Matter is nothing but a “material phenomenon.”
A material phenomenon is that which is devoid of any aspect of experience while the mental phenomenon is that which experiences the objects. A piece of rock is matter because it is devoid of experience. Similarly, a human corpse (body without mind and consciousness) is matter because it is devoid of experience.
Matter is called “matter” because it deforms under adverse physical conditions such as cold and heat; because it undergoes alteration due to various physical conditions. For example, water evaporates when subject to heat. Body decays and grows old due to various physical or environmental conditions. This happens because water and body are material phenomena. Such is not the case with mind or consciousness. They do not undergo deformation or decay or molestation.
Matter is not mind neither mind is matter. Matter is distinctly matter and mind is distinctly mind, however, they are interdependent and inseparable. It is very important to understand this so that confusion does not arise when we study other philosophies and traditions in which mind is considered as spiritual-matter or matter is considered as physical-mind.
The only similarity between matter and mind is that both are phenomena, a flow, a flux, a constantly changing reality. Matter is a conditioned ultimate reality just as the consciousness and the mind are. This means, matter actually exists by reason of its own intrinsic nature because of which it is possible to investigate it and make it known.
The Ultimate Building Blocks of Matter
Just as there are various mental elements that make up the mental phenomena (see MIND), there are various material elements that make up the material phenomena. However, material elements are not subatomic particles such as electrons, protons, and neutrons. They are not tiny bits or things that have size, shape, weight, or mass. Material elements are neither some mysterious “primordial substance” nor “thing” as misunderstood by a few religious thinkers. They are essentially a “basic, fundamental material phenomenon” which manifests as matter. The word “phenomenon” has great significance here because it helps in removing the ignorance related to physical notions of “fixed-solid-substance” and religious or philosophical notions of “primordial-substance.”
Modern science considers atom as the smallest recognizable part of matter. These atoms are so small that one can fit several millions of them on the tip of a needle. Each atom is known to consist of subatomic particles like protons, neutrons, electrons, and many other special kinds of subatomic particles. These subatomic particles are, in turn, made up of sub-sub atomic particles such as quarks, gluons, leptons, fermions, bozons, baryons, mesons, etc. In future, there will be discoveries of sub-sub-sub…atomic particles. These discoveries will continue until a day will come when modern science will merge with spiritual science and realize the presence of ultimate realities of matter- the "material elements" that we are going to discuss here. These material elements are ultimate realities of matter because nothing else remains to be penetrated or investigated beyond their existence.
There are basically four ultimate and essential (UNIVERSAL) material elements: the Earth Element, the Water Element, the Fire Element, and the Air Element which primarily manifest together as the matter of the entire manifested world. These four essential material elements are the fundamental building blocks of the material universe. They are the ultimate realities of matter.
(See the Slide).
The four essential elements are not same as solid earth, flowing water, burning fire, or blowing air that we see. Earth element is basically a “phenomenon” of extension, support, hardness, softness, etc. The earth or soil we see is called earth because the qualities of Earth element are most predominant in it. What I mean is, because we predominantly experience the qualities of extension, support, hardness, or softness in soil, the soil is called the earth. Similarly, Water element is a “phenomenon” of fluidity, cohesion, oozing, continuity, etc. The water we see is called water because the qualities of Water element are most predominant in it. The Fire element is a “phenomenon” of heat and cold. The burning fire we see is called fire because the qualities of Fire element are most predominant in it. Similarly, the Air element is a phenomenon of motion, movement, distention and pressure, and not the blowing air that we see or feel.
It is important to understand that material elements are defined here as “phenomenon” having a certain characteristic, function, and manifestations that are experiential in nature. They are not defined as a “thing” having certain size, shape, weight, mass, charge, etc. Since these elements are experiential in nature, meaning, they have to be actually experienced by the knower to be known by the knower, they represent the ultimate nature of matter. It is so, because, there is nothing remains to be known beyond the experience, since an experience is none other than the phenomenon of consciousness.
The four essential elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air are truly great and truly essential and truly fundamental in nature. They are great primaries for the occurrence of any matter. They are great and essential because they are basic building blocks of all the great manifestations of matter such as earth planet, other planets, sun, other stars, galaxies, etc in the universe. They are also a great wonder because they manifest as wonderful great things such as earth planet, stars, etc. They are great also because they are huge and their standing place cannot be pointed out. They are great primaries or truly fundamental in nature because they are ultimate material realities. Nothing really can be known as matter beyond these elements. Nothing is really subtler in matter beyond these elements.
Let us evaluate the matter of our physical body. Our physical body has some softness or hardness and it is supported on something without which it cannot stand. Where do the softness, hardness, and support come from? What is behind them at the ultimate level? If, for a moment, we set aside our materialistic views, and look at the qualities of softness, hardness, support, etc as a “material phenomenon of experience” rather than as something that is arising out of something else,’ then, we are obviously reaching the ultimatum of matter since we are now knowing it through actual experience. This ultimatum of matter in this case (of the qualities of softness, hardness, support, etc) is basically called the Earth element, because, the qualities of softness, hardness, support, etc, are predominant in the earth that we see and experience.
All the matter of our physical body has some fluidity and cohesion without which the body would have fallen apart and would have not stayed as a continuous structure. We can consider these qualities of fluidity, cohesion as the material phenomenon of experience and call it the Water element. Why choose the name “Water element?” Because, the qualities of fluidity and cohesion are predominant in water that we see and experience. Likewise, all the matter of our physical body has some temperature without which the body would have not digested the food; sustained itself, or, grown old. We can consider these qualities of temperature, digestion, ripening, etc as material phenomenon of experience and call it Fire element. Why choose the name “Fire element?” Because, the qualities of temperature, digestion, ripening are predominant in the fire that we see and experience. Finally, all the matter of our physical body has some motion, movement, distention, and pressure without which the body would have not felt the touch; the pressure; it would have not been able to convey the fluids to various parts, or, it would have not been able to move. We can consider these qualities of motion, movement, pressure, etc as a material phenomenon experience and call it the Air element. Why choose the name “Air element?” Because, the qualities of motion, movement, distention, and pressure are predominant in the air that we experience.
Such understanding occurs through meditative efforts and deep insight which arises out of constant and untiring investigation of the nature of matter. Having said that, I feel the basic understanding of these great material elements can arise by studying some of their salient features. So, let me summarize them below for you. Because the entire material world is primarily made up of these four essential elements, understanding these salient features is no less than understanding the fundamental laws of matter.
Fundamental Laws of Matter
Law No.1:Earth, Water, Fire, Air are elements because they bear their own characteristics and they exist on their own accord and not as some primordial-substance; not as something that was created by some Ultimate Creator. Law No. 2:Earth-Water-Fire-Air elements always exist together and cannot be separated from each other. They cannot be discovered or demonstrated as an individual element. There is no such thing as just ‘Earth element.’ All four elements are always present together in all other material elements which are derived from them. They always arise together and serve as a common base for the occurrence of all the matter in the universe. Law No. 3:Taken together, four essential elements are supported by Earth element, held together by Water element, maintained by Fire element, and distended by Air element. In other words, all matter in the universe (animate or inanimate) is supported by Earth element, held together by Water element, maintained by Fire element, and distended by Air element. For example, a piece of rock or diamond exists as a piece of matter because: a. its matter is supported by and founded on Earth element just like a tree is founded on earth. b. Its matter is held together due to Water element; otherwise, it would not exist as a lump of matter. c. It does not remain as the same piece of rock forever but undergoes transformation. Rock eventually turns into soil. It erodes and its chemical properties change. This happens due to Fire element. Law No. 4:Earth element is held together by Water element, maintained by Fire element, and distended by Air element, so that matter is not scattered or dissipated but manifests as small, big, tall, short, rough, rigid, hard, etc. Water element is founded on Earth element, maintained by Fire element, and distended by Air element, so it does not trickle or flow away but provides cohesion, continuity, and flow. Fire element is established on Earth element, held together by Water element, and distended by Air element, so it cooks what is eaten, provides warmth, heat, and maintains the body and ensures its appearance. That is why there is no rotting of the animate body. Air element is founded on Earth element, held together by Water element, and maintained by Fire element, so, it distends the body and does not allow it to collapse but makes it stand erect, makes it move the body parts, makes it wiggle, walk, sit, etc. In this way, four elements work together to make the human body function. Law No. 5:The four essential elements are neither found inside or outside of each other even though they do not exist without each other. They condition each other and assist each other in their function without exposing their functionality as obvious. Law No. 6:It is not possible to say that this is a quality of only this essential element and that is a quality of only that essential element since all four essential elements are inseparable. Law No. 7:The differences in material things are not due to differences in essential elements but due to other reasons. The earth and water that we see are different not because there is greater quantity of Earth element in earth and less quantity of Earth element in water. The earth that we see has excess of Earth element in capability, in quality, and not in quantity. Similarly, water that we see has excess of Water element in capability, in quality, and not in quantity. Thus, earth is different from water due to differences in capabilities, in qualities of essential elements and not due to differences in the quantities of essential elements, or, due to differences in the composition of essential elements. For example, wheat does not have more odor than liquor even though wheat seems to be more earthly than liquor. Similarly, fire that we see has excess of Fire element in capability, in quality, and not in quantity. For example, hot water does not have Fire element in excess in quantity nor cold water has fire element less in quantity since the color of hot or cold water is the same. Hot water is hot because of excessive capability or quality of Fire element in hot water. Cold water is cold because of less capability or quality of Fire element in cold water. Law No. 8:Material elements do not and cannot know that they are an element. For example, Earth element does not know itself as Earth element. It is not conscious of itself in this way. That is why all matter is distinct from consciousness and mind; however, it does not exist independently.
Origination of Matter
The Real Material World
Law No. 9:Each essential element is born out of four causes: karma, consciousness, temperature, and nutrition. There is no single ultimate cause of matter. Karma-born Earth element arises with karma-born Water, Fire, and Air elements. Consciousness-born Earth element arises with consciousness-born Water, Fire, and Air elements. That is how four essential elements are not only born out of four (multiple) causes but also are inclusive of each other.
(See the Slide)
Law No. 10:Material elements cannot be created by physical efforts. On their own accord, they arise only out of four causes of karma, consciousness, temperature, and nutriment. For example, it is impossible to physically create an Earth element in the laboratory.
Law No. 11: At the ultimate level, there is nothing else in the material world besides the elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air; however, the four essential elements along with their four causes give rise to fourteen kinds of derived material elements which bear their own intrinsic nature. These derived elements are: Subtle-Eye matter (Eye-sensitivity), Subtle-Ear matter (Ear-sensitivity), Subtle-Nose matter (Nose-sensitivity), Subtle-Tongue matter (Tongue- sensitivity), Subtle-Body Matter (Body-sensitivity), Subtle-Heart matter (Mind-sensitivity), Sexual Matter (Feminine or Masculine), Material-Life, Nutriment, Visible-Form/Color, Taste, Smell, and Sound.
(See the Slide)
The element of Visible-Form/Color is not derived from just the Fire element or from a combination of Fire and Air elements, but from the combination of all four essential elements. In Visible-Form/Color, there is excess of Fire element in capability or quality and not in quantity. Similarly, the element of Smell is not derived from Earth element only or from a combination of Earth and Water elements or Earth and Air elements, but, from the combination of all four essential elements. In Smell, there is excess of Earth element in capability or quality and not in quantity. Likewise, in Taste Element, there is excess of Water element in capability or quality and not in quantity.
Law No. 12: Thus, there are a total of eighteen material elements that actually exist in nature as material realities having their own intrinsic nature and together make up the entire animate an inanimate material world. These eighteen elements are makers of the “real material world.” That is why they are known as “material matter,” or, matter bearing real characteristics, or, matter that can be actually investigated, discovered, and known by insight. There is nothing subtler in the real material world than these eighteen material elements.
Empty space or voidness (space) that exists between two objects does not arise directly out of the four causes of matter the way the Earth, Water, Fire, and Air elements do. It is also know that space cannot be deformed or molested like the matter can be. So, we can say that space actually does not exist as matter. At the same time, we cannot deny its presence. What this means is that space is not one of the ultimate realities of matter like Earth, Water, Fire, and Air elements are but simply an attribute of matter. Space is thus an abstract, non-concretely produced material entity. This space or material-voidness is called the Space element.
It is the Space element (material-voidness) which separates material objects and makes it possible to see objects as distinct objects. Its characteristic is to define the boundaries of matter and its function is to display these boundaries. We experience this Space element as a gap, as voids, as cavities, as apertures, etc. We can experience or see the Space element only in relation to the four essential elements. Space is there because real matter is there and not the other way round!
Many think that Space existed before the four essential elements came into existence. Common sense tells us that there had to be some Space before Earth, Water, Fire, and Air elements came into existence.
Common sense tells us many things which are not actually correct because common sense is limited to only common sensual experience. For example, our senses tell us that the earth is flat and stationary because that is our common sensory experience. However, if we were to look at the earth from a spaceship, we would clearly see that the earth is round and moving. Looking at the earth from a spaceship is not a common sensory experience but an uncommon one. It is an extraordinary as well as a transcending experience. It is an experience which can occur and reveal the truth only if we transcend the boundaries of the earth. Similarly, in order to understand ultimate nature of matter thoroughly, we have to look at matter at an experiential level and not simply at a material or a common-sense level. When we do that, we realize that Space (as matter) was not there before the essential elements came into existence. Space (as matter) is simply an attribute of real matter, meaning, it is there because real matter is there and not the other way round.
Those who think that space existed first are most likely mistaking space for the elements of mind or consciousness.
It is a widely accepted scientific reality that the universe was in an ‘infinitely dense’ state at the time of the Big Bang. Materially speaking, infinite density should mean zero space. Therefore, whenever I think and contemplate over the popular Big Bang theory about the origin of our universe, I find some evidence to the fact that Space element cannot represent pre-existing or primordial matter. If there was space prior to the origin of matter (as common sense would tell us), it would mean the density of the universe was zero prior to Big Bang. Current cosmological scientific theories do not support that possibility. (Please do internet research on Big Bang Theory and visit the local University library or chat with your local university professors of cosmology and quantum physics).
You (the reader) must be still feeling that something must have existed before the matter was born. You probably feel that there was something there before the world came into existence.
What I feel is that the question “what existed before matter?” or “what is the absolute-first matter?” are wrong questions. It is like asking, “What is the diameter of a cube?” or “What is the distance to earth’s horizon from where you are?” or “what is the beginning point of the surface of earth?” We cannot answer such questions because questions themselves are wrong! Basically, the point is - because there is no such thing as absolute-first matter, it is not possible to know what it is.
The right question to ask is, “What is the ultimate cause of matter?” Note that the word ‘ultimate’ means that which cannot be penetrated or known further. It does not mean ‘absolute-first.’
And, the answer is-
Law No. 13: All matter arises out of mind-stuff (karma and consciousness) and material-stuff (temperature and nutriment). Therefore, we can say that the ultimate cause of matter is karma-consciousness-temperature-nutriment. In other words, mind and matter existed before Earth, Water, Fire, and Air elements came into existence. There was that matter before this matter and there was that that matter before that matter leading to an infinite regression. So, basically, there is no such thing as first matter. There is no primordial or absolute-first matter in the universe.
Law No. 14: Like Space element, there are other nine abstract material elements: Lightness, Malleability, Wield-ness, Production, Continuity, Decay, Bodily- Intimation, Vocal-Intimation, and Impermanence of matter.1,2 These elements are not real matter but simply attributes of real matter. They simply represent abstract qualities of the real material world. Therefore they are not considered as ultimate material realities, or, as real matter, but simply as abstract matter.
Classification of Material Elements
In summary, there are four essential material elements and 14 derived material elements making a total of 18 elements which make up the real material world.
As attributes of this real material world, there are 10 abstract material elements (including Space Element) making a total of 28 material elements that can be directly or indirectly experienced and known. Anything (absolutely anything) in the material world can be thoroughly understood with the help of these 28 material elements.
(See the Slide)
The Smallest Recognizable Matter of the Universe
Let us now try to understand these material elements we have been talking about using an example of an apple.
At the gross and objective level, an apple is obviously made of fruit-matter which contains fructose, pulp, etc. This apple fruit-matter, in turn, is made of apple molecules. The apple molecules are, in turn, made of cells, which are, in turn, made of atoms containing electrons, protons, etc. The electrons, etc, are made of sub-atomic particles, and so on. Here, we have to understand that such physical knowledge of apple-matter cannot lead us to the ultimate knowledge of apple as matter. Because, any ultimate knowledge has to be knowledge at the level of experience, which means, we have to actually experience all aspects of apple to know it at the ultimate level and not just look at it under the microscope.
How do we experience all the aspects of apple? We experience it by seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling. When we thus experience it, we realize that an apple is a “soft/hard, watery/fluid, warm/cool, sweet, apply-flavored, stiff, and rounded bundle of nutritious matter.” These experiential aspects of apple are none other than the material elements we have been talking about.
The quality or the experience of softness/hardness of apple is none other than the Earth element; the experience of apple’s fluidity is none other than the Water element; the experience of apple’s warmth/coolness is none other than the Fire element; the experience of apple’s distention/stiffness is none other than the Air element; the visual experience of apple’s round shape and color is none other than the Form/Color element; the experience of apple’s sweetness is none other than the Taste element; the experience of apple’s smell/aroma is none other than the Smell element; and the experience of its nutritious value is none other than the Nutriment element. In this way, we know the ultimate reality of apple as a bundle of eight material elements of “Earth-Water-Fire-Air-Form-Taste-Smell-Nutriment.”
It is obvious that we cannot separate the experience of apple’s softness or harness from its shape or color or from its taste or smell. In other words, we can know apple only as a bundle of eight experiences. Thus, at the ultimate level, an apple is just a name given to this bundle of eight material experiences (or material qualities). This bundle of eight material qualities is what I call the “Pure-Atom” of apple. This Pure-atom is not the physical atom that we know of but that which underlies the physical atom at the ultimate level. Therefore, this Pure-atom is the subtlest manifestation of apple as matter. In fact, Pure-atom is the subtlest manifestation of all the matter in the universe. It is the smallest recognizable unit of matter in the universe!
(See Slide for the Artistic Presentation of The Pure-Atom)
The next question is, “where does this Pure-atom come from; what is its cause?” It is obvious that it comes from karma, consciousness, temperature, and nutriment. Why so, because, apple cannot appear on a tree without the seed (karma); we cannot experience the apple without the memory and consciousness; and, the tree of apple cannot arise and grow out of a seed without environmental factors of temperature (sunlight) and nutriment (soil & water). Thus, we now clearly understand that, it is not just the temperature and nutriment but also consciousness and mind which are responsible for the arising of the “Pure-Atom” of apple. There is apple, because, there is consciousness-mind-temperature-nutriment. At the ultimate level, the real apple is not made of physical atoms of apple, but Pure-atoms of apple.
Now, the question is, “which is the cause of which element?” When we try to find the answer, we realize that it is impossible to point out one single cause for one single element. We realize that softness/hardness is earthly (Earth element); however, we cannot experience it unless there is continuity of it, unless there is some warmth, unless there is some pressure, unless there is memory of it, unless there is consciousness of it, etc. We thus come to understand that the four essential elements combine with four causes and result in the formation of various material elements. We also come to understand that the four essential elements (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air) and the four derived elements (Taste, Smell, Form, and Nutriment) are inseparable and manifest as Pure-Atoms. In this way, when the matter of apple is known at the ultimate level in terms of its Pure-Atoms, nothing subtler remains to be known about apple.
So, what we are basically saying is, “Ultimately, an apple is made of Pure-Atoms and not some sub-atomic particles of physics.” We are also saying that there is no such thing as one-single- smallest-particle or one-single-ultimate-element of matter.”
Make note of the word ‘Ultimate.’ Here, we are talking about the ultimate nature of matter.
Law No. 15: Material elements always arise in a group and never as an individual element. The four great essential elements of Earth-Water-Fire-Air and the four derived elements of Form-Smell-Taste-Nutriment always arise together as an inseparable group known as the ‘Pure-Atom.’ It is this Pure-Atom which actually arises in all material objects, from the simplest to the most complex, and manifests as matter. In other words, this ‘Pure-Atom’ is the smallest or subtlest division of matter that can be comprehended as a separate unit of matter.
Law 16: The eight material elements that make up the Pure-Atom are inseparable in their occurrence but separable in their characteristics.
Law 17: Pure-Atom is the smallest ‘realizable’ or ‘recognizable’ unit of matter. Pure-Atom is probably what corresponds to the smallest known or not-yet-known ‘sub-sub-sub’ atomic particle of modern physical science. This correspondence may also be related to multi-dimensionality of quantum matter.
Let us now evaluate the matter of ‘water’ for example. Water is made of molecules of H2O. Each H2O molecule is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, which are, in turn, made of electrons, neutrons and protons. These sub-atomic particles are made of quarks and other sub-atomic or sub-sub-atomic particles which are now being considered by some modern physicists as bunch of strings. These strings are known to be billion-billion times smaller than protons. These strings (or whatever name you may give it) are ultimately nothing but the expressions of Pure-Atoms, because, pure atom is the ultimate recognizable reality of matter. A meditator who experientially knows that matter cannot exist without mind and a modern physicist who experimentally knows that the observer can no longer be separated from the observed system; these two groups of people can only grasp the meaning of what I am saying here. (Please research the famous Uncertainty Principle, Particle-Wave Duality, Werner Heisenberg’s work, etc on the internet and in the local university library).
(See the Slide)
The understanding of Pure-Atom may be the key to integrating or uniting the mathematical theories related to gravity and quantum mechanics. Pure-Atom may be the answer to many questions that modern physicists are trying to answer while formulating that Grand Unified Theory (GUT) which everyone is so eagerly awaiting.
Only time will tell how significant the understanding of Pure-Atom is to solving the mysteries of quantum mechanics. But for now, we can at least contemplate, meditate (see MIND for specific techniques) and realize that there cannot be any recognizable matter subtler than the Pure-Atom; that, it is the ultimate recognizable reality of matter without any doubt whatsoever.
Now let us talk about the live-matter of the human body.
Smallest Recognizable Unit of Animate Matter
At the gross level, human body is obviously made of animate matter containing blood, flesh, bones, etc. This animate matter, in turn, is made of cells. Biologists consider cell as the smallest unit of living matter. The cell, in turn, is made up of about 2/3rd water and various molecules such as carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Proteins, in turn, are made up of small biochemical building blocks called amino acids and genetic material called nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) which, in turn, consist primarily of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. These atoms are made of strings and as we have already discussed, the strings are ultimately made of Pure-atoms. So, just like the molecules of apple are ultimately made of Pure-atoms, molecules of our body are also ultimately made of Pure-atoms. However, there is a difference.
In our body, Pure-Atoms do not remain pure but combine with Karma-generated material element called ‘Material-Life’ and give rise to “I-atoms.” These I-atoms manifest as life-matter sensual-matter, sexual matter, and subtle-heart matter, etc, which make the matter of human body. The matter of human body is different from an apple in the sense that it is not inanimate but animate matter. (Continue reading below for discussion on I-Atom)
Our body containing various organs is obviously made of Pure-Atoms just as an apple is (and as we have discussed in preceeding two paragrahs), however, the body is alive and an apple is not, which means, there is something else besides Pure-Atoms which makes the body alive or animate. In other words, there must be something in the body, some subtle matter, some unique material phenomenon because of which the body becomes animate.
How about the fact that our body grows and sustains itself until it dies? This means, there must be some material phenomenon happening in the body because of which the body grows and sustains itself. We can call this phenomenon as the element of “Material-life,” because, it is the characteristic of “life” to grow and to sustain.
So, we can now say that our animate body is made of Pure-Atoms plus the element of Material-Life. Since Pure-Atom is made of eight inseparable elements (as seen in earlier slide), we can say that the animate or live body is made of a group of nine inseparable material elements: Earth-Water-Fire-Air-Form-Taste-Smell-Nutriment-Material life. We call this group, which includes an extra element of Material-Life, as the “I-atom.”
(see Slide for Artistic Presentation of I-Atom).
Thus, an I-atom is formed when the element of Material-Life conjoins with Pure-Atom. It is this I-atom which consequently manifests as the subtle-life matter throughout the body making it animate and facilitating its growth and sustenance. Now, the question is, “where does this element of Material-life come from?” As we will discuss later, it comes from Karma only, which means, it is caused by our desire to live.
(See Slide for the illustrationof the smallest ‘realizable’ or ‘recognizable’ unit of living matter: The I-Atom).
At present, all this may sound like an esoteric or unscientific answer to the question of origin of life which so many of us are investigating. But, I am confident that, sooner or later, the scientific community of biologists, biochemists, genealogists, evolutionists etc as well as the religious and spiritual community will realize that it is ultimately Karma (or mental/volitional formations), which is behind all the “unknowables” in matters of the study of origin or ultimate beginning. Whether it is an unknowable regarding the origin of life or the origin of genes or the origin of Big-Bang or the origin of material universe, the answers ultimately lie in the understanding of the phenomenon of Karma. (See MIND for further discussion on Karma)
Let us now discuss how various kinds of animate matter are formed.
Our body contains sense organs such as eyes, nose, ears, tongue, etc. An eye, for example, is obviously made of Pure-Atoms just as an apple is, however, an eye can see and an apple cannot, which means, there is something else besides Pure-Atoms which gives an eye the ability to see. In other words, there must be something in the eye, some subtle eye-matter, some unique material phenomenon because of which the eye can see. We call this subtle eye-matter, this unique material phenomenon as the material element of “Eye-sensitivity.”
The fact that only eye can see and not the nose or knee, suggests that the subtle eye-matter must be specifically located in the cavity of the eye. So, we can say that our material eye is made of I-Atoms plus the element of Eye-sensitivity. Since I-Atom is made of nine inseparable elements, we can say that the material eye is made of a group of ten inseparable material elements: Earth-Water-Fire-Air-Form-Taste-Smell-Nutriment- Material life-Eye Sensitivity. We call this group, which includes an extra element of sensitivity (along with Material-Life Faculty), as the “I-atom” of Eye-Sensitivity.
Basically, what this means is, when the elements of Material-Life and Eye-Sensitivity combine with a Pure-Atom (which is inanimate), it manifests as an I-atom (which is animate) and makes it possible for the eye to see. Similarly, the element of Ear-sensitivity makes it possible for the ear to hear, the element of Nose-sensitivity makes it possible for the nose to smell, the element of Tongue-sensitivity makes it possible for the tongue to taste, and the element of Body-sensitivity makes it possible for the body to sense the touch. In this way, because of the manifestation of I-atoms of sensitivity, human body can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
(See the Slide)
Now, the next question is, “where do these material elements of organ-sensitivity come from? What is their cause?” As we will discuss later, they come from karma only, because, they are caused by our desire to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
It is apparent that the human body is either a male or a female. That means there are some additional material elements in the body because of which there are male and female bodies. We can call these two elements as the element of “Male Sexuality” and “Female Sexuality.”
Just as the five elements of sensuality conjoin with Pure-Atoms to form I-Atoms which consequently manifest as the subtle matter of our sensory organs, the two elements of sexuality conjoin with Pure-Atoms to form I-Atoms of sexuality which consequently manifest as male or female sexuality
(See the Slide)
Thus, an I-Atom of sexuality is a group of ten inseparable material elements containing Earth-Water-Fire-Air-Form-Taste-Smell-Nutriment-Male-sexuality or Female-sexuality and Material Life. These I-Atoms of sexuality arise and manifest as the subtle-sexual matter throughout the body making the human body as a male or a female. Note that the I-Atoms of sexuality are manifested throughout the body and not just through the sexual organs.
Now the question is, “Where these elements of sexuality come from? What is their cause?” As we will discuss later, they come from karma only, because, they are caused by our desire to be male or a female.
How about physical sensations of pain and pleasure that we experience in the body? Why there are bodily unpleasant sensations when we are angry? Why there are bodily pleasant sensations when we are happy? We know that these bodily sensations are related to emotions but, we cannot explain their occurrence with the help of sensual or sexual material elements that we have discussed so far. That means there must be some other unique material phenomenon happening in the body because of which there are bodily sensations. We can call this phenomenon as the element of “Mind-sensitivity.” Why call it Mind-sensitivity; because, without the mind, we cannot feel bodily sensations.
Similar to the elements of sensuality and sexuality, the element of Mind-sensitivity arises in the body by conjoining with Pure-Atom to form an I-atom which consequently manifests as the subtle-heart-matter.
(See the Slide).
We are calling it subtle-heart-matter because, when we feel strong emotions such as fear or love, there are strong sensations in the heart area and not in the head or brain or other areas of the body. Also, it is a biological fact that, if there is no blood in the cavities of the heart or in body parts, we cannot feel bodily sensations. Thus, it is obvious that an I-atom of Mind-sensitivity arises in dependence of the blood in the heart cavity and manifests as “subtle-heart-matter.” This subtle-heart matter is really nothing but a group of ten inseparable material elements containing Earth-Water-Fire-Air-Form-Taste-Smell-Nutriment-Mind-sensitivity & Material Life.
Now, the question is, “Where does this element of Mind-sensitivity come from?” As we will discuss later, it comes from karma, because, without karma, there is no birth of mind-matter.
Now, how about the sound that is being made in your mind as you are reading this material? How about the sound of your voice when you speak? How about the sound of the heartbeat? How about the sound that I constantly hear in my ears when there is silence? How about the sound of thoughts? How about the sound of a silent mantra? Isn’t it all unique? That means there must be some unique material phenomenon happening in the body because of which there is the experience of sound. We can call this material phenomenon as the element of “Sound.”
Unlike the elements of sensitivity and sexuality, sound is formed when the element of Sound conjoins directly with Pure-Atom which consequently manifests as the sound-matter. Thus, there is no need for Material-Life for the occurrence of Sound. In other words, there is no I-Atom of Sound, which means, there is no specific or distinct Karma behind the occurrence of sound. Sound is simply formed when a group of minimum nine inseparable material elements containing Earth-Water-Fire-Air-Form-Taste-Smell-Nutriment-Sound manifest as sound forms.
Now, the question is, ‘If Karma is not the specific cause, where does the sound come from?’ It is obvious that the sound of heart beat, the sound of human voice, and the sound made by other living creatures arise in a conscious body and not in a dead body, which means, consciousness is the prime cause of sound-matter. It is also an obvious physical fact of nature that sound arises due to temperature. All inanimate sound such as the sound of thunder, gong, whistle of a train, etc, that we experience objectively originates from temperature. Thus, now we know that the element of Sound arises out of consciousness and temperature.
If we continue this contemplation, we will realize that there are no intrinsically unique or concretely-produced material phenomena occurring in the body other than what we have discussed so far. We can therefore conclude that, at the ultimate level, the animate or inanimate matter of human body is made up of a bundle of 18 material elements which arise in groups (Pure-Atoms or I-Atoms).
These 18 elements, in turn, produce ten abstract material elements such as the element of Space, Bodily-Intimation, Vocal-Intimation, Lightness, Malleability, Wield-ness, Production, Continuity, Decay, and Impermanence. These ten abstract material elements occur only as attributes of the real material elements. They do not have their own intrinsic nature. Nevertheless, it is important to understand them, so that, nothing else, I mean absolutely nothing else, remains to be known about the matter of human body at the ultimate level. When we know this for sure through understanding, we automatically get rid of all religious, mystical, or belief-based delusions about the matter of human body.
In short, what I am basically saying that our body is made of Pure-Atoms and I-atoms which are, in turn, made of various combinations (or groups) of 18 material elements.
It is these Pure-Atoms and I-atoms which constantly arise and pass away with extreme rapidity and manifest as animate matter of the human body.
Law 18: All material elements arise only as a group of elements. Elements when arise in a group; they are inseparable and thus constitute the smallest recognizable unit (an atom) of matter: the Pure-Atom in case of inanimate matter or the I-atom in case of animate matter.
What we have discussed so far may all be sounding great, but, you may not be able to simply accept all those equations, names and numbers that I am throwing out. If that is the case, then, here is what I have to say-
It is best to not focus too much on names and numbers but to understand that the human body (or any matter) is basically a bundle of various material elements that are phenomenal and intrinsic, multi-causal, interdependent, and relative to each other. The key is to understand that there is no such thing as primordial matter or absolute-first matter having one single origin or cause. Having said that, I encourage you to neither accept anything blindly nor reject it hastily. Please contemplate and investigate with an open mind.
Now, let us talk about how matter takes birth, grows, and becomes a full-blown body? Why this body dies? Why it does not continue to grow? Is it still possible that there is some ever-existing primordial-thing or supreme-being or ultimate-intelligence which does all this?
Birth, Growth, and Death
The birth of animate matter and its continuation or growth depends upon the type of birth of living beings. There are three kinds of birth of animate matter in the world of form that most of us are familiar with:
1.The Egg-born birth; Example: Hens, birds, etc. 2.Womb-born birth; Example: Humans and other mammals 3.Moisture-born birth; Examples: Insects, worms, etc.
In these types of births, the first matter is born at the moment of conception due to karma. This matter consists of I-Atoms of Material-life, Sensuality, Sexuality, and Mind-sensitivity (as shown in the slides earlier). After karma-born atoms arise at the moment of conception, they are sustained and continued in the womb or egg by the consciousness-born atoms until the physical birth occurs. After the birth of a living being (separation of child from mother), the atoms are sustained and continued by temperature-born atoms and nutriment-born atoms. Thus, after the first occurrence of karma-born matter at the moment of conception, the matter is continued and sustained by the consciousness-born matter, temperature-born matter, and nutriment-born matter, in that order of significance, thereby providing continuity to the existence of physical being until the end of life.
The life of a physical being ends because karma-born atoms cease to arise, then consciousness-born atoms cease to arise and ultimately nutriment-born atoms cease to arise. After death, whatever matter remains (corpse) is produced and sustained by temperature-born matter. Thus, the birth, growth, decay, and death of animate matter occur due to karma, consciousness, temperature, and nutriment. There is no such thing as an individual-SOUL or a being or a self or a person that takes birth, grows and dies. It is also helpful to understand that there is no permanent and absolute primordial matter or some absolute (non-relative) principle which causes the birth, growth, decay and death of matter.
(See the Slide)
Many people wonder whether the matter of that person is destroyed when a person dies.
That is not the case. Because...
Law No.19: We cannot abandon or eradicate matter (or material element) like we can abandon or eradicate a mental element of Greed. Matter is abandon-less. In other words, matter cannot be destroyed directly by physical efforts or mental efforts. It can be only transcended by mental purification or spiritual evolution.
Law No. 20: All matter is conditioned and mundane because it is born of karma, consciousness, temperature, and nutriment, and, it cannot transcend these causes by itself.
Energy and Forces of Matter
As we know, here on earth, gravitational force cannot exist without the planet earth. Now, the planet earth (and all other matter) itself cannot exist without the great primary elements of Earth-Water-Fire-Air. Similarly, magnetic force cannot exist without the magnets but magnets themselves cannot exist without the four elements. Nuclear forces cannot exist without subatomic particles, which, in turn, are also made up of great primary elements that we have discussed earlier. In this way, we can understand that all forces in nature ultimately arise out of the four essential elements. However, these forces cannot be considered as concretely produced matter because they do not directly arise from conditions such as karma, consciousness, temperature, or nutriment. Therefore, forces cannot be considered as real matter but as abstract matter or as that which represents attributes of matter.
Because forces are attributes of essential material elements, they should not be considered as the ultimate reality of the material world. The four essential material elements together with their four causes (that generate these forces) are the ultimate reality of the material world. That is why, in SOUL Meditations, in the spiritual practice of S.R.I., forces are not used as the subject of meditation or contemplation or investigation but the elements are. This is a distinction which separates spiritualists from materialists. This is a distinction between spirituality and materialism.