Meditation and Ayurveda
13.2 Ayurvedic Psychology
Remember, the mind is a combination of the vasanas (mental impressions) and prana. Here are therapeutic methods that Ayurveda used to correct destructive mental patterns:
- Breathing (control of the prana directly);
- Sound (harmonizing the prana);
- Prayer (harmonizing the mind);
- Visualization (harmonizing the mind and prana together);
- Herbs (controlling the prana with other qualities of prana);
- Pranic healing (harmonizing the prana directly);
- Gems (harmonize the cosmic pranas).
Why should we use that methods handed down from over 5000 years ago when they are available as modern methods? The primary reason is that the interrelationship between these therapies is not fully understood yet in the West. When used together in conjunction with a correct life style and diet, the results are indeed impressive. Yet, when used with out a change in life style or diet, it reduces the effects by at least 50 percent. The common link in all of these methods is the prana that unites them. The ancient seers were the first people to develop such a complete range of complementary methods to achieve mental balance. This is due to their complete understanding of prana and its source, pure consciousness. They still are the only people to provided the basis for a totally comprehensive system. For example, Tibetan medicine is from Vedic sources and Chinese medicine lacks the spiritual dimension and how it relates to herbs, food and animals.
Ayurveda are Yoga are sister sciences that were developed by the same group of sages in the Himalayas. The systems of psychology developed by the sages of Ayurveda and Yoga are more complete than Western psychology for three reasons: 1) they have been at it much longer; 2) they understand the effects of subtle energies (prana) on both the mind and the body; and 3) they could view the mental working of the mind from a transcendental state.
When I speak of Yoga, I do not mean the method of different postures. Those methods actually fall under Ayurveda which literally means low to live correctly. Ayurveda is more concerned with the health with the spiritual union of human and god or the cosmos. Yoga means union. The two system do recognize and help each other. It is very difficult to be interested in spiritual affairs in you are sick, dying, or wasted from overindulgence. Ayurveda is a system that maintains and promotes health so human beings can devote themselves, at the proper time, to finding their true nature.
The psychologies of both Yoga and Ayurveda perceive the cosmos as not different than we are. Each human being is a mini-universe living within the greater universe. The universe comprised of both seen and unseen force that function in an intelligent manner. The human body is also comprised of the same force, both seen and unseen. These unseen forces are the aspects of prana and are described as three mental qualities: intelligence, action, and inertia (satva, rajas and tamas). The basic mental quality is pure intelligence (satva). Mind exists in that pure intelligence as movement of thought, which stimulates the vasanas and action (rajas). Laziness, letargy, sleep, and indication represent the third force of inertia (tamas).
Our psychological state is a play of these three qualities. The mental outlook is healthy when satva is predominant. When rajas predominant, mental and emotional disturbances arise. When tamas is a predominant, the mentality is depressed, dull, and perverse. Thus the basic of psychology can be understood by seeing which of these qualities is predominant in the personality of the person at any giving time. Auyveda and Yoga work on lowering inertia and raising the purity of intelligence in the mind through action
While this may seem simplistic, it is easily observable in both nature and people. All material substance and events promote one of the three qualities. Whatever we absorb in our mind either increases purity, disturbance, or residence. If we start to see which activities help to increase our peace of mind, then we can increase them. When we recognize which activities increase disturbance, we can reduce them. Lastly, when, occur, we should eliminate them altogether.
Aurvedic healing: an example
I should say that at the time of this writing I had lived in India for roughly six out of the last ten years. I visited a number of doctors of diverse traditions. I was attracted to India for purely personal reasons. I became interested in healing through a personal experience that changed my health and thereby my life.
I have deformation of the spine commonly known as kyphoscoliosis. Nothing serous, just a constant pain in my back. Sometime it was disabling. Imaging my surprise when after three sessions with a therapist the pain vanished for the first time in fifteen years! Even more surprising was that the therapist was Japanese, and used a very ancient pranic healing, first from him and then another teacher. The method centered on using the life force to balance and invigorate the energetic system of the body, much like the Chinese system of acupuncture. I have explained this method in detail in my previous book, Prana: the Secret of Yoga Healing.
It was not until 1991, when I began to seriously research the traditional roots of using prana to heal, that I came across ancient references to Ayurveda. Living in Indian I had come across Ayurvedic doctor and medicines many time, finding most of the medicines to be very effective. I would sometime visit the Ayurvedic pharmacy to buy certain herbal products that I liked. However, I had never bee interested in learning more; I had the impression that it was bit arcane. Nonetheless, through my research I become interested in learning more. It also became clear that pranic healing was limited with certain diseases and needed dietary and herbal supports to further aid the prana and thus the healing process.
At that time I was in and been- aside from back pain-in good health for my whole life. What following that year on my return to Europe was nearly fatal. After leaving India I decided to move to the south of France. For seven years I had primarily lived in India, leaving only to work and renew my visa. This was to be my re-entry into Western society. The transition went smoothly at first, but become more and more difficult as time passed, for cultural shock set in, and my financial reserves in disappeared. The importance of my mental outlook in relation to my health became very meaningful over the next year.
As I described in the introduction I failed to either change my external situation or my mental attitudes. Thus , I continued to ignore my body. The result was that I almost bled to death and ended up the hospital on an IV.
The competitive society and the increase action necessary to live in it stimulated the rajas or active mental principle. With the increase of action, satva, or pure quality of intelligence become less prominent. Time of tamas or inertia become much more common in the from of pain and depression. Combined with a pitta constitution I was in a perfect position to manifest an ulcer, a typical pitta illness. Pitta people also have a special relation to action or rajas as they are normally goal-oriented people.
The practice of anti-pitta food regimens and life style not only accelerated the healing of the ulcer, but completely eliminated the possibility of a relapse. The herb amla and large doses of Chavana Prash were the major supplements used, although shatavari is what I currently use daily, along with triphala, to manage pitta and prevent another relapse-especially in time of stress. In this somewhat embarrassing personal example several things are apparent.
1) Self-love is necessary to prevent and to cure disease;
2) Over activation of rajas (action) or tamas (inertia) causes the mind to imbalance which then affects the three humors;
3) Measures to increase satva (harmony or pure mind) are necessary to lower action and inertia thereby preventing mental imbalance;
4) Change external situation when possible, or if that is not possible, then change your relationship to the External situation;
5) Use Ayurvedic daily regiments for your constitution to maintain balance and harmony in the body.