Scriptures of Sanatana Dharma

This post lists 200+ ancient Sanskrit scriptures of Sanatana Dharma. This list is the tip of an iceberg and is short summary of the primary scriptures.

Sanatana Dharma or Hindu Dharma is based on several sources of knowledge in contrast to some other religions which are based on a single or few books.

Some sources attribute Sanatana Dharma to 80,000 years ago to a time before writing was invented. Sages from ancient times understood the nature and secrets of the universe in their meditative states and transmitted them verbally. This process of a realized sage speaking the truth by oral transmission was Shruti – meaning “of sound”. The spoken word, thus transmitted, had to be committed to memory and subsequently written down with numerous commentaries clarifying the original. This retaining of the transmitted knowledge was Smriti – meaning “of memory”

Sanatana Dharma, the eternal faith, was the way of life of people of Bharat. In the past 3000 or so years, the European and Arab invaders coined the terms India and Hinduism. In the name of religion and conquests, a substantial amount of the knowledge accumulated in the Indian subcontinent over a period of several millenia was destroyed by invaders.

Sanatana Dharma is based on the practice of eternal universal harmony which is encoded into life itself and and has no known single human founder. It arises from the collective wisdom several ancient sages who experienced different elevated states of consciousness and joyously expounded the greater truths about the nature of universe and life that were revealed to them.

Though reading of the scriptures of Sanatana Dharma would not directly lead a person to self-realization, the teachings of the seers provide a basis and a path for spirituality. Despite being the oldest religion, the truth realized by the seers proves that the truth and path provided by Hinduism is beyond time. Hinduism is more a way of life than a religion. Key principles of all religions of the world have similiarities to Hinduism. Many religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism emerged from it and preserve the Hindu knowledge in a different manner.

The values of peace, non violence and compassion emphasized by the Hindu way of life also make it defenseless and vulnerable to destruction. As Hinduism does not have a mechanism of propagation like Christianity and Islam, both of which are well-organized, funded and even violence-oriented, it has been helpless in stopping the destruction of the scriptures and the Sanskrit language.

Given the continuous deterioration of Sanskrit and the knowledge of the ancient eternal scriptures, every Hindu must at least develop an awareness of the scriptures.

Primary texts of Sanatana Dharma include 4 Vedas, 16 Brahmanas, 4 Aranyakas, 108 Upanishads, 6 Vedangas, 5 Upavedas, 18 Mahapuranas, 18 Upapuranas, 6 Darsanas, 18 Smritis and 2 Ithihasas.


The oldest and the most important scriptures of Sanathana Dharma are the Vedas. Veda means knowledge. Vedas are apauruseya, which means they are not attributable to human knowledge. The Vedas are known as the revealed Truths. Vedas are the recordings of the revelations received through transcendental experiences of the Rishis of ancient India. Vedic knowledge is considered to be flawless.

Maharshi Vyasa divided the Vedas into four, Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva in order to expand them among men.

  1. Rig-Veda

The Rig-Veda Samhita is the grandest and oldest book of the Hindus. Its immortal mantras embody the greatest truths of existence and its priest is called the Hotri. The Rigveda contains 10,552 verses divided into 64 chapters. Besides that it has got twenty-five branches written by several Rishis. The Rig-veda contains the most sacred Gayatri mantra.

  1. Yajur-Veda

Its name is derived from the root word ‘yaj’ meaning worship. The term for sacrifice i.e. yajna is also derived from here. It primarily deals with the procedural details for performing different yajnas

There are two distinct Yajur Veda Samhitas, the Shukla Yajur Veda or Vajasaneyi Samhita and the Krishna Yajur Veda or Taittireya Samhita. The Krishna or the Taittireya is the older book and the Sukla or the Vajasaneyi is a later revelation to sage Yajnavalkya from the resplendent Sun God. About half of the Yajur-Veda are composed of verses taken from the Rig-Veda. They are arranged according to their importance in various rituals. The remaining part (mainly prose) deals with the formulae for performing the yajna, external as well as internal. The famous Rudra hymns belong to the Krishna Yajur Veda. The Yajur-Veda contains 1875 verses. Besides that it has got one hundred and eight branches.

  1. Sama-Veda

The Sama-Veda Samhita is mostly borrowed from the Rig-vedic Samhita, and is meant to be sung by the Udgatri, the Sama-vedic priest, in sacrifices. ‘Sama’ means peace. Accordingly this Veda contains chants to bring peace to the mind. Many of the hymns of the Rig-Veda are set to musical notes in Sama Veda. Sama Veda is the basis of the seven notes (Sapta Swaras), fundamental to Indian classical music. The listening of the musical chants gives one a sense of universality and a mingling with the divine. The ‘udgaata’ or beginning ceremony before a yajna is actually a chanting of hymns from Sama Veda to ensure the grace of all the Devas. The Sama-Veda contains approximately 2000 verses. Besides that it has got one thousand branches.

  1. Atharva-Veda

This Veda is named after a sage called Atharvan who discovered the mantras contained in it. It is largely a collection spells to ward off evil and suffering and to destroy one’s enemies. It deals more with the things here and now, than the hereafter, and with the sacrifices which are a means to them. The mantras are in prose as well as verse. There also hymns addressed to devas other than the ones mentioned in the other three Vedas. There are hymns, which deal with creation also. Brahma is the representative of Atharva Veda. The Atharva Veda gives a useful insight into the rich landscape of India at the time of its composition. The Atharva Veda contains of 5987 verses. Besides that it has got fifty branches.

Yajur-veda and Sama-veda use the hymns of Rig-Veda and Atharva-Veda and rearrange them in a manner suitable for rituals. In all, the four Vedas have got One thousand one hundred and eighty three (1183) branches.

Each Veda consists of four parts to suit the four stages in a man’s life Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. The four divisions are Mantra Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.

The Mantra-Samhitas which are hymns in praise of the Vedic God for acquiring material prosperity and happiness. They are poems comprising prayers, hymns and incantations addressed to various deities. This portion also contains information about the creative process, the universal laws, about the creation and the universe in detail. It is useful to Brahmacharins.


The Brahmanas are explanations of Mantras or rituals, which give guidance to people as to how; the sacrificial rites are to be performed. They are explanations of the method of using the Mantras in Yajnas or other rites. Details for various ceremonies like birth, naming, study, marriage, death are in this portion. The Brahmana portion is suitable for householders (Grihastashram).

Brahmanas of Rig-veda
There are three Rig-vedic Brahmanas.

  1. Ithareya Brahmana
  2. Sankhayana Brahmana
  3. Kausheethaki Brahmana

Brahmanas of Yajur-veda
There are three Yajur-vedic Brahmanas.

  1. Shatapadha Brahmana
  2. Thaiththareeya Brahmana
  3. Maithrayaneeya Brahmana

Brahmanas of Sama-veda
There are nine Sama-vedic Brahmanas.

  1. Jaimineeya Brahmana
  2. Thandya Brahmana
  3. Aarsheya Brahmana
  4. Shadvimsadhi Brahmana
  5. Chandhokya Brahmana
  6. Samavidhana Brahmana
  7. Abhootha Brahmana
  8. Vamsa Brahmana
  9. Samhithopanishathi Brahmana

Brahmanas of Atharva-veda

  1. Gopadha Brahmana


The Aranyakas are the forest books, the texts that give philosophical interpretations of the rituals. After a man has finished all his worldly duties (taking care of parents, marrying off children etc.) he proceeds to the forest to spend the rest of his days in solitude and meditation. The Aranyakas are intended for such people, hence the name. It explains the different kinds of rituals to be performed in forest by people, who go for Vanaprastha.

The Aranyakas are expositions on the inner meaning of the Vedic hymns and sacrifices. The hymns are interpreted symbolically to gain an insight into the reasons for performing yajnas and thus deal with higher metaphysical concepts.

Aranyakas of Rig-veda
There are two Rig-vedic Aranyakas.
1 Ithareya Aranyaka
2 Kausheethaki Aranyaka

Aranyakas of Yajur-veda
There are two Yajur-vedic Aranyakas.
1 Maithrayaneeya Aranyaka
2 Thaiththareeya Aranyaka

There are no Aranyakas for Sama and Atharva vedas.


The Upanishads are the essence of Vedic teaching. They are called Vedantas meaning the concluding portion of the Vedas as well as the ultimate conclusions of Vedic wisdom. Upanishads happen to be the most foremost authorities of the Vedanta system of philosophy that developed in later times in different forms.

They reveal the most subtle and deep spiritual truths and are meant for sanyasis. The collection of teachings generated by the ascetics who meditated on the mysteries of human existence came to be known as the Upanishads, which literally means “sitting close to” the teacher thereby indicating that the knowledge that it imparts is esoteric. Many, many Upanishads existed ages ago; a lot of them have been lost in time. Only one hundred and eight have been preserved so far some in prose, some in verse.

They are:

Upanishads of Rig-Veda
There are ten Rig-vedic Upanishads. They are:
1 Ithareya Upanishad
2 Kausheethaki Upanishad
3 Nadhabindhu Upanishad
4 Aathmabhodha Upanishad
5 Nirvana Upanishad
6 Mulgala Upanishad
7 Akshamalika Upanishad
8 Tripura Upanishad
9 Sowbhagyalakshmi Upanishad
10 Bhahvrucha Upanishad

Upanishads of Sukla Yajur-veda
There are eighteen Sukla Yajur-vedic Upanishads. They are:
1 Isovaasya Upanishad
2 Bruhadharanyaka Upanishad
3 Hamsa Upanishad
4 Paramahamsa Upanishad
5 Subhala Upanishad
6 Mantrika Upanishad
7 Thrisikibrahmana Upanishad
8 Niralamba Upanishad
9 Mandalabrahmana Upanishad
10 Adhwya Upanishad
11 Taraka Upanishad
12 Bhikshuka Upanishad
13 Adhyaatma Upanishad
14 Muktika Upanishad
15 Tarashara Upanishad
16 Yanjavalkya Upanishad
17 Shatyayana Upanishad
18 Turiyatheeya Avadhootha Upanishad

Upanishads of Krishna Yajur-veda
There are thirty two Krishna Yajur-vedic Upanishads. They are:
1 Kada Upanishad
2 Thaiththireeya Upanishad
3 Brahma Upanishad
4 Kaivalya Upanishad
5 Swetaswetara Upanishad
6 Garbha Upanishad
7 Mahanarayana Upanishad
8 Amrithabindhu Upanishad
9 Amrithanadha Upanishad
10 Kalagnirudra Upanishad
11 Kshurika Upanishad
12 Sarvasara Upanishad
13 Shukarahasya Upanishad
14 Tejabindhu Upanishad
15 Dhyanabindhu Upanishad
16 Brahmavidhya Upanishad
17 Yogatatva Upanishad
18 Dhakshinamoorthy Upanishad
19 Skanda Upanishad
20 Saareerika Upanishad
21 Yogashika Upanishad
22 Ekakshara Upanishad
23 Akshi Upanishad
24 Avadhootha Upanishad
25 Kadarudra Upanishad
26 Rudrahrudhaya Upanishad
27 Panchabrahma Upanishad
28 Pranagnihotra Upanishad
29 Varaha Upanishad
30 Yogakundalini Upanishad
31 Kalisantarana Upanishad
32 Saraswatheerahasya Upanishad

Upanishads of Sama-veda
There are sixteen Sama-vedic Upanishads. They are:
1 Kena Upanishad
2 Chandokya Upanishad
3 Aaruni Upanishad
4 Maitrayanee Upanishad
5 Maitreyee Upanishad
6 Vajrasuchika Upanishad
7 Yogachoodamani Upanishad
8 Vasudeva Upanishad
9 Maha Upanishad
10 Sanyasa Upanishad
11 Avyakta Upanishad
12 Kundika Upanishad
13 Savitri Upanishad
14 Jabhala Upanishad
15 Darsana Upanishad
16 Rudraksha Jabhala Upanishad

Upanishads of Atharva-veda
There are thirty two Atharva-vedic Upanishads.They are:
1 Prasna Upanishad

  1. Mundaka Upanishad
  2. Maandukya Upanishad
  3. Atharvasira Upanishad
  4. Atharvasikha Upanishad
  5. Bruhat Jaabhala Upanishad
  6. Sita Upanishad
  7. Sarabha Upanishad
  8. Mahanarayana Upanishad
  9. Ramarahasya Upanishad
  10. Ramatapini Upanishad
  11. Sandilya Upanishad
  12. Paramahamsa Upanishad
  13. Annapoorna Upanishad
  14. Surya Upanishad
  15. Aathma Upanishad
  16. Pasuptha Upanishad
  17. Parabrahma Upanishad
  18. Tripuratapini Upanishad
  19. Devi Upanishad
  20. Bhavana Upanishad
  21. Bhasma Jaabhala Upanishad
  22. Ganapati Upanishad
  23. Mahakavya Upanishad
  24. Gopalatapini Upanishad
  25. Sreekrishna Upanishad
  26. Hayagriva Upanishad
  27. Dhaththathreya Upanishad
  28. Garuda Upanishad
  29. Narasimhapurvatapini Upanishad
  30. Naradapariprajaka Upanishad
  31. Narasimha Uththaratapini Upanishad

Besides this 108 Upanishads, many Upa-Upanishads also exist.


The Vedangas and Upavedas are collections of texts that augment and apply the Vedas as a comprehensive system of sacred living. There are six Vedangas.

  1. Siksha (The nose of the Vedas)
    Siksha means Vedic phonetics and lays down the rules of phonetics – sounds of syllables, of pronunciation- euphony. It lays down the parameters of Vedic words. Phonetics are very important in Vedic language because a slight change in sound may lead to change in the meaning of a mantra and consequently have undesirable effects on the sacrifice. Siksha explains how the sound of each syllable should be produced, how high or low should be its pitch and for how much duration (maatra) the sound must last.
  2. Nirukta (The ears of the Vedas)
    Nirukta is the Vedic dictionary. Nirukta may be regarded as the Vedic equivalent of etymology i.e. the study of words. Nirukta explains the origin of each Sanskrit word in the Vedas. In Sanskrit, names or words are not assigned ad-hoc but there is a systematic way of forming words. Every word has a deep meaning and may sometimes be formed by the combination of two or more nouns. All words are derived from the basic roots or Dhatus. As Nirukta breaks each word into its component roots and analyses its meaning, so it is likened to the ear, which distinguishes speech by breaking words into its component phonemes. It is also regarded as the World’s first Encyclopedia.
  3. Vyakarana (The mouth of the Vedas)
    Vyakarana deals with grammar and so is very important. There are many books on Sanskrit grammar, but the most famous and most extensively used is the Vyakarna of Sage Paanini. Paanini’s grammar is in the form of aphorisms (Sutras).
  4. Chanda Saastra (The feet of the Vedas)
    Chanda Saastra deals with metric composition. Any verse has to have a specified ‘metre’ and number of letters in it, for a good fit. Chanda Saastra lays down the rules for this. It defines the boundaries of metrical composition into metre, rhyme, etc.
  5. Kalpa Saastra (The arms of the Vedas)
    Kalpa Saastra is a collection of books of Shauwta Sutra, Dharma Sutra, Pithrumedha Sutra, Sulba Sutra, Gruhya Sutra and Prayaschitham. All our customs and rituals are explained in Kalpa saastra. Kalpa Saastra answers the questions like:
    How should a ritual be performed?
    What are the duties of the child, student, householder, King, mendicant etc?
    Which ritual involves which mantra, which material and which Deva?
    How many priests should be employed for a sacrifice? What objects should be used in various rituals?, and so on.

The Kalpa Saastra details the Vedic rituals to be performed from the time the embryo forms in the womb to birth leading upto the final sacrifice of death. Cremation or Antiyeshti, meaning the last rite is seen as a sacrifice of the whole body to Agni, the fire god. The Namakarana (naming ceremony), the Upanayana (sacred thread investiture ceremony), Vivaaha (marriage) are also described within the Kalpa. The Vedic system of architecture i.e. Vaastu Shastra is also described in Kalpa. The entire Kalpa Saastra weighs more than 250 Kilograms. (i.e., 2.5 quintals)

  1. Jyothisha (Astronomy + Astrology)
    The eyes of the Vedas Jyothisha includes Ganitham, Kalakriya, Golam, Jatakam, Muhurtham, Prasnam and Nimiththam. Perhaps the most famous of all Vedangas, it is the science of astrology. Jyotisha gives rules to calculate the positions of the planets and stars at any instant in the future or past. Based on these positions and certain well defined rules, the fate of a person can be reasonably determined provided his/her birthdate, time and place of birth are accurately known. Vedic astrology is based on lunar signs in direct contrast to the solar sign system prevalent in the west. The premise is that the moon being closer to the Earth extends a greater influence on mankind than the distant Sun.

There are five Upavedas

  1. Arththasaastra
    Unfolds statecraft. It can be called as the Hindu science of governing by Kings.
  2. Dhanur Veda
    Discusses military science. Discusses different kinds of weapons and war rules.
  3. Gandharva Veda
    The science which enlighten music and arts. Discusses different kinds of music, musical instruments and arts.
  4. Ayurveda
    Deals with medicine, health and longevity.
  5. Saapadhyaveda(Tachchu Saastra)
    Deals with the architecture. Vasthu Saastra also comes under this.

Puranas are compiled from related historical facts, which explain the teachings of the four Vedas. The Puranas explain the Vedic truths and are intended for different types of men. All men are not equal. There are men who are good, others who are driven by passion and others who are under the veil of ignorance. The Puranas are so divided that any class of men can take advantage of them and gradually regain their original nature and get out of the hard struggle for existence Mahapuranas.

There are eighteen Mahapuranas. They are:

  1. Vishnu Purana
  2. Bhavishya Purana
  3. Garuda Purana
  4. Agni Purana
  5. Mahabhagavata Purana
  6. Siva Purana
  7. Markandeya Purana
  8. Linga Purana
  9. Brahmavaivarththa Purana
  10. Matsya Purana
  11. Kurma Purana
  12. Varaha Purana
  13. Vamana Purana
  14. Skanda Purana
  15. Brahmaanda Purana
  16. Padma Purana
  17. Vayu Purana
  18. Naradheeya Purana

There are eighteen Upa-puranas. They are:

  1. Samba Purana
  2. Devibhagavata Purana
  3. Kalika Purana
  4. Lakhunaradheeya Purana
  5. Harivamsa Purana
  6. Vishnudharmmoththara Purana
  7. Kalki Purana
  8. Mulgala Purana
  9. Aadhi Purana
  10. Aathma Purana
  11. Brahma Purana
  12. Vishnudharma Purana
  13. Narasimha Purana
  14. Kriyaayoga Purana
  15. Surya Purana
  16. Bruhat Naradheeya Purana
  17. Prushoththama Purana
  18. Bruhat Vishnu Purana


Darsana means, sight or vision. In the Vedanta philosophy, the first question is what is the source of everything? There are philosophers who saw different stages of the original source, and explained philosophy according to their vision. These are known as Darsanas. They are also known as Sad-darsanas (six systems of philosophy).

  1. Nyaya Darsana
    Nyaya means the science of logic and expediency. It is also known as Tarka Shastra. This was composed by Sage Gautama and contains passages, which establish by means of disputation that God is the creator of this universe. It establishes the existence of God by means of inference.
  2. Vaiseshika Darsana
    Vaisesika, philosophy of specialised logic, maintains that the combination of atoms is the cause of the cosmic manifestation. It was composed by Maharshi Kanada. He was the first philosopher who formulated ideas about the atom in a systematic manner.

Nyaya and Vaiseshika deal mainly with physics, chemistry and other material sciences and include reasoning or logic. Metaphysical studies or search for knowledge of God, however, formed the ultimate aim of the study of these saastras also.

  1. Sankhya Darsana
    Sankhya, philosophy of analytical study, maintains that the material nature is the cause of the cosmic manifestation. Sage Kapila composed it.
  2. Yoga Darsana
    Yoga, philosophy of mystic perfections, maintains that universal consciousness is the cause of the cosmic manifestation. It was composed by Patanjali Maharshi. He is the first systematiser of the Yoga school.
  3. Purva Meemamsa Darsana
    Sage Jaimini composed the sutras for the Purvameemamsa, philosophy of actions and reactions, maintains that fruitive activities are the cause of the cosmic manifestation. This book consists of 12 chapters – 1000 Adhikaranas in all. In these Adhikaranas, selected Vedic verses are examined in details. In the 1000 Adhikaranas a thousand types of problems are taken up and various arguments against an apparent explanation are raised before coming to a conclusion.
  4. Uththara Meemamsa Darsana
    The Uththarameemamsa deals with Vedanta and is thus close to the philosophy of the Upanishads. Maharshi Veda Vyasa composed Uththara Meemamsa.


Smriti means memory and are writings devised to fix in memory, the practical use of the messages stated or implied in the Vedas. Smritis embodies the teachings of Divine Incarnations or prophets, saints and sages. It is an explanation of the Srutis. Srutis are the revealed scriptures, as mentioned in the Vedas and Smritis are the commentaries and derived literatures, based on the messages of the Vedas; Some of the Smritis are in the form of Laws formulated by saints and sages for mankind.

There are eighteen important Smritis.They are:

  1. Usana Smriti
  2. Yanjavalkya Smriti
  3. Vishnu Smriti
  4. Manu Smriti
  5. Angeerasa Smriti
  6. Yama Smriti
  7. Atri Smriti
  8. Samvarththa Smriti
  9. Bruhatparasara Smriti
  10. Bruhaspati Smriti
  11. Daksha Smriti
  12. Saataatapa Smriti
  13. Likhita Smriti
  14. Vyasa Smriti
  15. Parasara Smriti
  16. Sanka Smriti
  17. Gautama Smriti
  18. Vasishta Smriti


Itihasas are literatures describing historical events pertaining to either a single hero or a few heroic personalities in a lineage: for example, Ramayana describing the pastimes of Sri Ramachandra and Mahabharata describing the pastimes of the Pandavas in the lineage of the Kurus. In these books there are topics on transcendental subjects along with material topics. The whole idea of the Mahabharata culminates in the ultimate instructions of the Bhagavad-gita that one should give up all other engagements and should engage oneself solely and fully in surrendering unto the lotus feet of Krishna. The conclusive teaching of the Ramayana also is to fully surrender and take shelter of Lord Sri Ramachandra.

  1. Ramayana The traditional author of this Epic is the sage Valmiki. This Epic is regarded as the first poetical work in the world, of purely human origin. The verses have great diffusivity, simplicity and charm. There are totally seven books of this great epic.
  2. Mahabharata This epic is traditionally authored by the sage Vyasa It is a rich collection of many histories and legends. The scene of the poem is the ancient kingdom of the Kurus; and the central story – ‘ the germ of which is to be found in the Vedas ‘ – concerns a great dynastic war. A very important portion of the Mahabharata is the Song of the God (called the Gita). Bhagavad Gita, as it is called, is the essence of all the messages to mankind contained in the Veda.

Hindus believe in one God expressed in different forms. For them, God is timeless and formless entity. Hindus believe in eternal truths and these truths are opened to anyone who seeks them, even if he or she is ignorant of Hindu scriptures or ideas. This religion also professes Non-violence – “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma” – Non violence is the highest duty. True Ahimsa implies curtsey, kindness, hospitality, humanity and love. The most important aspect of Hinduism is being truthful to one’s own consciousness. Hinduism does not claim to have a monopoly on ideas and is open to all.

This post is based on document prepared in 2003 by A.V. Ajil Kumar with inputs from Dr.N.Gopala Krishnan, Scientist, CSIR & Hon Director, Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage, Trivandrum.

Notes on tanmatras

Meaning: The term comes from the Sanskrit, tan, meaning “subtle”; and matra, meaning “elements.” They are 5 in number and are called panchatanmatra.

Another translation of tanmatra is “mother of matter,” meaning that the pancha tanmatra represents the mother energy of the world. The pancha tanmatra comprise the information through which we sense or experience the external world.

Pancha tanmatra are the five perceptions or subtle elements that are the objects of the five senses. The pancha tanmatra are: rupa (form and color), gandha (smell), sparsa (touch), rasa (taste) and sabda (sound).

Irrespective of how many types and forms of material exists in the world, the human body has only 5 senses. Because our knowledge of the world is established based on these 5 senses, at least five basic elements are needed to explain this experience.

The tanmatras are related to the five cognitive sense organs called pancha jnanendriyacaksu (eyes), ghrana (nose), tvak (skin), rasana (tongue) and srotra (ear).

Both the pancha tanmatra and the jnanendriya are among the 36 tattvas, or aspects of nature, in Saivism.

According to the Vedic theory of creation, the tanmatras are the basis of all corporeal existences because from them evolve the Bhutas, the building blocks of the perceptible universe.

The pancha tanmatra also combine to produce the gross elements that comprise the universe:

  • Prithvi: Sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, gandha
  • Jala: Sabda, sparsa, rupa and rasa
  • Agni: Sabda, sparsa, and rupa
  • Vayu: Sabda and sparsa
  • Akash: Sabda

Reproduction from “Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine,” by Dr. Marc Halpern

“The first building block is actually the “potential” for a building block. These potentials are called tanmatras. They provide the potential for all existence. Tanmatra means “essence” or “potential.” These are the root energies of the five elements. They are the most subtle form of energy and it is only because of the tanmatras that everything comes into creation. This includes the mind, senses, and organs of action. Although the tanmatras are named after their related sensory experiences, their influence is not limited to the senses. 

Being so subtle, the tanmatras are difficult to understand at first. Tanmatras are the most subtle form of energy, the root energies of the five elements. They provide the potential for all existence. The following information helps to round out the student’s understanding of the tanmatras. Refer to the section on Sankhya Philosophy for additional information. The following description brings in concepts that are described later in the text. Interested students are encouraged to come back and read this appendix only after reading the rest of the textbook. 

The origin of the ether element is the tanmatra of sound called shabda. Shabda tanmatra is the primordial, unmanifested form of sound. Shabda is the primordial space from which vibration emerges long before it takes the form of sound in the ear. Sound and ether are inseparable. Because of their intimate relationship, the ear is considered the associated sense organ of the ether element, and voice (mouth) is its organ of action. Hearing loss and loss of the voice are difficulties that are often due to vitiation of the ether element in the body. 

The origin of the air element is the tanmatra of touch called sparsha. Sparsha tanmatra is the primordial, unmanifested form of touch. Sparsha is the potential of the touch experience, expressed in its most subtle form. Touch and air are inseparable. Because of their intimate relationship, the skin (through which we receive touch) is considered the associated sense organ of the air element and the hands (through which we reach out and touch the world) are its associated organs of action. Hence, disorders of tactile perception and those of grasping are the result of disturbances in the functions of the air element. 

The origin of the fire element is the tanmatra of vision called rupa. Rupa means form or color. Both form and color are the result of perception. Rupa tanmatra is the primordial, unmanifested form of perception, light, vision and, thus, the fire element. Fire and the visual sense have a special relationship. Fire provides the light for perception. The eyes are the vehicles through which light is digested and perception takes place. Hence, disorders of visual perception are primarily those of the fire element. 

The origin of the water element is the tanmatra of taste called rasa. Rasa in this context is the primordial causation of the experience of taste. Rasa tanmatra is the causal energy that provides the potential for the experience of taste to occur. It is not the taste itself. However, since taste depends upon the water element for its manifestation, disorders of the ability to taste are due to an imbalance of the water element. 

The origin of the earth element is the tanmatra of smell called gandha. The state of the earth element in the body and the capacity to smell are deeply connected. Gandha tanmatra is the primordial cause of the experience of smell. It is the seed energy or potential, emerging from the causal body, which sprouts into the earth element. The earth element then builds the potential for the experience of smell in the subtle body and the structures through which smell can be experienced in the physical body. Thus, the gandha tanmatra is not the smell itself but smell is dependent upon it. Disorders of the ability to smell reflect an imbalance of the earth element.” 

1. Number of tanmatras is equal to the number of sense organs
2. Each human sense organ is powered by a tanmatra
3. The tanmatras create the panchabhutas. Panchabhutas create the world.
4. If one tanmatra, say rupa (form and color) is taken out, then the indirya called chaksu (eye) cannot function. Also, the elements such as agni, jala and prithvi will lose their ability to be seen.
5. The sharpest eye cannot create vision if light did not exist. The brightest light cannot create vision if the eye did not exist. Even together, the light and the eye cannot create vision, if the ability to see did not exist.
6. The tanmatra is the subtle element that ties the sense organ called the eye, to its ability to see and to the external reality of color.
7. The tanmatra is the binding rope that creates the ability to experience this universe by creating a triad of (a) The sense organ (b) Ability of the sense organ to function and (c) An aspect of external reality that can be sensed by the organ. It is by endless Mercy that a lifeform is blessed with all the three.

Notes on ahamkara

1. Drig Drishya Viveka
2. Shaiva Siddhantha
3. Swami Sarvapriyananda
4. Samkhya

Alternate terms: Ahankara, ahankar
English translation: Ego, Identity, Awareness, I-ness,

Meaning: (Ahamkara= I am the cause, I am the doer)
Ahamkara is a Sanskrit word that describes the ego, the image a person has of him/herself or the conscious mind as he/she perceives it. The term comes from the root, aham, which translates as “I am”; and kara, which means “doing” or “making.”

Purpose: The purpose of ahamkara is to create self-awareness. It is only by this self-awareness, a life form develops the ability to differentiate itself from the world around it and take ownership of objects as mine and not mine.

Position: Ahamkara is one of the four aspects of antahkarana, or the “inner organ”. In addition to ahankara, antahkarana includes buddhi , chitta and manas. The anthakarana are a part of the subtle body and exist in impure maya.

Working: The atman/soul is a source of pure consciousness. Ahamkara reflects the consciousness of the soul in its most true form to create a true reflection of the soul and thus create an identity. This reflection is not like the moon reflecting the sunlight but more like a dewdrop reflecting the sun. Moon’s reflection of sunlight does not reflect the sun truly and creates the illusion as if moon is also a source of light. But the dewdrop’s reflection of the sun is a miniature version of the sun itself. Like a red hot iron ball has both the attributes of iron as well as heat, this image of the atman created on anthakarana has attributes of both consciousness of the atman and the inertness of impure maya.

Role: The pure consciousness of the soul, is reflected and transmitted to ahamkara, is further transmitted to the other anthakaranas, sense organs and body so that the whole body till the tip of fingernails is illumined with consciousness.

This process of consciousness transmitting from the soul to ahankara to anthakarana to body organs is similar to heat flowing from fire to vessel to water to vegetable.

Inference only – not from text:
This consciousness that is imparted to anthakarana and the body is called “reflected consciousness” because:
1. It is an unclear indication of the source consciousness (like moon reflects the sun)
2. It is different from pure consciousness due to its association with impure maya of the anthakarana and the body.

1. Connection of ahankara with other anthakaranas is natural (sahaja) and cannot be broken
2. Connection of ahankara with the body has its roots in the karma (karmajam) carried by the subtle body and will be broken only by resolving the karma
3. Connection of ahankara with the atman is false (bhranthijam). By breaking this connection, the soul is liberated by staying rooted in pure consciousness.

Notes on consciousness

  1. If there are three observers at 0 c, 0.5 c and 0.9999 c, their observations of the universe would be different. This is relativity. If observers see the same universe differently, then how can the universe be said to have a single nature?
  2. If a universe cannot have a single nature that it can present consistently to all observers, then there can be no unified theory of everything. If there is nothing fixed to refer to, then there is no standing ground for a theory. To arrive at the theory of everything, experience of constant existence at all frame of reference would be necessary. Interpretation of an observer at 0 c of the experience at 0.5 c, may not necessarily be true for the observer at 0.5 c.
  3. Thought experiment: Can relativity be applied on to quantum fields? If the large hadron collider is moving is at 0.9999 c with respect to the observer, would the experimental results still be valid?
  4. There are two different states of unconsciousness:
    • Death state of unconsciousness: Atman/Soul has left the body and reengagement with mind/body is not expected. Person is truly dead and appears so.
    • Pre-death state of unconsciousness: Atma/Soul has not left the body and reengagement with mind/body is possible. Person appears dead or in a coma to the world but is not truly dead.
  5. In between the two states of unconsciousness, pre-death and death, exists the clue to understand the bare essential functioning of the soul/atman. In this free state, the soul remains closer to its pure form, without having the need to engage the constructs of mind or the sense organs or the world outside or the need to look for a different body to live-in next.
  6. Like a person is standing at the door step of the house from where he can go inwards or outwards, the soul is free to engage the mind in the subtle body and go inwards into a given body and its experience or abandon the current body and seek another body more suited to the current evolved needs of the subtle body. If the current needs are zero, there should be no need for another body.
  7. When the soul decides to “go inside the house” by engaging the mind and the current body, the rules for extent of such engagement must be set. The sages (gyani) who study the soul (not so much the world) say that this engagement must be limited for it doesn’t matter how big the house and how deep one goes into it, the exit must happen. The scientists (vigyani) who study the world (not so much the soul) say this engagement must be maximum, for this one freak opportunity to learn the world should not be wasted. The sage says do not engage, for engagement creates karma and births. The scientist says engage with all your might or else your only go at life would be wasted.
  8. The scientists says, the universe is eternal but consciousness comes and goes. The sage says, consciousness is eternal and the universe comes and goes.

So, what are you? Are you a blip of consciousness that will be forever extinguished at death? Or are you eternal consciousness that will repeatedly come and go into the playground of universe till you learn to destroy your ego and burn your karma?

What is your world view? A fixed universe with random meaningless blips of consciousness and life forms? Or an eternal consciousness soul that craves for varying experiences in a semi-real universe?

Notes on Satkaryavada

  • Sat-karya-vada: The argument of eternal action
  • Source: Samkhya Sutras of Kapila
  • Satkāryavāda (सत्कार्यवाद, “form”) refers to the Sāṃkhya’s concept of causation.—Satkāryavāda (the doctrine that the effect pre-exists in its cause), presents the three fundamental qualities (i.e. triguṇa) as the grounds for an argument by asserting that the diversity of the phenomenal world is also nothing but the transformation of the three qualities according to the relative superiority or inferiority among their forces. In this case, an aspect of superiority or inferiority among the three qualities is expressed in the concept of saṃsthāna.
  • If something exists, it exists because of preexisting potentiality. Even if this potentiality is beyond grasp, it is considered to exist in an unmanifest state before it becomes manifest at the right time.
  • Only nothing comes from nothing
  • Something cannot be created from nothing
  • The effect (manifest) is immanent in the cause (unmanifest) and emerges from it.
  • Prakriti (manifest) in Sāñkhya philosophy is the feminine energy of the Purusha (Unmanifest). She is fully capable of producing everything, but She produces it based on purusha’s will. The prakriti is not inert, or unconscious; She rather has a subordinate will.
  • What is not meant to be, will never be – like ungrown horns on a man which will never become a reality.
  • Things cannot arise haphazardly, things can only be produced by what is capable of producing them.
  • Because the making is possible [only] of what [the cause] is capable of
  • Whatever happens, happens according to a rule.
  • Everywhere, always, everything is possible. (Samkhya Sutra 1.116)
  • User (purusha) and instrument (prakriti) are powerful to contain the causes and effects in themselves.
  • Desire causes creation

Source: Shodhganga: A study of Nyāya-vaiśeṣika categories (samkhya)
Satkāryavāda (सत्कार्यवाद) refers to one of the philosophical systems regarding the cause and effect relation prevalent in Ancient India.—Satkāryavāda is upheld by the Sāṃkhya-Yoga and Advaita Vedānta philosophers. According to Satkāryavāda the effect already exists in the cause in a potential condition. So, it is not basically new creation and different from the material cause. But effect is only an explicit manifestation of that which are contained in its material cause. For example, a pot is not different from the clay, a cloth is not different from the threads.

There are two divisions of Satkāryavāda—a) Pariṇāmavāda and b) Vivartavāda.
Pariṇāmavāda: Effect is a real transformation of its cause.
Vivartavāda: Effect is unreal

Sāṃkhya-Yoga’s view is known as Prakṛti-Pariṇāmavāda, Rāmānuja’s view is known as Brahma-Pariṇāmavāda, Śaṃkara is Vivartavādin.

It is the Sāṃkhyas who have actually established the theory satkāryavāda by different arguments. Īśvaṛakṛṣṇa has discussed the theory of satkāryavāda in his Sāṃkhyakārikā. He gives five arguments to prove this theory. The five arguments are discussed here as follows:

  • asadakaranād
  • upādāna-grahaṇāt
  • sarvasambhavābhāvāt
  • śaktasya-śakyakaraṇāt
  • kāraṇabhāvāt