There is a general lack of education and understanding in modern society about the Wisdom stream known as Ayurveda. This post attempts to shine some light on the subject of the value, and importance of embracing Ayurveda in our human lives.
The reason I have called Ayurveda a “Wisdom Stream”, and not only a system of Medicine, is because the depth, breadth and scope of Ayurveda extends beyond merely that of a curative system of medicine that uses herbs, as is commonly understood.
How is Ayurveda is different from Modern medicine?
The human body is a marvelously integrated organic lifeform enlivened by consciousness. In our attempt to understand its structure and functioning, modern medical science has utilized the approach of studying the parts that make up the whole, by creating ever finer subdivisions of individual parts and their functioning into systems which extend from the macro to the micro level. This is commonly known as the reductionist method of understanding the human body.
Ayurveda takes a more integrated and personalized approach – rather than being reductionist it uses a simplified yet elegant approach to understand the physiology (normal function) and pathology (diseased or abnormal function). Although there is a degree of enumeration of individual components that make up the body, (e.g the 7 dhatu or body tissue types), Ayurveda uses the broad frame work of the three dosha, vata, pitta and kapha (bioenergetic factors which tend to push the body out of homeostasis or healthy function into disease). The common framework of tridosha can be employed to understand and treat any disease, in any body system.
Central to all Ayurvedic treatment is protection, and correction when necessary, of Agni. Agni is loosely translated as “digestive fire”, but in metaphysical terms, the importance of Agni goes far beyond digestive functioning. Vedic culture gave utmost importance to Agni as a Devata – an intelligent and enlivening principle which animates consciousness and life in subtle ways beyond the physical. The fairly new understanding in modern medicine of the gut and the gut-brain axis has barely begun to scratch the surface of what the ancient seers already knew about the importance of Agni, in the macrocosm (the Universe) the microcosm (the human body).
Ayurveda is a system of health and healing complete unto itself. A learned and competent Vaidya can skilfully treat any disease – whether old or new, whether mild or severe. Ayurveda also recognizes and describes signs to watch for when certain diseases have reached a point of no-return, and such conditions will not response adequately no matter the expertise of the vaidyas. As is common to native cultures across the world, there is a respect for death as a transition for the human form. Such humility in recognizing human limitations and respect for the cycle of living and dying is lacking in modern medicine. Heroic attempts using aggressive treatment measures while trying to save human lives often do more harm than good.
Utilizing the core principles of Ayurveda to adopt health promoting habits, lifestyles and treatments can be available to all human beings without the need for super-specialized, expensive interventions. This is the real blessing of Ayurveda. Let us not ignore the precious gift of the Vedic sages and their illustrious Acharyas who have given us the complete knowledge to live happy, fulfilling and enlightened human lives.