What Ayurveda Signifies

Ayurveda is closest to our hearts as an in-depth system for holistic healing based in the ancient, spiritual beliefs of India.

All of us have experienced at different times that not only human beings but also the smallest life-forms always struggle to survive; all beings strive to prevent pain caused by disease, loss, injury, indignity and ignorance, and strive to remain happy always. Ever since human civilization began, we have been engaged in a continuous effort to fulfill our natural needs for food, water and sleep and to ward off disease and discomfort. Ayurveda has its genesis in this context as a reflection of our natural inclination towards health and happiness. Today, we use modern medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy and many other systems of medicine which improve our overall well-being. However, Ayurveda is closest to our hearts as an in-depth system for holistic healing based in the ancient, spiritual beliefs of India.

In daily life, we see that people suffering from simple problems like stomach ache or digestive disorders are advised to use thymol seeds (ajavayana) and asafoetida (hlhga); they are advised to avoid drinking cold water in case of common cold, sore throat or cough, rather they are encouraged to use ginger (ardrakd) and holy basil (tulasi) tea, black pepper, honey mixed with ginger juice and turmeric powder along with warm milk. Each and every ingredient according to Ayurveda is ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ in its nature and has corresponding uses. Such Ayurvedic practices have passed down through many generations, which we have learned from our ancestors. Most of the ingredients for these

What Ayurveda Signifies

simple remedies are available in our homes. We can utilize them from our kitchens and gardens and they can be consumed likewise as beneficial remedies. Thus Ayurveda is an integral and inherent part of our daily life, rather than a treatment for disease.

Therefore, it is important for us to understand what Ayurveda actually is and the many ways it can benefit us. Hence, it is relevant to know the origin of the word ‘Ayurveda.’ Etymologically, the word ‘Ayurveda’ is a combination of two words: “Ayusah” which means ‘life’ and “Veda” which means ‘science.’ Hence, “Ayurveda” means the ‘Science of Life(1).’ Yet this science or Veda is not theoretical or superficial knowledge about diseases and their remedies, but a profound understanding of the essence or true nature of things. Simply stated, A”'is the art of living in harmony with the science of life and is not only confined to disease and its treatment. Ayurveda provides us with comprehensive life wisdom helping us to lead a productive and disease-free existence.

In short, Ayurveda is a system of medicine which provides detailed and organized information about both health and ailments. Ayurveda is believed to be a science that imparts not only physiological, but also psychological (mental) and spiritual well-being to all living beings. In Caraka Samhita, one of the great classics ofAyurvedic thought, Maharsi Caraka defined Ayurveda as follows: “The science that teaches us about the benefit or harm (favorable and unfavorable), the reasons for joy or sorrow, compatibility or incompatibility of substances, their properties and actions, as well as the duration and characteristics of life(2).” Thus, it specifies thai Ayurveda is restricted not only to certain individuals, limited by caste or creed or to a particular country, but has universal significance®. Just as life is a cosmic truth and has its own natural intelligence, so are Ayurvedic principles and philosophies, which are universal and reflect the wisdom of life. Ayurvedic practices are valid wherever there is life. They are eternal and everlasting as they are rooted in enduring cosmic principles. The aim of these principles is to guide us to complete well-being and lasting joy – “Sorve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramayah.” In conclusion, Ayurveda is not only confined to medicine; rather, it is a complete lifestyle and spiritual practice.

(Excerpted from the book ‘A Practical Approach To The Science Of Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide For Healthy Living’ authored by Acharya Balkrishna)

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