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‘Avyakta’ means unmanifested, non-manifested or is yet to be manifested. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/66], [Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/3] It is mentioned in the ancient texts like Shiva Purana, Mahabharata, Saura purana, Shilpa shastra, Ganita shastra, and Sanskrit grammar(Vyakarana).
Avyakta is the source from which the whole universe is evolved. At the time of the creation of universe or evolution, all the elements are evolved from prakriti i. e. Avyakta. Characteristics or qualities of origin (karana padartha) are reflected in the creation (karya padartha). So, it is necessary/ to know about avyakta.

Section/Chapter Concepts / Avyakta
Authors Joshi M. R.1, Janbandhu P. P.1
Reviewer Basisht G.2
Editor Deole Y.S.3

1Department of Sanskrit Samhita Siddhanta, Tilak Ayurved Mahavidyalaya, Pune, Maharashtra, India

2 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

3Department of Kayachikitsa, G.J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat, India
Correspondence email manvantar@gmail.com, carakasamhita@gmail.com
Publisher Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
Date of first publication: October 07, 2022
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2022.e01.s09.111

Etymology and derivation

The word ‘Avyakta’ is derived from ‘Vi + Anja’ root word with a suffix ‘kta’ meaning sphute(clear), prakashite(manifested).[1]As the prefix “A” is added, the meaning of Avyakta is unclear or unmanifested. In Ayurveda, avyakta is said to be the progenitor of all created things. It is self-generated and connotes the three fundamentals or primary virtues of sattva, rajas, and tamas. Avyakta is the most important factor in eight fundamental prakriti. These includes avyakta, mahat, ahamkara and pancha tanmatra. Avyakta is the sole and primary factor in the evolution of the universe. [2]


Atma (soul) [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/61][3],kshetradnya (conscious principle in the corporeal frame), shashwat (eternal), vibhu (omnipresent), avyaya[4] mula-Prakriti (primary germ of nature) [Chakrapani on Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/61] [Dalhan on Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/3][5]


Unevolved, not yet full-grown, inarticulate, subtle nature, primordial element or productive principle when all the phenomena of the material world are developed, the primary origin of nature [Monnier-Williams dictionary]

Different understandings of avyakta in ancient Indian literature

  1. Shiva Purana: Avyakta refers to one who assumes the “unmanifest” form and represents and epithet of Goddess Durga.[6]
  2. Mahabharata: Avyakta represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. In Bhagavad-gita, beyond the perception of the senses is called as ‘Avyakta’.[7]
  3. Saura purana: Avyakta refers to the seventh covering of the universe.[8]
  4. Shilpa shastra: Avyakta refers to “images in non-manifest form” and represents a classification of Hindu images.[9]
  5. Ganita shastra: Avyakta refers to the science of calculation by the ‘unknown’.[10]
  6. Sanskrit grammar(Vyakarana)[11] : Avyakta means indistinct, inarticulate. A fault of pronunciation, a scientific rule to consider the word silent. These are the meanings of Avyakta given in Sanskrit grammar. However, it is related to the pronunciation rules or grammatical rules and not to the concept that is described in this article.
  7. It is also observed as name of Lord Shiva, Devi.[12]

Methods of perception of avyakta

The knowledge of manifested objects is perceived by our sense organs (indriya). Ayurveda explains the process of perception of knowledge by connection (sannikarsha) of soul (atma), senses (indriya), mind (mana) and object of knowledge (vishaya-artha) i.e. direct perception (laukika pratyaksha).[13] On the other hand, ‘avyakta’ is perceived by transcendental signs (yogic pratyaksha). Avyakta is predominantly perceived by indirect methods (pramana) like anumana pramana and yukti pramana.

Concept of Avyakta in Ayurveda

In the process of creation of universe, the buddhi (intellect) tattva manifests from avyakta. From buddhi or mahat tattva, ahamkara proceeds and from ahamkara five mahabhutas manifest. The atma, thus manifests in its entirety is regarded as born. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/66-67]

The description of srushti utpatti krama in ayurveda is different from Sankhya darshana. As per Sankhya darshana, prakriti associated with the purusha is the cause for creation, but in Ayurveda particularly in Charaka’s view, atma which contains triguna (avyakta) is the cause for creation. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 4/8]

Six elements (dhatus) by adding chetana to the five elements namely earth (prithvi), water (aap), fire (teja), air (vayu) and space (akasha) are described for creation. Chetana is identified with purusha and avyakta part of prakriti treated as one category known as 'paramatman'. It is when purusha or chetana is connected with the body of senses and mind that consciousness can come to the self; consciousness is a phenomenon of the soul-mind- body complex.[14]

According to Acharya Sushruta

Avyakta is fundamental cause for evolution. Evolution and all other tattvas were born out of Avyakta tattva.

Thus avyakta is the causative factor for the creation of all sentient beings. Sattva, rajas and tamas are its attributes. As it contains mahat and other tattvas in it. It is in the form of ashta-roopa. As the sea is receptacle for various, innumerable, aquatic animals, avyakta is receptacle for innumerable kshetradnya. [Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/3]

In Sushruta Samhita, evolutionary process is stated to be set in motion by consciousness. Mahan is generated from avyakta or mula-prakriti (embodied existence). From that mahat, ahamkara (ego) is produced having the same qualities. From ahamkara, the twenty-four elements are produced that are achetana (unconscious) in nature and the twenty fifth element is the jiva (purusha or soul).[14]

In the opinion of Dallhana (commentator of Sushruta Samhita), the srushti is evolved from ashta prakriti which are avyakta. Gayi (commentator of Sushruta Samhita), elaborates the same in different way that avyakta is cause of the origin of entire universe. He also explains that relationship between ashta prakriti and avyakta is indistinct and that of tridanda to sattva, atma, sharira is distinct. Existence of each element of tridanda (sattva, atma, sharira) is different from each other. Ashta prakriti originates from avyakta. [Dalhan on Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/3]

Ayurveda follows Sankhya school of thought regarding evolution. With the above statement of Sushruta, it is understood that two basic components i. e. prakriti and purusha are the cause for evolution. In the above two tattvas, purusha is aparinami (non-transformable) or nirvikara and prakriti is transformable. Later on, transformation took place in prakriti and due to that mahat and other tattvas which are transformative forms of prakriti are manifested.

The primordial nature which is called as prakriti is avyakta, the mahat and other tattvas which are manifested from prakriti are vyakta tattva. According to Sankhya school of thought, the primordial nature or mula prakriti or avyakta is the foremost tattva. It is the cause for the creation of other tattvas and consequently the entire universe. In this context, Sankhya accepted twenty-five tattvas.[15]

Similarities between avyakta and vyakta

In Sankhya darshana, similarities between avyakta and vyakta are described as follows:

  1. Both avyakta and vyakta contains trigunas.
  2. Both are aviveki (indiscriminative).
  3. Both are the objects to be perceived and experienced by purusha (vishaya samanya).
  4. Both are achetana (inanimate).
  5. Both are prasavadharmis (delivering nature).

Dissimilarities between avyakta and vyakta

In Sankhya Darshana and Charaka Samhita, dissimilarities between avyakta and vyakta are described as follows:

Avyakta Vyakta
1. Ahetumat- It is causeless as there is no cause for its production. 1. Hetumat- Having cause for its creation/production.
2. Nitya- It is eternal because it is indestructible. 2. Anitya- Non-eternal.
3. Vyapi- It is all-pervasive; hence it is called vyapi. 3. Avyapi- It is not all-pervasive.
4. Nishkriya- Inactive 4. Sakriya- Capable of performing activities.
5. Eka- Omnipresent 5. Aneka- Infinite/innumerable
6. Alinga- Absence of specific features/ Having no symptoms or cannot be absorbed in any tattva. 6. Lingam- It has some specific features through which it is recognized or absorbed in Avyakta.
7. Avyaya- Absence of parts/ without any parts. 7. Savayava- Parts are present. Parts can be divisible and can be identified.
8. Swatantra- Independent 8. Paratantra- Dependent on other tattvas.
9. Atindriya- Non-perceivable through indriyas. 9. Ayindriya- Perceivable through indriyas.

Concept of Avyakta in Vedanta Darshana

Maya is a prominent and commonly referred concept in Vedanta Darshana. Maya is said to be an illusion. Avyakta, not manifested because it cannot be perceived by sense organ. In the sushupti awastha (dreamless sleep), one did not know anything. We see many scenes in dreams but in awaken state, we realize that it was only our illusion. One understands that like a dream, the world never existed. This is known as “Vivartavaada”. Vedanta darshan states that Bramha is the only truth and the entire universe is an illusion or myth. It is of the nature of all three gunas namely sattva, rajas, tamas. Maya is responsible for the evolution of entire universe which is known as “karana sharira” or ‘causal body of the atma’. Karana sharira is said to be 'avyakta’ because its knowledge is not perceived by senses.[16]

In Rigveda and Upanishads, general meaning of maya is ‘power’ while in Shvetashvatara Upanishad, maya is identified with prakriti and the meaning of maya is illusion. And in Bhagavad Gita, maya is referred as ‘magical power’.[14]

Significance of knowledge of avyakta

Philosophers across the world have different opinions about the origin of universe like Charak, Sushruta, Kapilamuni, etc. Sushruta also quotes anecdotal opinions of six types like Swabhava, Ishvara, Kala, Yadruchha, Niyati and Parinama [Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/15] which can be observed similar to Darshana like Charvaka, Yoga, Purva mimansa, etc. When all the philosophies are compared, the common in almost all darshanas is coming to manifestation from unmanifested state.

This involves starting point as avyakta, then unmanifested state like mahat, ahamkara, panch-tanmatra. It comes to existence or noticeable stage from pancha-mahabhoota.

In Vishishta advait, Lokacharya accepts time as the cause of transformation of prakriti and its mutation. Advait school regards the world and hence all the substances appear due to an undefinable principle called ‘cosmic nascence’ or maya. Maya is neither real nor unreal but undefinable.

In Bhagavad Gita, it is described that far beyond even this Avyakta, there is yet another unmanifest existence that supreme one who does not perish or destroy. The same Avyakta which is said to be indestructible is also called as supreme goal. By attaining this place of residence, one cannot return to this mortal world. In this way, shruti (Vedagrantha) and smriti (Smritigrantha) both declares that Avyakta exists which is as same as maya that is the upadhi (title) of Ishvara (God), the panchakoshasharira (five sheaths) which are the effects of maya are the upadhis of jiva. When these upadhis are effectively removed, it dissolves the illusion of Ishvara and jiva (life).[14]

Avyakta can be considered not just primary germ of life, but as per loka-purusha samyasiddhanta, Avyakta can be considered as origin of each and every phenomenon.

Application of Avyakta in healthcare science

In the process of evolution explained in Ayurveda, buddhi or mahattatwa manifests from Avyakta, mahat tattva precedes to form ahamkara. Rajasika ahamkara stimulates sattva to form eleven indriyas(5 jnanendriya, 5 karmendriya and mind) which act in both the ways). Similarly,rajasika ahamkara stimulates tamasika ahamkara to form the five tanmatras and from them tanmatras, pancha-mahabhootaare manifested. Sharira is the combination of chetana (soul or life element) and pancha-mahabhoota vikara(derivatives of five basic elements of nature). [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 6/4]. Adhishthana (abode) of vyadhi (disease) is of two types viz. one is sharirika (somatic) and another is manasika (psychological). [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 6/3]. The diseases are psychosomatic in nature.

Causative factor of anything has a definite starting or beginning. It may be any disease, disease condition or any other factor related to health. There is always a root cause which has those properties as sat(existence). In everything that is experienced, primordial origin (avyakta awastha) is always present in unmanifested state (avyakta awastha). Hence whenever thinking related to health, it may be good health or ill health, then its origin will also remain and reflect accordingly in the form of avyakta.

Origin or root (karana) of anything has its own characteristics and those characteristics gets reflected into the final product (karya).In congenital diseases, origin of the disease can be observed in either of the parents. Some are the gender specific diseases that affect either male or female. Colour blindness, Haemophilia (A and B), Turner syndrome are some of the gender specific genetically transfer diseases. If male is affected with a disease, then female is a carrier for that disease and that carrier state of female is latent state i. e. avyakta awastha. Similarly, many diseases which are genetically transferred to next generation like prameha, presence of BRCA gene responsible for breast cancer, or other kulaja diseases. They are in the individual in avyakta state and manifest in the later stage of the life. Considering the existence of these avyakta state in body, one can plan healthy life style and can avoid or delay the manifestation of the disease.

Application of avyakta in prevention and management of disease

Diseases are of various origin. There is always a cause and effect. Whenever we see any effect, there are many kinds of factors that are responsible for the development of disease or disease condition. Avyakta is the prodromal symptom (purvaroopa) of vata vyadhi. Each and every disease remains in latent state (avyakta awastha) before it is manifested. If we treat the root cause, then disease will not manifest.

As soon as the disease is detected, person who seeks for the good health will try to treat the disease. There are six kriyakala of the disease condition. If one can suppress the vitiated doshas in first kriyakala i. e. in sanchaya awastha(accumulation stage),the disease will not progress further. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 21/37]

In the period of great catastrophe, the intellect (buddhi) etc. gets detached from the favored feelings. In great dissolution, the order is just reverse of what is in evolution. Such as pancha-mahabhootas dissolve in pancha-tanmatras, pancha-tanmatras and eleven senses dissolves in ahamkara (ego), this in buddhi and buddhi in avyakta i.e. prakriti. This evolution and catastrophe continue in cyclic pattern. (avyakta to vyakta and vyakta to avyakta again). [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/67-68]


Cha. = Charaka
Su. = Sushruta
Sa. = Samhita

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