elements, five
   In Hindu science, the five gross elements that make up the universe are ether/space (akasha), wind/air (vayu), fire (tejas or agni), water (ap or jala), and earth (PRITHIVI). They are enumerated among the 24 categories of all reality of SAMKHYA, a philosophical system originating in c. 500 B.C.E., and YOGA. These elements are in fact accepted as the basic elements of all material reality by the Hindu tradition in general. Though they seem simple elemental categories, one must see them as abstractions that contain in elemental terms much more than they signify as individual words. Via the TANMATRAS, or subtle elements, the five basic elements relate directly to the five senses in order: hearing (ether), touch (wind), sight (fire), taste (water), smell (earth).
   Further reading: Benimadhab Barua, A History of Pre-Buddhistic Indian Philosophy (Delhi: Motilal Banarsi-dass, 1970); Frits Staal, Concepts of Science in Europe and Asia (Leiden: International Institute for Asian Studies, 1993).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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