Swasthavritta – The Preventive Therapy in Ayurveda and Its Relevance in the Present Era
The word swastha means calm or unperturbed by diseases or emotions. Vrtha means observation of rules. So swastavrtha is observation of the rules for a healthy life.
Each scientific discipline has its one basic aim and ways. The science of ayurveda is one that is intended to give instructions for protecting and preserving ayu or life. But is cannot be taken simply as one that give instructions for treatment alone.
Generally speaking, ayurveda has two sections – swasthavrtha (regimen for a healthy life) and athuravrtha (on the studying of diseases and treatment). That is ayurveda give more stress on the importance of prevention of diseases – on prophylaxis. Swasthavrtha is the section which expounds on the necessary observance for preserving a healthy life. Athuravrtha is a section which presents remedial measures when diseases attach us.
Since we are today facing with the problem of meeting with so many new diseases, the necessity of awakening the people to be conscious of their own way of life, is more. Hence the guideline of ayurveda as presented in the form of instructions on swasthavrtha is very useful and hence more relevant to the times.
Now, we have before us the Alma-ata declarations of the World Health Organization (WHO); the essence of which is the insistence on the cooperative activity of various medical systems so as to bring to utilization of the facilities of all of them as per the suitability regarding the time and place. Since the health problems of the present times is so varied and complex, which cannot be tackled by the efforts of any one single systems alone, however advanced it may be.
If we have to work out this plan for such utilization, we must have a clear knowledge of the fundamental approach of each of these systems, their aims and meaning and methods of their treatment techniques. We have also to endeavor to improve them by modernizing them but without giving a chance to shed away any of their basic qualities in the light of new knowledge promoted by advanced systems. Now it is to be noted that the up to date researches now going on in the advanced fields of modern science has proved to be a justification of the approaches of the old medical systems and aimed at developing new perceptions and new techniques for investigation, research and treatment methods.
Generally the term sastra in sanskrit is translated as science in western vocabulary. But the aim of the approach to the old sasthra towards men and universe, and the motivation of the new sciences that took shape and flourished along with the developments of the industrial era are directed towards two aspects. Of course they are not opposed to each other. The sastra stand for presenting precise instructions on what we have to do and not to do for the promotion for our progress in material and spiritual fields as to have freedom from diseases and a secure life of happiness. The word sastra means that which is commanded. Here the topic of discussion is concerned with the relationship of man and universe. How the acts of men and the changes of nature are interrelated and what are to be done to correct the aims and ways (methods) of our actions to make them orderly.
Here in this approach the knowledge of the basic structure and changes of the universe is essential. But that study has to depend primarily on the nature of the reactions to actions. The science that advanced in the industrial period had tried to study and promote science with the interest and outlook of a consumer. Study of nature by analysis was done with the intention of examining them structurally. So the material particulars taken from them can be used for producing commodities that can increase material amenities and pleasures and for luxurious life. So the term Exploration of nature had come in do vogue.
But the outlooks of the old medical systems as the hypocatic medicine of Europe (Grease) the traditional medical systems of Egypt, India, China etc are all based and developed with the former out look. While the Europine medicine that advanced later has progressed with the later outlook (industrial out look) of course. By adopting such an outlook they could make a major advance also. Because this science provided immense help to improve the number and quality of medicine for treatment and also the instruments the location and their environment. The successes gained in controlling and conquering the epimimics of infectious diseases is no doubt a great boon for the world. The advancement gained in the field of surgery is also impressive. But some serious omission and weaknesses also were noticed.
It is true that the developments of the branches of sciences as physics, chemistry and others (inert sciences) helped to produce articles and conveniences for the luxurious pleasure seeking life of people. But the study of man who has to make use of these articles of enjoyment was not promoted. The main reasons for the unprecedented spread of serious, even lethal diseases, as degenerative diseases, diseases due to mental stress and other stresses, is realized as due to the failure of science in helping citizens on the necessity of carrying life without alienating themselves from nature and society.
Realizing this, today modern, western, scientists also are now on the way of rethreading; understanding the importance of the old out look of the sasthras which give weight on the importance of the relationship of man with the universe. So they also are know proceeding with research activities, giving prominent to such old out look.
According to Ayurveda body and mind are an inseparable integral whole, related and responding to the environment mental diseases affects the body also and physical diseases the mind too. Mind and body are therefore taken only as two seats of disease as the purity of the body makes the mind also pure. So man with a pure mind only is healthy is equally true.
Since ayurvedic concepts are based n functions it insistences is that maintenance of health of mind and body is possible only is we realize that it is primarily dependable on our way of life. It is that which is not properly responsive to the environment that becomes the cause of disease. When we speak of environment we mean two types of environment nature is ever changing as daytime can be distinguished as of three periods so night also. Day has dawn noon time and evening as three periods. Night also has dusk, mid night, and termination period of night. These diurnal changes influenced our body and mind. Our physical activities and mental moods also.
Similarly the stages of age as childhood, youth, and old age, also create differences in the nature of our responses. When take food the reactions inside the body, at the beginning stage of digestion at its middle stage and end stage are different, when the season change. There are corresponding changes in the body responses also. Our internal conditions and function also undergo changes when we are affected with emotions of happiness, sorrow, anger etc. It is known that the food taken in, when accepts by passions does not digests easily and properly. So if we do not adopt our ways of life our life also to accord with the changing natural environment.
The irreconcilable conditions upset the internal balance of the body also. Then the natural activities of the body intended for nutrition, elimination of unwanted wastes, and similar once of a self-protective nature are upset. In these condition of increased wastes and impurities in the body impairing the internal functions create diseases. So in order to avoid the occurrence of diseases the main attention is to be paid for critical examination of the study of our environment and our waste of life for correcting the anomalies ourselves. All ayurvedic texts start with advices for following a course of life which is in harmony with nature, set up with due understanding of nature and the society in which we life. What are the protective steps or duties to be performed on all days and as per the changes in different climates in the alternatives to be made in the menu and other routine the precautionary duty to be performed to avert diseases and similar topics are given preference in these texts. But here what is worthy of special attention is the insistence given on performing the moral duties, which is deemed absolutely essential for a reconciled harmonious life with the society in which we live. These are instructions for a disciplined life governed by rules of self control. For the affliction of diseases can be avoided only if we proceed with self control. Being aware of the changing conditions of times and guided by rules to harmonize the activities of our sensory and motor organs and mind with self control and understandings.
Here insistence is on the importance of prevention of diseases. It is racer wiser than treating a diseases after allowing it to occur. The cause for all disease is the violation of these rules of conducts.
How we have to manage life properly as per the changing times is the theme more orderly discussed by ayurvedic preceptors what is presented in Ashtangahrdaya of Vaghbata is one that deserves our main attention.
Diseases never affect any one who is careful in dietetics matters and behaviours and carried a nature controlled and thoughtful action, owns a mind which does not become slavish to passion one who cherishes a selfless noble generous nature, truthfulness, patience and firm wisdom. Such a person is not affected with any disease.