Friday, September 30, 2011





Rishis (sages) of the hoary past visualized Brahmaanda (Universe) as well as Pindaanda (human structure) were evolved by the same process of grossification of subtle elements called Tanmaatras in their creation. They further acquired sound knowledge of Life Sciences. In due course they developed this knowledge to evolve a sound system of medical sciences not only for human beings but also for their domesticated animals to alleviate sufferings and increase their longevity. They called this Ayurveda, Knowledge of Life making it a subsidiary to Vedas, their Spiritual knowledge. Ayurveda is thus an Upa Veda of Atharva Veda. The books of Ayurveda are very ancient. They contain several Samhitas and Sootras, most important being Ashtaangahridaaya.

Rudra, a divinity belonging to Vedic as well as Tantric culture was the first physician. The vedic poet prays in Rigveda (2-33-4) thus: "Maa tvaa Rudra chakrudhaamaa namoebhirmaa dushtutee vrishbha maa sahootee; unnoe veeraa arpaya bheshjebhi-bhishaktamam tvaa bhishajaam srunoemi—O Rudra! May we not make you furious! You are indeed a bull! We hear you are the best among physicians, and may our children grow up with your remedies. Asvins mentioned in Vedas are again the first physicians who protect the blind, the weak and aged, and those that have fallen into the pit.

The patron-god physicians and surgeons of Hindus, Dhanvantari is regarded as a minor incarnation of Vishnu among the twenty-two incarnations of Vishnu. Ramayana relates that Dhanvantari emerged from the ocean during churning. According to Bhaava-prakaasa, Dhanvantari was born in the royal household of Kaasi in the family of Baahuja. He developed ascetic tendencies even as a boy and performed austerities. But, Brahma persuaded him to accept the lordship of the city of Kaasi and since then he was known as Kaasiraaja. As a king, he prepared a treatise (samhita) on medicine for the benefit of humanity (hitaaya dehinaam). According to this Puraana, Dhanvantari was originally the physician of the gods in heaven. Indra, the king of gods, once chanced to observe the misery of the human beings were prone to, on earth; overcome by compassion he directed Dhanvantari to visit mankind and eliminate the human sufferings. As numerous diseases beset human beings, Dhanvantari appeared among them as a physician.

Often Dhanvantari is identified with Divodaasa and Kaasiraaja, though not mentioned in Rigveda. Divodaasaa is associated with the gods of healing Asvins, Agni and Indra. Dhanvantari is said to have learnt the science of art of medicine (Ayurveda) from Bhaaradvaaja who in turn was taught by Indra who was taught by Asvins. There is also an account, which mentions, that sage Aatreya taught medicine to Bhaaradvaaja.

The icons of Dhanvantari are frequently seen four armed carrying in upper hands conch and discus like Vishnu, one of the normal hands holding a leech (Jalauk, suggesting blood letting and surgery) and the other a pot of ambrosia (amrit-ghata, suggesting medicine), in standing or sitting posture on lotus.

It is physiologically significant that vedic reference with regard to physicians and medical practice in general exhibits a rather ambivalent feeling. It was necessary to accept medical aid, and that is how medical knowledge was incorporated in the vedic corpus, although this knowledge was there earlier and came from the folk that was probably outside the vedic ritualistic fold.

The fear of death which has plagued man all along his career was obviously the most effective motivation for the development and discovery of techniques to preserve and prolong life. The goal of all spiritual endeavor as well as worldly activities of man is deathlessness (amritatva) or continuity of existence. In fact, religions which believe in after-life and immortality of soul have sprung from this deep yearning. The early attempt was to prolong the physical existence itself, to make the body strong enough to survive the odds, to make the body itself immortal, to transform the essence (rasa) of the fleeting physical existence into a firm diamond like substance (vajra). Death is inescapable, but disease could be prevented and cured. When the causes of disease were largely unknown, evil spirits, malevolent deities, black magic witchcraft and sorcery, and others gained importance in man's endeavor.

Indigenous Indian medicine has four main lines of development all of which go back in their origin to a very remote past. Two of them, represented by the physician Charaka and the surgeon Sushruta (believed to have lived centuries before Christian Era) are collectively designated as Ayurveda (the science of longevity) and sought to be integrated with vedic tradition. The third is the system of therapeutic alchemy known as Rasavaidya ( of Rasaayana School), where use of metals and mercury is extensive, a meeting point of Indian medicine and Indian chemistry. This system developed almost independent of vedic tradition and had profited by contacts with the Arabian, the Persian and the Chinese cultures. The fourth line is the Siddha (or the adept) system, the origin of which is obscure, but was distinctly outside vedic tradition. At present it is prevalent only in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu. All these systems were rooted in Tantric culture before vedic culture, and were influenced to a great extent by Sankhya-Yoga complex.

There are legends which seek to establish continuity between Ayurvedic tradition and the Vedic tradition, with the assumption that the Vedic Tradition is without an identifiable beginning. Ayurveda is regarded as fifth veda sometimes, but it is more usual to consider it as a supplementary veda (upa-veda). According to Mahabharata (2-11-33)it is one of the four upa-vedas, others being Archery (Dhanurveda), Musicology (Gandharva) and political science (Artha saastra). Within the Ayurvedic Tradition, the medical science itself is regarded as an appendage (upaanga) of the fourth veda (Atharva Veda). This appendage is believed to consist of 1000 sections which got attenuated in course of time to just eight divisions, the extant Astaanga Ayurveda. The standard texts on Ayurveda generally deal with ashtaangas or eight subjects. They are: Kaaya-chikista (therapeutics); Salya-tantra (major surgery); Saalaakya-tantra (minor surgery including ENT); Bhoota-vaidya (psychiatry); Kaumaarabhritya-tantra (paediatrics); Aghada-tantra (toxicology); Rasaayana-tantra (geriatrics), and Vajreekarana-tantra (virilification).

Athrvaveda was itself outside the classic vedic complex which was originally threefold—Rig, Yajur and Saaman. Atharvaveda acquired the vedic status at a later date but its contents are clearly more ancient than Rigveda itself. It goes back to the Indus Valley Civilization age. Atharvangirasa (old name for Atharvaveda) had two-fold approach: pacificator curative practices (shaanti) and practices of witchcraft and sorcery (ghora). Both practices were equally in the hands of priestly magicians and medicine-men (the atharvan) who dominated the scene before and during the Rigvedic periods. The outlook of magical spells, amulets, charms, incantations, curative abracadabra, witchcraft and sorcery find predominant place in the Atharvaveda. Even to-day such practices are in vogue in India outside the vedic fold.

It would be wrong to regard Ayurveda as a development of the Rigveda or Yajurveda as vedanga, and in fact it belongs more naturally to the amorphous Tantric Tradition which undoubtedly was prevedic and pre-historic.

Ayurvedic ideas like circulation of multiple breaths inside the body or the three pathogenic factors (tridoshas) or the medicinal properties of the herbs and plants (oshadhi) in the vedic literature are due to the influence of later sophisticated culture in the country. Vedic culture found it necessary to assimilate these meaningful or prevalent ideas belonging to the people outside its culture to its own fold. Vedic culture regarded the body as but secondary to the spirit and emphasizes austerity, penances, discipline and contemplation. The outlook that gained currency in the wake of vedic influence looked upon body as almost a necessary evil and it was considered impossible for the soul to reach salvation until the physical body was eliminated or sufficiently subdued. But Ayurveda held that the body was the foundation of all wisdom and virtue, and the source of all supreme objectives (dharma, artha, kaama and moksha); apart from this body there is nothing that is of great help to man. If one does not realize the Absolute in this very body, argued Ayurveda, it is even more difficult for one to realize it when one has gone beyond the body.

Ayurveda not only includes alcohol in its pharmacopeias but had use for meat and drugs extracted from animal bodies. Charaka lists as many as 170 medicines of animal origin. The Ayurvedic notion of a happy life was not exactly to the liking of the austere, ascetic and puritanical law-givers. They naturally frowned upon such advice coming from Ayurvedic sources as: "There is no sin in eating meat, in drinking liquor or in sex indulgence, they are natural inclinations. But there is merit in self restraint"—(Na maamsabhakshane doeshoe na madhye na maithune, pravittireshaa bhootaanaam nivrittistu mahaaphalaa). All Ayurvedic texts contain a section of treatment procedure for alcoholics. If austerity was prescribed, it was in consideration of health, and not because of religious reasons. Therefore stigma against healing art continued till the period of Dharmasaastraas were passed. Of course Rigveda itself includes a hymn to the healing herbs ascribed to the cure-man (bhishaja) and addressed to Soma, the divine monarch of plants, who is represented on earth by the psychedelic drink Indian hemp?(Asclepiade?), which the vedic poets ingested and offered to the gods.

Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita are regarded as supreme authorities in Ayurvedic theory and practice. It is not certain if these two were historical personages at all. Charaka is said to be a class-name for wandering physicians who were popular even during the time of Paanini. Sushruta which means learned may not in fact be a proper name. However, Hindu traditions take them as real medical authors and they are supposed to have lived during later vedic period. The line of development represented by Charaka is called Aatreya School and Sushruta's School is named after Dhanvantari. Both Charaka and Sushruta Samhitas agree that Ayurveda was first formulated by the self-born Brahma, who communicated the system to Prajaapati and he to the twin divinities, the Aswins, who in their turn passed it on to Indra. Indra handed over Ayurveda to Sage Bhaaradvaaja and he taught Punarvasu and other sages. Indra taught Ayurveda to Dhanvantari, appearing as the king of Kasi, Divodaasa. Both Divodaasa and Bhaaradvaaja are mentioned in Rigveda as contemporaries who were together protected by Asvins (1-116-18).

Sushruta originated plastic surgery and the operation of the cataract in the eye. His technique as laid down in his texts was studied by the West and the science of rhins plasty or plastic surgery was evolved. Sushruta was a keen surgeon who knew how to repair bad or desisted noses and it is said that he fixed a torn ear once sand also grafted portions of skins from other parts of the body. Also he knew how to remove stones from the bladder. He was the earliest to advocate dissection of dead bodies for teaching of medical trainees.

It is unfortunate that all the early medical treatises are lost. Also Sushruta's work is no longer available in its original form. What we have now is a revision by one Naagaarjuna. Again in the history there are three Naagaarjunas. The fusion of the two lines of development of Charaka and Sushruta was attempted by Vagbhatta who compiled his Ashtaangahridaya incorporating the views of not only Charaka and Sushruta but also Bhela, Haarita as well as Rasaayana system. This gives the Ayurveda its definition as compendium of all the then existing systems.

Ayurveda accepts what is called the "psyche" (aatman) a spiritual principle, independent of the body. "Purusha" who is regarded in the system as the frame of reference for all medical speculations and object of treatment is a configuration of the body, including sense organs, mind, and psyche organized into a single system in the manner of a tripod. The body is made of five elements: Space or ether; air, fire, water and earth. Senses are sockets in the body made up of the same elements. Mind too is likewise physical but subtly so. It transcends the senses and therefore meta-sensory (ateendriya); the senses are activated by it, and guided by it. The "psyche" upholds, bears up, preserves these factors and in doing so actively binds the factors into a single system and is a designer. Life (jeevaatma) is thus an organization in a phenomenological unity (samyoga).

Ayurveda draws its strength from Sankhya in the concept of subtle body (sookshma sarira or linga deha). Constituted by consciousness, ego, eleven senses and five elements this body is said to survive physical body and transmigrate. In Ayurveda this body is composed of air, fire, water earth and mind; it is accordingly subtle and is carried over from one life to the next. The fetus is said to be formed as a result of father's sperm (sattva) and the mother's blood (rajas) coming together, but not until the subtle body has migrated into this union. Sensory and mental functions are associated with the head while consciousness (chitta) is located in the heart. Charaka calls heart by the saankhyan word "mahat". All modes of consciousness are gathered and all vital currents center in the heart.

Human functions, physiological like breathing, reflex like winking, sensory, intellectual like decision, inquiry, scrutiny and appreciation, memory and energetic application are organized on the basis of a net-work of elemental modifications that work together to uphold the body in a normal pattern that may be described as "health". Disease is essentially in the nature of departure or disturbance from this normal pattern. There are forces within the body that make the body foul (mala) and disturb its processes. There are also within the body forces which strive to keep the body clean and processes even (prsaada).The aim of Ayurveda as a curative discipline is to strengthen "prasaada" forces against the "mala" forces. The struggle between them is normal and natural and health is a necessary concomitant of this struggle. The job of a physician is merely to aid nature in its normal struggle so that proper balance of the basic design in the body secures.

Sushruta's thinking was in line with the ancient thinking: the constitution of human beings is physical; it is made up of air, fire and water. These three were held in high regard even by the vedic sages who personified them as Wind Gods (Maruta or Vaayu), Fire God (Agni) and Water Divinities (Varuna). The earth element is characterized by tamas, air by rajas, Aakasa by sattva, water by sattva-tamas and fire by sattva-rajas. In the human body, the air factor is composed by the elements of aakaasa and air; fire factor by the element of fire and water factor by the elements earth and water. These factors are named in Ayurveda as Vaata (Vaayu), Pitta and Kapha (or Sleshma) characterized by the three modes rajas, sattva, and tamas respectively. It is usual to translate these factors as wind, bile (gall) and phlegm(mucus) following the humeral doctrine of the Greeks. These factors are the functional system that we call on organism and in their normalcy they support the body-mind complex and therefore they are called "Dhaatus". But when they are thrown out of balance or get excited, they can cause trouble. They become in that condition pathogenic and so are called "Doshas". Dhatus are body-constituents while doshas are behavioral processes.

Vaata as a factor sustains the whole body system, the physical machinery as well as the physiological functions including psychological processes: efficiency of the sense organs and alertness of mind are dependent upon it. In function it is five- fold : 1.Forward breath (Praana)—governs respiration, and prevails in the whole body from toe to nostrils, especially located in the head moving in chest and throat, contributing to mental alertness and sense-efficiency. 2. Downward breath (apaana)—prevailing in the lower regions but moving in navel, intestinal canals, sex organs and legs, contributing to production of sperm, and responsible for expelling fasces and urine. 3. Pervading breath (Vyaana)—prevailing in the heart but pervading all over the body, characterized by great speed in circulation, helping sensory-motor functions, blood circulation, reflexes like winking, all sensory perceptions, and distribution of the vital sap to all parts of the body. 4. Ascending breath (Udaana)—prevailing in the chest but moving in throat, nostrils, palate, skull and navel, responsible for speech, intentions, energy, strength, memory and complexion. 5. Equalising breath (Samaana)—prevailing in close proximity to the stomachic fire and moving in the digestive organs, heart, navel, and the joints, helping digestion and assimilation.

The second factor pitta (bile) is described as "bodily fire" (dehaagni, Kaayaagni). According to Sushruta, this is the only fire in the body. It cooks all that we eat, and is responsible for warmth, digestion and metabolic changes. The third factor Kapha or Shlshman (phlegm), is related to the earth and water elements. Its main function appears to neutralize the heat that is produced by pitta, which would otherwise burn the system down; it also unites the joints and eliminate friction. It is this factor that gives firmness and strength to the body, and also the capacity to resist disturbances within the organism.

The concept of multiple breaths is an old one. Vedic literature, especially the early Upanishads mention breaths three to ten in number. For instance, Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad (3-1-10) and Chandogya Upanishad (1-3-3) mention three; Br.Up. 1-5-4 mentions six, Br.Up. 2-2-3 mentions seven, and Br.Up. 3-9-4 mentions ten. In Maitri 2-6 five are described—Praana that goes up, Apaana, that goes down, Vyaana, that favors other breaths, Samaana, that sends the thickest part of nourishment into apaana and brings minutest in each member and Udaana, which disgorges and swallows what is drunk and eaten.

It is an ancient notion that there is a fire within the man that keeps him alive and active. Ayurveda considers what is known as "stomachic fire" (Jatharaagni) or the "bodily fire (kaayaagni). Vedic literature also contains this notion. "Ayam agnir vaisvaanaro yoyam antaha purushaha yenedamannam pachyate yadidamadyate" –This fire, who is within the body of this Purusha and by whom the food that is eaten by the Purusha is digested is Vaisvaanara (5-9-1). Vaisvaanara is the gastric fire by whom whatever is eaten is digested. The sound that is heard is the sound of the gastric fire. The idea here is that one should have the view of Brahman in such Jatharaagni. "tasyaisha ghoeshoe bhavati yametat karnaavapidhyaaya srunoeti" (Br.Up. 5-9-1) —Jatharaagni produces the sound which is heard by closing one's ears. The Vedas consider fire as the descendant of water (apaam napaat); there is a mention of "the fire of clouds". Ayurveda developed this ancient mystic idea into a rational concept.

Important in Ayurveda is the notion of equivalence of macrocosm (Brahmaanda) and microcosm (pindaanda) inherited from the Tantric tradition. The structure of individual organism is essentially similar to the structure of the Universe. This refers to five primary elements (panchbhootas) that enter into composition: earth (density, solidity); water (cohesion, liquidity); air (expansion, movement); fire (light, heat): and, aakaasa (space, extension). The body is as material and physical as the world around it: its growth, maturation, decay and disappearance follows the same natural laws. The primary elements combine and modify to produce and maintain inorganic as well as organic world. In the organic world however, their modifications assume a particular pattern, best illustrated in the human body. But the Ayurvedic theory applies equally to human beings as also to the lower animals or even plants. There are not only branches of Ayurveda to treat elephants (Hastyaayurveda), cows (Gavaayurveda) and horses (Asvaidyaka) but also there is a discipline which specializes in maintaining and correcting the health of plants (Vrikshaayurveda). There are treatises written on these branches, and there is no doubt that these specialties were put to practice once.

The concept of stomach fire in Ayurveda is an important one. We live by this fire, and grow in it. All the three essential factors (Vaata, Pitta and Kapha) are involved in it; they determine its nature, although it is a fire that burns by its own fuel. The excitation or disturbance in the factors, bring about changes in the fire. An excitation of wind will produce "irregular fire" (vishamaagni); an excess of bile will intensify the fire (teekshaagni); and when the phlegm is excited we have sluggish fire (mandaagni). The changes in the fire have their direct impact in the body. Steady and even fire (samaagni) makes for sound health. Man's life rests on this fire. His strength, vitality, health, pleasure and sorrow are all rooted in this. The warmth (ushna) that makes man alive indicates the presence of this fire; when it cools, man dies.

The Ayurvedic concept of stomachic fire is an important aid in reconstructing the early phase of "aatmavaada" which matured in Upanishads. The state of equilibrium (saamyaavastha) of the Sankhya school of thought and the process of perfect settling down (samaadhi) of Yoga are no doubt intimately related to the even fire (samaagni) of Ayurveda.

Although Indian medicine sought to wean itself out of Athervanic practices and ideology at a very early age, it retained its Tantric complexion for a long time. Even classical Ayurveda accepted Sankhya as its theoretical basis. Sankhya has been the viewpoint of Tantric tradition, uncompromisingly atheistic and materialistic, in its early phases at least and therefore non-vedic. A sound body is fit to house sound mind. A balanced combination of these two is in a far better position to manifest the spirit within—the Aatman, which is always sound--This has been the message of Ayurveda in its approach within the Vedic Tradition.

Ayurveda draws its strength from Sankhya and Yoga philosophies as enumerated above. Yoga is intimately allied to Yoga. The Geetaa calls them one as Sankhya –yoga. Sankhya is theory and Yoga is practice. Ayurveda accepts the treatment procedure based on Yoga ideology, "mastering the mind" (sattvaavajya). This consists in restraining oneself from excesses, from unwholesome sense-functions and controlling one's own mental state. Most of our troubles, according to Charaka are due to folly or errors of judgment (prajnaaparaadha). To avoid or eliminate the troubles, one must "live correctly" (sadvritta). Correct living does not involve supernatural sanction or Vedic authority. It is wholesome, integrated living through yoga which adequately satisfies the three fundamental motivations: 1) urges for self preservation 2) desire for material provisions which makes life comfortable and, 3) longing for better states of existence, here and here-after. Ethics is thus judiciously subordinated, to pragmatic considerations. Yoga advocates control over the body, the senses and mind. It does not want to kill the body. A sound mind needs a sound body. Sensual attachment and passions distract the body as well as mind. They must be conquered. To overcome them Yoga gives us the Eightfold Path of Discipline (Ashtaanga Yoga). The Yoga system of Patanjali should not be confused with magic and tantra and self-hypnotization.

This lecture has been prepared for the Vedanta Class at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville by suitably extracting, abridging and editing texts from Vishnu Kosha and Darsanoedaya (Early Indian Thought) by S.K. Ramachandra Rao, Kalpataru Research Academy, Sri Srigeri Sharada Peetham and from the following publications: Dr. N.S. Ananta Rangacharya, Principal Upanishads, Bengaluru and Publication of AryaVaidyasala, Coimbatore.


    Posted by Subhamoy Das | Aug 25, 2015   

    Please help spread Ayurveda by sharing these articles on Facebook:

    The World Ayurveda Foundation organized the 6th World Ayurveda Congress in New Delhi from November 6-9, 2014, with the overarching theme of ‘Health Challenges and Ayurveda.’ 4000 delegates from around the world congregated to discuss various topics on Ayurveda with the goal of making it an integral part of the healthcare system.
    In his valedictory address, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the ways we can bring acceptance and recognition for Ayurveda as a complete healthcare system adoptable in countries across the world. Here are 9 points excerpted from his speech in Hindi that can provide direction and inspiration to Ayurveda and its practitioners.

    Can People Rely on Ayurvedic treatment?
    The biggest challenge for the people seeking Ayurvedic healing is to find Ayurvedic doctors who offer 100% Ayurvedic treatment. There is a pervasive belief that they cannot heal patients with just Ayurvedic therapies. Rather, they ask patients to start with allopathic medicines for the first three days and Ayurvedic treatment can be taken care of in successive stages. I feel this limiting belief is the biggest challenge for Ayurveda. If these Ayurvedic doctors are not committed, devoted or confident about Ayurveda’s ability to heal, then how can patients trust Ayurveda?

    Practitioners Need to Show Confidence in Ayurveda
    I’m reminded of the customer in a restaurant who asked to see the owner. He was told that the owner eating in the restaurant across the street. Who would then eat in this restaurant? They can’t win the trust of others, who don’t believe in themselves and their traditions. The crisis is not “Ayurveda”, but its practitioners. I don’t know how you feel about this discussion – pleasant or bitter. But if it is bitter, then I think that I am referring the matter exactly according to the norms of Ayurveda because in Ayurveda what tastes bitter at first turns sweet ultimately.

    The Biggest Challenge Facing Ayurveda Today
    I have been meeting with many people regarding this challenge of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is not a field to be limited to a certified doctor. Our ancestors have made health, a part of our life. Today we have outsourced our health and lifestyle. Those days, health was not outsourced. It was part of lifestyle and due to that every person, every family was aware about wellness of body. If any problem would arise, people were aware of how to resolve it. Even today you must be feeling that experience.
    When travelling in a train or bus we may have seen another passenger falls sick. One or more fellow passengers might come over and offer something to help them feel better, whether or not he or she is a doctor or Ayurveda specialist. Because Ayurveda has been a natural practice in India we have some knowledge of it. Gradually however, we outsourced the complete health sector. If any medical problem crops up, we have to take advice and consultation and we have to go according to prescription. If that treatment is successful, fine; otherwise we go to other practitioner…we change the consultancy.

    How to Bring Back the Faith in Ayurveda
    The solution to bringing faith to Ayurveda is that we should not compromise our core sector. We should be 100% committed to what we do, only then we will start seeing the results. People are feeling the need for a more holistic approach to their health, and returning to their roots, be it naturopathy or Ayurveda, diet-control or homeopathy. Ayurveda offers holistic healing from the root to the fruit; every aspect offers healthy solutions. Our ancestors must have had a microscopic insight into Ayurveda’s nature, and powerful ability to heal. How do we keep that great resource in modern times is the second challenge to us. The least we could do is to translate the exalted resource in the language this world understands. This encourages Ayurvedic therapies to be researched and proven efficacious.

    Ayurvedic Studies for International Journals
    Third point regards research articles published in international science magazines. Can we encourage these journals to publish Ayurvedic studies? With even 10-20% of a journal devoted to Ayurvedic research the modern medical world would eventually take note and possibly stimulate more research and respect for Ayurveda.
    Focus on Ayurvedic Herbal Products
    We can also focus on improving the quality of our Ayurvedic herbal products. While many of the ancient herbs described in the original texts are no longer extant, there are many exciting ideas being developed for effective herbal products. In Gujarat we have built a Pavak-Van — a garden landscaped in the shape of the human body. Relevant plants and trees have been planted in accordance to the parts of human body which is treated by that particular type of herb. If it’s the heart, then the plants related to the cure of heart diseases have been planted there. When Ayurvedic students tour the gardens they learn about the particulars of diseases and their curative medicinal plants.

    How Vedic Philosophy Encourages Environmentalism
    Our Vedic Shastras noted that each tree, plant and animal is related to a God or Goddess. This view encourages environmentalism as well, making it easier to remember the value of each plant and tree. Ayurveda was a part of the common people and they trusted Ayurveda because of its divine connection.
    Ayurveda as a Profession and Career
    Another issue for today’s students is they do not see how they can have a good economic life as an Ayurvedic doctor or herb grower. Fortunately we can be encouraged by similar events in our history. We were also quick to ignore yoga asanas which originated in India. That is, until we saw how widespread and profitable it has become in the West. Now multinational companies offer yoga in their stress –management classes. Why has the West put such faith in yoga? Because they have experienced their depression, anxiety, and physical limitations are relieved from practicing these poses. Why wait for Ayurveda to become as popular abroad before we again believe in it?
    Another challenge is to see Ayurveda and Alloapthy as complimentary rather than the current ‘root-cause’ vs “symptomatic relief’ argument. We hear many stories of allopathic doctors not finding ways to cure their own family, are turning to Ayurveda and other holistic practices. Faith comes from proof. But if Vaidyas do not have enough faith to even offer Ayurvedic remedies, how will anyone experience their miraculous healing powers? Embracing the best treatment for the situation will bring more respect for both systems, which in turn boosts Ayurveda to the level it deserves.


    Ayurveda, Siddha or Allopathy – What to Choose When

    Posted by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev | Oct 01, 2015 India Divine.Org

    Medical systems such as Ayurveda and Siddha are considered alternative therapies in today’s world. Some are quick to dismiss such therapies while others swear by them. Choosing the right kind of treatment – Allopathy, Ayurveda or Siddha – can be a confusing affair.
    Allopathic Medicine
    When we say health, disease, or ailment, there are two fundamental kinds. One kind of ailment comes to us from outside, an invasion of external organisms. It has to be dealt with in one way. We still find that the Allopathic system of medicine is the most effective way of handling infections, there’s no question about it. However, a majority of human ailments are self-generated.
    They come from within the system. For such chronic ailments, the Allopathic system of medicine has not proven to be too good. Allopathy can only manage the disease. It can never really uproot the disease because essentially, it is about symptomatic treatment.
    For most of the ailments that are chronic in nature, symptoms are like the proverbial tip of the iceberg. We are only treating the tip all the time. In fact, today it is an established form of treatment – if you get diabetes, hypertension, or asthma, doctors are talking to you about how to manage the ailment. They are never talking to you about how to get rid of it. But the manifestation of the disease in the form of a symptom is very minor. What is happening is at a much deeper level, which cannot be treated with external medicine.
    If you are really in a state of emergency, going to an Ayurvedic doctor is not the best thing to do. You go to him only when you have time to recover. In an emergency, Allopathy has better systems than any other. But when your problems are mild and you know they are evolving, Ayurveda and other systems are very effective means of treatment.
    So what is so different about the medicines of an indigenous kind, which largely get labeled as Ayurveda? Ayurveda comes from a different dimension and understanding of life. A fundamental part of the Ayurvedic system is about an understanding that our bodies are an accumulation of what we gathered from the planet. The nature of the planet and of the Pancha Bhutas or the five elements that make the planet are very much manifest in this physical body. If you want to handle this body in the most effective and productive way, it is very important that everything you do about this body has a relationship with the planet.

    Ayurveda says that every root, every leaf, every tree bark found on this planet has medicinal value. We have learnt how to use only a few. The rest of them, we are yet to learn how to use. What this statement is trying to convey is health is not something that falls upon you from the sky. Health is something that has to grow from within you, because the body is something that grows from within you. The input comes from the earth but it grows from within you. So, if you have a repair job to do, the best place to go is to the manufacturer, not to the local mechanic. This is the essence of Ayurveda.
    In Ayurveda, we understand that if we go deep enough into the body, this body is not an integrated thing; it is a continuous process which involves the earth upon which you walk. If this relationship does not come through, these subtle systems of medicine which work from within, will fail to work. Without taking care of the whole system, just trying to do one aspect of it may not be very fruitful.
    A holistic system does not mean just treating the body as a whole. A holistic system means treating life as a whole, which includes the planet, what we eat, what we breathe, what we drink – all of that. Without attending to all those things, the true benefit of Ayurveda will not be seen. If Ayurveda becomes a living reality in our lives and our societies, people can live like gods.
    Siddha or Siddhavaidya is unique to Southern India, fundamentally Tamil Nadu. This dimension of medicine was opened up by Agastya Muni. They say Adiyogi himself practiced it and Agastya brought it to the south. He created a very potent combination, some fantastic usage of material. It is unbelievable how Siddha works. In the Siddha system of medicine, the sages, realized beings and the Siddha doctors were not different. Always, the sages practiced a certain amount of medicine because human health is an essential part of going ahead.
    Siddha is very different from Ayurveda and I would say it is much closer to the body’s energy system than Ayurveda is. Ayurveda is more disease-oriented, whereas Siddha is more health-oriented and simply about rejuvenation. So the variety of what is available in Siddha may not be as wide a range as in Ayurveda, because Ayurveda enters every disease. Siddha doesn’t enter the treatment of every disease. It is mainly about strengthening the inner sources of the body and activating the body in a certain way.
    Siddha is very different in the sense, though there are herbs it is essentially elemental in nature. It comes more from the yogic science because the fundamental of yogic science is in Bhuta Shuddhi or in the cleansing of one’s elements. This is an evolution from the yogic science. Since it is elemental, you are dealing with the fundamental material which makes the body. You are not trying to infuse some other medicine into it. So it is not really a medicine as such.
    Because of this, it needs less study but more internal mastery for the person who practices it, which is again a problem today. Siddha vaidya cannot happen without sadhana. Today they have set up colleges for siddha vaidya, but it will not work like that. “Siddha” means an established one or one who is firmly established within himself. At Isha, we have access to certain Siddha systems that are not normally available with other doctors who practice Siddha.


    Science and Medical Science in Ancient India
    Posted by The Hans | Sep 24, 2015 | IndiaDivine.Org

    Ancient Indians contributed greatly to the knowledge of science. Below let us look at some of the contributions by scientists of ancient India.
    Kanada was a sixth century scientist of Vaisheshika School, one of the six systems of Indian philosophy. His original name was Aulukya. He got the name Kanad, because even as a child, he was interested in very minute particles called “kana”. His atomic theory can be a match to any modern atomic theory.
    According to Kanad, material universe is made up of kanas, (anu/atom) which cannot be seen through any human organ. These cannot be further subdivided. Thus, they are indivisible and indestructible. This is, of course, as you may be knowing, what the modern atomic theory also says.
    Varahamihira was another well-known scientist of the ancient period in India. He lived in the Gupta period. Varahamihira made great contributions in the fields of hydrology, geology and ecology. He was one of the first scientists to claim that termites and plants could be the indicators of the presence of underground water.
    He gave a list of six animals and thirty plants, which could indicate the presence of water. He gave very important information regarding termites (Deemak or insects that destroy wood), that they go very deep to the surface of water level to bring water to keep their houses (bambis) wet.
    Another theory, which has attracted the world of science is the earthquake cloud theory given by Varahmihira in his Brhat Samhita. The thirty second chapter of this samhita is devoted to signs of earthquakes. He has tried to relate earthquakes to the influence of planets, undersea activities, underground water, unusual cloud formation and abnormal behavior of animals. Another field where Varahamihira’s contribution is worth mentioning is Jyotisha or Astrology.
    Astrology was given a very high place in ancient India and it has continued even today. Jyotisha, which means science of light, originated with the Vedas. It was presented scientifically in a systematic form by Aryabhatta and Varahmihira. You have already seen that Aryabhatta devoted two out of the four sections of his work Aryabhattiyam to astronomy, which is the basis for Astrology.
    Astrology is the science of predicting the future. Varahamihira was one of the nine gems, who were scholars, in the court of Vikramaditya. Varahamihira’s predictions were so accurate that king Vikramaditya gave him the title of ‘Varaha’.
    Nagarjuna was a tenth century scientist. The main aim of his experiments was to transform base elements into gold, like the alchemists in the western world. Even though he was not successful in his goal, he succeeded in making an element with gold-like shine. Till date, this technology is used in making imitation jewelry. In his treatise, Rasaratnakara, he has discussed methods for the extraction of metals like gold, silver, tin and copper.
    Medical Science
    In keeping with the times, Medical Science was also highly developed. Ayurveda is the indigenous system of medicine that was developed in Ancient India. The word Ayurveda literally means the science of good health and longevity of life. This ancient Indian system of medicine not only helps in treatment of diseases but also in finding the causes and symptoms of diseases.
    It is a guide for the healthy as well as the sick. It defines health as  equilibrium in three doshas, and diseases as disturbance in these three doshas. While treating a disease with the help of herbal medicines, it aims at removing the cause of disease by striking at the roots. The main aim of Ayurveda has been health and longevity.
    It is the oldest medical system of our planet. A treatise on Ayurveda, Atreya Samhita, is the oldest medical book of the world. Charak is called the father of ayurvedic medicine and Susruta the father of surgery. Sushruta, Charaka, Madhava, Vagbhatta and Jeevaka were noted Ayurvedic practitioners. Do you know that Ayurveda has lately become very popular in the western world? This is because of its many advantages over the modern system of medicine called Allopathy, which is of western origin.
    Susruta was a pioneer in the field of surgery. He considered surgery as “the highest division of the healing arts and least liable to fallacy”. He studied human anatomy with the help of a dead body. In Susruta Samhita, over 1100 diseases are mentioned including fevers of twenty-six kinds, jaundice of eight kinds and urinary complaints of twenty kinds.
    Over 760 plants are described. All parts, roots, bark, juice, resin, flowers etc. were used. Cinnamon, sesame, peppers, cardamom, ginger are household remedies even today. In Susruta Samhita, the method of selecting and preserving a dead body for the purpose of its detailed study has also been described. The dead body of an old man or a person who died of a severe disease was generally not considered for studies.
    The body needed to be perfectly cleaned and then preserved in the bark of a tree. It was then kept in a cage and hidden carefully in a spot in the river. There the current of the river softened it. After seven days it was removed from the river. It was then cleaned with a brush made of grass roots, hair and bamboo. When this was done, every inner or outer part of the body could be seen clearly.
    Susruta’s greatest contribution was in the fields of Rhinoplasty (plastic surgery) and Ophthalmic surgery (removal of cataracts). In those days, cutting of nose and/or ears was a common punishment. Restoration of these or limbs lost in wars was a great blessing. In Susruta Samhita, there is a very accurate step-by-step description of these operations.
    Surprisingly, the steps followed by Sushruta are strikingly similar to those followed by modern surgeons while doing plastic surgery. Sushruta Samhita also gives a description of 101 instruments used in surgery. Some serious operations performed included taking foetus out of the womb, repairing the damaged rectum, removing stone from the bladder, etc.
    Charak is considered the father of ancient Indian science of medicine. He was the Raj Vaidya (royal doctor) in the court of Kanishka. His Charak Samhita is a remarkable book on medicine. It has the description of a large number of diseases and gives methods of identifying their causes as well as the method of their treatment.
    He was the first to talk about digestion, metabolism and immunity as important for health and so medical scienc. In Charak Samhita, more stress has been laid on removing the cause of disease rather than simply treating the illness. Charak also knew the fundamentals of Genetics. Don’t you find it fascinating that thousands of years back, medical science was at such an advanced stage in India.
    Yoga and Patanjali
    The science of Yoga was developed in ancient India as an allied science of Ayurveda for healing without medicine at the physical and mental level. The term Yoga has been derived from the Sanskrit work Yoktra. Its literal meaning is “yoking the mind to the inner self after detaching it from the outer subjects of senses”. Like all other sciences, it has its roots in the Vedas.

    It defines chitta i.e. dissolving thoughts, emotions and desires of a person’s consciousness and achieving a state of equilibrium. It sets in to motion the force that purifies and uplifts the consciousness to divine realization. Yoga is physical as well as mental. Physical yoga is called Hathyoga. Generally, it aims at removing a disease and restoring healthy condition to the body.
    Rajayoga is mental yoga. Its goal is self -realization and liberation from bondage by achieving physical mental, emotional and spiritual balance. Yoga was passed on by word of mouth from one sage to another. The credit of systematically presenting this great science goes to Patanjali. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Aum is spoken of as the symbol of God.
    He refers to Aum as a cosmic sound, continuously flowing through the ether, fully known only to the illuminated. Besides Yoga Sutras, Patanjali also wrote a work on medicine and worked on Panini’s grammar known as Mahabhasaya.
      • How the World’s Oldest Science Can Help Us Heal in the Modern World
        Posted by Tanja Taljaard | Mar 09, 2016 | IndiaDivine.Org
        Ayurveda is the oldest continuing health science in the world. The central principle of Ayurvedic science is that we are all unique with an individual constitution, and our own physical and psychological nature. Hence the Ayurvedic approach treats all aspects of a person, as anything that affects the mind will affect the body. The Sanskrit word Ayurveda, means the science or wisdom of life.
        It is one of the few sciences that treats the individual through a thorough assessment of a person’s unique makeup and circumstances. The individual is examined within the broader context of their life and all factors influencing their wellbeing are taken into consideration. The success of the Ayurvedic tradition comes through the promotion of balanced living and is founded on the principle that nothing functions in isolation.
        While it is an ancient science from an ancient culture, in today’s throwaway and quick fix culture, the perennial wisdom of seeing the individual as a whole and as part of his or environment, is fundamental to long term, sustainable wellbeing and happiness.
        Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old philosophy based on a deep understanding about the human body as a whole, encompassing the mind, spirit, and emotions. It embraces medical science, philosophy, psychology as well as astrology and astronomy. Yoga and meditation, now widely embraced by westerners, are both key parts of Ayurveda. However, one does not need to subscribe to the spiritual beliefs on which it is based in order to benefit from it.
        Ayurveda and the Modern World
        In today’s fast paced high-pressure modern world, stress and burnout are becoming an epidemic. In the US, nearly 80% of people experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Sleep deprivation, over exposure to media, financial pressures, poor nutrition, work pressures and relationship problems are all causing serious health issues. And too often people are turning to quick fixes, such as medication, instead of dealing with the underlying problems, so they unfortunately end up in a spiral of bad health and compromised wellbeing.
        The three main goals of Ayurveda are to preserve the health of a healthy person, to prevent disease and to promote longevity through improved quality of life in mind, body and spirit. Health is defined as much more than just the absence of disease. One of the great scholars of Ayurveda defined health in this way:
        “Health is the state of equilibrium of doshas (biological humor), agnis (transformative physiological system functions), dhatus (tissues and organs), and malas (metabolic byproducts), along with sensorial, mental and spiritual well being.” – Sushruta
        It is a sustainable system of healing that is available to all and works in harmony with the natural world. Ayurvedic healing tools are easily available herbs, oils and food. The central message of Ayurveda is: “Let food be your medicine and kitchen be your first pharmacy.”
        Creating the Habits of Balanced Living
        Ayurveda focuses on the art of balanced living, as nothing functions in isolation and imbalance often result in disorder and illness. Establishing a daily routine that create habits of self-care is seen as a sacred duty.
        To create these habits, it helps to understand the fundamental elements of the complex system that is Ayurveda. The classical elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth form the building blocks of all existence. The Ayurvedic belief is that the human body is made of the same elements as all of nature, and most peoples’ bodies express a predominance of one element. This results in a particular physical shape, appetite and personality that constitute one’s dosha. The Doshas are different combinations of the five elements and their properties, and when in balance, maintains well-being. They are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
        Vata – Ether (or Space) and Air. Governs communication and movement. Thin, light body. Active and imaginative mind.
        Pitta – Fire and Water. Governs energy and transformation. Medium build, dynamic and intelligent.
        Kapha – Earth and Water. Governs structure and cohesion. Large or stocky body frame. Easygoing nature, stable and patient.
        What’s Your Dosha?
        Generally speaking, the dosha or doshas that are most dominant in your nature are the ones that cause you the most concern in your life. Consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner, or even taking an online questionnaire could help you determine what your Doshic state is. Many people have a fairly equal mix of two doshas present in their body type.
        Our doshas are constantly in a state of flux and are influenced by our diet, lifestyle, the weather, our state of mind and our emotions. Due to these influences, you may have too much or too little of one or more doshas in your body-mind make up. Using the opposite qualities of the aggravated dosha can restore balance.
        Let’s use the example of Air. Say you exposed your body to excessive wind, you would become cold and your skin would become dry. The excess wind would have caused an imbalance of the air element, and we start to see the properties of air increase in a negative way. Therefore someone with a predominantly Vata (Air) dosha in an aggravated state could feel cold and have dry skin. Or they could be feeling bloated, spaced out, flighty and anxious, and talk very quickly. Fear affects the nervous system, and would increase the air element in the body and mind. Over time this imbalance of extra air (fear and worry) is likely to create coldness and dry skin.

        The Elements
        Using the elemental system, we could use opposing elements for balance. Eating warm, heavier, moist foods that are grounding (Kapha=Earth & Water) in nature. Steam saunas, or eating foods cooked with warming spices (Pitta=Fire & Water). Meditating and doing slow and calming yoga: all of this would help to balance the excess air and reduce the inclination toward fear and worry. In balance, a person with a lot of Vata dosha is enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous, creative, flexible, quick thinking and open.
        Like will increase like. A Vata dosha is dry, cold, light, rough and quick. Food that is cold, light dry and rough tends to increase Vata. Activities that increases Vata are running, high-energy exercise, and being constantly on the move.
        The Pitta dosha is hot, intense, sharp and penetrating. Eating lots of hot, spicy, strong tasting, salty food increases Pitta. Activities that increase Pitta would involve a lot of sun and heat (like hot tubs or saunas).
        The Kapha Dosha is cold, heavy, oily and soft. Eating food with these qualities, like dairy products or starchy food will increase Kapha. This dosha can be quite sedentary, so a lot of sleep and sitting still can increase Kapha.
        The Healing Power of Herbs
        Herbs play an essential role in this ancient system of healing. Many of the herbs used in Ayurveda (like tumeric) have made their way into Western homes with research proving their efficacy in treating many illnesses. Herbal teas and meals that balance your unique constitution are not only nourishing but also healing. As Hippocrates said: Let food be your medicine.
        Eating well, using herbs that you can grow in your garden, honouring your body through yoga and abhyanga – self massage – and cultivating a quiet mind through meditation are all practical tools that help us to take ownership of our own health. When you’re in balance, you’re also more likely to maintain happy and satisfying relationships. [2] Using the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, we can create truly beneficial habits in our daily lives, or at the very least counterbalance those activities that may be having a negative effect on our wellbeing.
        Kapha – Earth and Water. Governs structure and cohesion. Large or stocky body frame. Easygoing nature, stable and patient.

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