As citizens of mother Earth, we are possessed to roam endlessly in search of an ultimate understanding of the phenomenal mysteries in life. We have created a healing circle to revolve around a shared concern for food, and this circle is our gift from the ancients. It remains in our collective nature to rely on the nourishment and spiritual sustenance from nature’s wonders such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables. For centuries, food has been cultivated in a body/mind design, as well as to treat a wide range of ailments. As the father of modern medicine has quoted, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates) emphasizes the need for preventing or reversing crawling illnesses and diseases. Between 2500 and 500 BC, India recognized the need to promote food as a prominent source of longevity and wellness (M.M. Pandey.) Ayurveda, India's ancient science of life, analyzes one’s physical, mental and emotional state from an early age to determine the possible underlying cause of chemical imbalances in the body. Although the goal is to restore the body’s wellness, Ayurveda’s framework expands to promote well-being and radiance in daily activities such as food intake, sleep, and sexual intercourse (Lad).
The Ayurvedic framework can be used to structure working models of the unique state of each patient, and to project a vision or goal for a whole state of health, again unique to each case. Although the body can restore and maintain a systemic balance through a series of examinations of an individual’s lifestyle, one may be able to identify a strong connection between the mind and body to understand a possible precursor one’s health. The gained insights necessary to minimize and eliminate any prevalent illness is the goal of this ancient approach to mind/body well-being. Thus, the pathway to a successful state of being varies individually, whether it relates to lifestyle, exercise, diet, or the use of medicinal herbs (Johari 18 ). According to Ayurveda, an improper diet is the constituent formation of a ‘disease’. By intimately linking the mind and body, one gains the specific recommendations best suited to their lifestyle, diet, exercise and yoga, herbal therapy, and even spiritual practices to restore and maintain balance in body and mind. Ayurveda posits a strong connection between the mind and the body, a significant amount of information is available regarding this relationship. The Ayurvedic framework can be used to structure working models of the unique state of each patient, and to project a vision or goal for a whole state of health, again unique to each case. To this extent, it is an inclusive and subsequently conclusive approach to overall health and well-being.
Ayurveda applies specific recommendations to each individual, these are guidelines on lifestyle that translate to a state of optimal health and spiritual balance. At no point is there a break between the constituent values of mind and body, each functions as an integral part of the whole, therefore to treat one without concern for the other is an incomplete approach. This concept of quality is key in Ayurveda and underpins the relationship between theory and practice. It is through ascertaining the quality of things that we truly come to understand their essence, not in any intrinsic sense, but rather in the way in which one thing relates to another, and subsequently all things form a balance. An ultimate understanding eludes us, and we are therefore obliged to study and adhere to what is within our limited purview. Thus rather than trying to base its conclusions on this incomplete knowledge, Ayurveda is directed to the observation of the relationship between things, and the qualities of interaction. Returning to a naturally imposed sense of mind/body/spirit wholeness presumes an important interrelation that is ignored in the traditional western medical approach. To this extent, the systemic limitations of conventional medicine are more than compensated for by a health discipline that precedes medical science by thousands of years. Dubbed ‘the science of life’ the Ayurveda approach derives from a five-thousand-year-old system of natural healing in which the ancients discovered all that was necessary to mind/body balance in the ubiquitous chemistries of the natural environment. Today in India there is a resurgence of these critical principles, which were unfortunately suppressed for centuries under foreign occupation. Many citizens of India are in the process of rediscovering the pathways to optimal health and spiritual wellness and balance through the directives of Ayurveda. Unlike the common dictates of westernized medicine, the Ayurvedic philosophy embodies the entire spectrum of natural cause and effect, treating all the possibilities and arriving at prescriptions that take into consideration a much broader cycle than modern, technology-based medicine ( McIntyre 20 ). The conclusive recognition that human beings are an unbroken extension of nature form the basis of this overlapping approached, derived fully from the concentric channels through which each individual passes, relating to the direct environment, physical and emotional well-being, as well as other important considerations that may impact health.
The underlying dynamics are broken down into three points of energy: movement, structure and essential transformation. In Sanskrit, these forces would equate to wind, fire, and earth. These are the irreducible governing forces that shape the fundamental plain in which everyone lives and operates. Each of us contains a structural relation to these primary forces that are both unique to our person, and key to our optimal health and well-being. Ayurveda strives to discern the essential prescriptive impact these forces can harness for a state of ultimate balance in body, mind and direct environment. Understanding the subjective relationship with the environment is also a vital area of Ayurvedic philosophy and healing to the extent that imbalance in any part of the living experience is symbolic of illness. Each of these primary forces determines something about individual health and balance. To this end, the ancients understood human diversity as a reflection of the three primary forces and aligned their prescriptions to the extent that any of the three were dominant in a patient (Pole 7). Each of these elements entails an expression, a signature or a direct life force that governs individual characteristics. These indicators are the navigational template for Ayurveda.
In specific terms of medication Ayurvedic philosophy stresses plant-based prescriptions with the firm understanding that nature contains the necessary herbs and remedies to relieve common illness and disease. This philosophy stands in sharp contrast to westernized approaches to medication, which often endeavor to treat symptoms while ignoring other vital areas of concern that may account for the symptoms. According to the Ayurvedic perspective, being "healthy" is more than the absence of disease - it is a radiant state of vigor and energy, which is achieved by balance, or moderation, in food intake, sleep, sexual intercourse and other activities of daily life, complemented by various treatments including a wide variety of plant-based medicines (Tiwari). Ayurveda is not simply an externalized healthcare system, but rather a rounded approach to living that takes into consideration every area of experience and environment that can exert an impact on one’s health and well-being. This would include the influence of people, undue stresses encountered through a job, and various other components on human interaction that may adversely affect someone physically or spiritually.
Ayurveda posits an intimate relationship between the natural forces in which harmony is the ultimate objective. In specific Ayurvedic terms, life represents a combination of Atma (soul), Mana (mind), Indriyan (senses) and Sharira (body). It revolves around five central elements ( Panchamhabhutas ) that constitute an individual’s nature, or relation to the primary forces described. In this respect ‘nature’ should be correctly understood as balance with these forces. In simplistic terms, the loss of balance equates to illness from the standpoint of the Ayurvedic philosophy of mind/body/spirit considerations. The three physical energies are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and the three mental energies are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. The presiding principle of individual harmony that is central to Ayurveda would stress the degree of conformity to the forces that determine optimal health and well-being. This is an entirely subjective prescription that takes into consideration the individual and the composition of these forces with them. In many important respects, Ayuvedic philosophy explains that many people have been corrupted by the influences and applications of modernity, losing a natural appreciation for the balance and harmony of the individual to nature (Dass 35).
In a great many ways modern life and the swirl of efficiencies and technologies that accompanies it constitute a significant obstacle not only to optimal health but to important areas of personal awareness as well. A major problem is the use of time and even the calculations surrounding time. People are bombarded with arbitrary timetables that intensify stress and induce poor nutrition and comparable physical health. To a great extent, his environment is unnatural—certainly in the sense of traditional lifestyles—and it plays a significant role in unnecessary illness and even early death because it throws the body/mind/spirit balance out of natural interconnectivity. Living in natural harmony with the environment posits a relationship in which all things form a balance. Modern living not only violates this ideal balance, in many respects it entirely retards this balance, which may explain the rampant health issues associated with this frenetic lifestyle in 1st world nations. The price of modern living may be a loss of considerably more than a shared sense of being.
It is remarkable to assume that technological evolution counteracts the natural balance that was established thousands of years ago, however in a very real and immediate sense human beings have broken contact with the silent and mysterious symmetries that once determined our place within this universe. Ayurveda interprets this as a process of unnatural corruption and one that entails significant loss. At every level, the modern world is a toxic swirl of commercial appeals and a frenetic pace that eventually sweeps people up in its divisive conformity. We are dictated by a web of noisy impulses that form a navigational template which over time takes on the appearance of a natural order however this order is quite meretricious and hypnotic to the extent that it is both artificial and highly misleading. We eat and rest not in any natural sense of our needs but rather according to the arbitrary dictates of an imposed system. We multi-task and adopt the formal standards of an environment that may seem natural because we have lost any frame of reference ( Tiwari, 26 ).
The cumulative result of this pervasive and subsequently pervading lifestyle is that we are sicker and more sensitive to illness and disease, and the health care system that we patronize is to an alarming degree an extension of the social and economic systems that conspire to create illness. Modernity is in almost every respect a contradiction to the prescriptions of the Ayurvedic philosophy of balance and optimal health. The forces of modernity also have the effect of antiquating the past, rendering the beliefs and practices of ancient systems somehow irrelevant or inapplicable. The benefits in re-discovering the healing properties in the Ayurveda can be nothing short of transformative when considering the scale of illness common to modern society, the one fashioned out of excess and exigent patterns that are both disorienting and obscuring to the extent that they remain unaddressed. The irony is that in forgetting or trivializing the body of ancient health knowledge consigns us to a future of limited balance and questionable health.
Far beyond any all-encompassing health system, the Ayurvedic approach is conclusive and un-segmented in the way that modern medical healthcare can often be. It proposes to examine the individual beyond the symptoms or the specific character of a given ailment. This is an entirely rational approach to healthcare that radically revises the perspective of modernized medicine. Part of the disassociation between modern medicine and the Ayurvedic framework is the behavior distinctions commonly associated with illness ( Frawley 7). There is a truncation that has the tendency to isolate the symptoms from the person, or the cause form the overall effect. Even the treatment does not dwell upon the spiritual complement of the individual so much as make recommendations based upon symptoms that are not joined with a summative appreciation of mind/body wholeness. In this respect, the otherwise hypnotic effect of technology distances the individual to an extent that would be unacceptable in Ayurvedic philosophy.
Understanding the value and application of the ancient Ayurvedic approach can potentially be transformative. While there are no easy panaceas for the scale of the health issues that afflict the modern world, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc, the prescriptive alignments that link body/mind and spirit are a rational and radical departure from the current evolving approach to health care. Perhaps there is an application of the Ayurvedic method that could merge with modern medicine to the extent that they are productive over a period of evaluation and testing. In India, the method is reasserting its values after centuries of relative obscurity ( Lad, 32 ). The application of this ancient method of well-being could potentially result not only in caring for the ill but in areas of prevention as well. This isn’t a strict medical science in the modern sense but rather the proposed adoption of lifestyle techniques that establish a balance that rejects illness. The critical difference in approaches could very well determine the quality and longevity of an individual life.
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