Ayurveda in India
[This is copied from an article in the magazine Life Positive]
Ayurveda in India—the science of life, the origin of most forms of natural and alternative medicine—has its mention in one of the oldest (about 6,000 years) philosophical texts of the world, the Rig Veda. The Sutrasthana of Charaka Samhita, a much referred ayurvedic text, says; "The three—body, mind and soul—are like a tripod, the world stand by their combination; in them everything abides. It is the subject matter of ayurveda for which the teachings of ayurveda have been revealed." (1.46-47)
In its broader scope, ayurveda in India has always sought to prepare mankind for the realization of the full potential of its self through a psychosomatic integration. A comprehensive health care is what this natural and alternative medicine prescribes for the ultimate self-realization.
"Life (ayu) is the combination (samyoga) of body, senses, mind and reincarnating soul. Ayurveda is the most sacred science of life, beneficial to humans both in this world and the world beyond."
—Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 1.42-43.
The verses of Rig Veda, the earliest source of ayurveda, refer topanchamahabhut (five basic elements of the entire creation), and the three doshas or primary forces of prana or vata (air), agni or pitta(fire) and soma or kapha (water and earth) as comprising the basic principles of ayurveda. One branch of Indian philosophy—Sankhyastates that there are 24 elements, all of which constitute the foundation of the gross world: earth, water, fire, air and ether. These five elements in different combinations constitute the three body types/doshas—vata dosha (air and ether), pitta dosha (fire) andkapha dosha (earth and water). The panchamahabhut and the doshatheories are the guiding factors of ayurveda as a therapeutic science. The Rig Veda also mentions organ transplants and herbal remedies called soma with properties of elixir.
This science or knowledge of healing, as mentioned in the Rig Veda, was revealed to Rishi Bharadvaja from the great Cosmic Intelligence. The knowledge consists of three aspects known as the Tri-Sutras of ayurveda, which are—etiology or the science of the causes of disease, symptomatology or the study and interpretation of symptoms and medication and herbal remedies.
Approximately, during 4,000 to 3,000 BC, Sam Veda and Yajur Veda, the second and third Vedas came into being. Chanting of mantras and performance of rituals were, respectively, dealt in these two Vedas. And, during 3,000 to 2,000 BC Atharva the fourth Veda was authored, of which ayurveda is an upaveda (subsection). Though it had been practiced all along, it was around this time that ayurveda in India, was codified from the oral tradition to book form, as an independent science. It enlists eight branches/divisions of ayurveda: Kayachikitsa(Internal Medicine), Shalakya Tantra (surgery and treatment of head and neck, Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology), Shalya Tantra(Surgery), Agada Tantra (Toxicology), Bhuta Vidya (Psychiatry),Kaumarabhritya (Pediatrics), Rasayana (science of rejuvenation or anti-aging), and Vajikarana (the science of fertility). The oldest treatise available on this codified version is Atreya Samhita.