyu is the second one.
JOHN: Pāyu.
SWAMIJI: Pāyu, pāyu is the organ of passing stool. Upastha is for water. Then comes the tattva, pāda tattva, pāda. Pāda means foot.
JOHN: Foot.
SWAMIJI: By which you move . . .
JOHN: Move.
SWAMIJI: . . . about. This is also tattva in our system. In Vedānta also this is tattva, pāda. And then is pāṇi.
JOHN: Pāṇi.
SWAMIJI: Hand. Hand is another tattva by which you take and give. And then is vāk, the organ of speech. These are five?
JOHN: Yes. Upastha, pāyu, pāda, pāṇi and vāk.
SWAMIJI: Vāk, pāṇi, pāda, pāyu and upastha, these are five. And then comes five organs of cognition.

to be continued . . .

All Content is subject to Copyright © John Hughes.
Write a comment:


Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyright © 2019 John Hughes Family Trust All Rights Reserved