'Panchikaranam' in Sanskrit means the process of Compounding or Grossification.

Sthula Sarira (Gross Body)

That which is made up of the 5 great elements that have undergone the process of "Panchikaranam"; born as a result of the good actions of the past; the counter of experiences like joy, sorrow etc.; and subject to the 6 modifications- namely, to potentially exist, to be born, to grow, to mature, to decay and to die- is the Gross Body. The body can be perceived by the 5 senses, by one's own self and by others, both inside and outside and is therefore called 'Gross'.

The 5 Great Elements are- Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. When they undergo the process of Panchikarana, they form the 5 Gross Elements. A permutation and combination of these gross elements constitute the entire Gross World that we perceive. Our body too is part of this world and hence made up of the 5 gross elements. At death, the body disintegrates back to the 5 elements from which it is formed. Actually, the body, being part of the 5 elements, is never separate from them.

(Born of the result of good actions of the past)

The human birth is the result of the good actions of the past. With the prominence of merits, we gain a heavenly body; with demerits. an animal's or even lower body; and with the balance of both, we gain a human body. In both the higher and the lower bodies, our merits or demerits are exhausted with no new ones being formed. The human birth is the finest in the creation. In this birth, we have the choice to evolve or devolve. We are endowed with a subtle intellect that can discriminate between right and wrong, real and unreal, good and bad etc. and attain the supreme Truth.

Counter of Experiences.

In a shop, all transactions take place at the counter. When the counter closes, all transactions are stopped. Similarly, this body is the counter through which we reap our experiences of joy and sorrow. These transactions temporarily cease when we sleep and permanently at death. The body is also compared to a city with nine gates (Nava dware pure dehi). Just as traffic passes through the gates, the transactions of life happen through the 9 orifices of the body. For example, we eat through the mouth etc.

Shadvikaravat (6 Modifications)

The body undergoes 6 modifications :

1) Asti (Potential Existence)
2) Jayate (Is Born)
3) Vardhate (Grows)
4) Viparinamate (Matures)
5) Apakshiyate (Decays)
6) Vinasyati (Dies)

'I', the Pure Self, am a witness to all the modifications of the body. 'I' am neither born, nor do 'I' die with the body. Knowing that I am different from the body, I need not neglect the body. It is the temple that houses the Pure Self within. It is the vehicle that we use to transact with the world. It should, therefore, be kept clean and fit for use, without getting too attached to it or falsely identifying with it.

The Evolution of the Tamasic Aspect.

From the 'Tamas' aspect of the 5 great elements, the grossified 5 elements are born. This process of 'Panchikarana' is as follows:

1. The tamas aspect of each of the 5 elements divides into two equal parts.
2. One half of each remains intact.
3. The other half of each gets divided into 4 equal parts.
4. Then to the intact half of one element, 1/8th portion from each of the other 4
    elements gets joined.
5. Then 'Panchikarana' is complete.
6. From these 5 grossified elements, the gross body is formed.

This process of "Panchikarana" can be shown in a tabular form as below:

Gross Elements
The Tamas aspect of the subtle elements
1. Space      
1/2 S
1/8 A
1/8 F
1/8 W
1/8 E
2. Air          
1/2 A
1/8 S
1/8 F
1/8 W
1/8 E
3. Fire        
1/2 F
1/8 S
1/8 A
1/8 W
1/8 E
4. Water      
1/2 W
1/8 S
1/8 A
1/8 F
1/8 E
5. Earth      
1/2 E
1/8 S
1/8 A
1/8 F
1/8 W

 'Tamo Guna' is characterised by inertia. That which cannot know itself or illumine another is inert. That which cannot activate itself also is inert. The tamasic aspect of the 5 elements together undergo the process of grossification as explained above. By their mutual intermingling, each element thereafter has 50% of its own element and 12.5% of each of the other 4. Therefore, each of the 5 gross elements has the qualities of all the others. These elements can thereafter be perceived by the senses. The permutation and combination of these forms the gross world, including the gross body.

The vegetable you eat has starch, protein, water content, heat, air etc. and occupies space. Even though water in its purest form is supposed to be tasteless, odourless, colourless etc., we know that the sea water tastes salty, appears blue and has a distinct smell. Our own body occupies space. We have plenty of air and water within us.The body has heat. The earth(food) element in it, makes up most of its weight.

The gross body cannot function without the subtle body. When the subtle body leaves the gross body, the gross body disintegrates and goes back to the 5 gross elements. As  all gross bodies have the same gross elements, no gross body can claim to be superior to another. All differences at the gross level are superficial. If this is understood, then all conflicts due to caste, creed, colour, sex etc. would end.

Pinda-Brahmanda Aikyam

Thus, there is identity between the microcosm (Jiva) and the macrocosm (World).
The part is never separate from the whole.

The individual subtle body is made from the total subtle elements, not remaining separate from them. Similarly, the individual gross body is made from the total gross elements. Therefore, the individual gross body (Pindanda) is part of the total gross body (Brahmanda). Also, the original cause of the total gross and subtle elements is the Truth, the pure Self. The cause pervades the effects. Thus, in essence, there is identity between the individual and the Total. The waves are only part of the ocean in terms of name and form. But, with respect to their essence-the water, they are one.

Jiva and Iswara

The reflection of Brahman, which identifies itself with the gross body is called the 'Jiva'. This Jiva, by nature, takes Iswara to be different from himself. The Self conditioned by ignorance (Maya) is called Iswara. So long as the notion that the Jiva and Iswara are different remains, there is no redemption from 'Samsara' - the repeated birth and death. Due to that reason, the notion that the Jiva is different from Iswara should not be accepted.

Brahman, the truth, is infinite. It wields its inherent creative power, the total conditioning of Maya, to appear as the world of things and beings. The Truth, with the conditioning of Maya, is called Iswara. He is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. He is all-powerful (Sarva Saktiman), all-knowledgeable (Sarvajnah) and all-pervading (Sarva Vyapi), as He is both the material and efficient cause of the world. Iswara always knows His true nature and does not get overpowered by Maya. He remains in full control of it and is thus called "Mayapati". His maya is predominantly satvic and therefore does not bind. So, when one takes refuge in Him, he gets liberated from maya.

The same infinite Truth, when wielding the individual conditioning (Avidya), is called 'Jiva'. Avidya being predominantly tamasic and of the nature of ignorance, it binds the Jiva. He forgets his true nature and identifies with the finite gross and subtle bodies and lives as a finite creature-helpless, hopeless and sorrowful. He is a slave to his conditionings and is. therefore, a "mayadasa".

Therefore, we are advised not to accept the ignorance-born difference between the Jiva and Iswara and realise their essential identity. This is explained through the famous Mahavakya "Tatvamasi".

Tat Tvam Asi (That You Are)

But the Jiva is endowed with ego and his knowledge is limited; whereas, iswara is without ego and omniscient. Then how can there be identity, as stated in the above Mahavakya (Great Statement) ?

The literal meaning of the word 'tvam-you' is the one identified with the gross and subtle bodies. It's implied meaning is 'pure awareness', which is free from all conditionings. Similarly, the literal meaning of 'tat-that' is 'Iswara', having omniscience etc. It's implied meaning is 'pure awareness', free from all conditionings. Thus, there is no contradiction regarding the identity between the Jiva and iswara, from the standpoint of awareness.

When we say 'he is a lion', it does not mean that the man is literally a lion, but that he is brave like a lion. The statement "Tat Tvam asi" should not be taken literally, but in the implied sense.

The Lord and the world would appear to us depending on our viewpoint. When asked about the form of the Lord, Ramana Maharishi said: " It depends on what you think you are. If you think you are with form, He too is with form. If you think you are formless, then He too is formless, and is one with you".

The literal meaning of 'Tvam' is the Jiva, identified with the three bodies, three states and five sheaths. This gives rise to the notion "I am a changing, finite entity". When the Self, free from all conditionings, is experienced, I realise that "I am Existence-Consciousness-Bliss". This state of realisation is called "Samadhi". Similarly, from the standpoint of the conditioning of omniscience etc., Iswara is the creator, sustainer and destroyer. Free of all the conditionings of maya, He is in essence "Existence-Consciousness-Bliss". Thus, in essence, the Jiva and Iswara are one. This is realised only when our attention is shifted from the conditioning to the unconditioned Self or truth. The enquiry may start either from Iswara as to who He is in essence ?, or it may start with me, the Jiva asking  "who am I in essence ?". Either way, it culminates in the realisation that "I am the infinite Truth-Aham Brahmasmi".

Jivanmukta (Man of realisation)

The words of Vedanta reveal our true nature. Since the self cannot be known as an object of knowledge, it has to be revealed by subtle indicative methods. The guru can only indicate the truth. It is for the student to lift his mind himself. Therefore, the Vedanta, as revealed by the Guru, is the means for Self-realisation. When the student realises that the self in him is the Self in all, that all is Truth alone and that "I am the infinite reality (Aham Brahmasmi)", such a person is called a "Jivanmukta"- one liberated whilst living. he need not meditate or remind himself about his true nature. This knowledge stays with him under all circumstances. Even at the time of the death of the body, he knows that he is the immortal Self. He knows himself to be the infinite Self and the world to be unreal.

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Related Topics

1. Panchakosam

2. Maya Prapancham