Monday, September 25, 2006

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Holistic Health

Health is defined by the WHO as 'a state of physical, mental and social well-being, not merely an absence of diseases or infirmity'. Flexible adjustment to the changing demands of environment is health and it is not a state.

Genuine health is the perfect functioning of the tripod of Body, Mind & Soul.

Holistic healthcare recognises the effect of sociological, psychological, economic, ecological and even political influences on health.

Before 1960, only Allopathic medicine was considered 'scientific' and other indigenous systems, though based on empirical knowledge, were labelled as 'quackery'. Due to scramble for 'appropriate technologies', ideas have changed. Interest in Alternative Medicine is on the rise in America and other Western countries.

There are more than 180 systems of Alternative Medicine. Ayurveda is being studied deeply. Homeopathy is already being practised even by Allopathic doctors. Psychotherapy, hypnotism, Yoga Therapy, Yogic Pranayama are vying for their own place. Everything seems to be tending towards Holistic medicine in accordance with the concept of holistic health.

Physical, mental, vital, intellectual and spiritual - these are the Five Levels of Being. For medicine to be holistic, it should be universally applicable, cover all aspects of health, on all the five levels. Early Indian doctors conceived of Holistic medicine on the basis of the Vedantic Five Sheaths - physical body, vital movements, mental thoughts, intellectual convictions and emotional feelings which cover, as it were, each individual soul.

Holistic Health Concept in the Vedas

There are many mantras in the Vedas where the goal of medicine is described as the removal of the cause of death, conferring of a lengthy span of life, , purification of thoughts and actions, removal of the cause of diseases and ensuring the well-being of body, mind and soul.

Indian Holistic Medicine, Ayurveda, which is called a part of the Vedas, is attributed to the sage Bharadwaja ( 5000 BC ) and originated from Atharva Veda ( ' Atharva Vedasu Upanishadsu Pragulpannah ' ). It is said that the Greeks acquired a knowledge of Medicine only after the secrets of Atharva Veda were known to them ! Dr Robert Keith Wallace averred "It is appropriate to recognise India as the home of the most profound knowledge and the procedures for the development of Physiology" ! ( The Neurophysiology of Enlightenment ).

This popular & holistic concept of medicare & healthcare was taught even to foreign students in the Universities of Taxila, Nalanda and Varanasi during AD 500-600.

Ayurveda defines health as ' Svasthya ' ( to be one's own Divine Self'). It is a state of equilibrium of the three principles of air ( Vata ), bile (Pitta) and phlegm ( Kapha ), along with a contented state of senses, mind and soul.

Health, said Charaka, the famous Ayurveda physician ( A D 500-600 ), is an equipoised state of Body, Mind & Soul. This was to him a state of 'ease'. Contrary to this was 'disease'.

Ayurveda advocates the following to maintain health and prevent diseases. A daily routine of rising early, exercises, bathing, oil-massage, gargling and regulated sleep. These must be properly coordinated with the Six Rithus, the changing seasons. A value-based life is advocated as a prime requisite for good health.

The psychological state of the patient is an important factor in diagnosis and treatment & Ayurveda postulates that the " The doctor who does not find out the inner state of the mind of the patient by the light of his knowledge cannot find out the disease ".

Summing up, we cannot overlook the major factor contributing greatly to holistic health. Righteous Conduct, which is the Ethical Way of Living in Rhythm with Natural Law. This rests on the four important values of

Truth( Affiliation to the Divine Self, honesty, simplicity etc ),

Purity ( which includes a temperate sex-life and the sublimation of sexual energies through divine channels of philanthropy, selfless service, excellence in all activities etc ),

Self-faith ( Faith in one's own Divine Self, the repository of Absolute Being, Knowledge and Bliss ) &

Fearlessness. ( of even death )

Prakriti Therapy ( Naturopathy )

Naturopathy exists as one of the branches of Holistic Medicine.

Holistic Medicine has 2 aspects -

The Therapeutic Aspect ( Athura Vritta ) &

The Prophylactic Aspect ( Swastha Vritta )

Naturopathy is the Prophylactic or the Preventive System.

It is based on the principle " Natura Sanat " ( Nature is the Healer and Doctor). As the human body is composed of the five elements ( Earth, air, water, fire and ether ) so the Five Doctors are the Elemental Five! Fasting is the best medicine ( even diseases like ulcer can be cured by fasting ) and this is known as Ether Therapy ( Akashopasana). Sun bathing is Fire Therapy ( Tejopasana). Using Water as a therapeutic element is Water Therapy ( Jalopasana). Letting the body get fresh unpolluted air is Air Therapy ( Vayu Upasana) and eating pure fruits and vegetables is Earth Therapy ( Prithvi Upasana ) Naturopathy means returning to Nature and living in rhythm with Nature, who is infinite in her wisdom! Even Allopathic scholars have admitted " Medicus curata, natura Sanat"( The physician only treats but it is Nature that heals ) ! The main cause of all disease is overeating and man is advised to eat only once in a day and fast once in a week !

He who eats once is a great Yogi ( Divine Man )

He who eats twice is a great Bhogi ( sensual gratifier)

He who eats thrice is a great Rogi ( one plagued by illhealth )

He who eats 4 times is a great Drohi ( one who torments all )

The five major planets correspond to the Elemental Five thus


Jupiter Ether
Mars Fire
Saturn Air
Mercury Earth
Venus Water

No wonder in the Pythagorean system, the number five was given such
tremendous importance!

Medical astrologers prescribe Ether Therapy if Jupiter is weak and Fire
Therapy if Mars is weak etc. By means of the Great Art, health can be
restored in the patient !
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