BHUTA (Sanskrit, having come into existence)—in Indian philosophy, an element of the physical world. Most Indian philosophical systems teach that the foundation of the physical world consists in five bhutas, i.e., akasha (space or ether), air, fire, water, and earth.
Already in Vedic literature from around the tenth century BC the bhutas are only the lowest step in the hierarchy of the elements of reality as those which provide the beginning for the things of the physical world; in the vedanta, samkhya, and yoga systems (which accept ten bhutas), these elements are called gross (sthulabhuta) or great (mahabhuta), beside the so-called subtle elements (suksmabhuta or tanmatra) given in experience only to gods and yogis who have attained a properly elevated state of spiritual concentration (samadhi); they include divine sound, touch, hue, taste, and scents; from them come the great elements: from divine sound comes ether, from hue comes fire, from taste comes water, from odor comes earth; the concrete states of matter and ordinary sense impressions are only secondary equivalents of these ten elements. The gross elements are built from numerous atoms called “anu”.
S. Dasgupta, Yoga as Philosophy and Religion, Lo 1924, 59–83; J. H. Woods, The Yoga-System of Patanjali, C 1927, 149–153; S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Lo 1951 (Filozofia indyjska [Indian philosophy], I–II, Wwa 1959–1960); L. Cyboran, Klasyczna joga indyjska [Classical Indian yoga], Wwa 1986, 330.