History and Philosophy Of Ayurveda

Theories on the historical origins of Ayurveda are based on the oldest written records of Indian knowledge, the Vedas. It is said, that this knowledge stems from the creator of the universe, Brahman himself, and was preserved for centuries by so-called Rishis (Seers of wisdom) through oral transmission. In the course of time the medical system from the Vedas was expanded by observations and experiences of early thinkers and scientists, based on scientific thinking. Thus Ayurveda can be seen as a teamwork of an immeasurable number of experienced and authentic doctors, healers and philosophers. The most prominent textual collections were composed by the scholars Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata, whose works are available even today:
  • Caraka Samhita (1st c BC)
  • Susruta Samhita (ca. 1st c AD)
  • Astanga Hrdaya Samhita of Vagbhata (around 7th c AD)

Although the Buddhists in India (600 B. C. – 1.000 A. D) did not accept the Vedic scriptures, they adopted Ayurvedic medicine. This shows that Ayurveda was at no time in history connected with irrevocable dogma. The Buddhists contributed to the dissemination of Ayurveda, e. g. to China, Tibet and Sri Lanka which explains why the healing arts from this countries possess many similarities to Ayurveda by sending Buddhist missionaries. With the Turkish conquerors (1.100 to 1.600 A.D.)

Ayurveda took a leap forward with a convergence of different schools of traditional Indian medicine. With the English colonial rulers Ayurveda came to a stop. The English ruled with an iron fist, law banned Ayurvedic institutions. Ayurveda survived thanks to the family traditions. Today naturopathy re-conquered its place in modern society and belongs to the official medical systems of India.

Philosophy

Ayurvedic philosophy is based on holistic thinking. Its aim is the advancement of life. Man is seen as a whole and inseparable part of the universe. According to Ayurvedic thinking the wellbeing of one individual is connected with the wellbeing of the entire society, of the living space and the universe.

Human life is seen as a unity of body, mind and soul. These three components support each other mutually. Together they form the basis of life.

Atma, the soul, is the spiritual core of everything that exists. Without it mind and body cannot exist. The soul is free of features yet at the same time all-knowing and omnipresent. In its essence is it Sat-Cit-Ananda – being, consciousness and bliss. From an Ayurvedic perspective the soul is free of any pathogenicity, meaning in contrast to mind and body is is always free from disturbances. It is the principle which endows creatures with life and consciousness.

The mind Manas is the medium of all thought processes, emotional impulses, stored information and impressions, affections and animosities, consciousness in a wake, dream- or deep sleep, also of all unconscious contents and processes.

In western thinking the term “spirit” is often uses synonymously with the word “soul”. In eastern philosophies these twor are clearly distinct. Other common terms for the mind are e.g. “psyche” or “intellect. The aim in Ayurveda is the direct experience of our true soul nature. Thus things can be perceived free from subjectivity and wrong identification (with the body, mind incl. emotions).

The coarse body – sarira – is the external form, within which our soul can manifest.

According to Ayurveda the reason for any kind of suffering is attachment and identification with the body, the mind or senses. Attachment to desires and deeds lead to a never ending circle of repetitive rebirths, where the soul again and again connects with the mind and the body. Whoever is able to overcome these attachments – which is the big task in our life – revokes the basis for suffering. The soul can be freed and the cycle of rebirths is stopped.

Life is a sensitive and complex phenomenon, which is constantly affected by external and internal factors. These manifold factors and their causal chains are described in Ayurveda in detail, in order to enable the preservation and promotion of health as well as the treatment and removal of disease.

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