The Pancha Mahabhūtas (5 Elements) exist within the entire universe, the Earth and within our bodies. Also referred to as the mahabhūtas, these 5 elements consist of ether, air, fire, water and earth. They manifest in our physical makeup, bodily functions and the workings of the 5 senses. These elements tie us in to the concept that we are a microcosm of the macrocosm (Earth and beyond).
The mahabhūtas are:
We are most familiar with the 5 great elements with observation and experience of the natural & wild world we live in. We experience the air we breathe, sounds, wind and movement. We live with fire in our fireplaces and on our cooking stoves. Fire is in the sun and active volcanoes (hello Mauna Loa!). We drink water, shower and bathe with it. We experience rain and live by rivers, streams and oceans. We have plants growing all around us and walk on the ground everyday. All the food we consume is of the Earth and contains all 5 elements.
In the universe, ether is represented in the greater sound that is formless and omnipresent. Air is electrical energy, flow of consciousness and movement. Fire is birthed from friction and is in the millions of burning stars. Water is in cosmic ice, meteors, asteroids and on moons. It is a universal medium that carries information and the seed for life. Earth is the Earth herself, as well as all other compact masses of minerals. The Earth is a perfect example of all elements at play and how they create and give life when they are in symphony together.
In our bodies, ether is present in our hollow organs and cavities in the body. Air exists in our breath, movements, pulse and expansion and contraction of the lungs. Fire is represented in our metabolism, digestive fire, enzymes, intelligence and the thinking brain. Water is in our bloodstream and plasma, lymph system, digestive juices, mucous membranes, and makes up so much of our physical bodies. Earth is the hard exterior and interior parts of our body that make up our mass and bones. The mahabhūtas hold a deep reflection of our human and earthly experience.
Each of these elements has a correlating tanmātrā (sensory perception) and organ.
Ether: Shabda (sound) & ears
Air: Sparsha (touch) & skin
Fire: Rupa (form) & eyes
Water: Rasa (taste) & tongue
Earth: Gandha (odor) & nose
The 5 elements also have a karmendriya (faculty of action) and an associated motor organ.
Ether: speech & vocal cords
Air: giving/receiving & hands
Fire: walking & legs
Water: procreation & genitals
Earth: elimination & excretory organs
The interaction of sattva (purity) and rajas (movement) form the 5 jñānendriyas (sensory faculties).
The pancha mahabhūtas, tanmātrās, karmendriyas and jñānendriyas make up 20 of the 24 principles of creation in Sānkhya Philosophy. This is a philosophy of life, including the manifestation of the universe and truth of consciousness. All of these principles connect back to the elements and a dynamic existence that is woven with the cosmos and the great mystery. It is comforting to know that we all arise from the same elements that also make up source above & below :)