Tattva Studies

The five mahābhūtas



The five mahābhūtasare the ingredients of the physical world. They represent the final point of manifestation, where light (Prakāśa) is condensed into matter, yet, at the same time, the mahābhūtas remain identical with Śiva.

pṛithvī - earth

Pṛithvī tattvais produced by gandha tattva (medium for olfactory sensations). It is also the abode of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, the energy that resides in potentiality at the base of the spinal column. Kuṇḍalinī Śakti is identical to Para Śakti when it emerges and rises to the top chakra.

According to ṣaḍādhvānthe material world is created by Prakāśa(spiritual light, uncreated light). Kaśmir Śaivism describes the reflection of the top principle (Śiva tattva) right into the lowest principle (Pṛithvī tattva) – an idealistmonisticworld view where transcendence is present right in the middle of physical. Thus, there is no dualismbetween spirit and matter.

Pṛithvī tattvasignifies concreteness, stability, patience, strength, abundance, nurturing and protection. Pṛithvī is symbolised by the Mother Earth – a universal symbol for fecundity, inexhaustible creativity and sustenance. Pṛithvī's specific shape is square, the specific color is yellow-brown. Its corresponding force center is MuladharaChakra.


jala - water

Jala tattva(also known as apas tattva) refers to the liquid state. It is produced by Rasa tattva (the medium for taste sensations). Jala can assume any form, or we can say it contains all the possible forms. That is why it has been a symbol of the non-manifested, unlimited potentialities and the transcendence. Its basic state is passive and it can become the receptacle of various impressions and energies.

Other symbolsassociated with Jala tattva are: the power of purification, the subconscious mind, empathy, sexuality, abundance, power to dissolve, regenerate, the medium where the human life appears (amniotic fluid), the birthplace of life on our planet (primeval ocean) and the mythical chaosand formlessness that precedes creation. Waters exist before and after any cycle of creation. The linear flow of water as a river signifies the flow of time. Water immersion signifies the ritual regression to the original principle, reincorporation into the undifferentiated.[2]

tejas - fire

tejastattva is produced by Rūpa tattva, the medium for visual sensations and corresponds to the third chakra, ManipuraChakra. Some of the qualities of fire are: solar, masculine, dynamic, restless and extroverted. Tejas is associated with the digestive fire, passion, intuition and the uncreated light of consciousness (Prakasa). Traditionally it has been associated with a number of animals, both real and mythical: lion, fox, horse, salamander, phoenix and dragon. The tattvic form of Tejas is the upwards pointing triangle and the tattvic color is red.

The concept of agni(fire) is associated with the concept of soma(nectar) forming a complementary pair. Soma is fuel to agni and it quenches its continuous thirst. From their union a new creation is born, and vice versa, the pair agni – soma appears everywhere there is a creative process. For example in a loving couple, passion is agni and the loved one is soma. In the human body, digestion is agni and food is soma. In the tantric sexual alchemy, there is the pair tejas (agni) – ojas (soma). Even on a larger scale, in a star, the atomic fire is agni and the hydrogen fuel is soma. When one looks carefully we can find a soma for any agni. In the human psyche, agni acts as desire and intentional will, and soma is whatever is the object of that desire or will.

vāyu - air

Vāyu tattvais produced by Sparśa tattva (the medium for the tactile sensations).

The symbolism of air contains among other: masculine, yang, mobile, dry, subtle and elevated. It is a symbol for freedom, open spaces, intellect, mind, the ability to fly, penetrate anywhere (like air does), intangible and elusive (like the wind). Breath symbolises life, to breathe is to assimilate spiritual power. In many languages breath is associated to the notion of soul:

•     in Arabicand Hebrewthe word "ruh" signifies both "breath" and "spirit"

•     in Sanskrit, "atman" means breath, soul or vital principle

•     in Greek, "psyche" means both breath and life, soul

•     in Latin, "anima" means both breath and soul

•     in Romanian, the word "suflet" means soul, and comes from the word "suflu" which means breath

Vāyu tattvais considered to be the vehicle of prana; prana is the vital energy (etheric energy) that forms the etheric body(Pranamaya Kosa). Its tattvic shape is the circle, the color is blue.

ākāśa - aether

Ākāśa tattvais produced by Śabda, the medium for auditive sensations and is associated with the fifth chakra, Viśuddha. Ākāśa is fundamentally different from the other four mahābhūtas as it is non manifested in the physical world – it is the void, the space, support of the other four tattvas yet, unlike them, untouchable and unseen.

Ākāśa tattvais also called the aether or "fifth element". It is invisible, all pervading – a symbol of the spirit. It appears empty yet it contains huge energies (the energy of the void).

Aetheris associated to the sky, has no qualities (hot or cold, wet or dry, no odor) and is unchangeable. Ākāśa is the support of the cosmic memory (the ākāśic records). Its form is the ovoid. The ovoid is the form of Brahmāṇḍa, the primordial world-egg, origin of the creation.

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