Ayurveda – A holistic Life Science

Ayurveda Means:

The term ayurveda means knowledge (Veda) concerning maintainence of life (ayus). The origins of this knowledge are already in the Atharvaveda. It contains material about human anatomy, herbal medicines (bhaishajya), and the classification of diseases. Hence Ayurveda, is considered as the upaveda (Supplementary veda) of Atharvaveda.

Evolution of Ayurveda:

As far as the evolution of Ayurveda is considered, mythologically it is believed that Brahma himself is the first exponenet of Ayurveda. Brahma shared this knowledge with Prajapati, who in turn passed on the tradition to the Ashwini Kumaras and Indra. Surgery (Shalya) was revealed by Indra to Devodas, the king of Kashi who was also an incarnation of the divine Dhanvantari and later became a culminatoin of classical Sushrut tradition of Ayurvedic surgery and medicine. Internal medicine was primarily revealed to Atreya Punarvasu by Indra, culminating finally in the classical Charak tradition of Ayurvedic general medicine.

Apart from Charak and Sushrut Samhitas, other notable contributions were Ashtang Hruday of Vagbhata (600 AD) and Madhav Nidana (700 AD). The Ayurvedic tradition continued as a vigorous and expanding scientific tradition down into the 16th century. Sankhya and Vaisheshik philosophies, have great intellectual influences on ayurveda. Similarly, one can also find terms and notions from the Vedanta, Nyaya, Yoga and early Bhuddhist and Jain reflections.

Holistic Purpose behind the Ayurveda:

Dharma (virtue), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire) and Moksha (salvation) are purushartha-chatushtaya or four fold purpose of life. To attain the success in this, the aim of human life, body plays an important role. Hence it becomes essential to maintain body not only in a disease free state but also in a positively healthy state including mind and spirit. Ayurveda exactly includes all about these. It is not confined to medicine only, but it tackles the whole subject of life in its varous branches. One is impressed by the vast and conceptual canvas and framework of variety of topics discussed therin, such as re-birth, renunciation, salvation, soul etc.

The primary goal of ayurveda is to maintain health of the healthy individual and secondly to cure a disease. Hence “Swastha-vrutta” or maintenance of positive health, is a distinguishing feature of Ayurveda. In this, ayurveda prescribes specific daily routine “dinacharya”, and also seasonal regimen “ritucharya”. Dincharya describes the personal hygiene activities that must be followed daily e.g. washing teeth, cleaning tongue with tongue scrapper, body massage with medicated oils, bath, physical exercise etc. It also gives importance to diet which is to be taken in a proper way with regard to quality, quantity as well as frequency. The daily regime advocates not to suppress certain natural urges like micturation, defecation, hunger, thirst, sleep etc. on the other hand suppression of harmful psychic urges is advocated – like greed, fear, anger, vanity, jealousy, malice and excessive attachment to anything.

Ayurveda desribes Sadvrutta (ethical life) where mental discipline and adherence to moral values is considered a pre-requisite for mental health. Achar Rasayan – Behaviourial rejuvenator explains that the person who is truthful, free from anger, abstaining from wine and women, non-voilent, non-exerting, calm, self controlled, positivist etc. uses rasayana, attains all the benefits of the rasayana (rejuvenation) treatment. Hence Ayurveda is a holistic lfe science.

Ayurved – the life science

Life is the union of body, senses, mind and spirit. The union of these three is known as tripod of life.The body and the mind are both considered to be the abodes of diseases and well-being too! The objective of the science of life is establishing equlibrium of the body elements.

Ayurveda is named the science of life wherein are led down the good and the bad of life, the happy and unhappy life, and what is wholesome and what is unwholesome in relation to life, as also the measure of life. It is the science generated by the philosophers as the most meritorious of all the sciences because it teaches mankind what constitutes their good in both the worlds. The morbidity of the body is remedied by medication explained in varoius texts of ayurevda; the morbidity of the mind by spiritual knowledge, philosophy, fortitude, remembrance and concentration that are explained by ayurveda.

Relevance in today’s world

Today’s world is craving for happiness. The amenities, both technical and financial, have brought convinience of lifestyle but still everyone feels that something is missing! The love, affection for others, reverence for self-society-other creatures seem to be loosing day by day. Why? No one know’s. Great men has said  “One can’t make others happy but one must learn how to be happy”.

How can one be happy if he/she has been afflicted with either bodily or mental ailments! But today everyone is behind money and neglecting health, both bodily and mentally. Neglecting such ailmnets over the long term has made them chronic and deep rooted in the body, which eventually leads to a sudden burst. This is when people start seeking remedies the cure of which is more difficult now.

Hence Ayurveda, emphasizes on positive health from inception. Sound body and mind help to get endowed with youth, strength, virility, reputation, boldness befitting his/her abilities etc. Knowledge of ayurveda, definitely transforms the life of an individual not only externally but internally also. He/she will definitely become a well-wisher of all creature, will never covet other people’s goods rather will be a teller of truth and will be peace loving. Hence for an integrated development of human being Ayurveda is most essential even today!

Sage Ayurveda Acharya and their texts

In Ayurveda, there are two categories as far as the texts are considered, one is bruhat-trayi(major-three texts, as per the chronological order and their weightage as compared with other texts) and another is laghu-trayi(minor-three texts). Bhruhat trayi consisits of texts of Charak-Sushrut and Vagvhat; whereas Laghutrayi consists of Yoga-ratnakar, Madhav nidan, Sharangdhar Sanhita.

For the modern reader, the above described texts mainly present a symposium – like format in which each disease like fever (jwara) or dysentry (atisara) or pulmonary tuberculosis (rajayakshma) is discussed, classified as to type, contextualised (with respect to prodrome, syndrome, prognosis) and finally dealt with therapeutically.

Charak Samhita (literally, treatise compiled by Charak) is sanskrit work of great antiquity. It is an exposition of ayurveda, the science of life, defined as the science of the causes and symptoms of disease, of their treatment and of the maintenance of health (Sutra 1, 23). It also deals with the origin of medical science, the fundamental causes of conception and birth and of physical deformities. The treatise contains a detailed classification and nomenclature of diseases – their Vyakhya (definition), Vyutpatti (etymology), nidan (etiology), Poorva roop (Prodromata) and Roop (clinical picture), Samprapti (patho-physilogy), Sadhya-sadhyatva (prognosis), Chikitsa Sutra (line of treatment), Aushadha (drugs), Anna (diet) and Vihara (practices), etc. This conceptual framework and approach appear strikingly similar to contemporary medicine.

Charak Samhita is divided into 8 sections :

1. Sutra sthaan deals with general principles, philosophy etc.

2. Nidaan sthaan deals with causes of diseases

3. Vimana sthaan deals with taste, nourishment, general pathology etc.

4. Sharir sthaan deals with anatomy and embrology

5. Indriya sthaan deals with diagnosis and prognosis

6. Chikitsa shtaan deals with the treatment of diseases

7. Kalpa Sthaan deala with harmony

8. Siddhi sthaan deals with the cure of a disease

Sushrut Samhita

Sushrut Samhita pays special emphasis on surgery. Surgery as the first and foremost speciality, sushrut samhita describes various types of inflammation and various stages of inflammation, accidental wounds, burns, fractures. Sushrut describes many major abdominal operations for intestinal obstruction, bladder stones etc. and also plastic surgery like rhinoplasty, crushing and extracting the foetus, delivering the foetus through abdominal operation, amputation of limbs and extraction of foreign bodies. Sushrut decribed shalya or surgery as the highest in value among therapies because of its ability of producing instantaneous relief by means of instruments and appliances.

Sushrut has described 101 kinds of blunt instruments and 21 kinds of sharp instruments. The 101 blunt instruments are sub-divided into:

Swastik or cruciform, 24 kinds

Samdamsa or pincer like, 2 kinds

Tala or pick lock-like, 2 kinds

Nadi or tubular, 20 kinds

Shataka or pricker like, 28 kind

Upayantras or accessories, 25 kinds

The blunt istruments cover a wide range including forceps, pincers, trocrs, speculums (nasal, aural, vaginal), finger gaurds, syringes, cannulae, dilators, ctheters, clysters with eight kinds of bags and tubes, catheters, tubular appliances for inhalation, fumigation and disinfection of rooms, rods, probes of diferent shapes and sizes, foetus traction hooks, bone levers, dialators and many others.

The accessories include thread (also caustic coated thread – “kshara sutra” for the operation of fistula-in-ano), twine for ligature, bandages of 14 types, dressings, abdominal binders, various types of leatherbags, bands and bandages, splints (made of bamboo and inner bark of trees), crutches, tendrils and creepers, cloth, spittle, suturematerial, caustic medicines and goat’s guts.

Sushrut emphasizes that, “the hand of the surgeon is the best, the most useful and the most important of all surgical instruments”.

Acharya Vagbhat, is another sage acharya among “Bruhat-trayi”. He has written “Ashtang hruday”; which is a collage of charak and sushrut samhita. The verses are formed totally in peotic fashion, can be sung. Hence still in this 21st century Students of ayurveda and vaidyas love to byheart some verses or entire samhita/texts. This has been a tradition specially in southern parts of India. Acharya Vagbhat has written it by keeping the intellect of human being. Previous two samhita reqiure much more intellectual exercise but this text is an option for it. Easily understandidng verses with simple sanskrut grammer is the pecularity of Ashtang Hruday. The medicinal formulations explained here are much more easy to prepare with few numbers of herbs that are available in hand.