Ayurveda - Brief overview

 

Objectives  

The objectives with which Ayurvedic system of medicine started are two fold.

 

1. To maintain the health of a healthy person.

2. To cure the disease of the sick.

 For meeting the above two objectives various dietary regimens, behavioural patterns, sleep patterns, exercise along with medicines and medical and surgical methods of treatment have been described.

 

Ayurveda: A Science

Ayurveda gives us a complete knowledge of the whole life of an individual right from conception to death and even beyond that. Ayurveda is a science based upon observation of living things and their actual response and their reactions to their environment. It deals with various aspects of life. It encompasses not only medicinal approach but also deals in good details about the spiritualism and philosophy.

 

Nature & Ayurveda

More than a medical system, Ayurveda is a way of life, a way of cooperating with nature and living in harmony with nature. It believes that human being is a part of nature and whatever lies in nature, there is a corresponding representation of similar elements in the body as well. Therefore one has to always live in harmony with nature and one should never try to go against nature. We are well acquainted with the consequences which we are face if we try to go against the laws of nature.

Ayurveda is extensively used all over the world in various forms. Many home remedies are used for the treatment of minor and major aliments. But the scope of Ayurveda does not limit itself to these minor home remedies. An Ayurvedic physician considers human being as a whole and does not account the parts of the body as isolated organs for the purpose of either understanding or for treatment of diseases. Body, Mind and Soul are considered as essential elements for causation of all illnesses. Therefore even while treatment also all these factors have to be considered. The diseases are caused by disturbance in the equilibrium of Doshas that are circulating all over the body.

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Seed Soil relation

Ayurveda aims at making the body strong rather than killing the microorganisms with antimicrobials. If the immunity of the body is good, it becomes difficult for organisms to attack and affect the human system. This can be well understood by the concept of seed and soil. Ayurveda makes the soil so fertile that fruitful and healthy plants out of a good seed grows and in healthy plant diseases refuse to occur.

 

Tridosha (Three Humours)

Doshas are the functional entities with designated functions. They are also said to be subtle energies. These Doshas are three in number viz., Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Doshas are also called as Humours, which govern or control the functioning of the body. These are commonly called as Triguna in health and Tridosha in disease. These perform various important functions in a healthy human body so that processes like movements, digestion and holding the tissues together goes on. These three Doshas (Humours) remaining in perfect equilibrium maintain good health. A disturbance in their equilibrium amounts to diseases.

 

Dhatus (Body tissues)

Ayurveda has described the structural components of our body as Dhatus. Seven Dhatus have been described and are popularly known as Saptadhatus. They are the Rasa (plasma/lymph), Rakta (Blood), Mamsa (Muscular Tissue), Meda (fats), Asthi (Bones), Majja (Bone marrow) and Shukra (i.e. sperm / reproductive facilitating tissue). These seven components maintain the posture, strength, and shape of the body and therefore they are rightly called Dhatus meaning - the components responsible for maintenance.

 

Mala (Excretory Products)

The last components which the body is made up of is the Mala or the excretory contents of our body. They are primarily three - Purisha (i.e. stools), Mutra (i.e. urine) and Sweda (i.e. Sweat). Although these are waste products still they are responsible to maintain health if they are retained and thrown out in time and in the quantity in which they are normally expected to. Increase or decrease in their quantity or if they are not retained and are thrown out very fast in huge quantities becomes a manifestation for several illnesses.

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Sattva (Mind/Psyche)

Along with Doshas, Dhatus and Mala, Sattva (Mind) is also an integral part of one’s personality. Its role in health as well as disease is no longer a matter of controversy. It is also termed as Mann which means Mind or Psyche. This component is responsible for the thought, perception, knowledge, consciousness, likes or dislikes of human beings. Sattva has been divided into three types according to three specific characteristics viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. We always observe tremendous diversity of thoughts, behaviour and attitude of people living in similar conditions. This is all decided by the state of Mind or

 

Panchamahabhoota

As there are three forms of matter like solids, liquids and gas, in the same manner Ayurveda has also postulated that a human body and every single part of his/her body is made up of five basic components called as Panchamahabhoota. Doshas, Dhatus, Mala and every other thing is made up of these five basic elements. These five basic components are Space (Akaash), Biological Air (Vayu), Biological Fire (Tejas), Biological Water (Jala) and Biological Earth (Prithvi). Akaash component makes up for the space that the body or its part constitute, Vayu is responsible for various movements, Teja is responsible for transformation and Prithvi is responsible for giving shape and Jala component is responsible for holding / binding various tissues together. Ayurveda further goes on to say that each and every component in this universe is made up of these five basic elements and therefore there is nothing is this universe which cannot be used as medicine.

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Srotas (Channels in the body)

The flow of nutrients and other materials has to be maintained to see that all the body tissues get adequate amount of nutrients and other essential material. The channels are facilitating this job. These channels are called as Srotas. In general term Srotas comprehends all channels- big and small, perceptible and imperceptible- that compose the internal transport system of the body. There are several synonyms used for the term Srotas viz. Srotamsi, Siras, Dhamanis, Rasayanis, Panthanas etc. These channels acquire the shape and color of the Dhatu that they transport. These channels are big as well as small depending on what they are required to carry. These Srotasas can be cylindrical, minute or microscopic (anu) or dirgha(long). These srotas are the channels that perform the function of transformation, transportation excretion, maintenance, growth etc. Charaka, Sushruta and Vaghabhatta all the three main Samhitas have described these Srotasas in great details. The srotases described are as under:

1. Pranavaha srotas : Channels of respiration

2. Udakavaha: Channels of fluid or water, canals distribution

3. Annavaha : Alimentary canals

4. Rasavaha: Lymphatic canals

5. Rakta-vaha: Vascular system

6. Mamsa-vaha: Channels through which nutrition to Mamsa or muscle tissue is transported

7. Medovaha : Channels through which nutrition to adipose tissue is transported

8. Asthivaha : Channels through which nutrition to bone tissue is transported

9. Majjavaha : Channels through which nutrition to marrow tissue is transported

10. Shukravaha : Channels through which nutrition to reproductive tissue is transported

11. Mutravaha : Channels through which urine is transported

12. Swedavaha : Channels through which sweat is transported

13. Purishavaha : Channels through which feces is transported    

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        Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are stated to traverse the entire body and move through different kinds of srotasas

 

Agni (Enzymatic/Metabolic System)

In common language Agni means fire. But in the context of functions of the biological system that which converts all that is ingested to structural and functional constituents and provides for the energy is some thing that is termed as Agni in Ayurveda. The net result of Agni would mean better conversion of ingested things in to body tissues and better generation of energy required for carrying out various activities in the human system. Ayurveda has laid lot of importance on Agni i.e. the digestive power or the transformation force. Our health mainly depends on what we eat. Agni is responsible for the proper digestion of these consumed foods etc. Ayurveda believes that all diseases are primarily because of a weak digestive/transforming power. Agni is basically divided into 13 types with the Jatharagni or the digestive power of the stomach / abdomen as the main Agni. The other seven are Dhatu-Agni (one of each Dhatu), five Agni of each of the Panchamahabhoota. These 12 Agni are responsible for the proper nourishment of the body. Along with digestion and transformation of the ingested food, a proper disposal of waste products is also the function of these Agni. A defective Agni leads to the development of Ama or undigested part which when circulates in the body gives rise to various diseases.

 

Six Padartha (Six Determinants)

A systematic description of principles of Ayurveda is done in all the major Samhitas (Classical Texts) of Ayurveda. Charak Samhita has described Six Padartha as the factors that determine the complete life and knowledge of Ayurveda. They are the Dravya (matter) and Guna (properties), Karma (function) Samanaya (Similarity), Vishesha (Dissimilarity / individuality), Samavaya (components responsible for continuity). An Ayurvedic physician is expected to have a complete knowledge of all these factors before he starts practicing the Ayurvedic system of medicine.

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Cause effect relation

Ayurveda believes that nothing can happen without a cause. A particular causative factor is responsible for the development of particular effects. This is called as the cause effect relationship in Ayurveda. This is one major principle on which Ayurvedic diagnosis and treatment are based.

Similarity and dissimilarity principle (Samanaya vishasha principle)

The one most extensively used & practically applicable principle of Ayurveda is the Samanaya Vishesha principle. According to this principle similar properties of an external factor are responsible for the development of similar properties and functions in the human body. Conversely dissimilar properties or dislike properties are responsible for development of opposite properties or functions in a human body. For e.g. the consumption of flesh/fat will increase the muscle, fat in our body. This similarity / dissimilarity is divided into three major parts like.

 

 

1. Dravya Samanya (Matter similar) e.g. Blood increases blood.

2. Guna Samanya (Property similar) e.g. Milk increases strength.

3. Karma Samanya (Function similar) e.g. exercise give strength.

 

Similarly the principle of dissimilarity is also applicable and that is of the three same types as mentioned for Samanya.

 

Means of knowledge (Praman)

Ayurveda has also described the means of knowledge or proofs (Pramanas). It accepts four such means of acquiring correct knowledge viz.

1) Pratkyaksha Pramana or direct perception via the senses and mind

2) Anumana Pramana or drawing inferences from circumstantial evidences without making any direct perceptions

3).Yukti Pramana or analogy

4)Shabda Pramana or words spoken by a knowledgeable persons or references from very reliable literature. Ayurveda accepts these as four means of knowledge in arriving at the truth of things.

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Self Regression Theory (Swabhava-param-vad)

Ayurveda believes that when a state of disease appears the components which are deranged shall by themselves undergo a phase of regression i.e., there is a tendency of the body to revert back to normalcy and hence the diseases slowly subside completely on their own. A physician has thus only to develop the body's defences and make them so strong that the anomaly goes away on its own and that it does not return back. Therefore Ayurvedic methods are usually tissue protective. One has assure that the causative factors responsible for the development of disease have been taken away and that the tissues are well protected with adequate defensive strength.

 

Origin

Ayurveda is the science of life as is very clear from the constituting words i.e., "Ayu" meaning the life, and "Veda" meaning Knowledge. It is one of the oldest scientific medical systems of the world with a long record of clinical experience. Ayurveda is probably as old as the mankind. There are now enough incidences to show that this is the mother of most of the systems of medicine.

As a system of medicine, Ayurveda made a beginning on this universe when there was a strong spread of diseases among people in the Vedic period (the period when Vedas were written in ancient India). It is therefore that for the protection of health of people our ancient saints gathered in the mountains of the Himalayas. It is from there that the flow of knowledge of Ayurveda started. The complete history of how it evolved since its beginning is described elsewhere.

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