Karma and the Spiritual Background of Yoga and Ayurveda
“On the completion of his training, the psyche of Brahma or the Sages enter into him (The Vaidya or Ayurvedic Physician) according to knowledge”
– Charaka Samhita Chikitsasthana, I.4.53
“Whatever offense we might have given to the divine beings or whatever moral code we in our ignorance might have transgressed, O Varuna, punish us not for our transgressions!”
– Rig Veda, VII.89.3
Ayurveda, as also the science of Yoga teaches us, as in all systems of Hinduism, that all actions are due to karma or action. There can be no reaction without an action to precede it.
In this system, there is no God or Satan that tries to subjugate or thwart man’s progress; rather, man is the creator of his own destiny through karma, or his own actions, based upon his own will. As such, the ancient Hindu and Ayurvedic texts give graphic and descriptive teachings with regards to why things happen the way they do, rather than explain them away as being due to the whim of some God or evil entity!
Possession, for example, which forms one of the many forms of insanity (unmada) in Ayurveda, does not occur simply for no reason due to inimical beings, but rather, occurs due to imitating various beings, neglecting Priests, Gurus and performing bad actions in previous lives, which causes such things to plague the person in the future.
Hence, no action or karma, goes without a reaction, or a like-action.
Keeping this in mind, we turn to specific Ayurvedic karmic implications that modern medical science seeks to rectify in vain. Ayurveda and Yoga also have their various methods to rectify these by negating negative karmas of the past by reducing negative samskaras (tendencies or traits inherit in the individual; karmic residue if we like) – not increase them by ignoring karmic implications, as modern science does, and thereby creates further future unhappiness (or suffering, duhkha), whilst providing only temporal (seeming) happiness (sukha, or happiness).
This is why for example when those who cannot conceive or have children, when able to through science, often suffer acute diseases or poverty later in life or other problems and are reborn into less savory conditions in future births.
Part of this comes into proper Ayurvedic Counseling also, and forms an integral part of the vast science of Ayurveda, which all Ayurvedic Practitioners should not neglect, with regards to science. It helps one understand, in a deeper manner, why they are suffering the way they do, or the root-causes behind certain diseases and their complications, beyond the normal doshic or biological causes, due to diet, lifestyle, age and other such factors.
Leucoderma (Sanskrit, Switra, Kilasa), a skin condition that causes pigmentation the skin for example, is a disease caused by insults to teachers, gods, impious activities, previous karmas and incompatible foods as per the ancient Ayurveda classics (Charaka Samhita, Chikitsasthana, VIII.177), as also other skin disorders (VIII.4-8). Unmada or insanity due to psychic possession is also caused by negative karmic actions (Charaka Samhita, Nidanasthana, VII.10, VII.19-20).
Twins as also difficulties in pregnancy are due to previous karmas (Charaka Samhita, Sharirasthana, II.12-16), causing also differentiations in twins. In cases of hermaphrodites, Vata gets disturbed and causes disorders, also due to previous actions (further verses 18-21). The same is also due to children that are born with genetic defects also, due to rajasic and tamasic samskaras or agitating and dark tendencies which create or form the embryo accordingly (discussed in further verses 29-36).
Spiritual therapies to atone for such previous actions and negate them are also part of the remedial measures in spiritual Ayurveda.
For example, for Epilepsy or Apasmara, Homas or Fire-sacrifices with sweetened rice and ghee (clarified butter) are to be done, along with offering of golden gifts and such to noble persons is required, as also offering of a murthi or image of the elephant-headed god Ganesha composed of gold, and also giving gifts to four Brahmins or Hindu Priests.
There are numerous descriptions in classical Ayurveda and Astrology (Jyotish) texts that describe the various karmic causes (nidanas), as also their effectual spiritual remedies for such diseases. We cannot ignore these, as when diseases are of a karmic nature, they become more complicated to treat than through mere physical therapies alone.
As noted, all such things are due to previous actions and cause unhappiness in people, but also seek to help us understand the primal root of these disorders, and how we can eradicate them completely at a more subtle karmic level, not merely on the physical level, at which they manifest.
There are several more classifications in the ancient texts also, but these are sadly often ignored by the modern Practitioner, in the quest for allopathic approaches of medicine, opposed to the original. As we see, the original Ayurvedic system of the ancient Rishis or Seers used Vedic Astrology (Jyotish) and such as integral aspects of healing, and dealt much with the Karma of healing also in a treatment of disease also.
A complete Traditional Ayurveda thus seeks to restore all of these ‘lost’ or rather ignored aspects of Ayurveda in an integrative manner. It seeks to bring them in in their totality, not just as karma in general – but consider the specifics as mentioned in the classical texts, as also including the sciences of dreams, omens etc. that were included as part of the sciences of predictive and medical astrology.
As we begin to integrate more Yoga with Ayurveda and again start to marry the two together, an awareness of the karmic implications are beginning to resurface, but so far, it still remains mainly in Yogic-based Ayurvedic circles, not in the mainstream of Ayurveda at large, which is still portrayed as a mainly a Spa and Wellness system.
Keeping this in mind, by returning to the spiritual source, we can begin to contemplate a more organic and Integral Ayurveda for the future and help restore the ancient traditional aspects of Ayurveda that are often lost and remember the karmic implications behind disease and how to work with them! [ Excerpted from my book, “Karma in Yoga and Ayurveda” ]