The Basis of Panchikarana
Brahman is the basis of Panchikarana (पंचीकरण).
The Study of Panchikarana is, in a way, the study of the origin of the universe.
Brahman is Satyam (सत्यम्), Jnanam (ज्ञानम्), and Anantam (अनंतम्) which are Existence, Knowledge, and Infinite.
This is an undifferentiated form of Brahman.
Such existence cannot in any way create differences within itself.
This is because the creation, existence, and Destruction of the Universe happen within the realm of undifferentiated Brahman.
Hence, there has to be another factor other than pure unsullied Brahman.
Therefore, Panchikarana discusses the Aspect of Maya (माया), the creative potency.
Concept of Maya in Panchikarana
With the assistance of Maya, Brahman becomes Srishtikarta or the Creator.
When Brahman uses Maya for Creative, Maintenance, and Destructive purposes, Brahman becomes Ishwara (ईश्वर), God.
This is the basis of the process of Panchikarana
But the rishis say that “There is only Brahman and nothing else.”
Thus, even Maya is Brahman alone.
Maya is therefore Brahman’s own creative capacity and even that is Brahman.
Therefore Brahman holds within itself the “Seed for Creation’ and is called Avyakrata (अव्यक्रता).
Avyakrata, per say, is unmanifest.
It is from this unmanifest Avyakrita that 5 kinds of stuff such as Tanmatra (तन्मात्रा) or Mahabhutas (महाभूत) manifest.
These are the fundamental elements from which the universe crops up.
Five fundamental elements in Panchikarana
The science Panchikarana within Vedanta is the “Theory of 5 fundamental elements” namely Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
Panchikarana states that Earth resides in its subtle form in Water.
Water remains in Subtle form in Fire.
Fire retains its subtlety in Air and Air is present in a subtle form in Ether or Space.
Thus the most fundamental element of existence is verily ether or space.
So the material nature of all that exists around us is Space or Ether.
The Witness of Panchabhutas
This means that other four materialistic elements like Air, Fire, Water and Earth take their properties of individual expression from Ether alone.
But Ether also owes its existence to the Supreme Being or the Supreme Controller who is beyond matter.
Sri Adi Shankara gives a deeper meaning to the Theory of Panchikarana.
He says that all that is matter or the five elements is the “seen” or “scene”, that which is observable.
But the observer or the one “seeing” it is the source, the witness and the progenitor of the Pancha Bhutas ( पंचभूत 5 fundamental elements).
Disciple’s question to Sri Shankara?
One question that Sri Shankara’s disciple put to his master, ” Gurudeva, how does the body grow, if it is jada (जड without consciousness).
Sri Shankara replied, ” The science of Panchikarana belongs to the observed.
But there is a theory of Pancha Maha Kosha (पंच महाकोश) that needs to be understood before one can understand how an inanimate object also shows properties of growth.
There are five layers which are even beyond Ether.
The Pancha Koshas
These form the subtle aspects of matter that surround the seamless ocean of consciousness or Chetana (चैतन्य chaitanya).
1. Annamaya Kosha
2. Pranamaya Kosha
3. Manomaya Kosha
4. Vijnanamaya Kosha
5. Anandamaya Kosha which surrounds the purest aspect of existence, the effulgent and non-decaying Atman.
That which observes the Pancha Bhutas have these 5 layers of coverings known as Pancha Maha Koshas.
Details of the Pancha Koshas
The Earth element forms the first layer. It forms around the eternal witness.
Anna (अन्न) or food maintains it.
This is the grossest covering that gives jivatva to Atman or Brahman
This is the Annamaya Kosha (अन्नमय कोश).
Then there is a subtler covering, closer to Chaitanya.
This is Pranamaya Kosha (प्राणमय कोश), which is the nerve currents or subtler currents that flow around Atman, that gives power to action.
If the living entity consumes food, but there are no bodily currents to make the functions of the body operate, then Chaitanya cannot stay.
It is the nerve currents and breath that keep the source of existence operating.
Beyond the breath and the nerve currents lies the mind which consists of intellect, processing mind, memory and false ego.
If the mind is non-functional, the body remains “jada” or inanimate.
This covering is therefore known as Manomaya Kosha (मनोमय कोश).
That which triggers manas or mind is the “inner instrument” also known as Vijnanamaya Kosha (विज्ञान्मय कोश) or intelligence component, which is responsible for maintaining the mind or manas.
Deeper than that is the final layer called Anandamaya Kosha (आनंदमय कोश).
This is the bliss component that gets maximum light from the Atman and projects it to the outer layer.
Influence of Atman on the Pancha Koshas
It is important to know that life or existence on the material plane is a complex process and there are two fundamental components for the living experience.
One is the “observed” aspect which is covered under the science of Panchikarana or the Pancha mahabhut Vidya.
The other is the observer component, surrounded by the Pancha Maha Kosha.
All inanimate objects, which includes the body and mind, have consciousness “reflected” on them from Atman, through the Koshas or layers surrounding chaitanya.
When an inanimate object such as the body grows or becomes healthy.
This is because of the influence of Atman, that flows through the five Koshas and makes the energy of the Atman available to the body, because of which it grows.
If there is a problem with any one Kosha, the growth shall transform into decay.
Effect of Pancha Koshas on “Experience”
For example, when there is a disturbance in the “food” component(Anna Maya Kosha), the body is emaciated.
If there is a problem with the breathing or inner bodily currents, the effect is seen in the Jada Tattva.
A sick man experiences the “world” as a “dim world” because there is a problem in one of the Koshas.
Similarly, it is to be understood that the Pancha Koshas also affect the Pancha Mahabhutas.
Problems of the World are within “Me”
Even the field of modern Quantum Physics has agreed on the point that “An observer can affect an experiment, happening out there, through merely the light of his observation.”
It will not be wrong to say that disturbance in the Pancha Koshas will corrupt consciousness.
Naturally, material nature will respond accordingly. It is something for us to ask and fix within ourselves.
The problems of the world are not because “it is out there”.
Rather, it is “in us”.
Natural disasters are because of a warped “inner condition”, within us.
It will be a worthy question to ask. “Are there problems in the world because of my personal condition?”
If we figure out answers to these questions, the world would naturally become a better place.
Thanks for reading!