What is Ayurveda
The word “Ayurveda” is a combination of 2 Sanskrit root words – “Ayu” which means “Life” and “Veda” which means “Science, knowledge or learning”. Ayurveda therefore covers the entire Knowledge and Science of Life (including mineral, plant and animal life). Ayurveda’s philosophy of well-being in steeped in the prevention of disease and promotion of the health through diet, lifestyle and harmonious living. The curative and maintenance aspect of disease is also discussed in-depth but preventive medicine is seen as the ultimate key to healthy living.
Ayurvedic Definition of Health
So how does Ayurveda work? In order to understand this, we need to understand the Ayurvedic definition of health which states:
“Sama dosha sama agnischa sama dhatu mala kriya
prasanna atma indriya mana swastha iti abideyate”
Sama means balance, equilibrium or homeostasis and the word Dosha does not have any English translation however I will explain the functions of dosha below which will give you an understanding of them. To put it simply Dosha is a group of attributes that are inherent in a substance and can be easily imbalanced due to internal or external factors. Ayurveda classifies 3 types of dosha known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha which I will explain further below.
Agni refers to the body’s transformation capacity while dhatu refers to the body tissues and Mala kriya the excretion. This first part of the definition covers the physical aspect of the body while the second part covers the non-physical aspect ie. the healthy state of soul (atma, True Self ), the sense organs and organs of actions (indriya) and the mind (manas). Ayurveda’s healthcare system therefore covers both the tangible, seen, gross as well as the intangible unseen subtle aspect of life itself. Ayurveda clearly states that if and only if there is a balance in the physical (gross, seen; body) and mental (subtle, unseen; energy) can a person be considered to be truly healthy.
And when one sees that Ayurveda only has “5 elements”, they disregard Ayurveda without understanding the meaning of the word. When studying herbs the word Dravya is used in Ayurveda and this is translated as “substance” in English. The word substance is defined as a physical matter whereas Ayurveda refers to Dravya as that which also includes energy. Therefore the word Substance does not translate Dravya in its entirety.
In the next article I will focus on the Pachamahabuta which forms the foundation of Vata, Pitta and Kapha dosha.
Panchamahabuta – Basic concept of Ayurveda
“Pancha” means Five; “Maha” means “Great”. The word Bhuta does not have a direct transliteration in English. Bhuta is derived from the root word “bhu” which means to exist Many English books refer to PMB as “Elements” but it should not be confused with the elements of the Chemistry Table. When I use the word Element here, bear in mind that I am referring to the PMB )
These 5 forces pervade the Universe in an “unseen” energetic level and “seen” at the matter level (E=mc2 ). Although the understanding of the 5 Forces and their role in human, plants, environment and health requires a deeper study, a simplified analysis is provided below.
The 5 Forces or States or Elements are 1. Space (Akash), 2. Air (Vayu) 3. Fire (Agni) 4. Water (Jala) and 5.Earth (Prithvi). These 5 PMB are ultimate forces that make up the Universe. Everything needs space to exist and in that sense Space (Akash) is the first Force in being. This is followed by Air (Vayu) which constitutes Movement. The next State is Heat (Agni/Tejas) which represents Transformation. Everything is transformed using either or both exothermic and endothermic energy. The forth Element is Water (Jala). We are not referring to the actual water per se but the quality or attributes of liquidity. Finally there is the final state which is the actual gross material called Earth (Prithvi). Again this is not earth as in the physical Earth but the final gross material and attributes that make these up. So when Ayurveda states that everything has its origin from subtle before appearing as gross it means from Ether (Akash) to finally Earth (Prithvi) which is the same as saying E=mc2.