Aspect of Ayurveda
1.3 Roots of Psychic Disturbances
and Physical Ailments
In Yoga, and ultimately Ayurveda, the pattern of disease is clearly described in relation to the preceding information. Diseases and psychological disorders are considered to be a major cause of sorrow and unhappiness. Sometimes the physical and mental disorders are related, sometimes not but both are due to ignorance. Ignorance leads to bad mental habits and poor, irregular routines for the body, which in turn causes disease. Ayurveda provides us with both physical and mental routines with which we can balance prana and break destructive mental and physical habits.
As Ayurveda is based on the actions of the five elements, so, too, Vasistha sees the five elements as the root of disease and the way to overcome it. All these psychic disturbances and physical ailments arise from the five-fold elements.
Physical ailments are divided into two categories - ordinary and serious. The ordinary ones can be corrected by a change in daily routine, including diet and exercise. The serious ailments and mental disorders are not truly corrected until self-knowledge is recognized. Self-knowledge ends all physical and psychic disturbances. However, physical ailments that are not psychosomatic may be dealt with by medication, prayers, by baths, and by right action.
How do physical ailments occur due to mental disturbances? Mental confusion, or the inability to function without stress, agitates the prana, which then flows unevenly along the channels or nadis. This haphazard or uneven flow results in the congestion of some nadis and the depletion of others. This creates a disturbance in the metabolic process. Then there arises disturbance in the metabolism, indigestion, excessive appetite and improper functioning of the digestive system. Food eaten turns to poison. The natural movement of food in and through the body is arrested. This gives rise to various physical ailments.
This is why Ayurveda places so much stress on the health of the digestive system. When the digestive system is maintained in correct balance, then mental afflictions will not be able to unbalance the pranic flow enough to cause damage. Even if the pranic flow is disturbed, it will only be for a temporary period of time, if one follows correct daily eating and living habits.
There are clearly two levels in which to perceive this information. The first is the Yogic concept that ignorance leads to both physical and mental illness. Ignorance translates, in this case, as responsibility on a mundane level. If we follow correct living habits - eating, exercising, and living correctly for our personal constitution - then the possibility for ailments to occur will be greatly diminished or eliminated. We can call it common-sense or responsibility, but it is simply doing the right thing for our body.
The other level in which to perceive the above information is from an absolute point of view. This utilizes Vasisthas perspective that everything manifests out of Consciousness (God) because everything manifests out of consciousness. This is called Self-Knowledge by the sages because if everything is consciousness, then obviously you are, too. Knowledge of the Self (God) means that everything is God (Self) including you. Your fundamental state of being is, I exist, and this we call self. This is the knowledge of unity, the substratum, the common denominator in all existence or the self of all. Hence, the term Self-Knowledge or the knowledge of God existing in all things.
The sages who created Ayurveda and Yoga knew that this Self-Knowledge was and is the ultimate cure to alla unhappiness and misery. This knowledge is the ultimate medicine. When you have realized the unchanging unity of all creation, there occurs a kind of health that is unsur-passed by any other kind of health. The ancient sages called it sat-chit-anand or being-consciousness-bliss results. These timeless moments of absorption in pure being are truly what gives health in your life. The quality of happiness and joy that are the undercurrent in your life and due to this Self-Knowledge. However, if a perfect body and physical health are desired in addition to this kind of health then learn to master the prana in the body.
The prana and apana can be balanced and held in perfect equilibrium. If you achieve this, immortality can result; food becomes unnecessary and you live by absorbing the cosmic prana directly from the air. There are many stories substantiating this fact, some recorded by science and unexplainable. For example, in the early 1900s, a yogi was buried underground for fifteen years. This was well-documented and witnessed by the official community. After fifteen years only one of the witnesses was alive to have the yogi dug up. He was alive, looked well and lived for another ten years before leaving his body. Yogis are able to do this because they can absorb the prana directly into their bodies. I have a friend who personally witnessed this in the Himalayas in the early 1970s. He checked to see if there was any kind of tube or hose for the yogi to breathe through; he found none. The yogi was buried for one month and looked more vital after being buried then before! Although, this shows a high state of development in pranic control, it may not show Self-Knowledge. One may lead to the other or not. In the ancient texts Self-Knowledge is regarded as the supreme attainment, while the control of prana results in immortality and psychic powers.
Vaisitha says, I shall now describe to you the method of gaining what is attainable (siddhi or psychic powers) towards which the sage of self-knowledge is indifferent, which the deluded person considers desirable and which one who is intent on the cultivation of self-knowledge is keen to avoid. He then spends several pages telling us how to attain immortality, and powers such as levitation, bi-location, the ability to fly, and how to change your size; all through manipulating prana or kundalini. Kundalini functions in the body composed of the fivefold elements, in the form of the life-force.