Sri Lanka developed its own Ayurvedic system based on a series of prescriptions handed down from generation to generation over a period of 3,000 years. The ancient kings, who were also prominent physicians, sustained its survival and longevity. King Buddhadasa (398 AD), the most influential of these physicians, wrote the Sarartha Sangrahaya, a comprehensive manuscript which Sri Lankan physicians still use today for reference.
Inscriptions on rock surfaces reveal that organized medical services have existed within the country for centuries. In fact, Sri Lanka claims to be the first country in the world to have established dedicated hospitals. The Sri Lankan mountain Mihintale still has the ruins of what many believe to be the first hospital in the world. Old hospital sites now attract tourists, who marvel at the beautiful ruins. These places have come to symbolize a traditional sense of healing and care, which was so prevalent at that time.
Historically the Ayurvedic physicians enjoyed a noble position in the country’s social hierarchy due to their royal patronage.
The universe includes human beings, animals and plants made up of the Pancha Maha Bhootha (five great elements) – Apo, Thejo, Vayo, Pruthuvia and Akasha. The human body is also made of these five elements. Accordingly, the elements in the universe and the elements in the human body reveal a common origin. These common factors create a harmony between man and the universe and there is a co-relation between the universe and the human body. In the external universe there are three main causative factors – the sun, moon, and wind. In the human body there are three constituent elements – Vatha, Pitha and Kapha. There are similarities between these causative factors.
Vatha is the moving power or principle of movement in the human body. In the external universe the wind is the principle of the movement: but Vatha should not be compared with the wind, as it is a kind of energy, which is an internal force.
Pitha controls the metabolic functions inside the body. The sun is the energy of conversion and is represented by fire: when anything comes in contact with heat it changes its appearance. Pitha Dosha inside the human body is said to have this conversion power.
Kapha is the force of attraction and helps to prevent the disintegration of the human body. It has adhesive power and is responsible for the formation and maintenance of the body and regulates its temperature. The moon is responsible for cooling and regulating the temperature around the universe.
Just as much as the sun, the moon, and the wind have achieved a sense of balance to maintain the universe, Vatha, Pitha and Kapha have to be in correct balance to maintain the human body and well being of the human body.
To understand Ayurveda, it is necessary to have some idea about the following fundamental principles.
The common origin of the universe and man
As universe and man have a common origin the activities in the universe also takes place inside the human being. In the same way that the Sun, Moon, and Wind maintain the world, Vatha, Pitha and Kapha sustains the body.
The Pancha Maha Bhootha – Theory
According to Ayurveda, the whole universe and the human body are made up of five elements
Every human being is made up of the 3 Dosha, namely Vatha, Pitha and Kapha. Tri Doshas are the main active forces in our body. They regulate all function of the organs in the body. The construction of our body, its maintenance and disintegration are mainly due to these Tri Dosha. When Vatha, Pitha, Kapha are in a state of equilibrium a human being will have a healthy state of body. An imbalance of the Tri Dosha may lead to diseases.
In the Sanskrit language, the individual constitution of each person is called “Prakurthi” The meaning of Prakurthi is “nature” or “the original form” (“the first creation”) every person acquires his own Prakurthi at the time of conception. When the sperm and the ovum unite inside the uterus, the predominant Dosha produce specific characteristics/ features. This Prakurthi remains constant throughout the person’s life. The predominant Dosha of a person is today commonly referred to as “body type”
When we consider different individuals and their dietary requirements, their behavior and tolerance to the environment, we find that they have different needs to survive as healthy individuals. Even two people of the same age, weight, and height may have different needs and tolerance to different types and amounts of food, drink and activity. So it is clear that tolerance to food, environment, behavior, mental and physical activity etc. depends on the constitution of the person. For examples if an excess of Vatha is present in an individual, his constitution will be Vatha. In the same way Pitha dominance leads to Pitha constitution. Prakurthi usually represents the disease proneness of the person. For example, Kappa Prakurthi people tend to suffer from Kapha diseases like obesity, or colds.
The correct determination of a person’s prakurthi requires a careful examination by a specialist. The prakruti or body type has a strong influence in the determining of Ayurveda Treatment.
Dhatu and Mala
Dhatu is a Sanskrit term for tissues. The human body consists of seven basic tissues known as “Saptha Dhatu”. Usually Dhatu gives support to the body or sustains it. When these Dhatu are defective they affect the maintenance and nutrition of the body and lead to diseases.
Mala is a term for waste products. The human body produces three main waste products that i.e. stools, urine and sweat. It is important that these waste products are expelled from the body regularly, or else they collect as toxins.
Agni and Ama
The other important principle governing the basic physiology of Ayurveda is Agni. Ayurveda believes that any disturbance in digestion and metabolism leads to the formation of toxins (Ama), which give rise to diseases. Agni governs this disturbance of digestion and metabolism.
When there is an imbalance of the Tri Dosha or Saptha Dhatu or Agni, the disease process begins. The balanced state of the things mentioned above is responsible for the natural immunity of the person.
There are two aspects to Ayurveda Treatment.
Curing of diseases
Prevention of diseases
Shamana Chikithsa (Curing of diseases)
manages the symptoms of the disease and treats the cause of the disease with the help of various Ayurveda medicine and therapies. In Ayurveda there are thousands of medicines consisting of herbs, minerals, and biological products, which are used singly or jointly to suppress and cure diseases, particularly when the disease is at an early stage.
Shodana chikithsa (Prevention of diseases)
is one the most important and advanced techniques in Ayurveda and is an internal purification process. Purification can be used to cure diseases and at the same time to promote the healthy state of the body. It is thus a unique science. It is possible to successfully cure a number of difficult diseases like Arthritis, Paralysis etc with the help of Shodana Chikithsa.
Shodana chikitsa removes the Ama and Mala (toxins) from the body and restores the balance of the Doshas. Shodana Chikitsa consists of a three-stage purification process as follows:
Purva Karma – preparatory purification prior to the main purification
Pradhana Karma – the main five purification methods (known as Panchakarma treatment)
Paschath Karma – post rejuvenation therapy.