Definition - What does Tanmatras mean?

Tanmatras is a Sanskrit term which comes from the root words, tan, meaning “subtle,” and matras, meaning “elements." In yogic philosophy, the tanmatras are the subtle elements which are the objects of the five senses: sound, touch, sight or form, taste and smell. The tanmatras are the way in which people sense the objective, tangible world. The presence of the tanmatras is the reason the five senses exist.

Yogapedia explains Tanmatras

The tanmatras are very important in yogic philosophy because, in the Vedic theory of creation, it is the tanmatras which form the basis of all physical existence. From them come the building blocks of the tangible material universe in the form of the five elements. Each element is considered to be related to the tanmatras, which are combined and recombined in various ways. These are:

  • Ether from sound
  • Air from sound and touch
  • Fire from sound and touch and sight
  • Water from sound and touch and sight and taste
  • Earth from sound and touch and sight and taste and smell

This is related to Ayurveda, which views all physical creation and the functioning of our nature as related to the body’s components in terms of the five elements.

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