In our constant quest to understand the subtleties of the cosmos, we lose ourselves in its expansiveness. Its wings stretch far beyond black holes, stars, solar systems and galaxies–cosmos is an unfathomable entity indeed. In this mighty space, the planet Earth is just a speck of dust and human beings are a tiny little fraction. Carl Sagan rightly says in his book Cosmos, “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”
The cosmos reveals to mankind its glories through nature. And nature in itself is a mystery that we stare at with much wonder and awe. There is so much to nature that needs to be explored before we can even begin to say we understand it. To this end, let’s take a few steps back and break it down bit by bit.
When the process of evolution began, it began with the fundamental elements of nature. These elements are understood and applied differently by different cultures and disciplines. Ayurveda calls them Panchtatva. A Sanskrit word where Panch means five and Tatva indicates the elements of nature–earth (prithvi), water (jal), fire (agni), air (vayu) and ether or space (akash). Ayurveda practitioners believe that the alchemy of these elements is the basis of all life.
Existing in three states of matter–solid, liquid and gas–the origin of these five elements is as intriguing and mysterious as their characteristics. While some complement each other, others stand in contrast. For instance, fire and water can destroy each other, so can air and fire. On the other hand, earth and water nurture each other. However, any imbalance can wreak havoc causing calamities like volcanoes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and more.
While, the subtleties of these five elements still evade the logical mind, their effects are undeniable and the need to explore their power remains unsated.
The nature of nature is both nurturing and destructive. While, the subtleties of these five elements still evade the logical mind, their effects are undeniable and the need to explore their power remains unsated. The characteristics of these elements bear a strong resemblance to human traits. In our pursuit to understand these elements, we, at Soulveda, went about exploring and learning facts which are intriguing as well as humbling.
The earth element represents determination, steadfastness and an iron will to succeed, to overcome failures and to make things happen. We were born from the earth and we carry it in us. How else could we account for the sheer determination that men and women across time have demonstrated? On the other hand, earth nurtures and is ever-tolerant, just like a mother.
The elixir of life
Where there is water, there is life. Be it in the form of an endless ocean, a river in a valley, an oasis in a desert, a glacier in the mighty mountains or something as small as a puddle, this form of nature never fails to attract us. It cleanses, heals and nurtures. Water gives life to the path it chooses to take. Perhaps, this is why we are asked to be like flowing water.
Fiery as fire
There is no doubt that discovery of fire changed the course of mankind. The sun, a ball of fire millions of kilometres away, is our main source of energy. The power of this element is both constructive and destructive in equal measure. We can’t exist without it, and can’t exist with too much of it either. When a lamp is set alight, it brightens up the room it is kept in. However, if the lit lamp falls on the floor and the blaze spreads, the whole room is reduced to cinders in a matter of moments. Still, not all destruction is bad. When a volcano erupts, the whole area is wiped out. And even though the existing life comes to an end, the soil that forms after the lava cools is said to be the most fertile. Going by this line of thinking, fire is also synonymous with enlightenment.
Aspire, perspire, inspire
Inhale and exhale–the two actions are declarations of life. Anything living needs air. Other elements need air just as much to thrive. Fire cannot burn in vacuum, water itself is made of air and nothing would grow on this planet if there were no air pockets in it. Symbolising freshness and motion, a wisp of fresh air is like life lifting its head to another day.
Ether or space represents limitlessness, infinity and eternity. According to Ayurveda, the human spirit is made up of this element. A symbol of hope and enthusiasm, this element guarantees a calm reflection and the knowledge of more.
Earth teaches us to be tolerant, yet determined; water inspires us to be contented, yet reinventing; fire drives us to be passionate, yet subtle and warm; air keeps us moving, yet calm; and ether can be just as intimidating as it can be full of hope.
The five elements connect everything on this planet. Though their origin continues to be a mystery, they remain integral to life and its evolution.