CHAPTER 1: INTRO TO AYURVEDA
1.1 What is Ayurveda?
The term ‘Ayurveda’ must have crossed your path at least once in life. It is a Sanskrit word, which can be broken into the words Ayur, meaning life, and Veda, meaning science, literally translating to mean ‘the science of life’. This 5,000 year old tradition was passed on from masters to their disciples, and continues to be popular in today’s day and age. This course covers the nuts and bolts of the ancient vedic tradition, revealing what truly makes it ‘the mother of all sciences’.
sama doṣaḥ sama agniśca sama dhātuḥ malaṃ kriyāḥ ।
prasanna ātma indriya manaḥ svasthaḥ iti abhidhīyate ॥
Suśruta Samhita 15:38
According to Ayurveda, the basic definition of health comprises of:
- Optimally balanced doshas, which are the three metabolic types,
- proper adequate dhatus, which are the seven body tissues and elements,
- proper elimination of the malas, or waste products, and
- optimal agni, or digestive fire.
It is no surprise that today’s natural healing systems find their roots in Ayurvedic philosophy. By keeping you healthy, you can embrace your entire human potential. This can be achieved through a number of daily and seasonal routines. These include even minor tasks, such as your attention, diet, behaviour and senses, which form your lifestyle.
Through Ayurveda, we can understand that good health requires a dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.
THE SUBTLE BLEND OF THE REPOSITORY OF NATURE BASED MEDICINE, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE HUMAN BODY AND THE ELEMENTS OF THE UNIVERSE ARE WHAT ACTS IN COORDINATION AND AFFECTS LIVING BEINGS. THIS SYSTEM WILL SURELY CONTINUE TO FLOURISH FOR POSTERITY.
1.1.1 Aim of Ayurveda
vasthasya svāsthya rakṣaṇaṃ, āturasya vikāra praśamana
Ayurvedic health and wellness can be organically carried out through one key word – balance. You have the power to stabilise your body, mind and consciousness through individual constitution and lifestyle changes. There are two objectives of an Ayurvedic lifestyle:
- Vastasya Swasthya Raksanam, or health maintenance, through preventive and social medicine, and
- Aturasya Vikāra Praśamana, or disease treatment and relief, or therapeutics (with or without medicine)
Sages had stressed upon how our immune systems can fight all possible known infections. This connects to the idea of preventive medicine we have today, which are measures taken for disease prevention. signalling the importance of preventative medicine. Ayurveda is unique because it blends the arts and sciences to create a truly optimal life, and is not limited to an ordinary herbal treatment. In fact, it goes beyond yoga, meditation and vedic astrology (or Jyotish) to comprehend the physical body.
1.2 History and Philosophy Of Ayurveda
AYURVEDA IS AN ETERNAL SCIENCE MOVING BEYOND LIMITATIONS OF THE UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS (BRAHMA) TO THE ANCIENT INDIAN MYSTICS, THROUGH MEDITATION AND VIBRATIONS.
The earliest recorded roots of Ayurveda trace back to oral traditions of around 60,000 BC, some of which even belong to the Indus Valley Civilisation. It was the Vedas, however, which provided earliest evidence as a medical text: specifically being a discipline of the Upveda or ‘auxiliary knowledge’ in vedic tradition. Additionally, the Atharvaveda contains 114 hymns and incantations as magical cures for innumerable diseases. It was passed from lord Brahma to Dhanvatari (the physician serving gods in hindu mythology). The vedic medicine period lasted until approximately 800 BC.
1.2.1 Veda and Ayurveda
There are three schools of Hindu philosophy forming the crux of Ayurveda: Vaisheshika, Nyaya, and Samkhya. Vaisheshika stresses upon perception and inference, Nyaya considers wholly understanding a patient’s disease before treatment, and Samkhya looks at the universe through two independent realities of Purusa (consciousness) and Prakriti (matter). Eventually, the schools of Vaisheshika and Nyaya collaborated to establish the nyāya–vaiśeṣika school. Nyaya widespread dissemination of Ayurvedic knowledge brought glory to it during its later years.
THE BIRTH OF AYURVEDA IS CONSIDERED AS A DIVINE ONE, OWING TO ITS FOUNDER BRAHMA, REGARDED AS THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, WHO PASSED ON HIS HOLISTIC KNOWLEDGE OF HEALING TO THE SAGES FOR THE WELL-BEING OF MANKIND.
These learned sages passed on traditional medical knowledge to their disciples and then commoners through script and oral narration. Imagine, these were the days 1000s of years ago, where we had no laptops, mobiles or even proper pen and paper. Generations of wisdom and knowledge were passed on verbally.
The knowledge of the healing properties of the herbs was often communicated through poems called Shlokas. Sages used these to explain the uses of herbs and medicinal plants in treating ailments.
1.2.2 Philosophy of Ayurveda
The foundation of Ayurveda lies in the uniqueness of mind and body. It elaborated on how exactly we are different, and the manner in which our life can be better managed using this knowledge. This can also be explained through the natural law of Karma, stating that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Our minds and bodies reflect on lifestyle decisions we may not recall. They can be considered as an instrument of which disturbances are part of, and it is Karma that completes the cause and effect relationship cycle.
Ayurveda teaches us to embrace and accept the uniqueness in us
THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYURVEDA HELPS UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT OUR DIFFERENCES. IT ALSO CONSIDERS THE MANIFESTATION AND MANAGEMENT OF THESE DIFFERENCES TO THE BEST OF OUR CAPABILITIES.
According to Ayurveda, the entire universe constitutes a single absolute (macrocosm), and also appears in the internal cosmos of the human body (microcosm). The human body consists of 50-100 million cells which are considered to be in harmony with each other, along with following self-perpetuation, just like the universe. Every person is subjected to constant interaction with his or her environment which affects a person’s constitution at any time and stage. However, your body constantly tries to maintain a state of equilibrium with the outside environment.
Your current condition is called your vikruti. Although it reflects your ability to adjust to the dynamic influences of life and is constantly changing, it should match with your prakruti, or inborn constitution, as closely as possible. If the current constitution of your doshas (biological energy of the body and mind) differs significantly from your constitutional proportion, it indicates imbalances, which in turn can lead to illness. The farther your Vikruti and Prakruti are, the greater will be the illness and disequilibrium. Your diet, meditation and other lifestyle must align it to your Prakruti. This is how your body can achieve inner perfection in its functioning.
Ayurveda is a vast and expansive body of knowledge; and wellness can most efficiently be discussed through specific contexts. Thus, there are eight branches of modern age Ayurveda to understand the same.
1.2.3 Modern Age Ayurveda
The Branches of Modern Ayurveda include:
- Principles of preventive healthcare
- Treatment of addictions and desires
- Purification, rejuvenation and detoxification
- Ayurvedic approaches to a balanced diet and weight loss
- Musculoskeletal system treatments
- Promotion of self-healing and immunity against diseases
- Male and female infertility issues
- Cosmetic treatments for men and women
These branches can be specifically addressed through other holistic healing systems, which are some of the earliest and most well-known forms of Ayurveda.
1.3 Ayurveda and other Holistic Healing Systems
This section looks at the branches of medicine under Ayurveda, namely those of homeopathy, naturopathy and allopathy. It also dissects the mind, body and soul individually, considers connections between these, and examines the popularly discussed ‘gut instinct’.
The term homeopathy is derived from two Greek words: ‘homoios’, meaning like and ‘pathos’, meaning suffering.
Homeopathy was established on a simple principle of ‘like cures like’. Substances causing symptoms in a healthy person can be consumed in small amounts, to cure a sick person with similar symptoms. These may be utilized as homeopathic medicines and they trigger the body’s immune system against the disease. Homeopathic medicines are formed by diluting substances from plants, vegetables, minerals, alcohol etc.
Hence, homeopathy can be broadly understood as a medical system under the Ayurvedic umbrella. The reverse is however not possible as homeopathic medicines are narrower, lacking a broader understanding of life, pathology and therapeutics. Homeopathic medicines work best on pathologies that have inception in the mind or Manomayakosha. They work comparatively low on disorders that are caused by physical sources (Annamayakosha). Homeopathic treatment is popularly known to work effectively on children.
Naturopathy relies on the healing power of nature. It supports life and vital forces through botanical medicine, nutrition, hydrotherapy and physical medicine, to cure various ailments. Naturopathy aims to harmonize natural balance in the body. It avoids the use of surgeries and drugs, unless required severely.
Essentially, naturopathy concentrates more on natural medications and the body’s vital ability to cure and balance itself. In contrast, Ayurveda is a branch of medicine that integrates the body, psyche, and spirit to prevent and cure various types of maladies.
Ayurveda aims at preventing ailments, whereas Naturopathy concentrates more on providing natural therapeutic treatments for ailments.
Naturopathy focuses more on natural healing aids rather than herbs and surgeries while Ayurveda make use of various herbal procedures, massage, medications and yoga as part of their treatment. Although these medical sciences are poles apart, both of these aim to cure and prevent diseases.
Allopathy is generally used in modern science. It is a way of treating a disease that can produce different effects from a disease. Under this stream, various drugs are developed in order to cure ailments (eg. antibiotics). These are used to treat diseases and provide instant relief, while it may adversely impact the body in the future.
Although allopathy cures illnesses, it can leave behind side effects such as pain, and allergies. Moreover, it has not found solutions to a number of ailments including jaundice, piles, and biliousness. On the contrary, Ayurveda comprises fruits, vegetables, spices and natural herbs essence which helps in treating the diseases without causing any side effects on the patient. Despite being a vital part of the modern medical system, However, these ailments can be effectively managed by Ayurveda.
1.4 Connection between Mind, Body and Soul
Vedanta philosophy coined the saying:
MANO MĀTRA JAGAT – “The whole world exists in your mind.”
Innumerable worlds and thoughts exist in the individual’s mind. Every thought, every idea and every feeling is capable of forming a separate world of itself. It is only through control of the mind, that you can gain control over your destiny! The best method of mastering the mind is to foster positive thoughts and actions at all times.
FOLLOWING THE RULES OF YAMA AND NIYAMA , UNDERSTANDING, GIVING, PRAYING AND PRACTISING MANTRA PURIFY OUR KARMIC PHÄNOMEN.
1.4.1 Trusting our Gut Instincts
Intuition, often referred to as a ‘gut instinct’ is a powerful aspect of the human experience. It is understood as a hunch that motivates you to follow a specific direction, or inspires you to share a piece of wisdom with someone seeking answers. Unfortunately, the power of intuition is often neglected. It is in fact our natural connection to nature’s wisdom, or survival instinct that leads us towards the right direction.
1.4.2 How does the Mind work?
One of the primary channels in Ayurvedic tradition is the concept of Mano Vaha Srotas, or the channel of the mind. Nothing is more powerful than your mind. Your mind has the ability to heal and transform your body. It works on signals in connection to universal intelligence. Ayurveda sees the body as a crystallization of the mind.
1.4.3 How does the Body work?
The Body aligns our physical being to our senses. Our body is an impression of our inner soul and mind. You ought to be prepared to listen to your body constantly. Your body can say a lot about your inner being. You should be able to hear and understand the signals relating to physical and emotional stress. The habit of resting and cutting down on excess work is critical. Regular exercise is an extraordinary way to maintain such health.
1.4.4 How does the Soul work?
Our soul is the core of our existence. Its power can establish a connection of your body with the divine, or ‘nature’s wisdom’ to gain true happiness. By nourishing your soul, you can communicate with the universe. Meditation can work wonders in aligning your soul with your body and mind. It helps in calming your anxious spirit and achieving relaxation and harmony.
1.4.5 Connecting the Dots
So, we’ve gone through an extensive overall introduction to Ayurvedic philosophy and school of thought and we hope this would ground you in certain practices that will come up in future courses too. Understanding the gut, mind, body, and soul, and connections between each of these, is crucial to reasoning the elements and rituals concerning Ayurveda.
As you go along all future chapters, we will move beyond the body to consider elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth) of the larger ‘macrocosm’ of the universe. This is especially similar to one’s bodily composition (through concepts of Doshas, Tattvas, Kaphas and Gunas). Ayurvedic practices thus stem from the mirroring of the individual in the universe – and can be holistically practiced and incorporated once understood in its entirety.
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