Ayurveda, the science of life
By Dr. Aiswarya (BAMS)
Cover picture: Lord Dhanvantari.
Ayurveda is the science of life. The purpose of Ayurveda is swasthasya swaathya rakshanam, which means protection and maintenance of health of the healthy person, and aturasya vikara prasamanam, which means pacifying disease of the diseased person.
Ayurveda is a part of one’s life. Even though Ayurveda is the Indian System of Medicine, it is currently used by millions of people in different parts of the world. Many people are interested not only in Ayurvedic treatment but also in learning Ayurveda and its concepts.
As a beginner in Ayurveda, it is good to start with the Ashtanga Hridaya. The Ashtanga Hridaya is one of the most ancient Ayurvedic text by Vagbhata Acharya. The sutrasthana of the Ashtanga Hridaya is one among the eight sthanas (volumes). This deals with the basic concepts of Ayurveda, including nutrition. This book is very useful as well as easy to study as it is written in the most simplified and poetic form by Vagbhata Acharya.
Learning Ayurveda is an endless journey. It is like an ocean. We need to dedicate our entire life to learn everything in Ayurveda. Various schools in different parts of the world are starting to teach Ayurveda.
Ayurdaay Nilayam’s 300 hour training programme, by Miriam Alberts and her team, is a programme conducted for this purpose. Miriam is an Ayurvedic teacher from the Netherlands. Ayurdaay Nilayam believes that only a good teacher, with efficient knowledge of the subject, who has understood the importance of studying Ayurveda, and above all, who has good mind to share the knowledge can conduct such training programmes. It requires good effort, knowledge, personal interest and time. So I really appreciate her for her decision.
As Ayurvedic texts are written in the Sanskrit language, many students find it difficult to access and grasp it. By clear learning of word by word translation of the entire sutra under the guidance of a good teacher will definitely help students who are unable to read the Sanskrit language. For us Indian people Sanskrit is more or less familiar. We find it less difficult to study Ayurvedic sutras. So teaching Ayurveda in the West seems to be quite difficult. By repeated reading, Sanskrit terms become more familiar and helps in learning the classic Ayurvedic texts. The concept of Ayurvedic teaching is entirely different in the West. The main thing I noticed is that, in the west there is a good relationship between student and teacher, such that students are free to ask their doubts as well as express their views regarding the subject. This type of attitude shows a positive growth of Ayurveda. Knowledge increases by sharing with others. So group discussions, individual and group projects should be encouraged.
A good teacher greatly influences the mentality of students. If a teacher is discouraging students by saying it is difficult to study the Ashtanga Hridaya, it will definitely create a negative impact on the student. Even if the topic is difficult and boring, it can be made easy and interesting by a good teacher. So, from my experience, I feel that teachers have great influence on the future of the student. A good teacher should have attitude the same way a senior is giving information to his junior. This type of attitude is seen in western teachers. In the same way, students should respect the teacher besides being friendly. Because in the Ayurvedic concept, blessing of your guru (teacher) is necessary for making a student successful in life. Another thing is that teaching the Ashtanga Hridaya in the same stretch or tone makes the class a little boring. Students may feel less interested. So teaching with illustrating examples as well as asking questions during class is necessary to make it lively and interesting. This improves the memory power of students.
Nowadays, the most common drawback of learning Ayurveda is the ”spoon feeding” type of teaching. This inhibits the creative thinking of students. Later on this will result in a lack of confidence in students. The aim of learning Ayurveda should focus on studying the theoretical section and development of practical skills. Success of studying Ayurveda can be possible by applying the principles obtained from ancient ayurvedic texts into practical application at the right time. This should be taught correctly during training programmes.
So, for those students who wish to learn Ayurveda, it is the right step to start with the Ashtanga Hridaya because it deals with the basic concepts. Since learning Ayurveda is always best under the guidance of teacher, I encourage various training programmes in this aspect. I wish Miriam Alberts and her team all the best and also encourage to conduct more and more Ayurveda training classes and other programmes to educate more students who are interested in learning Ayurveda. I am happy to be part of this programme to teach students in Europe to study this traditional system of medicine.
(Amsterdam, Hengelo, Leeuwarden, Lelystad, Assen, Helmond)