In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, Ayur means life and Veda means science or knowledge. Ayurveda thus comes across as science of life. Ayurveda is the healing and wellness knowledge acquired by the ancient people of India. These rural and forest dwellers became aware of the effectiveness of different plants, roots, leaves, barks and fruits in curing illnesses or maintaining health.
They were also cowherders who noticed how milk and other dairy products helped. Melted butter called ghee is a main ingredient in many ayurvedic preparations.
As the intellectuals among these ancient people of India probed further into the fields of health, they observed many things and developed many theories. Ayurveda holds that illness can be physical or mental. Physical health depends on a balance among three humors – vata, pitta and kapha. Each of these three leads to different physical characteristics and vulnerabilities.
- Persons in whom vata is dominant are thin, active, fearful and anxious.
- Pitta people are medium sized, intelligent, aggressive, irritable and sharp.
- Kapha dominance leads to the obese, lethargic, calm and slow persons.
Mental health depends on the balance of three personality types – sattwa, rajas and tamas.
- Sattwa dominant persons are optimistic and quiet.
- Strong desires and cravings characterize the rajas dominant person.
- Ignorance and madness are the traits of the tamas dominant.
People are a mix of these elements and a right balance among them leads to physical and mental health. The physician has to assess characterisitics of a person before deciding on the treatment to be adopted.
Ayurveda postulates four critical elements four bringing about a cure. These critical elements are: Physician, Diet & Medicine, the Nurse and the Patient himself or herself. All four must be GOOD if healing is to occur properly. The physician must have the insights to see the total picture, and just the right touch to arrive at and prescribe the most appropriate healing routine. Diet must also be controlled to aid and not hinder the healing process attempted by the medicines.
A competent nurse must help the patient follow the prescribed routine and also ensure that the person does so. And finally, the patient must cooperate with the physician and nurse and really believe in the treatment’s efficacy. Ayurveda’s emphasis on determining the physical and mental makeup of the patient and tailoring the treatment to this makeup, and the further emphasis on the key elements that need to be organized for proper healing, point to a holistic approach.
The ayurvedic physician needs to be much more than a learned person. In addition to learning and knowledge, that person also requires a rare talent to see the entire picture and prescribe a healing routine that would heal not just in theory but would also work in practice.
The traditional practice for learning ayurveda was for the students to live with the teacher, observing their guru in practice and listening to his explanations, in addition to learning the veda. This is the kind of environment that could foster the required insights and touch in the right kind of student.