The Eight Pillars of Disease Prevention
Dina-charya means a daily routine. We can see that the Ayurvedic recommendation and our spiritual master's formula run on parallel tracks. The following program is recommended
Dina-charya means a daily routine. We can see that the Ayurvedic recommendation and our spiritual master's formula run on parallel tracks. The following program is recommended:
- Wake up early and attend to nature's calls. Wash the mouth and clean the mouth.
- Brush the teeth with neem twigs which are pungent, bitter and astringent in taste.
Neem tooth brushes are very good because right away early in the morning they neutralize the heavy sweet mucus buildup in the mouth. The use of sweet toothpastes is congenial to the unwanted mucus buildup.
- Clean the tongue thoroughly with the fingers and a stick used as a soft brush.
- Clean the eyes, ears and nose. Use cold water for both but only as cold as prevents detrimental bodily reactions.
- Take regular exercise but not too much.
- After breakfast proceed to your regular duties.
- Eat lunch in a happy frame of mind.
- Have a light evening meal and go to bed on a comfortable bed early.
Ritu-charya means the seasonal adaptations. The seasonal divisions in the East have their following Western counterparts:
- March-April, Vasanta-ritu, spring
- May-June, Grishma-ritu, summer
- July-August, Varsha-ritu, monsoon
- September-October, Sharad-ritu, short summer
- November-December, Hemanta-ritu, winter
- January-February, Shishira-ritu, cold winter
yad bhAvi tad bhavaty eva yad abhAvyaM na tad bhavet
iti nizcita buddhInAM na cintA bAdhate kvacit
What is destined to happen does definitely happen. What is not to occur shall never occur. Intelligent people who come to this decision are not worried by any anxiety. (NArada PurANa 1.37.47)
November to February is the time for eating very plentifully and much exercise, building a solid foundation for the rest of the year. The appetite is more powerful during these months.
Vasanta-ritu is the doctor's favorite because illnesses are most common. This season is kapha-kara, i.e. mucus builds up automatically. Light diet, limited sleep (none in the afternoon), avoidance of sweets, fats and liquids that produce mucus is recommended.
Grishma-ritu is the season of dehydration, exhaustion, lack of energy and lethargy. Cold but not hot fluids, cold baths and swimming. Too much exertion and sunshine should be avoided. The diet should be light and free from pungent and sour foods. Because nights are short, some sleep during noontime is recommended.
Varsha-ritu means the rainy season in Asia, analogical elsewhere. Digestive power is poor and lack of sunshine as well as a cloudy atmosphere are uncongenial to health. Ginger, black pepper and lemon juice may be taken to reinforce appetite. Leafy vegetables should be taken sparingly. The rainy season increases vayu-kara. Foods should be hot and light with ghee, curd and honey. River water is to be avoided for drinking as well as daytime naps, too many liquids and overexposure to elements.
Sharad-ritu has its counterpart in the West in "Indian summer". This season is pitta-kara, bile increasing. Cool, sweet, bitter and astringent foods are wanted. They produce anti-pitta-dosha reactions. It is essential to avoid curds, overeating, early morning dew and daytime sleep. Many Vedic scriptures enjoin that exposure to the sun during this time is inauspicious.
Shad-vritta means mental culture. Ayurveda has a much more all-encompassing disease pathology than any other system as it states that practically all diseases have a psychic base. We have outlined the gross disease pathology (chaya, prakopa, etc.) but the actual pathological process is initiated in the mental field and certainly all chronic diseases stem from basic mental moorings. This point is always kept in view by a vaidya or kaviraja when prescribing medicines and regiments.
The two mental doshas are actually the lower modes of nature (rajo and tamo guna). A person of predominantly vayu nature is said to have a subtle psyche of rajas and one of kapha is said to be tamasic to some degree.
Anxiety and anger are two main mental pollutions that give rise to the gross disease. On all of the prescriptions for taking Ayurvedic medicines there is a list of prohibitions. On many of them it is said that a return to normalcy requires situation and / or activity free from anxiety and anger.
Shad-vritta principles are presented in more in-depth manner in Bhagavad-gita. Thus in avoiding disease following Bhagavad-gita's formula is mandatory. Ayurvedic recommendations:
- Be noble in your thoughts and deeds. Have compassion for all living beings.
- Do not waste energy in avoidable talk. Speak the truth.
- Give up inimical thoughts, cultivate friendly ones.
- Avoid self-denigration, self-torture, self-praise, etc.
- Do your duty carefully without attachment to results.
- Maintain mental equilibrium both in success and failure and other opposites.
- Have respect and liking for learning and the learned. Cultivate patience and forgiveness.
(4) Timely attention to nature's calls
Intuitional reflex desires and actions are triggered by the vayu-dosha. Of course, yoga is meant to limit them but while we are in the conditioned stage and do it unwisely or artificially there will be negative results. This is accepted as one of the four pillars of disease prevention. The vayu-dosha becomes vitiated when basic bodily needs are not attended to and diseases of that nature begin to manifest. Retention of urine or faeces for a long time, not sleeping when needed and not drinking when thirsty produce various diseases. Suffice is to say that all natural instincts should be attended to promptly, although Ayurveda also emphasizes that all negative feelings like envy, anger, lust, etc. are to be squelched and replaced with transcendentally positive ones.
Ayurveda puts some emphasis on eating what we desire as a nature's way to correct imbalances in the system. Of course, lust can trick. Therefore it is essential to get Ayurvedic knowledge on how to eat what foods for what kind of dosha vitiations.
(5) Inherent qualities of liquids and solids
The extent of these side pillars of Ayurvedic disease prevention could take up this whole booklet ten times over. Proper food combination is a science in itself.
Except in summer and October heat water should be used sparingly. Drinking water (best one hour) before a meal leads to lessening of appetite and loss of weight. Water drunk during the meal sparingly can help passage and digestion of food. Water after the meal leads to obesity.
Coconut water is nutritious and digestive and while quenching thirst it flushes out the bladder and kidneys. Cow's milk is a tonic, good for brain power and complexion. Buffalo's milk is good against excessive appetite and insomnia. Cow milk is always the milk of choice. Buttermilk is light, astringent and a good digestive. It neutralizes many diseases originating from kapha.
One should be careful with curds since they are blood heating, constipative and heavy to digest. During Vasanta and at night they are not to be eaten.
Modern science groups ghee with oils and fats but Ayurveda does not as ghee is considered just the opposite - cooling and synthetic. It is a part of many Ayurvedic remedies and is also a good digestive.
Of the awned grains, rice as a class is considered easy to digest, cooling, leaving little residue and thus constipative. Some rice is tri-dosha-ghna, since it keeps all doshas in equilibrium. Wheat, as a class is heavy to digest, oily, kapha-kara and life-sustaining. Corn is astringent and good for reducing weight.
The legumes are rich in protein, especially various dahls. Mung dahl is highly recommended as it is easily digested and doesn't cause as much flatulence as the others.
Most of the vegetables mentioned in old Ayurvedic texts are little in demand or no longer available, while in the fruit category grapes and pomegranate are most recommended, the former being good for the bile and thirst and the latter being a sedative, good against cardiac complaints and primary acid, a tri-dosha-ghna.
Every foodstuff has a digestive nature (heavy, medium or light), a predominant rasa (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent or astringent) and specific effects on specific organs or processes. The following five general points are also important to take into consideration:
- Foods are inherently light or heavy but the cooking may change their status (for example, a light rice rendered heavy by turning it to sweet rice).
- Combination of foods changes the digestibility. This refers to the more known food combining technique which groups foods as acid fruits, sweet fruits, green vegetables, starch vegetables, starches, sweeteners, oils and fats and proteins. This understanding is based on how acids, amino acids and alkalines digest food. Some major rules are not to mix fruits, especially acid ones, with vegetables, or two different proteins together, or starches with proteins, etc. These rules become more important the more is eaten. If eating is minimal and digestion is sufficient, there will not be fermentations or decompositions in and everything will be digested. Prabhupada confirms this in the Srimad Bhagavatam.
- Different cooking flames, water addition, nature of utensils (avoid the poisonous aluminium!) and added oils, etc. must be considered.
- Land, manure, fertilizers and insecticides affect food.
- Time of the day, hunger, consciousness of the cook, indigestion (if any) are other important factors. Also, Prabhupada points out that food unoffered to Krsna increases disease only.
(6) Consciousness while eating
Meals should be taken:
- in easy, pleasant frame of mind
- fresh, hot, with ghee which facilitates digestion, assimilation and excretion
- not hurriedly nor a too long time - the former leads to indigestion and the latter to overeating
- according to likes and dislikes (with intelligence)
- in proper food combination, including all six rasas with astringent and bitter edibles used judiciously
- with water just sufficient to quench the thirst
- without undereating or overeating
- with one fourth of the stomach filled with water, one half filled with food and one fourth left for air
(7) Proper sleep
Lack of proper sleep results in bad health, malnutrition, unhappiness and lack of strength. Keeping late nights nor sleep during the day are healthy. The former leads to the above mentioned maladies, the latter to obesity. Daytime sleep is recommended in infancy, old age, overexertion, indigestion (morning only), asthma or any very painful disease (except in snakebite or poisoning when all sleep is taboo). Drinking milk, oil application to the head, happy mind and congenial company are factors favoring sound sleep.
Scientists have showed how flowers flourish when listening to classical music while heavy rock makes them dwindle and die. The differences in consciousness of a human who grows up in mellow rural town versus one who battles through the urban drill are well established. The evolvements in human society were not present when the Ayurveda was put into writing. It simply mentions that marshy, moist climates with tropical mountain and rainfalls between 70-200 inches per year are kapha-kara (leading to colds, coughs, etc.), whereas dry, hot, arid areas with little water and yearly rainfalls of 10-15 inches are vayu-kara and pitta-kara. Places which are not so extreme are called sama-dosha (equal), with rainfalls 25-65 inches per year, and are generally healthy or tri-dosha-ghna. If one has certain disease tendencies it is best to live in environments producing opposite effects. The art of Ayurveda is based on this balancing since human beings have been endowed by the Lord with free will, ability to rationalize and advanced intelligence.