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The Spiritual Side of Ayurveda

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May all be happy, May all live free from diseases, expound the Upanishads. Ayurveda, the Upaveda of Rigveda, has its origin from Lord Brahma, the creator of this universe. It is not surprising that Ayurveda, the Science of Life, has its roots in spiritualism, though only the healing side of it has come to light. Ayurveda is a holistic way of life rather than just a medical science. It reveals the intimate relationship between the mind and body, humans and the cosmos. Ayurveda basically evolved not as a medical system but as a way of life that would enable man to reach the state of Brahman or Moksha or salvation, which is the highest and the last state of the four Purushaarthas, the other three being Dharma, Artha and Kaama. To attain this highest state of Brahman, man needed a healthy body and mind, which would help him, attain that state. After all, mind and body are but instruments to attain Moksha. To keep his body and mind healthy, he lived the ayurvedic way-a wholistic approach for a happy, healthy and peaceful life. He followed the diet, regimen and routine accordingly thereby attaining Moksha through Ayurveda.

The story of how Ayurveda descended from the abode of Gods down to Earth is interesting. Lord Brahma, recollected his knowledge of Ayurveda and taught Prajapati, who passed it on to the Aswini twins. They in turn taught Indra, the king of devas. Indra passed it on to the Rishis on earth like Bharadwaja, Atreya, etc…Thus the evolution of Ayurveda is by itself spiritual. All the Ayurvedic texts quote the attainment of the Purushaarthas especially of Moksha as the sole aim of Ayurveda.

The word Purusha in Sanskrit has many meanings like mankind, male, soul, creator, etc...In this context, it has to be taken as the creator or Brahman or the supreme spirit. Artha in Sanskrit means meaning, for the sake of, wealth, etc...Therefore, the word Purushaartha means “attainment of the state of Purusha”. The four Purushaarthaas are Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha.

Dharma is righteousness in thought, word and action. As Vedas believe in the concept of rebirth and life after death, our righteousness in thought, word and action was essential to accumulate Punya for a good life in the other world. Also our next birth is based on the good or bad actions of the present life. Vedas describe some ten forbidden activities considered to be sins like stealing others’ properties, telling lies, etc.. Following the injunctions of the Vedas is Dharma. Being satvik, not harming others, being ungreedy and truthful, helping the poor are some of the Dharmic injunctions.

Artha is to be understood as wealth in this context. Wealth can be taken as riches, worldly prosperity and also our knowledge quotient. With our wealth of knowledge, we earn to accumulate wealth.

Next is Kaama. The word Kaama in Sanskrit means “Desire”. Here, it means love or desire of sensual enjoyments. The Vedas describe begetting a progeny one of the most important duties of mankind. Man without a progeny is compared to a barren tree without flowers and fruits, indicative of his uselessness to others in the society. The Vedas and Puranas describe in detail about death, its aftermath and what happens to the soul when it leaves the body. In the Garuda Purana, we find a vivid and convincing account of how the soul travels to the abode of our ancestors, how comfortable its journey is made by the rituals we perform, how the offerings we give in the name of the deceased reach them, etc.. The belief in rebirth and the possible effect of good and bad actions in the next birth and the life after inspired man to beget a progeny so that he would be comfortably led to the abode of his ancestors by his son who will perform all the rituals for the same. So man had a big responsibility of passing his culture, customs, methods of doing rituals and ceremonies to his generation next so that he felt secured. Thus developed the Purushaartha Kaama. To make begetting a progeny a duty coupled with sensual enjoyments, Ayurveda helped him by describing various postures of sexual act, foods that increase sperm and ova both in quality and quantity and regimen that would bring about a healthy sex life.

Next is the last of the Purushaarthas Moksha. The word Moksha in Sanskrit means to liberate, to free from, to get rid of, etc.. Here it means freedom from the worldly bondages like love, anger, greed, delusion, lust and envy, which only lead to rebirth. The Upanishads state that man suffers from three types of Taapa or miseries in his worldly life namely Aadhyaatmika or those caused by the supreme spirit based on our good and bad actions of the past lives, Aadibhoutika or those caused by worldly beings like being bitten by a snake or betrayed by a friend, etc.. and Aadidaivika or those caused by fate or destiny. Moksha is the only way to get rid of these three miseries. In a nutshell, Moksha is the state of absolute bliss wherein we realise that the perceiver, the perceived and the object of perception are all one and the same. In other words, our search and queries about the whys and hows of our existence in this universe end here because we realise and experience the truth of all scriptures, of all the saints and of all the religions – The Power within us is the Power outside us that is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.

So, Ayurveda helps man to achieve his ultimate aim of attaining Moksha and hence can be called a Spiritual Science as well.
Interesting article. Quite illuminating and interesting, as it is only in recent western medicine that placebos, emotional well being, sexuality, etc. are considered aspects of medicine, while in Ayurveda, old texts subscribe to an understanding of the human body and mind.

Is Ayurveda as a medicinal system entirely valid today? How effective is it when compared to modern medicine?
The spiritual side of Ayurveda

A good article. I am adding the following to supplement it.

Ayurveda is considered as an upaveda, belonging to Rig veda. One Susrudhar
considers it as coming under Atharva veda. Ayurveda deals with not only
curing the disease but also maintaining good health. In Vedanta, we say
that identifying the body with the Atma is a hindrance to realization
and hence we must not attach much importance to it. Then why
this particular branch of study ?

The answer is - a healthy body is necessary to do sadhana and also to do
punya karmas so that we can wash away the sins accumulated in the
previous births. If we are sick, how can we do japa, tapa etc ? How can
we help others ? In addition, if we fall sick, we cause anxiety to others.
Therefore, we need a healthy body to do spiritual sadhana. Until we reach
a state wherein we are not conscious of the body, it is necessary to have
a healthy body.

We hear about the jargon ' mani, manthram, aushadam' - மணி, மந்திரம்,
ஒளஷதம். In siddha system we have the first one like gold, silver,
mercury and other such things being used as medicine. Curing disease
through mantra japa ( like for poisonous insect-bites we chant some
slokas from Soundarya lahari, Thevaram, Kandar anubhuthi and others)
comes under second method. In Ayurveda we use herbs and roots- i.e.,
மூலிகை, பச்சிலை and sometimes பஸ்மம். In ayurveda the old-timers
prepare the medicines chanting mantras. So in ayurveda we have the
combination of these three also.

Just as we have trigunas in yoga ( sathvam , rajas, thamas ), we have
tridosas in ayurveda, namely kapha, vatha and pittha. In ayurveda, they
say any imbalance in these trio causes disease and this system of medicine
deals with the balancing of these three. Ayurveda cures the disease and
is not just a palliative.

Besides medicines, the physicians ask you to observe strict diet and
sometimes fasting. This is good for your body and mind.

Just as you need a boat to cross the river , you need a healthy body and
mind to cross the sea of samsara.
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Articles on Ayurveda

Dear Ranganathan ji and Sangeeta ji,

The details provided by both of you are informative. Thank you.

But application of ayurvedic science is also now commercialised. Treatment and medicine has become a big business.

What is relevant today is we should understand the life style prescribed by this holy science. Major factors for today's health related issues are food habits, attitude towards/ understanding of life and gross neglect of essential karmas an individual is expected to do. Can you throw some light on this.

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