3.2 The Three
Humors: Vata, Pita and Kapha
3.2.3 Elements: More
on Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth
Prior to 300 .C. The Chinese system of medicine used the dualistic concept of Yin and Yang. Along with acupuncture, the Chinese adopted the Five Element Theory which now forms the basis for understanding both Ayurveda and certain branches of Chinese. The five elements are not a simplistic way of dividing the universe. It is actually more correct to call the five elements the five states of matter. They are mass, liquidity, conversion, propulsion, and the field in which they operate. These five states are activated by energy or the given constituent. The concept of a given constituent - energy - was understood by both Chinese and Indian sages. It was called Qi or Prana.
It is only in the last hundred years that certain branches of science have concluded that energy is matter and that matter is energy. The Five Element Theory explains that the given constituent - energy - is the cause of the five principles of creation. Energy interacting with the field creates movement, or propulsion; propulsion creates friction or heat which causes the conversion of energy; conversion causes condensation or liquidity; as liquidity settles, mass is formed. This acute perception of the universe is the foundation of Ayurvedic medicine.
Dr. Frank Ros gives us a key to understanding the role of prana in the three humors. He points out that Vata is really ether + air + prana; that Pitta is really fire + water _ prana; and that Kapha is really water _ earth _ prana. He stats the obvious - which of course is not obvious to normal persons - that prana being life, the animator, the bio-energy, it must be present in each humor. This gives us the perception of how acupuncture and pranic healing and balance the three humors by direct manipulation of the pranic currents.
Dr. Robert Svoboda, in his book Prakruti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution, gives us yet another way to perceive these three humors as biological principles: water and earth do not naturally stay mixed together; some energy or force is needed to keep them together; kapha is that force. Water and fire do not mix; one will extinguish the other unless, like acid (which is both fire and water), some force can keep them together; pitta is that force. Air needs space in which to move too much or too little space creates problems, dispersion, or constriction: vata is that force that balances these two. Thus vata, pitta, and kapha are the pranic forces that keep the five states of matter in check and balance.
With this way of looking at the three primary principles, or humors, we can begin to see why traditional Ayurveda says these humors, by their very nature, go out of balance. They are said to be the cause of disease. Dr. Svoboda gives the translation of the Sanskrit word dosha (humor) as thing which can go out of whack. This is because they have a difficult job keeping solid and fluid, fluid and head, motion and space functioning smoothly together.