All organic and inorganic substances, as well as all thoughts and actions, have definite attributes. These attributes are categorized into 10 opposite pairs. It is possible to understand and describe the universe in its entirety in terms of the interactions of opposing basic attributes. These pairs of opposites must be understood as having relative relationships – relative to subject, relative to the individual and relative to standard normality. No attribute is absolute on its own.

The universal attributes are known as the 20 physical properties of

Ayurveda, and as the Chinese philosophy of Yin & Yang.

  1. Heavy (Guru) – Light (Laghu)
  2. Cold (Sita) – Warm (Ushna)
  3. Oily (Snighda) – Dry (Ruksha)
  4. Slow / Dull (Manda) – Quick / sharp (Tikshna)
  5. Gross (Sthula) – Subtle (Sukshma)
  6. Smooth (Slakshna) – Rough (Khara)
  7. Soft (Mridu) – Hard (Katina)
  8. Stationary (Stira) – Mobile (Sara)
  9. Solid (Sandra) – Liquid (Drava)
  10. Sticky / Cloudy (Pichil) – Not Sticky / Clear (Vishada)

In traditional medicine, there is a law which states that like increases like. When similar qualities come together, their quantitative expression increases. The concepts governing pharmacology, therapeutics and food preparation are based on the 20 attributes. Through an understanding and application of the actions of the attributes, balance can be maintained.

Table: how do the universal attributes influence Yin & Yang and the three Dosha (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha)

The sign + (plus) means increase

The sign – (minus) means decrease

S – Space

A – Air

F – Fire

W – Water

E – Earth

Quality Element Yin Yang Vata Pitta Kapha Digestion
Heavy W, E + +
Light S, A, F + + + +

Slow

Mild

Round

W, E + +

Fast

Acute

Sharp

A, F + + + +
Cold W, A + + +
Hot F + + +
Oily W + + +
Dry A, F, E + + +

Smooth

Slimy

S, W + + +
Rough A, E + + +

Dense

Solid

E + +
Liquid W + + +
Soft S, A + + +
Hard A, E + + +*
Static E + +
Mobile A + + + +
Subtle S, A, F + + + +
Gross E + +

Cloudy

Sticky

W + +
Clear A, F, E + + + +

*In late stages of disease it increases Kapha, such as when a tumor is formed.

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