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India's textual tradition consists of the Vedic musings, UpaniÀadic thoughts, rituals, Dar¿ana of various orders, JyotiÀa, Ëyurveda, V¡stu¿¡stra and so on. Each of these texts deals with concepts concerning man and the Universe. The essays compiled in this Volume are based on the IGNCA series of seminars on five fundamental elements. Here the development of the concept of elements is traced through the Vedas, the UpaniÀads, rituals and other á¡stras.

The Vedic section is dealt with by S.K. Lal, Srinivas Madabhushi and Usha Bhise. The earliest musings of the ÎÀis did not specify the five Mah¡bh£tas but have described the creation from tamas, from Primordial waters, from Agni, from Praj¡pati, Brahman, Ëtman, Ëk¡¿a etc. These elements have been deified in the Vedic S£ktas, but the later UpaniÀadic conclusions give a definite shape to these concepts.

S.K. Lal traces from the earliest Vedic period the development of the concept of Paµcabh£tas. In the beginning water, fire, air, sun and earth were considered not merely as physical elements, but as a combination of both sentient and non-sentient aspects, which led them to treat these elements as deities, to be propitiated for getting their benevolent gifts and escaping from their ire. This was the result of observation of their pervasive nature in all things, and their creative power.

The Hymns of creation of the Îg Veda were reflected in the S£ktas  of Yajur as well as Atharva Vedas. Srinivas Madabhushi discusses as to how, the Tamas, Ambhas and the fire were considered as the Primeval causes of creation and the development of a conscious principle's will  -  which is called Brahman - as the universal cause, comparing them with modern scientific theories.

Usha Bhise underscores the dominant principle of primeval waters which were considered the cause of the universe and they were treated as sentient beings, having a will and how the earth etc.,  emerged out of those waters. In this description, she points out the role played by the floods in the Indus Valley of those times.

R.K. Mande discusses the Brahman concept, the Triv¤tkara¸a of Ch¡ndogya, the Paµc¢kara¸a based on Taittir¢ya, the spider  example of Mu¸·aka etc. She further elucidates the concept that the essence pervading all things is same and the ultimate aim of man considered there being the conquering of elements.

T.N. Dharmadhikari traces in the various Vedic rituals, how the deities waters, fire, air and others were worshipped and offerings were given. This again confirms the conviction of Vedic seers that the bh£tas were not merely insentient elements but were a combination of both conscious and non-conscious principles.

Pt. N.S. Devanathachariar in his Sanskrit paper gives the arguments of Buddhists for the non-acceptance of Ëk¡¿a as a bh£ta and the counter-arguments of the orthodox school. An English translation of this paper is also provided for the benefit of those who would like to read in that language.

Mahesh Tiwari's paper discusses the Buddhist system which approves of only the four bh£tas and how the adjective Mah¡ was added to the name bh£ta because of their vastness. He further elucidates that all these bh£tas are accepted as mere appearances - they exist only in name and form. There is no creation as such in their system and what is appearing as world is a beginningless stream. He further discusses the transition of the term bh£ta as dh¡tu.

A.M. Ghatage, traces the chronological development of the word bh£ta in Hindu and Greek traditions - which presupposes a living principle and not merely a dead matter. Just to avoid this double meaning, the Bhuddhist and Jains used the term dh¡tu in later times.  The final stage of development as a psychic principle is traced by him in his paper.

Mangala Mirasdar takes up the Jaina viewpoint of paµca Astik¡yas and shows how Ëk¡¿a is considered not as an element but some evolute giving space to other material objects.

Pratibha Pingale describes the paµca Skandhas as detailed in Abhidharma Ko¿a and other works.

S.D. Sharma discusses in his paper how in Astronomy the five elements were treated - their good and evil aspects and the methods of alleviating their evil effects and increasing the good effects.

From the papers that are presented here, one can see that the rudiments of later Dar¿anas were already there in the N¡sad¢ya S£kta, the Ambhas S£kta etc. The findings of Vedic seers are corroborated in some respects and controverted in others, with the development of modern science. The UpaniÀadic Philosophies still remain the bedrock of Indian thought. Their conclusions stress that it is not the pr¡¸a, manas etc., that animate the body, but a conscious principle running through the veins and arteries as the sap of a tree. This sap is universal but takes different shapes even as the bodies differ due to different wombs and seeds.

Another aspect of Vedic philosophy is that the Brahman expands and contracts in cycles and in this process the invisible makes itself visible through various forms. The infinite or all-pervading principle can neither increase nor decrease.

The third aspect is about the evolution of human beings. B¤had¡ra¸yaka UpaniÀad and other works talk of separate creations of man, animal and others in pairs of the male and female counterparts. This theory confirms that both the male and female aspects are not complete in themselves, but are complementary and supplementary to each  other. The Ardhan¡r¢¿vara  principle or LakÀm¢ residing on the chest of Lord ViÀ¸u are all born out of this understanding.

Finally I thank Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan for asking me to edit this volume and for the confidence that she reposed in me. I also extend my gratitude to Dr. Saroja  Bhate for organising the seminar on "The Concept of Bhutas: Vedic, Buddhist and Jain Traditions" held at the Department of Sanskrit and Prakrit Languages, University of Poona in March 1992. Thanks are due to Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan for assistance in editing.

These seminars have enriched our understanding and the objective with which IGNCA started them, has been fulfilled to some extent. I hope and wish, that, readers of these Volumes will immensely benefit from these papers.

Sampat Narayanan


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