Philosophical ideas in Ayurveda

The philosophical concept of Ayurveda made it more than just a symptomatic form of medicine due to its holisitc approach. Unlike other forms of medicine, it took into account the psychological, inherent and cosmic nature of man before developing a potent mixture for him. A practioner was not considered astute unless he had knoweldge of the prevalent philosophical systems.

Instructor: NPTEL

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Suggested Time

1 weeks







Unit 1: Introduction

Man and Cosmos 18 min

As man is a product of the cosmos, there exists an undeniable link between the two. The panchabhutas(five elements) and the spiritual self are integrally woven into the cosmos. Homology is central to treatment as a cure can only be derived if the inappropriate levels' of dosas and dhatus are gauged. But Ayurveda does not deal with super-sensory aspects and hence is very much entrenched in indriyarthas or the physical world.
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Methods Accessing Knowledge 9 min

Atopadesa which came much before the Classical epistemology of western origin accepts the words of the apta(wise) as a source of knowledge. Pratyaksa or perception along with Anumana or inference are also central to accessing knowledge. A product derived out of the sensory organs that work in conjunction with the mind and intellect are finally realized when the 'Self' finally preceives it.
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Parameters of Debate and the Self 6 min

Debating should be conducted in a non-deceitful, logical and well thought-out manner that does not bring a feeling of ill will to any individual. The "Self" is inherently what eventually sways our opinion after buddhi or intellect has made a decision.
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Unit 2: Guide to Living

Personal Conduct, Livelihood & Liberality 11 min

The human body by default is engineered to be healthy, hence guidelines are set to ensure it remains in such a state. A basic hygiene methodology was set during that time which discusses the benefits and drawbacks of various foods and practices. Rtucarya which is the adaptation to various seasons, was strictly followed in order to remain healthy. Forgiveness, compassion, equanimity, truthfulness were important values and a sense of brotherhood was encouraged as respect for all organisms. Liberality was encouraged so that each individual was free to eat, practice or wear whatever kept them happy and healthy.
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Professional Conduct and the great Vagbhata 6 min

Codes were laid out that had to be strictly followed and physicians were expected to have a mastery of the ancient texts, theoretical knowledge, practical expertise, a friendly dispoistion among other virtues. The stereotypical outlook of Indians denouncing life was totally absent during that time as they cherished and enjoyed life to the fullest. Good food, wine, materialistic pleasures were not scoffed at but looked at positively. Vagbhata the great setup the ashtavaidhya tradition which are still practiced by physicians in Kerala.
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Unit 3: Human Destiny and Habitat

Mortality & Ethics 8 min

Mortality is an active subject and was so then as well when people were concerned whether they would survive or not. Charaka said that even if the quatret of physician, the patient, attendant and the medications have all had great qualities, the patient might still not survive. Deviating from the traditional view of leaving it to fate, Yoga Vasista school challenged destiny by encouraging people to exert their will. The Janapadhodhvamsana talks about catastrophic consequences if our conduct is unrighteous towards the environment.
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