CHAPTER 2: ELEMENTS OF THE UNIVERSE

2.1: Panchamahabhuta Siddhanta (The 5 Elements of the Universe)

2.1.1: Ether or Akasha

“Akasha” in Sanskrit means all-enclosing, omnipresent or all-pervasive.

Ether is the space or area within which all objects in the universe exist. It is one of the subtlest items in the universe with mystical qualities. The manifestation of ether and energy is what forms matter. Being connected to the highest vibrations of sound waves, it cannot be perceived directly through the 5 senses. However, we tend to be aware of it in other subtler ways. It is believed to be hollow and has no resistance.

It is believed that ether is associated with nuclear energy and has unseen stored potential.

Qualities: clear, light, subtle, soft and immeasurable.

2.1.2: Air or Vayu

The word vayu literally translates to wind or air, yet its meaning is far deeper and no single word can ever explain the full spectrum of this wonder element.

Movement is the main principle of air. Within the body, air is present in the form of electrical energy in the nervous system, movement of all tissues and cell functions, and the formation of various gases. It governs all of the senses due to its strong affinity with the nervous system and specifically the sense of touch and the action of the hands to give, receive and move articles.

Air is associated with electrical energy.

Qualities: mobile, dry, light, cold, rough.

2.1.3: Fire or Agni

The principle of fire is transformation and metabolism. Modern scientists have proven that every molecule tends to release or absorb heat during its transformation into a new molecule. In your body, agni is present through the balance of one’s body temperature, and the absorption and assimilation of food and the liver’s transformative power. Blood is responsible for carrying the effect of fire throughout the body. Any turbulence in the blood flow makes your limbs cold. Fire also governs the sense of sight and action of our hind limbs and forelimbs.

According to modern Ayurvedic scholars, it is associated with radiant energy like the light from a candle or the sun. It is hot, sharp, light, dry.

2.1.4: Water or Jala

Water works on the principle of transportation. In modern science, water has been tagged as the universal solvent due to its ability to dissolve other substances and suspend them in its medium very quickly. Within your body, it manifests as the plasma and lymph which transport nutrients to the cells, and carries toxins out of the cells. In simple words, it is that river upon which life flows. Water governs the sense of taste and the reproductive action.

It is believed to be associated with chemical energy. It can be cool, liquid, dull, soft, oily and slimy.

2.1.5: Earth or Prithvi

The main principle of Earth is structure and solid form. It has features of stability, permanence and rigidity. It cradles and holds all creatures of the planet by nurturing them and giving them support, food and shelter. In the body, it is present in the form of solid structures like bones, muscles, cartilage, nails, hair, teeth and skin. It governs the sense of smell and the action of excretion.

Earth is said to be associated with mechanical energy, as per modern scholars. It is heavy, dull, constant, dense, hard.

2.2 Constitution of Body and Mind based on 5 elements

2.2.1: Hearing – Ether

Listening to soothing music on waking up can balance your hearing or ether. Devotional songs, instrumental music, and the sounds of nature are such examples. Creaky sounds and playing very loud music are discouraged as they hamper peace. The sounds of nature are the most soothing.

2.2.2: Touch – Sky

Burning incense or soothing scents are useful options to purify the air. This should especially be practiced during sunrise and sunset. It creates a pleasant environment and allows positive vibrations to enter your body through your skin.

2.2.3: Sight – Fire

Actions such as watching the sunrise or letting the sun’s rays enter a room greatly enhances the environmental harmony between fire and sight. Gazing at a candle flame also tends to have a therapeutic effect on your body and senses. Hence, looking at bright things and things that are full of light and energy, helps in the healthy functioning of eyes.

2.2.4: Taste – Water

To balance out your sense of taste, be sure to drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day. Ayurveda recommends consuming water in the northeast sector of the place where you reside.

2.2.5: Smell – Earth

Many individuals are not directly connected to the earth, which is directly connected to one’s sense of smell. For instance, when did you last walk barefoot on the ground? Allowing your feet to touch the soil, walking on grass or a beach, helps to rejuvenate your body with positive earth energies.

2.3 How can you gain control over your senses?

Indriya is a prolongation of the mind. Indriyas are objectified desires.

The third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita talks about the Indriyas, or senses, in an excerpt:

इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते ।
एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम् ॥ ३-४०॥

The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them lust covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.

तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम भरतर्षभ ।
पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम् ॥ ३-४१॥

Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin (lust) by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.

इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः ।
मनसस्तु पार बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः ॥ ३-४२॥

The working senses are superior to dull matter; the mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and the soul is even higher than intelligence.

To attain spiritual sadhana, you must grasp control of your Indriya or five sense organs If any indriyas are over active, a person fails in performing effective meditation. Some of the ways in which you can gain control over your indriyas or senses are:

  • Introspection, by detecting and curbing the Indriya bothering you
  • Give up objects of interest to control your desires
  • Try speaking only when necessary, and speak the truth, Observe mouna, or silence, for a few hours each day,try to speak sweetly, & softly, Avoid using harsh and abusive words to discipline the organ of speech, or vak indriya
  • Avoid looks of lust or desire to discipline the eye / organ of sight
  • Avoid parties, gossip, and harsh songs, to discipline the ear / organ of hearing
  • Avoid strong scents and aromas to discipline of the nose, the organ of smell
  • Live on simple and fresh food, practice fasting or ekadashi, or live on solely milk at times to discipline the tongue / organ of taste
  • Occasionally, attempt brahmacharya by sleeping on a hard mat, walking bare-footed, not using an umbrella to discipline the skin / organ of touch
  • Fix the mind on your ishta devata or personal deity or idol of worship, which acts as a sadhana for checking on your indriyas

The elements making up the earth, those making up your body, and your senses cannot exist in isolation. They merge to come under the broader category of doshas, which is addressed in the third chapter.

Click here to take a look at Chapter 3, proceeding this one. 

You can refer back to our course outline here.

Scroll down to ask questions relating to this chapter. 

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Dr. Maneesh S

Ayurveda Doctor

Dr. Maneesh S is an authority in the field of traditional style of Ayurvedic treatment. With over 10 years of expertise and a proven track record of classical style of treatment his work has immensely benefited several people all over India and the world. He mastered the Ayurvedic method of treatment from the renowned Pankajakasthuri Ayurveda Medical College, Trivandrum. His experience includes working with Somatheeram Resorts, Club Mahindra Resorts and as a Dubai Healthcare City licensed Consultant Physician. He has also traveled extensively across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent collecting medicinal plants to replenish his extensive organic infusions. He has treated patients with chronic and complicated diseases as well as delivered lectures on Ayurveda, partaken in discussions and seminars pertaining to the propagation of various treatment modalities cited in the Ayurveda texts. With his extensive knowledge on various subjects like Sanskrit, Vedas, Mythology, ancient Indian Culture and Classical arts etc., he is considered to be one of the best in the industry.

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