Creation of the Body from 5 elements
Where did this Universe come from? You, me, the earth, the stars…how did it come to be in the 1st place? This is a classic question debated by philosophers, theologians, and all people across the world since ancient times. In answer to this important question, the Vedas present a systematic model of how this Universe was born from Maya. We have already seen that Maya is the ‘seed’ of this Universe, whose very substance in Brahman (http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/brahman-maya-the-creation-of-the-universe/). The Vedas (e.g. Tattiriya Upansihad) go on to elaborate how each individual component of beings that live within this Universe came to be, which we shall now examine.
Firstly, the 5 subtle elements (sukshma-pancha-maha-bhuta) were born from Maya:
Maya (Brahman) > Akasha (Space) > Vayu (Air) > Agni (Fire) > Apah (Water) > Prithivi (Earth). This model is very similar to modern physics: http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/the-vedas-physics-and-big-bang/
But how did people evolve from these 5 elements? First we must remember that each of these 5 elements has 3 aspects (Gunas) – Sattva (knowledge), Rajas (activitiy), Tamas (no knowledge/inactivity). And correspondingly each element gives birth to the following:
Sattva Akasha > Power of Hearing (Ears)
Rajas Akasha > Power of Speech (Voice)
Sattva Vayu > Power of Feeling/Touch (Skin)
Rajas Vayu > Power of Grasping (Hands)
Sattva Agni > Power of Seeing (Eyes)
Rajas Agni > Power of Movement (Legs)
Sattva Apa > Power of Taste (Tongue)
Rajas Apa > Power of Excretion (Excretory Organs)
Sattva Prthivi >Power of Smell (Nose)
Rajas Prthivi > Power of Reproduction (Reproductive Organs)
Akasha + Vayu + Agni + Apa + Prthivi (collectively):
Sattva > antahkarana (manasa – emotional mind, buddhi – intellect, ahankara – ‘I’ sense, chitta – memory)
Rajas > 5 Pranas (physiological functions)
If you remember the definition of the subtle body, you will notice the above model covers the creation of all 19 components of the subtle body (sukshma sharira).
You can also see that there is a logic behind why each element gives birth to a particular organ. For example – Space (akasha): Space has the attribute of sound (waves vibrating in space). And in order to hear sound you require the power of hearing (via the ear), hence the power of hearing evolved from Space. Also to produce sound you require a voice box, hence power speech evolved from the Rajas part of Space. It all logically follows.
In addition to this, Sattva represents Knowledge. So every sattva aspect of each element gives birth to a part of the body which is required for knowing things (i.e. eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, mind, intellect, I sense, memory). So to, Rajas represents activity so the Rajas part of each element gives birth to a part of your body which is needed to carry out activity/action (i.e. Voice, Hands, Legs, Excretion organ, Reproductive organ, 5 Pranas powering your organs of action). The Tamas aspect of each element gives rise to the physical body (sthula sharira) which will be seen later.
So the eyes (chakshu) you are using to read these words right now came from agni (fire). And agni came from vayu (air), which came from akasha (space), which came from Maya. And Maya is nothing but Brahman (just like a pot is nothing but clay). Therefore your eyes are, in reality, nothing but….Brahman (Consciousness). In fact if you analyse the above model, every single part of your body is nothing but…Brahman! This is the key point that the Veda wishes to prove here.