Maintaining and reparing the mind-body
The body is a system that is fated to eventually break down and collapse. Therefore, efforts have to be made to maintain higher levels of health lest one slips down quickly to lower levels of disease and death. Maintenance of the body-mind has to be done to prevent wear and tear. This is achieved by becoming aware of changes that happen both outside and inside the body and effectively responding to them.
Ayurveda emphasizes that one must become aware of diurnal and seasonal variations in the external environment and the impact it creates on the body. At the same time, one must also become aware of changes that occur within the body as the basic activities of life are carried out.
The daily and seasonal regimens have been designed to make appropriate adjustments to changes in the external environment. The body is constantly adjusting itself to changes that occur from within. Such adjustments are initiated involuntarily but have to be completed by volition. These are called as the natural urges and attending to the natural urges constitutes one of the essential aspects of maintenance of the body-mind.
Daily and Seasonal regimenDay and night rolls by in a cyclic manner activating myriad changes in the environment. In a year, it circumscribes a bigger circle, the cycle of seasons. These changes are so structured and organized that one can almost feel an innate rhythm in nature as day and night unfolds into the play of colorful seasons. The word Rtu, denoting season means that which is a manifestation of Rtam, the innate rhythm of nature. Nature is the dance master and life forms are the dancers. The challenge is to tune in to the inner pulse of nature and achieve complete harmony. This is achieved by constant practice. In fact, every action should harmonize and integrate into nature. An action becomes right when it is done in the proper place and time. This is called as muhUrta. muhUrta means to integrate with the Rtam again and again.
Ayurveda advises Daily and Seasonal Regimen that regulates actions of the body and the mind with a view to achieving complete harmony with the external environment. This includes behavioral and dietary changes in accordance with the seasons, which is an essential requisite for maintenance of health.
Attending to natural urgesThe body is perpetually engaged in exchange of matter and energy with the external environment. Being a system, it represents the functional stages of Input, Process and Output. While processing is an ongoing activity, input and output are periodical activities. Thirst, hunger, gasping and yawning are involuntarily initiated activities of the body to provide necessary inputs to sustain the life process. Urge for defecation, micturition, sneezing, flatus, cough, vomiting and ejaculation are involuntarily initiated activities that lead to output of relevant material from the body. Sleep is an urge that creates the occasion for the life processes to slow down, and rejuvenate itself, if not stop completely.
Ayurveda says that the natural urges have to be promptly attended to and if either suppressed or stimulated can develop a situation that is conducive to the manifestation of various diseases. Ayurveda points out that people that habitually ignore the call of natural urges become prone to get diseases frequently. Courtesans, businessmen, priests and servants of the King are called sadAturas or 'always sick' persons because their work style prevents them from promptly attending to the natural urges.
Repairing the mind-bodyIf the mind-body is not upgraded or maintained properly, it breaks down prematurely causing diseases or even death. Depending on the extent of the damage done, such problems may or may not have solutions. Ayurveda emphatically declares that all diseases do not have a cure. The responsibility of the physician is to distinguish between curable and incurable diseases.
The harmonious association of the physician, the drugs, the nurse and the patient can treat curable diseases. The physician is the actor, the drug the tool of action, the nurse is the facilitator of healing and the patient, the substratum of action. They are together called the four limbs of treatment.
Ayurvedic treatment has also been specialized into eight branches taking into consideration domains where general principles of treatment have to be applied in a specialized manner.
Four limbs of treatmentAyurveda looks at the healing process from a holistic viewpoint. Drugs constitute the most important tool for treatment. Their curative potential unfolds only when used in the proper way. Even the best drug can produce unwanted effects if used wrongly. Thus, the physician becomes the most important of the four limbs of treatment in Ayurveda because a drug becomes a drug only when a good physician handles it.
Next in importance comes the nurse who creates the proper environment for the drug to initiate and complete the healing process. Finally, the patient constitutes the very substratum for the treatment. The cooperation of the patient is very crucial for success in treatment.
For the treatment process to succeed, Ayurveda points out that all the four limbs should satisfy some basic standards. Ayurveda lists four essential qualities of the physician, drug, nurse and the patient.
Eight specialties of treatmentThe basic principles of Ayurvedic therapeutics have been applied in specialized ways to tackle different types of diseases. Thus, Ayurvedic therapeutics specialized into eight branches. They are:
1. kAyacikitsA or General Medicine,
2. bAla cikitsA ‚Äî Pediatrics,
3. graha cikitsA ‚Äî Psychiatry,
4. zAlakya tantRa ‚Äî Otorhinolaryngiology, Ophthalmology and Dentistry,
5. zalya tantRa ‚Äî Surgery,
6. agada tantra ‚Äî Toxicology,
7. rasAyana ‚Äî Geriatrics, and
8. vAjIkarana ‚Äî Sexual Medicine
It must be understood that these are not eight branches of Ayurveda but of Ayurvedic therapeutics.Ayurveda as such is divided into the two domains of Preventive and Curative Medicine. aGga, the saMskRta word for branch means, that which goes along with the whole. All branches of Ayurvedic treatment are therefore, based on the principles of General Medicine (kAyacikitsA), from which they are never divorced.
Life-demoting factorsA harmonious combination of favorable and unfavorable factors preserves and evolves life. The same factors when out of harmony cause destruction of life.
Ayurveda traces the root cause of all diseases to irregularities in diet and behavior. The perfectly healthy person is said to be aprakampya or unshakable. Internal adjustment, according to Ayurveda, is the key to make the external environment favorable to life.
Individual actions create positive or negative impact on the external environment. The individual and the environment are complementary and cannot be considered independently. The individual influences the environment and the environment also influences the individual.
A healthy way of life enables one to not only become strong within, but also to influence the environment in a positive way so that it becomes conducive and supportive to life.
Epidemic diseases, according to Ayurveda are the outcome of collective unhealthy habits of individuals living in communities.
At the individual level, unhealthy habits reduce efficiency to cope up with vagaries of the environment and leads to individual disease. At the community level, collective unhealthy habits eventually leads to breakdown of both the individual and the environment.
Ayurveda says that the purpose of regulating one's life is to eventually overcome the need for regulation. Just as the dietary restrictions imposed during sickness can be removed when the person is cured, even so, regulations in lifestyle can be discarded when one attains higher levels of health. This is the concept of rakSAbandhana, which means the bondage that protects.
It is the contention of Ayurveda that the ultimate purpose of life is to discover freedom. Freedom from the limitations of the mind; freedom from the limitations of the body. True happiness lies in the discovery of freedom.
Life is a movement from bondage to freedom. Life seeks freedom but ends up in bondage. The regulations imposed by Ayurveda are like bondage that leads to freedom ‚Äî the rakSAbandhana.
An impulsive search for freedom is the root of an unhealthy way of life and this is to be understood as the primary factor that eventually destroys life prematurely.
TroubleshootingJust as the state of health can be monitored with the help of signals or liGgas, the states of disease can also be understood by careful observation of liGgas. Disease conditions invariably present with signs and symptoms that are easy or difficult to perceive.
Troubleshooting involves two things. First of all, one has to recognize that something has gone wrong. Next, one must understand what exactly has gone wrong. liGgas enable one to recognize that something has gone wrong. But unless they are analyzed systematically, they do not necessarily help us in understanding what has actually gone wrong.
Sometimes liGgas are themselves hidden and then one fails to recognize that there is a problem at all until it is too late.
liGgas may be of a variable nature. Functional disability and discomfort are the most easily recognizable type of liGgas. Change in colour, loss of weight, general lassitude and the likes are liGgas that may go unnoticed.
When analyzed systematically, many of the liGgas enable us to understand the nature of the problem.liGgas that are either difficult to recognize or decipher are called as gUDhaliGgas. In such cases, rigorous tests will have to be carried out to understand the nature of the disease.
Ayurveda says that there are four types of liGgas ‚Äî one liGga specific to one disease, one liGga for many diseases, many liGgas for one disease and many liGgas for many diseases.
Troubleshooting involves three steps:
1. Observing a liGga ‚Äî enables one to understand that there is a problem
2. Analyzing a liGga ‚Äî enables one to understand the nature of a problem in cases where liGgas are clear
3. Conducting tests ‚Äî enables one to understand the nature of a problem in cases where liGgas can be deciphered.
It is also important to realize that liGgas may be false and misleading. False liGgas sound alarm when there is actually no problem at all.
The body in diseaseUnderlying all diseases is the imbalance of the three doshas ‚Äî vAta, pitta and kapha. The three doSas represent the balance of the processes of conservation, conversion and utilization of energy.
To understand what has gone wrong with the body is to understand what has gone wrong with these basic processes. Though the same problem of imbalance underlies every disease, they may manifest in specific ways to create specific diseases.
Thus the problem of disease is understood at three levels in Ayurveda. 1) The level of liGgas or symptoms 2) The level of disease process or vyAdhi and 3) The level of disease origin or doSas.
liGgas enable us to understand what is happening at the level of vyAdhi or disease process or what is happening at the level of doSa or disease origin.
The mind in diseaseThe sAttvic state is the apex of mental health. It is not the absence of rajas or tamas but rather their integration into sattva. In the unhealthy state, rajas distorts one's perception and tamas causes lack of awareness. There is complete incompatibility between action and inaction. In the healthy state, rajasexpresses as activity and tamas as rest. In the pinnacle of mental health one resolves the conflict between action and inaction.
When sattva integrates rajas and tamas, one is established in restful activity and active rest.
In the state of disease, one is unable to either rest or act. The mind becomes restless and as a result, there is clouding of intelligence. The sick state of the mind is compared with a chariot that does not have a charioteer.
Because the mind is energized by the activities of the body, mental diseases cannot be understood without understanding the body.
When hot ghee is poured into an iron vessel, it gets heated. So also, when ghee is poured into a hot iron vessel, it gets heated. The body influences the mind and the mind influences the body.
Because the body anchors the mind, the body has to be first corrected to correct the mind. Therefore,Ayurveda understands mental diseases at three levels
1. Problems operating at the level of body
2. Problems operating at the level of both body and mind
3. Problems operating at the level of the mind
Such problems are understood by observing and analyzing liGgas systematically.
Degrading the body-mindJust as the body can be upgraded to function at higher levels of health, it can also fall down to lower levels of disease and inefficiency.
The main reasons for this are non-maintenance and damage. In the long run, the body and mind become adversely affected and degraded.
Non-maintenance of the body-mindThis includes lack of proper food, rest and activity. Suppression and stimulation of natural urges is another contributing factor apart from ignoring the rules of daily and seasonal regimen.
Damaging the body-mind
Damage can occur to the body by operation of factors from both within and without. When not properly maintained or upgraded or improperly treated body may undergo damage that is reversible or irreversible. The body-mind can be brought back to a healthy state when the damage done is reversible. If the damage is irreversible, it can lead to handicap or death.