Ayurveda: Part 1

Intro to Ayurveda

Part 1

Ayurveda is derived from two Sanskrit words: ‘ayus’ meaning life and ‘veda’, meaning knowledge, Ayurveda is commonly translated as the “science of life” or “knowledge of life” or “celebration of life”.  Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine in India which is practiced in contemporary India and worldwide. “Ayurveda is the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature. It is an ancient natural wisdom of health and healing, a science of life. The aims and objectives of this science are to maintain the health of a healthy person and to heal the disease of an unhealthy person. Both prevention (maintenance of good health) and healing are carried out by entirely natural means.” (Lad 1998).

Ayurveda encompasses all aspects of one’s life including, diet, family life, cleansing techniques, exercises, philosophy, mental health, energetic health, spiritual well-being and self-realization.  In traditional Yoga, Ayurveda is an integral part of preparing the body for Yoga practices and maintaining health. Vasant Lad notes, “Like other ancient civilizations, India never separated science from philosophy and religion. Rather, it viewed all knowledge as part of a whole designed to promote human happiness, health and growth.” (Lad 1998).

It is important to have an introduction to the philosophy or cosmology which permeates Ayurveda and the India sub-continent. The Sankhya philosophy is one of the important philosophical foundations for Ayurveda, Yoga and Tibetan medicine. Sankhya describes all life as expanding out of a state of primordial stillness. As life expands away from this primordial stillness it becomes differentiated, diverse and varied. Stillness remains the canvas upon which life is created; however, it gets covered in the many varied things such as the mind, body and spiritual aspects of the universe.  The science of Ayurveda shows the ways in which all aspects of life are connected.

From the ultimate reality of stillness emerges love which creates two main players in the dance of creation Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is also known as Shiva is manifest energy or pure consciousness Shiva resides in stillness. Prakriti or “Shakti” represents creative cosmic energy which manifests into creation of many varied things. Purusha and Prakriti are the male and female creative principles from which all life emanates.  Sankhya philosophy describes the primordial stillness as equilibrium between consciousness (Purusha) and manifest nature (Prakriti). This state of equilibrium is called bliss or stillness  and holds the potential seeds for all of creation. From the foundation of silence and stillness all life manifests. Prakriti represents the creative cosmic energy of the universe which manifests and thus it also represents duality. For life to be manifest it must move away from the all-pervading field of stillness and develop in myriad forms.  When Prakriti feels love for Purusha the equilibrium is off set and manifestation of the creative force (Prakriti) occurs. It is although through their love the universe is born from the womb of Prakriti the divine mother.

This Divine Love gives rise to the first aspect of creative manifestation known as Mahat or cosmic order or intelligence. Mahat is the first idea, the creative primal force even we are part of this divine idea (Mahat). In human beings Mahat is referred to as Buddhi intellect which is the highest aspect of intellect in humans.

From Mahat comes further division to Ahamkar or ego. Ahamkar is the force which produces a sense of individuality, it has a sense of being separate from the Mahat and thus develops a philosophical foundation of I- ness.  Ahamkar is the level of maya or illusion. Maya or illusion in Samkhya philosophy is the sense of separateness from the greater universal principles of Mahat, Prakriti, Purusha and the primordial stillness. Ahamkar is called the ego and at this level of intellect we see separation and are not in total union or bliss. Ego is not bad and represents a subtle part of our consciousness which recognizes “I” as being autonomous in some way.  At this level of creation the material world is not yet manifest but our sense of self as the center of our consciousness has been formed.

Following Ahamkar the self is present and we are subjected to fluctuations in body, mind, energy and spirit. These fluctuations are known as gunas. Herein lies the first source of disease in humanity; our sense of separateness from the universal consciousness causes dis-ease. In samkhya and yoga philosophy this is called avidya which means false understanding, misapprehension and ignorance.

Spiritual methods of self-betterment often work on subtle levels through a series of techniques which bring greater unity between body, mind and spirit and work with the energetic flows and centers in the body. In Ayurveda the unseen life force and energetics of the body is called Prana. Prana is a universal life force which flow through all things and connects the material, subtle and transpersonal aspects of the universe together.  It is possible to heal an aliment by simply reaffirming our connection to the totality of the universe. True healing takes place on these subtle levels and one could even describe healing as remembrance of our divinity. We re-member our-self through a life long process of healing and at some point experience that on the deepest level all things are one. This reconnection to tranquility and stillness is the language of the sages. Only when we are totally still can we hear the subtle whisper of the divine sound.

(more coming on Ayurveda and the energetics of yoga soon).

By: Transpersonal Spirit

Bibliography:

Boigenzahn Sowards, Tanya. Devanadi Yoga 235 HR Teacher Training and Intensive Workshop Manual. Devanadi Yoga. Minneapolis, MN. 2008.

Crow, David, Jade Shutes. Aromatherapy Foundations Certification Program.  Floracopeia Inc. Nevada City, CA. 2005.

Frawley, David. Yoga and Ayurveda Self Healing and Self-Realization. Twin Lakes, WI. 1999, 2009.

Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurveda Home Remedies .  Three Rivers Press New York. 1998.

Swami Muktibodhananda. Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India. 1985, 1993, 1998.

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