Vedas and Ayurveda

Vedas are the most ancient literary work known. Vedas are Collections of mantras. It reflects the living habits of ancient people, their thought, customs, problems they encountered and remedies for that, their ambitions, ideas, achievements, and pitfalls. Vedas also contain the methods and measures, adopted for health care and treatments.

According to Hindu Mythology, the Universe was created by Brahma. He created Vedas by capturing knowledge from the four directions. The Vedas contain knowledge about the Universe. Hence it contains knowledge about life too. So, Brahma is regarded as the Adya (first) Guru of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda subjects are dealt not only in Vedas, but also in Aranyakas, Brahmanas, and Upanishads also. Garbhopanisad mentions about doshas, dhatu, and growth of fetus. But all these details are not presented in a structured manner, but are scattered all over the Texts. A structured presentation or making a treatise on Ayurveda had taken place only between 2nd century B.C. and 10th century A.D. The most popular and authentic Samhitas, which are still in use, are Charaka Samhita and Susrutha Samhita. Charaka Samhita deals mostly with the General Medicine (Kaya Chikitsa),and Susrutha samhita deals mostly about the Surgery(Salya Tantrum). From the style of presentation and language it is deducted that Charaka Samhita is older than Susrutha Samhita. Another treatise on Ayurveda was written only after a long period of time. It is called Ashtangasangraha by Vagbhata. Ashtangasangraha contains all the knowledge available in Charaka and Susrutha samhitas, and the knowledge acquired after that. Ashtangasangraha is an elaborate work. Hence Vagbhata himself wrote another treatise which contains the essence of Ashtangasangraha, called Ashtangahrudayam. (There is another school of thought who believe that these two texts are written by two Vaghbhatas.)

THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYURVEDA

Ayurveda is the Veda of Ayus. Ayus means ‘naturally diminishing’. Veda means informing (about something). Ayurveda is the science, which informs about the ways and measures to be adopted for sustaining and extending Ayus. It discusses about Anayushya and Ayushya. Those, which contribute towards health and long span of life, is Ayushya and which act against this is anayushya. Every individual wants to live a healthy, long life. In order to achieve this he has to follow certain discipline in all walks of life. Ayurveda deals with all these in detail.

The effect and changes produced by various substances used as food and medicines on body in Arogya (health) and Anarogya (unhealth) demonstrates the power of methods and medicines used in Ayurveda. In order to estimate the 'guna' and 'karma' of these substances (Dravya), and to evaluate the effects and changes on body certain hypothesis was formed. They are the ‘theories of’ Panchabhoothas and thridoshas.

Man, by nature is a complex being of physical, biological, mental and spiritual factors. He is the subject matter of Ayurveda and in him alone knowledge, delusion, pleasure, pain, birth, death, and love of self are co-existent. To establish the equilibrium between human nature and his environment in a comprehensive manner, Ayurveda has developed the necessary principles and practices.

Everything that is subject to human experience has evolved from the 'avyaktha prakruti' (fundamental cause). Prakruti can only be inferred and cant be perceived directly. It becomes active only by the presence of 'purusha'.

Prakruti has the quality 'satwa','raja', and 'thama'. These factors interact with 'purusha' {desa(space), kala(time)} to form the five 'bhootha thanmatras'. This interaction of both 'purusha' and 'prakruti' is the first step in the process of evolution. These panchabhoothas are called akasa (sky), vayu (air), agni (fire), jala (water), and pruthvi (earth). Of these five 'akasa' is the subtlest, and 'pruthvi' the heaviest. During the transformation process the 'bhoothas' which evolved later acquires the qualities of the previous 'bhootha'. The qualities of akasa, vayu, agni, jala, and pruthvi are sound, touch, form, taste, and smell respectively.

In the consequent 'pancheekarana prakriya' these most subtle and indivisible thanmatras successively undergo specific changes to form the 'mahabhoothas' which are in the grosser plane. 'Mahabhoothas' are the basic elements with which the universe is made. Everything in the universe, including all biological organisms, is made up of these pancha Mahabhoothas. So also our body.

Ancient Acharyas have classified the human body (sareera) as sthoola (macro) sareera and sookshma (micro) sareera. The sthoola sareera deha (body) is made of 'dosha','dhatu', and 'malas'. When we examine the 'deha' we can find a process of production, maintenance, and destruction in progress always, there by continued existence is taking place. This happens under the influence of a power classified into three - productive power, sustaining power, and destructive power. These three-fold powers are termed as Vatha, Pitha, and Kapha respectively, which are called 'Doshas'.

Like all things in the world, the body is also made of 'Pancha Bhoothas'. The doshas exist all over the body. That means they have a relation with the basic constituents - Pancha Bhoothas - of the body. When this was examined carefully it was found that the basic thridosha theory was evolved from the Pancha Bhootha theory,/i>. The union of ‘Vayu’ and ’ Akasa’ resulted in the ‘Vatha‘ force that of ‘Pruthvi’ and ‘Up’ resulted in the formation of ‘Kapha’ force, and from ‘Agni’ the ‘Pitha’ force originated. 

AYURVEDA IN THE ERA OF GLOBALIZATION

The focal theme of this article is about India’s role in the globalization of one of her national living treasures - Ayurveda. Responding to the growing popularity of Ayurveda throughout the world, I have come here in pursuit of a common goal - the desire to be a primal force behind the globalization of Ayurveda’s extraordinary and timeless system of healing. Demand for Ayurveda from the world community of consumers as well as industry response serve to guide Ayurveda’s movement toward globalization. For India to succeed in her quest to guide the dissemination of Ayurvedic education and the distribution of its medicines and literature, we must first address a paramount concern. How do we globalize Ayurveda without impairing its timeless and essential wisdom?

Like the entire treasure trove of Vedic sciences, the wisdom of Ayurveda is intended to serve the whole universe, its humanity and all species. Due to its inherent nature, Ayurveda is already serving a global community. The imperative question is, how does India safeguard Ayurveda’s purity and authenticity, (notwithstanding the intellectual property rights of this biodiverse science that rightfully belongs to India) as she moves her science and adapts it to the manifold conditions in global communities throughout the world?

First, India must regain her confidence in herself and in the rich legacy of her ethnographic and revelational sciences. Ayurveda as a science of Revelation is pramanam - pure knowledge born of sastra - the living wisdom revealed by rishis, for the benefit of humanity and its cultivation of consciousness. Sastra (Hindu spiritual texts) is compiled of the revelations of the rishis whose knowledge had been handed down through an unbroken chain in oral tradition of the gurukula since the beginning of time. The rishis were adept at focusing their awareness and shifting their perceptual fields. They entered elevated states to see truth, retrieving information directly from the cosmos and revealing it for the welfare of their community. Ayurveda, the oldest paradigm of health and healing known to the world, grew out of the rishi tradition. In safeguarding the living treasure that is Ayurveda, it behooves us to reclaim the revelational basis of Ayurveda and the traditional gurukula way of teaching from which it originates.

Since its timeless origins, the practice of Ayurveda has taken many unexpected turns. Owing to colonization and the critical period that followed after 1835, Ayurvedic education and other allied healing systems such as Siddha and Unani were forced to desist in India. The movement for Ayurveda went underground as Western conventional medicine usurped its place as the dominant practice. In the early part of the nineteenth century, the visionary efforts of a handful of remarkable vaidyas in Bengal began to revive Ayurveda’s original education and regenerated national enthusiasm for India’s First Medicine. By the mid 1900’s, this resurgence caught the attention of the Indian government which began to design a new curriculum for Ayurveda - retooling Ayurveda’s education with allopathic principles of medicine.

Ayurveda, as it has been taught and practiced in all government sponsored institutions in India since this time, is largely influenced by the allopathic physicians and conventional medical academicians who had helped shaped its new practice. Whereas this process of adaptation has proven a positive adjunct for Western conventional medicine and thereby improving its practice, it does not define Ayurveda. Ayurveda is an extremely adaptable life science and can lend effulgence to the most mundane of sciences. Fulfilling its sacred intention of health for all, any part of its knowledge may be used to serve the well-being of humanity. Due to its inherent nature, Ayurveda may be adapted to meet the needs of all peoples and communities under manifold numbers of diverse conditions, but, in so doing, we must be diligent in our efforts to safeguard its pure and essential principles. Ayurveda is pramanam. Its preservation demands that it be restored to its whole and original form and that form must become its greater practice.

There is a growing trend among allopathic practitioners who are seeking alternative methods of healing to embrace Ayurveda. These good men and women recognize the vast limitations within the present conventional disease-care system which takes an approach that is largely prescriptive. From their perspective, the concept of adapting basic principles of Ayurveda and other holistic modalities of healing with their already acquired medical knowledge can only improve the quality of health care they offer. It serves to lessen a patient’s exposure to toxicity and harm resulting from a system that is based on standardized protocols.

To borrow wisdom practices from Ayurveda to improve the quality of health care in conventional medicine is becoming common practice and an acceptable reality. However, integrating Ayurveda as a complementary form of medicine to Western conventional medicine is quite a different matter. Many argue that this process would improve and modernize Ayurveda making it interface more cohesively with other health care models. Unlike conventional Western medicine, Ayurveda does not need another modality of science - conventional or holistic - to make it complete in its wisdom or its application. Furthermore, Ayurveda is a preventative, health-oriented system as opposed to conventional medicine that is a disease-care system. Its timeless principles and practices do not need to be modernized, integrated, or melded into any other modality - health care, disease care, or otherwise.

Evidently, the overriding desire expressed by popular culture to integrate everything speaks to a profound need to bridge gaps and eliminate boundaries that separate the human family from each other and their immutable source in consciousness. However, the process of integration to which we are referring has never been known to diminish the outcome of conflicts inherent in the process of combining diverse and nonparallel systems and traditions. To the contrary, history has proven that unity is not accomplished when diverse cultures, traditions, or sciences are melded together. This kind of integration inadvertently create conflicts because the inherent power of each entity becomes diminished, its life force impaired. Popular culture does not recognize the epicentric life force of prana that supports every form of life; in fact, it interferes and tampers with it.

Five hundred years or more of erroneous thinking have placed the world on the brink of disharmony. This is evidenced in the destruction of nature; the physical, emotional, and spiritual impoverishment of the human spirit as reflected in the progressive rise of disease, violence, poverty, wars, crimes; the savage attempts at eradication of indigenous life; the breakdown of familial and community values and lifeways; and the killing of the animals. Our humane memory of humanity is severely vitiated.

Unity is a noble goal for it is the act of interconnecting all realities through deep knowledge and understanding of each individual rerity. Unity is about nurturing diversity through spiritual knowledge, love, respect, and preservation. Positive change and transformation can only occur through profound regard for the preservation of each independent life force, be it a person, species, religion or science. Those who advocate making Ayurveda part of a larger body of integrated medicine are obviously ignorant of the timeless principles that inform the Vedic sciences. Ayurveda as an ethnographic science of revelation is Veda, and therefore greater than any of its anga, or parts. It is more than an eight-pronged system of medicine. Ayurveda is whole science of living in harmony with nature and all her beings.

We must break the silence that betrays truth - a silence imposed on India’s Vedic culture by its perpetrators. We must reclaim dharma for preservation of India’s storehouse of Vedic knowledge, and take care not to commercialize it but to safeguard the universal wisdom of the rishis for the benefit of all. At this pivotal juncture of India’s history when quantum economic growth is inevitable, it is critical that we restore the knowledge of Ayurveda to its original status as a spiritual, revelational science, reclaiming her dharma as the world’s First Medicine. This great reform is necessary if we are to preserve the pure and eternal wisdom of Ayurveda.