Agni mahabhuta

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The word ‘agni’ literally means ‘fire’.[1] The word meaning of ‘tejas’ is glow, glare, splendor, light, fire, the bright appearance of human body, vital power, essence etc.[2] It is one among the panchamahabhuta. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/27]. The word teja also represents vitality or essence (oja). Agni is present in two forms: mahabhuta and pitta dosha. The present article deals with agni mahabhuta. Agni related to pitta dosha is dealt with separately.

Contributors
Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Pachamahabhuta / Agni
Authors Aneesh E.G., Deole Y.S.
Reviewed by Basisht G.
Affiliations Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar
Correspondence email: carakasamhita@gmail.com
Date of first publication: April 13, 2020

Etymology and definition

The word Agni is derived from three verbs – from 'going', from 'shining or burning', and from 'leading'. The letter "a" (अ) is from root "i" which means 'to go'. The letter "g" (ग्) is from the root "añj" meaning 'to shine' or "dah" meaning 'to burn'. And the last letter is by itself the root "nī" (नी) which means 'to lead'.[3]

Synonyms

Anala, teja, ushma, vaishvanara.

Contextual meanings

The term agni denotes the following meanings:

  1. Agni mahabhuta
  2. factors responsible for digestion and metabolism at various levels (Jatharagni, bhutagni and dhatvagni)
  3. Pitta dosha [Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 3/39]
  4. Fire
  5. Body heat in the form of teja[Chakrapani on Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 26/132]
  6. Essence of all dhatu (oja)[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana28/4]
  7. Power[Su.Sa.Su. 15/36]
  8. Brightness [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 4/37]

Evolution

In the sequence of evolution, agni evolves from the vayumahabhuta. Subtle(tanmatra) forms of sound(shabda),touch(sparsha) and shape(rupa) unify to form agnimahabhuta [Su.Sa.Sha.1/4].

Types of agni

Agni is present in two forms. 1)Eternal (nitya) and 2) Ephemeral(anitya ).[4] The most subtle (paramanu) form of agnimahabhuta is eternal. The secondary forms derived from it are ephemeral. The ephemeral form is observed as factors responsible for heat, digestion and metabolism in body (agni), subject matter for vision(darshanendriyadravya ) and object of vision.

General characteristics

The substance with predominance of agnimahabhuta possesses following properties:

  • Hot (ushna)
  • Sharp (teekshna)
  • Subtle (sukshma)
  • Light (laghu)
  • Dry (ruksha)
  • Clear (vishada)[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/11]
  • Rupa (vision) [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/27]

Specific character (lakshana)

Warmth (ushnatva) is the characteristic feature of agnimahabhuta.[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/29]. Agni mahabhuta has dominance of sattva and rajas guna among the three fundamental qualities (triguna) [Su.Sa.Sha.1/20].

Importance

Agni mahabhuta is one of the basic six constituents of purusha or holistic human being [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 5/4]. Agni is represented by heat in purusha[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana5/5). Therefore it is responsible for all transformation processes in the body.

Role in the formation of dhatu

  • The blood (rakta dhatu) has predominance of agnimahabhuta [Su.Sa.Su.15/10]. Menstrual blood with ovum (artava) also has agnimahabhuta dominance. Blood (rakta) in the eyeball represents the agni mahabhuta composition of eye [Su.Sa.Ut.1/11].
  • The constituents of vayu, jala and agnimahabhuta together form muscle tissue (mamsa dhatu) in the body.[Cha.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana15/29)
  • The constituents of prithvi, vayu and agnimahabhuta together form bone (asthi dhatu) [Su.Sa.Su.15/10].

Functions in embryogenesis and human body

  • During embryogenesis, agnimahabhuta carries out the functions of development of vision and its perception, digestion and warmth[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 4/12]. Moreover, it is also responsible for colour perception, good complexion, glow, bravery, anger and quickness of action [Su.Sa.Sha.1/19].
  • Agnimahabhuta is also responsible for dominance of Pittadosha in prakriti of an individual [Cha.Sa.Vimana sthana 8/95].
  • Agnimahabhuta carries out the function of digestion and transformation [Su.Sa.Sha.5/3].
  • If tejamahabhuta is absent in eye during embryogenesis, it results in congenital blindness. The excessive tejamahabhuta results in yellowish discoloration[AS.Sha.2/53].
  • The agnimahabhuta dominant substances produce burning(daha), digestion(paka), radiance(prabha), luster(prakasha) and colour(varna) [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/11]
  • All these functions are carried out in postnatal life too.
  • Reproductive fluid (shukra) is formed from unification of vayu, agni, prithvi and jala mahabhuta in equal proportion [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 2/4]
  • The visual sensory system including eyes have predominance of tejas mahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 8/14]. Thus agnimahabhuta plays significant role in sight and its perception.

Role in determining the complexion

  • The combination of tejadhatu, jala and akasha mahabhuta results in fair(gaura/avadatavarna) complexion [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 8/15].
  • An equilibrium of all the five mahabhuta results in sky-like bluish complexion (shyamavarna)[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 8/15].

Vital points(marma) and its agnimahabhuta constitution

  • The injury to sadyapranaharamarma(vital points)causes instant death due to agnimahabhuta predominance. Hence agnimahabhuta is responsible for instant death. The injury to kalantarapranaharamarma(vital points) also leads to death after some time, because of dominance of jalamahabhuta with agni. The qualities of jalamahabhuta can pacify actions of agni for some time.
  • Rujakaramarma(vital points) have predominance of agni and vayumahabhuta. Pain is caused as a result of these two mahabhuta [Su.Sa.Sha.6/16].

Importance in clinical practice

Application in diagnosis

  • Proper digestion, transformation, metabolic processes, heat production and thermal regulation etc. in the body is regulated by agnimahabhuta. Any abnormalities in these physiological functions are observed to assess proportion of agnimahabhuta. Excessive use of substances having agnimahabhuta predominance cause dizziness, burning pain, tremors, piercing and tearing pains [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana26/43].

Application in treatment

  • The substances having light (laghu) property possess vayu and agnimahabhuta predominance. Intake of such food items increases factors responsible for digestion (agni) [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana5/6). The quantity of food is determined by inherent nature of food (light or heavy to digest) based upon fundamental panchabhautik composition and capacity of an individual.
  • The pitta dosha is constituted from agnimahabhuta [AS.Su.20/2]. In pitta prakriti individual, the dominance of properties of agnimahabhuta are observed.
  • Similarly, in conditions of pittadosha aggravation, agnimahabhuta predominance is observed. The treatment of such conditions is done by avoiding diet and lifestyle measures with agni predominance.
  • On the other side, the agnimahabhuta dominant regimen is indicated in conditions of vata and kaphadosha aggravation [Su.Sa.Su.41/7-9).
  • The substances which are sour, salty and pungent in taste have dominance of agnimahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 26/40]. By wisely prescribing the drugs having above said tastes, one can treat various conditions of doshas.
  • Medicines for therapeutic emesis (vamana) have agni and vayumahabhuta dominance. Since both of these mahabhutas have lightness as their property, it carries the dosha in upward direction and thus it helps in expelling the doshas through mouth [Cha.Sa.Kalpa Sthana 1/5).
  • The drugs having predominance of agnimahabhuta initiates (deepana) and expedites digestion (pachana) in body [Su.Sa.Su.41/6].
  • Sudation (swedana) is achieved by applying principles of heat on body physiology. It liquifies morbid dosha and clears channels.
  • To attain the scrapping (lekhana) effect, drugs having more vayu and agniguna predominance are selected[Su.Sa.Su.41/6].
  • In the event of reduction in blood(rakta) in the body, the drugs having predominance of tejamahbhuta should be used [Su.Sa.Su.15/10].
  • Agni, vayu and akasha properties are used to cause emaciation(apatarpana or langhana) [Ah.Su.14/3].

Current views and researches

The subtle (tanmatra) form of all mahabhuta is eternal. During the evolution, the ‘indistinct’ (avyakta) acts as a seat for mass and energy. Due to the potential difference in the energy, elementary forces come into action and produce vibrations. These vibrations produce the sound potential i.e. first or shabdatanmatra. The vibrations further increase compelling the elementary forces to act vigorously and thus produce the touch potential or sparshatanmatra of vayumahabhuta. Once the vibrations increase, it may lead to collisions.This in turn results in the production of heat and light radiation potential.It is correlated to rupatanmatra of agni mahabhuta.[5].

Agni mahabhuta being a conversion factor is placed in middle among the panchamahabhutas. It has the capability to convert the akasha and vayumahabhuta to jala and prithvimahabhuta and vice versa. So it originates as the third mahabhuta during evolution.[6].

In quantum physics Bosons and Fermions are the two classes of elementary particles.Spin is an intrinsic property of these particles. They are basic building blocks of nature. These two particles differ in their spin, which result in fundamental differences in its behavior. Bosons have spin 0, 1 etc. and fermions have spin ½, 3/2 etc. The spin-1 force field (one among the five quantum mechanical spin types of a unified quantum field theory) is electromagnetism which is responsible for heat, chemical changes and light.[7] Tejomahabhuta is responsible for heat, sight and transformations. Dr. JohnHagelin, leading physicist in the area of unified quantum field theory, thus correlates tejamahabhuta with the spin-1 force field.[8].

A single cell of living organism has combination of five mahabhutas. The numerous metabolic activities taking place within the cell are governed by teja mahabhuta.[9].

List of theses done

  1. Upendra D. Dixit (1995). Concept of Panchmahabhuta& it’s utility in Chikitsa .
  2. Dr. Bishnupriya Mohanty (2004 Ph.D.) Biotransformation of Panchmahabhuta& it’s interpretation in terms of cell injury.
  3. Dwivedi L.D. (1969-M.D. and 1975-PhD).A study of concept of Panchmahabhutas
  4. Srivastav L. P. (1988).Concept of Panchmahabhutas in the light of Samkhya, Yoga & Ayurveda.

More information

Related articles

The list of references for Agni in Charak Samhita can be seen here Table_of_references_Agni_Page_1.pdf Table_of_references_Agni_Page_2.pdf

References

  1. Monier-Williams, Monier-Williams Sanskrit- English Dictionary, 1st edition; Oxford University Press, agni, Page 5
  2. Monier-Williams, Monier-Williams Sanskrit- English Dictionary, 1st edition; Oxford University Press, tejas, Page 454
  3. Lakshman Sarup (1998). The Nighantu and the Nirukta. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 120. ISBN 978-81-208-1381-6. Available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agni#cite_ref-31 accessed on 11-04-2020
  4. Dingarilakshmanachary.Acharya’sAyurvedeeyapadarthavigyana. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit pratisthan;2012.Chapter09, Tejo nirupana;p.59.
  5. Nalage D H. A study of Samskara and its role in alteration of Pancha-Bhautika composition of Dravya [MD Dissertation]. Jamnagar: Gujarat Ayurved University; 2004
  6. Gautam K. Critical study of “Bhutebhyohiparamyasmatnastichintachikitsite” w.s.r. to Santarpanotthaprameha& it’s management [MD Dissertation]. Jamnagar: Gujarat Ayurved University; 2007
  7. Sharma H. Correlation of physiological principles of Ayurveda with spin types of quantum physics. Annals Ayurvedic Med [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2020 Apr 03];7(3-4):72-74. Available from: https://www.aamjournal.in/fulltext/70-1531160335.pdf
  8. Hagelin.J. S. Is Consciousness the Unified Field? A Field Theorist’s Perspective. Modem Science and Vedic Science [Internet]. 1987 [cited 2020 Apr 03];7(1):29-87. Available from:https://www.psychicstudent.com/wp-content/uploads/hagelin.pdf
  9. Dr Kusum Malik, Dr Brijesh Mishra. Panchamahabhuta- Aadharbhut Siddhant and their application in Chikitsa. J Ayurveda Integr Med Sci 2018;5:146-150. http://dx.doi.org/10.21760/jaims.v3i5.13833