Only the efforts of the people can keep ayurveda alive.


Ayurveda is about teaching the people the rules of health and exhorting them to follow the rules and be healthy. It also teaches the use of common spices and herbs that augment health and serve as medicines when necessary. It was mandatory for this knowledge to be spread to the general population, and all branches of ayurveda followed the mandate. They ensured that the technicalities were explained in simple terms.

This knowledge was discussed in gatherings and taught in schools and colleges.

Naturopathy was the first approach. This is not a medicinal approach but based on the basic determinants of health; detoxification, nutrition, exercise, following the circadian rhythm, and control over emotions. However with complexities appearing in society, people too became complex, and diseases appeared that persisted despite the naturopathic approach. The study of elements, begun by Kapila in his Samkhya Philosophy, pointed to another path and the Rig Veda shows how health concepts evolved into individualized treatment and ayurveda came into being. Ayurveda offers a greater depth and its concepts further empower the people who can regulate their lives according to their knowledge of the concepts. 

Ayurveda did not plan for a medical empire. It was knowledge and altruism based, developing as an answer to the suffering of mankind. The practitioners duty was to learn and disseminate the knowledge, and to help those cases that could not be solved by the individual.

The vaidyas were patronized by kings and rich families. The kings kept the knowledge alive for the subjects and subsequent generations. They frequently went into battle and ayurveda ensured the wounded soldiers recovered and rejoined the fight. The kings were also subject to great stress and strain. They had the potential to fall sick and required the services of vaidyas. They were also pleasure seekers and sought to enhance their pleasure or seek to remedy the consequences of such behaviour.

The number of qualified vaidyas were therefore limited. These vaidyas had provisions for in patient stay at their house as people visited from faraway places. The vast majority recovered at home attended by family members.

The vaidyas prepared their own medicines based on the individual needs of the patient. Therefore they needed to be experts in the Panchamahabhuta theory. They addressed the doshas in their patients with herbs, medications, diet, and cleansing procedures.

Ayurveda is full of warnings to the vaidyas who were required to be learned, ethical, and think about the welfare of their patients. Ethics is an important part of the system. The behaviour of the vaidya in every situation is mapped out. It is repeatedly stressed that the consequences of straying from the path are great.

Ayurveda is a part of Indian philosophy, dependent on the Samkhya Philosophy, that not only seeks an end to suffering but also exhorts people to seek the ultimate spiritual attainment - liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The mind and body must be kept at the peak of health as this is the boat on which the aspirant crosses the river of transmigration.

The role of the vaidya therefore assumes tremendous importance. He or she is the fulcrum on which the aspirations of the individual and society rests. The vaidya ought to be proficient in philosophy and impart the philosophical teachings to the public as well. Health, the intellectuals emphasized, depends upon spiritual knowledge and discipline. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras details the discipline to be followed; 5 Yamas & 5 Niyamas. Following these lay the basis for good health and wellness. 

Ayurveda is about empowering the public. Nowhere does it say that the vaidyas should organize themselves and become profit centres. It does not seek the prosperity of the vaidya but the health and wellness of the people. The vaidyas have duties and responsibilities and can receive honor and respect from the correct practice, that they did due to their relentless efforts and high ethical standards. They were allowed to earn enough to maintain themselves.

Today we have the modern set up of ayurvedic doctors and an industry that produces medicines. These medicines do not address the individual needs of the people. The ayurveds go straight into treatment using these standardized products without first ensuring the basics of health; nutrition, setting right the body clock, removing addictions, addressing mentality, prescribing exercise and exposure to elements, and the most important - detoxification. They ought to also study individual herbs and be taught the process of making individual remedies according to the constitution of the patient and the dominant dosha that is causing the suffering.

Today we have full time doctors who have spent around 20 to 50 lakhs on their education and they need money to recover their investment and maintain themselves. They do not need to prepare the medications for which they need to know the constitution of the patient as well as the play of elements in the herbs, minerals,  and environment. Therefore they feel that the emphasis on the Panchamahabhuta and the doshas is a burden. Of what use is that education, they feel, that they are no longer interested in to practice in real life?

With the sole emphasis on the disease drug approach these doctors have forgotten their prime role about educating the public. Such education is also counter productive. If people can stay healthy with personal effort, the role of the vaidya becomes minimal. He is expected to be a researcher, a knowledge base, and educator. Unfortunately this approach cannot maintain a modern vaidya and meet his financial needs. This has to be recognized and addressed.

The challenge before the ayurveds is the extent of toxicity in the patients they encounter. These unfortunate people are also depleted of vitality. An extensive detoxification, nourishment, and restoration program must precede treatment. Ayurveds ought to also utilize the support of homeopaths for a better outcome.

The entire ayurvedic system today is lopsided. It is about setting up institutions and bringing forth an army of practitioners who are not aligned with the goal and objectives of ayurveda. The budget set aside for holistic systems is being utilized to construct buildings. This approach is destined to fail and it has failed.

What the government ought to do is set up an extensive education set up. Books, pamphlets, educational meetings and workshops, and the use of social media can make the public aware of ayurveda and its health empowering knowledge and methods.

The government should set up detoxification centres where people can avail of naturopathic and ayurvedic detoxification. These can serve as education and practice units.

We are criticizing Ramdev for setting up an empire. But we cannot ignore that he is also prioritizing research, education, exercise, nutrition, and detoxification. His efforts are therefore more aligned to ayurveda than those of the government. What he needs to do is listen to the advice of serious ayurveda lovers who still exist and can guide him.

It is very difficult to rescue ayurveda from profit seeking vultures. What can save it is the efforts of the public to learn and practice it in its pristine form. The knowledge is there, there are volunteers willing to teach, books are available, and all that the people have to do is detoxify themselves and protect their health as per its tenets.

Ayurveda has served the people for ages. Now it is time for the people to repay its debts and help in reviving and restoring the science. They should keep an arms length from the dominant system that is behind the large scale sickening of society. The prevention of degenerative disease ought to be the first priority.