Everything in the universe is 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 Apa
- Earth or Prithvi
These five elements, it should be understood, derive from and are expressions of an unmanifest and undifferentiated Creative Principle, which is One. 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 (avidya) 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 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.