What is Ayurveda?

 The term "Ayurveda" is becoming more and more prevalent in western society with figures such as Dr. Oz and personalities on ABC starting to recognize the healing effects. It is one of the top 3 medical systems in the world and it is a lifestyle in eastern culture. With more and more people discovering the wonders of ayurveda it is important for people to have a basic understanding of what it is. 

      In the past, Ayurveda has been misunderstood and seen as a religion or a cult, but now, with the yoga craze, people are starting to see that it is a beautiful medical science that encourages people to live in harmony with the earth, the elements and the seasons.  While Yoga and AV are not Upavedas, by blood, they may be viewed as sister sciences--practitioners of both use data of the other science in daily life. It is a sister science to yoga and astrology.  Ayurveda does not involve mandatory worship of mysterious deities.  Instead it embraces all spirituality and recognizes the divine intelligence within all living things.  It is the ancient healing science of India.

"Ayurveda identifies what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. It explains the nature of happiness and the nature of misery, as well as what is conducive to wellness and happiness and what is detrimental to it. It also seeks to understand and extend the span of a healthy life, and it can be applied to anything that is measurable. "-Charaka Samhita

      The origins of Ayurveda are uncertain and certainly predate extant historical records.  Thousands of years ago, men and women of wisdom or Rishis (meaning seers), cognized some truths known as the Vedas. About 1700 BC these thousands of verses were organized or compiled into four distinct groupings: Rg Ved, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. Within two of these--Rg Veda and Atharva Veda--are many verses dealing with medical matters. There is a verse in Rg Veda that states that balance of the three dhatus is necessary for health. Also among the content are themes of agni, soma, and prana--all concepts native to Ayurveda. While AV is not mentioned specifically, and the verses in the Vedas do not constitute a formal theory, they do point to the existence of a science of life.

It is the science of long life; of daily living; of digestion. Ayur: “span of time” or “life” Veda: “wisdom”.   Ayurveda is an ancient medical science, with mystical and spiritual orientation. It can help individuals make wise, conscious choices about daily living and staying healthy.  It is a comprehensive medical system of mind, body, and spirit with therapies including yoga, diet, bodywork, psychology, surgery, herbs, gynecology, pediatrics, astrology and much more.  

     The sacred knowledge of Ayurveda has been handed down from the guru (teacher) to the student for thousands of years. Reading about Ayurveda is one way of learning, but the highest, most powerful platform will only unfold in the presence of the guru that exists within you and outside of you. The Shakti (vibratory space) that is transferred from the guru to the student is very significant and carries the very essence of the teaching. This transference is called "entrainment". The guru is usually vibrating at a higher frequency as compared to the student. The lower vibration will naturally entrain to the higher vibration. Through this transference, the cosmic dance of Shakti and Shiva (energy and matter or creation and transformation/destruction?) will manifest within the student. 

     The elements are listed from most subtle to most dense. Without these elements, our five senses would not exist. For example, ether is responsible for sound.  We would not be able to hear without ether. Ether is a subtle aspect of air. If one of the elements within our bodies is out of balance, one of the 5 senses will be deranged to some degree. Ayurveda classifies these 5 elements into 3 aspects.  These aspects are referred to as doshas, a Sanskrit word meaning: biological principle, which generally refers to an imbalance due to ‘excess’ of one of the elements within the body.

  1. Ether….hearing
  2. Air…..touch
  3. Fire….vision
  4. Water…..taste
  5. Earth…..smell

What is a Dosha?

It is a Sanskrit word, which means a biological principle.  It usually refers to an excess of one of the five great elements and is prone to change. It is not a description or definition of our constitution, which is not prone to change.

 

Most people get confused between the word dosha and constitution. They are totally separate from each other. Here is the definition of dosha in one of Dr. Lad's books: "Three psycho-physiological functional principles. The doshas support and maintain the proper functioning of the body when normal, and they can create disease when imbalanced.

The meaning of dosha is most completely stated in Sharngadhara Samhita 1.5 23-24: “Vata, pitta, and kapha are called doshas (blemishes, vitiators), dhatus (supports, tissues), and malas (wastes) in different contexts: doshas because they vitiate the body, dhatus because they support the body, and malas because they contaminate it.”