Ayurveda - Knowledge of Veda for Prevention and Cure

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Yoga and Ayurveda: A Complete System of Well-being

Yoga and Ayurveda are two interrelated branches of the same great tree of Vedic knowledge that encompasses all of human life and the entire universe. In this regard, it is important to understand the respective roles of Ayurveda and Yoga in the Vedic system. Yoga and Ayurveda are not merely two separate but related healing disciplines of India. Each has its unique place and function, but each overlaps into the other on various levels.

Vedic knowledge is the ancient mantric science of the seers and yogis of India designed to show us the inner workings of the universe and of our own consciousness, leading us ultimately to the state of Self-realization and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. To this end, it has given us not only spiritual disciplines but has touched all aspects of healing, science, art and culture.

Ayurveda is one of the four Upavedas or secondary Vedic teachings, along with Gandharva Veda (music), Sthapatya Veda (directional science), and Dhanur Veda (martial arts). These Upavedas apply Vedic knowledge along specific lines to supplement the Vedic quest for wholeness and liberation. Ayurveda is probably the most important of these because it addresses all aspects of healing and well-being for body and mind.

Yoga – particularly in its formation through the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – is one of the six systems of Vedic philosophy (shad darshanas). These are the systems of Indian philosophy that accept the authority of the Vedas and try to systematize the meaning of the Vedic teachings. The other Vedic systems include Nyaya (Logic), Vaisheshika (Categorization), Samkhya (Enumeration of Cosmic Principles), Purva Mimamsa (Ritual) and Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta or Metaphysics). Yoga to some extent pervades all the six systems and represents their practical side, outlining the prime principles and methods for developing the meditative mind that is the basis of all Vedic knowledge.

In this classical Vedic scheme, Ayurveda is the Vedic system developed specifically for healing purposes. There is no other Vedic system of healing apart from Ayurveda. Yoga is the Vedic system of spiritual practice or sadhana. All Vedic sadhana or spiritual practice involves some form of Yoga practice.

This means that Yoga is not originally or inherently a medical system. It does not address either physical or psychological disease or their treatment in a primary manner. Yoga aims at relieving spiritual suffering, which it defines according to the kleshas or spiritual afflictions starting with ignorance (avidyà) of our true nature as pure consciousness, which leads us to a false identification of ourselves with our transient bodies and minds.

Yoga is an inner spiritual practice, what is called Sadhana in Sanskrit. This does not mean that we cannot use aspects of Yoga medically, but that this is not its primary intent or orientation. To do so would require applying Yoga in a different manner than what it was originally meant to be.

If our aim is to turn Yoga into a medical system, in the Vedic scheme this requires turning Yoga in the direction of Ayurveda. Yoga for healing should be applied according to Ayurvedic guidelines of diagnosis, treatment and health maintenance if we want to keep yogic healing within the scope of Vedic knowledge. In fact, there was never any yogic system of medicine in India apart from Ayurveda historically, not only among the followers of the Vedic tradition but also among the followers of non-Vedic traditions. Even Buddhist medicine in India and Tibet has been primarily Ayurveda.