Ayurveda is the world’s oldest known medical science, which originated in India over 5,000 years ago. The main source of this ancient knowledge is the Vedas or the divine books of knowledge propounded by spiritual rishis (sages) in India.
Ayurveda is not simply a healthcare system, but a form of lifestyle adopted to maintain perfect balance and harmony within the human existence. According to Ayurveda, life represents a combination of theAtma (soul), Mana (mind), Indriyan (senses) and Sharira (body). It revolves around the five elements(Panchamahabhutas) that constitute an individual’s nature or Prakriti. This nature is determined by the vital balance of the three physical energies – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – and the three mental energies– Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
According to Ayurveda, living in harmony with nature and according to natural principles ensures complete physical health and peace of mind. However, modern life often violates the principles of natural living. We work long hours in offices with artificial light and air conditioning systems. We don’t have time to prepare breakfast, eat a fast food lunch at our desk and a pre-prepared dinner in front of the television. We rush from one mundane task to the next while being bombarded with advertising and constant noise, and absorbing pollution through the air and water. No wonder we are inviting disease rather than confronting it. Living naturally according to some simple principles can prevent the need for expensive medical treatment or needless suffering from debilitating conditions. Learn to listen to your body and read the signals of distress to maintain health, and lead a more productive life. Ayurveda thus offers a unique blend of science and philosophy that balances the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components necessary for holistic health.
Vedic knowledge propounds the principle of natural balance within the body and harmony with the environment. People are seen as an integral part of their habitat – not as a separate entity from the natural world. Obtaining and maintaining balance within the body and mind, and with the external environment, is one of the goals of this knowledge. Living in harmony with nature and according to natural principles ensures complete physical health and peace of mind.
The instruction manual for the natural living of human beings is called Ayurveda, which is presented here in a simplified form. Understanding this philosophy of life enables you to become your own "healer". You learn about your body, how it functions and how to treat it through diet and herbal remedies. In fact, you also become your own dietician, personal trainer, counselor or psychologist, stylist and beautician! Ayurveda is a unified system that encompasses all these aspects. The magic of it is that it involves nothing more expensive or complex than adapting your diet and lifestyle.
Meaning of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is derived from two words, Ayus and Veda. Understanding the meaning of both words is necessary to fully grasp the philosophy of this discipline.
Definition of Ayus
The English translation of ayus is “life”. In the Vedic context, the definition of life is broader than simply chronological lifespan. It does not mean the age of a person; the number of years lived on Earth measured from birth until the present day. Ayus is much more than that, it is a combination of the:
Together, these four factors are responsible for sustaining the life air or force (prana) in the body, and each must be present in order to produce ayus. If any one of the above factors is absent, we cannot say there is life/ayus. Everything on Earth has a physical body and a soul, but whether it also has a mind and senses determines whether it is alive. The reason why a rock is not alive (has no ayus) is that some of the factors mentioned above are absent (mind, senses). Prana cannot be sustained in the absence of these factors.
Every species of animal has each of these four factors, so prana can circulate and ayus is present. The senses and minds of animals are different to that of humans, but they still exist as living beings. Insects and animals may perceive things differently (such as colors, sounds, temperatures, odors) and the mind may not be as well developed as human beings, but the souls are alike. So ayus is the basis of distinction between inert objects and dynamic entities, or living beings.
Definition of Veda
Veda is a Sanskrit word which means “knowledge” or “science”. Vedic knowledge is enshrined in fourteen sacred texts. There are four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), six Vedangas (auxiliaries), Meemamsa (interpretations), Nyaya (logic), Puranas and Shastras. Although Vedic knowledge originated in India, it does not mean this information is of relevance only to Indians. Knowledge is the universal asset of mankind—it is not the property of one region. Vedic information can be utilized by anybody, in any part of the world. If we, as Indians, think this wealth of information is our exclusive property and don’t share it, we are not providing you with the chance to learn from the profound wisdom that has enriched our culture for centuries.
Objective of Ayurveda
There are two complementary aims of this discipline. The first is to maintain the health of those who are well. This entails specific diet and nutrition, hygiene, living habits, exercises and stabilizing techniques. Following these guidelines enables a healthy person to maintain health and increase their life-span. The other is to cure diseases of those who are sick. This aspect relates to various diseases, their causes, diagnosis, remedies and therapies to cure and prevent relapses of illness.
Although both of these aims are connected and are comprehensive areas in their own right, the primary focus of this science is to maintain your health from the outset. This is done on a daily basis with attention to diet and lifestyle, helping the body and mind to be clean and stable. In this way, diseases do not find ground for establishment and growth.
A patient being treated with Ayurveda is considered as the total combination of body, mind, senses and soul. The Ayurvedic doctor aims to achieve complete health for the patient, not just to suppress or alleviate troubling physical symptoms. The approach is to diagnose the root cause and eliminate it, allowing genuine healing to take place.
The 8 Branches of Ayurveda
Describes ailments of adults not treated by other branches of Ayurveda. Hence known as general medicine.
This branch deals with the prenatal and postnatal baby care as well as the care of a woman before and during pregnancy. It also elaborates various diseases of children and their treatments.
The study of mental diseases and their treatments. Treatment methods include not only medicines and diet but also yogic methods for improving psychic power.
This branch deals with the diseases of ear, nose, throat and head and their treatments including special techniques for curing these diseases.
Maharishi ‘Sushrutha’ is the first surgeon who is also the author of Salya Chikitsa, the foremost speciality of Ayurveda. He describes various surgical operations using different surgical instruments and devices.
This branch deals with the toxins from vegetables, minerals and also toxins from animal origins. The concept of pollution of air and water in certain places and seasons has been given special consideration. Such pollution is also said to be the cause of various epidemics
This branch which is unique to Ayurveda, deals with prevention of diseases and promotion of a long and healthy life. It also advises how to increase our health, intellect and beauty.
This branch deals with the means of increasing sexual vitality and efficiency.
It deals with the diseases of the plant kingdom and their treatments (known as Agriculture).
This Science deals with the diseases of animals and their treatments (known as Veterinary Science)
Besides these 8 branches, Ayurveda also brings diseases affecting plants and animals into its ambit of consideration.
The Ayurvedic approach is about aligning with the infinite organizing power of nature rather than struggling or trying to force things to go your way. This principle is embodied by the Law of Least Effort. When you observe nature, you will notice that grass doesn’t try to grow; it just grows. Birds don’t try to fly; they just fly. Flowers don’t try to blossom; they just blossom. Nature functions with effortless ease, frictionlessly and spontaneously. It is intuitive, holistic, non-linear, and nourishing. You will expend least effort when your actions are motivated by love, because nature is held together by the energy of love. When you chase after status, money, power, or accolades, you waste energy, but when your actions are motivated by love, your energy expands and accumulates. So take it easy and be guided by love.