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Ayurveda is the oldest surviving complete medical system in the world. It offers a rich, comprehensive guidelines to a healthy life, with origins that date back over 5000 year. The foundation of the Ayurvedic medical system is the Vedas, the oldest compilation of knowledge and wisdom imparted by the rishis. Of the gour Vedas, Ayurveda originated form the Atharvaveda body of knowledge that dates back to around 1000 B.C. The most famous texts are the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita, which concentrates on internal medicine and surgery.
Ayurveda does not treat symptoms. Since the root of any health issue lies in the loss of balance and harmony between body, mind, soul and senses, the Ayurvedic practitioner works on restoring the balance through completely understanding the patient’s physical, mental and emotional state. Based on the principles energy and matter the healing interventions include herbal formulations, body techniques, nutritional guidelines, and psychological and spiritual interventions drawing on the rich traditions of Yoga. Yogic practices of asanas, pranayama and meditation is an integral part of the holistic healing Ayurveda delivers.
The science of Ayurveda is based on the basic principles of the Sankhya philosophy of evolution and emancipation. It outlines a precise and logical explanation to the presence of energy and matter. Kapila, who propounded the samkhya theory, enumerates the different stages into 24 entities of matter, the 25th entity being that of energy or Self or Consciousness. This is beyond time and space and has no beginning, end or qualities. The Universe is always in a flux of impermanence and change and this theory offers knowledge, experience and practical solutions to attain freedom from suffering.
All that exists in the universe also exists within us. Here we find our internal and external worlds are made of three fundamental principles that represent awareness, mutability and inertia (or retention). These stand for the three universal qualities (Gunas) known as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. These are present in everything in the world, in our bodies and in our minds. Matter in the shape of the three Gunas constitutes the material cause of the entire external and internal phenomenal world and they are linked together.
All matter can be broadly classified into two groups as objects and senses. By the reception of senses, objects are known, changed or retained. Firstly, the knowledge of the universe is obtained through the five sense organs. This is when the Sattvic state is predominant. Then the five motor organs are the mutative (rajasic) state that defines all actions. Finally, the objects of sense organs are expressed through the retentive and perceptive state of Tamas.
Further diversification of the five objects of sense organs leads to the five gross elements (mahabhutas). All the five elements are gross entities with characteristics of the objects of sense organs. For example, the characteristic feature of space is sound. These elements through various permutations and combinations constitute everything present in the world and in our bodies. These elements are akin to atoms, the minute manifestation of matter.
In the quest for longevity and balance of health, Ayurvedic principles are based on the foundation of the five elements. When these elements come in contact with the senses, they are transformed into the three bio-energies (vata,pitta and kapha doshas). “Dosha” means that which is susceptible to change and vitiation. Ayurveda is the study of science of this process of movement, transformation and retention of energies in all substances in the universe and in the body. These energies being qualitative and functional in nature are the pillars of the human body and can result in good health or disease depending on their functions and qualities. The fundamental principle of Ayurveda is to maintain equilibrium between these three energies for harmonious functioning and homeostasis in the body.