Ayurveda is the oldest surviving complete medical system in the world.
Derived from its ancient Sanskrit roots - ‘ayus' (life) and ‘ved'
(knowledge) – and offering a rich, comprehensive outlook to a healthy
life, its origins go back nearly 5000 years. To when it was expounded
and practiced by the same spiritual rishis, who laid the foundations of
the Vedic civilisation in India, by organising the fundamentals of life
into proper systems.
The main source of knowledge in this field therefore remain the Vedas,
the divine books of knowledge they propounded, and more specifically the
fourth of the series, namely Atharvaveda that dates back to around 1000
BC. Of the few other treatises on Ayurveda that have survived from
around the same time, the most famous are Charaka Samhita and the
Sushruta Samhita which concentrate on internal medicine and surgery
respectively. The Astanga Hridayam is a more concise compilation of
earlier texts that was created about a thousand years ago. These between
them forming a greater part of the knowledge base on Ayurveda as it is
The art of Ayurveda had spread around in the 6th century BC to Tibet,
China, Mongolia, Korea and Sri Lanka, carried over by the Buddhist monks
travelling to those lands. Although not much of it survives in original
form, its effects can be seen in the various new age concepts that have
originated from there.
No philosophy has had greater influence on Ayurveda than Sankhaya’s
philosophy of creation and manifestation. Which professes that behind
all creation there is a state of pure existence or awareness, which is
beyond time and space, has no beginning or end, and no qualities. Within
pure existence, there arises a desire to experience itself, which
results in disequilibrium and causes the manifestation of the primordial
physical energy. And the two unite to make the "dance of creation" come
Imponderable, indescribable and extremely subtle, this primordial energy
– which and all that flows from it existing only in pure existence – is
the creative force of all action, a source of form that has qualities.
Matter and energy are so closely related that when energy takes form, we
tend to think of it in terms of matter only. And much modified, it
ultimately leads to the manifestation of our familiar mental and
It also gives rise to cosmic consciousness, which is the universal order
that prevades all life. Individual intelligence, as distinct from the
everyday intellectual mind, is derived from and is part of this
consciousness. It is the inner wisdom, the part of individuality that
remains unswayed by the demands of daily life, or by Ahamkara, the sense
A Sanskrit word with no exact translation, Ahamkara, is a concept not
quite understood by everyone as it is often misleadingly equated to
`ego’. Embracing much more than just that, it is in essence that part of
‘me’ which knows which parts of the universal creation are ‘me’. Since
‘I’ am not separate from the universal consciousness, but ‘I’ has an
identity that differentiates and defines the boundaries of `me’. All
creations therefore have Ahamkara, not just human beings.
There arises from Ahamkara a two-fold creation. The first is Satwa, the
subjective world, which is able to perceive and manipulate matter. It
comprises the subtle body (the mind), the capacity of the five sense
organs to hear, feel, see, taste and smell, and for the five organs of
action to speak, grasp, move, procreate and excrete. The mind and the
subtle organs providing the bridge between the body, the Ahamkara and
the inner wisdom, which three together is considered the essential
nature of humans.
The second is Tamas, the objective world of the five elements of sound,
touch, vision, taste and smell – the five subtle elements that give rise
to the dense elements of ether or space, air, fire, water and the earth
– from which all matter of the physical world is derived. And it is
Rajas, the force or the energy of movement, which brings together parts
of these two worlds.
It is worth noting that even at the stage of the dense elements the
philosophy of creation –which according to Sankaya is now and in the
present, without any past and any future – is still dealing with aspects
of existence beyond our simple physical realms. The point of contention
being that we are the first and foremost spirit experiencing existence.
To use Ayurveda in daily life, one has neither to accept nor even
understand this philosophy. But it does provide a deeper insight into
how Ayurveda works towards betterment of your health.
Ayurveda therefore is not simply a health care system but a form of
lifestyle adopted to maintain perfect balance and harmony within the
human existence, from the most abstract transcendental values to the
most concrete physiological expressions. Based on the premise that life
represents an intelligent co-ordination of the Atma (Soul), Mana (Mind),
Indriya (Senses) and Sharira (Body).
That revolves around the five dense elements that go into the making of
the constitution of each individual, called Prakriti.
Which in turn is determined by the vital balance of the three physical
energies - Vata, Pitta, Kapha and the three mental energies - Satwa,
The Hindu God of creation revealed the science of ayurveda to the sage
Ayurveda thus offers a unique blend of science and philosophy that
balances the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components
necessary for holistic health.