The secrets of a long and healthy life according to the Indian science of Ayurveda.

by Kaviraj Partap S. Chauhan

In recent years, Ayurveda has gained world-wide popularity. People are looking for a healing system that allows minimum intake of chemicals, whose side effects and reactions are well known. Thus, alternate health care systems are becoming more popular. Ayurveda, which is a complete system including maintenance of health, prevention and curing diseases, can be the best alternate to today’s medical sciences. A natural harmony between Ayurvedic principles and the human structure is the main factor for its effectiveness. This concept of natural harmony, however, is missing in modern science. This is why, despite the most advanced technology and science, modern people are becoming increasingly sick, both physically and mentally. Problems such as mental stress, anxiety, depression and nervous debility are very common. Such problems, which relate to the mind, have a deep impact on a person’s life.

Due to improvement in the health care system, the average life span of a person has increased, but the peace of mind, which is important for happiness, has decreased. There is no fun in achieving a longevity full of problems. This is why we have increased suicide rates in some advanced countries. The purpose of longevity, nowadays, is material enjoyment, which unfortunately is not the goal of life. Therefore, we see a larger number of people living longer and not really enjoying life, because material enjoyment ultimately leads to suffering. Ayurveda, however, sees longevity in a different light.

Longevity, according to Ayurveda, means a complete balance in body, mind and soul, and then living a long life. Without this balance, a person cannot enjoy the real benefit of longevity: a state of permanent happiness and peace. In Ayurveda the person tries to attain longevity not only to satisfy the physical aspirations, but also to fulfil the needs of mind and soul. Sanskrit uses the term "Dirgha ayu" for longevity. There is a whole section, in the ancient Ayurvedic text, Caraka Samhita, which describes how to attain longevity. It states that one should try to attain longevity so that one can engage in spiritual activities and attain Liberation. This becomes clear from the following explanation.

The principles of ayurveda

According to Caraka Samhita, Ayurveda primarily deals with the following topics:

Hitahitam dukham sukham ayustasya hitahitam

Manam ca tacca yatrokta ayurveda sa uccyate.

 

1. Hitayu and ahitayu: Beneficial and non-beneficial ways of living (related to the individual and society),

2. Sukhayu and dukhayu: Happy and unhappy ways of living (related to the individual),

3. What is good or bad for us in our lives,

4. The manam, or span of life.

Beneficial and non-beneficial ways of living

Beneficial activities refer to those, which, if followed, will help the individual and the society. These activities do not disturb the natural balance of the body or the society. They include speaking the truth, non-violence, loving all creatures, and respecting the elders. Other important qualities include the power of examining things before doing them, not having the desire to cheat, possessing a good memory and intellect, and control of passion, envy, greed and anger.

Non-beneficial ways of living refer to those that tend toward selfishness, greed, exploitation, polluting the environment, etc.

Thus, the beneficial path brings happiness and peace for the individual and the society.

Happy and unhappy life (sukhayu and dukhayu)

Everyone is striving to be happy; no one wants to be unhappy. Yet we find so much unhappiness around us. This is because people do not have a clear concept of true, lasting happiness. Complete balance in body, mind and soul is necessary for real happiness. Ayurveda details the factors leading to happiness. These include being free from disease, possessing youthfulness, vitality, strength, determination, will power, peace of mind, perfect sense organs, and having the material resources necessary for living, and the ability to achieve what one desires.

Although people might attain some of these qualities, it is rare that they attain them through their own device.

Things good or bad for life

There are rules, living styles and diets according to personal constitution, and according to various seasons, which are good for life and health. There are more instructions relating to proper mixing of food items, proper eating, proper exercise, proper and timely cleansing of metabolic wastes from the body, proper diet and regimen during sickness and proper quality and quantity of food taken. These factors are responsible for a good or bad state of life.

Manam of ayu (the span of life)

Ayurveda explains certain signs and symptoms, upon which the life span of a patient is determined.

According to Ayurveda there are four basic goals of human life.

1. Dharma (Religion)

2. Artha (Economy)

3. Kama (Sense pleasure)

4. Moksha (Liberation)

 

To practice and fulfil these basic goals of life one needs good health.

The body is the vehicle on which one rides to their destination. If the body is weak or sick, one cannot function properly and cannot achieve the goals of life. Therefore, for longevity, good health is very important.

Ayurveda explains a number of diets and regimes for healthy people. It also explains permanent cures for most acute and chronic diseases. Therefore, it is the basis of life both for healthy and diseased individuals.

How to achieve longevity

The Susruta Samhita text says that a person is healthy when all three doshas, the seven types of dhatus (body tissues), all the thirteen types of agnis (fires or enzymes) and all the malakriya (excretory functions) are balanced. In addition, the soul, mind and senses are in the state of complete happiness.

Health according to Ayurveda is not merely the absence of physical disease; it requires a happy mind and soul too. This subtle aspect of self is often neglected, resulting in unhealthiness. For example, sometimes it can be seen that a person has no physical problems, yet is suffering from conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress. Such a person is unhealthy and cannot enjoy longevity. Thus, a complete balance in body, mind, soul and senses is necessary for longevity.

Now it becomes clearer how the modern view of health and longevity differs from Ayurveda. Taking good nutrition, sufficient quantity of vitamins and going to a health club may be sufficient to keep the body in order, but if the mind is full of lust, anger, greed, jealousy, and hatred, the physical systems of a person are affected, even if he/she is taking the best nutrition.

Therefore, it is necessary to cater to the needs of mind, soul and senses, so that they function in balance.

Some simple factors necessary to achieve this state of balance include:

1. Possessing good quality of ojas:

Ojas is a vital bodily fluid, necessary for good health. It is similar to body immunity. Ayurveda says that each person should possess a good quality of ojas in the body. Following a sentient diet and life style is necessary for a good quality of ojas. Practising celibacy or controlled sex is also necessary, because indulgence in sex reduces the quantity of shukra dhatu in the body, which affects the quantity and quality of ojas.

2. Proper eating:

Eating a proper quantity and quality of food is also important for longevity. "Eat less and live longer," a common saying, is now accepted even by modern scientists. Eating according to the strength of the Jatharagni (digestive fire) is necessary to stop the formation of ama, a toxic material which arises from undigested food. According to Ayurveda, ama is the root cause of most diseases.

3. Sleep:

"Sleep is the diet of mind." Proper regulated sleep is necessary for good health and longevity. Six to seven hours of sound sleep is necessary for maintaining good health and longevity. One should avoid sleeping in the daytime.

4. Yoga and Meditation:

Regular physical exercise (ayurveda advises Yoga as the best form of exercise), practising controlled breathing exercises (Pranayama) and meditation are very important for longevity.

It should be clear that the goal of achieving longevity is not to enjoy the sense desires but to engage in the process of attaining Liberation which is possible only by becoming God conscious.


Kaviraj Partap S. Chauhan, an Ayurvedic Physician, specialises in treating chronic and difficult diseases and manufactures high quality Ayurvedic medicines. He may be reached at: Jiva Institute of Ayurveda, 1144, Sector 19, Faridabad 121002, Haryana, India.
Phone: +91-129-296174;
fax/phone: +91-129-295547;
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