This article by David Frawley was published November 13th in The Daily Guardian to commemorate International Ayurveda Day on the birthday of Lord Dhavantari (pictured above) who is the deity of Ayurveda, which also coincided with Diwali, one of the most celebrated Hindu holidays which is a celebration of light presiding over darkness. I hope you enjoy...
Today Ayurveda has spread globally, with Ayurvedic centres and clinics throughout the world. It has been adopted by those in every continent, popular in such diverse areas as the United States, Brazil, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa and UAE.
On this special day, Ayurvedic practitioners, students, associations and schools from throughout the world will come together to celebrate the profound system of Ayurvedic healing. There will be gatherings, programmes and conferences honouring Ayurveda not just as an ancient Indian system of medicine, but as one of the most transformative systems of natural and yogic healing in the world, helpful to every person, creature and the entire planet.
“Ayu” refers to life, longevity and harmony between body, prana, senses, mind and atman. It is not just about physical health but about optimal wellbeing on all levels. It teaches us the way of right living in harmony with our mind-body constitution and with our inner self. It directs us to the immortality of our inner being, as well as helping us remain free from physical pain and disease. Ayurveda is a system of self-healing, connecting us to the wellsprings of prana and consciousness within us, not simply external healing factors, which are its outer applications.
Ayurveda does not view the human being merely as chemistry or structure as does modern medicine, but as ruled by overall unifying forces of prana, mind and atman, which integrate the diverse organic systems of the body and the various functions of the mind into a coherent unity. It recognises a deeper self of which the body is an instrument. If we can introduce change and bring harmony into these primary factors of energy and awareness within us, we can also improve our diverse physical functions in a fundamental manner.
Ayurveda includes what is ordinarily called medicine as an enduring system of medical treatment with its special doctors and vaidyas. It has its in-depth study of the body and its organic systems, its examination of the disease process and stages, many forms of diagnosis, and therapies for all manner of diseases, including powerful herbs and clinical methods like Pancha Karma. In India, Ayurveda is taught in a six-year BAMS programmes that integrating Ayurveda along with modern medicine.
Yet countering diseases is only a later phase of Ayurvedic treatment, which begins with our own right living on a daily basis. Ayurveda teaches us the right diet, herbs, exercise, work, rest, and lifestyle for the body. Each one of us at a physical level has a unique mind-body constitution defined according to the three doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which it addresses (corresponding generally to the air, fire and water elements within us).
Ayurveda delineates in detail the healing or disease-causing properties of foods, herbs and physical activities of all types, with its understanding of nature’s qualities and energies. It tells us that everything we encounter in life can either promote wellbeing or cause disease, depending upon how we related to it.
Ayurveda aims to reduce the disease causing doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha but also to increase their positive health potentials as Prana, Tejas and Ojas, the essences of vitality within us. It teaches us that we have internal energies of prana and mind that are more important for our wellbeing than simply bodily functions and activities.
Ayurveda similarly teaches the way of right living for the mind. It follows the same principles as the Yamas and Niyamas of yoga for purifying the mind and emotions. Such behavioural modifications aid in our right action and expression overall. Dharmic or sattvic living helps us remove all psychological and emotional disorders. Ayurveda also explains in detail the health consequences of our sensory impressions, emotions and thoughts that we ordinarily fail to examine. In this regard, Ayurveda is for everyone and we should each learn how to apply it relative to our own needs and capacities.
AYURVEDA, PANDEMIC & ECOLOGY
Today the world is caught in the throes of a powerful and dangerous pandemic. Many plagues have afflicted humanity over the centuries, such as Ayurveda has experienced and noted. Yet this pandemic is the first of the twenty-first century and reflects our information technology, both in regard to its spread and its treatment. This makes it unique in many ways and difficult to counter.
Ayurveda warns of collective diseases that can arise from the wrong relationship of the human being with our natural environment, elements and ecosystems. Our individual prana is connected to the prana of the Earth, starting with other human beings, extending to the animals, plants and the forests, from the soil to the atmosphere. We cannot as individual human beings have strong immune systems to resist disease if the integrity of the biosphere, the Earth’s immune system, is disrupted or depleted.
Clearly today the organic basis of life on the planet is being compromised, our natural environments are being endangered and, in some cases, destroyed. Along with this, we as human beings are now in doubt as to who we really are, or what the ultimate purpose of our lives truly is, including our connection with nature itself.
Ayurveda is yet more relevant in this technological era because it teaches us how to be in harmony with the universal prana and mind, through which we can master all technologies and also our own thoughts and emotions. It helps us restore both our physical and psychological immunity, so that we are not the mere victims of external forces and influences.
THE GREATER FIELD OF AYURVEDA
As the natural healing tradition that arises from yoga and Vedanta, Ayurveda embraces pranayama, mantra and meditation, and brings in their healing applications. Ayurveda is the medicine of yoga, through which we can integrate ourselves with the whole of life. Ayurvedic study begins with the philosophy and principles of yoga and samkhya as the basis for its approach to body and mind.
Ayurveda has long been used with other medical systems, including in India—the AYUSH systems of Yoga, Naturopathy, Siddha, Unnani and Tibetan medicine. At a global level, Ayurveda is being used along with modern medicine, chiropractic, psychology, massage, nutrition, herbal medicine and many other approaches.
Yet Ayurveda maintains its own identity and ability to integrate diverse forms of healing, with its broad view of life. It looks beyond the mere treatment of disease to right living for body and mind for both the individual and society. It connects us with the universal life and energy, not just to medical treatment centres.
It is important that we honour Ayurveda on this Ayurveda Day, and that those in India recognise the global influence of Ayurveda, just as they have noted the global influence of yoga. Our health and psychological challenges today require Ayurveda, and we will certainly benefit from the wisdom of the great rishis and yogis who have brought us Ayurveda and sustained in over the millennia.
May you and your loved ones be healthy and safe,