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Ayurveda, The Science of Life

INTRODUCTION TO AYURVEDA

Ayurveda is a science of life. Ayurveda accepts and asserts that every entity on this earth, living or non-living is produced by the five elements or Pancha- mahabhootas. Ayurveda or the Veda of life is the world’s oldest known medical science originating in India over five thousand years ago. The available written source of this science is the Vedas. Ayurveda is a science, which teaches us how to adopt nature’s rhythm in our daily living. Literally the word “Ayus” means span of life and “Veda”means knowledge. This life science acknowledges the truth of Cosmos i.e. human beings are the miniature or extension of this universe. Human beings have Jivatma (Consciousness) and are connected to Parmatma (Cosmic soul). Not only that, but even everything, living or non-living is in connection directly or indirectly, with every other living or non-living in the universe either through five basic elements (Pancha-mahabhootas) through cosmic souls (Parmatma.) Everything in this universe is acting and reacting with every other thing in it, in one way or another.

Ayurveda is the science which is the discovery of the truth that establishes that body, mind and consciousness are in constant interaction and relationship with all living beings and nature. Ayurveda imparted its profound knowledge to the world without reservations or sanctions and also accepted new ideas from others with a broad and open mind. Ayurveda is a well balanced medical science. It teaches how to maintain a perfect healthy condition. It also describes the ways and means to prevent various diseases. Then it turns to the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. Holistic approach, while treating a patient is a unique feature of Ayurveda. While diagnosing, the constitution, mental make up are also taken into account with the signs and symptoms of a disease. Disease may be the same, but the Diet style, lifestyle, Panchakarma (Detox-therapy), Rejuvenation (rasayan), herbal therapy, aromatherapy and sound therapy vary according to the constitution and mental characteristics of the patient.

Ayurveda is the first medical science in the world which knew the importance of mind in maintaining perfect health. Ayurveda also understood the vital role of mind as an etiological factor in creation of a disease and at the same time it can be a useful means in curing a disease. Ayurveda determined the inseparable unity of mind and body. Ayurveda believes in the existence of the spiritual dimension of human beings. It states the principle of 'Jivatma and Parmatma' and asserts further that Human soul, which is the centre of vitality of human life, is part and parcel of the cosmic soul. As the human soul which originates from and ends in the cosmic soul at the time of birth and death respectively of a human being, it is a fountain of tremendous energy which can be tapped and utilized by specific preventive and curative instrument in medical therapeutics.

Ayurveda holds that all the non-living or inanimate objects in the universe are created by combining in various ways the minute indivisible particles of earth, water, energy, air and space. So also, all living creatures from microbes to man originate from the combinations in various ways, of the same indivisible particles of the five primordial together with mind and unit souls.

The Fourfold Vision of Life

Ayurveda originated as part of the “Vedic Science” which was established by the great seers and sages who produced India’s original systems of Yoga and meditation. Vedic science includes Yoga, meditation, astrology and Ayurveda which is set forth as a branch for dealing with the physical body. The aim of Ayurveda is prolongation of healthy life, prevention of diseases, maintenance of health, prevent senility of a person and help a person to attain the four principal aims of life i.e. Dharma (virtue), Artha (Wealth), Kama (affluence/prosperity) and Moksha (salvation or liberation).In order for an individual to realize their supreme Self, they need to identify the reasons and objectives why they came into being on this earth plane, and fulfill them. The ancient seers clearly articulated the objectives of humankind as "Purusharthas" -- 'Purusha' means an individual or person, and 'Artha' means meaning or objective or pursuit. They articulated four Purusharthas as:

  • Dharma : Righteousness, Duty

  • Artha : Wealth

  • Kama : Desire

  • Moksha : Liberation

The four Purusharthas are really the objectives of God(Higher Energy), of the Supreme Self, the qualities of God. And since an individual person is a reflection of God, is a part of God, it is the rightful pursuit of a person to fulfill these four Purusharthas. An individual can realize him or herself by balancing and fulfilling these four objectives. These four objectives are not independent of each other and should not be viewed in a stand-alone manner. They define and refine the other objectives and allow the other objectives to define and refine it. The activity of fulfilling one objective should also support the fulfillment of the other objectives. By maintaining a balance between the definition and fulfillment of the four Purusharthas, a symbiotic evolution of the individual self takes place. Exclusive pursuit of one Purusharthas creates an imbalance in a person's life, and prevents the person from reaching the ultimate destination of their life. As a person progresses through the evolution of their soul, they find that some of the objectives eventually lose their place and importance to more predominantly make way for the others. For example, the desire to earn wealth may diminish and disappear, or a person may come to the realization that there is no more material desires that they need to pursue, and hence more room is created for the pursuit of the ultimate objective, Moksha.

The Eight Limbs of Ayurveda

Ayurveda was formally organized into eight sections or branches called Astanga (“eight-limb” of) Ayurveda. A founding sage was chosen at the conference to head a committee on each branch and to write the defining text. All the texts were written in Sanskrit, the language of the Aryans. This formed the basis for the different schools and traditions that evolved over the ensuing centuries. The names of the chairman from each branch are known, but many of the texts were lost and only available as a result of references from existing texts.

The eight branches of Ayurveda are:

  1. Kaya Chikitsa (General Medicine) - Healing and detoxifying measures are discussed under this part of Ayurveda.

  2. Shalya tantra (Surgery)- dealing with extraction of foreign bodies

  3. Shalakya Tantra (ENT and Ophthalmology) - Dealing with disease of supra-clavicular region- ENT. & Ophthalmology

  4. Agad-tantra. (Toxicology & Forensic medicine) dealing with alleviation of poison, artificial poison and toxic symptoms due to intake of antagonistic substance

  5. Kaumar Bhritya (Gynecology)

  6. Balchikitsa(Paediatrics)

  7. Bhoot Vidya- Graha Chikitsa (Psychiatry & Psychology-- Psychosomatic Treatment)- dealing with spirit or organisms- Psychiatry Medicine

  8. Rasayana & Vajikarna (Anti-ageing & Geriatrics & Aphrodisiacs -- Rejuvenation therapies)- dealing with promotional measures: rejuvenation and aphrodisiacs

In these eight parts, Rasayana and Vajikarna are meant to promote health and to prevent the diseases. Rests are aimed to cure different diseases of different parts.

He, who has completed, Knowledge of all these eight limbs in detail, Is the real Vaidya “A Physician”!!

Ayurveda had many stages of development in its long history and during its course spread the Vedic traditional culture as Far East as Indonesia and to the west influenced the ancient Greeks who also developed a alike form of medicine. It was adopted by the Buddhist who added many new reforms to it and took it along with their religion to many different countries. During Buddhist period, the universities of Taksasila and Nalanda became the centers of learning of Ayurveda. Thus Ayurveda became the basis of the healing traditions of Tibet, Sri Lanka, Burma and other Buddhist lands and greatly influenced Chinese medicine. Medicine was considered as an Upveda in Vedic period and an analysis of Vedas reveals that all the four Vedas are replete with references to various aspects of medicines. The Rig Veda mentions many medicinal plants and nearly 200 medicinal plants are described in the Atharva Veda. In the Upanishad period knowledge was more systematized and the classical texts like Caraka Samhita came during the seventh century B.C. Ayurveda is emerging today as a point of synthesis towards globalization of medicine with a fusion of eastern traditional medicines and western medicine. Since Ayurveda has the largest number of healing modalities it today comes to be the most accepted traditional medical science to bring about this synergy in the world. The main objective of Ayurveda is maintenance of the metabolic equilibrium of the human psychosomatic machine and the restoration of the same to normalcy. Ayurveda establishes that the mind governs every aspect of the healing, prevention and maintenance program of the body. Ayurveda asserts that the mind (ubhayendra) acts as a sense organ (driyandriya) and organ of function (karmandriya) and at the same time it is a bridge between the physical body and soul. This establishes Ayurveda as a complete holistic healing system with fundamental constituents of the body being Doshas, Dhatus, Malas and Agni. Doshas are divided into two a. Biological (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and b. Psychological (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). These govern the entire body and mind. Doshas have three states 1. Ksaya (decrease) 2. Sthana (normalcy) and 3. Vriddhi (increase). Dhatus is that which sustains the body and are basic tissue elements. They are in total seven - Rasa, (plasma), Rakta, (blood) Mamsa, (muscle) Medas, (adipose) Asthi, (bones) Majja (bone marrow) and Shukra. (hormones). The Malas are toxins and their release process are Mutra (urine), Sakrt (stool) and Swedha (sweat). Agni are thirteen in total Jatharagni (one), Bhutagni (five) and Dhatu Agni (seven).

Along with the above mentioned fundamentals Ayurveda deals with constitution

(Prakruti) of the body, diet and nutrition, concept of Balas, Ojas, Ama, tejas and lifestyle treatment for health enhancement and disease prevention. In this it incorporates Yoga asana, meditation, rest, relaxation, pranayama (breathing techniques), Panchakarma (cleansing and rejuvenation programs) and medicinal herbs. Ayurveda not only pays attention to personal well being but also explains in detail how to achieve harmony with oneself and the society. It is considered as an instruction manual of natural living presented in a simplified form for the human beings to live in balance and harmony. Ayurveda lays special emphasis on individual constitution (prakruti) and develops a systematic approach towards maintaining your physical and mental health after understanding the characteristics of the body and mind. Understanding this enables you to become your own healer. In fact, you become your own dietician, personal trainer, psychologist, stylist and beautician. The purpose of these routines is to encourage longevity, vitality, physical and mental strength, balancing mind and emotions. Thus Ayurveda means the “science of life” which also covers the “art of living”.

Ayurveda is a combination of Sarira (body), Indriya (preceptory organs), Sattva (mind) and Atman (soul). In this lies the basic difference in Ayurveda and other systems of medicine that even the soul which is unknown has been incorporated in the study of this science. According to the spiritual tradition of India disease has two causes’ a. physical and psychological imbalances and b. which arises from Karmic causes i.e. the effects of wrong actions done in life psychologically and spiritually. Most diseases arise out of physical and spiritual factors and treatment is given in both levels by correcting the physical, astral and spiritual bodies which in western medicine can be understood as body, mind and soul. Ayurveda thus involves a holistic treatment of the entire human being and full cosmic nature by correcting disorders in the energy field governing the physical body and the consciousness. Disease is often a lack of loving oneself and one's physical body which requires an understanding that everyone's life has a purpose and meaning in the development of the soul and body in seeking the truth in the way that is closest to our heart and following our own spiritual path and respecting the right of others to follow their own paths. Ayurveda thus respects the Divine nature and the freedom of each individual to approach truth which is necessary and meaningful for them.

UNIQUE FEATURES OF AYURVEDA

(1) Ayurveda is a well balanced medical science. It teaches how to maintain a perfect healthy condition. It also describes the ways and means to prevent various diseases. Then it turns to the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases.

(2) Holistic approach, while treating a patient is a unique feature of Ayurveda. While diagnosing, the constitution, mental make up are also taken into account with the signs and symptoms of a disease. Disease may be the same, but the Ayurvedic Nutrition and various Ayurvedic therapies vary according to the constitutional and mental characteristics of the patient.

(3) Another unique finding of Ayurveda is that the quality of mind is affected very greatly by the nature of food you eat. Satva, Raja and Tama are the three qualities of mind and of the food as well. Food of satvika quality will boost up Satva nature of mind. Same is the case with Rajas and Tamasik natures of food. Persons eating vegetarian diet in natural forms like fruits, milk, honey etc. are generally of satvika i.e. gentle nature. People eating non-vegetarian diet can increase Rajas nature i.e. of aggressive, anger and arrogant nature. While people eating unhygienic, contaminated, non- nutritious, ill-preserved food and having addiction like alcohol, opium are of Tamasik nature i.e. they are ignorant and wayward.

(4) Ayurveda is based on basic philosophy of its own. It includes three important concepts.

(a) Concept of Three Basic Omni-substances i.e. Trigunas viz. Satva, Raja and Tama which are a creative cause of five elements (Panch Mahabhootas)

(b) Five elements (Panchamahabhootas) viz. Pruthvi (Earth), Jala (Water), Agni (Energy or Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akasha (space). They are the causative factors or tridoshas i.e. three biological elements viz. Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Everything in this world is made up of five elements. The variety of form, shape and quality is due to various percentages of the five elements.

(c) Three biological elements i.e. Tridoshas, Human body, the diseases and the Herbs, which basically originated from five elements. have their biochemical base on tridoshas and their structures and actions i.e. anatomy and physiology is controlled by tridoshas i.e. three humors. This tripod base makes it easier to ascertain constitution i.e. Prakruti of a patient, to diagnose a disease and to select a suitable therapy for it. Also applying the tridoshas theory hints of good health can be achieved through correct diet, correct lifestyle which will cut off aetiology of the disease (Nidan parivarjana) and speed up recovery without side effects. This tridoshas theory is helpful also for minute differential diagnosis, prognosis and also for prevention of a disease.

(5) Local Abnormity i.e. Sthana Vaigunya is a peculiar concept of Ayurveda. If the vitality and resistance of an organ or a tissue becomes weakened, there is every possibility of that organ or tissue to be diseased. The local abnormality may be structural or/and functional. When the increased or vitiated tridoshas occupy this weak or debilitated organ or tissue, disease of that particular organ or tissue becomes a certainty. But if the organ or tissue is normal in all respects the increased or decreased doshas cannot invade and occupy it and the organ successfully escapes the possibility of any disease.

(6) ‘Agni Concept' of Ayurveda is also a unique feature of Ayurveda. Agni is a fire element and has digestive and metabolic power. If the Agni becomes weaker the digestion and metabolic processes are disturbed. The incomplete and abnormal digestion and metabolism induce formation of a toxic substance called 'Ama' in the partially digested food. This disturbs doshas and vitiates them into Saam Doshas which are toxic in nature. These toxic saam doshas, being more virulent and more aggressive, increase the severity of the disease they produce. While treating any severe disease the ama element of the causative dosha is eliminated first by increasing the power of Agni to a normal functional level and then the treatment is directed to reduce the increased quantity of the related dosha.

(7) Panchakarma is another unique feature of Ayurveda. Vaman (Vomiting), Virechana (Purging), Basti (colonics), Raktamoshana (Local or Systemic blood letting) and Nasya (to put medicated oil in nostrils) are the five procedures carried out and are important as well as essential part of Ayurvedic therapeutics. Before each Panchakarma, Snehan i.e. oiling or lubricating the intestinal tract with oil or ghee which are pure or medicated,

(8) It is not only a medical science, but is also concerned with our social, ethical, intellectual, and spiritual life. It combines the accuracy of science with the sublimity of philosophy, metaphysics, poetry, and art. Its functional principles are undying and universal.

(9) Ayurveda has been called metaphorically "The Mother of Healing". Various aspects of Ayurveda are embodied in practically all systematic approaches to health maintenance and preventive medicine regardless of culture. Like Yoga it traces its origins to the ancient Vedic civilizations of India and has been practiced continuously ever since there and other countries of the orient. Whereas Yoga developed as a science of mind and spirituality, Ayurveda has become a healing science concerned with maintaining balance and well-being through proper diet, efficient digestion, personal hygiene, lifestyle, and herbal supplementation for internal cleansing, rejuvenation, mental acuity, fertility, and immunity.

(10) In Ayurveda form is of less importance than proper function. The body and its tissues are seen as metabolic pathways contributing to the function and nourishment of the whole. A balanced body is indicative of a balanced mind, and because it is balanced is immune to disease. The Ayurvedic approach is more humoral than mechanical, more subjective than objective, and relative as opposed to specific.

(11) Ayurveda is essentially an interpretation of the way nature works. It embodies archetypal and elemental symbols, The Five Great Elements and their qualities - the fundamental components of human consciousness - in creating a paradigm of a balanced life. Its coherent structure permits a choice of many different self-care strategies in restoring and maintaining order in the body.

Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of health care and maintenance. The Ayurvedic approach is not limited to any particular diet, herbal formulation, or treatment. An appropriate health regime is determined for each individual depending on one's inherent hormonal balance, as well as age, mental capacity, digestive power, and compatibility with food, elimination habits, and many other considerations. Treatment in Ayurveda may involve a change of diet, change of lifestyle and habits, herbal regime, internal cleansing, and elimination of accumulated hormonal waste. As a science of health maintenance Ayurveda is concerned most of all with perfecting bio-rhythm and metabolism - the whole process of breaking down and building up cellular structures - in the formation and maintenance of tissues. This process can be summarized in certain functions of the digestive tract: digestion, absorption, assimilation, and elimination. In Western physiology we divide metabolism into two categories: catabolism, the breaking down of molecular structures, and anabolism, the building up. In Ayurveda these stages correspond to Vata (catabolism), Pitta (metabolism), and Kapha (anabolism). These represent the three humors, called Doshas.

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