What are Panchabhutas?

Whether it is the individual human body or the larger cosmic body, essentially, it is made of five elements. Every part of nature is made of 5 elements. When they are macroscopic in nature, these are called as Mahabhutas (Primeval elements). These Mahabhutas are the prime manifestations of the Divine and are truly integrated into their role, in the cosmic play.

The Pancha Mahabhutas theory may sound simplistic, but it is actually a very sophisticated method of classifying not only all of the animate and inanimate entities found on Earth, but also the natural cycles experienced on it, like days, seasons, waxing and waning of the moon (Amavasya & Pournima) etc.. This is because these elements are dominant at particular times, depending on the conditions experienced and observed.

Hindu scriptures use the characteristics of the five elements to identify various objects. If something is classified as “fire” it does not mean that it is literally a fire. It means that the object displays the characteristics of fire, like combustion, heat and so on. Similarly, if an item is classified as “water” or “earth” it means it is moist, cool and sticky or heavy, solid and stable.

On the human plane, what you call, “I”, is just an amalgamation of the characteristics of these five elements. These elements have certain qualities, attributes and impact on the body and mind. They represent the similarity between humans and the natural world surrounding them. In our body, space is present wherever there is a cavity like in the nostrils, mouth, ears, throat, lungs and stomach; air in movement of the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and joints; fire in all metabolic activity, the eyes, intelligence and body temperature; water in all plasma, blood, mucus, and saliva; and earth in any solid structure like fat, muscles, skin, nails and hair.

Let us look into the concept of the Panchabhutas as mentioned in our ancient scriptures:

From Brahman came into existence the five elements in the order of Space, Wind, Light, Water and Earth

  • Space has the attribute of Sound
  • Wind has the attributes of Sound, Touch
  • Fire has the attributes of Sound, Touch, Vision
  • Water has the attributes of Sound, Touch, Vision, Taste
  • Earth has the attributes of Sound, Touch, Vision, Taste, Smell

In the bodies of all mobile things the panchabhutas occur. In each the proportions are different. It is in consequence of these punchabhutas that mobile objects can move their bodies. Consequently, it can be easily deciphered that if these five elements don’t cooperate, you can struggle as much as you want, nothing happens. Only with their cooperation, from the basic aspects to the highest aspect, your life becomes a possibility. If you want to realize the full potential of this mechanism that you call a human being or if you want to transcend this one and become one with the larger cosmic mechanism, you need their grace.

Understood and applied correctly, such a system of classification becomes a powerful method for considering the way man interacts with his environment. The elegance of this science lies in the simplicity of the basic concepts, and the powerful analytical tool they provide for internal (body-mind) and external (environmental) assessment.

For example, the human lifecycle is divided into childhood, where physical growth takes place (water and earth), adulthood where activity and change occur (fire), and old age where mobility becomes impaired and the body begins to weaken (space and air). The year is divided into four seasons – winter when it is cold and rainy (water, earth); spring when new growth occurs and it becomes warmer (water, fire); summer when it is hot and dry (fire, air); and autumn when it is windy and cool (air and space). The negative or positive planetary influences during Amavasya and Pournima are also due to this phenomenon. The gravitational impact of the Moon on the Earth is more predominant during Amavasya and Pournima. This gravitational pull causes either high tides or low tides and also upheaval in the ocean levels. Likewise, the fluids in our body get disturbed and either fall or rise. Much similar to these intense fluctuations in nature, the body is swayed by the variable tendencies of darkness/light in the form of despair/hope, sorrow/joy, and failure/success…

However, on a cosmic plane, when there is an imbalance in the Mahabhutas, due to their macroscopic nature, they get disturbed and their might is unleashed. For example: In its microscopic form, the Earth, like the mother’s womb sustains all creation, whereas, in its macroscopic form, imbalance causes earthquakes, volcanoes…

What is the cause?

SADGURUJI in His messages explicitly emphasizes that, “MAN IS THE CAUSE”. In ancient times, Man used to live in harmony with Nature and never tried to harm it in any way. He respected and worshiped Nature. He also performed yajnas regularly, to appease these PANCHA  MAHABHUTAS. He felt that it was his duty to give respect and offer gratitude to them, as they enabled his survival. The Mahabhutas, in turn, were thus pacified. But, today, man is neglecting to offer his gratitude to Nature. He is exploiting and abusing all of Mother Nature’s bounty and thereby causing grave imbalances.

However, most of us are unaware that we are bound to the panchabhutas for our very existence here on earth. There exists a unique and powerful bond between the Panchabhutas of man and the Mahabhutas of Nature. Both balance and imbalance in the Pancha Mahabhutas get manifested in the human domain. Let us now explore further with regards to these five elements and their influence on man:

Prithvi bhuta (Earth) :

Although, weighed down by the burden of all creatures, the Earth is looked upon as the 1 Universal Mother, for her compassion and forgiveness. Unfortunately, today we are indulging in the depletion of Her resources. We steal from Her all the precious gems, which are minerals for Her survival. We drain Her blood (oil), which is the fuel that enables Her to rotate. We blast hillocks, rocks, and mines, which are Her bones that keep us secure. Drilling bores, digging sand, felling trees is like squeezing her energy, which disturbs Her tectonic plates, causing tsunamis and volcanoes. We take advantage of Earth, forever trying to conquer and loot without any discrimination or respect, not realizing that all its resources maintain the eco-system.

 Akasha bhuta (Space) :

Sky is limitless, all pervading, pure and unsullied. But in the name of Science and Technology, we are invading and cutting off her communication signals with her siblings (planets) through man- made satellites, we even probe into other planets with great curiosity. The sky has almost become a battlefield, both due to international warfare and digitization. The number of satellites orbiting space is growing in numbers continuously. There is no end to the cellphone towers that transmit signals to the countless mobile phone users. All of these not only fill the sky with their radiation but also make life miserable due to their extreme intervention in human life. The consequence of this indiscriminate encroachment of sky or space cannot be undermined, as it has grave impact on life on the planet.

Agni bhuta (Fire):

Agni manifests the Cosmic Light. From the atom to the Cosmos, Agni stands as the basis, it is transformative. The essence of yagna fire is the transformation of gross substances into subtle divine energy. Yagna is the abiding principle that sustains the entire creation, the unifying power that links us to the creator. Nature’s way of purifying Herself manifests as forest fires, seeking Grace from the higher Cosmic order. Due to deforestation and consequent drought, the atmospheric temperatures have gone up so drastically that fire hazards have today become a common occurrence.

Vayu bhuta (Air)

Air is the vital force or the prana-shakti for all living creatures. But, we are polluting the atmosphere with industrial and vehicular emissions. The release of noxious gasses and chemical vapours from factories leads to smog, artificial clouds, and acid rain, thereby causing global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer. When Mother Nature’s breathing is clogged, the other elements in her get disturbed, throwing up extremities of heat and cold, floods, famine, drought, tsunamis etc…

Jala bhuta (Water) :

Nearly 72% – 75% of the entire world is surrounded by water in the form of oceans, seas, and rivers. We are dumping all the industrial wastes into Her, and polluting the contents of water. Moreover, we are blocking, diverting, and occupying her course of journey, even as she cascades down as the flowing river or as torrents of rain. Man keeps building dams or encroaching river bunds, thereby blocking and gobbling up vast land resources. Nature retaliates by flooding and inundating her lost ground. This causes a major loss of life and property. As a consequence, today, there are many places where there is either scarcity of water or water is bought in bottles.

We are the prime culprits behind the ill effects that we are facing right now. Whenever and wherever Nature shows its fury, it is we who are solely responsible and it is we who are to be truly blamed.

As Sadguruji always says, look at the Mirror Reflection:

When we create havoc in Nature’s system, it, in turn, reflects in us in the form of unstable emotions, desires, and diseases, which depletes from us – our health, happiness, and peace.

  • We greedily extract the oil resources in the earth. Today, it has become very common to see people suffering from aches in the joints, due to lack of lubrication.
  • We recklessly create imbalance in the fluids in earth. Today, more than ever before, we are suffering from ailments pertaining to the heart, lungs, kidney etc. caused by the imbalance of fluids in the body, be it water, blood or lymph.
  • Due to the impact of our aggressive exploitation, natural calamities have become rampant. Due to severe unrest, the whole world is going through a gamut of exploding incidences of violence and bloodshed, so very frequently.
  • Forest fires created by man destroy so many lives and trees. This raging fire is in turn continuously burning in humans in the form of violence, greed, lust, and anger…
  • We deplete minerals from Her bosom. There are many, today, who are found to suffer from deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, in their body.
  • We indiscriminately invade the skies with satellites and cell phone towers. Reciprocally, this gross abuse has invaded our homes in a big way. Families no longer spend time bonding with each other. They are forever hooked on to the Internet, Television or mobile phones. The consequent radiation exposure is lethal.
  • We thoughtlessly throw wastes and garbage all around us, thus leading to mountainous heaps of debris on earth. Today, there is an alarming increase in the quantities of toxins, pollutants, and accumulated wastes in our body leading to hazardous diseases.

Are the above-mentioned scenarios, mere coincidences? Or, are they mirroring the reflections of what is out there (external), in here (internal). Is it a case of, ‘As you sow, so shall you reap?’

We are crossing our limits to acquire far more than we require. During the Vedic times, people lived a harmonious life with Nature, because they were spiritually evolved human beings. The Vedas speak about how one must offer prayers to Nature and the Panchbhutas to sustain a peaceful life on Earth. Therefore, spirituality has always been associated with living in close quarters with Nature and revering the deities of the Panchabhutas – Vayu deva, Varuna deva, Agni deva, Gagana deva and Bhu devi.

Do we not respect and adore our own body? Then, why not we adore and appease the Panchabhutas, to which we owe our very existence. Mount Govardhana was worshiped by Sri Krishna, which is continued till today as the ‘Parvatha Puja’. The sacred rivers are worshiped and offered Arathi as a daily ritual, to appease and obtain their blessings. In the same manner, why not we worship the Panchabhutas in a very simple way, right from the comfort of our own homes. You may then ask, Why me?

A tiny squirrel tried its best to carry sand on its tail, to help build the Ramsethu. A tiny being had realized the value of Seva (service), and also that every tiny particle of sand mattered in accomplishing such a gigantic task. Then, is it not the duty of each one of us to render our bit of seva, to help accomplish the noble endeavor of appeasing the Panchabhutas and thereby help to make this world a better place to live! Let us therefore unite, to bequeath a richer planet to our future generations! Together, let us be strengthened and blessed by this unique and noble Shanti Seva, empowered by a spiritual principle with far-reaching consequences.

All that is to be done is:

  • Take an earthen plate and pour some water into it. This represents the jalabhuta (water element).
  • Place a peepal leaf or whatever leaf available, on a stone in this earthen plate. This represents the prithvibhuta (earth element).
  • Take this outdoors. Then Akasha (space) is included too.
  • Put a big piece of camphor and light it. The fire represents the agnibhuta (fire element).
  • We now see that the flickering flame has brought in the vayubhuta (air element).
  • Now, rotate the arathi plate towards the Ashtadikpalas (eight directions), while offering prayers to the Panchabhutas:

Hey, Prithvibhutama Shanti!

Hey, Akashabhutama Shanti!

Hey, Agnibhutama Shanti!

Hey, Vayubhutama Shanti!

Hey, Jalabhutama Shanti

After the Arathi offer the water contained in the plate to Mother Earth.

Note: Join us for this Seva on every Thursday at 8 p.m. exactly. It is especially beneficial for women to offer this Shanti seva on Pournima and Amavasya days and for men to offer on Amavasya day. However, one can offer this Shanti seva on both Pournima and Amavasya Days, and also on Mondays.