Five element theory is a crucial component of qigong philosophy and practice. The five elements are earth, metal, fire, water, and wood. Countless qigong forms and meditations are taught to help bring these elemental energies into balance. Within these forms and meditations, there are infinite correlations to the five elements, including positive and negative emotions, healing colors, the season cycle, and so on.
In this article, I would like to share one of the lesser known correlations–the Buddhist “pāramitā”–and tips for their application in qigong practice.
The following is an introduction to the pāramitā, translated and compiled from a variety of Buddhist sources by the non-profit organization:
The Heart of Dharma Collection
The Sanskrit word pāramitā means to cross over to the other shore. Pāramitā may also be translated as perfection, perfect realization, or reaching beyond limitation. Through the practice of the pāramitā, we cross over the sea of suffering (samsara) to the shore of happiness and awakening (Nirvana); we cross over from ignorance and delusion to enlightenment. Each of the pāramitā is an enlightened quality of the heart, a glorious virtue or attribute—the innate seed of perfect realization within us. The pāramitā are the very essence of our true nature. However, since these enlightened qualities of the heart have become obscured by delusion, selfishness, and other karmic tendencies, we must develop these potential qualities and bring them into expression. In this way, the pāramitā are an inner cultivation, a daily practice for wise, compassionate, loving, and enlightened living. The pāramitā are the kinds of virtuous practices required for skillfully serving the welfare of others and for the attainment of enlightenment. We must understand that bringing these virtuous qualities of our true nature into expression requires discipline, practice, and sincere cultivation. This is the path of the Bodhisattva—one who is dedicated to serving the highest welfare of all living beings with the awakened heart of unconditional love, skillful wisdom, and all-embracing compassion.
There are a total of six pāramitā (as practiced in the Mahāyāna branch of Buddhism). The first five pāramitā each relate to a specific element, and help in overcoming the negative emotion associated with that element.
The first five pāramitā are: Dāna, the practice of generosity: Vīrya, the practice of perseverance: Śīla, the practice of ethics: Kṣānti, the practice of patience: and Dhyāna, the practice of concentration.
The Dāna pāramitā, the practice of generosity, assists us in overcoming our worry, the harmful emotion of the earth element.
The Vīrya pāramitā, the practice of perseverance, helps us to overcome our sorrow, the harmful emotion of the metal element.
The Śīla pāramitā, the practice of ethics, helps us overcome our fear, the harmful emotion of the water element.
The Kṣānti pāramitā, the practice of patience, helps us overcome anger, the harmful emotion of the wood element.
Finally, the Dhyāna pāramitā, the practice of concentration, helps us overcome our anxiety, the harmful emotion of the fire element
In order to create a comprehensive practice of meditation upon the five elements, I have incorporated the wisdom of the pāramitā into healing affirmations. There are a total of four affirmations for each of the five elements. Below I’ve provided the third cycle of affirmations, which brings to mind the virtue of each element in the first line, and then the pāramitā of each element in the second.
Breathing in, I trust
Breathing out, I practice giving
Breathing in, I am courageous
Breathing out, I live with joyful enthusiasm
Breathing in, I am wise
Breathing out, I practice the perfection of ethics
Breathing in, I am loving and kind
Breathing out, I practice patience and tolerance
Breathing in, I am compassionate
Breathing out, I practice concentration
To practice these affirmations, I recommend making yourself comfortable, and repeating each one mentally about three times. As you practice each affirmation, you can bring your attention to the internal organs associated with each element, and grow in awareness of the healing affects you notice there.
Again, the affirmations I’ve provided above are the third cycle of affirmations. The first affirmation cycle is designed as a meditation to release the negative emotions of the elements. The second cycle utilizes the healing color of each element. The fourth cycle incorporates the transcendent wisdom of the sixth pāramitā.
I encourage you to try the affirmations I’ve provided in this article, and, if you find them helpful, you can find out more about my course, The Five Elements: Affirmations and Qigong, by visiting my website here, All of the affirmation cycles are provided in a convenient audio format (as well as printable text) in an online course (also available in book/CD/DVD format) entitled, The Five Elements: Affirmations and Qigong. The course also includes over an hour of video instruction in a dynamic form of five element qigong. Additionally, the course provides over 70 pages of text describing the pāramitā, five element theory, and additional meditations upon the meridians related to each element.
Adam Holtey Bio-
Adam Holtey began studying Tai-Chi and Buddhist meditation practices at the University of Oregon in 1998. In 2000, Adam moved from the University to his hometown of Ashland, where he began practicing “Dahn Hak,” a Korean mind-body discipline comprised of Taoist philosophy, and of Qigong and energy healing practices. Adam became a Master of Dahn Hak in 2003, and instructed at Dahn Centers throughout Oregon until 2008, at which time he opened his own health clinic in Central Point, Oregon, called, “Community Acupuncture + Natural Health.” In 2011, Adam opened a second location in Ashland, and is currently managing and teaching classes at both locations. Adam lives with his wife and two children in Talent, Oregon, and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at AffordableNaturalHealth.com