View of Disease Process in the Physical Body
5.2 What Is
Disease in the Ayurvedic View?
According to Ayurveda disease is a result of the three humors becoming out of balance. Remember the literal translation into English of the Sanskrit word dosha (humor) is that which will go out of balance ir fault. Traditionally it is said that the imbalance of vata is the primary cause of disease, and therefore the force that disrupts the other two humors. This is due to the inherent instability of prana. The first cause of humoral imbalance (and then disease) is prana. In chapter 1 we described the root causes of pranic disturbances that occur due to mind, vasanas, and ignorance. In this chapter we will see how, once disturbed, the prana starts the destructive process of death or disease.
Pathogenic factors in the body are vata, pitta, and kapha, while those in the mind are rajas and tamas.
Bad habits, a life-style full of stress, tension, repressed emotions, poor diet, overwork, unstable family, devitalized food, and a toxic environment all cause the humors (prana) to go out of balance. In Ayurveda the mental or psychological factors are considered the most important, and the environmental factors are the least important. Like most generalities, this should be looked at with a grain of salt; if you have been working in a nuclear facility for the last ten years, then your environment definitely will have a major impact in the balance of your organism as a whole, even if you have a good mental balance. Provided you dont live on top of, or go to school, or work over a toxic dumping site, then the environmental factors will be less than the mental toxins created through a stressful life-style.
When there is a higher amount of stress or tension, the vata humor (via the prana) is immediately affected. The mental functions have a special relation with this humor; it provides the principle of movement to the body and mind. Mind and prana are inseparable; what affects one affects the other. Because vata provides the movement to the other two humors, its condition is very important for your mental state, which works closely with the prana. This is one of the main reasons why psychological factors are responsible for creating disease.
This prana is indistinguishably united with the mind. In fact, the consciousness that tends toward thinking, on account of the movement of prana, is known as the mind.
Another view of psychological disturbance can be described as mental toxins. Mental toxins are created by thoughts, which aggravate our emotional and psychological state. If this happens for an hour or a day, the effects pass relatively quickly. If however, the aggravation lasts for long periods of time, toxins start to accumulate in the intestinal system, the lymphatic system, the organs of purification (liver, spleen, kidney) and the tissues.
Using this definition of imbalance as according to the three humors, it is evident that all people in modern society must suffer, at one time or another, imbalances in their constitutional makeup. Our current standard of stress and tension in everyday life is commonly accepted as a major cause of disease today. We dont need Ayurveda to know that too much stress kills. What we do need the Ayurvedic system for is to know how to reduce the effects of stress and still live in our society. To better understand how Ayurveda can help us do this, it is necessary to understand the disease process from the Ayurvedic point of view.