The Vedic Roots of Ayurvedic Medicine — Lesson 4

by | May 27, 2002 | Archives

From: Jay Glaser, MD Lancaster Ayurveda Medical Centers

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This course is designed to provide an introductory knowledge of the Vedic roots of Ayurvedic Medicine and thereby to encourage the student to seek further instruction. It gives the essential theory behind the functioning of the self-repair mechanisms present in any organism, including especially human beings, and allows the individual to access these mechanisms for prevention, healing, and progressing toward higher states of consciousness. This course is not designed to give a working knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine, a subject traditionally taught over many years.

The concepts underlying Vedic medicine, however, are basically the mechanics of one's own consciousness, since consciousness is the underlying basis of the physiology. As such, these concepts should be able to be grasped by anyone, simply because most people have an intuitive feeling about the mechanics of their own awareness and their own physiology. This course gives that intuitive feeling an expression.

The ancient Vedic seers responsible for laying out the Ayurvedic texts were compulsive about describing the properties and therapeutic uses of hundreds of plants, foods and remedies. This course is not about learning this aspect of Ayurveda, but rather about the critical concepts that characterize Ayurveda as a unique consciousness-based medical system. The details of specific lifestyle and behavioral techniques, routines, diets and herbal remedies are available in the Ayurvedic texts and in synopses of these texts. This course hopes to fill the need, for my patients and the community at large, for a succinct summary of the deepest principles at the root of Ayurvedic medicine.

The language of the Vedic texts is concise, and I offer this course in this spirit, presenting one brief sentence with each point. The terse expression of the idea is then followed by a short explanation. A small group of these principles forms a lesson. Each principle, containing concentrated knowledge, is intended to be contemplated and savored. For this reason, the course is being offered in a series, over a period of several months, a few points at a time. The lessons will be sent every ten to fourteen days.

It is important to understand every lesson in its essence before going to the next lesson, since the understanding of some topics is sequential. However don't worry if a principle is not fully grasped at first, because the same concept may be explained from another angle later, and many of the concepts are extremely abstract. In addition, this course provides only the essence of the concepts without examples, parallels and elaboration.

The questions are designed to be a self-test, enabling the student to confirm whether the concept was grasped. When you receive a lesson, first read through all the principles and then try to answer the questions without referring to the text. If you have missed one of the questions, go back to the text until you understand the concept.

With humility and gratitude I would like to acknowledge the sources of this teaching. Although I have been a student of Ayurvedic medicine since 1972, working with many expert Ayurvedic physicians and studying in the most reputable Ayurvedic colleges, I never understood Ayurveda as a consciousness-based science of health in its true dignity until Maharishi Mahesh Yogi clarified this science of medicine with his own Vedic perspective. This course is based on the original Sanskrit texts of Ayurveda, especially Charaka Samhita, as well as Sushruta Samhita and Vagbhata Samhita, in light of the understandings Maharishi has made available through published works listed in the references. To Maharishi, we and future generations have much to be grateful.

I owe gratitude to the Vedic rishis themselves, who as the cognizers and the custodians of Vedic knowledge, are the original fountainheads of these principles. Too numerous to list here are the dozens of Vaidyas (Ayurvedic physicians) who have explained Ayurveda to me in the context where it becomes most indelible, at the examination table or at the bedside. Prof. Michel Angot and his book, L'Inde Classique, have put Vedic knowledge in a broad perspective.

The author (Jay Glaser – jay@ayurvedamed.ocm welcomes your comments, corrections and criticisms of the course. Please send them to This introduction will accompany every set of new points.

Because of limitations on the variety of available characters imposed by Internet publishing, I have had to make accommodations to the conventions used in displaying the 64 Sanskrit letters. For example, Charaka usually replaces Caraka, long a is written the same as short a, and letters such as cerebrals, which usually requiring a dot or a ~ are portrayed without them. The vowel r is expressed as ri, as in 'Sanskrit' and 'rishi.'


1. La Caraka Samhita: Traite de Vie Naturelle. Translated by Michel Angot. Paris, 1993. 2. Agnivesha's Caraka Samhita. Translated by RK Sharma. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office. Varanasi, 1977. 3. Caraka Samhita. Translated by PV Sharma. Chaukhambha Orientalia. Varanasi, 1981. 4. Sushruta Samhita. Translated by KK Bhishagratna. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office. Varanasi 1981. 5. Vagbhata's Astanga Hrdayam Samhita. Translated by KR Srikantha Murthy;. Krishnadas Academy. Varanasi, 1991. 6. Kasture, HS. Concept of Ayurveda for Perfect Health and Longevity. Shree Baidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Ltd, Nagpur, 1991. 7. Nader, T. Human Physiology: Expression of Veda and the Vedic Literature. 4th edition. Maharishi Vedic University, Vlodrop, Netherlands, 2000. 8. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi's Absolute Theory of Defence: Sovereignty in Invincibility. Maharishi Vedic University. India, 1996. 9. Angot, M. L'Inde Classique. Societe d'edition Les Belles Lettres. Paris, 2001.

Suggested Readings:

1. Wallace, RK. The Physiology of Consciousness. MIU Press. Fairfield, IA, 1986. 2. Lonsdorf , N, Butler, V, Brown, M. A Woman's Best Medicine. JP Tarcher, 1995. 3. Sharma, H and Clark, C. Contemporary Ayurveda. ed. Marc Miclozzi. Churchill-Livingstone, 1997.

The Vedic Roots of Ayurvedic Medicine — Lesson 4

4.1 Consciousness is its own physiology and expresses itself through a hierarchy of structures.

The transformations through which Veda becomes the manifest physiology is clearly described in the ancient Vedic texts. In the sequential expression of Veda, one finds a hierarchy in its materialization as the body, from subtle to gross. Unmanifest intelligence sequentially manifests itself as subtle elements (tanmatras), elements (mahabhutas), fundamental qualities (doshas), senses (indriyas), tissues (dhatus), and other structures. Ayurvedic diagnostic and therapeutic techniques are based on this understanding of the unfolding of Veda.

4.2 Prajna-aparad (the mistake of the intellect) ‹ forgetting the underlying wholeness of life is the root of suffering.

When life is erroneously seen as diversity and the hidden unified value of life (atma) is forgotten or neglected by the awareness, the connection of life with its source is lost, and the individual becomes prone to a multitude of other intellectual errors and sickness. This is called prajna-aparad — the mistake of the intellect.

4.3 Most disease is caused by violation of the laws of nature.

In the state of prajna-aparad, when the awareness does not have access to Veda, the home of all the laws of nature, the intellect (buddhi, the discriminating or deciding faculty) may elect to undertake activities that are not conducive to life, resulting in violation of laws of nature, the root cause of disease and ill health. The ancient texts characterize the various types of violations (suppressing natural urges, not following daily and seasonal routines, etc.) In the majority of instances of ill health, including trauma, one can identify a violation of some law of nature. Pain and suffering are mechanisms to motivate the individual to restore the connectedness with Veda.

4.4 The concept of metabolism (agni).

Inefficient digestion and metabolism create ama, by-products or residues, which deposit in the channels of the macro and micro-circulation (shrotas) and in the tissues (dhatus). This prevents the unobstructed flow of biological matter and intelligence, and promotes imbalance and ultimately disease. This concept reflects current understandings of cell physiology and pathological processes such as aging and arterial disease.

4.5 Balancing Principle.

The physiology is governed by three doshas (physiological operators), seven dhatus (tissues) and three malas (waste products) which are in dynamic equilibrium with each other. Any disruption of the natural harmony, proportion and biological rhythms of these elements violates the balancing principle, and if not corrected, may lead to disorder.

Questions Lesson 4 1. The sequential expression of Veda gives rise to . 2. In the mistake of the intellect, only the diversity of life is remembered. What value is forgotten? 3. Violations of laws of nature causing most disease are due to what condition? 4. Ama is best described as a by-product of what process? 5. Disruption of natural harmony and balance of the doshas, malas and dhatus, according to the balancing principle, leads to .

Answers 1. the hierarchy of structures in the physiology 2. the unified value of life 3. prajna-aparad, the mistake of the intellect 4. inefficient digestion and metabolism 5. disorder.

If you have missed some of the questions, it is important to reread the point in the course that contains the answer at this time before proceeding to the next lesson. You may be given the opportunity to see if you have retained these principles in two weeks before you dive into new material.