The Five Elements
The five elements (called “pancha mahabhuta” in Sanskrit) is one of the most fundamental concepts in Ayurvedic study.
These elements make up our entire material world. All matter, organic and inorganic, contains these elements, which in turn arise from the three gunas, or universal qualities. Let’s take a look at each of the elements individually:
Ether, also called Space, was the first element to manifest itself during the birth of this universe. This element is very subtle and often forgotten, yet ether allows all other elements to come to being by creating the boundaries of space. Ether is the void, the empty space, the primordial sound of the universe emerging.
Within our body, ether is the space inside our lungs, bladder, stomach, and space within each cell. Ether provides the room for all of life’s functions to occur.
Constitution (dosha): Vata
Each of the five elements exist in each individual but the proportions of elements vary from person to person and day to day. Generally the five elements support healthy life, longevity and harmony, but only when they are in balance. When the elements are imbalanced, we experience negative reactions within our bodies and in our lives. Keeping life in balance is a full-time job, it is something to be maintained, trimmed, observed, tailored, and adjusted on a continual basis. Keeping track of the five elements provides a framework that underlies Ayurveda as a study of life in balance.
The three Ayurvedic body constitution types, or doshas, Vata, Pitta & Kapha, are closely related to these five elements. Each dosha consists of two elements and inherits the properties of the elements involved. Learn more in my upcoming article Ayurveda and the Three Doshas.