Ayurveda – The Science of Life
Ayurveda is the oldest surviving complete medical system in the world. Derived from its ancient Sanskrit roots, ‘ayus’ (life) and ‘ved’ (knowledge), it offers a rich, comprehensive outlook to a healthy life, with origins that go back nearly 5000 years. It was then expounded and practiced by the same spiritual rishis, who laid the foundations of the Vedic civilization in Indi, by organizing the fundamentals of life into proper systems.
The main source of knowledge in this field therefore remains the Vedas, the divine books of knowledge the rishis propounded, and more specifically, the fourth of the series, namely Atharvaveda that dates back to around 1000 BC. Of the few other treatises on Ayurveda that have survived from around the same time, the most famous are Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita which concentrate on internal medicine and surgery, respectively. The Astanga Hridayam is a more concise compilation of earlier texts that was created about a thousand years ago. These between them forming a greater part of the knowledge base on Ayurveda as it is practiced today.
The art of Ayurveda had spread to Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea and Sri Lanka, around in the 6th century BC ,carried over by the Buddhist monks traveling to those lands. Although not much of it survives in original form, its effects can be seen in the various new age concepts that have originated from there.
No philosophy has had greater influence on than Sankhaya’s philosophy of creation and manifestation. It professes that behind all creation there is a state of pure existence or awareness, which is beyond time and space, has no beginning or end and no qualities. Within pure existence there arises a desire to experience itself, which results in disequilibrium and causes the manifestation of the primordial physical energy. The two unite to make the “dance of creation” come alive.
Imponderable, indescribable and extremely subtle, this primordial energy – which and all that flows from it existing only in pure existence – is the creative force of all action, a source of form that has qualities. Matter and energy are so closely related that when energy takes form, we tend to think of it in terms of matter only and much modified, it ultimately leads to the manifestation of our familiar mental and physical worlds.
It also gives rise to cosmic consciousness, which is the universal order that pervades all life. Individual intelligence, as distinct from the everyday intellectual mind, is derived from and is part of this consciousness. It is the inner wisdom, the part of individuality that remains un-swayed by the demands of daily life, or by Ahamkara, the sense of `I-ness’.
A Sanskrit word with no exact translation, Ahamkara, is a concept not quite understood by everyone as it is often misleadingly equated to `ego’. Embracing much more than just that, it is in essence that part of ‘me’ which knows which parts of the universal creation are ‘me’. Since ‘I’ am not separate from the universal consciousness, but have an identity ‘I’ that differentiates and defines the boundaries of `me’. All creations therefore have Ahamkara, not just human beings.
There arises from Ahamkara a two-fold creation. The first is Satwa, the subjective world, which is able to perceive and manipulate matter. It comprises the subtle body (the mind), the capacity of the five sense organs to hear, feel, see, taste and smell, and for the five organs of action to speak, grasp, move, procreate and excrete. The mind and the subtle organs provide the bridge between the body, the Ahamkara and the inner wisdom, the three which together is considered the essential nature of humans. The second is Tamas, the objective world of the five elements of sound, touch, vision, taste and smell – the five subtle elements that give rise to the dense elements of ether or space, air, fire, water and the earth – from which all matter of the physical world is derived. And it is Rajas, the force or the energy of movement, which brings together parts of these two worlds.
|Basic Element||Subtle Element||Sense Organ||Motor Organ||Function|
It is worth noting that even at the stage of the dense elements the philosophy of creation –which according to Sankaya is now and in the present, without any past and any future – is still dealing with aspects of existence beyond our simple physical realms. The point of contention being that we are the first and foremost spirit experiencing existence.
To use Ayurveda in daily life, one has neither to accept nor even understand this philosophy. But it does provide a deeper insight into how Ayurveda works towards betterment of your health.
Ayurveda therefore is not simply a health care system but a form of lifestyle adopted to maintain perfect balance and harmony within the human existence, from the most abstract transcendental values to the most concrete physiological expressions. Based on the premise that life represents an intelligent co-ordination of the Atma (Soul), Mana (Mind), Indriya (Senses) and Sharira (Body). That revolves around the five dense elements that go into the making of the constitution of each individual, called Prakriti. Which in turn is determined by the vital balance of the three physical energies – Vata, Pitta, Kapha and the three mental energies – Satwa, Rajas, Tamas.
Ayurveda thus offers a unique blend of science and philosophy that balances the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components necessary for holistic health.
Ayur – the science dealing with the life, Veda are the first written texts. Veda – the human civilizations first known documented literature. Part of the Veda deal with human longevity and measures to be adopted to achieve this.
Ayurveda aims to prevent diseases and treat if any. For this the emphasis is not only on the physical wellbeing but also the soul, senses and psychological aspects.
Ayurveda is an ancient medical science with deep-rooted traditional and scientific basis. Ayurveda has been providing cure for 100 of years and has been documented as the oldest medical science existing on the globe. Ayurveda has been practiced by almost every household in India everyday right from excising to cooking and in taking care of minor ailments. The medicines used in Ayurveda are easily available and affordable with least side effects.
Though Ayurveda has been the mainstay of rural health in India, knowingly or unknowingly it has lost ground to the Allopathic system of medicine due to lack of will in standardization of the Medicine, drug delivery and documentation and also lack of proper policy from the Government. The belief that the medicine take longer to show the effects and results, are slow, has also contributed to reduced interest of the masses in Herbal drugs. Lack of good teaching institutions and hospitals also contribute to the low level of interest in Herbal Medicines.
The above factors make for tremendous challenging opportunity for Ayurveda in the field of teaching as well as practice. The herbo-mineral nature of medicines make the drugs use less complicated and the side effects are minimal. The increase awareness to the adverse effects of Allopathic system of medicine has also made public to turn towards Ayurveda. Better hospitals and more exposure of the institutions offering the treatment facility and availability of Post Graduates in the field is helping to attract more people towards Ayurveda around the World.
Going by the experience of last few years it has been observed that more Educated are turning towards Ayurveda for the simplicity and effectiveness offered by Ayurveda in Healthcare. The volume of sale of Herbal preparation has risen manifold. The Panchakarma treatment is being offered at many places with increasing clientele.
Ayurveda is slowly and steadily becoming popular in mushrooming middle and upper class of India and also in other parts of the world as the awareness of harmful effects of chemicals is increasing.