Ayurveda-Arzt und Pharmakologe
Ram Manohar MD (Ayu) ist Arzt für Ayurveda-Medizin und Pharmakologe. Derzeit ist er tätig als Forschungsdirektor am Amrita Centre for Advanced Research in Ayurveda, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, Kollam, Kerala. Außerdem fungiert er als Forschungsberater für das National Institute of Ayurveda und für Wissenschaftsgeschichte an der Indian National Science Academy. Er ist Expertenmitglied im Komitee der Weltgesundheitsorganisation für die internationale Standardisierung von Ayurveda-Terminologien. Er arbeitete in der Regierungs-Task Force des Bundesstaates Kerala für die AYUSH-Reaktion auf COVID-19. Weiterhin ist er Mitglied der Interdisziplinären Forschungs- und Entwicklungs-Arbeitsgruppe für COVID-19 am AYUSH-Ministerium der indischen Regierung. Sein besonderes Interesse gilt der Psychologie und Spiritualität aus ayurvedischer Sicht.
The Structure of Classic Ayurvedic Writings – A Hidden Story
Dr. Ram Manohar
The Classical texts of Ayurveda are variously called as Tantra, Sāstra, Lakṣaṇam, Śākhā and Vidyā. A tantra is a highly structured technical writing which employs many complex techniques of writing to coherently and concisely link sentences (vākya) and meanings (artha). These techniques are called as the Tantra Guṇas which are a measure of the quality of the writing.
In ancient days, it was a challenge to write and preserve knowledge in the absence of printing technology. Therefore the texts were composed in a neither too concise nor elaborate manner. Since it was a challenge to make copies of the manuscripts, the texts were designed for memorisation Oral transmission was the method of transferring the knowledge from one generation to another. Therefore, the texts served as a supplement material to the oral teaching. In other words, without the initiation of a teacher trained in the tradition, the written texts by themselves are difficult to read and understand.
The classical Ayurvedic writings are extremely codified and have preserved the information in an encrypted form. The key to decoding and decrypting the writings is safeguarded by the oral tradition. The teacher or the Guru holds the key to unlocking the knowledge preserved in the texts.
For this reason, a literal translation of classical texts will not yield deep insights. Without these deep insights, we cannot grasp the fundamental concepts and theories of Ayurveda. The deeper knowledge of Ayurveda arises in altered stated of consciousness. With the help of the teacher and the book, the consciousness of the student is also elevated, enabling him/her to comprehend the subtle aspects of Ayurvedic knowledge.
Modern aspirants of Ayurveda have limited access to the original writings of Ayurveda. Even when there is access, the right methodologies are often not applied to study and understand them.
In this discussion, an attempt will be made to unravel some aspects of the methods used in ancient times to study and understand the classical texts.
Systematic study of original Sanskrit words give better insights than translations. For example, the word Sukha is often translated as happiness. But the word Sukha in Sanskrit means good space. Su means good and Kha means space. So sukha means being in the good or proper space. At the mental plane it means the harmonious and coherent movement of thoughts. At the physical plane, it means that there is no obstruction in the micro and macro spaces of the human body. It means that all substances and fluids in the body are moving without any blockage. That is why Sukha is a synonym of health. To be healthy means that there is no stress in the mind as well as the body. There is no block in the flow of thoughts in the mind or the flow of substances in the body. The translation happiness cannot give such an insight. Sukha also means that we are positioned in the right time and space. Once we get to the root of the Sanskrit words, multiple meanings of the word give a deep illumination and insight, which is lost in the crude translation.
The method of exposition of the knowledge of Ayurveda adopted in the classical texts is to first summarise everything in a nutshell and then to elaborate in greater detail. Therefore, the first section of the main classical texts is called the Sutrasthanam. Sutra means thread. It is like the thread that connects everything together. The essence of Ayurvedic knowledge is first given in a seed form. Then it is elaborated just like a plant is grown from the seed. This is different from the modern method of breaking the subject into different topics and studying them one by one.
For example, in the Sutrasthana of Astangahridayam, the entire concept of treatment and the structure of an Ayurvedic prescription is explained. Chapter One introduces the basic terminologies of Ayurveda but also emphasises that the foundation of all treatment is psychological counselling. Without proper psychological counselling results of other methods of treatment cannot be optimised. Chapters 2 to 4 deal with lifestyle. This means that to change lifestyle, psychological counselling is needed. Chapters 5 to 8 deal with Food, Nutrition and Diet. The message is that Food is properly transformed and will nourish the body only if lifestyle is optimised. Diet control without lifestyle changes will not yield results. Next comes the application of medicines, therapies and surgery. With the support of psychological counselling, lifestyle adjustments and diet regulation, medicines, therapies and surgery can be applied to cure and manage diseases. Chapters 9 and 10 deal with the study of the properties of substances used as medicine. Chapters 11 to 14 deal with the physiology and pathology of the body giving an insight of how medicines can reestablish normalcy. Chapter 15 gives the knowledge of formulating different drugs into medicines that can be administered internally. Chapters 16 to 24 deals with the external therapies and cleansing procedures. Internal medications prepare the body for external therapies and cleansing procedures. That is why internal medications are mentioned first and then the external therapies and cleansing procedures. Chapters 25 to 29 deal with minor and major surgical procedures. Surgery is an option only when other approaches fail. So it is mentioned last. Even more invasive and destructive treatments are described in the end. Chapter 30 deals with thermal cautery and alkaline cautery, which are the final options when even surgery fails. Thus, the 30 chapters of Sutra Sthana engineers the mind. Of the Ayurvedic aspirant to structure a comprehensive prescription that begins with psychological counselling and ends with thermal and alkaline cautery. All these methods need not be always employed in all patients. We can thus see that a lot of information is conveyed even by the sequence and subject of the chapters in a particular section of the text.
In Carakasamhita, the Nidana Sthana which deals with Diagnosis of diseases is surprisingly short and concise. It contains only 8 chapters. We may wonder why this important section is very brief. Once again, the answer to this question is in the sequencing of chapters. The diseases dealt with in the Nidanasthana of Carakasamhita are Jvara (Fever), Raktapitta (Hemothermia), Gulma (Intestinal distention and tumours), Prameha (Diabetes), Kustha (Skin Diseases), Sosha (Consumption), Unmada (Psychosis) and Apasmara (Epilepsy). If we look at these diseases carefully, we can understand that they describe the substratum for manifestation of all diseases. The first six diseases originate in the body and the last two in the mind. Therefore, this list of diseases point out that the body and the mind are the substratum of diseases. The first three diseases manifest in the alimentary tract or Kostha of the body, which is the first disease pathway. The next two diseases manifest in the Sakha or peripheral pathway of the diseases. And the next disease, sosha manifests in the Marma or the central pathway of the disease. Jvara represents affliction in the Rasadhatu, Raktapitta in the Raktadhatu and Gulma in the Mamsadhatu. Prameha affects the Medodhatu and Kushta the Asthi and Majja Dhatus. Sosha affects the Sukradhatu. With the help of these six diseases, the involvement of the seven dhatus in diseases are explained. Unmada represents Rajoguna imbalance of the mind, whereas Apasmara denotes the Tamoguna imbalance of the mind. Thus, the Nidanasthana of the Caraka Samhita explains the platform and pattern for the manifestation of all diseases, which are further elaborated in the section on treatments. We can say that the Nidanasthana maps the evolution of diseases in a comprehensive manner and all other diseases come within the gambit of this classification.
Even the structuring and sequencing of chapters convey profound meanings and give interesting insights. We can then imagine what a more systematic study of the texts can yield.
Why does the chapters of Rasayana and Vajikarana in Caraka Samhita have four subchapters each? Why is Rasayana mentioned before Vajikarana. Why are both mentioned before discussion of treatments? What is the meaning of Sarira in Ayurveda? Is it just the study of Anatomy or something more? These are some of the questions regarding the structure of the texts that will be discussed in the talk.
We will also discuss about the methods of studying classical texts – Sentence by sentence (Vakyasah), Meaning of the Sentence (Vakyarthasah), Deeper meaning of the sentence (Vakyarthavayavasah). This is coming within the scope of Patha (Reading) and Avabodha (Contemplating). Once the text is carefully read and contemplated, then it has to be applied in practice (Anusthana).
To sum up, the discussion will be focused on the keys that can unlock the hidden meanings of the classical Ayurvedic texts, an exercise that can bring about a deep transformation in our perception and understanding of Ayurveda and of life itself.
Traditional veterinary medicine
Dr. P. Ram Manohar
The history of biological sciences in ancient India is ill understood. Not to speak of its relevance and scope in contemporary times. The word Ayurveda can be aptly translated as Life Science and its scope is more than the health care of human beings. It extends to other forms of life including plant and animal life. Indeed, the ancient disciplines of Vṛkṣāyurveda and Mṛgāyurveda dealt with plant and animal life.
The branch of veterinary medicine was well developed in ancient India and was devoted to the well-being of domesticated animals like cows, horses and elephants. Earliest references can be seen in Vedic literature. Animal husbandry was prevalent in ancient India and cows, horses and elephants were the most common domesticated animals. For this reason, we find text books on Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine exclusively devoted to cows, horses and elephants.
The first ever text book on Zoology seems to be Hamsadeva’s Mṛgapakṣi Śāstra – The Science of Animals and Birds. Most of the available texts on animals deal with veterinary medicine and are utilitarian in nature. In medical textbooks, animals are described as sources of meat. However, the Mṛgapakṣiśāstra was composed out of compassion for animals. In the first few verses of this text, the change of mind that happened to King Shaudadeva is described. When the King approached the forest with great zeal for hunting, he was suddenly overwhelmed by the diversity and beauty of the animal kingdom that he beheld. He exclaimed, “What a wonderful creation of God!… How cruel of me to desire to kill these living beings?” It was as desired by the King on his return to the palace, that Hamsadeva composed this text describing the different species that populate the animal kingdom on earth.
Hamsadeva uses a structured format to describe a particular species of animal or bird. He covers the entire life cycle starting with mating behavior and then goes on to describe pregnancy, delivery, behaviour of offspring, variations within the species, the life span and death. He describes the behavior of female species separately as well as the psychological inclinations of the animals and birds. This is a unique text that attempts to determine species and characteristics of various animals and birds in India. Hamsadeva recognizes different types of animals within a species. For example, he identifies six subtypes of lions — the killer, the majestic, wide-jawed, red-eyed and yellow.
The diversity of animal life has been well captured in the ancient literature of India. The canons of Caraka and Suśruta classify animals on the basis of their habitat and predatory behaviour. Animals are classified on the basis of habitat into terrestrial, underground, aquatic, aerial and marshy types. Animals are prey snatchers (prasaha), peckers (viṣkira) or attackers (pratuda). In different texts, animals have been classified on the basis of varied criteria. Animals are reproduced sexually (yonija) or asexually (ayonija). Sexual reproduction is either through eggs (oviparous) or placenta (viviparous). The texts also speak of life emerging from moisture and heat as well as from dead vegetation. One classification distinguishes animals by number of feet and another by the presence or absence of hoofs. The Matsyapurāṇa classifies animals on the basis of their activity into diurnal, nocturnal or both. A number of animals have been described in the context of food and dietetics. The medicinal and nutritional properties of meat from a variety of animal sources have been documented in the classical texts of Ayurveda. The food web and food chain have been described highlighting the principle that one form of life is food for another (jīvo jīvasya jīvanam). The snatchers are animals that snatch and eat their prey (1). Burrowing animals are those that live in pits under the ground. Wetland animals are those that live in marshy places. The aquatic animals live in water and the floating animals float on water. Terrestrial animals are those that live on land. The peckers are those that peck on the ground to pick their food. The piercers are animals that pierce and tear their prey before eating (2). These are the eight type of animals from which edible meat is obtained (3). Caraka Saṃhitā, Sūtrasthāna, 27.53-56
Hayāyurveda of Śālihotra is an ancient textbook of veterinary medicine that classifies horses and describes treatments for horses apart from providing accounts of anatomy. Śālihotra composed many treatises on horses, which were translated into Arabic, Persian and Tibetan. A treatise on Gajāyurveda devoted to elephants was composed by Pālakāpya, which deals with treatment of diseases afflicting elephants.
Gajāyurveda is still practised by traditional experts in states like Kerala. Veterinary herbal medicines are manufactured and marketed by pharmaceutical firms in India.
People of ancient India lived in close proximity with nature and were keen observers of animal life. It has been mentioned in some texts that the first clues regarding medicinal properties of plants can be discovered from animal behaviour. Thus, ancient Indian literature has one of the earliest documented evidence of the practice of zoo-pharmacognosy, that is, the discovery of medicinal uses of plants by observing how animals eat specific plants when they suffer from a disease, have worms or have been bitten by a snake.
We can thus see that Zoology, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science were developed in ancient India. In modern times, Veterinary medicines are being developed from Ayurveda and there are still live traditions of Ayurvedic veterinary science like Gajayurveda.
This paper will discuss the historical evolution of animal sciences in ancient India and explore the potential applications and scope of this ancient knowledge in contemporary times.
Ojas, Prana and the psyche
Dr. P. Ram Manohar
In the chapter dealing with alcoholism (madātyaya), the Carakasamhita points out the relationship between Ojas and Manas. Alcohol or Madya affects Ojas with exactly opposite qualities. When the Ojas is affected, Satva or Manas which is dependent on Ojas gets disturbed. A major function of Ojas is to invigorate and stabilise the mind.
Elsewhere, the decline in Ojas has been linked with major mental disturbances. Emotional instabilities like fear, worry, lack of enthusiasm have all been associated with debilitation of Ojas. Manas and Ojas influence each other profoundly. Just like disturbances in Ojas can affect the mind, disturbances in the mind can also affect the Ojas. Anger, anxiety and sorrow can deplete Ojas instantaneously.
Prāṇa is the link between Ojas and Manas. In other words, we can say that Manas, Prāṇa and Ojas represent one single continuum connecting the Mind, Nervous System and the Immune System of the body. In medical science, this is nowadays recognised as PNI or Psycho-Neuro-Immunological Axis.
PNI researchers have revealed how emotions and thoughts impact our brain, hormones, and nervous system and also our immune system’s ability to protect us. It can also work the other way – changes in the immune and endocrine systems create changes in our nervous system which lead to changes in our emotions also.
Here is what new research on PsychoNeuroImmunology has revealed.
“People who were abused or neglected as children can have permanent changes in their brain chemistry and immune response as a result. Trauma survivors, like military veterans, natural disaster and assault victims, and those who work in first responder roles, have higher than expected incidences of both infectious illnesses (because their immune response to viruses is reduced) and cancer.
Even loneliness can be the cause of immune system suppression that can lead to illness. PNI also studies how positive emotions can bolster both immune and endocrine system responses. The interactions work in the other direction as well, with many disease sufferers prone to developing clinical depression in response to lowered hormone levels and chronic inflammation. Studies of cancer victims and other disease-sufferers who receive psychotherapy and group support show that these interventions in emotional health can have an impact on physical health.”
The link between stressful emotions and our immune system has also been well studied.
“Stressful emotions also reduce the numbers and effectiveness of immune system cells, including the inflammation response which is part of our non-specific protection, the t cells that directly attack invaders and the Natural Killer (NK) t-cells that rid us of cancers, the macrophages that also attack directly, and the cells and processes, including cytokines, that fuel chronic inflammation – a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and cancer”.
The new findings in modern medical science seems to echo the observations in classical Ayurvedic texts about emotions and immune system.
ojaḥ kṣīyeta kopakṣuddhyānaśokaśramādibhiḥ – Ojas will decline by anger, hunger, thinking too much, sorrow, exertion and such other activities. When Ojas declines, immunity is compromised.
A person whose Ojas is affected has been graphically described thus –
bibheti durbalo/bhīkṣṇam dhyayate vyathitendriyaḥ, duśchāyo durmanā rūkṣo bhavet kṣāmaśca tatkṣaye – When there is a decline in Ojas, one loses strength and immunity, one begins to worry too much, the senses are under stress, the natural complexion is afflicted and the mind takes on a negative disposition and the person becomes dry and debilitated.
While the superficial correlations are striking, we cannot straight away equate Manas, Prāṇa and Ojas with the Mind, Nervous System and the Immune System. The observations in the classical Ayurvedic texts and the findings in modern medical science converge in the understanding of the deep interconnection between the mind and the body.
The Carakasamhita itself has pointed out that the mind can exert a powerful healing effect on the body. When the mind is influenced favourably, there is satisfaction, enhancement of energy and immunity. There is significant reduction in overal physical and mental strength leading to the reduction in the severity of the disease.
manaso/rthānukūlyāddhi tuṣṭirūrjābalodayaḥ, sukhopabhogatā ca syād vyādheścāto balakṣayaḥ.
We will explore how the pyschosomatic pathways of the human body have been depticted and mapped in the concept of Manas, Prāṇa and Ojas in the human body.
Ojas itself is said to be the Tejas of the Dhātus. Which means it is the refined essence of the physical food that we eat – ojastu tejo dhātūnām.
At the physical level Ojas is said to be responsible for the ability of the organism to act – tannibaddham hi ceṣṭitaṃ. Thus, we can understand that Ojas is linked to Prāṇa because Prāṇa is the impulse that enables us to act. Prāṇa is the master controller of all the sensory and motor activities of the body. And Prāṇa is also that which links the physical body with the mind.
It woud be an interesting exercise to explore how the connections between Manas, Prāṇa and Ojas have been elaborated in the classical Ayurvedic texts and how these are applied in clinical situations to kindle the healing mechanisms in the human body in a holistic manner.