Among the knowledge systems that have been transmitted in lively traditions on the Indian subcontinent, Ayurveda, the “science of longevity” occupies a most prominent place. Ever wondered as to how the principles of Ayurveda took origin and developed subsequently? An attempt is made to find out the answers in this section.
The Theory Of Panchamahabhoota – Five Elements:
In the olden days, living in harmony with the nature played an important role in understanding its phenomenology in a subtle way. Ancient scholars noted different types of objects in the nature around them. Some of those objects having properties of hard, heavy and rough are commonly known as parthiva (earth). Few of the substances having the ability to flow and liquid in nature are termed as jaliya dravya (water). Few other substances with hot nature are called as taijasa/agneya dravya (fire). Some of the objects having properties of lightness and ability to create sound are termed as vayaviya (air) and the space, known by akasha, formed the base for existence of other four substances. They are collectively called as pancamahabhoota. Consequently, all the matters in the universe were accepted to be made of these five elements with the predominance of any one of them. Thus, the theory of pancamahabhoota got originated.
Theory Of Microcosm & Macrocosm – (Pinda-Brahmanda Nyaya):
Human body is an essence of universe. Pinda refers to “microcosm” while brahmanda refers to “macrocosm”. Individual creature (purusha) is a replica of the vast universe (loka) in subtle form. This is termed as “lokapurusha samyata” or “pinda brahmanda nyaya”.
Doctrine of Pancamahabhoota too follows this maxim. Various internal structures of the body constitute the five elements of the universe. Following table substantiates the above theory.
Table 1: Similarity between Universe and Human Body
|Factor in universe||Similarity in the body|
|Prithvi||Asthi (Bony structures)|
|Teja/Agni||Jatharagni (digestive fire)|
|Vayu||Process of Respiration|
|Akasha||Space within the major tracts like GIT|
Role of Mahabhoota in Maintaining the Health:
Balance of the five elements, i.e., pancamahabhoota in the body promotes health while their imbalance causes various ailments. Human body undergoes destruction every moment (sheeryata iti shareeram). Thus, to maintain the balance, the body desires for the substances that need to be replenished and vice-versa.
For instance, whenever there is decrease of jala mahabhoota in the body due to any cause like excessive sweating, the person starts to feel thirsty. On the contrary, if there is increase of agni mahabhoota in the body, the person gets aversion to drugs having hot potency (ushna veerya dravya). This self-defense mechanism prevents the undue imbalance of each of the element (mahabhoota) in
Understanding Samanya-Vishesha Siddhanta:
The primary aim of Ayurveda is to attain dhatusamyata. Ayurveda explains various treatment methodologies to attain this goal like external application (bahirparimarjana chikitsa) and internal medication (antarparimarjana chikitsa). Broadly, these treatment modalities act through two ways – shodhana and shamana. Shodhana is the action of the drug where undesirable components of the
body are eliminated out of the body while shamana acts by palliative effect within the body.
Once the drugs are administered, they result in replenishment of diminished element in the body or subsiding excess element. This treatment principle is classically termed as samanya-vishesha siddhanta.
For instance, if prithvi mahabhoota is decreased in the body, it needs to bereplenished by the drugs having properties like guru, sthira and sthoola. Similarly, jala mahabhoota requires drugs with properties like drava, sheeta, guru and snigdha. These examples depict the principle of samanya. On the contrary,whenever there is excess of mahabhoota in the body, drugs having opposite
qualities are used. For instance, increase of vayu in the body is pacified by the use of drugs with snigdha and guru qualities. Similarly, ap mahabhoota is pacified by using the drugs of rooksha, laghu and ushna properties. These examples show the principle of vishesha. Gradually, tridosha siddhanta became the face of panchamahabhoota in routine practice and thus, currently, samanya vishesha siddhanta is spoken in terms of tridosha, i.e., vata, pitta and kapha.
Panchamahabhoota theory of Ayurveda has a very strong root to the nature that it is time tested and enjoys universal acceptance. A famous quote says, “People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Thus, it is important for every Ayurveda pupil to know the origin, need and development of various fundamental principles. This helps in numerous ways like understanding the science and raising various research projects without compromising the basic principles. Hence, an attempt is made to analyze the origin of pancamahabhoota theory retrospectively and various other principles like pinda-brahmanda nyaya and samanya-vishesha theory are related to have the basicknowledge of treatment principles in ayurveda.