What is called Adhibhuta (Matter)?


Adhibhuta simply means the material nature of which all matter and objects are made of. It is made up of the two words adhi and bhuta.

Adhi signifies the excess or upper to something and here it means as the subtle upper nature of the bhutas or the bhutas as an whole entity.

Bhuta means that which is created or which manifests or appears. And all matter is simply composed of the 5 elements (fire,water,sky..) called as pancha mahabhuta. All the five elements were nonexistent in the beginning and appeared from Brahman:

tasmādvā etasmādātmana ākāśaḥ saṃbhūtaḥ
ākāśādvāyuḥ vāayoragniḥ agnerāpaḥ adabhyaḥ pṛthivī
[Tait. Up. - 2.1]

— Verily from this Self arose the space; from space air, from air fire, from fire water, from water earth.

Since they were not originally there and only manifested during creation they are called as bhuta. And that which was not always there, will not always exist. Hence, the nature of matter is that it is perishable. So in the Gita Shri Krishna defines adhibhuta as something which is perishable in nature:

adhibhūtaṁ kṣaro bhāvaḥ [BG - 8.4]
- The nature of matter is that it is perishable.

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