VEDIC, BUDDHIST AND JAIN TRADITIONS
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Pingale describes the paµca Skandhas as detailed in Abhidharma
Ko¿a and other works.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
©1995 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi