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A Longer Definition of Ayurveda
Another longer definition of ayurveda goes: ayurhitahitamvyadhe nidaanamshamanam thathaa vidyate yatra vidhwadhihi tatra ayurveda uchyate. This verse takes us to a deeper level to understand what ayurveda is.
Ayurveda provides us with a complete understanding of what is life-sustaining and what is not, not just for the physical body, but also our mind, heart, senses and spirit. This includes descriptions of the kind of diet, lifestyle and behavior that is optimal for well-being, the ideal environment, and the herbal rasayanas that are good or bad for each of these aspects of health. There is great detail on each of these modalities - what to eat, when to eat and how to eat are a part of dietary recommendations, for example. The texts also include recommendations for nurturing relationships and living as part of the human community.
If an individual does not have this knowledge or has the knowledge but does not implement the knowledge, then, say the texts, the person becomes susceptible to imbalance and disorders.
When a person goes to an ayurvedic healer, the healer's first job is to find out why the person has the symptoms he or she has. Two persons can exhibit the same symptoms, but the etiological factors behind the symptoms in each case may be entirely different. The ayurvedic healer goes beyond symptoms to discover the underlying cause of the imbalance, so that there can be ultimate resolution of the imbalance, not just an appeasement of symptoms.
Nidaanam refers to both the etiological factors behind the symptoms and the diagnosis itself. The ayurvedic diagnosis is based on etiological factors. If a fire alarm begins beeping in your home, you would try to find out from where the smoke is coming. In ayurveda, healers try to do the same thing. If a person comes to a healer saying 'I have a headache,' we do an ayurvedic pulse assessment and ask careful questions to find out the real imbalance that is creating the headaches. What is the person doing in terms of his or her diet or lifestyle to create the imbalance? What is the source of the smoke?
Ayurveda does address the symptoms, but it does so by addressing the cause of the symptoms, unlike modern medicine, which sometimes pulls out the battery from the alarm to stop its beeping, and destroys Nature's signalling system in the process.
Ayurveda also discusses the ways to pacify aggravated doshas or imbalances - the tools to create balance in the imbalanced body, mind, senses or spirit.
The soul is the source of life - "jivatma" - the vibrational power of Nature in us that is indestructible. When the soul gets out of communication with the body or heart or mind or senses, disease results. When the soul is connected to the mind, body, heart and senses, it provides perfect guidance, and the result is health and well-being. Ayurveda teaches a person how one can enhance the communication between the soul and the body, heart, mind and senses, so that one can live perfectly in tune with the rhythms and laws of Nature, making no mistakes that lead to imbalances and disease.