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Ayurveda - The Medicine of Gods

Dr. Preeti Das

Ayurveda is the most ancient traditional system, which is said to have been revealed to mankind by gods. A brief history of this most complet system of medicine is in order.

Ayurveda the science of life, prevention and longevity is the oldest and most holistic or comprehensive medical system available. It was placed in written form over 2,000 years ago in India, it is said to be a world medicine. Before the advent of writing, the ancient wisdom of healing, prevention and longevity was a part of the spiritual tradition of a universal religion. Medical knowledge from all areas of the world gathered in India, and the famous sage Vyasa, put into writing the complete knowledge of Ayurveda, along with the more directly spiritual insights of ethics, virtue and self-realization.

What is fascinating is the methods used to acquire this knowledge of the uses of herbs, foods, aromas, gems, colors, yoga, mantras, lifestyle and surgery. The sage-physician/surgeons of the time were the same sages or seers, deeply devoted holy people, who saw health as an integral part of spiritual life. It is said that they received their training of Ayurveda through direct cognition during meditation. In other words, the knowledge of the use of the various methods of healing, prevention, longevity and surgery came through Divine revelation; there was no guessing or testing and harming animals. These revelations were transcribed from the oral tradition into book form, interspersed with the other aspects of life and spirituality.

There were originally four main books of spirituality, which included, among other topics, health, astrology, spiritual business, government, army, poetry and ethical living. These books are known as the Vedas; Rik, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. Ayurveda was used in conjunction with Vedic astrology (Jyotish-inner light). At later dates, Ayurveda was organized into its own compact system of health and considered an auxiliary branch of the Vedas, called an Upaveda (limb of the Veda), because it dealt with the healing aspects of spirituality, and not directly discussing spiritual development). These authors took the passages related to Ayurveda from the various Vedas and made separate books, dealing only with Ayurveda. Among the Rik Veda’s 10,572 hymns, are found discussions of the three doshas, Vattu, Pitta and Kapha; organ transplants, and artificial limbs, the use of herbs to heal the diseases of the mind and body and to foster longevity. Within the Atharva Veda’s 5,977 hymns, are discussions of anatomy, physiology and surgery.

Around 1500 B.C., Ayurveda was delineated into eight specific branches of medicine. There were two main schools of Ayurveda at that time, Atreya- the school of physicians; and Dhanvantari- the school of surgeons. These two schools made Ayurveda a more scientifically verifiable and classifiable medical system. Through research and testing, they dispelled the doubts of the more practical and scientific minded, removing the aura of mystery that surrounded the concept of Divine revelation. Consequently Ayurveda grew into a respected and widely used system of healing in India. People from numerous countries came to Indian Ayurvedic schools to learn about this world medicine- in its completeness. Chinese, Tibetans, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Afghanistanis, Persians, and more travelled to learn the complete wisdom and bring it back to their own countries.

There are two main re-organizers of Ayurveda whose works are still existing in tact today- Charak and Sushrut. The third major treatise is called the Ashtanga Hridaya which is a concise version of the works of Charak and Sushrut. Thus the three main ancient Ayurvedic texts that are still used today are, the Charak Samhita (compilation), Sushrut Samhita and the Ashtangha Hridaya Samhita. These books are believed to be over 1,200 years old. It is because these texts still contain the original and complete knowledge of this Ayurvedic world medicine, that Ayurveda is known today as the only complete medical system still in existence. Other forms of medicine from various cultures, although parallel, are missing parts of the original information.

Charak represented the Atreya school of physicians, discussing physiology, anatomy, etiology, pathogenesis, symptoms and signs of disease; methodology of diagnosis, treatment and prescription of patients; prevention and longevity. Included were internal and external causes of illness. Charak states that the first cause of illness is the loss of faith in the Divine. In other words, when a person does not have the experience that God is inside us, and, outside- in all things, this separation of vision creates a gap in which longing or suffering for oneness of vision occurs. This suffering is the beginning of spiritual, mental and physical disease. External causes of health included time of day, seasons, diet and lifestyle. There is a whole section discussing the medicinal aspects of herbs, diet, and reversing of the aging process. For the skeptical modern person, who wonders if this ancient wisdom can be believed, one only need to read Charak’s month-by-month description of the development of the fetus in the womb to see its exact parallels to what we know today from using modern technical machinery.

Sushruta comes from the Dhanvantari school of surgeons. In this text, there are detailed and sophisticated discussions of surgical equipment; the classification of abscesses, burns, fractures, wounds, amputation, plastic surgery, anal/rectal surgery, which are validated by modern medicines technical equipment and research. There is a complete discussion of the human anatomy; the bones, joints, nerves, heart, blood vessels, circulatory system etc., again, corroborated by todays methods of mechanical investigation. From the Sushrut Samhita, we learn of the first science of massage, using marma points or vital body points.


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