‘…Even in present times, the contribution of India is Yoga, Ayurveda etc. However, what is Ayurveda? It is a holistic way of treatment in which the human, as a whole, is taken into account.’ Thus, I had talked in some of the lectures. How wrong I was! But, to know that, I had to fall sick for months. Though I was recovering steadily, it was felt by others in my organization that I must also have some Ayurvedic treatment. Tired of hospitals, I went rather unwillingly for the treatment in Kerala at Ottapalam.
The next morning, we met the chief physician Dr. Sethumadhavan, an unassuming person. He told the line of treatment. I was told to take head-bath everyday morning at 5.00 AM in cold water even though I am a pneumonitis patient and have some issues with the lungs. A bit worried, I had a cold-water bath at 5:00 AM. As I finished my exercises, the doctor came and told us that, every day, the doctors in the hospital chant first chapter of Ashtangahridayam of Sri Vagbhatacharya and if I want, I can join. Meera and I decided to go for the same.
Ayurveda is mainly for living a healthy and purposeful life in which the four objectives Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha are accomplished.
For the first time, I got the opportunity to read a book on Ayurveda and listen to the discussions and instructions of Dr. Sethumadhavan to his junior doctors. That is when I felt tremendous pride about Ayurveda and intense pain about its condition today in India. As the days passed, it only increased and so, I thought of sharing it with others.
First, an introduction to the book Ashtangahridayam – It is written by Vagbhatacharya integrating all the works that were available on Ayurveda in his times. He was from Sindhu Desha and came down to Kerala where he taught this tradition of eight angas of treatment to eighteen families in Kerala. That is how the Ashtavaidya Parampara started in Kerala. Ashtangahridayam has six parts having a total of one hundred and twenty chapters. The first part called Sutrasthana is considered as his masterpiece. Vagbhatacharya, though a great physician, also appears to be a poet par excellence. I was thrilled by the first Shloka of the Sutrasthana. Even after two months, I am still wondering about various insights that Shloka gives. It says
रागादिरोगान् सततानुषक्तान् अशेषकायप्रसृतानशेषान्
औत्सुक्यमोहारतिदान् जघान योऽपूर्ववैद्याय नमोऽस्तु तस्मै II
The literal meaning is – Homage be to that Pioneer Physician who eliminated entire diseases such as ‘Raga’ (Attachment) etc., which ever shadows life, which are an integral part of living beings and which are causes for autsukya (anxiety), moha (confusion), and arati (restlessness)
What is the purpose of Ayurveda? Vagbhatacharya says,
आयु: कामयमानेन धर्मार्थसुखसाधनम्
आयुर्वेदोपदेशेषु विधेय: परमादर: II
One who seeks life for the fulfillment of Purusharthas (The four objectives of life) should extremely respect and abide by the norms of Ayurveda.
The real duty of Vaidya is to promote health and not just to treat diseases.
Thus, Ayurveda is not for treating the diseases, though, of course, if diseases come then the Ayurveda tells how to remove those. But Ayurveda is mainly for living a healthy and purposeful life in which the four objectives Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha are accomplished. But for that one should follow the norms of Ayurveda with complete Shraddha.
The real duty of Vaidya is to promote health and not just to treat diseases. It seems King Bimbisara had appointed one Vaidya for every four hundred people. The duty of the Vaidya was to see that no one falls sick. In case, someone fell sick, that Vaidya would lose his profession and at times, even life.
Our heritage gives us an important shastra like Ayurveda for leading life full of health, contribution and achievement of four purusharthas. However, the great pain I felt is that the knowledge Ayurveda gives us is not utilized to its full potential. Today, in the pursuit of materialistic goals, society has confined Ayurveda only to a spa in big hotels. Parents do not aspire that their children should become Ayurvedacharyas. Only if they do not get admissions in MBBS they turn to Ayurveda. Suppose if government separates the entrance tests to Ayurveda from MBBS, student will hardly appear for them.
All the basic texts of Ayurveda are in Sanskrit and so Sanskrit is taught in the first year. However, the tragedy is most of the students ignore further study of Sanskrit and resort only to reading of the translations of these texts and miss the insight into it. I could see some of the fresh graduates in Ayurveda could not even read the ‘Ashtangahridayam’ properly.
A substantial portion of allopathy, is included in the MD course of Ayurveda with a purpose that the Ayurveda doctor should be able to understand the reports of his patient, whatever treatments he has undergone and what medication he is having. Taking all this into account, he should treat him. But this purpose is lost and the knowledge of allopathy is used by the Ayurveda doctors to prescribe allopathic drugs. What a tragedy! A patient goes to an Ayurveda doctor to get wholesome treatment but he is further given doses of allopathic medicines. Society needs to be sensitized to seek governmental interventions so that Ayurveda is again established with its pristine glory.
Just imagine a picture of India where everyone is exuding health, happiness, and purposefulness in life. It is such a Bharat that we want to see! It is such a Bharat which can really fulfill the dream of Swami Vivekananda, of Bharat guiding the world in spirituality.
The Grand Vision
If our country has to contribute to the world, the right way of living, then Yoga and Ayurveda should be in our life. Just imagine a picture of all Indians following the injunctions of Yoga and Ayurveda in our country. In the morning, before Sunrise, all are up and doing Yogasanas and Pranayama. Everyone radiates health and calmness that comes from the practice of Yoga and Ayurveda. The unique prayer ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah…Sarve Santu Niramayah- Let all be happy and let all be without any disease or discomfort’ that is chanted in our country would really be seen in action. The prayer would cease to be mere well-wishing but would be the vision that is translated into action. Our rishis never did just well-wishing, they also gave Ayurveda shastra for ‘सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः’.
We chant Sarve Santu Niramayah almost all over the country, but for it to work, Ayurveda is to be taken to the future generation. This will ensure the wellness of at least 80% of the population.
Most Ayurveda texts are written in Sanskrit & hence can we encourage students to learn Ayurveda in Sanskrit. English translation often results in distortion of meaning of what needs to be taught.
To reinstate Ayurveda to its true glory, we also need students who are passionate about Ayurveda.
When I was Ottapalam behind our room in the hospital, there was a berry tree and many birds used to come there. A number of birds only seen in the pictures or some even beyond imagination revealed themselves to us as we kept watching the tree regularly. I felt it was very indicative of what was happening to my little bit of study of Ayurveda. Ayurveda as Upaveda revealed itself to me.
As some focus has come onto Yoga because of International Day of Yoga, we need to focus on Ayurveda too. Just imagine a picture of India where everyone is exuding health, happiness, and purposefulness in life. It is such a Bharat that we want to see! It is such a Bharat which can really fulfill the dream of Swami Vivekananda, of Bharat guiding the world in spirituality.
(Nivedita Bhide is a social worker. She is the Vice President of Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari.)
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