Introduction to Ayurveda
Ayurveda is the traditional Indian medical and life system which is believed to be more than 5000 years old. It was conceived and developed by the rishis or sages over a period of many centuries through observations, experimentations, discussions, and meditations. Apparently, these rishis used to meet, exchange notes, so that one could build on the work of another, an ancient analogue of the patent system. For at least a couple of thousand years, the body of knowledge was passed on orally, from teacher to disciple. Around the period of 5th century BC, it was written down in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India.
The Ayurveda manuals were based on Atharva veda, the oldest Indian text which was supposedly written in 1500 BC, and were written by three sages: Charaka, Sushruta, and Vagbhatta. These manuals give detailed descriptions of various Ayuvedic practices. Charaka wrote down more than 500 remedies and Sushruta listed more than 700 plant based medicines. After it was documented, Ayurveda flourished for hundreds of years after that, and was used by rich and poor alike. After reading the entire literature on Ayurveda, I am sure you will agree that the rishis who conceived it were very intelligent, wise, and sensitive, especially to Mother Nature. The way they have conceptualized the human body, and all living beings for that matter, and the simplicity of it is proof of their intelligence. Their idea that one should totally surrender oneself to Mother Nature and live the way we are supposed to live is proof of their wisdom. And the incredibly minute observations that they have included in Ayurveda are proof of their sensitivity.
Ayurveda is composed of two words: ayur meaning life, and veda meaning knowledge. So you can think of Ayurveda as the knowledge of life or the science of life. The main emphasis of Ayurveda is on prevention of diseases. And that is where it differs with modern medicine, where the emphasis is on treating diseases. Ayurveda also puts a lot of emphasis on rejuvenation of our body, and increasing our life span. And the purpose of increasing the life span is so that it gives us more time to do good deeds, share the wisdom that comes or ideally should come with age, and leave the world a better place than we inherited, and not exactly for having wild sex at age 70. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I don’t think that’s what the rishis visualized. ?
Ayurveda considers us to be an indivisible and integral part of nature, and not different from nature. In fact, Ayurveda has a much broader view than that. It says that the entire universe is made up of one singular absolute. Every living being is made up of the same elements and forces that the universe is made up of, and the principles that are applicable to the universe are applicable to every living being. Again, this is different compared to modern medicine which looks at our body somewhat in isolation. Not only that, even parts or a group of parts within the body are looked at in isolation in modern medicine.
Ayurveda further believes that we should live in harmony with Mother Nature. And the word harmony is used not just to mean that we should not destroy nature or disturb its balance. That we should obviously not do; if we do, we will have to face its disastrous consequences without a doubt. Harmony means to live completely in tune with nature and change our lifestyle as we go through the daily changes, seasonal changes, and changes in our life. It is almost as if we are doing a tango (a type of dance) with Mother Nature, and she is leading the way. As a follower, you have to follow her footsteps for the dance to come off well; if you don’t, you will go out of step or fall, and needless to say, suffer. This is again quite different as compared to modern medicine, which doesn’t take into account direct effects of Mother Nature on our health at all.
While the aim of Ayurveda is prevention of diseases, it also has detailed descriptions of what to do in case we do fall sick, which is bound to happen from time to time. Ayurveda even has detailed descriptions of shalya-kriya or surgery. And in order to treat diseases, Ayurveda relies completely on nature with a firm belief that Mother Nature has all the answers that we are looking for. The reliance of modern medicines, however, is on pharmaceutical medicines that are manufactured in laboratories, and that is one other point of difference.
In Ayurveda, the mind and body not only influence each other, they are each other, and together form the mind-body. The universal consciousness is an intelligent and aware ocean of energy that gives rise to the physical world that we perceive through our senses.
So that was a quick introduction of Ayurveda.