What is the concept of Ayurveda? many refer to it as a science, philosophy, or medicine. But after all, what is it? In this post we´re going to talk about this subject that has started to gain popularity in the west.
Ayurveda is a subject that has gained popularity in the West, especially among Yoga practitioners. But what is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, which etymology means science of life, is much more than a medicinal system. Not only a branch of medicine, but it also involves other areas of knowledge, such as: Philosophy, Psychology, Astrology, Astronomy, Spirituality, among others. From a wide range of subjects that dwell into different spheres of life knowledge, this science brings us practices and studies related to herbal medicine, nutrition, detoxification of the body and mind, lifestyle, massages, pranayamas (breathing exercises), meditation and yoga.
As a note of curiosity about Yoga and Ayurveda, both are two sister sciences that come from the same philosophy, the main difference is that Ayurveda directs its goals to Dharma, which teaches us how to live life correctly; while Yoga focuses on Moksha goals, which lead us to being-consciousness alignment. However, both follow a holistic system, meaning, they consider each being as a unique entity with it regards to body, mind, spirit and consciousness.
It´s speculated that Ayurveda originated in the Himalayas, northern India, around 5,000,000 years ago or more. The oldest literatures preserved by Buddhist monks show the evolution of medicinal and philosophical traditions arising from the knowledge of prophets and enlightened spiritual seers about Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation. This knowledge was transmitted orally from masters to disciples, and then transcribed in the form of Sanskrit poetry, known as Vedas, which elucidated the historical, religious and medicinal knowledge dominant in that period. In the future, they would form the basis of Indian culture and religion, especially Hinduism, from which it would branch out into other areas.
The first school of Ayurvedic medicine is reported to have surfaced prior to 800 BC and was founded by Punarvasu Atreya who shared with his students medical knowledge that would then influence other professionals in this area such as Sharaka, a scholar who lived around 700 BC and identified more than 1,500 plants, and cataloged 350 plants as useful medicines, which to this day have a lot of prestige for these purposes. In addition to these authors, Charaka, Sushuruta and Vagbatha complement the pillars of classical Ayurvedic scriptures.
Budha, born in 550 BC, was a follower of Ayurveda. With the spread of Buddhism to the current regions of Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea and Ceylon, the practice of Ayurveda gain prominence in the East. In this period, ancient civilizations were connected to each other by trade routes, so the knowledge of medicinal plants through Ayurveda was disseminated to Arab merchants, who therefore transmitted this knowledge to ancient Greeks and Romans, whose philosophies and practices would later form the basis of European medicine.
Ayurvedic medical science is divided into eight branches. Its symbol is the Lotus flower with eight petals that symbolize all eight branches, as described in the Atharva Veda, they are:
1- Kayachikitsa: Internal Medicine
2- Salaya tantra: Surgery
3- Salakya tantra: Ears, nose, throat, eyes and teeth
4- Agada tantra: toxicology, and the study of poisons
5- Bhuta vidya: psychiatry, treatment of mental illness
6- Bala tantra: gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics
7- Rasaya tantra: science of rejuvenation
8- Vajikarana tantra: aphrodisiacs to enhance life
As we´ve seen, Ayurveda covers many areas of medicine, which basically carry two main objectives: Curative – reversing a disease state whenever possible, and Preventive – promoting longevity through diet, meditation, pranayamas, herbal medicine, style of life, etc. However, the medicinal knowledge of this science is not exclusive to India, as its knowledge is particular and individualized, it can be followed and applied to anyone, anywhere.