The science of Life, Ayurveda, incorporates detailed instructions on exactly how to live this life, on a day to day basis, so that this life is at its healthy best. These teachings are classified as positive behavior, or Sadachara, and social/moral/ethical hygiene and mental practices called Sadvritta.
In the world of Ayurveda, we are the creator of our own life. We get to carve out our body and mind, food by food and thought by thought. We get to make choices and we get to enjoy the happy and pleasurable consequences of those choices. Life’s script is in our hands and there is no need to stay fixed in the messages of powerlessness and helplessness that we are constantly bombarded with, every second of the day.
Today, many disease processes and auto immune disorders are being traced to negative thinking and stress in life. This is not a ‘modern’ realization, but as Ayurveda demonstrates, quite an ancient one. The ancient Vedic sages understood that ultimately, the quality and type of life we lead depends upon the quality or conditioning of our mind and what direction or path it chooses.
The sages also comprehended that behavior has to be changed first, before underlying mental states, such as feelings, can be addressed or negative emotions can be transformed into positive ones. Hence, the visionary Ayurvedic doctors composed a brilliant code of conduct called Achar Rasayana, which is really an exhaustive list of positive attributes, behaviors, actions, attitudes, and life rituals that any human can mindfully cultivate and reap the consequent benefit of a purified, transformed mind leading to a high vibration life experience.[i]
Thus, before Ayurveda prescribes the medicine, before it performs the surgery, before it teaches a method, before it employs an advanced emergency measure, first and foremost, Ayurveda teaches how to live your life consciously on a moment to moment basis.
This conscious life comprises an attitude and life perspective that is psychologically sound, ecologically well-intentioned, socially approved, morally superior, ethically grounded, demonstrating civic awareness, compassion towards others who may be more needy than us (physically or mentally challenged, animals, the poor, etc.), political correctness, wisdom in personal relationships (who to court and who to shun), and understanding of the laws and rules of life and this universe.
A Pure Life
A pure body leads to a pure mind, as the body is the home of the mind. Ayurveda recommends bathing daily, washing up at least twice a day and cleaning excretory passages and feet frequently. Bathing is especially important before a meal, as a pure body and mind are a prerequisite to good digestion.
Further, sage Charaka recommends applying skin improving herbal pastes and face masks to the body and face before bathing to ensure skin health. All bodily hair should stay well groomed, and nails should be cut three times a fortnight. One should always wear well groomed clothes, use natural perfumes and flowers for fragrance; massage oneself with warm oil daily and not forget to apply oil to ears, nasal passages, feet, and head. All this ensures a healthy clean vibration on a daily basis.
An Honoring Life
We are all aware what havoc dishonoring minds can wreak upon society and, of course, upon personal wellbeing. Such individuals often end up having fallen behind in life, isolated, or even worse, locked up behind bars or even mental institutions. The opposite, an honoring mind, is a state of mind where the individual regards all things as venerable and important for the health of the self and the planet. A deep regard, a sense of responsibility, a realization of worth and appreciation, a sense of interconnectedness are born in an honoring mind.
Ayurveda, as a preventive medicine, expressly tries to inculcate an honoring state of mind in each and every human being. One should honor and respect those who are worth our respect, such as accomplished teachers and Gurus, elderly people, including our parents, and even animals, such as the cow, which imparts its own milk to us humans (so she is likened to a mother or mother principle). A charitable and human friendly animal like the cow, which generously provides us with life-giving dairy products, such as wholesome milk and ghee, and medicines that are manufactured from her milk, urine, dung, etc., deserves our respect and appreciation, and should not be taken for granted or abused, to say the least.
Ayurveda recommends even honoring inanimate, but cosmic principles, such as fire. It is through the agency of fire inherent in every thing, every cell, and in each and every phenomenon, that transformation of any kind can take place. Hence, this fire, which represents the cosmic laws and principles in operation, is worshipped on a daily basis, either ritually, or in the mind.
Sage Charaka writes that, in deference to the honorable entities – both cosmic and human, one should control the urge to pass gas, stool, or urine in the open, as it will violate the principles of air, water, fire, moon and sun, as also in front of the spiritual gurus and other teachers.
Ancestors are also respected, as they represent the blessings offered by a continuous tradition. Acknowledging continuity helps remind each one of us that we are part of a whole, and not merely a fragmented floating piece, rudderless and rootless. Charaka writes, “One should not give up the traditional practices excessively, nor should one be in a habit of breaking rules.” Worshiping ancestors helps instill in us a sense of responsibility towards our young ones, and towards family and community life in general. And then, an honoring mind cannot help but honor itself, too. Honoring the other is a celebration of the Self. Hence, Ayurveda teaches the crucial lesson of honor.
Ayurveda warns men again ever dishonoring a woman. According to Ayurveda, leading a healthy life includes the decision to never abuse or exploit the aged and the infirm or the weaker, nor ever insult noble people (with noble traits), national or community leaders (as they may represent a higher cause), and teachers (as they impart wisdom and knowledge, a highly venerable profession). In fact, one should demonstrate honor towards ‘knowledge’ as an entity and cosmic presence by never sitting down to study with an unclean body or an impure, reluctant mind. Our devoted study should be an act of honor, no less.
A Positive and Balanced Life
Ayurveda recommends developing a cheerful frame of mind that is positive in its outlook. Rather than shying back in the woodworks, Ayurveda recommends dropping shyness and initiating communication. The advice is to slowly develop self-control, use different situations to practice presence of mind, mindfully shun negative emotions, like jealousy and fear, work upon underlying anxieties, and as a conscious choice, adopt in every fearful situation, fearlessness. This will nurture natural courage.
To develop a state of mental equipoise, Ayurveda recommends practicing our responses to life’s ups and downs by displaying neither impatience nor extreme exhilaration. Why be so ruffled? To not get under the sway of addictions and compulsions, Ayurveda recommends keeping a safe distance from excessive drinking, gambling, and unsafe sex, such as prostitution. In fact, it is necessary to examine our everyday friends, because whom we choose to hang out with daily do influence our mind, and from that angle, our life, on a daily basis.
To develop balance in all areas of life, Ayurveda recommends neither accepting everything naively, or hastily, nor unnecessarily delaying the process of taking decisions. In the same vein, one has to neither become a slave to one’s tyrannical senses, nor does one have to walk around with an over-controlling, rigid mind. Either is an extreme state of affairs.
A Compassionate and Peaceful Life
Ayurveda recommends that, “One should behave like kith and kin to all living beings, pacify the angry, console the frightened, help the poor, be truthful, peaceful, tolerant of others’ harsh words, remover of intolerance, should always look towards the qualities of a peaceful life, and should develop detachment.”
Ayurveda recommends not initiating quarrels, and not insulting or ever disrespecting women. To inculcate this peaceful vibration, Ayurveda recommends practicing a speech that is “useful, measured, sweet, and contains meaningful words.” Modesty, courage, devotion (to teachers, etc.) and positive outlook towards life and always maintaining an auspicious (beneficial) conduct, are traits that Ayurvedic texts suggest are worth developing.
To develop the spirit of charity, Ayurveda recommends making donations, as well as religious oblations and offerings. A compassionate being is a healer of all that he or she encounters or interacts with. This compassionate behavior manifests best in the practice of self-control. A self-controlled, self-virtuous, and self-restrained being restores harmony, accord, amicability, and empathy. Such beings, by virtue of being in control of their minds, serve as consensus builders, sharing freely their spirit of benevolence and kindliness.
Enmity, hatred, non-truthfulness and stealing another’s possessions are emotions or acts that humans indulge in at some time or the other in the course of this life. Be it the habit of telling white lies, be it feeling revengeful, or perhaps even actually stealing. No matter how big or small the mental event or actual behavior is, these episodes ultimately leave us drained and plant the seeds of ill health.
Hence, Ayurveda recommends watching within our own self the habit of lying, and rooting it out by self-observation. Desiring illicit sex, seeking another’s possession or property, indulging in enmity and revenge, enjoying gossiping and offering criticism are acts that are to be studiously avoided for abiding peace in life. Or else, the cauldron of life is stirred too violently, and what comes forth is turbulence.
In Ayurveda, we find the suggestion “do not be vicious, even to the sinner.” What profound psychology is applied here by the ancient sages! Why, because when we harbor negative feelings even towards the obvious wrong doers, it is our own health that is impacted. Victim consciousness is ultimately a life ruining and self-defeating experience, not to mention the energy spent in holding on to the cluster of ill feelings towards the so-called sinner. Releasing the sinner from his sin, is akin to releasing the Self.
I am the Universe
When one thinks himself spread in the universe and vice versa, and has the vision of the great and the small (mundane affairs), his serenity based on knowledge is affected.
– Charaka Samhita, Sharirasthanam, V, 20
Ayurvedic sage Charaka explains that seeing the entire universe in the self and vice versa gives rise to true knowledge. On seeing the entire universe in his Self, one realizes (the truth), that the Self alone is the agent of happiness and misery, none else. All fear and negativity is naturally dispelled by the knowledge that the person is equal to the universe.
Welcome home to your Divine Peaceful Healthy Self, with Ayurveda’s wisdom leading the way,
Love and Blessings to All,