Philosophical and Historical background

From the scientific, scholastic material available today one cannot conclude to what extent Greek and Indian healing systems of medicine influenced one another or if at all there was a connection  between the two systems or a mutual exchange of medical ideas. There are many contrary  theories about this but since the topic in this section here is about the theory of Elements in the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine, it can be left aside for the present.

To understand Ayurveda it is essential to grasp the essence of the theory of  the Elements. The question placed around the Elements leeds to the question of the root /origin of Ayurveda. The five Elements or “five states of matter”, is the basis of Ayurveda.

The Elements: Earth, Water, Fire Air and Ether were already described in the Vedic Texts (the ancient holy texts of India) and were depicted as deities.

The theory of Indian philosophy resides in the notion that the universe is the composition of these five Elements. The body as well as the mind is also an essential composite part of these above mentioned Elements:

matter/ energy= body / soul

are all a symphony of these Elements that hold the universe in harmony.

The 5 Element theory explains the constituent energy.

The Doshas_The Humors: a central concept of Ayurveda

Traditional system of Ayurveda is constitutional Medicine. Constitutional Medicine means that one is born with certain combination of principles/forces that determines ones individuality, and a balance of these forces determines one’s constitution. Imbalance, “fault”(doshas) is the root of all diseases/disorders  of  a body-mind nature. Ayurveda being a comprehensive system of medicine treats the human body-mind as an individual entity, as something not inseparate but as one unique unit.

This school of medicine is not based on symptomatic disorders where the human being is seen as a machine, as parts that need to repaired if there is a certain disorder. Disease and psychological disorders are seen as related; as a result of ignorance and unawareness, so to say “fault” occuring froman incorrect way of being and living.

In the Sanskrit Literature of India there are various interpretation of the so called teachings of Doshas. European publications portrays the interpretation of the 3 Dhosas as ” Wind, gall and mucus/slime”
The literal translation from Sanskrit, is”imbalance/”fault”/flaw”. However it may be termed, the Doshas play a very important role in understanding the theory of Ayurveda. In the history of ideas the theory of the Doshas are based on two fundaments: the three constitutional qualities(gunas) of  Nature and of  the Elements. (ref. To Ayurveda Part 4  Fundamental structures of Ayurveda)

In the Sanskrit Literature of India there are various interpretation of the so called teachings of Doshas. European publications portrays the interpretation of the 3 Dhosas as ” Wind, gall and mucus/slime”
The literal translation from Sanskrit, is”imbalance/”fault”/flaw”. However it may be termed, the Doshas play a very important role in understanding the theory of Ayurveda. In the history of ideas the theory of the Doshas are based on two fundaments: the three constitutional qualities(gunas) of  Nature and of  the Elements. (ref. To Ayurveda Part 4  Fundamental structures of Ayurveda)

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 similar functions 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.

Ayurveda theory explains that an imbalance in the three components(Tridoshas) evokes diseases. In other words a disturbed equlibrium in the constitution is the cause of illness in the body as well as in the mind. Since Ayurveda is a comprehensive system of medicine, body-mind are not seperated.

This theory as explained before is also known as Tridosha-Theory.The three Doshas are compareable to dynamic principles – three characteristics of dynamic forms of energy, that regulates the entire energy in a living organism.

In a state  of well being the doshas are labelled as Dhatus (tissues) and Malas (excrement) The guarantee of well being in Ayurveda is to always treat the human being as an unique complete entity and to understand the source of imbalance in an individual, that is to understand and treat the doshas/faults  in reference to specific individual  disorder. This is the special quality of Ayurveda and this is also what differentiates it from western systems of healing methods. This explains why Ayurveda is called a comprehensive system of medicine. Effective method of treatment  can be achieved through Ayurveda.
Functional disorders with its  drastic  symptoms, often of a psychosomatic nature of imbalance, can be treated effectively by the comprehensive healing method of Ayurveda.

Translated by Paramita Lahiri

Source: Raimund Mueller