The five elements

We’ve heard of the five elements in many a context.  Different cultures/belief systems interpret differently not only the significance of the five elements but also which very elements constitute the five.

Recently I came across a new definition of the five in the context of my own religion, Jainism. The five in this case were:

  1. Vaasthu:  This different from the normally referred element of “Earth”.  My interpretation of this is “Geography” instead of just “Geo”.  It has to do with the state of the earth/environment than just the bare earth.  Understanding that the people who were putting forth this definition were farmers, it seems that the vaasthu would refer to the suitability of the land for what ever purpose you have in mind.  It is nothing good or bad but just a state.  The state of the land that exists.
  2. Vayu:  The wind as is generally conjectured but it would seem more like the breeze that carries the pollen, blows the soil around and is generally part of the vaasthu.
  3. Megha:  The water here is not directly connected to the earth like the normal images of flowing water that come to mind when we think of this element.  For people who are growing something, it is the cloud that bears the water that is representative of the water.  This is more connected to Vayu than to Vaasthu but is still part of the Vaasthu.
  4. Agni:  Fire is universal in what it brings to mind.  It is the life giving heat from any source, solar or other.
  5. Naaga:  This word means “Snake” and it was intriguing to see how this fits into the place of the fifth elements.  Also the fifth element is the one that is different in every definition, sometimes time, sometimes space and sometimes something more abstract.  Here in the context that was being explored, the word was referring to life.  Life comes from earth and the snakes being the sub terrestrial beings are the ones that signify this.  Also the explanation continued, the elemental form of life, the tadpole, the sperm, etc all have the form of a snake, a head and a tail; becoming “Jeevanu”, the particle or elemental form of life.  The other 4 elements are necessary for life to thrive but life itself is created by other life.  It sounds like energy if you think about it.  Energy can neither be created, nor destroyed but it can be transformed.  So can life, in its cycle of coming into being from a single celled form to a multi-cellular creature which is then again relinquished to the elements that sustained it to be assimilated by other life.  The circle would then be complete.


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