An Invitation To Āyurveda’s Living Wisdom
Disease strikes when we stray from the course of dharma.
What Is Dharma?
Dharma is a concept that is not easy to translate into English. It is loosely translated to mean “religion,” and has become synonymous with religion because of its wide use over many years. Living in dharma, however, encompasses following a universal code of conduct that is essentially secular (non-religious), but entirely spiritual.
“Dharma” has many meanings, such as “duty, ethical conduct, charity, law, not harming others, innate duty of things (e.g. the dharma of fire is to burn), compassion, altruism, positivity, etc.”
According to Sage Manu, the Hindu Law Giver, dharma has the following ten attributes:
- Dhṛti (patience)
- Kṣamā (forgiveness)
- Damo (mental steadfastness or mental strength)
- Asteya (non-stealing)
- Śauca (cleanliness)
- Indriya nigraha (restraining of senses)
- Dhī (wisdom)
- Vidyā (knowledge)
- Satyam (truth)
- Akrodham (non-anger)
Dharma is a core value of Indian culture, and so important that it can even be described as a synonym of Indian culture. To be cultured is to be dharmik. All that is positive is dharmik and all that is negative is non-dharmik. Dharma in itself is a cultural value and pervades all other cultural values.
Connection Between Self And Cosmos
Āyurveda conceives a dynamic model of this universe wherein all objects, beings, events, phenomena, and experiences are vitally interconnected. According to Āyurveda, when we humans choose to discard truthfulness, modesty and righteousness (dharma), we agitate not only our immediate sphere of influence but the entire cosmos.
Sage Caraka declares unequivocally,
“The root cause of the derangement of the wind (vāyu), etc is unrighteousness.”[i]
Rivers become violent and change course, meteorites appear frequently, earthquakes shake the terrain, and even the sun, moon, and stars become enraged.[ii]
Self-care is planet-care
The dharma of Āyurveda teaches how self-care is really planet-care, and how one healthy unit is the beginning of more healthy units.
Almost every life situation is an epic event of cosmic magnitude, bursting with dharmik question marks. In fact, Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” is one such crossroads.
When the dharmik content of our thoughts and actions is denied, blocked or resisted by us, ill health at the physical, psychological, or spiritual level will definitely eventually manifest.
Importance of living by Dharma
Āyurveda declares that living by dharma is not only critical to the here and now, but also influences our journey of consciousness after death. Āyurveda promises that dharma practiced in our daily life ultimately leads us face-to-face with the Absolute Truth at our time of transition. Any wavering from the path of dharma leads one astray and trapped in the endless cycle of birth and death.
Dharma not only ensures a good life and an even better afterlife; it also influences the collective human experience today, at this moment; and dharma’s regard or violation by society affects our collective consciousness in a big way.
Disease And Dharma
A disease at one level is a savior at another. Ill health is often a message to wake up. The one who explores the dharmik goals of this earthbound journey listens to the voice of the spirit within, and thus, no more accidents, passivity, manipulations, and power games.
The sages conceived of health at a grand scale, in which even the sun and moon were entreated to stay on the course of their respective dharma (spiritual journey), or else a cosmic chaos of unimaginable magnitude would follow. Likewise, the Dosas – Vāta, Pitta, and Kapha – in our body have their respective Dharmas (nature and function) and when the Dosas, for example, stop following the dictates of nature, disease follows.
Collective Consciousness And Ayurveda
In Āyurveda, we see collective consciousness being modified by living dharmikally, and following spiritual and moral injunctions as social, but ultimately, spiritual creatures. Āyurveda also recommends that we follow environmentally-friendly lifestyles, and cultivate compassion for all fellow beings, plants, and animals, as we are all really individual parts of one collective consciousness.
Āyurveda awakens within each of us the power to heal ourselves. If this life is an extension of nature, then why not use nature to be the best we can? Why be at war with nature? Why not instead outstretch both arms and find ourselves lost in nature’s compassionate embrace?
Āyurveda teaches peace with the internal forces that regulate body and mind and a peaceful relationship with the external elements that compose our environment. Āyurveda is based upon remembering, reconnecting, and celebrating the eternal harmony and sacred connections between man and nature. In discovering the deep nurturance ever-available in nature, followers of Āyurveda gradually become one with nature’s great eternal rhythm and cycle.
[i] Charaka Sāṃhita, Vimānāsthānam, III, 20
[ii] Charaka Sāṃhita, Vimānāsthānam, III, 6.3