The Basic Principles of Ayurveda

What is Ayurveda?

To understand the guiding principles of Ayurveda, one must first understand what Ayurveda is and what the most important objective of Ayurvedic science is.

• The Charaka Samhita offers a comprehensive definition for Ayurveda - “Ayurveda is that knowledge system that deals with what is good, what is bad, what is happiness, what is sorrow, what is life, what is suitable for life, and what is unsuitable for life”.
• Aayu (Life), and not just health, plays the central role in this knowledge system. As mentioned earlier, the Ayurvedic system itself is for those who desire life.
• Aayu (Life) is a combination of the body, mind, and spirit/consciousness. Like a tripod, they sustain life. All states of a human being – health or ill health, happiness or sorrow – will affect these three spheres of human existence, i.e. Physical, mental and spiritual.

Ayurvedic Body Types

In Ayurveda, the body type of the patient is of paramount importance and it is determined by principles defined within the sacred texts. According to the teachings of these Ayurvedic texts, the human body is the seat of :
• Dosha (the functional principles),
• Dhaatu (the structural principles)
• Mala (the metabolic by-products)3.

Dosha, translated as “energies” circulating within the body, are three in number – vaata, pitta and kapha.
• Vaata- responsible for movement
• Pitta– needed for transformation
• Kapha- the source of cohesion

The state of balance of the three doshas is health and state of imbalance of doshas is ill-health.

Dhaatu, translated as “sustainers”, are seven in number –
• Rasa (plasma)
• Rakta (blood)
• Maamsa (muscle)
• Meda (fat)
• Asthi (bone)
• Majja (marrow)
• Sukra (reproductive principle).

Mala translated as “impurities”, are three in number –
• Sveda (sweat),
• Mutra (urine),
• Pureesha (faeces).

Dosha, Dhatu and Mala offer a comprehensive understanding of the nutritive processes that occur in our body without undue focus on anatomical parts.

The factor that initiates the basic and progresses with the advanced metabolic activities is our digestive fire –agni.

The Mind
Charaka considers “The Mind” to be the link between the body and the consciousness. According to him, the body and the mind share an interdependent relationship, such that afflictions on one affect the other. That is why roga, the Sanskrit word for disease, means “that which afflicts the body and the mind”.

The Spirit
The Spirit is unaffected by any physical or mental changes and is considered an observer in Ayurvedic medicine. The Spirit is believed to carry certain impressions from the individual’s previous births which manifest positively, as health, or negatively, as ill-health.