A Powerful Tool for Transformation
Sept – Oct 2023 • Vol 4, No 6
The five-element system is a powerful way to view the world and the process of transformation. The Chinese five-element system uses wood, fire, earth, metal, and water as the primary natural elements. The Vedic five element system is like the Chinese system but developed separately in India. The Vedic system also uses the elements of water, earth, and fire. However, the fourth and fifth elements in the Vedic system are space and air (rather than wood and metal).
Many traditional cultures categorize various aspects of life according to a system of natural elements. Natural element systems describe the relationship between different energies and phenomena in the world around us. Finding your natural element compatibility can help you to choose the mantras that are the most supportive and healing.
Determining Your Most Supportive Element
Each of the five elements have characteristics that can be identified as personality types. If you are predominantly one type, you may want to emphasize mantras that help to balance your approach to life. Look at the list of five personality types and elements below to see where you think you currently fit. As you go through life, your compatibility with one or more elements can shift.
For example, I am predominantly compatible with the water element. To balance this, I love to focus on fire chants! After years of this practice, I no longer have cold hands and feet. In fact, sometimes I feel a distinct surge of warmth while chanting. At this point, I could probably shift to chants connected to other elements, such as earth or air chants to avoid activating too much fire!
Fire Element Personalities
Fire energy is characterized by its ability to give off warmth and attract others. Predominately “fire” types place a great deal of emphasis on interpersonal relationships. Accordingly, they are romantic and idealistic, enthusiastic and emotional. The danger of too much fire is an excess of anger or passion.
Earth Element Personalities
The earth element can absorb excesses of the other elements. Earth personalities are forgiving and compassionate. Earth types are wonderful friends and great listeners. The main concern with being an earth type is the tendency to take on the burdens of others to a degree that is detrimental to yourself.
Water Element Personalities
Water can change effortlessly without losing its essential character. Water types are resourceful and single-minded, flowing over problems like a river. Water types can also store or “pool” their resources to be in a position of strength when opportunities arise. On the other hand, if a person has too much water, they may become overly emotional or stagnant.
Air Element Personalities
Air personalities are often highly intelligent, analyzing life at every turn. They literally breeze through life, moving quickly and making decisions easily. Things to watch out for in an air personality can be unpredictability or detachment.
Space (Ether) Element Personalities
The element of space is the subtlest and has the least defining characteristics. Space or ether is close to the concept of emptiness. In Sanskrit, this element is called akasha. This means the background against which everything is perceived. A person with this predominant element is someone who focuses on the eternal. Staying tethered to this world might be an issue for space (ether) personalities.
Finding Your Mantra
In the Vedic system, there are deities associated with each element. In turn, each deity has mantras and sounds that represent their unique energy. Under-standing the interactions between the five elements may also be a helpful place to start. These interactions can be simplified as: fire heats water; earth absorbs water; water puts out fire; air feeds fire; and space or ether supports the earth.
The list of deities associated with the five elements below will help you create more balance in your life!
Fire Mantras: To emphasize fire mantras, choose chants to Agni Deva (Lord of Fire), the heroic Lord Rama, or to the Goddess Kali or Durga.
Earth Mantras: To focus on the earth element, choose mantras to Ganesha (the Elephant-Headed God). The energy of a large, heavy creature like an elephant is a good metaphor for the earth.
Water Mantras: To increase the water element, there are a number of Hindu deities to choose from including Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth), Ganga Mata (Ganges Goddess), or Krishna.
Air Mantras: To generate more of the air element, try mantras to Hanuman (Monkey-Faced God), Shiva, or Buddha. Air mantras may help to lighten things up if you feel too earth-bound.
Space (Ether) Mantras: There is a deity associated with the element of ether named Isana. However, this deity has few traditional mantras. On the other hand, the Buddhist mantra “Gate gate pāragate pārasam gate boddhi swāhā” is clearly an ether-element chant. One of its many meanings is: “Gone, gone, everyone gone to the other shore, awakening, svaha.” This is a well-known mantra from the Buddhist text called The Heart Sutra.
Resources: Mantras for the five elements can be found at: KathleenKarlsen.com/mantras-songs. To learn more about the system of the five elements, visit: KathleenKarlsen.com/mantras-five-elements. Most of all, have fun experimenting with the mantras for each element!