History of Indian Medicine (and Ayurveda)

by Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurvedic Society | 1949 | 162,724 words | ISBN-13: 9788176370813

The History of Indian medicine and Ayurveda (i.e., the science of life) represents the introductory pages of the Charaka Samhita composed of six large sections dealing with every facet of Medicine in ancient India in a Socio-Historical context. Caraka is regarded as one of the pioneers in the field of scientific healthcare. As an important final a...

Chapter 14 - The Ideal of Health in Ayurveda

The ideal of health varies from a mere disease-free condition to that of positive and perfect' health Ayurveda set up for itself the very lofty ideal of positive health, perfect to the minutest detail.

The concept of health is in its undivided and integrated form of body-mind. The definition of man in Ayurveda is the aggregate of body, mind and spirit, and its concept of health is not only physical health but mental and spiritual health too Its personal hygiene known as Svastha-Vritta (svasthavṛtta) is supplemented by (Sadvrittasadvṛtta) or the right life which inculcates the discipline of the senses and mind and the regulation of the moral life so as to accord with the happiness and good not of the individual merely but of the humanity as a whole. It is therefore social and universal in its conception and application, and comprehends a physical, mental and ethical framework of life. It is an entire concept of life that Ayurveda expounded embodying philosophy, eugenics and ethics.

Again the concept of health is individualized as no two person s are found alike in appearance or behaviour. The very word Svastha, meaning healthy signifies by the term (sva) one’s own individual constitution. Thus was the concept of individual constitution or Prakriti (prakṛti) brought to bear upon the subject. Ancient Greek masters and the sages of India like Caraka and Sushruta have built up their systems of health and disease on this bed-rock of constitution, and this concept of constitution remains as sound as ever in its logic and practical efficacy.

Its objective moreover aimed at the fullest survival and even to overcome the handicaps of nature and age. This concept gave rise to Vitalization (Rasayanarasāyana) and Virilification (Vājīkaraṇavājīkaraṇa) systems of therapy.

This setting up of a lofty standard of health had to be implemented by an equally high standard of diagnostic methods, so detailed and perfect in all their aspects as to detect even a very minute and ordinarily unnoticeable deviation from the specific Norm of the individual. It is easy to set up norms for organizations which are simple and are on the lower rungs of the ladder of biological evolution. But the higher and subtler the organizations are the greater will be the liability to disorganization, and it is in these cases that the diagnostic methods necessitate the highest sensitiveness in detecting deviations.

The three main organizations are of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These three co-exist in a single constitution. They are so diverse in nature and function that their equilibriun can be maintained only on a highly sensitive and delicate fulcrum. But this is not all. The three are not static and they have continually to adapt themselves to the ever changing environmental factors. The environmental factors appearing in a little more, less or altered form are likely to cause the disturbance of this subtle equilibrium of the triumvirate.

The edge of this sensitiveness is blunted when the concept is not that of ideal health. The trivial deviations go unnoticed and are left uncared for. But when the ideal is that of perfect psycho-somatic health, the deviation, however small and insignificant it may seem, is neted and cared for. Anything which is not to the mark is considered a positive source of trouble. Even the slightest deviation is enough to start the ringing of warning bells of impending alarm.

The criterion of ideal health in Ayurveda is Prasannatmendriyamana (prasannātmendriyamanāḥ—i.e. “the best mood in the working of the spirit, senses and mind”).

The Psyche is the most sensitive galvanometer in the body, the psychic changes are more or less subjective symptoms but fortunately for the physician they are indicated reflexively on ths external features of the body by way of inherent and prevailing spirit, life mood, reactive affectivity and tempo peculiar to the personality. The manifestations, are perhaps too clear to go unnoticed by the attending persons, but it requires a keen clinical sense to transcribe this script of reflex indication into a comprehensible form by observation, interpretation and correlation. Lord Chesterfield has rightly remarked that if we wish to know the real sentiments of the person we are conversing with, we should look into his face, for he can more easily command his words than his features. Life is ever moulding our expressions, our inner thoughts are written indelibly on our faces.

Even transient disturbances are not allowed to escape unnoticed by Ayurveda. It stresses upon the diagnosis of even transient disturbances and attempts to restore the lost equilibrium. It also advises the prophylactic measures to counter such adverse environmental factors in future.

This is the most glorious part of the highest concept of perfect health and the practical application of it in the maintenance thereof.

The maintenance of the norm and the prevention or deviation from the norm thus becomes the field of Ayurveda. What then is the norm or the normal condition according to Ayurveda? Definitions are always difficult to formulate and it is specially so in this case as it is a common experience that no two individuals are completely alike physically, physiologically, psychologically or in vital reactions. And hence the art of medicine necessitates the study of the individual man. Thus any definition of the Norm in Ayurveda will have to be defined from the individual point of view. Each individual is different from the other and so the norm of one will not be the norm of another

For theoretical purposes, the norm of man in general can be described as a range of values to be accepted as a standard found to be the average in persons who appear healthy and free from disability or disease.

But for practical application the study of the individual will be necessary to achieve accuracy in diagnosis and therapeutics.

Sushruta while describing the norm of the individual states as under:

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 15.37]

“It is not possible to lay down or standardize the exact measure of the triumvirate, body-elements or the excretory matter owing to their varying nature (in the process of adaptation to the continually changing environmental factors) as well as individual variations of the body constitution”.

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 15.38-39]

“If a physician wants to know the state of equilibrium of all these he can do it only by finding the signs of perfect health in that individual. The expert physician diagnoses indirectly their imbalance condition of these body-elements by finding the person not in perfect mood”.

[Suśrutasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 15.41]

“A person possessing the equilibrium of the triumvirate, balance condition of gastric fire, and harmonious working of digestion, assimilation and elimination processes and the best mood of spirit, senses and mind, is said to be in perfect health”.

Thus Ayurveda has dynamic and creative view of health, for health can never be a mere static condition, it must grow like life or fall. Hence the need for constant vigilance in its promotion and for revitalizing it as a factor for intensive enjoyment of the delight of living Life must be lived as a delight or it must yield place to disease and death. There is no no-man’s land where it can remain neutral and static. In dealing with this aspect of health Ayurveda holds the palm over all other known systems of medical thought. The healthy man should be as vigilant and diligent in the maintenance and enhancement of his health as the sick one is in the riddance of disease.

Such a double aspect has also been ascribed to medicament:

[Carakasaṃhitā Cikitsāsthāna 1.4]

“Now medicine is of two kinds, one kind is promotive of vigour in the healthy, the other destructive of disease in the ailing.”.

The regimen of conduct known as Svastha-Vritta (svasthavṛtta) hygiene, social and individual, and a good life Sad-Vritta (sadvṛtta) which includes the control of the senses and the mind is calculated to turn man into a noble citizen of the world, and lead him a step higher in the ladder of evolution. This is medically very efficacious in lifting man above the dangers of psychic and nervous disorders that are on the increase as a result of the heavy drain on the nervous energies of man due to the distractions, cants and make-believes, enormous and injurious ambition and frustration that modern civilized life involves. This psychic regimen provides the wholesome nutrition for the mind even as the physical regimen does to the physical body

Caraka draws a beautiful picture of the life of a man in possession of ideal physical and psychic health who not only enjoys fully the life himself, but at the same time adds to the happiness and comfort of the whole world

[Carakasaṃhitā Sūtrasthāna 30.24]

“New the life of such a man is called happy as is not afflicted with either bodily or mental ailments, as is, in particular, endowed with youth, strength, virility, reputation, enterprise and boldness befitting his abilities, is actuated in his deeds by the combined urge of knowledge, science, the senses and the sense-objects, is possessed of multifarious and delightful amenities accruing from great wealth, all whose efforts are prosperous and who can plan as he likes A life that is contrary to this is deemed unhappy.

The life of that man is said to be good who is a well-wisher of all creatures, who does not covet other people’s goods, who is a teller of truth, who is peace-loving, who acts with deliberation, is not negligent, is devoted to the three ends (viz., virtue, wealth and enjoyment) without letting any one end come into conflict with the other two, who is reverential to those who are worthy of reverence, of a scholarly, scientific and retiring disposition, partial to the company of elders, of well curbed passions of desire, anger, envy, pride and conceit; constantly given to charitable acts; devoted always to austerity, knowledge and quietude, endowed with spiritual insight, one-minded, contemplative of the good in this world and the next, and endowed with memory and understanding. That life which is of the opposite nature is said to be ‘not good’”.

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