Ayurveda: Product or Paradigm PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dr. Marc Halpern   

Ayurveda: Product or Paradigm
Ayurveda: Product or Paradigm
As Ayurveda has increased in popularity, so too have misunderstandings surrounding it. What is Ayurveda? Is it a diet, a product or a new elixir? Is it Indian or Hindu medicine? The answer to all of the above questions is no.

Ayurveda is a paradigm. It cannot be found in an herb or special food. Ayurveda is a complete system of medicine that offers healing to all people throughout the world.

The paradigm of Ayurveda is a simple one: Where there is harmony, there is health and where there is disharmony there is disease. Healing is the process of returning to harmony. Ayurveda recognizes that each person is an individual; therefore what is harmonious for one person is not necessarily harmonious for another. As a result, Ayurvedic medicine is individualized. It is based upon the nature of a person (what is called their prakruti in Sanskrit) and the nature of his or her disease (vikruti). When supporting the healing process with medicines, the nature of the medicine must also be known.

In order for anything to be Ayurvedic, its use must be based on knowledge of the nature of the person, the nature of the imbalance or disease and the nature of the medicine. When matched up properly a person will get well. When it is not matched up properly, the medicine will not work and may even be harmful. For example, an herb from India called amalaki can bring healing to some people while making others sick. Used properly it can benefit the immune system. Used improperly it can lead to diarrhea or toxicity. Knowledge of Ayurveda determines who it will help and who it will harm. The same can be said of kitcheree, the most famous food utilized in Ayurveda for balancing the digestive system. Until it is prepared properly for the individual, it is not Ayurvedic. It is simply rice and mung dal.

When considering this idea, we could question whether there is any such thing as an Ayurvedic herb? The answer is no. Herbs
can be described by the region in which they grow. Thus we can say there are Indian, Chinese and South American herbs. India is the home of several systems of medicine including Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha. Each uses the same herb according to its own principles because an herb is just an herb. When used in accordance with Ayurvedic principles, an herb that grows in the United States becomes an Ayurvedic herb. The same can be said of foods. All foods prepared and taken properly become Ayurvedic foods. Fettuccini Alfredo prepared according to Ayurvedic principles, taken by the right person, becomes a healing food.

Perhaps we should start at the beginning. Is Ayurveda Indian? India is the birthplace of Ayurveda. However, Ayurveda is considered a gift from God to all of humanity for the purpose of bringing about healing so that people can live full spiritual lives of service. Ayurveda grew up within the Indian culture and so it wears Indian clothing in the form of customs and ceremony. In so much as any of us identify with our birthplace and say, “I am American,” or “I am German,” Ayurveda can be considered Indian. Yet the very philosophies of India (Yoga, Vedanta, Sankhya) warn that this is an illusion or a trap for the egoic mind that must be overcome or it will lead to suffering. In this case, it is Ayurveda that will suffer if we limit its identity as Indian or Hindu and separate it from the rest of the world.

Aspects of the wisdom of Ayurveda can be found within all indigenous systems of medicine worldwide. Yet there is no single body of knowledge about healing that is as complete. Ayurveda addresses both the root causes of disease and its physical manifestations. It takes into consideration the body, mind, consciousness and spirituality. It is truly holistic, considering every aspect of a person.

Ayurveda is not a product, a food or a place. It is the knowledge of health and healing. It is the knowledge of life. Just because Ayurveda has become marketable, we should never forget its fundamental principles. If we do, we are forgetting Ayurveda.

The information given here represents the opinion and recommendation of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine.

Dr. Marc Halpern is the founder and President of the California College of Ayurveda and co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. He is on the advisory board of Light on Ayurveda Journal in the U.S. and the Journal of Research and Education in Indian Medicine in Varansi, India. Dr. Halpern received the award for Best Ayurvedic Physician from the Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. A. Ramdas. Contact: ayurvedacollege.com; drh@ ayurvedacollege.com; or (866) 541 - 6699.

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