Panchatattwas and Life

From Janani, Swami Prembhava Saraswati

In yogic and vedic sciences, there are fiveelements, the panchatattwas, that provide the building blocks for the whole manifest and non-manifest Prakriti.

The tattwas exist from the most subtle cosmic level to everything one can see, feel and think about on Earth. It is the same tattwas that exist everywhere in nature: in the stars, star dust, soil, trees, oceans, in cars and computers, the organs and cells of the body, the quality of thoughts, feelings and actions.

  Prithvi Apas Agni Vayu Akahsa
  Earth Water Fire Air Ether/Space
Nature heavy cool hot erratic mixed
Quality weight, cohesion, solidity, support, strength, base fluidty, contraction, emotion, memory heat, expansion, light, prana, power of change, destruction motion, movement, gaseous, weightless, instability, breath diffused, space-giving, motionless, all-pervading, sound
Colour yellow white red blue-grey black, colourless
Tanmatra smell taste sight touch sound
Function in the body skin, blood vessels, bone structure all bodily fluids appetite, thirst, sleep, disgestion muscular expansion, contraction space

The tattwas are the same in every place, and therefore the physical or manifest response of those elements is recognized as the same. Lightning will always be lightning whether it is on Earth or Jupiter or in some far distant nebulae. Water molecules will be the same whether they are on Earth or Mars or floatingin a comet. They are the same elements; it is the different permutations and combinations that cause differences in the nature.

—Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The true tattwa is a quality and energy. It is not the fames that burn or the soil in the garden; these are the physical manifestation of the quality of the tattwas.

Macrocosm and microcosm

The vedic seers believed that the panchatattwas are present in the microcosm, the body, mind, personality and ego; and in the macrocosm, the universe, our planet and human civilization. They believed the state of the macrocosm reflects the state of the individual microcosm and vice versa. Knowing that it is our responsibility to purify the elements within and without, they devised diets, natural medicines and lifestyles which guided people to live a balanced life, in harmony with the forces of Prakriti around them.

For example, prithvi is the earth tattwa. In the Vedas, Mother Earth is known as Prithvi Ma and Dyaus Pita as Father Sky. Together they are the universal parents of all creation.

Prithvi Ma is the basis of all existence on the planet; it is she who upholds and supports all things, she protects, shelters and feeds. All plants, crops and food come from her. Without her support existence is not possible. Prithvi is stable, fertile and forgiving, wide, motionless, patient and strong. These qualities of Prithvi Ma, the Mother, are the qualities of the prithvi tattwa that exist from the subtle to the gross.

Prithvi tattwa governs the forests, mountains, rocks and deserts. It requires the presence of all the others tattwas (fire, water, air and ether) to form, and all other elements exist within the earth element. It is the base, the support from which all elements converge, mix and create.

In the same way, in our physical body prithvi tattwa gives structure through the bones, and provides the pathways in the body through which other elements flow. For example, the bones of the spinal column contain and support the four other tattwas in the following forms: the spinal nerves are the manifestation of agni tattwa, the blood flowingin the spine is apas tattwa, the moving joints of the spine are vayu tattwa, and the space between the joints and ligaments is akasha tattwa. All function together within the body to maintain a healthy and strong body.

In the pranic and mental bodies the tattwas control and influencethe character and personality. A person with a strong prithvi tattwa is responsible, reliable, patient, steady and stable. A weak prithvi tattwa would make a person rigid, stubborn, tamasic, lazy and dull.

The purificationof the macrocosm and the microcosm must go hand in hand so as to reach a point where the inner and outer worlds reflect each other. The external environment can definitelyinfluencethe state of mind. Everyone will have experienced the impact of walking along a noisy, polluted city street, in contrast to a walk in a peaceful garden surrounded by the sounds of birds and a gentle breeze. Similarly, when the mind is clear and positive, even the most difficultsituations in life can be managed.

You can connect to the prithvi tattwa within and without through simple practices of yoga ecology such as Ashwattha aradhana, where you connect to the prithvi tattwa through your tree. This tree manifests all the qualities of prithvi: supporting, protecting, sustaining, nurturing and providing. Through this practice you begin to awaken the pure quality of the prithvi tattwa within and you become that, through communication the tree's consciousness awakens and blossoms with your care and connection.

The yoga and yajna taught by Sri Swami Satyananda aims to purify the individual and the environment simultaneously through the purificationof the panchatattwas, so that one may live in harmony with oneself and the world around. The world is perceived from each person's level of awareness. Raising the level of awareness and extending one's consciousness to encompass the Earth in all her beauty is yoga ecology.