In context of creation, Pralaya – What is Mahatattva & Tanmaatra?
Tanmaatra means a measure of any sensation or phenomenon that happens within our body (the minimum quantity of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch that can be perceptibly experienced by our five senses).
It is a measure of anything that manifests at the level of the physical body. For example, our eyes see things with the help of the light that enters our eyes. It is because there is light within our eyes that we are able to see objects.
Often when people lose their eyesight, it is said that the light has left their eyes (meaning that light no longer enters their eyes to help them see). Now, the amount of light that we can see varies in different species. An owl can see even in the dark or in very dim light, but we will not be able to. A cat also can see very well in the dark. So we say that an owl’s Tanmaatra or that of a cat’s is much higher than ours. As humans, our Tanmaatra to be able to see in dim light is far less. That is why even when there is no power or light, a cat is able to clearly see what is kept where.
In the same way, we can understand this difference in Tanmaatra when it comes to the sense of smell. An elephant has a very strong sense (or Tanmaatra) of smell. It can smell things clearly from far away and can correctly judge as to what lies ahead, or what is coming towards it, and from which direction. And it remembers that for years to come.
In the same way, there is a Tanmaatra associated with the sense of taste. A food object has a defined taste, but we experience different tastes when we eat it. For example, if you eat a little sugar and then drink your tea, then you are not able to taste the sweetness of the tea.
If a particular experience (of an object by the senses) is below the Tanmaatra associated with it, then you are able to experience and understand it, but if it greater than the Tanmaatra associated with it, then you are not able to comprehend it properly. So when you eat sugar first and then taste your tea, then you are not able to taste the sweetness, because the Tanmaatra has changed. So this is what is meant by Tanmaatra.
Each of our five senses – the eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin – are collectively called the panch jnaanendriya (the five senses of cognition), and each of these has a Tanmaatra associated with it. It is because of this Tanmaatra that we are able to see, hear, smell, taste and touch.
Note – It is an excerpt of Sri Sri Ravishankar Guruji’s discourses at Art of Living.