Saturday, October 3, 2009

'Pancha Maha Bhoota' is an ancient concept /philosophy.

In this article I would like to use the term ‘Panchabhuta’ as a synonym to Paryavaran (a Hindi word, which means Environment /ecology), because it has strong roots in the Indian cultural / religious / spiritual background.

The Indian public is more familiar with this word rather than any other recent terminology used for Environment. ‘Pancha’ means five; ‘Maha’ means great and Bhoota means Life Sustaining Element. Panchabhuta is a Sanskrit word meaning five classical elements or constituents. According to ancient Indian Philosophy, the universe is composed of panchabhutas. Even the body (whether it is human or animal body) and all kinds of foods are derived from this. Prithvi/Bhumi (earth), Apa /Jala (water), Agni / Tejas (fire), Vayu / Pavan (Air / Wind), and Akasha (Ether / Space) are the five elements of panchabhuta. These elements are kept in a certain balance in the universe and the body. Deviations from this balance ends in natural disasters, and diseases in the body.

Just like the human invented Gods, the ‘Panchabhutas’, are omnipresent (universal), omnipotent (all powerful) and seemingly omniscient (all knowing). All these exceptional characteristics of the Panchabhutas are attributed to Gods by our spiritual leaders. The only difference between the Gods and The Panchabhutas is that, one can see, touch or feel the presence of the Panchabhutas whereas nobody has seen the Gods except some fictitious sages in the ethics or puranas.

Apart from Hinduism, many ancient philosophies like the Buddhist, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic philosophies etc have used a set of archetypal classical elements to explain patterns in nature. In this context, the word element refers to a substance that is either a chemical compound or a mixture of chemical compounds

Aristotle, Plato, Socraties have also mentioned extensively about these classical elements

Lord Krishna says in Bagawad Gita,

“My existence is eight fold like earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and ego.”

Bhumir - apo - analo vayu kam mano
Bhudhireva cha
Ahankara Idiyam me binna
Prakruthiashtadha (Gita - 7.4)

The Universe manifests through these five elements or great cosmic energies. The universe exists in perfect balance. The five elements are the powers responsible for creation, protection, destruction, disappearance and appearance. The material existence of the cosmos is the earth.

From the Atharvaveda (XII: 1.1, 1.3, 1.6, 1.27,
Translation from Dwivedi and Tiwari 1987):

The earth is our mother, Aditi is cause of birth, and Space is our brother. May these all save us from sin. Sky is our father. May he be auspicious to us in our faults with forefathers. Let me not fall from the world by offending against relatives.

Truth, the great and fierce cosmic law, vow, penance, the ultimate truth bear the earth. She, wife of past and future, may make a wide space for us.
From whom ocean, rivers and waters, food and fields have come into existence (are born). The whole world comes to life in her breathing and moving. May earth give such to us.
Let us behave in accordance with the earth, treasure of all and mother of herbs, the firm earth bore by the truth and which is the auspicious seat.
Khasim, Mass Education

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