Sense out of nonsense (part 5 ) – Holistic Ayurveda

Dr Manaan Gandhi
Ayurveda has always been considered as a holistic science. The word holistic means that it looks at every aspect. While there are multiple therapies and systems of medicine that proclaim to be holistic, I am yet to come across any one of these that can show it. The reason why I say this will be well understood after you read the article completely.
The categorization of human suffering is as such
Human suffering happens due to 3 factors
1) Adibhautika (external suffering) – Due to external factors like insects, other humans, nature beings etc
2) Adhyatmika (internal factors) – Due to vitiation of bodily doshas like vata pitta or kapha or manasik doshas like rajas and tamas
3) Adidaivika (supernatural factors) – Due to calamities like valcano eruptions, lightening strikes, earthquakes, pandemics, etc.
But this still doesn’t answer the why of suffering.
The sole reason of human suffering is the ignorance of the individual. The mere fact that you consider yourself as the body and the body’s suffering as yours. The tie between the human body and the atma takes place at three levels. The level of the bladder, the umbilicus and the heart. These three knots tie you to the human body at different levels.
This may answer why the individual suffers but not why the assumed self (body) suffers.
The body suffers mainly due to a single factor, Karma. (when I say body, I mean the body mind complex, not merely the gross body). Karma is the sole reason behind suffering. It is impossible to get what you don’t deserve, neither positive nor negative. Cause is the effect concealed and effect is the cause revealed. There is nothing that happens at random, no event takes place without a cause. If you are suffering, it is definitely deserved. The only problem is that you may or may not remember why and when the cause was formed.
To understand the means of which we form our karmas, there are 5 causes of human sufferings and diseases.
1) Ahar (Food) – It is proven beyond doubt that diet can cause diseases. For example, if a person eats incompatible food like milk and fruits together regularly while having a slightly weak digestive fire, skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, etc are formed.
2) Vihar (Surroundings) – It is obvious how seasons and their changes affect our body. For example, there are plenty of people who develop a cold or a sinusitis problem upon season change.
3) Achar (Regimen) – Over-exercise & the lack of it causes diseases, the actions you take can also cause a disease. For example, if you perform mulabandha(contracting anal sphincter) over extended periods of time, then constipation is bound to affect you.
4) Vichar (Thoughts) – There is enough and more studies to prove how thoughts can affect your body physically and mentally. To the extent that today scientists claim that more than 75% of diseases are psychosomatic in nature.
5) Karma – Sufferings like accidents, fractures etc are solely due to karma and obviously not due to any of the 4 mentioned above. I have mentioned this as a separate point as some sufferings don’t fall into any of the 4 above categories. (they are effects of past causes)
Now that I have explained the different causes of diseases and sufferings, let’s see how ayurveda addresses every single one of them to prove that it truly is holistic in nature.
1.     Ahar – Ayurveda prescribes a diet based on 8 factors
a.     Prakruti – genetic predisposition of a person based on natural ratio of vata pitta and kapha in the body
b.     Karan – Processing of the food
c.     Samyog – Mixing with other compatible foods
d.     Desha – Depending on the surroundings like climate
e.     Kala – Depending on the season, weather, time of the day and age of individual
f.      Rashi – Quantity of food given
g.     Upyokta – How compatible is the person to the food (for eg. allergies)
h.     Upyog samstha – Rules of eating (hot, lubricated, not too fast, not too slow, in proper quantity, with proper utensils, without laughing talking and with concentration, etc)

Only when all these factors are taken into consideration can a diet be prescribed and had. When diet is concerned there is absolutely no factor possible that is not taken into account.

2.     Vihar – Every season has a different impact on our body via doshas. Ayurveda explains the effect and impact of your surroundings and gives a detailed understanding of each season. Based on this ayurveda has prescribed “Rutucharya” or how we must behave in every season. This alteration of our behavior and diet neutralizes all negative effects of our surroundings. For every type of surrounding that we are in, there are measures that ensure complete balance in the bodily doshas.

3.     Achar – The entire science of vyayama, yoga, sadvrutta (behavioral ethics) is mentioned in ayurveda. There are 10 major acts that have to be avoided by the individual not just physically but on all the 3 layers i.e. body, mind and speech. Which means that even by thinking about doing such an act itself is also considered as sin.

4.     Vichar – As mentioned above, sadvrutta covers what we need to avoid thinking mentally. There are 9 kinds of thoughts that must be discarded by the mind. They are
1) Lobha (greediness)
2) Shoka (grief)
3) Bhaya (fear)
4) Krodha (anger)
5) Ahankar (ego)
6) Irshya (Envy)
7) Kama (Passion)
8) Mana (Pride)
9) Mada (Arrogance)

5.     Karma – It cannot be treated but has to be suffered through. Ayurveda specifically asks the individual to be as spiritual as possible to ensure that surrender and yoga prevents formation of karmas, so that a person may finally be free of them. As it cannot be treated, we are not including it. The only thing that can be done regarding karma is to reduce its effect on us very slightly using the science of astrology.
When we look at other healing modalities, you find that they take into consideration one or a maximum of 2 of the 4 causes and claim to be holistic.

For example, there are people who work on ahar like dieticians or nutritionists, you also have people using colour therapies, floatation tanks or sensory deprivations etc to treat and change your surroundings (vihar), there are gyms, stretching exercises, physioherapy etc that helps with Achar and finally there are psychologists and councilors who solve your problems by working on your vichar.
You may think about any treatment system possible and you will always find that every one of them claims to be holistic but I am yet to find a single system of medicine that heals us in every single way possible taking every single factor out of the 4 above into consideration. It is only Ayurveda today that is holistic in the true sense of the word.

It is due to this that ayurveda provides possibly the best treatment for an individual as it does not leave out a single factor being truly holistic

Article by deepak

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