Like all ancient healing systems Ayurveda has a philosophical basis. It is based on the six philosophies of life, which were developed by the ancient sages in the Indian Subcontinent. Many of the scriptures they left behind, known as Vedas, are timeless. The recorded Vedas, Rigveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda and Samaveda, are the most ancient writings of humanity.
The Vedic philosophy consists of a high spiritual knowledge that was revealed by the rishis. They were revelations to the sages who meditated apart from the material world, not human creations. This oral tradition was passed on to the students, from generation to generation. There was no writing then, and the rishis considered that the mantras had little power if written but great power if recited, and therefore they kept the knowledge in their mind. Later on they wrote down this knowledge; however, in order to understand well the hidden meaning of these words correctly, we need a guide, a teacher.
Of the six philosophies on which Ayurveda is based, three of them try to explain and understand the material world, the creation of the world is very important to them. Logical reasoning and understanding the cause-effect of experiences are the goal of the Nyaya philosophy. Vaisheshika is more a philosophy centered on creation as a physical model. Samkhya philosophy focuses more on consciousness as the creator.
The other three philosophies look at the inner reality to understand the outer one. They are pure philosophy and do not care so much about the outside world.
All six lead us to knowledge and personal self-realization, moving away from suffering, as does Buddhism.
Samkhya and Nyaya: the universe and how we are connected
According to Ayurveda, the source of all existence is the universal cosmic consciousness, which manifests itself in two aspects called masculine and feminine.
Purusha, normally associated with male energy, is unmanifest, passive, formless, beyond cause and effect, beyond attributes, space and time, pure consciousness. It is not an active part of creation, but a silent witness.
Prakruti is the feminine energy, it is action, creative force, the cause of form, manifestation, attributes and nature. It is the dance of creation.
Both are present in all living beings and also in inanimate objects, and the creation of the universe is their union.
In the manifestation of Prakruti’s nature, the first expression is Mahat, intelligence or cosmic order. Then it is Ahmakar or ego, the center of our consciousness from which we act, think and react. Ahmakar expresses himself in three universal qualities:
- Sattva: stability, purity, awakened mind, clarity, light.
- Rajas: dynamism, due to sensations and emotions.
- Tamas: tendency to inertia, darkness, ignorance and heaviness.
These three qualities are fundamental to understanding the mind within Ayurveda.
Vaisheshika: the five elements, building nature
Closely related to the Nyaya philosophy, it has an atomic vision of the world, which is organized in nine drayvas or substances: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether, Time, Space, Atman and Mind.
The concept of the five elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) is one of the most fundamental in the Science of Ayurveda .
These exist in all nature, both organic and inorganic. Our psychological tendencies, as well as our five senses and the different aspects of our functioning are directly related to them.
As said before, in the human body we find the five elements, for example, in a cell its membrane is the earth element, the vacuoles are space, the cytoplasm the water element, the nucleic acid and other chemical elements are fire, and the movement of the cell is due to the air element.
Mimamsa focuses on the first part of the Vedas, i.e. on the samhitas and brahmanas; it analyzes the nature of the external world, the soul, the valid means of knowledge, the importance of the Vedas, etc. All these studies are preliminary and are oriented towards the main objective towards developing a set of principles for interpreting the Vedic texts and thus correctly performing the different ritual sacrifices prescribed in the Vedas, especially in the brahmanas (book of rituals).
Mimamsa says that the supreme goal of human life is something higher and it consists of fulfilling the ultimate purpose of each person, which is known through the dharma, that takes the form of ritual actions. The individual being is eternal, but is conditioned by added elements such as the physical body, sensory organs and the world. To achieve mokṣa (union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness) the virtues of detachment and faith are necessary.
The term Vedanta means “end of the Vedas”. In fact, the Upanishads are also known by this name since they are the last series of writings that constitute the Vedas. The Brahma-Sutra (an ordered compilation of the essence of the Upanishads, sometimes very extensive) together with the Upanishads themselves and the Bhagavad Gita, constitute the basic texts of this school. Advaita Vedanta mantains that the universe is not real and that only Brahman exists. The renunciation, the abandonment of all attachments, is the only thing that can lead us to the knowledge of the Absolute. We can end up stating that this is a philosophy oriented towards intellectual knowledge, this philosophy manifests that we are one with God and we simply have to awake to this realization. If we keep our minds open and free from prejudices and preconceived ideas, research will lead us to true knowledge.
Later on, Ayurveda incorporated Buddhism. The essence of these teachings is based on the four noble truths:
1-The truth of the existence of suffering
2-The truth that suffering has a cause
3-The truth that this suffering can be stopped
4-The truth of the path by the cessation of suffering
Buddha was born around the 6th-7th century BC, and shows us the way to the cessation of suffering. He never spoke of a God, he felt God as pure presence, pure existence. Buddhist philosophy encourages us to enter into this pure existence and empty our minds of its content, thus we will dissolve the boundaries of our mind.