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The Origin of Ayurveda in the Cognitions of the Vedic Rishis

by Nancy Lonsdorf M.D.

Because Ayurvedic medicine can trace its roots back many thousands of years it is often thought to be the result of a long period of trial and error. However, the Ayurvedic texts, and the Vedic tradition from which Ayurveda comes, tell a far different story of Ayurveda's origin.

The main textbook of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, describes how in ancient times the Vedic Rishis (enlightened sages or "seers") became concerned that mankind was suffering from many illnesses. A meeting of the great sages was called to find a way to aid mankind and the knowledge of Ayurveda came out of this gathering. This is where the conventional part of the story ends. The technique the Rishis used to discover Ayurveda has no corollary in the modern scientific age and was a completely "Vedic" solution to the problem.

The first part of the Rishis technique was to all sit together, go into meditation and transcend to the experience of pure consciousness. The Rishis had all previously experienced that pure consciousness was not only source of their mind, but was also the cosmic intelligence at the source of all the laws of nature. They knew that in their own pure consciousness they could tap into a field that contained all of natural law in a seed form. For the Rishis pure consciousness was actually the "home of all the laws of nature" and they called it Veda.

By comparing this Vedic approach to that of modern science we can see how radically different a Rishi addresses a problem from that of a modern scientist. The fundamental principle in science is that human subjectivity is so variable that it cannot be a valid tool to determine truth and reality. Science is an objective approach to the objective world.

The Rishis take just the opposite approach. They turn within and fathom all the levels of their inner life to discover knowledge. The Rishis knew that everything that existed in nature had a common source. If they found the ultimate source of their "Self" they would find the origin of all things in nature. This is why the Rishis did NOT go out and collect herbs and experiment on their effects to discover Ayurveda but rather went into deep internal meditation.

The Charaka Samhita's description of the second half of the Rishis discovering of Ayurveda is even more fascinating than what we have just discussed. Before the Rishis started they chose one of their group to not transcend completely during the group meditation but rather maintain a faint intention to receive the knowledge of health for mankind. The Charaka describes how to this Rishi "Indra" came and revealed the entire knowledge of Ayurveda.

Indra in Vedic terms is the quality of holistic consciousness. Pure Consciousness is holistic and the group meditation of the Rishis had created a huge enlivenment of pure consciousness. The group meditation had created "Indra" - or holistic consciousness.

Even today anyone who has meditated with many people at the same time experiences how much deeper and full their internal experience is. It is an ancient Vedic technique to have large groups meditate together for maximum personal experience and the Rishis employed that technique to gain the knowledge of health for mankind.

In the discovery of Ayurveda the Rishis demonstrated the mechanism for fulfilling desires. It is NOT enough to have a desire. The state of mind that harbors the desire determines whether the desire is fulfilled. When the desire is entertained at the pure consciousness level then knowledge dawns to the desirer. The Vedic tradition contains the ancient spiritual practices of how to blend intention with pure consciousness to gain all knowledge and fulfill all desires.

The Vedic tradition is alive and well today. Even in the West we see a tremendous interest in Ayurveda, Yoga, meditation, healthy architecture and astrology all of which find their most ancient roots in the Vedic tradition. I do recommend that you always take instruction in aspects of the Vedic tradition from instructors who have been trained in the traditional application of Vedic knowledge.

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