What is Ayurveda?
Some 5000 years back, ancient Indian civilization gave birth to a unique and comprehensive healthcare system called Ayurveda. Most historians believed that Ayurveda is a Vedic science that was brought to India by the migrating Aryans. However, current archaeological evidence shows that Ayurveda was prevalent even in the ancient civilization of the Indus valley. According to the Vedic tradition, Ayurveda is eternal wisdom. Like energy, it cannot be created or destroyed!
In this blog, let us learn more about the meaning of word “Ayurveda”; and also the definition, aim and branches of Ayurveda.
Meaning of Ayurveda
The meaning of the word Ayurveda has a deep meaning. It reflects the depth of ancient wisdom.
According to Vedic wisdom, any entity with the essential four factors - physical body, senses (faculty of eye, ears, nose, etc.), mind, and soul is called a living being.
Ayu is the duration of time for which these four factors come together. In simple terms, ayu is the duration of life. Ayu or the life span may appear to be a simple term, but this word reflects the broad spectrum of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is the healthcare science meant for every living being. According to this definition of ayu, even a bacterium is a living being and therefore a subject to Ayurveda!
Divisions of Ayurveda
True to its etymological meaning, Ayurveda has several lesser-known divisions -
Vriksha Ayurveda - Ayurveda for trees (all green vegetation)
Besides, veterinary science may not be a modern invention. Ayurveda had a flourishing veterinary healthcare system with distinct branches for animals, birds, etc.
For example -
1. Ashwa Ayurveda - Ayurveda for horses
2. Gaj Ayurveda - Ayurveda for elephants
3. Go Ayurveda - Ayurveda for the cows
The psychosomatic aspect of Ayurveda
Since ayu includes the mind as an essential factor for life, Ayurveda is the first healthcare system to include the mental aspect of health. Vedic philosophy believes that the mind is the source of our universe. Even the physical body emerges from the mind. The science of mental well-being is ingrained in Ayurveda.
The word Ved emerges from the Sanskrit root - vid (to know). Therefore, ved does not refer to a plain body of knowledge. It refers to the realization of truth. Therefore, Ayurveda as a word refers to a healthcare wisdom. But Ayurveda is not folk medicine or plain herbal knowledge. It is a highly developed healthcare system with specialized branches.
Definition of Ayurveda
The classical definition of Ayurveda states that, Ayurveda is the science that elaborates the quality of life (beneficial/non-beneficial, comfortable/uncomfortable), life-promoting factors, and life duration. According to the Vedic philosophy, the ultimate purpose of life is to simplify and reduce karmic bondage. Each life is a chance to gain liberation. Therefore, all Vedic sciences are aides to ensure liberation. That's why Ayurveda classifies life into beneficial and non-beneficial.
A righteous life eliminates the karmic bondage, so it is beneficial in the end. Whereas, a life full of dishonesty and corruption darkens the karmic black hole. However, a righteous person may have a life full of suffering, whereas a wicked person may enjoy great health and luxury. Ayurveda aims to ensure a long and healthy life, that ensures a better chance of reaching salvation. Therefore, Ayurveda covers not only the physiological and psychological health but also the spiritual health of an individual.
Focus of Ayurveda
(first) Preserve the health of the healthy
(and then) cure the anxious
Ayurveda is not a medicinal science, it is a complete healthcare system, with the most elaborate system for prevention. Besides, Ayurvedic prevention does not focus on the treatment of the disorders. It does not focus even on the prevention of the diseases. Strange? But the beauty of this approach lies in its incidental effects.
We do not have to remove the darkness. We cannot remove darkness by focusing on it. The only way to remove darkness is to light a lamp. And, the darkness vanishes, incidentally!
In the same way, Ayurveda focuses not on diseases. It focuses on the health and diseases vanish incidentally. This concept works on the law of attraction, you attract what you think about. So if you focus on the treatment of diseases, guess what you are going to get! Let's see what can happen if we have a disease or treatment-focused approach.
I wonder if you have seen the famous Japanese cartoon series called “The Dragon Ball Z”. This series has a very interesting character called Vegeta. Vegeta has a special talent. He can absorb and replicate the strength of his opponent after a fight if he survives the fight. So, after every fight, he becomes stronger and stronger.
Let us look at the effect of anti-biotics in the light of the Vegeta story. Antibiotics were discovered around 100 years back (1928). Since then, they have become a central force in all kinds of medical intervention. But antibiotics have a disease-focused approach. They are an option to kill the bacteria, not to heal the body. Therefore, antibiotics damage the body cells as well, esp. The liver and kidney cells. This happens because the disease-elimination approach may not necessarily be a body-friendly approach as well.
Besides, bacteria grow when you focus on them, but how? With antibiotics, bacteria behave like Vegeta. For example, you took a course of 250 mg of Amoxicillin for 5 days in case of a mild chest disorder or fever. But, this dose was not able to eliminate all the bacteria. Now, the remaining bacteria have a chance to mutate and become resistant to this dose of antibiotic. So, this dose of 250 mg may not produce any results next time you need medicine for a fever.
The drug-resistant bacteria are an army of Vegeta that can grow stronger with every dose of antibiotics. And we need to be wary of these super-bugs. But probably we should focus on the prevention of diseases. But Ayurveda says no. Because prevention is all about still all about diseases. That is why Ayurveda promotes focus on health and health only. Once we have an exclusive focus on health, disease prevention becomes incidental and complete. It is no longer disease prevention; it is diseases elimination.
Branches of Ayurveda
Ayurveda has eight primary branches that further evolve into numerous sub-branches. They are -
1. Kaya Chikitsa - General Medicine
2. Kaumaryabritya - A Combination of Gynecology, Obstetrics, And Pediatrics
3. Bhoot Vidya - Meta Psychiatry or Energy Medicine
4. Shalakya - Acupressure and Acupuncture
5. Shalya - Surgery
6. Agad Tantra - Toxicology
7. Rasayana - Anti-Aging Immunotherapy
8. Vajikaran – Aphrodisiacs and Fertility Treatment
Each branch had various sub-specializations. For example – eye needle treatment. Future blogs will contain more details about each of these branches.
Thus, Ayurveda is truly the wisdom of life, aimed to assist all living beings to go beyond the realms of physical existence.
I hope that this blog helped you get a deeper view of Ayurveda. Let’s us explore some of the interesting fundamental concepts of Ayurveda in the next blog.