In Ayurveda, the Pancha Bhoota (also written as Pancha Bhuta) are a reference to the five basic, physical elements (substances), which form the basis of all cosmic creation, including the body of human beings. These Five Elements or substances can appear as either matter or energy, where matter and energy are considered certain “states” of the Elements. That is, matter contains energy, can become pure energy, and energy can again become matter.
In any case, the Five Elements are defined as Akasha (Ether/Space), Vayu (Air), Tejas or Agni (Fire), Apas or Varuna (Water), and Prthivi (Earth). And although a range of phenomena in our universe can actually consist of one or more physical Elements (think of rocks or bones), it’s important to understand that each of the Five Elements rather points to the perceived qualities and characteristics of that Element.
For instance, substances or processes that are solid or stable can be said to have the qualities of the Earth Element (for instance: bones). Substances or processes that are liquid or involve liquids are of the Water Element (for instance: blood). Movement and circulation in our bodies are qualities of the Air Element, and Digestion and Transformation are qualities of the Fire Element.
Thus, the Five Elements have different characteristics, represent a certain “state of appearance of matter,” and they are associated with or form the basis of a variety of aspects of phenomena (including human beings), might that be on the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level.
An important Ayurvedic concept associated with the Five Elements is the three Dosha theory. According to Ayurveda, the Doshas are creations of the Five Elements, where Vata Dosha is associated with Ether and Air, Pitta Dosha with Fire and Water, and Kapha Dosha with Water and Earth. The Doshas can be seen as certain patterns or forms of energy that strongly influence a person’s character, behavior and physique.
To give some other examples of how the Five Elements constitute or correlate to phenomena:
◾ Each different Chakra has the characteristics of a certain element. For instance, Muladhara Chakra is related to Earth
◾ Tastes are combinations of elements. For instance, sweet is a combination of Earth and Water
◾ Internal organs are constituted from Earth, blood from Water
◾ Body heat is a form of Fire (Agni)
◾ Happiness is correlated to Air, confidence to Fire