Ayurveda Encyclopedia: Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention, and Longevity

Ayurveda Encyclopedia: Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention, and Longevity

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The theories and practices of Ayurvedic medicine—including the therapeutic benefits of aromas, foods, herbs, meditation, yoga, and more—are featured in this comprehensive handbook. With a section dedicated to health disorders, this guide clarifies the simplicity of healing naturally and offers counsel towards an improved sense of well-being, reduced stress, and mental peace. Photographs of more than 80 herbs and yoga postures round out this home reference and teaching tool.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780965804257
Publisher: Sat Yuga Press
Publication date: 09/01/2007
Edition description: Second Edition, Second edition
Pages: 675
Sales rank: 1,125,582
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Swami Sadashiva Tirtha offers breakthrough coaching for business leaders whose missions are to help change the world. Swamiji offers keynote speaking and has spoken at the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. Swamiji has been teaching meditation and yoga since 1976 and Ayurveda since 1988. He currently lives in New York state with two miniature goats and travels internationally to give keynotes, seminars, and leadership coaching.

Read an Excerpt

The Ayurveda Encyclopedia

Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention & Longevity
By Swami Sadashiva Tirtha

Sat Yuga Press

Copyright © 2007 Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-9658042-5-7

Chapter One

Overview of Ayurveda

Ayurveda, the "science of life," or longevity, is the holistic alternative science from India, and is more than 5,000 years old. It is believed to be the oldest healing science in existence, forming the foundation of all others. Buddhism, Taoism, Tibetan, and other cultural medicines have many similar parallels to Ayurveda. The secret of Ayurveda's individualized healing method was preserved in India, whereas it has been lost or superseded in other cultures.

The First World Medicine

Ayurveda (pronounced Aa-yer-vay-da), said to be a world medicine, is the most holistic or comprehensive medical system available. Before the arrival of writing, the ancient wisdom of healing, prevention, and longevity was a part of the spiritual tradition of a universal religion. Healers gathered from the world over, bringing their medical knowledge to India. Veda Vyasa, the famous sage, preserved the complete knowledge of Ayurveda in writing, along with the more spiritual insights of ethics, virtue, and Self-Realization. Others say Ayurveda was passed down from God to his angels, and finally to humans.

The methods used to find this knowledge of herbs, foods, aromas, gems, colors, yoga, mantras, lifestyle,and surgery are fascinating and varied. The sage, physicians/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. That is, the knowledge of the use of the various methods of healing, prevention, longevity, and surgery came through Divine revelation; guessing or animal testing was unnecessary. These revelations were transcribed from oral tradition into written form, interspersed with aspects of mortal life and spirituality.

Originally four main books of Vedic spirituality existed. Topics included health, ecology, astrology, spiritual business, government, military, poetry, and ethical living. In short, life was sacred, holistic, integrated and interdependent. The separation into parts of life, as we know it today, were not considered natural. These books are known as the Vedas: Rik, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva. Ayurveda was used along with Vedic astrology (called Jyotish, that is, one's "inner light"). Ayurveda is said to have its main origins in the Atharva Veda. This upaveda/branch dealt with the healing aspects of spirituality and life as a whole; it praises ecology (earth, sun, moon, water, etc.), advised on political, social, economic, health, and all other areas of life. In short, it shows how to remain within one's spirit and live in harmony with nature. Among the Rik Veda's 10,572 hymns are discussions of the three constitutions (doshas): air (Vayu), fire (Pitta), and water (Kapha). Topics comprised organ transplants, artificial limbs, and the use of herbs to heal 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 the 8th century B.C.E., knowledge of the medical aspect of this holistic, spiritual whole -life wisdom reportedly fell into misunderstanding. To correct this, the text, Atreya (Charak) collected all the healing aspects of Ayurveda and began teaching this exclusively.

Later, around the 5th century B.C.E, the surgical wisdom was also grouped into its own school of learning by Sushruta.

These two schools of Ayurveda, the school of physicians and the school of surgeons, transformed Ayurveda into a 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 Divine revelation. Consequently, Ayurveda grew in respect and became a widely used system of healing in India.

It is said that while the Vedas are eternal wisdom, they adapt to the needs of the time. So it was that this spiritual, wholistic wisdom, came to emphasize the mind and body. However, throughout the teachings, it was clearly noted that the first cause of illness is loss of faith in spirituality.

People from many countries came to Indian Ayurvedic schools to learn about this medicine in its entirety. Chinese, Tibetans, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Afghanis, Persians, and others traveled to absorb the wisdom and bring it back to their own countries. India's Silk Road, an established trade route between Asia (China, Tibet, etc.), the Middle East (Afghanistan, Persia, etc.), and Europe (Rome, Greece, etc.), provided a link between cultures. On this route travelers first discovered Ayurveda.

Charak and Sushruta are two reorganizers of Ayurveda whose works are still extant. The third major treatise is called the Ashtañga Hridayam, a concise version of the works of Charak and Sushruta. Thus, the three main ancient Ayurvedic texts still in use are the Charak Samhita (compilation), Sushruta Samhita, and the Ashtañga Hridayam Samhita. These books are believed to be over 1,200 years old and contain the original and complete knowledge of this Ayurvedic world medicine. Consequently, Ayurveda is the only complete ancient medical system in existence.

Charak represents the Atreya school of physicians, discussing physiology, anatomy, etiology, pathogenesis, symptoms and signs of disease, methodology of diagnosis, treatment and prescription for patients, prevention, and longevity. Internal and external causes of illness are also considered. Charak maintains that the first cause of illness is the loss of faith in the Divine. In other words, when people do not recognize that God dwells within all things, including themselves, this separation of vision creates a gap. This gap causes a longing or suffering for oneness of vision. This suffering then manifests itself as the beginning of spiritual, mental, and physical disease. External influences on health include time of day, the seasons, diet, and lifestyle. An entire section is devoted to discussions of the medicinal aspects of herbs, diet, and reversal of aging.

Sushruta comes from the Dhanvantari school of surgeons. In America, a society of surgeons named themselves the Sushruta Society in remembrance of the Ayurvedic father of surgery. This text presents sophisticated accounts of surgical equipment, classification of abscesses, burns, fractures, and wounds, amputation, plastic surgery, and anal/rectal surgery. Human anatomy is described in great detail, including descriptions of the bones, joints, nerves, heart, blood vessels, circulatory system, etc., again, corroborated by today's methods of mechanical investigation. From the Sushruta Samhita, the first science of massage is described using marma points or vital body points, later adapted into Chinese acupuncture. Even the popular Polarity Massage Therapy in America was developed after advocates studied massage in India.

Eight Branches of Ayurveda

The ancient Ayurvedic system was astoundingly complete. In the colleges of ancient India, students could choose a specialty from eight branches of medicine.

1. Internal Medicine (Kayachikitsa). This is related to the soul, mind, and body. Psychosomatic theory recognizes that the mind can create illness in the body and vice versa.

The seven body constitutions and seven mental constitutions were delineated here:

Vayu (air/energy), Pitta (fire), Kapha (water), Vayu/Pitta, Vayu/Kapha, Pitta/ Kapha, and a combination of all three (tridosha). Although finding the cause of an illness is still a mystery to modern science, it was the main goal of Ayurveda. Six stages of the development of disease were known, including aggravation, accumulation, overflow, relocation, a buildup in a new site, and manifestation into a recognizable disease. Modern equipment and diagnosis can only detect a disease during the fifth and sixth stages of illness. Ayurvedic physicians can recognize an illness in the making before it creates more serious imbalance in the body. Health is seen as a balance of the biological humors, whereas disease is an imbalance of the humors. Ayurveda creates balance by supplying deficient humors and reducing the excess ones. Surgery is seen as a last resort. Modern medicine is just beginning to realize the need to supply rather than to remove, but still does not know how or what to supply.

Additionally, there are over 2,000 medicinal plants classified in India's materia medica. A unique therapy, known as pañcha karma (five actions), completely removes toxins from the body. This method reverses the disease path from its manifestation stage, back into the blood stream, and eventually into the gastrointestinal tract (the original site of the disease). It is achieved through special diets, oil massage, and steam therapy. At the completion of these therapies, special forms of emesis, purgation, and enema remove excesses from their sites of origin. Finally, Ayurveda rejuvenates-rebuilding the body's cells and tissues after toxins are removed.

2. Ears, Nose, and Throat (Shalakya Tantra).

Sushruta reveals approximately 72 eye diseases, surgical procedures for all eye disorders (e.g., cataracts, eyelid diseases), and for diseases of the ears, nose, and throat.

3. Toxicology (Vishagara-vairodh Tantra).

Topics include air and water pollution, toxins in animals, minerals, vegetables, and epidemics; as well as keys for recognizing these anomalies and their antidotes.

4. Pediatrics (Kaumara bhritya).

In this branch prenatal and postnatal care of the baby and mother are discussed. Topics include methods of conception; choosing the child's gender, intelligence, and constitution; and childhood diseases and midwifery.

5. Surgery (Shalya Tantra).

More than 2,000 years ago, sophisticated methods of surgery were known. This information spread to Egypt, Greece, Rome, and eventually throughout the world. In China, treatment of intestinal obstructions, bladder stones, and the use of dead bodies for dissection and learning were taught and practiced.

6. Psychiatry (Bhuta Vidya).

A whole branch of Ayurveda specifically deals with diseases of the mind (including demonic possession). Besides herbs and diet, yogic therapies (breathing, mantras, etc.) are employed.

7. Aphrodisiacs (Vajikarana). This section deals with two aspects: infertility (for those hoping to conceive) and spiritual development (for those eager to transmute sexual energy into spiritual energy).

8. Rejuvenation (Rasayana).

Prevention and longevity are discussed in this branch of Ayurveda. Charak says that in order to develop longevity, ethics and virtuous living must be embraced.

The Decline of Ayurveda

The alert person may now ask why, if Ayurveda is so exceptional, is it not widely practiced in India today. This is a valid question, which has an equally valid answer. Ayurveda, like all of Vedic philosophy, adheres to the belief in Sanatana dharma, or accepting everything in its appropriate time and place, and rejecting nothing. All aspects of medicine may be useful, but the appropriate treatment must be used when required. This is why Ayurveda does not reject modern medicine. The Indian temperament allows all religions to express themselves freely in India. Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions grew in India and influenced the thinking of many people. Eventually, a time came when all religions lost some degree of their spiritual link, and egos vied for first place. Gentle spiritual medicine lost ground. Divisiveness was followed by foreign conquest. Ayurvedic colleges were closed and books destroyed. One nation forced Ayurvedic doctors to add information on meat to the translations of the Ayurvedic texts.

Another religion did not believe in harming the body in any manner and destroyed the books on Ayurvedic surgery. Nalanda, at Patna, India, a famous Ayurvedic university, was the main university at the center of the Silk Road, where students from China, Tibet, the Middle East, and Europe came to study. This institution was among those destroyed by various conquerors. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the British ruled India and closed the remaining Ayurvedic universities (although Ayurveda continued to be practiced in secret). The knowledge was preserved by the guru-shishya relationship (teacher-student) and passed from one generation to the next by word of mouth as it had centuries before. Finally, in 1920 Ayurveda reemerged and, with the help of the Indian government's assistance, universities were rebuilt. Now more than 150 Ayurvedic universities and 100 Ayurvedic colleges are flourishing in India, with plans for more educational facilities in development. Thus, Ayurveda, without resisting or rejecting other systems, is slowly returning to recognition and reestablishing its true value. Keep in mind that just as some unethical western medical practices exist; unethical Ayurvedic pharmacies and doctors can also be found in India today.

The oldest medicine, Ayurveda, is now the last to be rediscovered. This world medicine may not only unite healing practices, but also peoples, cultures, and religions. The impact of its re-awakening is astounding, as we see its effectiveness and demand in the United States growing in leaps and bounds. Among the respected teachers of Ayurveda, many include the original spiritual integration, reestablishing ancient Ayurveda, intact in modern society. Spiritual Ayurveda, the original world medicine, will soon find validation and universal acceptance in all areas of society and the world.

What may surprise some people is the degree of insight these ancient, mystical doctors, or rishis (seers) had. Without the aid of modern technological x-ray machines or CT-scans, they knew of the inner workings of the human body. One can read in the ancient Ayurvedic texts of the development of the fetus, month by month. It is astonishing how these ancient descriptions are validated by today's technologies. Even the distance from the planets and the duration of their orbits were nearly identical to today's technological measurements. It is enough to make even the most skeptical of us sit up and consider Ayurvedic insights.

So we see the foundation for the integration of Ayurveda and modern medicine. Too many people on both sides of the holistic-vs-allopathic (modern) medicine debate want to deny the need for the other science. Because of Ayurveda's all-embracing philosophy, we see how all types of healing are compatible. No one will be put out of a job.

Spiritual Ayurveda

We have discussed Ayurveda, the "science of life" as the original world medicine. Yet Ayurveda is more than this; it is a spiritual science. This is the most important aspect of Ayurveda.

Around 1500 B.C. the book, the Charak Samhita discussed these spiritual principles. It said that even if Ayurvedic doctors had a complete knowledge of Ayurveda but could not reach the inner Self or soul of the patient, they would not be effective healers. Furthermore, if the practitioner were more concerned with fame and fortune, and not with spiritual development (Self-Realization), they would not be effective healers.

To understand the spiritual nature of Ayurveda, we must have insight into the Vedic roots of philosophy, spirituality, and universal religion. According to the ancient Vedic scriptures of India there is a goal to life. We are not simply born, to live, and then to die without some meaning or purpose. Albert Einstein reflected this idea when he said God does not play dice with the universe.

Order and reason exist in life. According to Vedic philosophy life is Divine and the goal of life is to realize our inner Divine nature. Ayurvedically speaking the more a person realizes their Divine nature the healthier they are. Thus it is the responsibility of the Ayurvedic doctor to inspire or help awaken the patients to their own inner Divine nature. Positive thinking or love is the best medicine. When patients are taught they have this Divinity within themselves, they feel a connection to life and God (however each patient defines God). For atheists, we speak of the greater mystical power, which is synonymous to God. This connection allows patients to feel they have a handle on life and an ability to develop their own inner nature. After this, secondary therapies of herbs, diet, meditation, etc. are offered.


Excerpted from The Ayurveda Encyclopedia by Swami Sadashiva Tirtha Copyright © 2007 by Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha. Excerpted by permission.
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