This is an attempt to find a simplified understanding and explanation for the creation of the 5 Great Elements. It is a vast and very complicated subject and I can only explain it imperfectly and incompletely.
The Building Blocks – Tanmatra
The Veda states that from the union of the eternal Creative Force ‘Purusha’ and the eternal Nature ‘Prakriti’ arises ‘Mana/Buddhi’, a Cosmic Intelligence which encompasses knowing, will, feeling-, sense-, and action-capacities. These 5 subtle principles called ‘Tanmatra’ form the building blocks which build the entire material universe.
The Sattwik aspect of Tanmatra creates the five sensory organs of perception (sound, touch, vision, taste, smell). The Rajasik aspect forms five vital forces, ‘Prana’, five organs of action and the Chakras. The Tamasik aspects are the elements that make up our physical universe. From the Cosmic Intelligence ‘Buddhi’ derives Ego ‘Ahamkara’, from which the five elements and creation evolved. This means that not only humans and animals have consciousness, but everything that exists.
The five basic principles are
- Sound (Shabda)
- Touch (Sparsha)
- Vision (Roopa)
- Taste (Rasa)
- Smell (Gnadha)
The Tanmatra have mass and energy and form the atoms ‘Paramanus’. Two atoms combine to form a molecule and so on until they form heavier mass. 1)
Each element contains the essences of those before it. This means that air comprises space and ether, the element fire contains space, ether, air and wind and so on. However, each of the five main elements contains the dominance of a basic principle, of a ‘Tanmatra’.
- Sound (Shabda) – Space/Ether
- Touch (Sparsha) – Air/Wind
- Vision (Roopa) – Fire
- Taste (Rasa) – Water
- Smell (Gnadha) – Earth
We can accomplish another attempt to explain the 5 major elements using the physical laws known today. The Cosmic Intelligence ‘Mana/Buddha’ is the genetic material for any atom to be formed. Thus Sattva Guna is the attractive force, Raja the repulsive force, and Tamas is inertia and builds mass. Each element in this universe is a mixture of these three Gunas with different proportions. The final structure of the 3 Gunas composes the chromosomes of the elements called ‘Ahamkara’. 2)
The Creation of Each Element
Akasha, Dhyaus – Space/Ether
Space is the platform from which everything manifests and into which everything returns. It has no physical nature and no dimensions. It only comprises the distances that separate matter.
The Sanskrit word Akasha contains the Sanskrit root word ‘Kas’, which means ‘to be visible’, ‘heaven’, ‘atmosphere’ or ‘open space’. The more precise philosophical meaning of Akasha is ‘etheric fluid that permeates the cosmos’. It sometimes refers to as the imperceptible force from which the rest of the world derives. 3) The noun Dhyaus refers to the day-lit sky and occurs frequently as the Sky Father, the chief father deity, the male principle of space and ether. 4)
The principal element of Akasha is Shabda (Sound). Ether penetrates the cosmos and causes vibrations that generate waves and expand because of space. A wave vibrates and therefore produces sound.
In our body it is the element that allows everything to happen, it lets us breathe; it absorbs and assimilates and so on. Its characteristics are clear, light, subtle and immeasurable. The ear is connected to this Tanmatra because it is hollow and transmits the sound waves. It is associated with the Vishuddha Chakra in the throat. It guides our self-image, independence, security, and communication. Its sound is HAM.
Vayu/Vatam – Air/Wind
The element Air (Vayu) is the principle of pulsation, air and wind. Pulsation creates eternal expansion and contraction. Vayu develops from pulsation and it is this movement that churns the elements of space and ether into Air. The physical air we see is the effect (Vatam), while Vayu is the cause. In the Rigveda, the wind is named Vatam or Vayu, the former being used chiefly for the element and the latter chiefly for the God. 4) Air is existence without form. The particles create kinetic energy; they move quickly and expand, making them low in density, mobile and dynamic.
The Tanmatra of this element is Touch (Sparsha). Touch enables detection of vibration and movement.
The element Air stimulates body processes such as breathing and gas exchange on the cellular level. It stimulates impulses from the nervous system and the kinetic energy that pumps blood into the cells. Vayu/Air is found throughout the body as the 5 major winds.
- Prana Vayu resides in the head and is the fundamental energy. It governs the reception of everything from air to food, from senses to thoughts.
- Apana Vayu is active in the pelvic and lower abdominal areas. It improves digestion, elimination and reproduction.
- Vyana Vayu governs the heart and lungs and supports the function of other Vayu.
- Udana Vayu is situated in the throat. It promotes self-expression and growth.
- Samana Vayu resides in the abdomen with the navel as its energy base. It governs digestion of everything from food to thoughts.
The related sensory organ is the skin. Skin is very sensitive for detecting any movement, change in pressure or vibration in subtle form. The element Air is in the heart. The Anahata Chakra is love, compassion, well-being, and devotion. Its sound is YAM.
Agni – Fire
The friction of ether, air, and wind produces heat, and ultimately fire. It is expansive and converts matter from one state to another. Fire is form without substance, its property is transformation or dissolution. It is the force that converts a substance from solid to liquid to gaseous or vice versa, increasing or decreasing the substance.
The Tanmatra of the fire element is Vision (Rupa). Light enables perception and vision.
Our bodily Fire controls all transformations, enzyme function, digestion, metabolism and also thought process, intelligence, and perception of light. An interesting aspect is Agni’s relation to sight, eyes, walking, and feet. This is explained by the idea that to be able to walk, one needs to see. The eye and sight give direction to the feet for the action of walking. Agni resides in the Manipura Chakra, the solar plexus. It is responsible for trust, intimacy, introversion, and fear. Its sound is RAM.
Apas, Varuna, Jal – Water
This element is created through the principal elements of Space, Ether, Air, and Fire. Compare it to the fire inside our body digesting food. It can be understood as the result of the friction and fire between ether particles, pulsation, and wind. The fire element transforms the principal elements into a fluid state. For example, intense heat produces vapour, which rising and cooling turns into steam and finally water drops.Its attribute is substance without stability, it is dynamic and adapts to any environment. When water faces obstacles or resistances, it spontaneously changes shape and flows around the obstruction in the path of least resistance. main actions are cohesiveness and adhesiveness.
The Tanmatra of the water element is Taste (Rasa). The ability to taste depends on the liquid/saliva within the mouth. The water element exhibits qualities like cold, liquid, dull, soft, and sliminess. Its actions are cohesiveness and adhesiveness.
Water is responsible for all body fluids and is found in all cell fluids, tissues, spine, and brain. It lubricates the joints and supplies the lungs with moisture. Water has its origin in the Svadhisthana Chakra and is the energy of our creativity, pleasure, vitality, gender identification, and addiction. The sound of the water is VAM.
Pritvi, Bhumi – Earth
Earth is created by transformation all previous elements, Space, Either, Air, Wind, Fire, and Water. Compare it to the creation of atoms and molecules that form the physical world. It is solid matter; it is stability, fixity or rigidity because the particles move slowly. Thus, they offer structure and stability for all forms of the universe. Prithvi is a representation of feminine energy. Other names for Prithvi are Lakshmi and Bhumi Devi. According to the “Rig Veda,” Prithvi is the consort of the god of the sky, Dyaus.
The Tanmatra for Earth element is Smell (Gandha). The sensory organ related is the nose. Qualities of the earth element are heavy, dull, dense, hard and gross.
This element supports the skeleton and the body, giving strength and stability. The earth element lives in the Muladhara Chakra and is located at the base of the spine. It is our connection to sexuality, body image, self-confidence and obsession. The earth gentle vibrations ground us and support the practical implementation of our ideas. The sound for the earth is LAM.
This article is inspired by the blogger Hints to the Ancient Wisdom.
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Thank you for your interest. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts and questions.