By Dr. Kumar Pati
From the beginning of humanity, the instinct of self-preservation has dominated people’s thoughts and actions. Gradually through centuries of experimentation people began to develop knowledge about cultivating, processing, mixing, and cooking foods. They learned which herbs were beneficial and that even poisonous ones could cure certain conditions if administered properly.
Originally, when humanity’s knowledge was limited, this information was passed from teacher to disciple orally. However, as time passed, great scholars began recording their findings. Approximately 5,000 years ago, Atharvaveda, one of the oldest scriptures of the Hindus, came into existence.
During this same time a great medical specialist named Charak and a renowned surgeon named Susruta, both of ancient India, wrote voluminous encyclopedias. Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita discuss in detail such topics as gynecology, midwifery, pediatrics, toxicology and eye, ear, nose and throat diseases. These two ancient texts are the foundation for the science of medicine, Ayurveda. The term, ‘Ayurveda,’ is composed of two Sanskrit words, namely, “Ayur” and “Veda,” meaning “life’s knowledge” or “life-science.”
Although Ayurveda has been practiced in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka for over 5,000 years, its fundamental principles are little known in many parts of the world. Among the various medical systems for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, the tridosa doctrine (theory of three basic elements) of Ayurveda, provides a significant and valuable system worthy of study. The aim of Ayurveda is both to discover and counteract the various causes of disease as well as to raise the individual’s resistance to disease through rigorous physical, mental and spiritual discipline.
Ayurveda is concerned not only with physical well-being but also with the total human experience. It sets guidelines for a realization of the true relationship among not only the complex body, mind and soul, but also our relationship to the eternal universe. It is a comprehensive philosophy of life with salvation as its goal.
According to Charak, life is of four types:
- Hita – useful life
- Ahita – harmful life
- Sukha – happy life
- Dukha – unhappy life
He states that four primary objects of human life are:
- Dharma -to perform religious rites
- Artha – to acquire wealth
- Kama – to satisfy worldly desire
- Moksa – to attain salvation
Ayur stands for the combination of body, sense organs, mind and soul. The body is composed of five basic elements (pancha mahabhuta), which interact with the sense organs and produce the objects of the sense organs
Objects of Sense Organs:
When the above-mentioned senses, along with mind (sata) and soul (the bearer of knowledge), combine with virtue of invisible past actions, we find the manifestation of life.
Continue to learn more about Pancha Mahabhuta (the five basic elements), which form three basic elements in the body that govern the psychological, chemical and physiological activities of the body on the next page.