Introduction to Ayurveda
AYURVEDA is a 6000 years old holistic method of ancient medicinal science and is the oldest healing science that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. This method of medicine was grown in the ancient lands of India and is often called the “Mother of All Healing.” Ayurveda is one of the branches of vedas. It is regarded as upaveda (Sub-veda) of Atharva-veda. It’s also called Panchama veda (5th veda). In fact, it is a stream of the knowledge coming down from generation to generation since eternity parallel to the vedic literature that is why its emergence has been said to be from the creator of Universe (Brahma) himself prior to the creation. It is called eternal because nobody knows when it was not there. All this shows its long tradition and deep attachment to the Indian culture.Hindu Vedas consider Herbs as a gift of Gods to humanity which was given to the saints and sages of India in deep meditation. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical Ayurvedic medical texts dating back several thousands of years.
The principles and philosophy of Ayurveda view man as a complex whole, including our external and internal environments. The principles are derived from universal laws of nature that have changed little through time. With subjective, objective, and intuitive approaches to gaining knowledge, incorporated with a deep understanding of the unseen intelligence of the universe. The practices of Ayurveda have withstood the test of time.
Ayurveda defines life ‘Ayuh’ as the intelligent coordination of our four parts, the soul, the mind, the senses, and the body, with the totality of nature and the cosmos. Health is not just a state of the body. We interact with the seasons, planetary changes of the earth, and moon, other planets, as well as orbiting relationships within our lives, our loved ones and friends, co-workers etc. We affect and are affected by every other animate and inanimate thing in existence. Bringing all of this into balance is the key to living healthy.
In Ayurveda the whole life’s journey is considered to be sacred.
Origin of Ayurveda
The origin of Ayurveda dates back to the Vedic era. Most material relating to the health and diseases are available in Atharva veda. Historians claim that Ayurveda is a part of Atharva Veda. However RigVeda which is the earliest Veda also mentions about diseases and medicinal plants. The systematized form of Ayurveda dates back to the prehistoric period of Rishi Conference which was held in the foot hills of Mount Himalaya. The earliest codified document on Ayurveda is Charaka Samhita. Sushruta samhita is another codified document. Sushruta tradition was said to be descended and propagated by Dhanvantari whereas Charaka tradition was descended through Atreya. Sushruta School is dominated by surgical procedures and techniques while Charaka Samhita deals with internal medicine.
Charaka Samhita also mentions the names of the earliest disciples of Atreya as Agnivesh, Bhela, Jatukarna, Parashar, Harita and Ksharpani and they separately created their own treaties in the field of internal medicine. Out of these six, Charaka Samhita and Bhela Samhita are available in authentic form today, however, Harita Samhita which is also available, but its authenticity is questionable. Many of the manuscripts were lost due to foreign invasions which resulted in big setback to this ancient knowledge of life.
Definition of Ayurveda
The word Ayurveda is derived from two words, viz. ‘AYU’ (Life) and ‘VEDA’ (Science or Knowledge). Ayurveda means the ‘Science of Life’.
According to Charak, the word ‘AYU’ doesn’t mean just life, instead it means –
शरीरेन्द्रिय सत्वात्मा संयोगो। – (चरक संहिता सूत्र १/४२)
Shareerendriya Satvatmaa Sanyogo. – (Charak Samhita, 1-42)
The union of Shareera (body), Indriya (sense organs), Satva (mind) and Atma (soul).
Hence, Ayurveda means the knowledge of the union of body, sense organs, mind and soul.
Maharishi Charak defines Ayurveda as follows:
आयुरस्मिन् विद्यते अनेन वा आयुर्विन्दतीत्यायुर्वेद:। – (चरक संहिता सूत्र १/१३)
Aayursmin Vidhyate Anen Va Ayurvindateetyaayurvedah. – (Charak Samhita, 1-13)
That is, one who contains knowledge of Life is called ‘Ayurveda’
तदायुर्वेद यतीत्यायुर्वेद:। – (चरक संहिता सूत्र ३०/२३)
Tadayurveda Yateetyaayurvedah. – (Charak Samhita, 30-23)
That is, one who imparts ‘knowledge of longevity’ is called Ayurveda.
Acharya Bhava Mishra, author of 'Bhavaprakash' describes Ayurveda as follows:
अनेन पुरुषो यस्माद् आयुर्विन्दति वेत्ति च । तस्मान्मुनिवरैरेष 'आयुर्वेद' इति स्मृतः ॥
हिताहितं सुखं दुःखं आयुस्तस्य हिताहितम् । मानं च तच्च यत्रोक्तं आयुर्वेदः स उच्यते ॥ – (चरक संहिता सूत्र ३/४१)
Anēna Purusho Yasmād Ayurvindati Vētti Cha. Tasmānmunivarairesh Ayurveda Iti Smratah.
Hitāhitam Sukham Dukham Aayustasya Hitāhitam. Mānam Cha Taccha Trayoktam Ayurvedah Sa Ucchyate. – (Charak Samhita, 3-41)
That is, the grand treatise, which contains the details of health y and long age (ayu) and which defines what is good (hita) and what is bad (ahita) for the four different types of ayus (namely, hitayu, ahitayu, sukhayu and dukhayu, concerning different conditions of diseased or healthy life ) is Ayurveda .
More accurately, we may define Ayurveda as, "The science that deals with advantage and disadvantage as well as happy and unhappy states of life along with what is good and bad for life, its measurement and the life itself." Ayurveda embraces all living things, animate and inanimate. It is divided into three main branches viz., Nara Ayurveda dealing with human life, Satva Ayurveda the science dealing with animal life and its diseases, Vriksha Ayurveda the science dealing with plant life, its growth and diseases. It is amply clear that Ayurveda is not only a system of medicine but also a way of life for complete positive health and spiritual attainments.
Ayurveda believes that positive health is the basis for attaining four cherished goals of life (chaturvidh purushartha) viz., Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. All these four goals cannot be achieved without sound positive health.
Positive health is defined as
Aim of Ayurveda
The aim of Ayurveda is to protect the health of healthy individuals and to remove the disease of the patient.
प्रयोजनं चास्य स्वस्थस्य स्वास्थ्यरक्षणं आतुरस्यविकारप्रशमनं च ॥ – (चरक संहिता, सूत्र ३०/२६)
Prayojanam Chasya Swastasya Swastyarakshanam Ayurtasyavikarprasamanam Cha. – (Charak Samhita, 30-26)
Ayurveda has two objectives:
Subject Matter of Ayurveda
हेतु लिंग औषध ज्ञानं स्वस्थातुर परायणम् । त्रिसुत्रं शाश्वतम् पुण्यं बबुधे यं पितामहः।। – (चरक संहिता, सूत्र १/२४)
Hetu Ling Aushadh Gyanam Swasthaatur Parayanam. Trisutram Shashwatam Punyam Babudhe Yam Pitamah. – (Charak Samhita, 1-24)
According to this sutra, Ayurveda provides knowledge of aetiology, symptomatology and therapeutics, best way for both the healthy and the sick, continuing since -time -immemorial and virtuous which was first known to Brahma - the creator. There is no reason to have two opinions against the principles like Tri-dosha theory, Panchabhautik medical theory, Natureism theory, etc. Then whether it was by Daksha Prajapati, Indra, Dhanvantari, or other masters.
हिताहितं सुखं दुःखं आयुस्तस्य हिताहितम् । मानं च तच्च यत्रोक्तं आयुर्वेदः स उच्यते ॥ – (चरक संहिता सूत्र ३/४१)
Hitahitam Sukham Dukham Aayustasya Hitahitam. Manam Cha Taccha Trayoktam Ayurvedah Sa Ucchyate. – (Charak Samhita, 3-41)
The grand treatise, which contains the details of healthy and long age (ayu) and which defines what is good (hita) and what is bad (ahita) for the four different types of ayus (namely, Hitayu, Ahitayu, Sukhayu and Dukhayu, concerning different conditions of diseased or healthy life) is Ayurveda . Ayurveda is that which deals with good, bad, happy and unhappy life, its promoters and non-promoters, span and nature.
Basic Doctrine Principles of Ayurveda
Modern medicine is based on physics, Chemistry, Botany, and Zoology. Ayurveda is based on Indian Philosophy - the theory of macrocosm and microcosm. Man is the epitome of greater universe. Ayurveda believes that the entire universe is composed of five elements: Vayu (Air), Jala (Water), Aakash (Space or ether), Prithvi (Earth) and Teja (Fire). These five elements (referred to as Pancha Mahabhoota in Ayurveda) are believed to form the three basic humors of human body in varying combinations. The three humors; Vata dosha, Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha are collectively called as “Tridoshas” and they control the basic physiological functions of the body along with five sub-doshas for each of the principal doshas. Ayurveda believes that the human body consists of Saptadhatus (seven tissues) Rasa (tissue fluids), Meda (fat and connective tissue), Rakta (blood), Asthi (bones), Majja (marrow), Mamsa (muscle), and Shukra (semen) and three Malas (waste products) of the body, viz. Purisha (faeces), Mutra (urine) and Sweda (sweat). Vata dosha maintains the cellular transport, electrolyte balance, elimination of waste products and its effect is increased by dryness. Pitta dosha regulates the body temperature, optic nerve coordination and hunger and thirst management. Heat conditions of the body aggravate Pitta. Kapha dosha is increased due to sweet and fatty food and it provides lubrication to the joints for proper functioning. The catabolism of the body is believed to be governed by Vata, metabolism by Pitta and anabolism by Kapha. For a healthy state of health, a balance between the three doshas and other factors should be maintained. Any imbalance between the three causes a state of illness or disease. In Ayurveda it is believed, that a perfect balance between the nature elements and the Tridoshas of the human body should be maintained for a healthy state of living by following the principles of divine wisdom. The body is believed to be composed of seven types of tissues called as “Sapta Dhatus”. These seven tissues work in coordination with each for proper physiological functioning of the human body. The Rakta Dhatu resembles the blood and regulates the circulation of blood cells and provision of blood components to the body. The Mamsa Dhatu (Muscle tissue) provides supports in the form of skeletal muscles for the Meda Dhatu (adipose fat). The Asthi Dhatu comprises the bones of the body and the Majja Dhatu is made up of the bone marrow and fluids required for the oleation of the bones and their functioning. The Shukra Dhatu is responsible for functions of the reproductive organs of the body.
Apart from the Doshas and the Dhatus, the other important factors considered in the doctrine of Ayurveda are the Tri Malas and Trayo Dosa Agni. Tri Malas are the three types of waste products formed in the body due to metabolic and digestive functions of the body. They comprise of the Mutra (urine), Purisa (faeces), and Sveda (sweat). Ayurveda explains that if the balance between Tridosha is not maintained the waste products of the body are not effectively eliminated and these lead to further complications like diarrhea, constipation, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and such other complications. If the Mutra Mala (urine) is not removed from the body, it can lead to urinary tract infections, cystitis and gastric pain. If the Sveda Mala is not cleared from the body, it can lead to skin irritation problems, and improper fluid balance. As per the principles of Ayurveda the biological fire of the body for all the metabolic function is called as “Agni”. There are thirteen categories of Agni in a human body and the most important is the one responsible for digestive fire, called as Jatharagni. Jatharagni has a close relation with Pitta and ultimately Vatta of the body. If the digestive fire of the body is increased in the body by increase in acidity conditions, the elevation in Pitta levels and its relative symptoms are observed. Digestive fire is important in controlling the normal microflora, proper digestive functions and provision of energy to the entire body. Any disturbances in its balance, creates discomfort to the gastro-intestinal tract and results in pathological complications like ulcers, diarrhea and constipation.
Considering the bodily constitution, pathological history, the Dosha characteristics, life style and environmental conditions in an individual's routine life style, Ayurveda has many treatment strategies for promoting well-being to individuals.
Ayurveda employs the “Pancha karma” method in its therapies. Pancha karmatherapy applies various processes for the rejuvenation of the body, cleansing and enhancing longevity. The Pancha karma is composed of five karmas (actions) that are used for removal of toxins from the body tissues. They are the Virechan (purgation though use powders, pastes or decoction), Vaman (forced therapeutic emesis by use of some medicines), Basti (use of enemas prepared from medicated oils), Rakta moksha (detoxification of blood) and Nasya (administration of medicines like decoctions, oils and fumes through nasal route).
Primarily, Pancha karma consists of 3 steps viz. Poorva karma (preparatory process of the body for the therapy), Pradhan karma (the main process of therapy) and the Paschat karma (consisting of regimens to be followed to restore digestive and other absorptive procedures of the body, back to the normal state). Clarified butter and medicated oils are used in the oleation process. Swedan (sweating) is brought about by exposure to steam for particular areas of treatment of the body. Forced emesis or vamana is brought about by administration of decoction of liquorice, honey with a few hours of prior administration of curd and rice. These substances are believed to cause elevation in the emesis effect. The Virechana, or laxative therapy is carried out by administration of herbs and liquids like senna, cow milk, psyllium seed, and castor oil. The enemas used in Pancha karma can be prepared from medicated oils or decoction of herbs like sesame or anise.
Eight Divisions of Ayurveda
Salient Features of Ayurveda
There are several aspects of this system of medicine which distinguish it from other approaches to health care:
Benefits of Ayurveda
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