There are six Bhava-Vikaras or modifica­tions of the body: Asti (existence), Jayate (birth), Vardhate (growth), Viparinamate (change), Apa­kshiyate (decay) and vinashyati (death).

Can someone please explain these. What I am not understanding is that Asti is existence and shouldvikaras.....in the sense that existence is always there. Secondly, how does Asti come before jayate? Existence can happen only upon birth. We are talking of changes to the body and not to atma!

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Hello Sunil,

The above modifications to the physical or gross body are outlined in Tattva-Bodha by Sankaracharya in the chapter titled, The Three Bodies (sarira traya).  You might find the edition which has Swami Tejomayananda's commentary to be helpful (published by Chinmaya).  The traditional explanation for the term Asti in relation to the gross body is that it refers to the foetal stage in the mother's womb prior to physical birth, so Asti (existence) comes before Jayate (birth), then Vardathe (growth) and so on through to decay and death.  We might also consider that it exists in potential  prior to the formation of the foetus in the womb - i.e. as a result of past karma - though this interpretation is not stated in the traditional commentaries.

1. That which is made up of the five great elements that have undergone the process of pancikarana, born as a result of the good actions of the past, the counter of experiences like joy, sorrow etc. and subject to the six modifications namely, to potentially exist, to be born, to grow, to mature, to decay and to die - is the gross body.  

(Tattva Bodha of Sankaracharya, translated by Swami Tejomayananda)

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Thank you so much Peter. Tattva bodha only says existence, not potent or causal existence. Hence the confusion. I am very clear now. Thanks a lot.