Philosophical View

Lesson 6/16 | Study Time: 10 Min
Philosophical View

Naturopathic & Yogic View: Panch Mahabhootas (five elements)

The human body is based on Panch Mahabhootas (five elements). Philosophically, it is said that the five elements; Prithvi (Earth), Aap (Water), Tej (Fire), Vayu (Air), Aakash (Space), and the soul together make the human body. These Panch Mahabhootas (five elements) represent our internal organs as follows:- 

Parthiv (Earthly nature): Nails, bones, teeth, flesh, skin, excretion, beard, body hair, hair, etc. 

Aap (Nature of water): Fluids, kapha, pitta, urine, perspiration, and saliva. 

Tej (Nature of fire): Pitta, heat, the glow of the body, view, eyesight, etc. 

Vayu (Nature of air): Breathing, blinking, and opening of the eyelids, speed, inspiration, Dharana, etc. 

Aakash (Nature of space): All holes, hollow places, vocal system, and ear system.

Ayurvedic View: Tridosha Theory (Three Ailments/Diseases)

Dosha refers to bodily humor (or bio-energy center) in Ayurvedic medicine. The three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha are the energies that are believed to circulate in the body and govern physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. As the three doshas are endowed with their characteristics, they are termed dravya (liquid). The strengths cannot stay independently, and need the support of liquids; hence vat, kapha, and pitta are not strengths but liquids. But according to their locations, they are gross in some places and subtle in others (cannot be seen). They are exhibited through actions at such places. 

Kapha is a white-colored substance, which is cold, heavy, slow, sticky, and glossy type. Even if it is subtle or gross, it has these qualities. As per Ayurveda, kapha amounts to six palms full. That means it can be in liquid form too. 

Pitta is hot, sharp, a little bit of expansive property, with a particular smell or strong smell. Even if these are demonstrated through organs, other characteristics are as per functions. Pitta is five palmfuls.

Vata is dry, less cold as compared with kapha, tiny and movable. This substance is moving and not related to body organs. This is at some places gross and most places subtle. 

The health or sickness of the body depends on these three Dosha's. Also, most of the movements in the body depend on this. Even if all the Dosha in nature and this body are made from five elements, the main functional ones are only three i.e., Aap (water), Tej (fire), and Vayu (air). To carry out their functions, these three Dosha's have to seek help from the earth and the sky. 

There is another stream of thought that the life of the body and the most supportive element i.e., the blood is also the fourth Dosha's, but it will be appropriate to recognize blood as Dhatus (the seven building blocks of the physical body). If these three Dosha's are equal in proportion in the individual, then the body functions all right. But when this equality is disturbed, ill health sets in. 


There are different characteristics of the elements of the body, they are twenty types. The body contains three Dosha, it also contains seven Dhatu:

Rasa (Fluids) - This is a flowing Dhatus. When one consumes food that is a square meal, based on panchmahabhootas, including six rasas, twenty characteristics, and all types of viryas, and when the food is digested properly after being processed by the fire in the stomach, the substance generated which is minute essence is known as rasa. Its place is the heart, which is circulated through all the vessels due to the vyana vayu all over the body. It also supplies dhatus necessary for the growth of children, dhatus which are weakened in old people and continue to maintain stability in middle-aged persons. It stays alive in the body. Other dhatus are then made up of rasa. 

Rakta (Blood) - When the rasa containing more water reaches the liver and the spleen, it becomes red in color due to the ranjak pitta. Then it is known as blood. The characteristics of Prithvi, Aap, Tej, Vayu, and Aakash in that order i.e., peculiar smell, liquidity, red color, and speed, and are exhibited in blood. Hence blood is known as panchmahabhoutik. When the blood is washed away from a cloth and does not leave any stain on the cloth, it is termed healthy blood (defectless). That is the main function of this dhatus. 

Mansa (Muscular Tissue or flesh) - On the supporting blood, the fire in the muscular tissue operates in the mansvah strotra and this dhatu is produced. The warmth or heat of the Vayu and Tej is mixed up in the blood and it becomes thick. It gets ripened due to the fire of the Mansa and takes the form of Mansa. The cells and the muscles in the body are also forms of flesh. The cells do the act of covering and hence the organs are protected. The muscles bear the weight of the body. The joints move. All these movements are due to vyanvayu. 

Medh (Adipose Tissue) - On the supporting Mansa (flesh), the fire in the med operates in medovah strota, and the dhatu med is created. It strengthens the body.

Asthi (Bones) - On the panchmahabhootas in the supporting elements, the fire in the asthidhatu operates and creates roughness. This creates bones. Due to Vayu, they can be porous. 

Majja (Bone Marrow) - Asthidhatu supporting majja gets operated upon by the fire in majja in majjavah strota and majja dhatu is created. The holes in the bones are known as majja. 

Shukra (Generative Tissue) - Shukra dhatu is produced from majja due to uniting with fire. Shukra dhatu originates in shukradhar kala in shukravah strota all over the body. Though the testicles and the eggs are the main origins for this, actually Shukra dhatu is produced all over the body in a minuscule form. It drizzles in the testicles and comes out through media. At a young age, it exists in an invisible form and when the child comes of age, it becomes visible.

Bones have been divided into six different types and they are as follows:- 

Nalikasthi - These are long bones like tubes and hollow from within. They are stuffed with majja. Till the age of 20 years, the color of this is red, and then it turns yellow. These types of bones are in the hands and legs.

Kapalasthi - These are flat bones in nature. The above and below layer is separated and hollowed parts are made. 

Valayasthi - These are round in shape. The ribs of the chest are of this type. 

Tarunashthi - These are soft in nature. They are mainly in between joints of vertebrae, two vertebrae there is a circle of tarunasthi. Hence, any jolt to the body, till it reaches the brain becomes mild.

Ruchakasthi - The teeth which are different from all the other bones in the body are covered under this.

Aanvashti - The bones that are smaller and irregular in size and do not fit under any of the above categories fall in this. These bones have fat with blood. 

Human Body is also consisting of Indriyas (Senses) and Koshas (Sheaths)

Pancha Gnanendriya

The five organs of sense The eye - the organ of sight having visible forms as its object. The ear - the organ of hearing, having sound as its object. The nose - the organ of smelling, having smell (odors) as its object. The tongue - the organ of tasting, having flavors as its object. The skin – the organ of feeling, having touch (contact) as its object. 

Pancha Karmendriya
The five organs of action: The mouth (the organ of speech), The feet, The hands, The anus, and The genitals. 

Pancha Koshas
The human body is covered with Pancha Koshas (Five Sheaths), which are commonly referred to, as the five hierarchal levels of energy in the body. They are:

Annamaya kosha (Physical Sheath): This is the outermost sheath and is made up of the physical body or the material aspect of our existence. It includes the skin, bones, muscles, organs, and other physical structures. This sheath is nourished and sustained by the intake of food, water, and air. This sheath is regarded as the medium of enjoyment for gross objects through the physical senses. According to this belief, all living beings in this world are born from food and remain alive through the consumption of food. Even after death, the body can be consumed as food by animals, insects, or other beings. Living through this layer man identifies himself with a mass of skin, flesh, fat, bones, and filth, while the man of discrimination knows himself, the only reality that there is, as distinct from the body. However, our physical health depends significantly on the foods that we eat and therefore, a diet that a person follows can be used to determine his or her nature. Food is also regarded as a medicine, as it can help improve a person’s overall health. Therefore, this level promotes the benefits of a yogic diet, through which, one can easily cure this kosha as well as the disorders that are related to a diet.

Pranamaya kosha (Vital Sheath): This is the second layer and is related to the energy aspect of our existence. It includes the vital breath or life force (Prana) that animates the physical body. It is sustained by the intake of breath and the circulation of energy through the body. It is said that all birth and death in the universe are a result of Prana. Therefore pranamaya kosha is filled with the essential forces that represent the subtle body, chakra, nadis, and kundalini. As long as this vital principle exists in the organisms, life continues. This sheath can be further divided into five forces, which include Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana, and Samana, along with their respective organs of action. Nature-wise, this sheath is active, as it is the result of rajas guna (the quality of energy, movement, activity, ambition, action, and change). The pranamaya kosha controls the annamaya kosha and for the proper assimilation of food, the prana is important. With the help of prana, a person can control the speed at which life or energy flows through his body. Therefore, people could have the ability to control their metabolism, by practicing pranamaya kosha.

Manomaya kosha (Mental Sheath): This is the third layer and is related to the mental aspect of our existence. It includes the mind, emotions, thoughts, feelings, or perceptual part of the body, which comprises not just the mind, but also the organs within the body. It is sustained by the intake of sensory experiences. This sheath influences the Prana Kosha and channels the ways we think. When prana or life and anna or food, operate together, mana or awareness does not exist, because we do not think or feel anything else. The thoughts that originate within the body during the first sheaths can manifest as a disease that affects the body. 

Vijnanamaya kosha (Intellectual Sheath): This is the fourth layer and is related to the intellectual aspect of our existence. It includes our ability to reason, understand, and discriminate. It is sustained by the intake of knowledge.

Anandamaya kosha (Bliss Sheath): This is the innermost layer and is related to the spiritual aspect of our existence. It is characterized by the experience of ananda or bliss, joy, and inner peace. It is sustained by the realization of our true nature as the Atman or the Self. In the Upanishads, the sheath is known also as the causal body. When the mind and senses cease functioning in deep sleep, it still stands between the finite world and the self. The bliss sheath normally has its fullest play during deep sleep: while in the dreaming and wakeful states, it has only a partial manifestation. Hence, the anandmaya kosha can be described as the transcendental body or the blissful body which in turn consists of the causal body of the Brahma (four-headed God of all creation). Since the self is the cause of all things, everything gets dissolved into it. Things are born, they grow and then they eventually die all because of Ananda. This shows that ananda is the root of all human life. It is our ignorance that covers the bliss, just like how the skin covers the body. This is one of the Koshas that is not bound by either time or space.

“Even today, Yoga continues to proliferate and spread its teachings, crossing the boundaries of culture and language”.