yurveda encompasses not only science
but also philosophy, religion and specific techniques for living well.
'Philosophy' is used here to mean love of truth and truth as being (pure
existence), and 'religion' in the sense that one becomes a witness of oneself.
Ayurveda states that every individual is a unique phenomenon and indivisible
from the cosmos. Whatever exists in the macrocosm, exists also in the
microcosm. Every individual is a manifestation of cosmic
he healing science of ayurveda is
based on the total understanding of the individual constitution. Every
individual must first get to know his own constitution. He is required to find
out what kind of diet and lifestyle best suits him. Every individual is
composed of mind, body and spirit; although the philosophy of each element is
identical, its manifestation will differ according to emphasis. Hence ayurveda,
from its concern with the physical basis of life, induces harmony of mind and
spirit. To encourage this, ayurveda recommends taking up some form of yoga,
which teaches control of the body and mind, and their harmonization with
spirit. In its widest sense, ayurveda teaches how to use the mind to balance
the demands of body and spirit. The aim is to reach a balance called health or
svastha, from sva (self) and stha (established). While most of this book
deals with the selection of certain foods in order to overcome specific
disorders, it is also a statement of the ayurvedic approach.
estern physicians tend to work with
named diagnoses and their infectious causes, rather than with the whole person.
They tend to specialize in particular organs of the body such as the liver,
lungs or heart. Western medicine's ability to fire a bullet-pill at the
bull's-eye of a disease, or simply to remove or replace a failing organ, is
much admired as one of the hallmarks of progress, but it encourages medical
people to target symptoms rather than causes. As a consequence people are
encouraged to live to excess and ignore discomfort until it becomes a veritable
disease. The disease is thereafter treated while the body's natural gift for
self-healing is ignored.
n ayurveda we learn about the
relationship between self and universe. The ancient Rishis (Hindu sages)
realized that human consciousness is a fragment of nature's own consciousness.
This insight identifies different forms of 'I', the individual self. The 'I' is
expressed in waves of kinetic energy, in material particles of potential energy
and in subjective consciousness. In Sanskrit, these are called respectively,
rajas, tamas and sattva. Rajas is activity, tamas inertia, and
sattva the balancer of both. Collectively, these three are called gunas. They
control the five great elements of our body. By working with these elements we
can influence the regulation of the metabolic functions of the body.
ealing can also be effected by
something as simple as the laying on of hands. Such a phenomenon has been with
us for centuries. This happens when a person who is centred induces peace and
serenity in another and allows that person to relax and let go, so that the
body can take over its own healing work unhindered by outside influences,
whether they be chemical or otherwise. When the head is emptied of extraneous
influences, heart and hara (instincts) come into play, and the healing process
starts, mostly by simply acknowledging our own personality and structure.
However, it is often necessary to go through major changes to get back to who
we really are.
ome obvious exceptions to this
general rule are epidemics, food poisoning, catastrophes and car accidents. In
these instances we must also consider the external and internal hygiene needed
to maintain the status quo if foreign invaders of any kind have been the cause
of the dis-equilibrium, discomfort or diseases It is important to note that
ayurveda does not provide cures as such; rather, it aids to enable the
body to heal itself.
et me provide an example. One of my
patients was a priest with a 12 year history of stomach problems. Medication,
diet, meditation, fasting, pills and potions did not seem to work. Then one day
while he was lying on the treatment couch, I asked him, 'What can't you
stomach?' His reply was slow, meek, but genuine: 'Being a priest', he said.
'What would you like to be?' was my next question. 'An antiques restorer.'
'Then why the blazes don't you?' I shouted. 'I can't, I can't,' he cried. Both
his father and his grandfather before him were priests. They wanted him to
continue the tradition, so he became a priest, but his desire to be an antiques
restorer never left him. I told him to leave the country and go somewhere where
nobody knew him and start a small business as an antiques restorer. He
complained about his obligations to his parishioners, his wife and his two
sons, to name but a few. I asked him what would happen if he died of a bad
stomach ulcer or Crohn's disease or some other malady. Eventually I persuaded
him, and he went. Three years later his wife and children joined him. One day
he telephoned me to announce how happy he now was. He wanted me to visit him so
that I could see for myself what he had accomplished as a result of my good
advice. Instead I told him that his task was unfinished and that there was
something else that was required of him. I told him to stand in a specific
place in the town and tell bible stories to the people who gathered around him.
He was astonished. I explained that now that he was open, content, satisfied
and truthful, his stories would contain meaning that was previously lacking; up
to the time that he left his parish, his stories had been scripturally
appropriate but lacking in emotional truth. A year later I received another
telephone call. He wanted me to visit him in order to see how many people
gathered to listen to his stories. Although this was a unique response to a
unique situation, the principle can be applied to the situation many people
find themselves in.
f course, if
we can never generalize, there would be no education, culture, science,
history, mathematics, art, religion, codes of etiquette, laws, rules, or even
the literature, to teach us how to deal with unique situations. There would be
total chaos, whereas now at least we live in controlled chaos. This is
demonstrated in the Western approach to medicine. Yet despite the differences
in application, the same principles apply to modem medicine as apply to
ayurveda or any other ancient system.