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 Ayurvedic Medicine: An Introduction to Ayurveda  
 
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, derived from two roots: ayur, which means life, and veda, knowledge. Knowledge arranged systematically with logic becomes science. During the due course of time, Ayurveda became the science of life. It has its root in ancient vedic literature and encompasses our entire life, the body, mind and spirit.

Purusha/Prakruti
According to Ayurveda, every human being is a creation of the cosmos, the pure cosmic consciousness, as two energies: male energy, called Purusha and female energy, Prakruti. Purusha is choiceless passive awareness, while Prakruti is choiceful active consciousness. Prakruti is the divine creative will. Purusha doesn't take part in creation, but Prakruti does the divine dance of creation called leela. In creation, Prakruti is first evolved or manifested as supreme intelligence, called mahat. Mahat is the buddhi principal (individual intellect) which further manifests as self identity, called ahamkara, which is ego. Ahamkara is influenced by three basic universal qualities: satva, rajas and tamas. Satva is responsible for clarity of perception. Rajas causes movement, sensations, feelings and emotions. Tamas is the tendency towards inertia, darkness, heaviness, and is responsible for periods of confusion and deep sleep.

Manifestation of Creation
From the essence of satva the five senses are created: the ears to hear, skin to perceive touch, eyes to see, the tongue to taste, and the nose, to smell. The essence of rajas is manifested as the five motor organs: speech, hands, feet, genitals and the organs of excretion. The mind is derived from satva, while rajas is manifested as prana, the life force. The tamasic quality is also responsible for the creation of tan matra, the subtle elements, and from whom the five basic elements are manifested. They are space, air, fire, water and earth. It is from pure consciousness that space is manifested.

Space
Expansion of consciousness is space and space is all enclosive. We need space to live, and our bodily cells contain spaces. The synaptic, cellular and visceral spaces give freedom to the tissues to perform their normal physiological functions. (A change in tissue space, however, may lead to pathological conditions.) The space in between two conjunctive nerve cells aids communication, while the space in the mind encompasses love and compassion.

Air
The movement of consciousness determines the direction along which change of position in space takes place. This course of action causes subtle activities and movements within space. According to the Ayurvedic perspective, this is the air principle. There is a cosmic magnetic field responsible for the movement of the earth, wind and water. Its representative in the body is the biological air, responsible for movement of afferent and efferent, sensory and motor-neuron impulses. When someone touches the skin, that tactile skin sensation is carried to the brain by the principal of movement, which is the sensory impulse. Then there is a reaction to the impulse, which is the motor response, which is carried from the brain to the periphery. This is a very important function of air. Our breathing is due to the movement of the diaphragm. Movements of the intestines and subtle cell movements are also governed by the biological principal of air. The movement of thought, desire and will are also governed by the air principal.

Fire
Where there is movement, there is friction, which creates heat, so the third manifestation of consciousness is fire, the principal of heat. There are many different representations of fire in the body. The solar plexus is the seat of fire, and this fire principle regulates body temperature. Fire is also responsible for digestion, absorption and assimilation. It is present in the eyes, therefore we perceive light, and the luster in the eyes is a result of the fire principal. There is a fire in the brain as the grey matter, which governs understanding, comprehension and appreciation. Fire is necessary for transformation, comprehension, appreciation, recognition and total understanding. In our small universe, the sun is a burning ball of consciousness and the sun gives us light and heat. In the body, the representative of the sun is the biological fire: the solar plexus which gives us heat, digestion, and liver function.

Water
Because of the heat of the fire, consciousness melts into water. According to chemistry, water is H2O, but according to Ayurveda water is liquefaction of consciousness. Water exists in the body in many different forms, such as: plasma, cytoplasm, serum, saliva, nasal secretion, orbital secretion and cerebrospinal fluid. Excess water, which we eliminate in the form of urine and sweat is water. Water is necessary for nutrition and to maintain the water/electrolyte balance in the body. Without water, the cells cannot live.

Earth
The next manifestation of consciousness is the earth element. Because of the heat of the fire and water, there is crystallization. According to Ayurveda, earth molecules are nothing but crystallization of consciousness. In the human body, all solid structures, hard, firm and compact tissues are derived from the earth element (e.g. bones, cartilage, nails, hair, teeth and skin). Even in a single cell, the cell membrane is earth, cellular vacuoles are space, cytoplasm is water, nucleic acid and all chemical components of the cell are fire, and movement of the cell is air. All of these five elements are present in every human cell. According to Ayurveda, man is a creation of universal consciousness. What is present in the cosmos, the macrocosm, the same thing is present in the body, the microcosm. Man is a miniature of nature.

Mental Constitution
Vedic philosophy classifies human temperaments into three basic qualities: satvic, rajasic and tamasic. These individual differences in psychological and moral dispositions and their reactions to socio-cultural and physical environments are described in all the classic texts of Ayurveda. Satvic qualities imply essence, reality, consciousness, purity and clarity of perception which are responsible for goodness and happiness. All movements and activities are due to rajas. It leads to the life of sensual enjoyment, pleasure and pain, effort and restlessness. Tamas is darkness, inertia, heaviness and materialistic attitudes. There is a constant interplay of these three gunas (qualities) in the individual consciousness, but the relative predominance of either satva, rajas, or tamas is responsible for individual psychological constitution.

Satvic Mental Constitutions
The people in whom satvic qualities predominate are religious, loving, compassionate and pure minded. Following truth and righteousness, they have good manners, behavior and conduct. They do not get easily upset or angry. Although they work hard mentally, they do not get mental fatigue, so they need only several hours of sleep each night. They look fresh, alert, aware, full of luster, wisdom, joy and happiness. They are creative, humble and respectful of their teachers. Worshipping God and humanity, they love all. They care for people, animals, trees, and are respectful of all life and existence. They have balanced intuition and intelligence.

Rajasic Mental Constitutions
The people in whom rajasic qualities predominate are egoistic, ambitious, aggressive, proud, competitive, and have a tendency to control others. They like power, prestige, position, and are perfectionists. They are hard working people, but are lacking in proper planning and direction. They are ungrounded, active and restless. Emotionally, they are angry, jealous, ambitious, and have few moments of joy due to success. They have a fear of failure, are subject to stress, and soon lose their mental energy. They require about eight hours of sleep. They are loving, calm and patient only as long as their self interests are served. They are good, loving, friendly and faithful only to those who are helpful to them. They are not honest to their inner consciousness. Their activities are self- centered and egotistical.

Tamasic Mental Constitutions
The people in whom tamasic qualities predominate are less intelligent. They tend towards depression, laziness, and excess sleep, even during the day. A little mental work tires them easily. They like jobs of less responsibility, and they love to eat, drink, sleep and have sex. They are greedy, possessive, attached, irritable, and do not care for others. They may harm others through their own self interest. It is difficult for them to focus their minds during meditation.

Vata, Pitta and Kapha: the Three Doshas
The structural aspect of the body is made up of five elements, but the functional aspect of the body is governed by three biological humors. Ether and air together constitute vata; fire and water, pitta; and water and earth, kapha. Vata, pitta and kapha are the three biological humors that are the three biological components of the organism. They govern psycho-biological changes in the body and physio-pathological changes too. Vata-pitta-kapha are present in every cell, tissue and organ. In every person they differ in permutations and combinations.

The sperm is the male seed, and the ovum is the female egg. They also contain vata-pitta-kapha (VPK). Bodily vata-pitta-kapha changes according to diet, life style and emotions. The sperm gets influenced by the father's lifestyle, diet and emotions, and the ovum by the mother's. At the time of fertilization, when a single sperm enters a single ovum, individual constitution is determined.

According to Ayurveda, there are seven body types: mono-types (vata, pitta or kapha predominant), dual types (vata-pitta, pitta-kapha or, kapha-vata), and equal types, (vata, pitta and kapha in equal proportions). Every individual has a unique combination of these three doshas. To understand individuality is the foundation of healing according to Ayurveda, "The Science of Life".

Vata Qualities
Vata, pitta and kapha are distinctly present in every individual and express in each human being differently according to the predominance of the different qualities (gunas). For example vata is dry, light, cold, mobile, active, clear, astringent, and it is dispersing. All of these qualities can manifest in an individual. For example, if a person has excess vata in his or her constitution, because of the dry quality, he or she will have dry hair, dry skin, dry colon and a tendency towards constipation. Because of the light quality, which is opposite of heavy, the vata person will have a light body frame, light muscles, and light fat, and so will be thin and underweight, or "skinny-minny". Because of the cold quality, the vata person will have cold hands, cold feet and poor circulation. They hate the cold season and love summer. Because of the mobile quality, vata people are very active. They like jogging and jumping and don't like sitting in one place. Vata is subtle, and this subtle quality is responsible for the emotions of fear, anxiety, insecurity and nervousness. Vata is clear, therefore vata people can be clairvoyant; they have clear understanding and perception. They understand things immediately, but forget things immediately. Vata is astringent, which is a drying and choking quality of taste, therefore the vata person, while eating feels a drying choking sensation in the throat. These qualities are all expressed in a vata individual to some degree.

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 About The Author
Dr.Vasant Lad Vasant Lad is an Ayurvedic Physician and Executive Director of the Ayurvedic Institute. Dr. Lad brings a wealth of classroom and practical experience to the United States. A native of India, he served for three years as......more
 
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