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Pancha Thanmathra in Samkhya Yoga

Pancha Thanmathra are five subtle primary elements which are subtler than atoms or paramanus. They are mentioned in the Samkhya Yoga, the ancient Indian school of philosophy.

Pancha Thanmathra are:
  • Shabda Tanmatra (sound)
  • Sparsha Tanmatra (touch)
  • Rupa Tanmatra (visual)
  • Rasa Tanmatra (taste)
  • Gandha Tanmatra (smell)
In the process of evolution the five tanmatras evolve from the element (tattva) called asmita or ahamkara (sense of) in Samkhya Yoga.

Ahamkara itself evolves from buddhi (intellect), which is also called lingamatra or mahat-tattva which is the very first evolute from primordial nature, i.e., mulaprakriti.

This process of evolution is explained in Samkhya Karika (verse 22).

From the tanmatras, the five mahabhutas evolve. They are the akasha (ether), vayu (air), tejas (fire), apah (water) and prithvi (earth). From these mahabhutas, a great variety of objects of experience arises.

According to Samkhya, the tanmatras form a part of the subtle body (linga sharira and sukshma sharira), which is supposed to be attached to a self. It is beginningless but comes to an end, when kaivalya or liberation is achieved. Then the self remains alone permanently and is called kevala in both samkhya and yoga.

The linga sharira gathers and carries from birth to birth traces of all past experiences, till kaivalya is achieved. In Yoga, the chitta is supposed to do this job.

It must be noted here that Patanjali, in his Yogasutra, does not mention any subtle body.

Notes take from Encyclopedia of Hinduism – Volume VIII – IHRF – ( page no 7– 8)