Ayurveda is the medicine of nature, the medicine of life. It does not give us a set of theoretical principles to impose upon our biological functioning. Rather it seeks to present to the human mind the principles and powers of Nature herself. It teaches us to put into practice Nature's great principles of health and natural living. For this reason it employs the language of nature; an energetic system of the elements and biological humors, a simple yet profound system of correspondences, not a complex scientific, materialistic or biochemical terminology.
It considers that it is more important to know what aspect of nature is working within us, for example, if there is too much or too little heat in our system, rather than to be able to describe this dysfunction in terms of pathogens or biochemical malfunctions. Its terms, therefore, the biological humors, the elements and their qualities, do not originate from conceptual thought or scientific experiments but through direct observation of Nature herself. They represent the powers of Nature working within us, the great Gods or cosmic powers of the vital or life-plane to whom we must do homage (i.e. respect and follow their laws). Just as we have the powers of water, fire and wind working in the environment around us, so they work on a biological level within us. Just as allowing a fire to get too close will burn us externally, so allowing our inner fire to burn too highly will damage our internal organs.
Ayurveda is a form of naturalistic medicine or naturopathy. According to its wisdom it is Nature herself that heals. All we can do is assist in her process by attuning ourselves to her movements. Therefore, Ayurveda emphasizes the balancing of the life-force within us as the basis of all treatment. Ayurveda is based on diet and herbs for its treatment but uses many specially prepared mineral substances as well. It provides us with a complete life-regime through an integrated science of life-style counseling that deals with body and mind, and with both the individual and society. Its goal is not to suppress our symptoms but to give us the tools to understand our nature and live in harmony with it.
For this reason, Ayurveda is primarily a system of self-healing. It tells us that what we do for ourselves is more important in correcting our condition than what others may do for us. As the responsibility for creating our condition comes from us, so too must be the responsibility for rectifying it.
Ayurveda states that how we live everyday is more significant in determining our health than what we do once in a while. An occasional visit to a doctor or health spa to improve our health cannot correct the effects of a long term wrong diet or stressful living. What we eat everyday is more important than what pill or vitamin we take once in a while to compensate for it.
According to Ayurveda we cannot expect to get well through natural healing methods if our lives themselves are out of harmony with Nature. For this reason, it cannot be used as a palliative measure to maintain our artificial and stressful life-styles. Ayurveda may not help us to continue on as we have been but may insist upon a real change in our manner of living if we wish to really get well.
As a spiritually based medicine, it tells us that psychological and spiritual factors usually outweigh physical factors in causing diseases. Hence even if we follow the right physical regimes, if our emotions are disturbed or if we have no real spiritual purpose in life, we cannot expect to truly heal. We cannot cure the body apart from the mind, or the mind apart from the soul. To treat diseases on only a physical level deals with the effects not the causes and cannot address the major part of the problem.
We cannot cheat Nature or fool life. Short cuts, easy fixes, quick cures, wishful thinking, magic remedies and panaceas are not part of Ayurveda. Life demands a tremendous integrity, self-discipline and self-awareness to take us beyond disease and sorrow. Ayurveda may not make things easier for us in the short term but in the long run it allows us to open up to the real energy of the cosmic life within us and to assume responsibility for our own existence. There is a magic in Ayurveda but it is the magic of consciousness and moment by moment right action. Its magic is not that it takes us off the hook by solving our problems for us but that it gives us the right tools to effectively and finally dissolve them.
Active and Passive Therapies
There are two forms of therapies; what could be called "active" and "passive". A passive therapy is what someone else does to us. An active therapy is what we participate in or do for ourselves. Active therapies are always stronger than passive ones. Passive therapies may be necessary in acute conditions but they cannot of themselves bring about real change.
Our culture itself is excessively passive. We are largely spectators observing others perform. We let others live our lives and we in turn watch them on the sidelines or in front of the screen. Our lives have very little direct experience or creative involvement, which according to Yoga is the only really liberating or fulfilling factor in life. We let other people tell us what to do, how to think, who we are, where to go, what to buy. We let others fix our food, entertain us, tell us how to make love, tell us what God is and so on. In the same way we let the medical establishment run our health. We follow the idea of health which others give us, not what we experience for ourselves or discover to be true and effective in our own lives. If we become the victims of this process there is no one to blame but ourselves. Just as no one can breathe for us, no one can make us healthy or happy. Ayurveda holds that there is no real healer, no magical doctor or magical pill. The magic is in us, in arousing our own life-force and connecting with our own soul, the source of life.
No machine can give us life, nor can mechanical tests really measure the life-force within us which is the true measure of our health. Medical diagnoses may be more harmful than helpful if they do not acknowledge the ability of the life-force to overcome all diseases. The diagnosis of cancer, for example, often tends to destroy the life will in the patient and thereby prevents any cure from taking place.
No substance we take from the outside can be anything more than a catalyst. We, each of us individually, has to learn what are nature really is and through it how to live in harmony with the cosmic life.No one can do this for us and as long as we are unwilling to do so we must contract disease. For this reason Ayurveda is a constitutional or individually oriented medicine. It has no form of mass treatment or mass diagnosis. It is opposed to all standardized medicine. It says that each individual is different and even if their diseases are apparently the same we still cannot treat them in the same way.
Those looking for mere comfort or for someone to make them healthy without their own effort may find Ayurveda limited or unhelpful. But it is the most honest form of medicine and the one which does not take power over us. If we begin to apply its tools in our own lives we will get great results but only if we do so in harmony with Nature and through the course of time with the appropriate adjustments to the rhythms of life.
By David Frawley > The American Institute of Vedic Studies > www.vedanet.com