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Āyurveda: The Quest for Longevity and Vitality

How do you feel right now? What is the status of your body and mind? Do you feel balanced? Are you happy?

It is time you learned about Āyurveda, a science geared toward the equilibrium necessary to feel strong, vital, and content in the body and mind.

Āyurveda is a combination of two words: āyus, meaning (among many things) life, vigor, health, and veda, meaning knowledge. So, Āyurveda is the knowledge of life and, specifically, a life that is long and filled with energy. According to Āyurveda, āyus is a tripod of body, mind, and soul wherein only the mind and body need treatment because the soul is a passive observer through which all is known.

Therefore, when considering treatment or maintenance, Āyurveda deals with that which is advantageous, harmful, and capable of bringing happiness, and misery, whether to the body or the mind. There is an integral relationship between the mind and the body wherein one affects the other. Consider a time when you may have been deeply saddened by something. Can you remember how it felt in the body? Did everything feel as though it was heavy and cloudy? The digestive system and thyroid were slowed at this moment, and the weight of the grief taxed the heart.

Disease, literally dis-ease denoting lack of comfort, is considered an obstacle in attaining order and stability, material comfort, pleasure, and finally, release in this life. With order and stability counted as one, these are the four objectives of human beings. The great sages who espoused Āyurveda recognized that the onslaught of disease was impeding humans from reaching their potential and, thus, sat in meditation with their minds fixed on finding a remedy. The remedy that appeared to them was a vision of the god Indra, who reassured them that he would teach them the means.

Of the 53 sages, Bharadvāja was chosen to learn from Indra, who espoused the three principles of Āyurveda: cause, symptom, and therapy. He acquired a long and healthy life using the knowledge he learned, and as is proper of one who has obtained knowledge, he shared it with the other sages. The Caraka Saṁhitā, believed to be the most authoritative treatise on Āyurveda, is a conversation between Bharadvāja’s disciple Ātreya and Agniveṣa, who was the first to record this science of vitality and longevity.

This knowledge system's core is understanding matter and its attributes and actions. Specifically, matter is composed of earth, water, fire, air, ether, soul, mind, time, and space in different combinations. Matter will increase what is in its likeness and decrease what is different. Health is thus a state of equilibrium of the attributes of being, and this equilibrium, svastha, is the object of Āyurveda.

Consequently, the cause of disease or disequilibrium is wrong utilization, non-utilization, and excessive utilization of matter and its contents. This three-fold cause of illness affects the pathogenic factors, i.e., vāta, pitta, kapha, rajas, and tamas. The former three relate to specific elements and their attributes in the body, and the latter two relate to activity or inertia of the mind.

  • Vāta, as air and ether, imparts rough, cool, light, subtle, mobile, dry, etc.

  • Pitta, as fire and water, imparts oily, hot, sharp, liquid, sour, fluid, pungent, etc.

  • Kapha, as earth and water, imparts heavy, cool, soft, unctuous, sweet, immobile, slimy, etc.

Therapies in Āyurveda either pacify, vitiate, or maintain the pathogenic factors. Diet and Lifestyle are the foundational methods by which healing takes place. Specific dietary recommendations are based not on counting calories, sugar, salt, fat, or carbs but on the attributes the substance imparts to the individual. Everything ingested has sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent flavors.

However, it is not just what is eaten but how it is prepared, by whom it is prepared, how and when it is consumed, and the state of the individual by which it is consumed.

Āyurveda is incredibly detail oriented and considers all possible factors in the healing process, beginning with the individual in their present state and carefully tracing that state back to the elements that created it. First, the imbalance is acknowledged, then the search for the cause. Working from the cause, a path toward liberation is charted, and if the path is correct, the dis-ease is eliminated.

There is a means to a balanced and contented life. Discover Āyurveda and the wonderful transformation it can bring.

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