Ayurveda is the traditional natural medicine of India dating back to over five thousand years. It is a science, or way of knowledge about life. It gives you the advice about the beneficial and harmful things of the life. If you follow good things you have healthy and long life, otherwise your life will be short and full of misery. Its basis is not found in mere chemistry, or in a mechanistic and materialistic view of the human body. Ayurveda is based upon a deep communion with the spirit of life itself, upon a profound understanding of the movement of the vital force and its manifestations within our entire psychophysical system.
As such, Ayurveda presents a total different alternative to the biochemical model of modern medicine, the limitations of which are becoming increasingly evident through time.
Ayurveda is a truly holistic medicine. It is not merely a kind of folk medicine as it is sometimes considered to be. It is a science in its own right, with its own rationality and way of experimentation that is extraordinarily intricate and complete. Ayurveda believes that Man is microcosm of Universe. This means whatever principles that are present in the Universe are also present in Man and vice versa. Hence all Indian philosophies tried to solve the riddle of evolution of Universe. They also studied Nature very closely and formulated their laws. Ayurveda is based upon the observation of living beings and their actual reactions to their environment, not on mere laboratory experiments that seldom address the living being.
Ayurveda shows how our individual constitution and disease tendencies reflect the forces of nature. It shows how foods, herbs, emotions, climates and lifestyles impact the dynamics of our own physiology and psychology that may be different for each person. This enables us to interact with life in an optimal manner both for our own benefit and that of the greater world in a symbiotic manner.
Ayurveda possesses probably the longest clinical experience of any medical system in the world, with a history of Ayurvedic hospitals and colleges going back well lover three thousand years. It has carefully examined every disease condition and life condition and their impact on health and well-being. It contains an intricate and sophisticated system of anatomy and physiology that follows a vital model of the biological humors or doshas that shows us how our life-energies work and how to balance them.
Ayurveda reflects a deep study not only of the body but also the mind and the spirit. It reflects an in depth system of psychology that understands the dynamics of karma (deeds of past life) and consciousness and how the physical world connects with those more subtle.
For treatment purposes, Ayurveda has created an extensive herbal and mineral industry, offering what is probably the greatest variety of herbal and pharmaceutical preparations available in the world. These include herbal wines, herbal jellies, confections, resins, balsams, various pills and powders, and an extensive system of mineral and alchemical preparations that are unique in the entire world.
Ayurveda possesses a wealth of special clinical procedures, including the use of steam therapy, oil massage, and its own purification or cleansing methods known as Pancha Karma that include everything from enemas to nasal medications. It has special rejuvenation techniques for body and mind that strengthen immunity and retard aging, employing natural methods of diet, herbs, exercise, yoga and meditation.
Perhaps most significantly, Ayurveda uses all these approaches in the context of a greater science of self‑care, including an entire methodology of right living for optimum health and the promotion of greater awareness and creativity tailored to the needs of each person. All of this follows a constitutional model that considers the unique nature of the individual as the primary factor in health, not disease as an entity in itself. Ayurveda is a humanistic and person-centered medicine that shows us how to find our own natural health and unfold our deeper energy potentials for the fullness of life, in which drugs and hospitals can become peripheral not primary.
While Western medicine focuses on identifying external pathogens and controlling disease from the outside, Ayurveda concentrates on the living individual and controlling disease through balancing the life‑force within the person. As the limitations of antibiotic medicines are now evident today, with weakening immune systems and the return of contagious diseases once thought to be eradicated, such regimens for strengthening our internal energy and immune system are crucial for our health as a species and its survival through future decades. We can no longer simply try to change our environment for health or happiness, as if manipulating the outer will make us feel better on an inner level. We must learn how to develop and improve ourselves and our own internal resources, including not only how we eat and exercise, but also how we breathe and how we think. This Ayurveda shows us how to do and provides us with the knowledge and methods to facilitate the process.
As the traditional medicine of the subcontinent of India, Ayurveda reflects the profound spiritual culture of the region. It is an integral part of Vedic sciences that includes Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic Astrology. It brings us the entire cultural, spiritual and natural wisdom of the Himalayan region with knowledge of how the great yogis and seers cultivated their bodies and minds, and interacted with their natural environment, thus reaching the very source of creation in the cosmic mind.
This ancient and oriental Ayurveda is now spreading worldwide as one of the most important and innovative systems of mind-body medicine available today. As part of the global age, it has left its protective shell in India and is now entering the global arena for the benefit of all peoples. Soon Ayurveda will become an integral part of a new and more humane approach to health care everywhere. In the last ten years, interest in the subject has exploded, with the publishing of many books on Ayurveda and the opening of Ayurvedic centers throughout the Western world, indicating the beginning of a trend that is likely to continue for years to come.
The current crisis in health care, brought about by over reliance on chemical, mechanical and artificial treatment modalities, now demands the return of the natural, life and soul affirmative systems such as Ayurveda, with their lifestyle regimens for self-healing. Unless we relearn the art of self-healing, we will be drowned in drugs, medical testing and chronic diseases that leave us not only unhealthy but also financially insecure. This new move to self-healing is bound to be one of the most important developments in culture and in health care for the coming century.
Ayurveda is entering in a health care revolution in which lifestyle, diet, exercise and meditation are more important than drugs and surgery, not only for health but also for improving vitality. It is helping us to reclaim our health and our vitality so that we can live the lives that we really want to live and have the creativity and consciousness to make our sojourn on this planet both beautiful and beneficial, not only for ourselves but for all creatures. It is returning medicine to life and to our daily behavior, rather than reducing it to difficult hospital procedures with numerous side effects.
Dr. Sunanda Ranade,
B.A.M.& S.; Ph.D.
Director, International Academy of Ayurveda, Pune, India