The Elemental Attributes
Ayurveda believes that each of the five elements contains attributes. The properties, quality or attributes of each element might be as you can guess from your collective experience. In fact, anything we experience through our senses takes it forms, and its qualities form the elements. According to Ayurveda, these twenty attributes known as gunas, are the fundamental qualities of everything that exists, they are the basis for the properties of all objects in nature, both material and mental.
These elements combine in different proportions to make the material universe. They are relevant to Ayurveda as they form the substrate for the constitutional humor, tissues, channels, and wastes in the body as well as the frame work for determining tastes and properties of herbs and foods. They are different from the periodic elements of modern chemistry that are irreducible components of matter, indivisible by chemical intervention.
The Panchamahabutas (elements) are more closely associated with “states” of matter as opposed to their reducible molecular element. They are positive and negative, or the yin the yang. Within these, Ayurveda recognizes the whole universe, both internal and external as a manifestation of opposites. The twenty attributes make up ten pairs of opposites. Understanding these pairs that exist within the elements are essential for creating health and preventative protocols based on the theory of action and reaction.