The Mahabharata Home
"Bharadwaja said, 'When the high-souled Brahman has created thousands of creatures, why is it that only these five elements which he created first, which pervade all the universe and which are great creatures, have come to have the name of creatures applied to them exclusively?' 2
"Bhrigu said, 'All things that belong to the category of the Infinite or the Vast receive the appellation of Great. It is for this reason that these five elements have come to be called Great creatures. Activity is wind. The sound that is heard is space. The heat that is within it is fire. The liquid juices occurring in it are water. The solidified matter, viz., flesh and bones, are earth. The bodies (of living creatures) are thus made of the five (primeval) elements. All mobile and immobile objects are made of these five elements. The five senses also of living creatures partake of the five elements. The ear partakes of the properties of space, the nose of earth; the tongue of water; touch of wind; and the eyes of light (of fire).'
"Bharadwaja said, 'If all mobile and immobile objects be composed of these five elements, why is it that in all immobile objects those elements are
not visible? Trees do not appear to have any heat. They do not seem to have any motion. They are again made up of dense particles. The five elements are not noticeable in them. Trees do not hear: they do not see; they are not capable of the perceptions of scent or taste. They have not also the perception of touch. How then can they be regarded as composed of the five (primeval) elements? It seems to me that in consequence of the absence of any liquid material in them, of any heat, of any earth, of any wind, and of any empty space, trees cannot be regarded as compounds of the five (primeval) elements.'
"Bhrigu said, 'Without doubt, though possessed of density, trees have space within them. The putting forth of flowers and fruits is always taking place in them. They have heat within them in consequence of which leaf, bark, fruit, and flower, are seen to droop. They sicken and dry up. That shows they have perception of touch. Through sound of wind and fire and thunder, their fruits and flowers drop down. Sound is perceived through the ear. Trees have, therefore, ears and do hear. A creeper winds round a tree and goes about all its sides. A blind thing cannot find its way. For this reason it is evident that trees have vision. Then again trees recover vigour and put forth flowers in consequence of odours, good and bad, of the sacred perfume of diverse kinds of dhupas. It is plain that trees have scent. 1 They drink water by their roots. They catch diseases of diverse kinds. Those diseases again are cured by different operations. From this it is evident that trees have perceptions of taste. As one can suck up water through a bent lotus-stalk, trees also, with the aid of the wind, drink through their roots. They are susceptible of pleasure and pain, and grow when cut or lopped off. From these circumstances I see that trees have life. They are not inanimate. Fire and wind cause the water thus sucked up to be digested. According, again, to the quantity of the water taken up, the tree advances in growth and becomes humid. In the bodies of all mobile things the five elements occur. In each the proportions are different. It is in consequence of these five elements that mobile objects can move their bodies. Skin, flesh, bones, marrow, and arteries and veins, that exist together in the body are made of earth. Energy, wrath, eyes, internal heat, and that other heat which digest the food that is taken, these five, constitute the fire that occurs in all embodied creatures. 2 The ears, nostrils, mouth, heart, and stomach, these five, constitute the element of space that occurs in the bodies of living creatures. Phlegm, bile, sweat, fat, blood, are the five kinds of water that occur in mobile bodies. Through the breath called Prana a living creature is enabled to move. Through that called Vyana, they put forth strength for action. That called Apana moves downwards. That called Samana resides within the heart. Through that called Udana one eructates and is enabled to speak in consequence of its piercing through (the lungs, the throat, and the mouth). These are the five kinds of wind that cause an embodied creature to live and
move. The properties of scent an embodied creature knows through the earth-element in him. From the water-element he perceives taste. From the fire-element represented by the eyes, he perceives forms, and from the wind-element he obtains the perception of touch. Scent, touch, taste, vision, and sound, are regarded as the (general) properties of every mobile and immobile object. I shall first speak of the several kinds of scent. They are agreeable, disagreeable, sweet, pungent, far-going, varied, dry, indifferent. All these nine kinds of scent are founded upon the earth-element. Light is seen by the eyes and touch through the wind-element. Sound, touch, vision and taste are the properties of water. I shall speak (in detail) now of the perception of taste. Listen to me. High-souled Rishis have spoken of diverse kinds of taste. They are sweet, saltish, bitter, astringent, sour, and pungent. These are the six kinds of taste appertaining to the water-element. Light contributes to the vision of form. Form is of diverse kinds. Short, tall, thick, four-cornered, round, white, black, red, blue, yellow, reddish, hard, bright, smooth, oily, soft, and terrible. These are the sixteen different kinds of form which constitute the property of light or vision. The property of the wind-element is touch. Touch is of various kinds: warm, cold, agreeable.. disagreeable, indifferent, burning, mild, soft, light, and heavy. Both sound and touch are the two properties of the wind-element. These are the eleven properties that appertain to the wind. Space has only one property. It is called sound. I shall now tell thee the different kinds of sound. They are the seven original notes called Shadja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Mahdhyama, Panchama, Dhaivata and Nishada. These are the seven kinds of the property that appertains to space. Sound inheres like the Supreme Being in all space though attached especially to drums and other instruments. Whatever sound is heard from drums small and large, and conchs, and clouds, and cars, and animate and inanimate creatures, are all included in these seven kinds of sound already enumerated. Thus sound, which is the property of space, is of various kinds. The learned have said sound to be born of space. When raised by the different kinds of touch, which is the property of the wind, it may be heard. It cannot however, be heard, when the different kinds of touch are inceptive. The elements, mingling with their counterparts in the body, increase and grow. Water, fire, wind are always awake in the bodies of living creatures. They are the roots of the body. Pervading the five life-breaths (already mentioned) they reside in the body.'"
25:2 All created things are called Bhutas, but the five principal elements, viz., fire, air, earth, water, and space, are especially called Bhutas or Mahabhutas.
26:1 This is certainly curious as showing that the ancient Hindus knew how to treat diseased plants and restore them to vigour.
26:2 K.P. Singha wrongly renders this verse. The Burdwan translator is right.
Next: Section CLXXXV