ike other great ancient civilizations, India never separated science from philosophy and religion. Rather, it viewed all knowledge as part of a whole designed to promote human happiness, health, and growth.
Philosophy is the love of truth. Science is the discovery of truth through experiment. Religion is the experience of truth and application of it in daily living.
Ayurveda, the science of life, is both systematized knowledge and practical wisdom, an art of healthy living that encompasses all phases of
life, body, mind, and spirit. Like all sciences, it includes both a practical and theoretical aspect. In order to make best use of the
practical recommendations that come later in this book, it will help if you understand the essentials of Ayurvedic theory. This first chapter
may seem a bit abstract, but please be patient and read it carefully, as it forms the basis of all that is to follow.
The Universe and How We Are Connected. According to Ayurveda,
the source of all existence is universal Cosmic Consciousness, which manifests as male and female energy. Purusha, often associated with
the male energy, is choice-less, passive, pure awareness. Prakruti, the female energy, is active choice-ful consciousness. Both Purusha and
Prakruti are eternal, timeless, and immeasurable. These two energies are present in all living organisms, including every man and woman, as well as inanimate objects.
Purusha is formless and beyond attributes. Unmanifested pure existence, beyond cause and effect, beyond space and time, Purusha takes no active part in creation but remains a silent witness. Prakruti,
which has form, color, and attributes, is the divine creative will that dances the dance of creation. Prakruti is the One that becomes many.
Purusha is the lover, Prakruti the beloved. Creation of this universe happens through their love. All of nature is the child born from the womb of Prakruti, the Divine Mother.
In the manifestation of nature from Prakruti, the first expression is Mahad (or Mahat), intelligence or cosmic order. (In human beings, it is
referred to as Buddha, intellect.) Next is Ahamkar or ego, the sense of self-identity, the center in our consciousness from which we think, act,
and react. Ahamkar expresses itself in three universal qualities: Sattva is stability, purity, wakefulness, essence, clarity, and light.
Rajas is dynamic movement and causes sensations, feelings, and emotions.
Tamas is the tendency toward inertia, darkness, ignorance, and heaviness.
Tamas is responsible for deep sleep and periods of confusion. It also leads to the creation of matter .
From the essence of Sattva are born the mind, the five sense faculties
and their organs (ears to hear, skin to perceive touch, eyes to see, tong to taste, nose to smell), and the five motor organs or organs of action:
the mouth ( for speech), the hands, feet, reproductive organs, and organs of excretion.
Rajas is the active force behind the movement of both the sensor and
motor organs. Tamas gives rise to the five elements, which form the basis of material creation: space (ether), air, fire, water, and earth.
Man, a creation of Cosmic Consciousness, is considered to be a microcosm of the macrocosm that is the universe. Whatever is present in the cosmos, the same is present in human beings. Man is a miniature
The Five Elements: Building Blocks of Nature
The concept of the five elements is one of the most fundamental in
Ayurvedic science. These five elements (space, air, fir, water, and earth) exist in all matter, both organic and inorganic. As man is a
microcosm of nature, the five elements also exist within each individual. Our psychological tendencies, as well as our five senses and the
various aspects of our body's functioning, are all directly related to the five elements.
According to Ayurveda, the five elements manifest sequentially,
beginning with space, from the pure, unified, unmanifested Cosmic Consciousness that is the source of all.
SPACE: Sometimes referred to as "ether," space is empty, light, subtle,
all-pervading, omnipresent, and all-enclosing. It is universal, non-moving, and formless. Space is nuclear energy. It appears when the pure unmanifest consciousness begins to vibrate and is associated
with sound and the sense of hearing. We need space in order to live, move, grow, and communicate. Spaces in the body include the mouth, nose, gastrointestinal tract, respiratior4y tract, abdomen, and
thorax. Psychologically, space gives freedom, peace, and expansion of consciousness and is responsible for love and compassion as well as
feelings of separation, isolation, emptiness, ungroundedness, insecurity, anxiety, and fear.
AIR: Air is dry, light, clear, and mobile. The second manifestation of
consciousness, air moves in space. Air is electrical energy—the electron moves because of the air element. It is formless, but it can be
perceived by touch, to which it is related. The principle of movement, air expresses itself in the movements of the muscles, the pulsation's of
the heart, the expansion and contraction of the lungs. Sensory and neural impulses move to and from the brain under the influence of the
air principle, which is also responsible for breathing, ingestion, the movement of the intestines, and elimination. The flow of thought, desire, and will are governed by the air principle, which gives us
happiness, freshness, joy, and excitation. It is, along with space, also responsible for fear, anxiety, insecurity, and nervousness. FIRE: Fire is
hot, dry, sharp, penetrating, and luminous. When air begins to move, it produces friction, which generates heart or fire. Fire is radiant energy.
On the atomic level, the atom radiates heat and light in the form oif a quantum wave. Fire is active and changeable. In our solar system, the
sun is the source of fire and light. In the body, our biological "fire" is the solar plexus regulates body temperature and metabolism: digestion,
absorption, and assimilation. Fire is associated with light and with vision. Fire is intelligence. It is necessary for transformation, attention
comprehension, appreciation, recognition, and understanding. Fire is also responsible for anger, hatred, envy, criticism, ambition, and competitiveness.
WATER: The next manifestation of consciousness, water is fluid, heavy, soft, viscous, cold dense, and cohesive. It brings molecules together. Waster is chemical energy (it is the universal chemical
solvent). Water is associated with the sense of taste, without moisture the tongue cannot taste anything. Water exists in the body as plasma,
cytoplasm, serum, saliva, nasal secretion, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, and sweat. It is necessary for nutrition and to maintain life; without it, our
cells could not survive. Water is contentment, love, and compassion. It creates thirst, edema, and obesity.
EARTH: Earth is heavy, hard, rough, firm, dense, slow-moving, and
bulky—the most solid of the five elements. It is neither hot nor cold. Earth is mechanical or physical energy. According to Ayurveda, it is
nothing but crystallized or solidified consciousness. It gives strength, structure, and stamina to the body. All the body's solid structures
(bones, cartilage, nails, teeth, hair, skin) are derived from the earth element. Earth is associated with the sense of smell. It promotes forgiveness, support, groundedness, and growth. It also creates
attachment, greed, and depression, and its absence produces feelings of ungroundedness.
In our body, the electrical energy of the neuron becomes the physical
energy of the movement of muscles, mediated through the neurotransmitter, which is chemical. Indeed, all the five elements are present on every level of our physiology, starting with a single cell.
Within the cell, the cell membrane is earth, cellular vacuoles are space, cytoplasm is water, nucleic acid and other chemical component of the
cell are fire, and movement of the cell is due to the air principle. Every single cell also has mind, intelligence, and consciousness, through which
it manifests selectivity and choice. From all the possible nutrients in its environment, every cell chooses its own food—that choice is intelligence at work.
Both in our outer environment and within us, the proportion and balance of these elements is forever shifting, changing with the seasons,
the weather, the time of day, the stage of one's life. For health, and often for sheer survival, we have to continuously accommodate ourselves to these changes, through what we eat, what we wear,
where we live, and so on. This is a balancing act, playing elements against each other. We use solid earth to build homes, to protect
ourselves against changes in air, heat (fire), and water. We use fire to prepare food (made of water and earth).
The Three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha
These five great elements combine into three basic energies or functional principles, which are present, in varying degrees, in everything and everybody. Space (ether) and air constitute vata. Fire
and water combine to make up pitta. Water and earth constitute kapha.
In our bodies, these three doshas or humors govern our psycho
biological functioning. Vata—pitta—kapha are present in every cell, tissue, and organ. When in balance, they create health. When out of balance, they are the cause of disease. These three doshas are
responsible for the huge variety of individual differences and preferences, and they influence all we are and all we do, from our choices of food to our modes of relating to others. They govern the
biological and psychological processes of our body, mind, and consciousness. They regulate the creation, maintenance, and destruction of bodily tissue, and the elimination of waste products.
They also govern our emotions. When in balance, they generate noble qualities such as understanding, compassion, and love. When their balance is disturbed by stress, improper diet, environmental conditions
or to her factors, they can give rise to negative emotions such as anger, fear, and greed.
In Ayurveda, vata is the bodily air principle. It is the energy of
movement. Pitta is the principle of fire, the energy of digestion and metabolism. And kapha is the principle of water, the energy of
lubrication and structure. All people have all of these three doshas, but one of them is usually primary, one secondary, and the third least
prominent. Thus, each person has a particular pattern of energy, and individual combination of physical, mental, and emotional characteristics that make up his or her constitution (prakruit). Just as
everyone has an individual fingerprint that can be identified by a trained practitioner, so everyone has an energy print—a balance or proportion
of vata, pitta, and kapha—that is uniquely his or her own. Health depends on maintaining this proportion in balance. Balance is the natural order of things; imbalance provokes and reflects disorder.
Within our bodies there is a constant interplay between order and disorder, which determines our state of health.
Health is order; disease is disorder. The internal environment of the
body is ceaselessly reacting to the external environment. Disorder occurs when these two are out of harmony with each other. But since
order is inherent within disorder, the wise person learns to be aware of the presence of disorder and sets about to reestablish order.
In chapter 2 we will see how the three fundamental doshas combine to create the seven constitutional types of Ayurveda, and you will learn
your own body type, the key to making lifestyle choices for self-healing and maximum well-being. For the moment, let us look a little more
deeply into the characteristics of these three basic energies of life.
VATA Vata is the energy of movement. Although it is the air principle,
it is not considered the same as actual air in the external environment, but rather as the subtle energy that governs biological movement. Vata
is intimately related to our vital life essence, known as prana. Prana is the pure essence of vata. It is the life-force, the play of intelligence.
That flow of intelligence is necessary for communication between two cells, and it maintains the life function of both. On a cosmic level, prana
is said to be the attraction between Purusha and Prakruti. As the principle of mobility, vata regulates all activity in the body, both mental
and physiological. It is responsible for breathing, the blinking of our eyes, the beating of our hearts, and all movement in the cytoplasm and
cell membranes. All the impulses in the vast networks of our nervous system are governed by vata.
When vata is in balance, it promotes creativity and flexibility and
evokes feelings of freshness, lightness, happiness, and joy. Out of balance, vata produces fear, nervousness, anxiety, even tremors and
spasms. Vata is dry, light, cold, subtle, clear, mobile, and dispersing. We shall soon see how these qualitites are expressed in a person with a vata constitution.
PITA Pitta is translated as fire, but this is not meant literally. Rather, it is the principle of fire, the energy of heating or metabolism. Pitta
governs all the biochemical changes that take place within our bodies, regulating digestion, absorption, assimilation, and body temperature.
From the standpoint of modern biology, pitta comprises the enzymes and amino acids that play a major role in metabolism. Pitta regulates body temperature through the chemical transformation of food. It
promotes appetite and vitality. Not only food is metabolized by us. Every impression coming in from the outside is also processed or "digested" and made a part of us. Thus pitta (when in balance)
promotes intelligence and understanding and is crucial in learning. Out-of-balance pitta may arouse fiery emotions such as frustration, anger, hatred, criticism, and jealousy.
Pitta is hot, sharp, light, oily, liquid, pungent, sour, and spreading. These qualities occur in various ways in people of pitta constitution.
KAPHA Kapha combines water and earth. It is the energy that forms the body's structure, the glue that holds the cells together. Kapha also
supplies the liquid needed for the life of our cells and bodily systems. It lubricates our joints, moisturizes the skin, helps to heal wounds, and
maintains immunity. Kappa provides strength, vigor, and stability. Psychologically, excess kapha is responsible for the emotions of attachment, greed, lust, and envy. When kapha is in balance it
expresses itself in tendencies toward love, calmness, and forgiveness. The qualities of kapha include heavy, slow, cool, oily, damp, smooth, soft, static, viscous, and sweet. Kapha individuals display these
qualities in various ways. Together, these three doshas govern all the body's metabolic activities. Kapha promotes anabolism, the process of
building up the body, the growth and creation of new cells as well as cell repair. Pitta regulates metabolism, which is digestion and absorption. Vata triggers catabolism, the necessary deterioration
process in which larger molecules are broken down into smaller ones. Vata, the principle of movement, moves both pitta and kapha, which are immobile. Thus when vata is out of balance, it influences and
disturbs the other doshas. The majority of illnesses have aggravated vata at their source.
The whole of life's journey is divided into three major milestones.
From birth to age 16 is the kapha age. From 16 to 50 is the age of pitta, and from 50 to 100 the age of vata.
In childhood, kapha and the process of anabolism are predominant, as
this is the time of greatest physical growtth and the structuring of the body. Kapha disorders, such as lung congestion, cough, colds, and
mucus secretions, are common at this time. In adulthood, at time of activity and vitality, pitta is most apparent. Vata and the catabolic
processes of deterioration take over in old age, bringing vata disorders such as tremors, emaciation, breathlessness, arthritis, and loss of memory. The Twenty Qualities: An Important Key to Healing
Now we come to another important aspect of Ayurvedic theory, which will help you to make intelligent choices for self -healing. Ayurveda
delineates twenty fundamental qualities, which appear in ten pairs:
THE TWENTY BASIC ATTRIBUTES OR QUALITIES
These qualities are found both in the world around us and in our
bodies. Today's weather may feel light or heavy, and it may be liquid or dry, mobile (windy) or stable, hot or cold, cloudy or clear. Food
we eat can partake of any of these qualities. Ice cream for example, is heavy, oily, cold, soft, and liquid. Our skin may be oily or dry, rough or smooth. Our moods, too, can be heavy or light, cloudy or
our thinking may be slow or sharp, our mind quiet and stable or mobile and hyperactive, clear or cloudy. We are constantly affected by changes in these qualities. Cold, windy, clear, dry weather aggravates
vata dosha and may lead to colds and any number of vata ailments such as insomnia, constipation, or arthritis. Hot, humid weather aggravates pitta and my lead to outbreaks of irritation and anger as well
as physical complaints like acne, eczema, or skin rashes. Cloudy, gray, humid or rainy weather can aggravate kapha, leading to colds and
coughs, depression, lethargy, overeating and oversleeping, and weight gain.
Each of these paired qualities represents the extreme on a continuum.
The two qualities in each pair influence or affect one another according to two fundamental principles of Ayurveda:
1. Like increases like. 2. Opposites decrease each other.
These principles are a key to healing with Ayurveda.
When an imbalance has manifested, successful treatment requires increasing opposite qualities. For example, if there is too much heat
(excess pitta), a cool drink, a swim, or some herbs with cooling properties will greatly help pacify pitta and reduce the heat. A person
suffering from too much heat will not be helped by playing tennis in the sun, eating spicy foods, or taking a sauna. Similarly, if you are cold
and shivering from exposure to cold windy weather, have a bowl of warm soup, wrap up in a blanket, or take a hot bath. These simple remedies immediately make sense when we hear them because they
are so natural.
Ayurvedic physicians have carefully observed nature and located these qualities within all things, both organic and inorganic. Ayurvedic
treatment consists to a great extent of identifying a person's disorder in terms of these qualities, and setting right any imbalances.
How is this done? Speaking in very general terms, excessive dryness in the body—constipation, dry skin, emaciation, and so on—is frequently associated with aggravated vata; excessive heat—burning
urine, irritated eyes, fever, inflammation, anger, or a critical attitude—with aggravated pitta; and undue heaviness—lethargy, overweight, congestion, and excess mucus—with unbalanced kapha.
Whatever the symptoms may be, for self-treatment you need to understand them and then adjust your lifestyle—diet, exercise, and so on—to restore a state of balance and health.
The hundreds of remedies in Part III of this book will help you to do this, but essentially it is your own moment-to-moment awareness and
self-observation, your sensitivity to your own constitution and you own unique requirements for health, and perhaps most importantly, your
willingness to act on your knowledge, that will make all the difference between poor health and a vital, happy, healthy, long life.
This is the first chapter in Dr.Vasant Lad's Book "The Complete Book Of Ayurvedic Home Remedies" Presented here as an introduction to
Ayurvedic Science. I have included a couple links in case you are interested in furthering your understanding of this ancient and fasinating science.