Bhuta Shuddhi – A Comprehensive Guide on Its Significance, Benefits and Practices

“If you cleanse the elements, you will live a wonderful life.” —Sadhguru

Sadhguru: What you call as “my body” is just a manifestation of five elements – earth, water, fire, air and akasha (space). If you know how to organize these five elements properly within yourself, then there is nothing more to life. In terms of health, wellbeing, perception, knowing and enlightenment, everything is handled if you know how to keep these five elements properly. The most fundamental practice in the Yogic system, which is the basis of everything else that we are doing, is called bhuta shuddhi. “Bhuta” refers to the pancha bhutas or the five elements. “Shuddhi” means to cleanse that. If you learn to cleanse the five elements in the system, that is all there is. In terms of spiritual practices, whether you do yama, niyama, pranayamaasana, dharana, dhyanasamadhi or shoonya, essentially all of it is coming from the fundamentals of bhuta shuddhi. All other Yogic practices are an extract from the pancha bhuta system of Yoga. 

If you cleanse the elements, you will live a wonderful life. But if you are beyond that, the best thing is to forget about living a beautiful life and just transcend life, because living a beautiful life is a more complex situation than transcending. Transcending means to go beyond it. What is beyond is not bothered by so many complexities of the physicality. But if you want to be in the physical and still above it, that takes a little more mastery over the physical. If you have no mastery over the physical, you will get enslaved to the physical. 

If you do a certain level of cleansing for the elements, then you attain to what is called bhuta siddhi, which means you have mastery over the elements. Once you have mastery over the elements, you not only have mastery over the body and mind, but over the very creation. 

The Significance of Bhuta Shuddhi or Cleansing the Five Elements 

Everyone has some kind of capability with the elements, otherwise you would not even live a normal life. How well organized the five elements are in your system decides how firm, stable and organically strong this body is. There is a whole system of practices to take charge of the five elements within you. Some are direct, others are roundabout. Bhuta shuddhi can be practiced in a most simplistic way or in a highly sophisticated way. Or if you do not know how to do it yourself, someone can perform something which everyone can benefit from. There are bhuta shuddhi rituals such as the Pancha Bhuta Kriya happening in the Dhyanalinga every month. If you do not know how to do it, someone else will do it; you just sit there in the presence and benefit from that.

These elements are the basis of your creation. If you have even a minor mastery over them, you will start living in ways that other people think is magical. But there is nothing magical about it. Right now, let us say you drink water. The water does not look like you or resemble you, but if you drink this, it becomes you. This itself is magical. Your disease got cured; that is not a miracle. This water becoming you is a phenomenal miracle. Once you are capable of performing this miracle, you should be capable of many other minor things like fixing an ailment or fixing something that you damaged – because you are creating the whole body from inside using the four elements. Unfortunately, it is happening unconsciously. One can bring consciousness to how these four elements are becoming the human body. 

Why Do the Five Elements Need Cleansing?

Questioner: Why do the five elements need to be cleansed?

Sadhguru: If you pick up some water from the gutter, you may think it is impure, but it is not. There is much more life in gutter water than the water you drink from the bottle. It is just that that is not conducive for you. In human understanding and language, we call water as pure only if it is conducive for us. But gutter water is very pure for many lives. With the so-called pure water, you have killed all that life. All those other creatures do not think your bottled water is lifeless water, not pure water.

Purification essentially is in the context of human beings, not in terms of the element itself. Similarly, for many chemicals that are used as pharmaceuticals and various types of medicines, there is an industrial version and a medical version, because what is meant for human consumption and what is used for other purposes are different. This does not mean that the industrial version is impure. It is just that it is not in a condition which would work best for you. When we refer to the elements, we are speaking in the context of what is more conducive for us. In that context, we need to purify the elements. 

Five Elements and Karma

The body, the world and the universe are all a play of five elements. If the elements do not acquire other qualities or possibilities, there is no way you can create so many trillions of manifestations with just five. They are naturally receptive in nature. Today, we know we that can influence them. We can change the quality of the water, air and the food that we eat just with our intention, emotion or thought process. The five elements within you which make this body are deeply influenced by a certain gathered layer of information which is generally referred to as the karmic substance. Without it, the elements would not behave in a particular way within you. Every human being would have been the same if there was no specific information. What you call as your individual self is essentially a certain volume of information and the fundamental way that it is stuck onto you is through the elements, because there is nothing here apart from the elements. 

Cleansing the elements is about making it free of the accumulated information or the karmic substance. If this is not done, then you will be a strong individual but you will never know how to breach this boundary that you have set for yourself. If you cannot cross the boundary that you have set up, that is a foolish way to live. You set up a boundary without knowing why and you cannot cross it after some time and you start claiming, “This is how I am!” This is not how you are. This is what you made yourself to be. 

Cleansing becomes relevant when freedom and liberation become the goal of your life and you want to extend yourself beyond these boundaries. If you want to be a concrete ball, there is no need to cleanse at all. Concretization of karmic processes will make you rigid, and rigidity will bring enormous amount of suffering. You do not need a calamity to happen; you are a calamity by yourself. This is simply because the imprint is so deep that you behave in predetermined, compulsive ways. The same situation has happened a thousand times, but the next time it happens, you still react almost the same way. It takes a certain amount of awareness and shaking you up to respond in a different way. Bhuta shuddhi is to do it at the most fundamental level. 

Bhuta Shuddhi - Breaking Free from Karmic Imprint 

If we cleanse your mind in the morning, by afternoon you will have a whole new world again. It is really a waste. This is why no importance is given in the Yogic system towards your psychological structure. It does not care about what you think and feel because if you change it today, within a few hours you will change it back into something else again. 

We are only interested in the body. This is why Yoga calls everything as body – physical body, mental body, energy body – but no mind, because the psychological activity which you have given enormous importance to is of no consequence or significance. Depending upon the type of information imprinted within you, whatever is your karma and samskara, that is how you think and feel. Everything happens that way. If you prune the tree, it will sprout back with vengeance but if you handle the root, it will be gone. We are interested in handling the root and the very root of karmic imprint is in the elements. 

The Benefits of Doing Isha Bhuta Shuddhi Practice 

Bhuta shuddhi means you want to lose yourself. It does not matter whether it is good, bad, ugly or beautiful, you want to lose everything that you have built so that the Creator’s creation will stand up and shine within you. It will take a certain amount of work. The bhuta shuddhi that we teach is very basic. If you want to do more serious forms of bhuta shuddhi, it is not something that you do on the side; it becomes your entire life. But even if you do a very minor version of bhuta shuddhi, you will see the change that happens in you is permanent. There is no tendency to fall back, and that is important. Otherwise, everyone changes for three days and again they fall back into the rut. That will not happen when you assist whatever else you are doing with the bhuta shuddhi practice. It does not matter whether it is good, bad, ugly or beautiful, you want to lose everything that you have built so that the Creator’s creation will stand up and shine within you.

If you keep up the bhuta shuddhi practice, however small the practice is, you will see as time progresses, its impact is undeniable. Suppose you do six months of Yogasanas and give it up for one year; everything will be back as it was. If you do a powerful process like Shakti Chalana Kriya, its impact will be there, but if you do not do it for a certain period of time, it will turn back again. You do Shoonya meditation for some time and if you do not do it for a certain period of time, it will slowly turn back. But that is not the nature of bhuta shuddhi. If you do bhuta shuddhi, nothing seems to be happening because it is very fundamental and slow. But as long as you hold this body, it stays with you. It will not go because it is on a very fundamental level. That is the significance of bhuta shuddhi. If you do not hold a profession and if you do not have family either, then we can start a more serious form of bhuta shuddhi because it will take a lot of time. 

The Right Way to Do Bhuta Shuddhi for Maximum Benefit 

Often, human beings are doing some kind of bhuta shuddhi unconsciously, unknowingly and unintentionally. For example, there are leaders who change the atmosphere around them by their sheer presence. There are many people – not only spiritual ones – who, when they walk into a room, change the atmosphere there in an instant. This is a certain amount of bhuta shuddhi, performed unconsciously. If you can do it consciously, it is far more result-oriented. There are other aspects of energy that one can influence and thereby change the atmosphere, but this does not impact other people as profoundly as when the elements rearrange themselves because of a certain presence of energy and intention. 

The idea of practicing bhuta shuddhi is to rearrange the way the elements function within you. You want to change the intention with which they function within you. If the elements within you function in the same way as they function in the earth or a tree, it is not useful to you. In the human system, the elements function in a particular way. We want them to function that way and to transform themselves into higher possibilities. 

In fact, in every individual, the elements function in a unique manner. The traditional medical systems in the East have always identified these individual differences. Their diagnosis is not based on the disease or ailment that one has, but on how each individual’s system is constructed. There is no common prescription for everyone. Unless the doctor is able to look at each individual and identify what is needed for that particular person, the treatment does not work as well as it should. The treatment is according to how this particular body and human mechanism functions, and how it is arranged within itself, not based on the symptoms of a certain ailment. In other words, in Eastern systems, the treatment is never symptomatic, whereas the allopathic system is 100% about symptomatic treatment. If five people have the same symptoms, all five will be given the same medicine. But in Siddha and Ayurveda, if five people have the same symptoms, they will be given different types of medicine because the medication is for that particular system, not for the ailment. 

These five elements coming together and producing something so complex and fantastic is a tremendous love affair. Bhuta shuddhi should not happen like an exercise but like a love affair – with absolute involvement. It should happen with a sense of devotion and love. Your mind, emotions, energy and physical body – everything should be involved in this. Without this involvement, you still may get certain physical benefits, but you will not know the full depth and dimension of the process. If you give yourself totally to it, this simple process can change the fundamentals of your life. 

A Deeper Mystical Insight Into Bhuta Shuddhi 

The body is a play of five elements; so is the world; so is the universe. Everything is a play of five elements. Unless you want to explore mystical dimensions, you do not have to bother about akasha. Among the other four, seventy-two percent of the body is water, twelve percent is earth, six percent is air, four percent is fire and the remaining is akasha. To live well, four elements are enough; the fifth one (akasha) is not relevant for people who just want to live well. 

Water is seventy-two percent of your body. It is in sync with the planet; approximately seventy-two percent of the planet is water. That is how life has evolved. The nature of the planet has manifested in your body in many different ways. When you eat food, you must always eat food where the water content in the food is over seventy percent. This one thing that western societies are ignoring and paying a huge price for. A vegetable is over seventy percent water, a fruit is over ninety percent water. If you want cleansing to happen, you must eat fruit. If you just want to maintain the body as it is, a vegetable does this. Almost any traditional Eastern cooking naturally has over seventy percent water, because they were aware of this. If you drink water, it does not work like that; the food should have over seventy percent water content. 

All these four elements have memory. Particularly earth and water have a very strong sense of memory. Today, modern science has explored this in a big way and they are proving to you that water has tremendous memory. Much research has happened about water. Water behaves in a certain way depending upon the type of memory it carries. This is why people are going to consecrated spaces or temples and dying for a few drops of water, because the water has the memory of the divine. Teerth is water which has the memory of the divine. You want that water which has a good memory to go into you. 

If you just make the waters within you sweet, you will become seventy-two percent okay. If you do another twelve percent of earth, you are doing great with eighty-four percent. If you maintain air, you are doing great with ninety percent. If you want to purify fire, it is much more work. 

There are five dimensions of fire. There is reproductive fire, digestive fire, mental fire, heart fire and inner fire. These five are difficult to work for ordinary people. It takes a lot of discipline, but the three can be worked out. The reproductive, digestive and mental fires can be worked out very easily, with little effort. The other two will take much more to work with. If you just purify these fires, then you are no more an ordinary person. You are not just a healthy, happy person; you are much more because once you have mastery over the fire element in you, then you are touching the akasha. You are just one step away. Suddenly you are not just an ordinary human being, something else is burning with you which is most people in the world do not know. Our objective is that everyone should know it. If you took charge of the fire in your groin, the fire in your belly and the fire in your mind, you could do many miraculous things with this life. You could live consciously and by choice rather than be a slave of compulsiveness. This is not about denying yourself this or that. This is just about everything happening by choice, not by compulsion.

Editor's Note: 

Isha Bhuta Shuddhi Practice

Learn the practice from an Isha Hatha Yoga teacher. Click here to find a Hatha Yoga teacher near you.

Bhuta Shuddhi Kit

Required to learn the Isha Bhuta Shuddhi practice. The kit is available in a beautiful handcrafted copper box and organic cotton bag. Click here to order online. 

Bhuta Shuddhi Refills - Bhoomi and Camphor 

Bhoomi represents ‘earth’ in the five elements of bhuta shuddhi. This bhoomi is from a specific region in the Velliangiri Mountains where Sadhguru has spent time in sadhana. It is purified and consecrated before being offered for use in the bhuta shuddhi process. 

Camphor or karpooram is also known as chandrabhasma or moon powder in Ayurveda. It is used for the fire element during the bhuta shuddhi process. According to traditional systems of medicine, camphor purifies the air by acting as a natural insecticide, and may also help in relieving chest congestion. This pack of camphor that can last for 3 months, is composed of natural ingredients. When lit, these crystals burn without leaving any residue.