Taxonomy of the Universe


Taxonomy_of_the_UniverseHuman Beings are social creatures. We spend great amounts of time in the process of self exploration and self validation through discourse with others. There are countless conversations that one has in a lifetime with a large array of people. Some conversations feel like an absolute waste of time while others may be deeply insightful and soul stirring. These insightful conversations are the root of this post.

We use words like the mind, the soul, the ego, the universe to speak about what we are feeling so deeply. A lot of times, what we are able to communicate feels a bit disconnected and abstract. Sometimes our vocabulary, it seems, is lacking to describe what we are feeling.

The cosmology and terminology of Samkhya philosophy is used in Classical Yoga and Ayurveda. Initiated by sage Kapila it is one of the six systems of philosophies to have stemmed from the Vedas, though some still believe that the Samkhya system predates the Vedas. Perhaps the most famous student of this philosophy was the great sage Patanjali, who expounded the Yogasutras, with this as the basis of his knowledge.

Before we get familiar with the cosmic principles we must be first introduced to the primary qualities of nature or Gunas.

Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the three qualities of nature, through which she manifests all her forms. It is a mixure of these gunas that creates everything that we can perceive, either through our senses or beyond them.

Sattva is the quality of light, illumination and purity. This force aids in the evolution of consciousness. It imparts principle universal virtues of faith, honesty, self control and truthfulness. In the manifest form it gives rise to the mind.

Rajas is the quality of passion and agitation. The intermediate force which lacks stability. It gives rise to emotional fluctuations of attraction and repulsion, fear and desire, love and hate. In the manifest form it gives rise to life force.

Tamas is the quality of darkness and non feeling. This is the denser material force which causes dullness, inertia and stagnation. In the manifest form it gives rise to form and substance.

There is a constant interplay of these qualities of nature in all of manifestation. We will follow nature’s evolution from it’s subtlest concept to it’s grossest concept. Defined below are the primary cosmic principles that can be used to explain all the processes in the universe according to Samkhya Philosophy.

Mula Prakriti (Primordial Nature) – At this phase nature is attribute-less, infinite and undifferentiated. This is where all the three qualities of nature are in perfect equilibrium. This ultimate form of nature can only be perceived through intuition. It contains all that can be manifest in dormant form.

Mahat (Cosmic Intelligence) – As soon as the perfect equilibrium is disturbed manifestation takes place. At the beginning cosmic mind comes into being to create the world. It contains within itself all the laws and principles (Dharma) that the manifestation must follow. Mahat is the manifest form of Prakriti.

Ahamkara (Ego) – Manifestation is a process of division through which separate identities and different objects come into being. To enable multiplicity and multiple experiences to occur, creation works through separate entities which are the basis for the ego. This is the point in evolution where forms are manifested. Under the influence of ego the possibility of divergence from nature arises.

Manas (Outer Mind) – Manas means the formulating principle. It is the principle of emotion, sensation and imagination. Manas arises from the satvik and rajsik qualities of Ahamkara. It gives rise to the five sense organs and five motor organs. It posses sattva (the power of illumination) which works through the sense organs and also rajas (the capacity for action) which works through the motor organs.

These four aspects consist of the subjective aspect of nature. We have an underlying mental nature, intelligence, ego and a sense mind. The four of these work together to create our outer, manifest experience. Through meditation we can learn to differentiate between them.

Pancha Tanmantra (Five Subtle Elements) – On a subtle level the three Gunas(qualities of nature) give rise to a new set of forms or impressions. These are the root energies of sound, touch, sight , taste and smell. they are named after sensory qualities.

Shabda Tanmantra (Ether)
Sparsha Tanmantra (Air)
Rupa Tanmantra (Fire)
Rasa Tanmantra (Water)
Gandha Tanmantra (Earth)

They can be experienced directly in the mind as the five main ways of knowing reality. These are the subtle forms of the five elements before they differentiate into gross forms. The tanmantras create the manifest worlds in their seed form. They make up the causal world, the world of ideas prior to any embodiment.

Pancha Jnanedriyani (Five Sense Organs) – The sense organs represent five potentials of experience of the outer world that are latent in all minds. They are not only individual but cosmic and merely become localized in the sense organs of various creations. Each corresponds to a particular sense quality.

Ear (Ether)
Skin (Air)
Eye (Fire)
Tongue (Water)
Nose (Earth)

The subtle forms of these organs also exist beyond the physical body and are understood in the form of extra sensory perception.

Panch Karmendriyani (Five organs of action) – These correspond to the five sense organs and subtle elements.

Mouth (Expression) –  Ether
Hands (Grasp) –  Air
Feet (Moving) –  Fire
Urino-Genital (Emission) –  Water
Anus (Elimination) – Earth

The body is constructed to allow action for the mind to gain experience. These potentials for action are everywhere in nature and manifest in different ways. Subtle forms of these organs also exist allowing direct action with the mind like Telekinesis (Actions with thought at a distance). The organs of action are expressive only. The reception occurs with the sense organs.

Panch Mahabutani (Five great elements)

Earth – Manifests the idea of solidity or stability allowing resistance to action
Water – Manifests the idea of flowing motion allowing life
Fire – Manifests the idea of light allowing for perception
Air – Manifests the idea of direction, subtle movement and change allowing the basis of thought
Ether – Manifests the idea of connection allowing for interchange between all mediums, communication and expression

The five elements mean not only their gross form but their subtle and causal forms as well, their sensory counterparts and underlying ideas make them encompass all forces of manifestation of mind, body and soul. The five elements are a model of all substances of creation. Like the different lines and colors of an artist these are different mediums for cosmic intelligence to express itself.

These are the Twenty Four cosmic principles that can be used to define or understand nature and our reality.

A twenty fifth principle Purusha permeates and transcends nature without belonging to it. When Purusha stirs the other principles into activity it involves evolution. When it retracts it involves involution. Purusha  can be understood as still vibration if all of creation is to be understood as vibration. Perfect stillness does not interact with movement. The seer is unchanging, indescribable and beyond words. the seer can be experienced through the development of discriminating intelligence and taming and rebalancing the Gunas to their perfect proportions of 1/3rd so that each stage of absorption and involution (going back to source) can take place.

Yoga and Tantra are technologies that show us how to do this. It begins from the most gross level, our body.

Nature exists so that the seer can commune with it’s principles and use them for spiritual and intellectual growth. Nature is here to serve it’s master the seer (the inner being of man). It can become an obstacle when used for sensual pleasure, but it can help the seer to realize his true potential. It isn’t the fault of nature that human beings abuse it or fall prey to it’s temptations. Nature is always ready to oblige or to remain ineffectual, according to our deeds. When we overcome our emotional and intellectual defects, nature’s gifts readily serve us for realization of the soul. Having fulfilled their functions they withdraw, so that the seer can observe himself. This true Self-Realisation is the peak of development of intelligence.



3 thoughts on “Taxonomy of the Universe

  1. Thank you for a well organized synopsis. Just a couple of days back, I was listening to a speaker who took us through the tattvas and was wondering how to get started with putting my scribblings down coherently. You’ve done it well. I just have to come back to this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re most welcome. I’m glad this will help you progress in organising your thoughts. I pray you gain great strength,determination and resilience towards your journey of self realisation. Stay blessed.

      Liked by 1 person

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