The Tridosha-Theorie in Ayurveda

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda (Ayu=life/veda =wisdom) Wisdom of life. Ayurveda is acknowledged to be one of the oldest health systems in the world and can be seen as the mother of all medical systems. Unlike the current western medical system which is chiefly based on methods of curative specialisation, the essence and emphasis of Ayurveda is preventive, which means remaining healthy, well and balanced.

Disorders are a loss of equilibrium in the dynamic energy of the three constitutional humors that works within us. Ayurvedic thought rotates principially around the concept of  balance. A balance of the energies that a human constitution incorporates. Thus one of the leading sentence of Ayurvedic thought is:

RETAIN BALANCE maintain it and preserve it.

Ayurveda is not a religion; even though there are certain authors who try to paint  this system of medicine with a colour of a religious-hinduistic fundament. It has merely borrowed from the vocabulary of concepts of the ancient philosophical thought of India. That, which has  also influenced to a large extent Hinduism and as well as Buddhism. Alone from the fact that the documented language of Ayurvedic texts were recorded in Sanskrit, the language of the learned in India, one cannot rise to the conclusion that the origin of Ayurveda was basically a system introduced by the aryan  immigrants around 1500BC.

The Philosophical Structures of Ayurveda

Philosophers of India saw a close connection between  different energies, the interrelation of the cosmic energy with the energy fields that work within us. Galaxies emerge and disperse and life on earth, existence itself is pre dominated by the natural course of birth and death. In the Samkhya Philosophy a theory of evolution has been developed which plays an essential role in the Ayurvedic school of thinking: The continual connection between the elementary powersof the  universe (Purusha, Prakriti) and the consciousness of Being, the I, the interrelation of existence with the universal cosmic forces of nature.  Already Caraka one of the greatest mentors of Ayurvedic thought has written in one of his works:

“Each human existence is an unique expression of highest individual process tuned in to the cosmic spatiotemporal cognition”

This is a manifestation of the major difference between the western school of medicine with that of Ayurveda. Each human being is viewed as something unique and not reproducible, the emphasis is on the individual characteristic and nature of existence.

Indian  philosophical thought defines Matter into two categories of fundamental principles: Purusha and Prakriti.

1. Purusha: Purusha is pure, serene consciousness, an eternal subject, never an object, disembodied, intranscient, indestructible, even if there are disorders and diseases. This energy can stimulate/activate the self -healing process in the body once again if necessary. One speaks of homoeostatic control circuits in the new language of science which goes as far back as  the scientific research of the  French Physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878)

2. Prakriti: Prakriti is the primodial substance, the eternal energy, one can even say the mother of all energies.  It is not manifested and it is unconscious Matter. It has an unchangeable quantity and can be changed only  qualitatively.

Prakriti  has been allocated to three attributes, the so called GUNAS







The birth of evolution occurs or developes through an area of conflict between the undynamic but intellectual principal of Purusha (mind/spirit) and the dynamic but not conscious Matter-princip of Prakriti.

When the primary condition of Prakriti is held or maintained uprightly the three main arttributes or characteristics (gunas) are kept in proper balance. The Gunas also known as Trigunas, have universal characteristics and cannot be seen as separate units. They are in constant communication and dialogue with one another. They are  the conditions of the manifest world, that one particular dominated form evokes or calls forth one of the Gunas.

It is through Purusha that the three primary qualities evolve in a game of energetic power play. Whereas Prakriti is blind to the different grades of evolvement. The non -moving  quality of Purusha is the cause for the sagacious, balanced structure of Matter (colour, form) and with that also the process of all creation and development from unorganic particles of elements to spiral nebula.

The three gunas in turn interact upon  matter and create from  the fine existing materiality  as well as from  the rough materiality so that an increasing consolidation as well as differentiation occurs. Even though everything is subject to a continual state of  flux, nonetheles Nature manages to function so that the system as a whole withstands change. Alone by observing the human body for instance as an example: everyday 600 million cells in the body  undergoes change and yet a person wakes up the next morning in the same guise as the day before. The cells undergoe change but the human being in its outward form remains the same.

In its physiological form the three gunas function as locating principals  and are known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

– In a state of balance it is known as Tridhatu.
– If there is a disturbance of balance due to the domination of one of the elements it is known as Tridoshas

The basis of Ayurveda builds according to this, on the knowledge, that the wisdom that exists in everything and everyone is actually the wisdom of the cosmos. The same knowledge that generates life also preserves life.
The different approach and methods of treatment in Ayurveda have one original aim, that is to awaken  the pure and inconquerable Potential within us (Purusha), to activate the healing process and  to consolidate once  again the three units; body, mind and spirit.
Human beings with its unique capacity to think, feel and act is the central issue of Ayurveda. All aspects of the individual entity are taken into consideration.
In Ayurvedic point of view diseases are seen as a result of false perceptions imbibed in the patients, perpetuated through wrong actions, consequently creating a state of imbalance.

The disorders are always a condition of excitation and disturbed state of nature which according to Ayurvedic medicine  should once again be brought back to its original state of balance. Which means that disturbances within the mind, body and spirit result in imbalance, cause of illness which can be eliminated through precise care in that the loss of equlibrium is brought back to its proper channel.

The active shaping of Life, that is also known as wellness today .
This is also seen as the  key towards  health which can be achieved through interrelated  knowledge of diverse influences that is given in a human being.

For the maintainance of Life, Ayurvedic wisdom can be applied by healthy people in that the rules of behaviour of the healthy are meticulously followed.
By those who are ill, adequate care is required to pacify the disturbed condition, the disorder that has caused the disease.

The world of Ayurveda rotates on the axis of BALANCE. If there is a loss of balance there is disorder the outcome of which is disease known as vikriti. The fundamental theory of Ayurveda is the regeneration of lost balance, which means that the appearance of the “fault”, known as dosha can be either of a mental or a physical nature, or a combination of both and  must be treated with precise care so that the loss of balance is once again restored.
YOGA uses similar methods to restore lost balance. Yoga differentiates itself in an essential matter from Ayurveda :

– The aim of Ayurveda is to achieve as far as possible a long and healthy life. The preservation of self through a healthy balanced way of living and

– The aim of Yoga is the deliverence from  relative existence: that is, over

-coming  personal ego, and freeing one-self from pursuits of a  self-preservatory drive.

Yoga: The nihilation of “I” =ego
Ayurveda: maintaining/caring of ” I”= the individual

The DOSHAS – a central concept of Ayurveda

The doshas play a significant role in Ayurvedic medicine. The literal translation from Sanskrit is “fault” or “imbalance”.
Doshas (Tridosha) theory has been interpreted in different ways as one finds in the Sanskrit Literature of India. European publications portrays the interpretations of the three doshas as “wind, gall and mucus/slime”
To understand the theory of Ayurveda one is compelled to deal with the concept of doshas. The question often arises, what exactly are doshas” fault” or imbalance?

The theory of doshas are based on two fundaments: the constitutional qualities, the three basic characteristics or gunas of primodial Nature being one and the other are the Elements.
To put it in a nutshell one can say that doshas or faults are the root or cause of diseases in a fine combination of mind – body constellation. Since Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of medicine  mind and body are not treated as separate units. If there are disorders caused by imbalance in the three fundamental energy (gunas) emerges vakriti(disorder). The doshas/faults deviates from the Elements resulting in imbalance which again generates disease.

The Diagnosis

The first stage of any treatment begins with a comprehensive analitical diagnosis. Not unlike the western method of diagnosis the Ayurveda doctor uses the same method at first; that is, two modes of analysis or medical investigation are put into use:
– first the anamnesis, the case history  of the patient is taken in detail
– and of a through medical examination.
Which includes the tongue diagnosis, the eyes, the pulse as well as the stool and urin. Often the question is placed if the patient has slept well or if the bowel movement is in order etc. All these aspects play an important role in building a comprehensive all around picture of the patient.

Which dosha type one is, is based on this which only an experienced doctor can ascertain. Please ignore the constitutional tables given in internet or books or magazines to find out to what Type (dosha-type) you belong too. It is far more complex than this, than just a list of tables defining various constitutional types. To find out what constitutional type one is, one needs a precise examination from the Ayurvedic doctor. Various interrelated factors play a role here to define a dosha type, (where as charts and tables are superficial)  because the individual person in its unique entity is essential for a defination of a constitutional type. To name a few: the way one walks, the eye movement, preference to certain food  or colour, the behavioural gesticulations etc.

The doshas in Balance

The  Ayurveda doctor makes an attempt to detect the cause of disturbance in the regulating system of balance that which is also known as doshas or fault as has been explained earlier.
With the help of a pulse diagnosis the doctor tries to detect the interdependency of the three regulating system known as Vata, Pitta and Kappa. Ayurveda being a comprehensive system of medicine views the entire organism as a complete entity. So one disturbing aspect or dosha in the regulating system is seen as a disruption of the other two doshas as well. All three doshas are so closely knitted  that one aspect of imbalance or “fault” in a particular doshas  also brings one out of track because the imbalance is felt in the other two doshas as well. If the equlibrium is disturbed the entire human being is sick. Hence the entire person as a comprehensive whole is treated and not just one symptomatic aspect of a particular disease. It is exactly in this very sensitive issue the difference is felt clearly between Ayurvedic school of medicine and the western system of medicine. The problem that one faces in the western medical method is that there are innumerable single medical diciplines of investigation, of detecting a disease and the link in the chain of is often lost or missing in the long run when one depends on single diagnosistic method. Very often the coordination between different diagnostic methods are  lacking so that the patient runs from one specialist to another before the root of the ailment is detected and the disorder is carefully treated.

Human beings are defined by the three regulating system or CONSTITUTIONAL HUMOURS.This correlates the dynamic balance as to how one relates or stands to one another as well as the possibility of variable/multiple kind of influence the doshas or constitutional humours have upon one another. Therein the entire strategic key of Ayurvedic treatment as well as preventive methods of maintaining good health are well concealed. The fundament of Ayurveda is built on the regulatory system/ Constitutional humours, known as tri dosha or three dosha. Named as VATA, PITTA and KAPHA.
Roughly seen KAPHA acts upon the upper section of the body. Kapha controlls the organs and structures above the diaphragm/midriff. VATA refers to the part below the navel and PITTA is positioned between the midriff and navel.

Vata represents movement, Pitta dynamic energy and Kapha the structure.
VATA is a combination of air and ether. Motion and space. It restrains and keeps the things in the body in movement.
PITTA is a combination of fire and water Heat and Fluid.
It transforms the outer elements to an inner element_ activities like digestion and excretion are generated by Pitta.
KAPHA is a combination of earth and water. Solid and Fluid. This is the base for the other two doshas; it provides stability and cohesion in the body.

The theory of Ayurveda explains that an imbalane in the tridoshas is the reason and cause of all diseases /disorders.  Disturbed balance in the constitution is the cause off illness of both a body and mind nature. Ayurveda does not separate body from mind, both features are seen as one unit. Being a comprehensive school of medicine Ayurveda emphasises the closely connected, even inseperable component of body -mind -spirit.
The TRI-DOSHA theory can be compared to dynamic principles_ the three characteristics of dynamic forms of energy, that which regulates the entire energy in a livivg organism.

Ayurveda theory indicates that a disturbance in the dosha balance is the cause of all illness. In other words a disturbed equilibrium leeds to diseases, which is caused by the disorder in doshas “faults”.
Each individual is treated according to her or his individual constitution, the emphasis is on the individiual combination of dosha type and the mode of Ayurvedic treatment is to see the person as a complete entity. Ayurveda does not seperate the different parts of an ailment from the human being but has an holistic comprehensive approach. Effective method of treatment can be achieved through Ayurveda. Ayurveda is both preventive as well as curative.

Functional disorders often with drastic consequences and of  serious symptomatic outbreaks, or of psychosomatic nature of imbalance can be effectively treated by the healing method of Ayurveda.


Translated by Paramita Lahiri

Source: Raimund Mueller