Human Being In Ayurvedic View Point
The Three Doshas
The term vata stems from a Sanskrit word "vaayu" which means “that which moves things”; it is sometimes translated as wind. It is composed of the elements space and air--the lightest and subtlest of the five elements. It is considered in some ways to be the most influential of the three doshas because it is the moving force behind the other two doshas, which are incapable of movement without it. Vata dosha is responsible for all the somatic activities and sensations. It is the intelligence which channels perceptions (temperature, pressure, sweetness, lightening, violin music, etc.) through the appropriate sensory organs, converts them into internal psychological events, and then orchestrates the appropriate response via the organs of action. it is responsible for all movements in the mind and body: the movement of air in and out of the lungs, the flow of blood through the circulatory system, nutrients through the alimentary tract, and thoughts through the mind. Vata promotes a healthy balance between the thought and emotion and gives rise to creativity, activity and clear comprehension.
Because, among other functions, Vata regulates the nervous processes involved with movement, thoughts, emotions, eating, drinking, elimination, and our general functioning, its disturbance can often have far-reaching consequences.
The term pitta comes from the Sanskrit word pinj meaning “to shine” (according to Sir Monier-Williams its exact entomology is a mystery). It carries the meaning of “that which digests” and is associated with the idea of being yellow-tinged or bilious. In its widest sense, Paittika digestive function includes all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body as well as processes which promote heat production (i.e. conversion of iodine to triiodotyrosine in the thyroid gland). Pitta also governs our ability to digest ideas and impressions and to therefore perceive the true nature of reality. It stimulates the intellect and creates enthusiasm and determination.
Pitta is often regarded as the “fire” within the body. Think of it as the energy stored in the chemical bonds of all the organic substances which make us up: its encoded in our hormones, enzymes, organic acids, and neurotransmitters. Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, teaches that pitta functions in digestion, heat production, providing color to the blood, vision, and skin luster.
The term kapha derives from the Sanskrit word "shlish" which means “that which holds things together; to embrace; coherent”. In fact, one of the other designations for kapha appearing in some of the older literature is shleshma.. It is the force which provides structure to everything from an individual atom or cell to the sturdy musculoskeletal frame. It gives strength, stability, and endurance--both physical and psychological--and promotes human emotions and capacities such as love, compassion, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, loyalty and patience. One very important function of Kapha dosha in the human body is that it governs immunity and resistance against disease; it’s energy promotes self-healing and the ongoing processes of self-repairs of which we are largely unaware. Where Vata and Pitta effects become active in the body, Kapha acts to limit and control these two forces and prevent their excessive activity. The two mahabhutas which compose Kapha are water and earth. Together, these two prototypical elements form the fundamental protoplasm of life. Kapha imparts mind-body-spirit stability and resilience. It is the anabolic force in the body which governs the formation of neuropeptides, stomach linings, and all new cells and tissues of the body which are constantly being destroyed and re-created.
The Five Elements(Panchamahabootha)
Everything in the universe is made up of combinations of the Five Elements (Pancha Mahabhutas). This includes the human being which also acquires a soul or spirit. These five elements are known as:
Space or Akasha
Air or Vayu
Fire or Tejas
Water or Apa
Earth or Prithvi
These five elements, it should be understood, derive from and are expressions of an unmanifest and undifferentiated Creative Principle, which is One. These five elements are to be understood in a material sense as well as a subtle sense. By earth we are to understand not only the terrain of our planet or the iron in our red blood cells and spleen, but also the quality of steadfastness of mind, strength of one’s moral fiber, one’s slow and quiet undeterred advancement towards a goal, and the resistance to the manifestations of others. By water we mean to imply the cohesive aspects of reality which flows into and holds things together, perfectly and simply witnessed in the ubiquitous H20 molecule. And the other elements too were intended by the ancient vaidyas (physicians) to communicate the essential universal principle inherent in a particular element. By fire we mean the universal force in nature that produces heat and radiates light; it is our passion to pursue despite obstacles and delays; it is what burns away the cloak of ignorance (avidya) and allows the Truth to shine with brilliance. Fire removes doubt from the mother-substance of human heart and replaces it with joy. Air is that transparent, rarefied, kinetic force which sets the universe in motion; it moves the blood through the vessels, wastes from the body, thoughts through the mind; it moves the birds to warmer climates in winter, it moves the planets around their suns. Space is the subtlest of all elements which is everywhere and touches everything; in the mind it is the vessel which receives all impressions, in the heart space accepts love; space is receptivity and non-resistance to what is true.
Thus these Five Subtle Elements (Pancha Mahabhutas) form the basis for all things found in the material creation, from a grain of sand to the complex physiology of every human being. Balancing these elements in just the right way for each unique individual is the key to maintaining health and treating disease should it arise, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual.
The five elements can be seen to exist in the material universe at all scales both organic and inorganic, from peas to planets. When they enter into the biology of a living organism, man for example, they acquire a biological form. This means that the five elements are coded into three biological forces which govern all life processes. These three forces are known as the three doshas, or simply thetridosha.. The tridosha regulates every physiological and psychological process in the living organism. The interplay among them determines the qualities and conditions of the individual. A harmonious state of the three doshas creates balance and health; an imbalance, which might be an excess (vrddhi) or deficiency (ksaya), manifests as a sign or symptom of disease.
The three doshas are known as Vata, Pitta , and Kapha.
You can think of these three doshas as fundamental biological energies which regulate all the life processes of an individual. And as we will discuss later, although all individuals are made up of these same three energies, we all have them in unique proportions. The doshas obtain their qualities by virtue of their elemental composition as we can see in the simple diagram below.
Each of the three doshas is composed of two elements as shown here:
Elements Composing The Tridosha
Thus, Vata is composed of space and air, Pitta of fire and water, and Kapha of water and earth.. Vata dosha has the mobility and quickness of space and air; Pitta dosha the metabolic qualities of fire and water; Kapha dosha the stability and solidity of water and earth. Interestingly, the Sanskrit entomology of the word dosha gives it the meaning of “blemish, that which darkens”. This alerts us to the fact that when in balance these force are life-supporting but when imbalanced they are the agents of disease and misery.
The Seven Bodily Tissues--Sapta Dhatus
The dhatus are the basic varieties of tissues which compose the human body. The word “dhatu” comes from a Sanskrit word which means “that which enters into the formation of the body”; the root Daa (dha) means “support, that which bears”.
The primary Dhatus are seven in number. They are:
Sukra dhatu (reproductive tissues)
Majja dhatu (bone marrow and nervous tissues)
Asthi dhatu (bone)
Meda dhatu (fatty tissues)
Mamsa dhatu (muscle tissues)
Rakta dhatu (formed blood cells)
Rasa dhatu (plasma)
The most unique feature of Ayurvedic histology (concept of tissue formation) is that each human tissue is formed from the previous tissue in ascending order of complexity. Thus when food is ingested it is digested until, in the small intestines, it becomes a liquidy, chyme-like material known in Ayurveda as ahara rasa, or food essence. With the help of ahara rasagni (each dhatu has its own agni), this ahara rasa is converted into Rasa dhatu (blood plasma)--the first and most simple tissue.
Now, Rasa dhatu--catalyzed by Rasagni--is transformed into Rakta dhatu (formed blood cells), the second fundamental bodily tissue. Rakta dhatu in turn, with the help of raktagni, becomes mamsa dhatu (muscle), and so on.
Sukra dhatu (reproductive tissues)
Majja dhatu (bone marrow and nervous tissues)
Asthi dhatu (bone)
Meda dhaut (fatty tissues)
Mamsa dhatu (muscle tissues)
Rakta dhatu (formed blood cells)
Rasa dhatu (plasma)
Together, the dhatus and upadhatus make up the physical bulk of the body. The upa dhatus include hair, nails, ligaments, etc.; they are important structurally but usually are not implicated in disease conditions of the body.
Each dhatu consists of countless infinitesimal paramanus (cells) which are units of structure and function. Each paramanu contains innumerable suksma srotas (channels, pores) through which it receives nutrients and subtle energies and eliminates waste materials. Because dhatus are saturated with pores, the human body can also be said to be filled with pores (srotomaya). The srotas of each dhatu are unique in their structure and function and in the materials which move through them. The state of health of each dhatu as well as its relative vriddhi/kshaya (excess/deficiency; increase/decrease) is assessed by the physician.
The five great elements “ pancha mahabhutas ”--namely space, air, fire, water, and earth--manifest in the human physiology and psyche as three fundamental bioenergies known as the three doshas From space and air comes Vata, which regulates our energies and movements. From fire and water comes Pitta, which gives us warmth and perception and the capacity to transform substances within our bodies. From water and earth comes Kapha, which make s up our structure, our flesh and secretions, and creates solidity and cohesiveness.
Through the action of the tridosha we replicate the great Cosmic Forces in our own bodies and participate in the eternal cosmic dance of creation, maintenance, and destruction. The ancient sages observed that although every individual is constituted of the three doshas, each of us inherits them in differing proportions. This accounts for our differences in appea rance, preferences, aversions, behavioral patterns, and emotional tendencies. The proportion of the three doshas present in an individual at birth will determine his or her essential constitution or prakriti. Prakriti comes from two Sanskrit roots which means “the initial creation” or alternatively this interesting word can also mean “to come forth into creation”. It represents how we initially come into life before any deviations have taken place.
The prakriti remains unchanged during the course of one's lifetime and is genetically determined. Prakriti represents the proportion of the doshas which represents the ideal state of balance and it serves as the goal for us to strive toward. It will manifest in us throughout our li fetimes through our physical characteristics, natural urges, likes and dislikes, and psychological predilections as we have stated above. However, one's prakriti will also determine to a great extent how one will develop the highest order of human qualit ies: love, compassion, and pure consciousness. Thus the proportion of the three doshas which a person inherits will be at the foundation of his or her experience and existence. From the perspective of the Ayurvedic physician, precise determination of the prakriti is absolutely mandatory as the first step in formulating a course of action for each patient. Knowledge of an individual's prakriti will instruct the physician of the following:
Most effective means to prevent disease from arising
Prognosis of both simple and complex diseases
The most effective treatment
The recuperative capacity of an individual
The best dietary regimen for that individual
How to compound herbal formulations to best advantage
The most beneficial rejuvenative program
What Determines The Prakriti
There are five factors which influence the essential constitution prakrit of an individual.
1. The state of the doshas in the bodies of the mother and father at the time of conception is the most influencial factor.
If the father has an excess of Kapha dosha, sperms which flourish in a Kapha environment will predominate in the ejaculate. If, on the other hand, the mother happens to have an excess of Vata dosha at the time of intercourse, her vaginal and uterine environments will produce ova with Vata-dominant energies. Thus the resulting child will inherit a Vata-Kapha (or Kapha-Vata) prakriti.
2. The mental state and intentions of the mother and father at the time of conception.
The reproductive tissues of human beings are the most highly evolved in the entire physical body and as such are most affected by the subtle energies of thought and emotion. Changes in th e chemical environment, pH, viscosity, temperature, and blood flow of the genitalia and their respective seeds will occur due to psychological effects. Sexual intercourse for pleasure (Kapha), out of "duty" (Pitta), with a stranger (Vata), out of fear (Vata), in anger (Pitta), for money (Kapha), or for any intention will have a corresponding effect on the doshic pattern in the child.
In fact, Ayurveda recommends that all couples contemplating having a baby first undergo a complete purification therapy. This would eliminate any doshic excesses and make it more likely that the parents would be healthy during the succeeding sexual activity. Dietary regimens and restrictions are also recommended for prospective parents. Men should avail themselves of milk, ghee, ashwagandha root, licorice root and raisins while avoiding red meat, very spicy foods, eggplant, and cold drinks. Women should have basmati rice, ghee, sesame oil, mung dal, amalaki, and asparagus while avoiding poultry, game, red meat, green salads in excess, garlic, and raw vegetables. Ayurveda compares the creation of a new human life to the creation of a new universe and to maintain this perspective is an important step to preserving the sanctity of the act of sex. This can have an enormous be nefit to the mental characteristics of the child. .
3. The familial hereditary characteristics.
There are certain tendencies which run in families such as the tendency to obesity, tendency to athleticism, or artistic or scientific aptitude. This can exert an effect on the doshic combination of entire family trees.
4. The diet and daily activities of the mother during pregnancy.
The strange food cravings which develop during pregnancy are well documented. The predominance of one specific taste or food it em (e.g. sardines with vanilla ice cream seems to be popular!) can certainly influence the developing child. If the mother is working, attending school, staying home, or living with her parents during pregnacy this will also register on the doshic patter n of the newborn. The home climate, weather, patterns of exercise and rest, sleep patterns, and recreation will similarly have an effect. Any arguments or negative emotions should be avoided if possible.
5. The conditions dominant in the uterus during pregnancy.
Any trauma to this area of the mother's body will be detrimental to the developing baby. Conversely, loving attention to the womb, talking to the baby, stroking and touching the area by both parents, and soothing, sattvic music can be balancing influences.
As a consequence of foods which we take into our bodies from the external world and the normal biological processes which take place internally, we generate different kinds of waste materials, or malas, which must be excreted. Ayurveda generally recognizes two kinds of malas:
ahara mala or wastes from food
dhatu mala or wastes from the tissues
The ahara malas include feces (purisha), urine (mutra), and sweat (sveda). These are the three main malas. The dhatu malas include the various secretions of the nose, eyes, ears; lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and other metabolites of cellular respiration; exfoliated hair, skin, and nails. Although these are all waste products, they serve a role in maintaining health as long as they are normal in their quantity (pramana), qualities (gunas), and function (karma). However, if the malas become abnormal in some regard (i.e. increased or decreased) they become a factor in creating disease. When the dhatus and malas become unbalanced they are called dushyas (soiled). The malas are composed predominantly of different elements. Feces is composed mainly of earth element; urine, mainly water and fire; sweat, primarily water. Of course all five elements are contained in every mala.
Srotas, meaning channels or pores, are present throughout the visible body as well as at the “invisible” or subtle level of the cells, molecules, atoms, and subatomic strata. It is through these channels that nutrients and other substances are transported in and out of our physiologies. It is also through these channels that information and intelligence spontaneously flow. When the flow of appropriate nutrients and energies through these channels is unimpeded, there is health; when there is excess, deficiency, or blockage in these channels disease can take root. Some srotas have obvious correlates with western concepts (e.g. both Ayurveda and allopathy recognize the anna vaha srota, or gastrointestinal channel and the prana vaha srota, or respiratory passageways. Other srotas have no western correlate: artava vaha srota or udaka vaha srota, carrying the monthly menstrum and the pure water in the body, respectively.
Together with knowledge of the doshic imbalances, the dhatus (tissues) involved, the state of the agni (digestive fire), and other diagnostic means, assessment of the srotas is one of the means in Ayurveda by which diseases can be distinguished. By knowing which srotas are affected and the nature and extent of their disturbance, one can understand a great deal about the disease process.
The Charaka Samhita describes thirteen srotas.
Three srotas connect the individual to the external environment, by bringing air , food, and water into and out of the body.
Seven srotas are associated with the seven bodily tissues (sapta dhatus).
Another three srotas direct wastes out of the body.
That makes thirteen. However other ancient authorities recognize three additional srota relating to lactation, menstruation, and the flow of thoughts through the mind. This brings the total number of srotas to sixteen which is the accepted description.
Here is a list of the sixteen srotas of the human being.
Three srotas connect the individual to the external world:
Prana vaha srota--the channels carrying prana, the breath.
Anna vaha srota--the channels transporting solid and liquid foods
Udaka vaha srotas--the channels transporting water (no Western equivalent)
Seven srotas represent channels to and from the tissues (dhatus):
Rasa vaha srotas--the channels carrying plasma and lymph
Rakta vaha srotas--the channels carrying blood cells and specifically hemoglobin
Mamsa vaha srotas--the channels carrying muscle nutrients and wastes
Meda vaha srotas--the channels supplying the various adipose tissues of the body
Asthi vaha srotas--the channels bring nutrients to the bones and transporting wastes.
Majja vaha srotas--the channels supplying the bone marrow and nerves including the brain
Sukra vaha srota--the channels carrying the sperm and ova and supplying their nutrients
Three srotas regulate the elimination of metabolic waste products:
Purisha vaha srotas--the channels which carry the feces
Mutra vaha srotas--the channels which carry the urine
Sveda vaha srotas--the channels which carry perspiration
Two srotas are specific for women:
Artava vaha srotas--the channels which carry the menstrum
Stanya vaha srotas--the channels carrying the breast milk during lactation
One srota is associated with the mind (manas):
Mano vaha srota--the channels which carry thoughts, ideas, emotions, and impressions
The Digestive Fire--Agni
Agni is the fire constantly burning with our minds and bodies that kindles all the biological processes of life; it is the fire which powers the transformation of one substance into another. The most obvious function of agni is to promote digestion. But for living beings, everything depends on it--our appearance, body temperature, auto-immunity, awareness, understanding, intelligence; our health, our energy, our lives. Many diseases are connected directly or indirectly to an abnormality of agni. Not only is agni responsible for the breakdown of food substances, but also for neutralizing toxins, bacteria, and viruses which can disrupt our immune system.
When agni is healthy there is excellent digestion, normal elimination, proper tissue formation, good circulation, high energy, strong immunity, good complexion, pleasant body odor and breath, intelligence, enthusiasm, and perception.
When agni is unhealthy however, digestion is inefficient and incomplete and all the functions mentioned above are disturbed. Most importantly, when agni is disturbed, incompletely digested food form an internal toxin known as ama. This substance can further putrefy and ferment within the intestinal tract and can spread throughout the body to cause disease. Thus, without exaggeration, the care of agni is central to maintaining health and treating diseases.
There are thirteen forms of agni, the most important of which is jatharagni, which regulates and contributes a part of itself to the other agnis. Sometimes jatharagni is referred to as kosthagni (Kostha=digestive tract) or pachakagni (Pachana=cooking). A principal function of jatharagni is to cook the ingested food and separate the sara (nutrients) from the kitta (waste). The sara is also known as ahara rasa which is the substrate for the first bodily tissue, rasadhatu.
The other twelve agnis are the dhatagnis (7) and the bhutagnis (5), which are related to the tissues and the five subtle elements, respectively. The dhatagnis regulate the physiological processes in each of the seven tissues, while the bhutagnis regulate the further digestion and assimilation of the pancha mahabhuta contained in the ingested foods.
The Ayurvedic texts mention factors which disrupt agni. These include eating at inappropriate times, overeating, undereating, eating devitalized foods, eating before the previous meal has been digested, excessive sleep, anger, grief, immoral behavior, consumption of excess fluids, or frequent changes in dietary habits.
Agnis are classified into four categories according to how they manifest in the human being:
sharp, mild, irregular, and regular.
Tiksnagni (sharp) implies strong digestion, circulation, and immunity. Impurities, if they accumulate, tend to do so in rasa and rakta dhatus (plasma and formed blood cells). These people have a tendency toward inflammations and acidity. Usually seen in pitta constitutions.
Mandagni (mild) usually manifests as slower digestion, low appetite, cravings for heavy or sweet foods, and a tendency to carry excess body weight. Circulation may be slow and excess secretions often form. Usually seen in Kapha constitutions.
Visamagni (irregular) can promote irregular appetite, with intense periods of hunger alternating with lack of interest in food. There is often intestinal bloating, gas, constipation, or abdominal discomfort. Immunity is often diminished, especially with regard to the nervous system, bones, and upper respiratory tract. Not suprisingly, this type of agni is common in vata constitutions.
Samagni (regular, balanced) occurs in individuals who are well-balanced, eating proper amounts and kinds of foods, exercising, and resting appropriately. One sees normal appetite, satisfaction surrounding meals, normal bowel movements, endurance, (mental) clarity, and (emotional) stabilty.