Mahabhuta, aka: Maha-bhuta, Mahābhūta; 11 Definition(s)

Introduction

Mahabhuta means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Purāṇa

Mahābhūta (महाभूत).—Five in number.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 101. 345.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Ayurveda (science of life)

Ayurveda uses Pañcamahābhūta theory as the fundamental basis of drug action. Each and every substance in this universe is considered to be made up of Pañcamahābhūta. Although, for easier understanding the term bhūta has been translated as basic elements, elementary particles, etc., but Vedic knowledge conceptualized the bhūta, not entirely on a material basis. Bhūtas are entities that can be perceived by the Jñānendriyas and thus have a holistic sense much beyond the material basis.

The bhūtas have practical applications in Ayurveda. A set of properties and actions is attributed to each of these mahābhūtas, one or some or all of which can be manifested in a substance when the mahābhūtas are present in a state of activation. Mere presence of mahābhūta will not lead to the manifestation of properties and actions, but the utkarṣa (activated/advantageous state) of mahābhūtas is fundamental to the expression of properties and actions.

(Source): PMC: The scientific basis of rasa (taste)
Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

General definition (in Hinduism)

The Five Gross Elements of Matter (Maha-bhuta):

  1. akasha-tattva: ether
  2. vayu-tattva: air
  3. tejas-tattva: fire
  4. apas-tattva: water
  5. prithivi-tattva: earth

Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth are condensations of the above described Primary Sensations. They represent the constituent forces that in various combinations make up the material substance of which physical objects are made.

For example, that which gives solidity to an object, belongs to the Earth-Tattva. That which gives fluidity belongs to the Water-Tattva. That which gives form and shape belongs to Fire. That which gives movement belongs to Air. And that which gives location and extension in space (i.e., size, direction, etc.) belongs to Ether.

Due to variation in their materiality or subtlety, the Gross Tattvas are perceived variously. Earth is perceived by its qualities of odour, taste, colour, feel and sound; Water by its qualities of taste, colour, feel and sound; Fire by its qualities of colour, feel and sound; Air by its qualities of feel and sound; and Ether, being the most subtle, is perceived by its qualitiy of sound, only.

(Source): Veda (wikidot): Hinduism

Mahābhūta (महाभूत).—The five material elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether.

(Source): ISKCON Press: Glossary

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

the 4 'primary elements', is another name for the 4 elements (dhātu) underlying all corporeality..

(Source): Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

Pali

mahābhūta : (nt.) the four great elements.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

General definition (in Buddhism)

Mahābhūta (महाभूत) or Pañcamahābhūta refers to the “five great elements” as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 39):

  1. pṛthvī (earth),
  2. āpas (water),
  3. tejas (fire),
  4. vāyu (wind),
  5. ākāśa (space).

The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (eg., mahābhūta). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

Mahābhūta is Sanskrit and Pāli for "great element."

In Hinduism's sacred literature, the "great" or "gross" elements (mahābhūta) are fivefold:

  1. space (or "ether"),
  2. air,
  3. fire,
  4. water
  5. and earth.

In Buddhism, the four Great Elements (Pali: cattāro mahābhūtāni) are

  1. earth,
  2. water,
  3. fire
  4. and air.

Mahābhūta is generally synonymous with catudhātu, which is Pāli for the "Four Elements."

(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Mahābhūta (महाभूत) refers to a class of bhūta deities according to the Digambara tradition of Jainism, while Śvetāmbara does not recognize this class. The bhūtas refer to a category of vyantaras gods which represents one of the four classes of celestial beings (devas).

The deities such as the Mahābhūtas are defined in ancient Jain cosmological texts such as the Saṃgrahaṇīratna in the Śvetāmbara tradition or the Tiloyapaṇṇati by Yativṛṣabha (5th century) in the Digambara tradition.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Jainism
General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

mahābhūta (महाभूत).—n (S) A primary element, as air, fire, water, earth, and ākāśa or ether.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

mahābhūta (महाभूत).—n A primary element, as air, fire, &c.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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