In saying Ayurveda is a science of life is undermining much of the content that the treaties of Ayurveda deals with. Ayurveda being thousands of years old has been placed into various renditions of centuries and reconfiguration of times ; revision encompassing a tradition of oral as well as written knowledge regarding philosophy, healthy life, longevity, treatment of various ailments and an invariable drive towards expanding the knowing capacities of human mind.
Charak in the Sanskrit verses of his book Charak Samhita summarizes Ayurveda as, being a grand treatise which deals with the understanding of “Good”, “not so good”, “Happy” and “Suffering” states of life and that what is good and bad for the mysteries of life. The treatise while being precise in some aspects; is sometimes obscure in others. While placing instructions on how to conduct our daily life through verses in chapters of dinacarya and how to conduct our life according to various seasons in chapters of ritucharya, it is obscure in its philosophy and sometimes even confounding in a way Sanskrit verses sometimes add multiple meaning to the words or phrases.
Major Ayurvedic treaties deal with treatment of various diseases. A usual approach to diseases is through determination of “prakriti” – or that what is natural. Then the next step is to determine the “vikriti” – what has departed from the state of “prakriti”. Virkriti is generally the state of disease. Then this state of Vikriti is treated according to the state and strength of persons and the state and strength disease. Thus there is a personalized system of treatment to bring the person back to the state of “prakriti”.
Determining prakriti requires a clever wit, a keen eye and a questioning ayurvedic physician. The physician might ask you about what you dream about, looks about your physical complexion and features and determines what your prakriti is. The determination of vikriti requires an even keener inquiry into the changes of prakriti and thus even an experienced physician may sometimes have to subjective about it.
The major of Ayurveda text deals with dosha or humors. These are two types the physical “Deha” doshas which deals with the functioning of physical body and the mental “Manas” doshas which deals with the mental state. The physical doshas are three in number namely “Vata”, “Pitta” and “Kapha”. The balances of these three humors add to the healthy life. While an imbalance in the realm of these humors leads to physical misery. The mental doshas are “Rajah” and “Tama” and these in aggravated or docile states invariably leads to mental ailments.
What an Ayurvedic physican does is to calculate the changes in the natural state of these doshas and then determine the correct approach towards balancing out these doshas. The approach may be a preventive one or a therapeutic one. Aggravated doshas still not expressed in terms of physical or mental symptoms in the body are prevented further aggravation while those aggravated doshas which show symptoms of diseases are managed by a therapeutic approach. Therapeutic approach involves various modalities from intake of herbs, animals or mineral based medicine which brings vitiated doshas to a balanced level to a more cleansing approach of panchakarma.
Panchakarma in literal sense means five therapies. It is a comprehensive and time-tested approach to various ailments. The five therapies are “Vaman – Therapeutic emesis” , “Virechan – Medicated purgation”, “Vasti – Enema” , “Nasya – Nasal Syringing”, “Raktamokshana – Controlled bloodletting”. These therapeutic approaches involve various dietary schedules and rigorous patience in terms of one who receives the therapy. The indication is based on what sort of diseased state or healthy state we are dealing with. Panchakarma also deals with minor relaxation procedures such as message, steam baths, sirodhara, netra vasti.
The texts of Ayurveda spanning centuries shows a didactic nature to the problems relating to the human health and consciousness. Its instructive nature are however very much open to interpretations. The philosophy of Ayurveda is epistemologically classified into empirical, experiential, suppositional and inherited. Ontologically Ayurveda claims that this world is a myth and one should aim to ascend it through the process of Moksha. This invariably may be confounding to the various philosophical practices of the west but this invariably leads to a system of classification and knowing that is invariably unique to the field of Ayurveda.
All in all, Ayurveda seeks harmony. A harmony of dosha in the body leading to healthy and prosperous life and harmony in spirit such that one is attuned to the suffering of this world and is directed towards a process of salvation.