In Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8 Verse 1: Arjuna asked it to Krishna that What called Adibhuta(Matter)?

किं तद्ब्रह्म किमध्यात्मं किं कर्म पुरुषोत्तम | अधिभूतं च किं प्रोक्तमधिदैवं किमुच्यते || 1||

Translation:- Arjun said: O Supreme Lord, what is Brahman (Absolute Reality), what is adhyātma (the individual soul), and what is karma? What is said to be adhibhūta, and who is said to be Adhidaiva?

But lord Krishna define it briefly in :SBG: Chapter 8 Verse 4:

अधिभूतं क्षरो भाव: पुरुषश्चाधिदैवतम् | अधियज्ञोऽहमेवात्र देहे देहभृतां वर || 4||


O best of the embodied souls, the physical manifestation that is constantly changing is called adhibhūta; the universal form of God, which presides over the celestial gods in this creation, is called adhidaiva; I, who dwell in the heart of every living being, am called Adhiyajña, or the Lord of all sacrifices.

My Question is that is there any complete definition of Aadibhuta(Matter) in any hindu scripture?

3 Answers 3


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.

  • Good answer. Another interpretation in English of the word under discussion in this verse is 'physical plane' Apr 1, 2016 at 6:27

You're right, the term Adhibhuta is briefly described in the Bhagavad Gita, in Chapter 8 Verse 4:

O best of the embodied beings, the physical nature, which is constantly changing, is called adhibhuta [the material manifestation]. The universal form of the Lord, which includes all the demigods, like those of the sun and moon, is called adhidaiva. And I, the Supreme Lord, represented as the Supersoul in the heart of every embodied being, am called adhiyajna [the Lord of sacrifice].

So Adhibhuta consists of entities of the material universe, which are fundamentally transitory and impermanent.

For more elaboration we can turn to the commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. Here is what Adi Shankaracharya says, for instance:

Adhibhutam, that which exists in the physical plane, i.e. that which exists by comprising all creatures;-what is it?-it consists of the ksarah bhavah, mutable entity. Ksarah is that which is mutable, which is destructible; bhavah means anything whatsoever that has orgination. This is meaning.

And here is what Ramanujacharya says:

By the word adhibhutam or those things pertaining to physical objects sought after by aisvaryarthis or fortune seekers are those things of a perishable nature including the supra subtle principles of sound, sight, smell etc. which are latent in their elements of ether, fire, earth etc and develop therefrom into their support system being the senses. All these things must certainly be comprehended and contemplated by them.

Madhvacharya's commentary on this verse is rather long, but it contains some useful quotes from other scriptures:

The Gita Kalpa states: "The Supreme Being dwelling within the physical body of all sentient beings is known as adhiyagna. Creation is a natural propensity of the Supreme Lord. It is the manifestation of His Divine will. Adhibhuta is the manifestation of temporary physical forms in the material existence. The jivas or embodied beings are a manifestation of adhyatma. The Supreme Lord's expansions such as Sankarsana or Hiranyagarbha are known as adhidaivam. The Supreme Lord Krishna is the Lord of all gods even Narayana the Lord of the spiritual worlds in Vaikuntha is an expansion of Lord Krishna." The Skanda Purana states: "That which is dwelling within exercising complete authority over the atma or soul is called adhyatmam. That which is external and separate from the physical body is called adhidaivam. Everything else which is different are the cause of gross, physical creatures therefore such activity is known as adhibutam." The Maha Kurma Purana states: "Adhyatma is that which being beneficial to the pure atma or soul extends unto the bodily limit. That which becomes useful to the jivas along with their physical bodies and other gross elements is adhibhutam. Beyond the scope of maya or illusory impressions superimposed upon the mind which is beneficial to divinity is adhidaivam."

To look at it from a more philosophical perspective, according to Samkhya, the Universe consists of Purushas, or conscious beings, and Prakriti, or unconscious matter. Prakriti by itself is formless, but in the presence of a conscious being it takes on forms. Initially it only takes on Sukshma or subtle forms, imperceptible to the senses, but then it takes on gross forms, i.e. the ordinary physical matter we perceive around us with our senses and which make up the physical bodies. It is the latter form of Prakriti, the substrate of the sensible domain, that is called Adhibhuta.

(On a side note, I recently wrote a dialogue exploring why the Samkhya school of philosophy ignores the existence of a supreme being, despite being founded by Kapila an incarnation of Vishnu. You can read it here.)


@KeshavSrinivasan Sorry, not enough points to comment. I just stumbled across your answer. I read your dialog. Here's something to consider. According to Swami Prabhupada, there were two Kapilas, and their teachings differed on the theistic aspect. This is mentioned in the Foreword to this book, which is suposed to contain the original Kapila's teachings. I haven't read it yet. Quote:

It is interesting to note, at this point, that long after Lord Kapila's descent, an imitation Kapila appeared on the Indian subcontinent and propounded a nontheistic Sankhya. That which is generally studied as Sankhya in the contemporary academic context is actually this later, nontheistic, materialistic Sankhya. The Sankhya philosophy, propounded by the original Kapila, is practically unknown in the West. Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahuti (along with Srila Prabhupada's complete commentary on Kapila's Sankhya in his edition of Srimad-Bhagavatam) is probably the first major exposition in the English language on the original, theistic Sankhya. It should therefore be of considerable interest to scholars in this field.

Jiva Goswami mentions in Sri Krsna-sandarbha that this assertion is made in Padma Purana, but doesn't mention the verse's location. Quote:

The original Lord Kapila and a later imposter who assumed the same name, are both described in the following verses of Padma Purana:

The Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared as Lord Kapila and spoke the original Sankhya philosophy, which eloquently presents the same philosophy expounded in all the Vedic literatures. This incarnation of the Lord instructed the Brahmana Asuri, many great demigods headed by Brahma and many sages, headed by Bhrgu.

An imposter later assumed the name Kapila and spoke an illogical, atheistic theory, to his disciple named Asuri and claimed his atheism to be the actual Sankhya philosophy. In this way there are two contradictory philosophies, both bearing the same name of Sankhya.

  • you may also want to write down in your own words the relevant info apart from giving the links to them Mar 31, 2016 at 16:03

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