For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment
Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No.- 09404955338, 09415777229
Ayurveda and Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi had done a lot of experiment on Ayurveda. Basically he was a doctor. He wanted to be doctor but not succeed. He supported his associates for it. He advised to his family members to use it. He wrote his associate many letters on it. He spoke in his meetings on this subject. He wrote many articles on it. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “The eminent vaid is a good scholar of Sanskrit and Ayurveda and the rasashala he has established has been serving the people through Ayurveda. The literature published by the Pharmacy is very useful to the people. I used to read some of it in South Africa. I was very much flattered by the compliments a scholar like him paid me in the address which he has read. I shall cherish them forever. I think highly of Ayurveda. It is one of the ancient sciences of India, which ensures the health of the millions in her thousands of villages. I advise every citizen to live his life in accordance with the principles of Ayurveda. The Pharmacy, the dispensary and the vaidraj, all have my blessings that they may be enabled to render the best possible service to Ayurveda.”1
The knowledge of Ayurveda was passed orally through a lineage of sages in India until it was collated into text more than five thousand years ago. The oldest known texts on Ayurveda are the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and the Ashtanga Hrudaya. These texts detail the affect that the five elements found in the cosmic system - earth, water, air, fire, space have on our individual system, and expound on the importance of keeping these elements balanced for a healthy and happy life. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “It is not as if only Englishmen knew or discovered that one’s health improves by staying in the Himalayas. The reader will like to read the translation1 that-a friend has sent me of the verses in praise of the Himalayas to be found in Ayurveda, in order to show that their greatness has also been recorded in our ancient books.”2
Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “It was not without greatest hesitation that I accepted the invitation to lay the foundation-stone of this great institution. You know that some years ago I performed the opening ceremony of the Tibbia College whose presiding deity was my esteemed friend and brother, Hakim Ajmal Khan. Even then it was not without hesitation that I performed the ceremony. I could not resist the invitation that was given to me by a bosom friend and little could I resist a similar invitation coming again from a bosom friend. But I would be untrue to myself and untrue to those assembled if I did not express my deepest thoughts about medicine and particularly about Ayurvedic and Unani medicines and the profession in general. It was in 19083 that, for the first time, I reduced to writing my views about medicines and the medical profession, and I am not able, looking at it after so many years, to alter a single word of what I have said there. No doubt what I wrote in 1908 was compressed; it was a passing reference to a subject which was included among so many others which I had to deal within a mere booklet. Since then I have expanded the same thought, but I have not diminished the strength of the thought that I expressed in 1908. Every time I approach medical men and their medicines, I do so in fear and trembling, and it takes nothing away from my fear that I submitted to the living knife of a surgeon whom I only knew perfunctorily in the Yeravda jail1. I had the fullest confidence in Col.
Maddock as a man and as a friend but I had not the fullest confidence in his ways and in the medicines that he prescribed. If you were to go to him today, he will issue a double certificate one in my favour and the other against me. He will certify to you that to a certain extent I was a willing, obedient and a loyal patient, a more loyal patient he could not wish for. But he will also say and certify that I was one of the most difficult patients he had to deal with. He had to deal with my prohibitions. I will take this and I will not take that and my negations were far more than my ayes. And, therefore, he always came to me in des-pair whenever he felt that he wanted me to put a little more weight. It was with the greatest difficulty that he could persuade me to take so many of the medicines that he thought I should take and that I thought I ought not to take. Well, there it is. I have merely given you a skeleton of my views about the profession, but perhaps you will better understand my views when I tell you that I belong to that noble, growing, but the still small school of thought which believes more in prevention than in cure, which believes in Nature doing things for herself even for suffering humanity if we would but let Nature take her course. I believe in that school of thought who considers that the less interference there is on the part of doctors, on the part of physicians and surgeons, the better it is for humanity and its morals. I belong to that school of thought among medical men who are fast coming to the conclusion that it is not their duty merely to subserve the needs of the body, but it is their bounden religious duty to consider the resident within that body, which is after all imperishable. And I belong to that school of thought among medical men who consider that they will do nothing in connection with that body if whatever they do is going to impair, in the slightest degree, the soul, the spirit within. And it grieves me so often when I find some of my best medical friends and you will accept my word but I assure you that it grieves me when they discuss with me the question whether there is such a thing as soul and when they tell me that, if there was a soul, it would not escape their deadly knife. Little do they know that the soul survives the knife and that the soul is not to be found by any probing of knife, however deep it may be? Therefore, it was with the greatest hesitation that I have approached this function.
I wonder whether it is a real sign of civilization when the number of hospitals in a particular place is larger than in another place. I wonder whether it is really a test of growth to find in the catalogues and in the directories of medical men that every year their sales are increasing by leaps and bounds and that the inmates in the hospitals and dispensaries are increasing. I really wonder whether it is a sign of real progress. However, I know that there is the other side of it. I don't want to labour only on one side of this question. But, in all humility I have placed [these] for consideration of those who are put in charge of the management of this great institution. I have hitherto confined my remarks to medicine and surgery in general, but when I come to the Ayurvedic and the Unani system, I am filled with greater doubts. You may not know that, even from my boyhood. I have come in contact with many physicians, some of them known to be distinguished in their own localities. There was a time when I used to swear by the Ayurvedic medicine and used to commend it to all my friends, who went in for Western medicine, to go to these Ayurvedic physicians. But I feel sorry to have to own to you that I was undeceived and I found that our Ayurvedic and Unani physician lack sanity. They lack the humility. Instead of that I found in them arrogance that they knew everything that there was no disease which they could not cure. I found that they believed that the mere feeling of the pulse could enable them to understand whether the patient was suffering from appendicitis or same such other disease. When I found that their diagnosis was false, that it was incomplete in most cases, I felt that it was nothing short of humbug. When I turned to the advertisements of medicines—I shall not say from Kavirajas but Unani Hakims and Vaidyarajas, I felt humiliated I felt a sense of shame coming over me these advertisements which pander to the basest passion of humanity disfigure our newspapers and magazines. I have handled magazines devoted to the education of ladies. I have seen magazines devoted to the education and information of young men, and I have found these advertisements alluring, no doubt, profitable, no doubt, to those who advertise these nauseating things. I felt that they are cutting deep into the vitals of the suffering humanity.
Therefore, whilst I am going to perform this ceremony of laying the foundation stone of this noble institution and whilst I do so with a prayerful heart and wish it all success, I want the organizers to note my limitations, to understand the note of warning that I have uttered to those who are called upon to devote their wealth to this institution. I utter an all humility this note of warning. May this institution be of use to the real suffers. May this institution take care not merely of the need of the body but of the imperishable soul that resides in that body? May it never be said of this institution that it panders to the basest taste of humanity, that it panders to the basest taste of the youths of Bengal and I know the youths of Bengal. I know how their fair life is being sapped by the medicines that are poured down their throats by physicians who, in the words of the Lord Justice Stephen, “introduce drugs of which they know little into the bodies of which they know less”.1 And so I plead, as I pleaded in Madras at a similar function, for sanity, for humility, for truthfulness, for fear of God among those who are the present organizers of the institution and those who follow. With these words I shall have much pleasure as soon as you give me room to go to the place where I have to lay the foundation and I shall have equal pleasure in praying for the success of this institution.”3
Most people’s prakriti is made up of a combination of two doshas. For example, people who are “Pitta Kapha” will have the tendencies of both Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha, with Pitta dominating. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I gladly comply with the request, the more so as it enables me to express my views about Ayurvedic medicine. I must say at the outset that I was reluctant to perform the ceremony referred to as I was reluctant even to perform the ceremony of opening the Tibbia College by reason of the views I hold on Medicine in general as expressed in my booklet Indian Home Rule. Seventeen years’ observation has made no material change in them. If I rewrote the book, it is just possible that I should state the views in a different language. But I could no more resist the organizers of my tour than I could a bosom friend like Hakim Saheb. But I told them that my speech might prove embarrassing. Had I been absolutely hostile to the movement, I should, of course, have declined the honour at any cost. But I could reconcile myself to the performance subject to the conditions I named at the meeting. I hope that the college of which I laid the foundation and to which I understand the founder, himself a Kaviraj, had devoted a princely sum, will contribute to the alleviation of real suffering and make discoveries and researches in Ayurveda that will enable the poorest in the land to know and use the simple indigenous drugs and teach people to learn the laws of preventing disease rather than curing them.
My quarrel with the medical profession in general is that it ignores the soul altogether and strains at nothing in seeking merely to repair such a fragile instrument as the body. Thus ignoring the soul, the profession puts men at its mercy and contributes to the diminution of human dignity and self-control. I note with thankfulness that in the West a school of thought is rising slowly but surely which takes count of the soul in trying to repair a diseased body and which, therefore, relies less on drugs and more on nature as a powerful healing agent. My quarrel with the professors of Ayurvedic system is that many of them, if not indeed a vast majority of them, are mere quacks pretending to know much more than they actually do, arrogating to themselves infallibility and ability to cure all diseases. These gentlemen have no humility in them. They will not study the Ayurvedic system and wrest from it the secrets which appear at present to be completely hidden from the world. They impute to Ayurveda an omnipotence which it does not possess, and in so doing they have made it a stagnant system instead of a gloriously progressive science. I know of not a single discovery or invention of any importance on the part of Ayurvedic physicians as against a brilliant array of discoveries and inventions which Western physicians and surgeons boast. In fact, Ayurvedic physicians’ diagnosis, as a rule, consists in feeling the pulse which, I have known many to claim, enables them to know even whether the patient is suffering from appendicitis. Whether the science of the pulse ever enabled ancient physicians to diagnose every known disease no one can tell. But it is certain that the claim cannot be sustained at the present moment. The only thing Ayurvedic physicians can safely claim is knowledge of some vegetable and metallic drugs of great potency which some of them succeed in administering for disease they only guess and, therefore, often with much harm to their poor patients. The advertisements of medicine that excite animal passions add immorality to incapacity and make those who resort to these practices a real danger to society.
I know of no association of Ayurvedic physicians that protests against or endeavours to check this ceaseless flow of immorality which is sapping Indian manhood and making of many old men monsters living merely to satisfy their lust. Indeed, I have known such physicians enjoying a status of respectability in medical society. Whenever, therefore, I get an opportunity I seize it to drive the truth home to the physicians Ayurvedic and Unani and plead for truth, humility and patient research. I am a lover of all that is ancient and noble. I believe that there was a time when Ayurvedic and Unani medicine served a noble purpose and was progressive. There was a time when I actively helped these physicians and believed in them. But experience has undeceived me. I have been grieved to find arrogance and ignorance among many such physicians. It hurts me to find a noble profession being prostituted for making money. I have written this not to condemn individuals. I have merely reduced to writing the impression that has been left on my mind by a long course of
observation of the practice of Ayurvedic physicians. It is no answer to say, as has been said, that Ayurvedic physicians have copied the evils I
have named from their Western brethren. A wise man copies not what is bad but that which is good. Let our Kavirajas, Vaidyas and Hakims apply to their calling a scientific spirit that Western physicians show, let them copy the latter’s humility, let them reduce themselves to poverty in investigating the indigenous drugs and let them frankly acknowledge and assimilate that part of Western medicine which they at present do not possess. Let them shun the irreligion of the Western scientists, which, in order to heal the body and in the name of science, subjects the lower animal kingdom to the hideous tortures which pass muster under the name of vivisection. Some will retort that there is warrant for vivisection in Ayurveda. If there is, I am sorry. No warrant even in the four Vedas can sanctify sacrilege.”4
According to Ayurveda, each person will be influenced by certain elements more than others. This is because of their prakriti, or natural constitution. Ayurveda categorizes the different constitutions into three different doshas: Vata dosha, in which the air and space elements dominate; Pitta dosha, in which the fire element dominates; Kapha dosha, in which the earth and water elements dominate. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I am sorry to have caused so much hurt to them. But I cannot plead guilty. I have not criticized Ayurveda. I have criticized those who have professed to follow it. I have not criticized all of them, but I have criticized the large number who make the pretensions I have accused them of. There is no contradiction between my endorsement of proposition to promote research in the indigenous drugs and plants and my condemnation of the method adopted by some to these physicians, even as there is none between my laying the foundation of the Ayurvedic College in Calcutta and my warning to the kavirajas. It is open to the vaidyas of Poona to reject the criticism offered in a friendly spirit. I shall be sorry for the decision, but the rejection will not alter my opinion which is based on experience. I have chapter and verse for every statement I have made. I do like everything that is ancient and noble, but I utterly dislike a parody of it. And I must respectfully refuse to believe that ancient books are the last word on the matters treated in them. As a wise heir to the ancients, I am desirous of adding to and enriching the legacy inherited by us. Let me inform the Protestants that some kavirajas have welcomed my criticism, which has set them thinking. Needless to say that it was not directed against those who are carrying on scientific research in a spirit of humility and without counting the cost. Only, they are too few to be counted. I plead for an appreciable increase.”5
Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “Owing to my sudden illness, I have not been able to reply earlier to your letter of the 17th ultimo. The remarks quoted by you and ascribed to me in the Minority Report, which of course I have not seen, are substantially correct but they have been torn from their context. In the speech, the report of which I have not read, from which I suppose the remarks quoted by you have been taken, I was drawing a distinction between Ayurveda and Ayurvedic physicians of today and I do hold the opinion that they do not do justice to the profession they seek to represent. But these remarks should not be used in support of any proposition designed to prevent Government’s assistance being given for Ayurveda research. I believe that Ayurveda is a field for much research work. For want of research scholars, unlike Western medicine, it has practically come to a standstill.
Therefore, I should not discountenance aid being given to Ayurveda research under given circumstances and to honest and industrious men who love research work and who have the necessary qualifications. I should add that the remarks attributed to me were made at the ceremony of laying the foundation of an Ayurvedic College. Had I been averse to any aid being given to Ayurvedic work, I should certainly have declined to lay the foundation of an Ayurvedic College at Calcutta, to open the Tibbia College in Delhi and very recently, to open an Ayurvedic Hospital at Ahmednagar.”6
The dosha affects not just the shape of one’s body but also bodily tendencies and the temperament of one’s mind and emotions. For example, the earth element in people with Kapha dosha is evident in their solid, sturdy body type, their tendency for slower digestion, their strong memory, and their emotional steadiness. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “My own desire has been and is now also to find Ayurveda practice successful, if only because I am probably fanatically vegetarian and because I have a horror of Allopathic for many reasons I need not go into. Even for simple home treatment, having studied something of both Ayurvedic and Allopathic drugs, I have been obliged to use Allopathic drugs instead of Ayurvedic. For instance, I have found nothing as efficacious as quinine for malaria or iodine for simple pains or Condy’s fluid as a disinfectant. I must not, however, worry you with my own experience. If it is not troublesome, will you kindly illustrate in what way Ayurveda aims at purifying the whole system rather than affording only temporary relief? As time permits me, I shall go through the pamphlets you have kindly sent me. I shall also await the views from the friends to whom you have shown my letter. You will please write to me if you do not receive the relevant texts from Pandit Satavalekar.”7
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of natural and holistic medicine. When translated from Sanskrit, Ayurveda means the science of life. While allopathic medicine tends to focus on the management of disease, Ayurveda bestows us with the knowledge of how to prevent disease and how to eliminate its root cause if it does occur. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I had now been trying hydropathy which gave some relief, but it was a hard job to build up the body. The many medical advisers overwhelmed me with advice, but I could not persuade myself to take anything. Two or three suggested meat broth as a way out of the milk vow, and cited authorities from Ayurveda in support of their advice. One of them strongly recommended eggs. But for all of them I had but one answers no.”8
By understanding the qualities of our natural constitution we are better able to do what is needed to make balance of it in our body. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “Books on Ayurveda describe the properties of innumerable herbs and plants. We may read those descriptions for guidance. But the knowledge so gained will be useless, may even be burdensome, if the properties attributed to those herbs and plants do not pass the test of actual experience. We have to seek solutions to the many difficult problems of life in exactly the same manner. If you still wish to ask me any questions on this subject, please do.”9
In Ayurveda, if we are experiencing disease, it means there is an imbalance in our doshas; bringing our system back into balance is the key to the cure. Ayurveda has an effective tool for the diagnosis of disease called nadi pareeksha. By placing their finger on your wrist, an Ayurvedic doctor can easily detect the imbalances in the body and prescribe an effective treatment. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “Five systems of treatment are current in India at present: (1) allopathy, (2) ayurveda, (3) unani, (4) homoeopathy and (5) nature cure.”10 Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I have been making extensive experiments in neem leaves and tamarind. Neem leaves have been taken with impunity by several. My difficulty has been to make them palatable. Taken in the form of chutney containing sufficient tamarind pulp and salt or lemon and salt, it is least objectionable. Some take two to three tolas of whole leaves with relish. I am unable to say definitely what effect the taking of leaves produces on the system. I have been tempting volunteers to try them because of the high merit attributed in Ayurveda to them and because of their decidedly good effect on Shri Bhansali1. Their common use would enable the poor people without extra cost to take the green leaves upon which modern diet experts lay much stress. That the use of the leaf produces no ill effect can be stated with perfect confidence.”11
Treatments usually come in one of two forms: Panchakarma and Herbal medicines to balance the body. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I think the prejudice against these two harmless vegetables is due to the odour which is the essence of them and it arose with the rise of Vaishnavism. Ayurveda sings the praise of both unstintingly. Garlic is called poor man’s musk and so it is. I do not know what villagers would do without garlic and onion.”12 Ayurvedic physicians seek to discover the roots of a disease before it gets so advanced that more radical treatments are necessary. Thus, Ayurveda seems to be limited in treating severely advanced conditions, traumatic injuries, acute pain, and conditions and injuries requiring invasive surgery. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “If you can politely get yourself released from the doctors and come here, I should like it. I believe that your intestines can be soothed by remedies like mud-packs and changes in diet. I have not much faith in ayurveda. The vaids do not master their subject. Some of the remedies are effective, but I have not observed what the vaids know, how they work and so on. This is only my guess-work. Do what satisfies you. I have only expressed my personal view. Anyhow you must get well. I would not let you spend a whole hour in the lavatory.”13 Ayurveda is a mind/body system of health that contains some ideas foreign to the Western scientific model. Those people considering Ayurveda should approach it with an open mind and willingness to experiment. Also, because Ayurveda is a whole-body system of healing and health, patience and discipline are helpful, as some conditions and diseases are believed to be brought on by years of bad health habits and require time and effort to correct. Finally, the Ayurvedic philosophy believes that each person has the ability to heal themselves, so those considering Ayurveda should be prepared to bring responsibility and participation into the treatment. An Ayurvedic practitioner should always be consulted.
Ayurveda supports health without disturbing the natural intelligence of the body; Ayurvedic treatments have no negative side effects. Because of this, people around the world are now turning to the ancient science of Ayurveda to help them regain and maintain optimal health. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I do have faith in Ayurveda but what can I do if the vaidyas lack competence? All the same I keep in touch with them and take what I can out of them. It is precious little, however.”14 Ayurveda places great importance on one’s Pathya, or lifestyle. Ayurveda also provides guidance on how to adjust our lifestyle based on the change of seasons. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “At present it is allopathy that commands enterprise, industry and knowledge. It is a developing science. It has many defects. Its pharmacopoeia is vast and yet very restricted. But it is systematic and so can draw upon whatever is special in Ayurveda. However, it is worth reflecting upon that if Ayurveda were to take what is special in allopathy the latter would be left with nothing but a few drugs.”15
According to the original texts, the goal of Ayurveda is prevention as well as promotion of the body's own capacity for maintenance and balance. Ayurvedic treatment is non-invasive and non-toxic, so it can be used safely as an alternative therapy or along-side conventional therapies. Ayurvedic physicians claim that their methods can also help stress-related, metabolic, and chronic conditions. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I have already told you that Ayurveda cannot be saved either by money or by State help. Would the State be able to revive Ayurveda even if it gave thousands of rupees every month to the purveyors of indigenous tonics? Hundreds of people have laid down their lives to spread allopathy. Allopathy by itself is not expensive but the doctors and the chemists have made it so. You have not seen their books giving the formula and cost of each important medicine. The cost price of Bayer’s Sarsaparilla is one and a half pice but its market price today is ten rupees. The same is true of the doctors’ fees. Ayurvedacharya Gananath Sen charges one thousand rupees for a day when he goes out of station. Without yajna there can be no achievement. Yajna implies ceaseless intelligent labour to the extent that it makes a person sweat and all that, again, dedicated to the Lord. Ayurveda has not yet become a science. In a science there is always scope for progress. Where is any progress here? Come when you feel like it.”16
To understand Ayurvedic treatment, it is necessary to have an idea how the Ayurvedic system views the body. The basic life force in the body is prana, which is also found in the elements and is similar to the Chinese notion of chi As Swami Vishnudevananda, a yogi and expert, put it, Prana is in the air, but is not the oxygen, nor any of its chemical constituents. It is in food, water, and in the sunlight, yet it is not vitamin, heat, or light-rays. Food, water, air, etc., are only the media through which the prana is carried. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I am still keen on getting well with the help of Ayurveda or my own methods of treatment. Let us see what I decide to do. Instead of sending another vaidya it would be better if you yourself come over whenever you can.”17
The kapha dosha is associated with water and earth. People characterized as kapha are generally large or heavy with more oily complexions. They tend to be slow, calm, and peaceful. Kapha disorders manifest emotionally as greed and possessiveness, and physically as obesity, fatigue, bronchitis, and sinus problems. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I shall speak only at the time of opening the prayer at 7.30. My sin in playing with Ayurveda has laid me low. Now I am weak because according to the law of natural science I am throwing off the poison. Don’t you be anxious for me?”18 Ayurvedic medicine also emphasizes how people live their lives from day to day, believing that proper lifestyles and routines accentuate balance, rest, diet, and prevention. Ayurveda recommends yoga as a form of exercise to build strength and health, and also advises massage therapy and self-massage as ways of increasing circulation and reducing stress. Yogic breathing techniques and meditation are also part of a healthy Ayurvedic regimen, to reduce stress and improve mental energy. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “You should not worry. I have fallen ill through my own sins. I indulged a little too much in Ayurveda and am paying the price. Now I am bed-ridden because according to the law of nature I am throwing off the poison. I am all right. Get well soon.”19
Ayurvedic medicine is a system of healing that originated in ancient India. In Sanskrit, ayur means life or living, and Veda means knowledge, so Ayurveda has been defined as the "knowledge of living" or the "science of longevity Ayurvedic medicine is widely practiced in modern India and has been steadily gaining followers in the West. “I have read your telegrams. I like them. I fell ill owing to my own folly. Now I am taking only the nature-cure treatment which I know. I am throwing off the poison of Ayurveda.”20 Ayurvedic medicine originated in the early civilizations of India some 3,000-5,000 years ago. It is mentioned in the Vedas, the ancient religious and philosophical texts that are the oldest surviving literature in the world, which makes Ayurvedic medicine the oldest surviving healing system. According to the texts, Ayurveda was conceived by enlightened wise men as a system of living harmoniously and maintaining the body so that mental and spiritual awareness could be possible. Medical historians believe that Ayurvedic ideas were transported from ancient India to China and were instrumental in the development of Chinese medicine. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I have not got myself involved in Ayurveda in an unscientific way. Such as it is all we have. It would therefore be well if we could take Ayurveda to the villages. I had faith in Pandit Shiv Sharma and I took this treatment. There was no other way of knowing his limitations. Having realized his limitations, I felt I should retrace my steps from the point where I had erred. So I took recourse to my naturopathy. There is very little room for going wrong in naturopathy. Every day I only gain something. If you come here and see it for yourself all your fears will be dispelled. I am feeling very much better indeed. As for the hook-worm and amoeba I have told the doctors that I will take their treatment. I shall be in a better position to think about it after I get rid of whatever little weakness I still feel.”21 During Ayurvedic detoxification programs, some people report fatigue, muscle soreness, and general sickness. Also, as Ayurveda seeks to release mental stresses and psychological problems from the patient, some people can experience mental disturbances and depression during treatment and psychological counseling may be part of a sound program.
In Ayurveda, there are five basic elements that contain prana: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These elements interact and are further organized in the human body as three main categories or basic physiological principles in the body that govern all bodily functions known as the doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each person has a unique blend of the three doshas, known as the person's prakriti, which is why Ayurvedic treatment is always individualized. In Ayurveda, disease is viewed as a state of imbalance in one or more of a person's doshas, and an Ayurvedic physician strives to adjust and balance them, using a variety of techniques. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “I read your letter to Khurshedbehn. Let me tell you that I cannot lose faith in you or Ayurveda because of banafsha or the baramula preparation. Ayurveda for me has a value independently of everything. I am in search of a true practitioner of Ayurveda. You are one of those few but your field is among rich people. I have to see how far I can persuade you to go to the villages.”22
In Ayurvedic medicine, disease is always seen as an imbalance in the dosha system, so the diagnostic process strives to determine which doshas are underactive or overactive in a body. Diagnosis is often taken over a course of days in order for the Ayurvedic physician to most accurately determine what parts of the body are being affected. To diagnose problems, Ayurvedic physicians often use long questionnaires and interviews to determine a person's dosha patterns and physical and psychological histories. Ayurvedic physicians also intricately observe the pulse, tongue, face, lips, eyes, and fingernails for abnormalities or patterns that they believe can indicate deeper problems in the internal systems. Some Ayurvedic physicians also use laboratory tests to assist in diagnosis. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “The Medical Board has not been lax; it has to do work that is vast in scope. Besides, they are contemplating a co-ordination of the various systems of medicine; so the matter it seems will take some time. Let me also add that although I have a great regard for Ayurveda my experience with those practicing it has not been very good. But, at the moment this is beside the point. We shall discuss this further when you can find time to come over.”23
Pitta is associated with fire and water. In the body, it is responsible for metabolism and digestion. Pitta characteristics are medium-built bodies, fair skin, strong digestion, and good mental concentration. Pitta imbalances show up as anger and aggression and stress-related conditions like gastritis, ulcers, liver problems, and hypertension. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “Ayurveda has not been making progress. No doubt, much of the therapy that it offers is sound, and it certainly is cheap. The sovereign therapy is of course nature cure, since it includes Ramanama, the unfailing remedy.”24 Because Ayurveda had been outside the Western scientific system for years, research in the United States is new. Another difficulty in documentation arises because Ayurvedic treatment is very individualized; two people with the same disease but different dosha patterns might be treated differently. Much more scientific research has been conducted over the past several decades in India. Much research in the United States is being supported by the Maharishi Ayurveda organization, which studies the Ayurvedic products it sells and its clinical practices.
Ayurvedic treatment seeks to re-establish balance and harmony in the body's systems. Usually the first method of treatment involves some sort of detoxification and cleansing of the body, in the belief that accumulated toxins must be removed before any other methods of treatment will be effective. Methods of detoxification include therapeutic vomiting, laxatives, medicated enemas, fasting, and cleansing of the sinuses. Many Ayurvedic clinics combine all of these cleansing methods into intensive sessions known as panchakarma. It can take several days or even weeks and they are more than elimination therapies. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “Cure through Ayurveda is based on the five elements Pathya (diet cure) is a scientific term of the greatest importance in Ayurveda. Its real meaning is that freedom from disease depends on a proper observance of the laws of nature. I have no doubt whatsoever that the repetition of Ramanama and pure living are the best and the cheapest preventives of disease. The tragedy is that doctors, hakims and vaidyas do not make use of Ramanama as the sovereign of cures. There is no place given to it in current Ayurvedic literature except in the shape of a charm which will drive people further into the well of superstition. Ramanama has in fact no connection with superstition. It is nature’s supreme law. Whoever observes it is free from disease and vice versa. The same law which keeps one free from disease applies also to its cure. An apt question is as to why a man who recites Ramanama regularly and leads a pure life should ever fall ill. Man is by nature imperfect. A thoughtful man strives after perfection, but seldom attains it, for he stumbles on the way, though unwittingly. The whole of God’s law is embodied in a pure life. The first thing is to realize one’s limitations. It should be obvious that the moment one transgresses those limits one falls ill. Thus a balanced diet eaten in accordance with needs gives one freedom from disease. How one to know what is is the proper diet for one? Many such problems can be imagined. The purport of all this is that everyone should be his own doctor and find out his limitations. The man who does so will surely live up to the age of 125.
Vaidya Vallabhram asks whether well-known home drugs and condiments can be included in nature cure. Doctor friends claim that they do nothing more than investigate the laws and act accordingly and that therefore they are the best nature-cure men. Everything can be explained away in this manner. All I want to say is that anything more than Ramanama is really contrary to true nature cure. The more one recedes from this central principle the farther away one goes from nature cure. Following this line of thought I limit nature cure to the use of the five elements. But a vaidya who goes beyond this and uses such herbs as grow or can be grown in his neighborhood purely for service of the sick and not for money may claim to be a nature-cure man. But where are such vaidyas to be found? Today most of them are engaged in making money. They do no research work and it is because of their greed and mental laziness that the science of Ayurveda is at low ebb. Instead of admitting their own weakness they throw the blame on Government and public men. Government is powerless to help those who through their own fault become helpless and thereby drag the name of Ayurveda in the mud.”25 Other studies have shown that Ayurvedic therapies can significantly lower cholesterol and blood pressure in stress-related problems. Diabetes, acne, and allergies have also been successfully treated with Ayurvedic remedies. Ayurvedic products have been shown to increase short-term memory and reduce headaches. Also, Ayurvedic remedies have been used successfully to support the healing process of patients undergoing chemotherapy, as these remedies have been demonstrated to increase immune system activity.
Today, Ayurvedic medicine is used by 80% of the population in India. Aided by the efforts of Deepak Chopra and the Maharishi, it has become an increasingly accepted alternative medical treatment in America during the last two decades. Chopra is an M.D. who has written several bestsellers based on Ayurvedic ideas. He also helped develop the Center for Mind/Body Medicine in La Jolla, California, a major Ayurvedic center that trains physicians in Ayurvedic principles, produces herbal remedies, and conducts research and documentation of its healing techniques. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “The vaidyas do not possess the knowledge of the human body as the doctors do. The basis of diagnosis in Ayurveda is the theory of tridosh. They have not got to the bottom even of that. The doctors are ever carrying on research and making new discoveries. One either goes forward or backward. Nothing remains static in the world. Those who become static, become lifeless. God alone is static, but amazing as it may sound, He is described both as motionless and full of motion.”26
The vata dosha is associated with air and ether, and in the body promotes movement and lightness. Vata people are generally thin and light physically, dry kinned, and very energetic and mentally restless. When vata is out of balance, there are often nervous problems, hyperactivity, sleeplessness, lower back pains, and headaches. Mahatma Gandhi described his experiment on Ayurveda, “Today I wish to tell you about the Tibbia College. Both Hindu and Muslim students joined it for studying Ayurveda which was taught there. Later, courses in Yunani, allopathy and homoeopathy were added. Hakim Ajmalkhan was the founder of the college. He was a popular leader of Delhi. Today we have made ourselves enemies of Muslims. It was not so when we thought of starting this college where everyone irrespective of communal considerations could study medicine. All contributed freely. Among the donors were Hindu Rajas and Muslim Nawabs. The late Dr. Ansari worked hard to make the scheme a success. It was under the management of a Trust which had on its board Hindus and Muslims. Today some Hindu friends came to me and asked what would happen to the college now. They said it was difficult to continue it under the present circumstances. Funds had ceased to come. It would be a matter of grief and shame if such a large institution had to close down. I am trying my best to avoid this calamity. The college is situated in Karol Bagh. But Muslim boys fear to go anywhere near it. We have driven out Muslims from Panipat. It is still a moot question where they will be able to live. It is a matter of shame for us. It seems that we are doing our best to ruin ourselves. For, when we try to ruin others we ruin ourselves. This is the rule of life.”27 Of all treatments, though, diet is one of the most basic and widely used therapies in the Ayurvedic system. An Ayurvedic diet can be a very well planned and individualized regimen. According to Ayurveda, there are six basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Certain tastes and foods can either calm or aggravate a particular dosha. For instance, sweet, sour, and salty decrease vata problems and increase kapha. Sour, salty, and pungent can increase pitta. After an Ayurvedic physician determines a person's dosha profile, they will recommend a specific diet to correct imbalances and increase health. The Ayurvedic diet emphasizes primarily vegetarian foods of high quality and freshness, tailored to the season and time of day. Cooling foods are eaten in the summer and heating ones in the winter, always within a person's dosha requirements. In daily routine, the heaviest meal of the day should be lunch, and dinner should eat well before bedtime, to allow for complete digestion. Also, eating meals in a calm manner with proper chewing and state of mind is important, as is combining foods properly and avoiding overeating.