The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2

 

Lake Mary Clinic and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

 

 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option #2 or (561) 510-3833

Basic Principles Of Ayurveda

The Three Doshas

The Five Elements

Everything in the universe is made up of combinations of the Five Elements (Pancha Mahabhutas). This includes the human being which also acquires a soul or spirit. These five elements are known as:

  • Space or Akasha
  • Air or Vayu
  • Fire or Tejas
  • Water or Apa
  • Earth or Prithvi

These five elements, it should be understood, derive from and are expressions of an unmanifest and undifferentiated Creative Principle, which is One. These five elements are to be understood in a material sense as well as a subtle sense. By earth we are to understand not only the terrain of our planet or the iron in our red blood cells and spleen, but also the quality of steadfastness of mind, strength of one’s moral fiber, one’s slow and quiet undeterred advancement towards a goal, and the resistance to the manifestations of others. By water we mean to imply the cohesive aspects of reality which flows into and holds things together, perfectly and simply witnessed in the ubiquitous H20 molecule. And the other elements too were intended by the ancient vaidyas (physicians) to communicate the essential universal principle inherent in a particular element. By fire we mean the universal force in nature that produces heat and radiates light; it is our passion to pursue despite obstacles and delays; it is what burns away the cloak of ignorance (avidya) and allows the Truth to shine with brilliance. Fire removes doubt from the mother-substance of human heart and replaces it with joy. Air is that transparent, rarefied, kinetic force which sets the universe in motion; it moves the blood through the vessels, wastes from the body, thoughts through the mind; it moves the birds to warmer climates in winter, it moves the planets around their suns. Space is the subtlest of all elements which is everywhere and touches everything; in the mind it is the vessel which receives all impressions, in the heart space accepts love; space is receptivity and non-resistance to what is true.

Thus these Five Subtle Elements (Pancha Mahabhutas) form the basis for all things found in the material creation, from a grain of sand to the complex physiology of every human being. Balancing these elements in just the right way for each unique individual is the key to maintaining health and treating disease should it arise, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual.

The Tridosha

The five elements can be seen to exist in the material universe at all scales both organic and inorganic, from peas to planets. When they enter into the biology of a living organism, man for example, they acquire a biological form. This means that the five elements are coded into three biological forces which govern all life processes. These three forces are known as the three doshas, or simply thetridosha.. The tridosha regulates every physiological and psychological process in the living organism. The interplay among them determines the qualities and conditions of the individual. A harmonious state of the three doshas creates balance and health; an imbalance, which might be an excess (vrddhi) or deficiency (ksaya), manifests as a sign or symptom of disease.

The three doshas are known as Vata, Pitta , and Kapha.

You can think of these three doshas as fundamental biological energies which regulate all the life processes of an individual. And as we will discuss later, although all individuals are made up of these same three energies, we all have them in unique proportions. The doshas obtain their qualities by virtue of their elemental composition as we can see in the simple diagram below.

Each of the three doshas is composed of two elements as shown here:

Elements Composing The Tridosha

Vata
Space (Akasha)
Air (Vayu)

Pitta
Fire (Tejas)
Water (Apa)

Kapha
Water (Apa)
Earth (Prithvi)

Thus, Vata is composed of space and air, Pitta of fire and water, and Kapha of water and earth.. Vata dosha has the mobility and quickness of space and air; Pitta dosha the metabolic qualities of fire and water; Kapha dosha the stability and solidity of water and earth. Interestingly, the Sanskrit entomology of the word dosha gives it the meaning of "blemish, that which darkens". This alerts us to the fact that when in balance these force are life-supporting but when imbalanced they are the agents of disease and misery.