History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda, “Ayur” means Life “Veda” means Science. Ayurveda, the science of life, prevention and longevity is the oldest and most holistic medical system available on the planet today. It was placed in written form over 5,000 years ago in India, it was said to be a world medicine dealing with both body and the spirit. It is understood by many scholars that knowledge of Ayurveda spread out from India and influenced the ancient Chinese system of medicine, Unani medicine, and the humoral medicine practiced by Hippocrates in Greece. For this reason, Ayurveda is often referred to as the “Mother of all healing.”
Before the advent of writing, the ancient wisdom of this healing system was a part of the spiritual tradition of the Sanatana Dharma (Universal Religion), or Vedic Religion. Ayurveda, along with the more directly spiritual insights of self realization into a body of scriptural literature called the Vedas and the Vedic literatures. There were originally four main books of spirituality, which included among other topics, health, astrology, spiritual business, government, arm y, poetry and spiritual living and behaviour. These books are known as the four Vedas; Rik, Sama, Yajur and Atharva.
In this Ayurveda was a sub section attached to the Atharva Veda. The Atharva Veda lists the eight divisions of Ayurveda: Internal Medicine, Surgery of Head and Neck, Ophthalmology and Otorinolaryngology, Surgery, Toxicology, Psychiatry, Paediatrics, Gerontology or Science of Rejuvenation, and the Science of Fertility. All the secrets of life were revealed in the first Veda i.e. Rig Veda. Rig Veda shows the discussions on the Tri doshas:- vatta, pitta and kapha and the use of various herbs to cure the diseases. It also included the five elements of creation, namely, the earth, water, fire, air, ether that forms the basis of all forms of life. It consists of three aspects of Ayurvedic knowledge known as the Tri-Sutras that includes cause of illness, symptoms and treatments of the disease. These tri-sutras were further elaborated in eight divisions of Ayurveda and were listed down in Atharva Veda.
Written in Sanskrit the hymns, the mantras and the medical information contained in the Vedas were contributions of Rishis and munis or sages, over a period of time. The knowledge of Ayurveda is believed to be of Divine origin and was communicated to the saints and sages of India who received its wisdom through deep meditation. Ayurvedic knowledge was passed down orally through the generations and then written down in the Vedas, the sacred texts of India believed to be the oldest writings in the world.
The most fascinating aspect of ayurveda is it was using almost all methods of healing like lifestyle regimen, yoga, aroma, meditation, gems, amulets, herbs, diet, jyotishi (astrology), colour and surgery etc. in treating patients. Though ayurveda came into being as an independent upaveda of Atharva Veda, it has close links with other Vedas also. The Yajur Veda, which recommends rituals to pacify the panchamahabhuts in a view to heal both the Cosmic Being and the individual soul, is related to ayurveda in its principles and regulations of lifestyle. The upaveda called Dhanur Veda or the martial arts and ayurveda both refer to each other in the treatment of marmas or vital points in the body.
People from numerous countries came to Indian Ayurvedic schools to learn about this world medicine and the religious scriptures it sprang from. Learned men from China, Tibet, the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Afghanistan’s, Persians, and more travelled to learn the complete wisdom and bring it back to their own countries. Ayurvedic texts were translated in Arabic and under physicians such as Avicenna and Razi Sempion, both of whom quoted Indian Ayurvedic texts, established Islamic medicine. This style became popular in Europe, and helped to form the foundation of the European tradition in medicine.
In 16th Century Europe, Paracelsus, who is known as the father of modem Western medicine, practiced and propagated a system of medicine which borrowed heavily from Ayurveda.
Around 1500 BC ayurveda was delineated into two distinct schools: Atreya—The School of Physicians, and Dhanvantari—The School of Surgeons. This made ayurveda a more systematically classified medical science, hereafter. Dhanvantari, who is considered to be a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, was the guiding sage of ayurveda. He made this science of health and longevity popular and widely acceptable.
Philosophy of Ayurveda
No philosophy has had greater influence on Ayurveda than Sankhaya’s philosophy of creation and manifestation. Which professes that behind all creation there is a state of pure existence or awareness, which is beyond time and space, has no beginning or end, and no qualities basically without any form. Within pure existence, there arises a desire to experience itself, which results in disequilibrium and causes the manifestation of the primordial physical energy. And the two unite to make the “dance of creation” come alive.
Imponderable, indescribable and extremely subtle, this primordial energy – which and all that flows from its existing only in pure existence – is the creative force of all action, a source of form that has qualities. Matter and energy are so closely related that when energy takes form, we tend to think of it in terms of matter only. And much modified, it ultimately leads to the manifestation of our familiar mental and physical worlds. It also gives rise to cosmic consciousness, which is the universal order that pervades all life. Individual intelligence, as distinct from the everyday intellectual mind, is derived from and is part of this consciousness. It is the inner wisdom, the part of individuality that remains un swayed by the demands of daily life, or by Ahamkara, the sense of “I-ness” (ego and individualism)
The Vedas mention that the whole universe is made up of the five basic elements as mentioned below, Ayurvedic reflects the belief of the five elements called Panchamahabhutas in sanskrit. Panchamahabhutas are the five basic elements essential for life namely -Akasha (space), Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jala (water) and Prithvi (earth). These panchamahabhutas combine into three doshas or the Tridoshas- vata, pita and kapha. The tridoshas are vital energies responsible for all psychological and physiological processes in the body. Ayurvedic medicine is based on the unique combination of the tridoshas. Our constitution or our prakriti is determined by our dominant dosha. Each of us was born with a certain prakriti and it remains with us for life. When all doshas work in balance, good health reigns. This balance depends on various factors like diet digestion, elimination of body wastes and emotional and spiritual states. Ayurveda helps us to understand our prakriti and to live in a way that emphasizes the positive aspects. When the doshas become imbalanced it results in ill health. The skill of an Ayurveda practitioner lies in assessing an individual’s constitution, diagnosing the imbalance and deciding upon the best possible treatment to restore the balance. Ayurveda utilizes diet, herbs, yoga, and detoxification by panchakarma, meditation and prayer to achieve good health.