Conceptual Understanding
Conceptual Understanding
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Ayurvedic Nutrition


The concept of panchamahabhuthaas.


Whole of ayurveda is based on the Pancha mahabhootha sidhantha and the understanding about doshas also comes from the panchamahabhootha sidhantha. The panchamahabhoothas or five Basic eliments in the universe are


Akasha ( space occupied).


Vayu ( air )


Teja ( agni )


Jala ( water )


Prithvi ( earth )


One has to understand Indian philosophy to understand the panchamahabhoothas in its original sense. Concept of panchamahabhutas is extremely sophisticated and complete and we can understand everything in the universe with this concept. It is incorrect to understand water (H2O) as jalamahabhutha. Water is made up of all 5 mahabhuthas (as any other substance in the universe is made of) but has a dominance of jalamahabhutha.


Just a crude example to explain the concept of panchamahabhutha


When we refrigerate the same water and make it into an ice, then it is dominant with Prithvi mahabhutha, when we heat up the water on fire, it becomes hotwater ( ushna) by which we can understand that the agnimahabhutha has increased, when we heat it up further, the water evaporates as vapour by the dominance of vayumahabhuta.


Thus when we compare the western understanding with ayurveda, the chemical composition of water will be H2o irrespective of anything they try to understand water from H2o prospective but the cold water with dominance of jalamahobhutha can be used to reduce the ushna, and the hot water with ushna property can be used to reduce the sheetha and so on.


Prithvi and Jala Mahabhutha together forms the Kaphadosha


Agni with Jala Mahabhutha forms the Pitha Dosha


Vayu and Akasha Mahabhutha forms the Vathadosha


These vatha, pitha and kapha doshas are understood by the properties which are exhibited by the combination of Mahabhuthas as we understand any substance in the universe. These doshas are the functional representation of the panchamahabhuthas. These three doshas help in easy understanding of the physical plane of a human and so the 5 mahabhuthas are re categorized into 3 doshas. Similarly the panchamahabhuthas are re categorized as Satva, rajas and Tamas for easy understanding of the mental plane.


These doshas in its state of equilibrium is understood as health and the disequilibrium is understood as disease thus no disease is possible without the derangement of doshas and ayurveda treatment is aimed at bringing back the doshas to equilibrium which is nothing but the healthy state of the individual.


Simple and logical understanding of the doshas


Doshas are basically understood by its properties. Example – Vata Dosha is understood is the presence of properties like laghu( lightness), Ruksha ( dry) ,Sheetha (cold) , Chala ( moving ), sukshma( subtle/formless) etc. Increase of these properties in the body will increase the vata dosha or we can appreciate the increase of these properties whenever there is an increase of vata dosha.So when we appreciate the increase of Sheetha and Ruksha gunas which is understood as vata, the treatment should be to reduce it which is achieved by providing the Ushna and Snighdha gunas to the body. The expansion of this knowledge to a bigger prospective is actually the treatment in ayurveda.


Treatments / Chikitsa


Generally Treatments are of two kinds, they are Shamana and Shodhana.


Shamana is a procedure where the imbalance of doshas is rectified by pacifying them and shodhana is a treatment where the imbalance is rectified by removing the excessive doshas and this is usually referred to as purificatory treatment or Panchakarma. Usually the term panchakarma is synonymously used for all ayurveda treatments which is not correct in all instances and this explanation below is an attempt to explain the complex concept in a simple way.


Human beings are nothing but the Panchamahobhuthas with Atma unlike a non living substance which is just panchamahabhutas. This human beings are born with a certain set of doshas which is usually called as prakriti doshas. Each human being is different because of the difference in the proportions of Vata Pitha and Kapha Doshas. These prakrithi dosha with which a human being is born, doesn’t change from birth till death. If the prakrithi doshas changes its proportion then it implies that a person is dead. The concept of all this is not very easy and that is the reason some times ayurveda vaidyas will hear some weird questions on this from few people who read some translated Ayurveda Books which in an intention explain ayurveda in a very simple way will mislead the readers.


One such common doubt will be “I have more air (Vata) in my constitution and so advice me some medicines/ treatments/ food to reduce it” In this regard. First thing is that, it is extremely difficult or nearly impossible even for an experienced vaidya to understand clearly about the proportions of Vata pitha kapha as prakriti because of various reasons( which will be understood little later). So practically it is impossible for anyone to know about their prakrithis just by reading ayurveda books for few years or so. As mentioned earlier a wish to reduce their prakrithi dosha is like a wish to die and so this point is also negated.


Though we have mentioned that the prakrithi dosha doesn’t change from birth till death, we notice that things are continuously changing in body every second because of which we feel hungry, feel tired, feel sleepy, have urgency to urinate, feel the pain in leg when we stand long and so on. And yes it is true there we have changes happening every second in our body and by now we should have understood that any change happening in our body because of doshas or nothing can happen without the influence of doshas. Here comes the contradiction, we told that the prakrithi dosha doesn’t change from birth till death and immediately state that each micro second there are continuous changes happening which is possible because of continuous change is doshas. Here we should understand that apart from the prakrithi doshas, there are another set of doshas that are continuosly changing in the human body every second which takes care of all the functioning of the body. A dynamic equilibrium with this set of continuously changing doshas called vikrithi dosha and the static prakrithi dosha is called as health. Because of this continuous change that is happening every micro second we cannot expect the prakrithi doshas to be exactly in tune with the vikrithi dosha at any given time. So when we say equilibrium between the prakrithi and the vikrithi dosha, we mean that the prakrithi and vikrithi doshas are near equilibrium and not in exact equilibrium. So when they are little more or little less, we do not feel it as a dis- ease but when they derange from their threshold limit, we feel it as a disease which needs to be addressed.


Thus the increased vikrithi doshas can be addressed by giving the opposite qualities by means of treatment. Example increased vata dosha which is Ruksha( dry ) and Sheeta ( cold ) dominant can be addressed by providing Snighdha( oleation) and Usha (Sudation) treatments. The expansion of this knowledge to a deeper level is ayurveda treatments. From this explation, it can be understood that all kinds of oil applications and sudation techniques like Sudation with leaf bundle (Elakkizhi ) , sudation with Rice bundle and Milk ( navarakizhi ) etc will fall under the Shamana / Palliative treatments but these treatments are usually misunderstood as PanchaKarma.