Desa, Kala, Patra: Place, Time and Subject
The concepts of desa, kala, patra are very informative for the way in which Ayurveda treats imbalance and disease.
Treatment needs to be appropriate to the patients’ circumstance/locality (desa), time period (kala) in which he or she lives, season of the year, and to the personality/identity of the patient (patra).
This is very different from Western nutritional science, that tries to generalize and create standardized treatment for everybody.
What this means, is that a recommended diet by an Ayurvedic doctor, or practitioner, will be different depending on these three factors.
Desa – Place
In Alaska, a different diet is needed based on the climate and natural circumstances, than in Florida (different desa).
When you live in the mountains of Tibet, a cold and barren environment, where little grows will dictate that you eat a lot of meat. In the Mediterranean with its favorable climate for growing human food crops, it is easy to live on a vegetarian diet.
Kala – Time
Our modern-day world with its reality of overpopulation, industrial agriculture, pesticides, GMOs, disappearing rain forests, extinct species, needs a different approach to sustainable diet than the times from which Ayurveda originates, when there were few people on the planet and sources of food were everywhere in the natural environment.
In those times we also had to work much harder for our meals, gathering, hunting, growing, harvesting. While now we can just go to the store or to a restaurant. Little energy is expended in the direct act of feeding ourselves.
Patra – Subject
A person who is naturally stocky and strong needs a different diet than a person who is long and lean. Someone with vascular disease will thrive on different foods than a sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome.
A couch potato should eat lights foods, while a long distance runner needs heavier, very nourishing foods. Factors of health, disease symptoms, level of activity, lifestyle, what is going on in the moment, should all be considered in the choice of a diet, or even a next meal.
Nowadays there are multitudes of diets for people to follow to loose weight, to heal or avoid digestive problems, to be more healthy and energetic, to eat according to a body-type, etc.
These diets do not take into account the factors of “place”, “time”, and “individual” (the body-type diets do take into account the last), but they are presented as being right for everybody, everywhere. Some people will thrive from being on a specific diet, but not everyone, because we all need different things. There are healing diets, like macrobiotics, or in the Ayurvedic system there is the tridoshic diet, that are very clean and simple. They are the right diet when going through healing, but if taken for too long, they can be depleting, not offering enough substance for an active lifestyle.
Ayurveda recommends that you eat what is available from your natural environment. In a lot of areas around the world this relationship of people with their natural food sources has changed because of colonialism, emigration, and the blending of cultures.
People moved to other continents, and grew their familiar crops in the new lands. Slowly their new foods and eating habits became part of the local culture. Often there was a time of adjusting with lots of discomfort and disease, because it is important to adjust your diet to the new environment and climate. Some good habits and foods got lost in this process, but new ones emerged.
I think we can trust that this is part of human evolution. We are a very flexible species that can adapt many environments and circumstances, and we can thrive on many different foods.
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