How often we have heard “Health is Wealth”! Traditionally, it has been good health which has been looked up to as being the real wealth in this land. Dhan, wealth is of two types. One Dhan is the material wealth – land, natural resources, gold, silver, luxuries, and such others. These are all ever flowing wealth as they do not stick to one place. They are constantly in circulation, with us today, gone tomorrow. The other wealth is the wealth of health. The knowledge of good health is Ayurveda.
The World Health Organization defines health in these words.
Ayurveda defines health in similar terms. The relevant sloka being,
Ayurveda also defines a Disease.
As per Ayurveda, health is natural and diseases are unnatural. Thus, it is important for us to have and maintain this natural wealth.
This wealth of health is denoted in this land, by Dhanvantri, the divine physician. Among the Indian pantheon of divinities, Dhanvantri is the divinity for health. In his very name itself, the first part of the name is Dhan. From this it is amply clear that the seers of ancient India believed that good health while one is living, is the most important wealth and the primary divinity for health aptly termed as Dhanvantri.
Dhanvantri stepping out of water
If you closely observe the image of Dhanvantri, you will see that Dhanvantri is coming out of water. Similarly good health in our body is dependent on the waters in our body as 70% of our body is after all, made up of water.
In one palm Dhanvantri holds a leach, Jalloka. The leach removes bad blood from our system so that fresh blood can rejuvenate our system. In the right hand is the Amrit kalasa, pot of nectar. Nectar is the elixir of life. It is that which gives us freshness and adds longevity to our life.
With this background, let us see how the propagation of this science of health came about in this land.
The texts of Ayurveda trace their origin, knowledge to Shiva. The word “Shiva” here while it does mean the divinity of Shiva, it means so in the context of Shiva meaning, “life”.
Life is auspicious, mangalam. Opposite of Shiva is Shava meaning “motionless, lifeless”. From this word “Shava” we get Shavasana, an asana where one lies down motionless.
So, Shiva is a life giving potential. The knowledge of life which Ayurveda is, emanates from understanding this potential, i.e. Shiva, Shiva tattva. More on the understanding of Shiva is discussed in our book “Understanding Shiva”, which is a part of the Bharath Gyan series.
This knowledge of life then was transmitted onto Brahma. The word “Brahma” starts with Brh, which means “to grow big, huge”. Life in this world, this universe has grown beyond one’s grasp since this creation. Life is an ever growing feature. The knowledge about life and how it manifests itself, is also an ever growing feature. It is this ever growing nature of life and its knowledge which is symbolically represented as Brahma.
This knowledge then gets transmitted to Indra. The word Indra means “senses, the sensory knowledge”.
The knowledge that comes to us from our sensory perceptions of life and its well being is Ayurveda. Hence it is regarded as being transmitted through Indra.
From thereon, it is passed to the Ashwini twins who are the divinities for health.
The definition for Ashwini twins in Ayurveda text is,
Hitha Ahara Mitha Ayasa
Mitha Ahara Hitha Ayasa
It translates as,
Affordable food, appropriate exercise
Affordable exercise, appropriate food
This is the twinning key to good health.
From the Ashwini twins, this knowledge of Ayurveda was passed on to Maharishi Bharadwaja. The word “Bharadwaja” itself has an interesting connotation in this context here.
The word Bharadwaja can be seen as comprising of two parts – Bharan, “to fill” and Dwaja, “two sides”.
Bharadwaja thus stands for the step when the knowledge of Ayurveda crosses over from the sublime principles of the understanding of health, to the care of the physical body. Bharadwaja is the one who bridges the two sides – the sublime knowledge and the physical body.
From Bharadwaja, the various branches of Ayurveda were farmed out to various Rishi such as
- Athreya – for medicine, whose student was Charaka
- Dhanvantri – for surgery, whose student was Sushruta
- Palakapya – for Hastayurveda, medicine for elephants, Hasta
- Gotama – for Gavayurveda, medicine for cows, Go
- Salihotra – for Ashvayurveda, medicine for horses, Ashva
From all this, we understand that Ayurveda is not just medicine for cure, but is wholistic understanding of health, both physical and mental. Maintaining the equilibrium of these along with waters in the body and waters in Nature is the primary facet of good health.
The Breaking / Reversal of illness in Ayurveda
When there is ill health be it in the body or in the mind, we need to break the cycle of ill health and reverse it to good health, through medicine or other yogic practices like meditation.
Here we see that Ayurveda focuses on all aspects of health.
Mental Health, Stress and Yoga
Stress levels have been increasing all over the world. In recent times, there is a new attention to mental health where well being is not limited to the body of the affected person, and that we must also heal the mind, is gaining credence.
In the above chart, , we see Satvavajya as a focus in taking care of mental health with a satvic process to nurse it.
Meditation and Yoga facilitates good mental health, by reducing stress, anxiety and depression, by balancing the various faculties of the mind.
Yoga is the practice by way of which mind, body and breath are aligned to achieve a state of harmony with each other and to become homogeneous with the cosmic consciousness – a state that brings with it a sense of freshness, energy and calm, a sense of balance of the various senses and emotions.
Meditation balances the mind
World Health Day
The World Health Day has been observed for many years now. A decision to have a day on health was made at the World Health organization’s First World Health Day Assembly, which chose April 7th every year to focus on health.
Health is a crucial factor in our daily performance, and directly linked to our overall welfare and the welfare of the society.