The word “Pancha Tattva” literally means five elements of life (‘Pancha’ meaning five and ‘Tattvas’ in meaning elements in Sanskrit). Interestingly, whole ayurvedic and yogic culture is based on the principle of the five cardinal elements.
Following the universal law of life, everything on this planet consists of five basic elements, which are also referred to as “Panchamahabhuta”. These elements of tattvas are:
- Akash (Sky or Space)
- Vayu (Air)
- Jal (Water)
- Agni (Fire)
- Prithvi (Earth)
In this universe, everything, from any animate or inanimate object is composed of a mixture of these elements. In fact, these elements are responsible for the existence of each and everything that we see, feel, smell, eat, hear and even experience.
Moreover, if you deeply analyze all the matters that we see today, you can’t help but notice the fact that everything is made up of the same basic elements but are different only in the composition of the elements, and this very fact is the law of Panch Tattvas.
The five cardinal elements of the universe, themselves, have a connection with each other encompassing all the cosmic consciousness that we experience.
Let’s begin from Akash Tattva( Ether/Sky /Space). This element is the most subtle among all the elements of Pacha Tattvas. It is the element that is present even in nothingness and can be compared to the consciousness of a human. This element makes space for everything to exist and accommodates everything.
Vayu Tattva (Air) is the basis for survival and less subtle compared to the ether but it has roots deep-rooted in the ether. Vayu is the source of origin of Agni Tattva (Fire), which is denser and full of much energy with the capacity to create as well as destroy everything in ashes.
Similarly, Jal Tattva (Water) originates from the vapor in Vayu and can slow down or stop the fire. Even Prithvi Tattva (Earth) originates from the water and is the densest element of all the elements.
What are these elements in atomic level?
Well, the English word for these elements fits perfectly but all these elements have a beautiful representation even in science and have significance at the atomic level too.
By now it’s clear that every animate or non-animate object is made up of these five tattvas.
- Starting from Akash (Sky element), this particular element is the space in which atom is present. The electrons revolve around it and the whole structure occupies the space.
- Vayu (Air element) represents the force of the movement of electrons around the nucleus.
- Agni (Fire element) represents the latent heat present in each atom that gets released if broken.
- Jal (Water element) represents the force of cohesion which allows proton, electron, and neutron to be attracted to each other.
- Prithivi (Earth element) represents the solid portion of an element.
Five Cardinal Elements (Pancha Tattva) In Terms of Health
Like the world around us, even our body is made up of all these five cardinal elements. From everything we eat to every substance that we excrete, these cardinal elements are the key component for every matter.
The concept of pacha tattva fits perfectly when it comes to maintaining proper health. You can only be healthy if all these cardinal elements are well-balanced in your body, and how will the body maintain the equilibrium? Simply, by omitting redundant elements and impelling others.
With the five cardinal elements, the human body also consists of ‘Eleven Indriyas‘ (Senses). These ‘Indriyas’ consists of the basic five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and smell), along with five action organs (vocal cords, hands, feet, genitals, and anus) and the mind.
These sense organs are responsible for extracting information from the outside world and are called as ‘Jnanendriya‘. Similarly, the five action organs help us to respond to the stimulus from the outer world know as ‘Karmendriya‘.
Now according to the cardinal elements, the perceiving ‘Jnanendriya’ and the responding ‘Karmendriya’ are different and its role in the existence of the space is pivotal.
Talking about the Akash (ether/ sky), it is related to the sense of hearing, the jnanendriya is ear and the karmendirya is vocals or mouth.
It has a role in existence as motion and is related to the sense of touch. The jnanendriya being skin and karmendriya being hands, Vayu of outer world is experienced.
It is the element of high energy in existence, is related to the sense of sight or Rupa with jnanendriya being eyes and karmendriya being feet.
This element exists in the universe as a force of attraction. The taste of sensation being it’s a key factor and the jnanendriya being tongue (rasa), and karmendriya being genitals.
The solid matter that we feel is the Prithvi itself and the sensation of smell is the core of this matter a the jnanendriya is the nose and karmendriya is the anus.
So, the whole principle of Pancha tattva is a very essential component in Ayurveda and yoga because unless and until all these components are not in the right alignment, no one can ever gain the privilege to good life and health.
Pancha Tattvas In Relation To Life
The core element in the Pancha Tattva signifies various relations to various aspects of life, which are wired with each other to provide us a complete package of existence into this world.
Body as Earth
Your body is your physical being, and the element that you use to experience life in all aspects. Moreover, all the matter that you see around, feel and analyze are basically objects and most are solid objects representing the earth.
If you had no body, your existence would not be known and you would not be able to experience life.
Mind as Water
Your body would just be a piece of flesh and bone if you did not have a mind, as this element keeps the flow of thoughts going and makes your existence meaningful.
Additionally, we know the fact that water is less subtle than earth that’s why it cannot be felt like a solid object. As water is less subtle, it can be even represented like this: if your body is present in a place, your mind may be wandering somewhere else as it’s just like the flow of water which never stops.
Intelligence as Fire
Fire is the spark that makes certain things visible and is sure to have a lot of energy, and the same thing goes for intelligence. Unless and until the mind has a spark of intelligence, it will be a constantly flowing river in no particular direction.
Awareness as Air
A gush of air can give you the sensation to be aware of something that is happening around. This component is essential in the existence of human beings as a part of life. Only after getting ample awareness of the environment, the intelligence of your mind can run in a certain direction for your body to function well.
Consciousness as Sky/Space
Sky accommodates everything from the bright sun to the starry night in dark. It is simply present everywhere and can never be excluded. This element is the experiencer of life! Without consciousness, you would not know anything at all even if you have body or mind, it would be of no use as no awareness, intelligence could be generated.
Let’s take an example of being in deep sleep but not in the state of dreaming, here you have the consciousness about your existence even when you may not have the awareness, intelligence, alert mind or working body. Consciousness is like space and is the sole reason why you exist. This is the element separating you from the living, dead or non-animate.
The consciousness is like the thumb, disconnected from all the other fingers but an essential component necessary for all your hand to function.
Pacha tattva is pretty much the reason I am alive and writing this article, and it is the same element due to which you are alive and are reading this article.
Therefore, all the elements are related and none of them can be separated in this universe. Additionally, signifying the fact that no object, animal, or human are so separate from us than we think they are and caring for all is caring for self in the broader picture.
(Last Updated On: February 14, 2020)