The entire world is made up of the five great Tattvas or elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. A sixth factor is Mahat Tattva or cosmic intelligence, though less talked about, changes the inner dynamics of these elements through Divine Consciousness, bringing about healing at an inner core. Everything in the manifest universe, including we human beings, is a configuration of these five Elements.
The process of Tantra requires the purification of the five elements in order to help the Kundalini Shakti ascend. The Kundalini can rise only when the elements in our body are purified of their heavier accretions. All sadhana, meditation and Yoga consists of different processes to purify these elements, aiding their flow and transformation.
Since the human body consists of a certain combination of these elements, they can be balanced in Ayurvedic medicine in order to restore our health. Akash, ether or space is the subtlest of the elements. It resembles the quantum mechanical concept of the field from which all matter is created and into which all matter resolves. Akash is the source of all the other elements, and interacts with them through its vibrations. Sound is the quality of ether, representing an entire spectrum of vibration: audible sound, cosmic radiation, X-rays, gamma rays, ultraviolet and visible light. Ether gives one the space in which to manifest and develop.
Fasting creates an inner space, a vacancy for the body to recuperate and repair, rest and heal itself. Ayurveda has classified certain movements or nature calls including sleep, sneezing, coughing, tears and perspiration to help us work with this space, emphasizing never interfering with our natural impulses. Space has various forms of manifestation, not just in the physical universe, but also the space of the mind moving to higher levels, and the supreme space of pure consciousness beyond every relative manifestation.
All space has its own energy. Space is the matrix of Shakti. The Goddess Bhuvaneshvari, the infinite Mother in her manifestation as the cosmic womb, is also the element of space, dwelling in the microcosmic space within the heart.
Space creates healing. Through accepting the failures of my emotional experiences, and the emptiness they created, I came to understand the true power of love. Love creates a supporting space, giving the loved one a freedom reaching far beyond the shackles of selfish desire. This beautiful space is one that nurtures and manifests as divine love.
The Agni or fire element in Tantra is the origin and end of all phenomena. The sacred fire has influenced spiritual rituals and traditions since the most ancient times. Fire is both worldly and transcendental. The Tantric texts explain the existence of both an ‘inner’ fire and an ‘outer’ fire. The inner fire is the vital principle focused at the navel center, which when stimulated by deep breathing blazes upward in the body consuming the impurities of both mind and body.
In Ayurveda, the fire in the navel is called Jatharagni, the gastric fire that helps digest food and allows for the assimilation of life sustaining nutrients. Fire gives one clarity and sharpness of perception. One of the simplest ways to enhance the fire element in the body is to sunbathe for fifteen to thirty minutes a day; but only in the rays of the early morning rising Sun or late afternoon setting Sun, when the sunrays fall on the body at an angle, and never vertically.
A half hour brisk daily walk has a salutary effect on the body. After a meal one should also take a leisurely stroll. Never bathe after a meal; it literally is like pouring water over a fire.
As an early morning ritual, after offering water to the Sun God, I would gently drink three glasses of water, concentrating on the flow moving through my being.
Jal tattva, the water element nourishes and sustains the spirit as well as the physical body. We must allow its flow into the psyche. The flow of water carries with it the Shakti energies and power of life. Ganga is pure Shakti; her energies can heal one’s being and psyche. Shakti can not only be found in the freedom of space but also in the free flow of water. Water nourishes the rasa in our being, rejuvenating our inner essence as well as creating an outer glow.
Rainwater is purifying and therapeutic in its effect. Bathing in rainwater washes away the body’s negativities, bringing about a sensual flow through the being. In our society, we must encourage natural systems of rainwater harvesting, more so in rural areas, to gain all of its benefits.
The worship of the air element can be done through the control of Prana, the life force as in the practice of Pranayama. One should do this with a certain amount of caution. Many instructors today misguide the layman. One needs to be physically and mentally fit to safely practice pranayama in today’s world.
Our nervous system should be not be overly stressed by the practice. Because we live in a heavily polluted environment, where the water and air is unclean, and noise, radiation, and stress surround us, our nervous system is weakened considerably. Pranayama done wrongly or too forcefully can disturb us further. Pranayama must be deeply understood by the teacher and by the student, considering the right environmental influences for it to really work.
Earth is the matrix, the mother and the ground of all the elements. Earth is the ultimate concentration of the elements that arise from space. Earth holds the power of eternal Being in its rocks and allows the elements to come together in the form of our bodies, which hold all five elements in a dynamic interplay to allow consciousness to ascend.
We have all the five elements within us in both body and mind. Otherwise life would not be possible. The subtler elements give movement, life and consciousness to the heavier elements. The heavier elements serve to sustain and support the subtle elements and hold them in a focused state. Let us remember to make all five tattvas sacred both within and around us. Then all the universe will be ours.
Yogini Shambhavi Devi