Part II Intro
This article briefly introduces a more ancient and generally unknown system of Ayurveda. Ayurveda itself is underrepresented in the world compared to yoga despite Ayurveda being the broader body of knowledge that yoga comes out of. Part I of this article provided the more know modern approach to Ayurveda. Please see PART I.
To even introduce this this ancient version, I believed it was necessary to distinguish between yoga and Ayurveda which was primarily done in Part I. In Part II some ideas will be briefly revisited, additionally will have some historical context as well as introduce the ancient system of Ayurveda and related topics of Jyotish, the Vedas and Vedic knowledge in general.
Each and every one of these topics alone are vast enough to have whole libraries dedicated to them. Knowing that it is truly impossible to give any of them adequate time and attention within an article I have considered it a valid undertaking still if it is to spark potential interest in further study. Additional suggested resources will be provided in this hope.
Summary of Part I
In Part I many of these concepts were introduced in greater detail. For this second part there are working definitions as a refresher to those who read Part I and to help with better understanding this second part to those who did not.
Ayurveda – “knowledge of life”. One of the oldest health systems in the world. Originated in Indian subcontinent. Ancient and modern system of health science. Considered a truly universal system as it emphasizes the individual and the individual’s environment.
Yoga – “union” Primary objective is with consciousness expansion through an 8-limbed approach as propagated by the sage Patanjali. Foundation is morality and sequentially progresses through physical activities into advanced stages concerned with meditation. In Western popular culture the third limb of asana has been emphasized over the others. Yoga is not as universal as Ayurveda.
Chitiksa – “therapy”. Generally, refers to Ayurvedic therapy. Yoga is considered a chikitsa; specialized Ayurvedic therapy that was developed for the people and culture of India.
Vedic or Vedas – “knowledge”. Referring to the Vedas. The body of ancient texts and teachings to come out of the Indian subcontinent. This knowledge was passed on verbally prior to being written. It is believed that man is not the source of this knowledge.
Upaveda – minor Vedas, a subset of the Vedangas. The four Upavedas are Ayurveda (medicine), Dhanurveda (martial arts), Sthapatya Veda or Vastu (architecture), and Gandharva Veda (music and dance).
Vedangas – the major core Vedas. The six Vedangas are Shiksha (pronunciation), Chhandas (meter) Vyakarana (grammar), Nirukta (etymology), Kalpa (ritual) and Jyotish (astrology).
General Introduction – Revisited
Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words ayus which means life or life energy and veda which means knowledge or teaching. Ayurveda essentially means knowledge of life, sometimes it is called the science of life.
As defined above yoga is an Ayurvedic therapy that has developed along with Indian culture. Yoga was intended for as a way of living in harmony with climate conditions, available resources (food, herbs, etc) as well as the beliefs and customs of India. Yoga has come to the West portrayed as a universal science and has been moderately successful if by success we mean popularity. Yoga in the West is focused largely on the physical aspect even though there are seven other equally important aspects. This may be because yoga was not developed for the the Western individual that is more body appearance centric. The universality often attributed to yoga is based on fundamental principles that really originate in Ayurveda. Many modern scholars agree that when Ayurveda is applied properly to the Western body and mind we will gain far more. We can develop a yoga for the West by applying Ayurvedic principles to the core of Western philosophy.
Returning to the Individual
Ayurveda is about the individual. This is true for both the modern and ancient forms. I propose however that perhaps the ancient Ayurveda especially there is a chance to powerfully support the individual unlike any other system out there, even the modern system of Ayurveda. This ancient system goes beyond culture and even the paradigm of the physical body and its current conditions. This ancient system sees the individual as something much more powerful and archetypal.
Doshas – Revisited
According to Ayurvedic philosophy in general (both modern and ancient systems), the elements show up in a particular way in all living things. These are three classifications that are most often called the doshas. They are: vata, pitta and kapha. Each dosha has a predominance of elements and qualities.
Vata is made up of primarily the elements of air and ether. It is catabolic. The predominant qualities are: dry, cold, light, unstable, mobile, clear, subtle and rough.
Pitta is made up of primarily the element of fire. It is also often said to be made up of water as it is liquid in nature. It is metabolic. The predominant qualities are: hot, light, intense, motile, liquid, oily, and pungent smelling.
Kapha is made up of primarily water and earth. It is anabolic. The predominant qualities are: heavy, oily, cold, subtle, smooth, soft, sticky, and solid.
Dhatus – Revisited
Vata, pitta and kapha are also dhatus, forces. As forces…
Vata relates largely to movement. It is considered to be more like a process. A mechanical process more specifically. It is the subtlest and when out of balance largely affects the mind and emotions. It is said in Ayurveda that 80% of all illness is vata related.
Kapha relates largely to substance and structure. It is the most physical and observable.
Pitta is like each of these as it is process and substance. Pitta is different because, being metabolic, it involves transformation and change. Acting largely as a fulcrum between the other two, when pitta is out of balance this often leads to the other two becoming out of balance as well.
Prakriti & Vrikriti – Revisited
A person’s original state is known as Prakriti. This is how we were when we were born and also likely how we spent at least a good portion of our childhood.
This original state is better equated to vata, pitta and kapha as forces. This will be the natural tendency of the person. It may help to explain that a person can be without any dosha when in health. They have no excess, no accumulation but even then they will have a natural tendency towards being like one of these (or a combination).
An individual’s current state is known as their Vrikriti. Ayurveda would say that the closer one’s current state is with their original state, the closer they are to health.
Prakriti is related to the concept of “nature” when talking about “nature vs nurture”. Whereas Vrikriti is related to “nurture”.
Prakriti being defined as one’s original state may have a more esoteric meaning in light of the ancient approach. Prakriti is commonly believed to be how one is physically when they are born and as a young child. This would relate more to body type as well as temperament. This understanding makes sense when we come from the paradigm that we are a body and impacted primarily by heredity.
In this ancient understanding “nature” in “nature vs nurture” is not just physical and I mean not related to the physical dimension at all let alone the physical body of the individual. The ancient Ayurvedic priests and practitioners used a metaphysical understanding, a science concerning not just physical Earth bodies but celestial bodies.
A Brief History
It was the priestly caste in ancient India that was responsible for preserving the knowledge that had been passed down from generation to generation. This priestly caste was known as the Brahmins and what was passed on to them and by then was a combination of religion and science. Over time the caste system became corrupt and eventually the Brahmins were not trusted as they once were. When this happened a more purely scientific approach became accepted as primary. Those things associated with religion and tradition was demoted eventually almost completely lost.
Sebastian Pole in his book Ayurvedic Medicine describes the evolution of Ayurveda perfectly:
“It is very difficult to place the exact origins of Ayurveda. Our first meeting with Ayurveda proper in a fully coherent and documented format is in the texts of Caraka, Sugntta and Bhela (150BCE— 500CE). These texts were clearly codified long after Ayurveda was fully established and was thriving as an oral tradition. An earlier text is known to have been compiled by Agnivega, the Agnivega Samllitä, but it no longer exists, although the Caraka Sumhitä is said to be a revised edition of this work. There are of course medical facts found in earlier texts, but they are not classical Ayurveda with dosa, dhätu and mala at the heart of their teaching.
Prior to this codification of Ayurveda as a complete medical system it seems as though two patterns emerged as Indian medicine developed. One represented the worship of and subordination to the supernatural forces, while the other pattern was the development of ideas based purely on empirical experience. Two concurrent and inter-linked medical traditions appeared from within the Vedic literature:
- The orthodox Vedic tradition, full of elaborate religious rituals dedicated to the powerful nature divinities: Sürya, the sun god, Agni, the lord of fire, Indra, the lord of heaven and thunderstorms. This was the ritual tradition where the gods were appeased through prayer, chanting, amulets and ritual offerings. These were also the healing tools used to treat disease.
- The heterodox tradition that was outside this ritual fold and was based on the direct experience of medical physicians where herbs, minerals and surgery were the healing tools.
These patterns, like two rivers running through the same Vedic land, later converged to form Ayurveda.”
In Part 1 the describing of modern day Ayurveda is in the lineage of this heterodox tradition described above. Now in this Part 2 we will look at the orthodox tradition and the surviving remnants of a once great and truly holistic knowledge.
The Light in the Darkness
Jyotish is a sanskrit word that means “light”. Jyotish is also the name of the Vedic science of astrology and astronomy which is considered one of the core Vedas known as Vedangas (see Working Definitions). In Ancient India the Brahmins used this “science of the stars” in relationship to Ayurveda to understand, interpret, analyze, prevent, enhance and when necessary, heal the individual.
The Lost Ayurveda
When the Brahmins fell out of favor the ancient knowledge and practice of Jyotish (Astrology) was separated from Ayurveda. Having been seperated Ayurveda became a system incomplete in itself and the ability to completely analyze a person’s health was also lost. Despite this modern Ayurveda still functions among the greatest and longest lasting health systems that there is in the world.
The ancient system of Ayurveda goes farther back and beyond the modern system of treating physical bodies and body types primarily to aligning to archetypal energetic imbalances.
The ancient Ayurveda suggests seven major imbalance tendencies in addition to the body-type. Remember from Part I there are seven body types related to the doshas. These can be found in any Ayurvedic book or resource. Repeating them here is not necessary and considered better to leave out so as to not encourage an incorrect relationship. The body types do not relate to the imbalance tendencies. These imbalance tendencies can be understood using the same words (vata, pitta, kapha) as the body types but they are not related to the body type as a cause nor an effect. The body type is still considered however because the body type does impact the expression of the imbalance tendency. Additionally the imbalance tendencies also go beyond vata, pitta and kapha but are used as a bridge to understanding. As mentioned in Part I, seeing these as forces or dhatus (see image) as opposed to doshas is helpful to orient one towards this ancient system.
A person of vata constitution for example could have a kapha imbalance tendency. These imbalance tendencies are energetic in nature but over time can lead to observable symptoms. A person with a predominantly vata body type and a kapha imbalance may remain symptom free because of this complimentary nature between the differing body type and imbalance tendency.
The same kapha tendency with a kapha body type is likely to be much more obvious and symptomatic.
These seven imbalance tendencies correspond astrologically to the seven major planets as archetypal forces.
Jupiter and heaviness (kaphic)
Sun and the heat (pittic)
Saturn and dryness (vattic)
Venus and oiliness (vattic and kaphic)
Moon and coldness (kaphic and vattic)
Mars and lightness (pittic and vattic)
Mercury and a mixed type (tri-doshic)
The determination above is most easily attained by consulting with a specialist who is familiar with this ancient system. The Your Life Blueprint work of which I am a part is such a system. Absent of someone familiar with the ancient system would be to study all of the different astrological correspondences and compare them with your own health experience. These correspondences were a part of Vedic Astrology and have survived into much of Western Astrology as well. Additionally there are correlations to the Traditional Chinese Meridian system. See Resources for some suggested further reading on this.
Again I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and for allowing me to share. It is a great honor to pass along this knowledge in any way that I can. Doing so connects us to a lineage of teachers and students since time immemorial. We teach and we learn and the cycle goes on and on and on. Please do not hesitate to send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ayurvedic Astrology – David Frawley
Ayurveda Revolutionized – Edward Tarabilda
About the Author
Matthew Russell LaBarre offers private Ayurvedic consultations primarily in the ancient system of Ayurveda that also employs Jyotish. In addition, he does modern Ayurvedic consultations, private yoga and meditation instruction, planetary sound healing, spiritual guidance. Matthew is a psychic empath, a YLB counselor, a Registered Yoga Teacher and a floatation facilitator. When doing healing work, he honors his teachers and lineage and uses his spiritual name Hansaraj Chand.