According to Ayurveda philosophy everything in the life is composed
of the Panchamahabhutas – Akash (Space), Vayu (Air), Jal (Water),
Agni (Fire) and Prithvi (Earth). The human body is consist of
the Panchamahabhutas. When any of these elements are present
in the environment, they will in turn have an influence on us.
The foods we eat and the weather are just two examples of the
presence of these elements. While we are a composite of these
five primary elements, certain elements are seen to have ability
to combine to create various physiological functions. Ether and
air combine to form what is known in Ayurveda as the Vata dosha.
Vata governs the principle of movement and therefore can be seen
as the force which directs nerve impulses, circulation, respiration,
and elimination. Fire and water are the elements that combine
to form the Pitha dosha. The Pitha dos ha is the process of transformation
or metabolism. The transformation of foods into nutrients that
our bodies can assimilate is an example of a Pitha function.
Pitha is also responsible for metabolism in the organ and tissue
systems as well as cellular metabolism. Finally, it is predominantly
the water and earth elements, which combine to form the Kapha
dosha. Kapha is what is responsible for growth, adding structure
unit by unit. Another function of the Kapha dosha is to offer
protection. Cerebral-spinal fluid protects the brain and spinal
column and is a type of Kapha found in the body. Also, the mucousal
lining of the stomach is another example of the Kapha dosha protecting
the tissues. We are all made up of unique proportions of Vata,
Ptha and Kapha. These ratios of the doshas vary in each individual;
and because of this, Ayurveda sees each person as a special mixture
that accounts for our diversity.
The Panchmahabhutas therefore serve as the foundation
of all diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has
served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat
illness of the body and mind successfully.
Pancha maha bhootas
In the universe the living and non living things
are made up of combinations of the Five Elements (Pancha Mahabhutas).
This includes the human being which also acquires a soul or spirit.
These five elements are:
Space or Akasha
Air or Vayu
Fire or Tejas
Water or Jala
Earth or Prithvi
These five elements are to be understood in a material
sense as well as a subtle sense. By earth we are to understand
not only the terrain of our planet or the iron in our red blood
cells and spleen, but also the quality of steadfastness of mind,
strength of one's moral fiber, one's slow and quiet undeterred
advancement towards a goal, and the resistance to the manifestations
of others. By water we mean to imply the cohesive aspects of reality
which flows into and holds things together, perfectly and simply
witnessed in the ubiquitous H20 molecule. And the other elements
too were intended by the ancient vaidyas (physicians) to communicate
the essential universal principle inherent in a particular element.
By fire we mean the universal force in nature that produces heat
and radiates light; it is our passion to pursue despite obstacles
and delays; it is what burns away the cloak of ignorance and allows
the Truth to shine with brilliance. Fire removes doubt from the
mother-substance of human heart and replaces it with joy. Air is
that transparent, rarefied, kinetic force which sets the universe
in motion; it moves the blood through the vessels, wastes from
the body, thoughts through the mind; it moves the birds to warmer
climates in winter, it moves the planets around their suns. Space
is the subtlest of all elements which is everywhere and touches
everything; in the mind it is the vessel which receives all impressions,
in the heart space accepts love; space is receptivity and non-resistance
to what is true.
Thus these Five Subtle Elements (Pancha Mahabhutas)
form the basis for all things found in the material creation, from
a grain of sand to the complex physiology of every human being.
Balancing these elements in just the right way for each unique
individual is the key to maintaining health and treating disease
should it arise, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual.