Three primordial forces, or principles (GUNAS) namely Sattva, Rajas & Tamas, interweaving to create the five elements – space, air, fire, water and earth – birth the entire creation.
The principle of stillness, tamas, replenishes the universe and its beings and is the main principle of support within the physical universe. The principle of self-organizing activity, rajas, gives motility and co-ordination to the universe and human life. The Principal of harmonic and cosmic intelligence, sattva, maintains universal and individual stasis and awareness. These three cosmic principles, called gunas, operating through the five elements they have created, directly interface with human existence.
On the physical plane, tamas works closely with the physical functions of the body, summarized as bodily humors called doshas, tissues and wastes. Tamas is said to exercise the greatest influence on the body’s water aspect, or Kapha dosha (humour)* human and gives the body its ability to cogitate and to endure long periods of gestation.
Rajas influences the psychic plane of existence and works closely with the psychological functions of the body. On the physical level, rajas is said to exercise the most influence on the body’s air aspect, Vata Dosha (humour)*. It gives us our power to transform what is being perceived externally into thoughts, concepts, visions, and dreams. eferred to as the universe’s cosmic intelligence, the third principle sattva, permeates each and every minute cell of our being. It functions through our existential states of awareness, although it also influences the physical organism to some extent. Within the physical body, sattva is said to exercise the most influence on its fire aspect, Pitta dosha (humour)*. Closely linked to the universal subtle fire, tejas, the sattva principle maintains the cosmic memory of the entire creation- the collective memory of every human- each individual’s memory accumulated from the beginning of time through each rebirth until the present time i.e– our personal wisdom.
As mentioned earlier the three primordial forces ( sattva , rajas & tamas ) interweave to create
the five elements( panchmahabhutas) which birth the entire creation. According to Ayurveda everything in life is composed of the Panchamahabhutas – Akash (Space), Vayu (Air), Jal (Water), Agni (Fire) and Prithvi (Earth). Omnipresent, they are mixed in an infinite variety of relative proportions such that each form of matter is distinctly unique. Constantly changing and interacting with each other, they create a situation of dynamic flux that keeps the world going.
This is a small example: Within a simple, single living cell for example the earth element predominates by giving structure to the cell. The water element is present in the cytoplasm or the liquid within the cell membrane. The fire element regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell. While the air element predominates the gases therein. The space occupied by the cell denoting the last of the elements.
In the case of a complex, multi-cellular organism as a human being for instance, akash (space) corresponds to spaces within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen etc.); vayu (air) denotes the movement (essentially muscular); agni (fire) controls the functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, metabolism); jal (water) is in all body fluids (as plasma, saliva, digestive juices); and prithvi (earth) manifests itself in the solid structure of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair etc).
The Panchmahabhutas therefore serve as the foundation of all diagnosis treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully. For example if a person has more of the fire element in the body he may suffer from more acid secretion (gastric/ digestive), which if causing harm in the form of hyperacidity etc., can be controlled by giving him food which contains more of jala (water) mahabhuta in it like sugarcane juice etc. The Physical, psychic and cosmic language of the body is created from the circadian rhythm of the universe set in motion some billions of years ago when the five great elements were born. Space, air, fire, water and earth, the first material for life, are the basis of the Vedic sciences. In Ayurveda human physiology and anatomy is rooted in bodily humors (doshas) tissues (dhatus) and wastes (malas). These three principles support all of life and are more than the physical substance of our anatomy.
Doshas are three in number called Tridoshas (tri meaning three and doshas being the basic physical energies/humors) . They are the primary and essential factors of the human body that govern our entire physical structure and function. Derived from the Panchmahabhutas (five elements), each dosha – which like the elements cannot be detected with our senses but their qualities can be. They are the combination of any two of the five bhutas (five elements) with the predominance of one. Called Vata, Pitta and Kapha in Sanskrit, these three are responsible for all the physiological and psychological processes within the body and mind – dynamic forces that determine growth and decay. Every physical characteristic, mental capacity and the emotional tendency of a human being can therefore be explained in terms of the tridoshas.When existing in the body of all living organisms, the five elements congregate in a certain pattern and are known in Sanskrit as doshas, the literal meaning of which is, “that which is quick to go out of balance.” Doshas imply that the human system maintains a delicate balance, its dynamic elemental composition always being on the verge of disorder.
The doshas are a classic example of energy and matter in dynamic accord. All matter born from energy remains intricately woven within its core nature of energy. In a state of balance or equilibrium, doshas are considered an energy force in that we cannot visibly detect them as they move through and support bodily function.
For example most of the physical phenomena ascribed to the nervous system by modern physiology for example, can be identified with Vata. Just as the entire chemical process operating in the human body can be attributed to Pitta, including enzymes, hormones and the complete nutritional system. And the activities of the skeletal and the anabolic system, actually the entire physical volume of an organism, can be considered as Kapha. In a state of imbalance or disequilibrium the doshas become visible as excessive mucus, bile, flatus, and physical matter. When these early signs of disorder are ignored, imbalances can quickly become full-blown diseases.
In this unique system of explaining health, air and space—both ethereal elements – form one of the three doshas called Vata. Here air exercises its power of mobility only when space is available. The elements fire and water form a second dosha called Pitta. Here the bodily water protects the heat of the body from burning through. An example of bodily fire is the acid in our stomachs, which, if leaked from the stomach, is capable of burning the organism with the force of a raging fire. Water is the buffering force that contains the body’s fires. The elements water and earth combine to form the third dosha called Kapha. Because of their mutual density, water gives earth its fluidity. Without water, earth would become stagnated and inert. Thus, the Kapha dosha enables a certain fluidity in the body without depriving it of its solid support. Thus the three doshas co-exist in all living organisms. It is important to realize that these three are forces and not substances. Kapha is not mucus; it is the force that causes mucus to arise. Similarly pitta is not bile; but that which causes bile to be produced. And they are called doshas – literally meaning `faults’ or `that which is imbalanced’- as they indicate the fault lines along which the system can become imbalanced.
It is equally important to understand that the three doshas within any person keep changing constantly due to their doshic qualities, the specific lifestyle and environment of the person, time and the season. Remember that these three are not separate energies but different aspects of the same energy, present together in an infinitevariety of combination .The degree to which each dosha exists within a person determines the individual’s constitution, commonly referred to as body type. Each dosha thus shares a quality with another (although there remain slight differences in the nature of shared quality). Also, each has an inherent ability to regulate and balance itself, which comes from the opposite qualities that arise from the doshas constituent (basic) elements.
When the doshas are in balance i.e. in a state of equilibrium, we remain healthy. As Charaka, the great ayurvedic sage, explained: “Vata, pitta and kapha maintain the integrity of the living human organism in their normal state and combine so as to make the man a complete being with his indriyas (sense organs) possessed of strength, good complexion and assured of longevity.” It is only when that there is imbalance within these three doshas that disease is caused. And since it is the strongest dosha in the constitution that usually has the greatest tendency to increase, one is most susceptible to illnesses associated with an increase of the same.
Each dosha also has a primary function in the body. Vata is the moving force, Pitta is the force of assimilation, and Kapha is the force of stability. Vata, the most dominant of the doshas, governs bodily movement, the nervous system, and the life force. Without Vata’s mobility in the body, Pitta and Kapha would be rendered lame. Pitta governs enzymatic and hormonal activities, and is responsible for digestion, pigmentation, body temperature, hunger, thirst, and sight. Further, Pitta acts as a balancing force for Vata and Kapha. Kapha governs the body’s structure and stability. It lubricates joints, provides moisture to the skin, heals wounds, and regulates Vata and Pitta. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha pervade the entire body, but their primary domains are in the lower, middle, and upper body, respectively. Kapha rules the head, neck, thorax, chest, and upper portion of the stomach, fat tissues, and the joints. Pitta pervades the chest, umbilical area, stomach, small intestines, sweat and lymph glands, and the blood. Vata dominates the body, pelvic region, colon, bladder, urinary tract, thighs, legs, arms, bones, and nervous system.
Apart form its main site; each dosha has four secondary sites located in different areas of the body. Thus each dosha then has five sites considered to be its centres of operation, which include the various outreach systems because of which the entire body functions. The doshas interact continuously with the external elements to replenish their energy within the body. Each of the three doshas’ five sites has a specific responsibility towards the maintenance of the organism.
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