Ayurveda, in India encompasses a large integrated body of systems. These functions together create a working body of knowledge. A holistic approach to life and life forms, this ancient wisdom, to realize its full potential, must incorporate all of its observations and beliefs into the very structure of everyday living. To understand it completely is not something achieved in a day, a month or even a year. Yet, everyone, to reach the level of awareness, must come to grasp some of the principles and terms including the Gunas.
A Guna is a quality or attribute. In fact, all materials are characterized as having a guna. While potentially, they could be numerous and infinite, in the Ayurveda system, they consist of 10 pairs of opposites. These are:
- Cold and hot
- Wet and dry
- Heavy and light
- Gross and subtle
- Dense and liquid
- Stable and mobile
- Dull and sharp
- Soft and hard
- Smooth and rough
- Cloudy and clear
Three Cosmic qualities are responsible for creating another crucial concept of Ayurveda – the elements.
The Five Elements
Unlike the current Western system of elements, the Ayurveda in India, China, Vietnam, Japan and other Asian countries has a system of five elements. They are:
In the human body these are described as manifesting themselves as three basic energetic principles of doshas. These are often referred to as body types. They are:
Every single living body is born with a specific and distinctive ratio of these energetic principles. They provide us with a very unique profile – psychological and physical. There are, after all combinations, both dual and triple since no living being is one specific body type. We all mix and blend the types together; however, one will usually be dominant making it our signature body type.
The doshas do not exist in a vacuum. They do not operate without input. How we live, what we do, how much we eat, what we eat and the environment we live and work in influence whether our doshas are in harmony or out of tune. To restore the balance sought in Ayurveda, in India, practitioners do massage, encourage the practice of yoga and meditation. They also use herbs and other traditional forms of healing medicine to help restore or define the necessary harmony.
Once balance is established, the individual can move on to live a healthy live. Perhaps, he or she can take a giant step towards freedom by cultivating consciousness. This, more than anything else, helps to sets Ayurveda in India and other Asian countries apart from Western medical practices.