Pancha Tanmatra

Definition - What does Pancha Tanmatra mean?

Pancha tanmatra are the five perceptions or subtle elements that are the objects of the five senses. The term comes from the Sanskrit, pancha, meaning “five”; tan, meaning “subtle”; and matra, meaning “elements.” The pancha tanmatra are: rupa (form), gandha (smell), sparsa (touch), rasa (taste) and sabda (sound).

They are related to the five cognitive sense organs called pancha jnanendriya: caksu (eyes), ghrana (nose), tvak (skin), rasana (tongue) and srotra (ear). Both the pancha tanmatra and the jnanendriya are among the 36 tattvas, or aspects of nature, in Saivism.

Yogapedia explains Pancha Tanmatra

The pancha tanmatra comprise the information through which we sense or experience the external world. Another translation of tanmatra is "mother of matter," meaning that the pancha tanmatra represents the mother energy of the world.

The pancha tanmatra also combine to produce the gross elements that comprise the universe:

  • Earth element from all five tanmatra
  • Water element from sound, touch, sight and taste
  • Fire element from sound, touch and sight
  • Air element from sound and touch
  • Ether element from sound.
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