It is well-known that Ayurveda is a part of the cultural heritage of Kerala. In the days of yore, people of Kerala used to religiously follow Ayurveda procedures and practices to keep themselves healthy. I recall a time when we were young when our grandmother used to force on us a daily dose of a bitter concoction (Triphala powder mixed with beaten curd, I suspect) early in the morning to boost our immunity. My mother used to have a treasure of different types of Ayurvedic oils that she lavishly used on us to help prevent the attack from routine ailments. We seldom used to go to a general doctor at that time, except in case of a severe infection or for surgeries. By walking long distances and doing physical chores, we did not require any effort or time for a separate exercise to keep us healthy.Since most people those days followed a strict diet regimen and exercise we were hardly afflicted with any new lifestyle diseases like diabetes or stress. But,things seem a lot different now.
What we need to understand about Ayurveda is that this is a medical system that is based on the principles of balancing the different elements of nature(earth, space, water, fire and air) in our human body. This constant balancing is done by following daily and seasonal routines that helps to prevent attack from diseases.Unlike modern medicine, where emphasis is on the treatment of diseases, Ayurveda stresses on preventive health by smoothly blending good practices into our daily life. By regulating diet and following a healthy life (called Pathya in Ayurveda)we are able to constantly maintain the balance of forces within our body and also harmonize it with natural forces outside.
Ayurveda also emphasize that the mind has great influence on the body. Therefore, the state of mind of a person is important in getting rid of any bodily diseases. It is doubtful whether any medical system takes care of the ethical and spiritual dimensions of health like in Ayurveda. My understanding is that one need not be a believer, but noble thoughts and good deeds performed without attachment can elevate the human mind; this in turn relieves the body of all kinds of stress.
Though modern medicine has increased life span and quality of life, it can never be regarded as a panacea for all illnesses. When the medical community finds a cure for one dreaded disease, newer and more virulent ones arrive on the scene. This is the reason why modern medicine is now looking for integration of good practices from other systems. During these challenging times, it is aPathya based prevention and treatment system that Ayurveda can contribute to modern medicine. Whether it is a heart disease or cancer or dealing with pregnancy, child birth or care for a new mother, following the daily and seasonal regimen prescribed in Ayurveda can make the treatment under modern medicine more humane, nature-based, balanced and sustainable.
In a meeting I had with the late Ayurveda exponent, Raghavan Tirumulpad, I asked him about the secret of good life. He answered this in a single word – ‘Pathya’.‘Pathya’ is the key to integration of Ayurveda with modern medical system and not the mixing of medicines of the two systems, as is widely perceived.
——S. JALAJA, Former Secretary, AYUSH, Govt. of India.