Ayurvedic medicine has its roots in the Vedic philosophy. To understand Ayurveda in its profound aspects, it is important to know the philosophical background.
Ayurveda is founded in the Indian Sānkhya philosophy, whose author is the great sage Kapila. Kapila is considered a descendant of Manu. Sānkhya philosophy describes how the entire universe is formed from Purusha, the primordial spirit, and from Prakriti, the primordial nature. All emerges from the union of these two basic principles.
Purusha and Prakriti
When Purusha and Prakriti are not manifested, they are called Brahman, “the unrevealed universe, the absolute consciousness”. This state is also called Avyakta, which means unmanifested. Once Purusha and Prakriti unite, the entire universe gradually forms from Prakriti, the divine mother.
Also, in other sacred scriptures such as the Zohar, the main work of Kabbalah, the emanation of these two principles is described as follows: “Hokhmah Wisdom is the father and Binah Mind is the mother. And when they unite – one with the other – they bring forth and spread and emanate the truth…. When they combine in one the other, the Yod in the He, they become impregnated and give birth to a son, and therefore it is called Binah, mind. It means BeN YaH, i.e. son of YaH. This is the completeness of the whole.” GLII, 89
These two supreme and eternal principles – primordial mind and primordial matter – are thus present in every human being and form the basis of all living beings. They are imperishable and persist beyond death. In Ayurvedic medicine, the knowledge of the origin of man is essential to maintain health and cure diseases.
Mahat – The Cosmic Intelligence
Through merging with Purusha, Prakriti becomes aware of consciousness and through this connection cosmic intelligence emerges, Mahat is born. Mahat, or maha-buddhi, has self-awareness. This supreme active intelligence is present in every cell. Every cell in the body has its own order, structure and task. For example, the liver cell has its very own task and function, which is different from the bone cell or heart muscle cell. Each cell knows what it needs and what not because of its own inherent intelligence. It is this intelligence that transports an ingested healing remedy precisely to its place of action. This is called cellular intelligence. These intelligences flow between the cells and communicate with each other. Thus, a permanent exchange takes place. This flow of intelligences is also called prana, qi or life force. So, everything is connected in a wonderful way.
Even science discovered in the 20th century that there is an energy field in empty space. Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics said that the existence of this field leads to the supposition that there is an intelligent force behind the physical world. “Thus, behind this force (which we perceive as matter) we must assume a conscious, intelligent mind.”
“This spirit is the primal ground of matter, not the visible, but perishable matter is the veritable true, real (origin), because this matter, as we have already seen here, would not exist at all without this spirit, for the invisible, immortal spirit is the truth. – But because spirit cannot exist as such, and every spirit belongs to a being, we must necessarily assume spirit-beings. But since spirit-beings cannot be of themselves, but must be created, I am not afraid of calling this mysterious creator just as all civilizations of the earth of earlier millennia have called him: GOD.” (Max Planck: “The essence of the matter”, lecture in Florence, 1944).
Albert Einstein was also convinced: “Like all beings, man is part of the whole which we call ‘universe’ and – purely observed from outside – limited by space and time. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This is like a prison that limits our own wishes and affections to a few people with whom we have less to do. Our real task is to free ourselves from this prison by extending the circle of our compassion and care to all beings and nature in all its beauty. Even if we do not succeed in this completely, the very pursuit of this goal is a part to liberation and the basis for attaining inner balance.” (from: “My World View”)
Today’s science confirms what Vedic philosophy has always taught and on which Ayurvedic medicine is based.
So, Mahat is the cosmic intelligence which carries within the germs of all that manifests. This cosmic consciousness also exists in man, there it is called Buddhi. Buddhi is our perceptiveness, our ability to distinguish between real and unreal.
Ahamkāra – The Ego
Cosmic intelligence, is the next step in creation, to create individual intelligence, Ahamkāra, emerges: the „I-consciousness”, the ego. Here the sensation of “I” arises and this “I” becomes more and more the center. This “I” has be ability to think a logically , intellect and individual consciousness. Our sensation of an individual “I”, separates us more and more from the whole, from the unity of life. Mahat is the universal cosmic principle, cosmic consciousness and Buddhi is the fourth level of consciousness, the individual principle.
The Three Gunas
The three basic universal qualities, the three gunas – sattva, rajas, tamas – come from Prakriti. The entire creation is permeated by these three basic qualities.
When we wake up in the morning, we become aware of our Self because of sattva. Before we are awake, we do not know consciously that we exist. When we are awake, we start planning the day, being creative and active, for which rajas is responsible. In the evening, when we are tired, tamas is at work. This is how the three forces move and work within us. They influence and affect our psyche and body.
Sattva, Rajas and Tamas
Sattva is the principle of pure essence of light, wisdom, of right action and spiritual intention.
Rajas is the principle of movement, change, excitability, creativity, passion, lust and desire.
Tamas is the principle of inactivity, dullness, indifference, darkness, confusion.
These three qualities influence our mind and body. They are present to some extent in all parts of creation. Things that consist more of sattva and some more of tamas or rajas. Depending on how much of the individual qualities are present in something, the quality of the individual things determines everything.
The interaction of Sattva and Rajas
On their further way to matter, three qualities combine an infinite number of variations and gradations. Rajas is the active life force and represents the impulse of creation on the highest level. Through rajas, consciousness becomes matter. Sattva and tamas are inactive energies. Rajas moves to sattva and tamas and activates the two. Thus, from sattva arise the organic Karmendriya (5 acting Senses) and Jnanendrya (5 perceiving Senses) and Manas (mind, psyche):
The mind is the organ that has the ability to control the function of the sensory and motor organs. Mind (manas) is above the senses. It has the ability for cognition and action. The senses can only perceive their objects if they are supported by manas.
Jnanendriya – The 5 Perceptions or Activities of the Senses
The 5 sensory organs: Localization:
- Hearing Ears
- Touch Skin
- Sight Eyes
- Taste Tongue
- Smell Nose
They are created through connection of the sensory organs, sense objects, mind and self. They are temporary and dependent on the particular sensory organ on which the mind’s attention is directed.
Karmendriya – Acting Senses
The interaction of Tamas and Rajas
Tamas is activated by rajas, and this is the result of the five inorganic Tanmātrās (subtle perceptions). They are subtle and normally they cannot be perceived. They are the gunas (qualities) of the five Mahābhūtas (elements).
Tanmātrās – Subtle Perceptions
The 5 objects of the senses are:
- Sound (Śabda) – causes ether (Ākāśa)
- Touch (Sparśa) – causes air (Vāyu)
- Shape/color (Rūpa) – causes fire (Agni)
- Taste (Rasa) – causes water (Āpas)
- Fragrance or smell(Gandha) – causes earth (Pṛthivi)
The 5 Mahābhūtas – 5 elements
The 5 elements of the sensory organs are:
- Ether (Ākāśa)
- Air (Vāyu)
- Fire (Agni)
- Water (Āpas)
- Earth (Pṛthivi)
All five elements emenate from tamas and all three gunas are included in them.
- Earth is predominantly tamas.
- Water is tamas and sattva.
- Fire is mainly rajas and also sattva.
- Air is rajas and sattva.
- Ether is pure sattva
The five elements (Mahābhūtas) evolve successively and contain the corresponding Tanmātrā, plus the corresponding preceding Tanmātrās.
Ether arises from Śabda (sound) Tanmātrā.
Air arises from Śabda and Sparśa (touch) Tanmātrā.
Fire arises from Śabda, Sparśa and Rūpa (form) Tanmātrā.
Water arises from Śabda, Sparśa, Rūpa and Rasa (taste) Tanmātrā.
Earth arises from Śabda, Sparśa, Rūpa, Rasa and Gandha (smell) Tanmātrā. (Ca.Sū VIII, 1-14)
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna teaches, “The three great qualities, sattva, rajas and tamas – light or truth, passion or desire, indifference or darkness – originate from nature and bind the imperishable soul to the body.
Of these, sattva, which enlightens by its brilliance and peace, binds by its desire for happiness and knowledge.
Know that rajas has the nature of desire and generates thirst and lust; it imprisons the ego through consequences arising from deeds.
Tamas quality, the product of indifference in nature, is the seducer of creatures; it imprisons the ego in the body through carelessness, sleep and inertia….
When the embodied self transcends these three basic qualities of goodness, activity, and indifference, which exist together with the body, it is released from birth and death, old age and pain, and drinks of the water of immortality.” (BG, ch. 14).
Sāṃkhya philosophy thus describes the origin of creation and life. 24 self-forming principles of the fivefold nature (Prakriti) form the abode of (Purusha). A journey from the highest consciousness down to matter. Duration of the 24 forming principles is called time, which is counted as the 25th principle. This process of creation is an infinite succession of cosmic cycles of manifestation (Sṛṣṭi) and dissolution (Laya). The highest universal divine consciousness unfolds through the 24 principles. This knowledge forms the basis of all Ayurveda. It forms the basis for life, health, sickness and death. Ayurvedic knowledge is said to be of divine origin, and as old as mankind itself.
…..to be continued
Naturopath with (Swiss) Federal Diploma in Ayurveda Medicine
MSc in Ayurveda Medicine
Caraka Samhitā, (CS). (2018 reprint). Sūtrasthāna (Sū.), Vol. I, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi, India
Planck, Max. (1944). «The essence of matter», Lecture in Florence/Italy
Einstein Albert. (1905). «My World View»
Bhagavad Gita (BG), Chapter 14
Blavatsky, Helena. The Secret Doctrine(GL), Vol.II, Anthropogenesis, Publishing House J.J. Couvreur-Den Haag, Netherlands
Lad, Vasant.(2012). Doctrine of Ayurveda, Vol..1, Narayana Publishers
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