Traditional Ayurvedic Center

- Basis: the meaning of Ayurveda in Sanskrit
- A word of caution
- Understanding Ayurveda as a way of life
- The holistic dimension
- Self-improvement
- Cultural comparison with Judaism
- Ayurveda and yoga: a global approach
- The world is managed internally by three forms of "gunas" (fundamental attributes)
- Preponderances and balance
- Application to self: doshas (mind-body type); channels.

- The wisdom of Ayurveda in foundational texts
- The Bhagavad Gita; presentation
- Qualities of wisdom promoted by Ayurveda
- A word of caution in conclusion

- Ayurveda is made up of two words: "ayus" meaning longevity and "veda" (like the name of the ancient texts which describe this science) meaning "knowledge and science." Together the word means "knowledge and science of life."

- "Aya" is life and "Ayuhpat" is what governs longevity.

- Ayurveda is a complement to the sacred text "atharva-veda" and comprises eight branches of knowledge.

- The oldest communicators of these two Vedas or sciences were called "rishis" or visionaries, just as the Hebrew Bible (I Samuel 9.9) calls the ancient prophets visionaries ("roee"), for they had direct inner and visual contact with reality in all its dimensions, not simply at the superficial, intellectual level.

- The practitioner of Ayurveda is called "ayurvedika" and the sage who has mastered this way of life is called "ayusmat." Another term for a practitioner of Ayurveda is "vaiyda," the one who possesses science.

- "Ayusha" means length of life and when one wants to wish someone a long life one says "ayushaya." You now know quite a lot!

It is a relatively simply task to master these concepts in order to obtain an academic diploma. But acquiring an understanding of this science in all its facets in order to practice it and treat a complex variety of human beings is another matter.
Ayurveda is a science which can only be mastered through a long process of training and experience working with a wide range of cases and dealing with all the varied states of wellbeing and human individuality. It is this kind of process which I have undergone.
This science is also acquired through a true understanding of a culture, where language, practices and relationships take all these dimensions into account. For instance, great personal understanding is needed in order to treat a mother and baby after birth and train the mother to massage her baby.

Ayurveda comprises knowledge of the body, knowledge of human relationships, and knowledge of the mind and it acknowledges our connection to divine levels and the spirituality of prayer and meditation (Atharva Veda 11, 6, 15).
But it is important to avoid drawing parallels with Western concepts of religion or mysticism; such parallels could deter people who wish solely to improve their health and way of life. Ayurveda is closer to the Latin word "religio," meaning "bonds and connections," and to yoga in its true meaning, rather than to the dogma, faith, and practices associated with religions.
The multiple simultaneous dimensions of existence and human relationships are part of the universal reality called "Dharma." As such, Ayurveda comprises the moral dimensions of receptivity, respect, and modesty, which are often subsumed under the concept of "ahimsa" (non-violence towards all humans).
This receptivity and reciprocity are akin to what Judaism calls the flux of benediction ("berakha," blessing in Hebrew).

Ayurveda is not a linear, unilateral theory but an existential system in which every dimension is inter-connected. This embodies the notion of "union" – which is the meaning of the word "yoga" in Indian tradition.

This holistic dimension of life and happiness, which encapsulates both the conscious and subconscious levels, is called "chitta" in Sanskrit; conscious perception is "jagrat chitta"; subconscious impressions are "samskara chitta."; the immense subconscious is "vasana chitta" and the subconscious that is connected to the higher levels of the mind is "anakarana chitta."

We know, from experience, that it is impossible to manage all these levels by oneself. To do so requires not just learning and practice: we also need to learn from the pathologies we ourselves create and from the experience of our sages and former generations.
This concept of reality helps us to understand that the first essential phase of an Ayurveda treatment (through plants, oils, massage or diet) is often "quintuple cleansing" ("pancha karma") of blockages and obstructions.

After which, a person’s entire being becomes positively receptive to its own structure and dynamic, to the foods and hygiene required to achieve the "balance" between the diverse inner forces that often come into conflict with each other and cause pathologies.

This holistic concept encompasses an approach to happiness which is not only individual but also general and cosmic, for it acknowledges and respects diversity within oneself, the universe and others.
This is what is expressed in the often cited and sung text (link)

"Sarve djanaa sukinu bavantu
(may all people, nations, beings be happy)
Aum, chanti, chanti, chanti
(Aum, peace, peace, peace)
This management through personal harmony is called ‘sattva’"

From the first words of the Torah, Judaism grasps the felicitous, beneficent totality of human beings (the term "adam" in Hebrew is not just a name; it means a person and characterizes all humanity and all human beings, men and women of every nation) and of Creation with all its potential.
In Indian tradition, this concept is called "Brahman" or "sacchiananda," and it views universal existence as a positive blessing of love or "ananda." This form of knowledge which connects the personal, the concrete and the transcendent is called "jnana-yoga" because it connects ("yoga") and encompasses transcendent knowledge ("jnana").

In this approach, the individual "I" ("ani" in Hebrew) and the supreme divine "I" (also "ANI" in Hebrew) are united. This is something so deep and powerful that, in the passages of the Torah where God insists on His revealed will, He introduces himself as "Ani, Hashem" (I, God).
From the minute one wakes up in the morning, "ani" is the second word which all Jews recite in the verse: "mode ani lefaneika, I recognize that I am Ani before You." All of creation is thus defined in terms of people ("purusha") who are conscious beings and who communicate from a state of wellbeing and plenitude.

Ayurveda and yoga are becoming increasingly popular in the West. Sadly, however, they are reduced to simple activities consisting of "yoga positions" (asana), meditation or dietary regimes.
Furthermore, the link between these two holistic sciences of wellbeing is not understood and the two are simply juxtaposed together.

Below are some important points:
Yoga is not solely about bodily exercises and positions. Like its literal meaning, yoga is a connection of the "entire" being with "all" aspects of human beings and nature which are accessible internally and externally. This true concept of yoga is so holistic in its simultaneous connection with self and with all the forces of the universe that the "perfect yoga," which characterizes the ideal being and its divine life, is repeatedly mentioned in Indian texts.

This is a constant theme in the Bhagavad Gita. We shall develop these concepts later on. The essential point is that Ayurveda and yoga are important because of their holistic and broad understanding of the body, of inner and external reality, and of the mind and spirituality. In this context, we shall highlight only the points that are necessary to understand Ayurveda and ensure the success of treatment.

(fundamental attributes)

These are:
- "sattva," the attribute of positive, joyous, felicitous, harmonious, pure balance within diversity.
- "rajas," priority to the process of action
- "tamas," irresponsible, crazy, uncontrolled and destructive management
These attributes are described in Chapter 14 of the Bhagavad Gita and Chapter 18, 40 states, in conclusion, that "no being (na tad), on earth (prthivyam) or in heaven among the Devas (celestial beings) is totally free (nuktam) from these three (tribhih) influences-gunas (ebhih) which derive from matter (prakrti-jaih).
The art of yoga is in being able to manage these processes at the individual level.

Every individual has an inner preponderance which expresses itself in the balance between these systems. Ayurveda diagnoses identifies this preponderance and operates on the internal and external management of the individual’s physical health, emotions, thought, spirituality, movement and relationships. An Ayurveda practitioner who only stresses the physical-chemical role of plants and herbs or their medicinal value is no more than a Western herbalist and understands nothing about Ayurveda.
On a poetic note, the oldest Veda, the Rig Veda 10, 97, 18-19 states that "plants are the queen of the body." Other texts, such as the Susruta Samhita Chiktisa 29 and 30, go even further and make an analogy of the body with twenty four plants and a parallel with 18 other plants.

I was surprised to see, from my studies of Jewish tradition, to what extent sacred Jewish texts also set out a similar concept which regrettably is perceived by many, not as a reality, but as a poetic metaphor.

Ayurveda uses three concepts to characterize the temperament-energies of each individual. These concepts are called "doshas" (or power) and they cause separate, related or triangular imbalances when they are not understood or managed well. In such cases, every form of pathology can occur.
The diagnostic and therapeutic role of the Ayurveda practitioner ("ayurvedika") is to understand this process together with the client who comes for treatment or training in order to attain self-knowledge, health, and improved self-management. A long interview is necessary with the practitioner in order to detect the factors that govern and perturb our personal well-being, relationships, health, growth, ageing, actions, and aspirations.

Another concept is that of "canals or srotamsi, srotas in the singular." The Western world has now accepted the concept of multiple canals or meridians, as in acupuncture. Ayurveda also works with numerous interconnected canals which activate our various organs and influence pathologies or good health.
Some canals have a concentric position; these are the seven "dhatus."
Other canals are carriers of water ("ambhuvaha") or food ("annavaha").
Some animate the nervous system ("majjavaha"), others the muscles ("mamsavaha"), others the urine ("mutravaha"), others thoughts ("manovaha"), etc.

The wisdom of Ayurveda in foundational texts
The Bhagavad Gita - presentation
The Bhagavad Gita 2, 53 describes the concept and practice of Ayurveda thus:
"Srutivipratipanna te yada sthasyati niscala
Samadhavacala buddhistada yogamavapsyasi.
When our intellect, confused by its insertion into conflicting realities, becomes stable and is not diverted from (balance) meditation with God, then you will attain yoga."
This continual process of renewal, at the physical, psychological and spiritual levels, is summed up at end of the book (18, 77) and in all the traditional texts:
"punah punah, even more and even more again."

In short, it is a matter of living in a constant and healthy present. We also find this concept in the first word of the foundational work on yoga, the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali:

"Atta yoga nussassanam."
This is generally translated as: "Now, here is the complete exposé of yoga."
A richer and more literal translation would be:
"Now: this is the complete exposé of yoga."
Permanent, eternal now, punah.

It is clear that the wellbeing generated by Ayurveda is achieved through the concrete, through an understanding of all our dimensions and components of these dimensions, and of the inter-connections and balance between all these levels.
This concept rests on an absolute optimistic faith in the totality of the human being and of the universe. As the Bhagavad Gita 6, 40 says:
"O Arjuna, there is never any destruction in this life or in the next life for he who engages in kalyana and he will then never fall into durgatim."

Kalyana means steering towards what is excellent, beautiful, noble, optimal, happy, good, virtuous, redemptive, advantageous, and the best we can wish for ourselves and for others.

Durgatim means deprivation, poverty, difficult or impossible situations, calamity, distress, unhappiness.
What the Bhagavad Gita describes is a state of "vasundhara" when we steer towards goodness, the vital breath ("assu") and strength.
This concept is described in Bhagavad Gita 9, 1 as "guhyatanam" (the most confidential secret), and "when it is realized, vijnana sahitam tu," then "you will be free, moksyase" from "asubhat," misery, impatience, self-destructive and dark thoughts

The same linear concept can be found in numerous Jewish sources: in the last verse of the Psalms and in Yedid Nefesh, a hymn written by Rav Azkari (16th century), a student of the master of Kabbala, the Ari, and sung by Jews all over the world. It is a song about total love and divine union, and is often recited every morning as a plea for healing ("refa"):
"Hadur nae ziv ha olam (beauty, radiance of the universe)
Nafshi holat ahavatekha (my soul is sick for your love)
Ana el narfa nala (I beg you, heal her)
Beharot la noam zivakh ( by showing her the beauty of Your radiance, heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance, and then she will be strengthened and healed.)"

Another text is the blessing which parents make on their children on Friday night (Shabbat) and which is based on Numbers 6, 24-26. Then, as we bless the two loaves of bread, which symbolize our two-fold, complex, complementary being, we arrive at a state of wellbeing called "itarat kala" (the crowning of the bride).
We have thus moved from the simplistic concept of Ayurveda, where it consists simply of a brief diagnosis, based on an examination of the patient’s pulse, tongue, eyes, and lifestyle, prescriptions for fruit juices, herbal teas and massages and the pouring of oil on the patient’s forehead, to a holistic synthesis where unhealthy conflicts that reside in the body and cause physical problems are understood, identified, decoded, managed and steered towards a state of balance.

This is the level of true yoga, which is both uman and divine as cited earlier in the Bhagavad Gita 2, 53:
"srutivipartipanna te yada sthasyati niscala
Samadhavacala buddhistada yogamavapsyasi

When our intellect, confused by its insertion into conflicting realities, becomes stable and is not diverted from (balance) meditation with God, then you will attain yoga."

This connects to "Chivit Hashem le negdi tamid, I place Hashem before me always," (see previous reference to "mode ani").
The Bhagavad Gita then says: "know My Me which is also Ksetrajna, the
individual soul in me, with knowledge of all the ksetra (fields) as well as with consciousness; this is true knowledge."

Thus, the ultimate preoccupation of a health therapy is: constant, complex, unified, supple, from the physical to the spiritual level, just as in the meaning of the word "yoga" and of the real, total yoga described in Bhagavad Gita 11, 8:

"na tu mam sakyase drastumanenaiva svacaksusa
Divyam dadami te caksuh pasya ma yogamaisvaram,
But, truly you cannot see me with those human
eyes which are yours; so I give you the gift of a divine eye.
With it, you are in My divine power of yoga."

This entails simple, constantly renewed work because we often feel that we are in discomfort or ill and these thoughts constantly rupture our vital rhythms, like the night ruptures the day or the fall of a wave breaks its rise. Ayurveda, in contrast, leads to a continuous perception of personal, material, corporal, intellectual and spiritual stability (irrespective of a person’s ideology, culture or religion).

We see this in Bhagavad Gita 6, 30:
"Yom am pasyati sarvatra ca mayi passyati
Tsyaham na pranasyami sat cha me na pranasyati,
He who sees me present in everything and all being existing in Me,
will never be lost for Me, and I shall never be lost for him."

This book, which is also called Gitopanishad or Srimad Bhagavad Gita, is one of the most important Upanishad and one of the most ancient texts in Indian tradition, together with the four Vedas, recognized as such by the greatest spiritual masters who teach through their knowledge and example (acharyas) and hand down the pure Vedic tradition in an unbroken chain, masters such as: Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka Swami, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Swami Prabhupada, and others.
The book is part of an ancient Sanskrit epic called Mhabharata which recounts the conflicts (a symbol of our inner personal conflicts) of the Kali and Bharata royal families more than 5,000 years ago. The author was Maharsi Vyasa, to whom other works and a commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra are attributed.

Indian tradition accords supreme status to this book. In Bhismaparva 44, 4 and other texts of the Mahabharata, it is written: "The Gita comprises all the Scriptures… it emerges directly from divine lips… contains the 4 Vedas… a full description of the contents of the Gita is impossible… it is eternally and continually new…."
Written in a clear, simple style, with short sentences in Sanskrit, the Bhagavad Gita sets out the essential treatments for every human problem and for each individual (every human being is described as having a special relationship with the divine Creator; this individualism is called "svarupa").

The main therapeutic principle is that misfortune and pathologies occur when an individual does not lucidly manage his insertion within matter ("prakrti") and encloses himself in one action (karma) without perceiving the other levels within him, which represent reality ("jiva’) and the Eternal ("kala").
The goal is to find, among these difficulties, the element of purity ("pavitram"), of Brahman, and of eternal existence ("sasvatam"), for action and intellect alone result in failure. It is like being connected to the ray of sunlight which testifies to the presence of the life-giving sun.

This perspective enables us to direct ourselves, in the here and now, towards optimal bodily health and a holistic state of wellbeing, called "nimana-maha" (eternal kingdom). A person who adopts this beneficent perspective will arrive at an emotional holistic relationship with the divine, which is called "bhakti" (devotion) and enables the process of purification and ultimate liberation "mukti."

This approach is also found in Judaism in the commandment to constantly repeat the words: Hear O Israel..

This is Arjuna’s approach in the Bhagavad Gita and it enables him to receive the teachings of his supreme guide, Krishna, master of the material and spiritual worlds.
This is a very brief presentation.
The grandeur and efficacy of this great wisdom on life is summarized in the religious text, Varahapurana: "My foundation is the Gita. I support the three worlds on the power of the wisdom contained in the Gita."

In Judaism, we find the same approach in the Psalms:
"atem haddevakim ba Hashem Eloekhem, hayim kulkhem hayom,
You who cling to Hashem your God, you all live today."
Healthy unity is achieved in the global meaning of the famous verse:
"Shema Yisrael, Hashem Eloheinu, Hashem ehad,
Hear O Israel, Hashem our God, is One and with us."

I have the privilege of passing on this traditional knowledge to those who wish to fully understand and benefit from Ayurveda and yoga.
This knowledge will enable each person to evaluate his own development and manage it better, alone or within a therapeutic treatment.
The best expression of this wisdom is found in the Bhagavad Gita and it applies as much to Ayurveda as to yoga. Here are the main tenets of this wisdom:

1. He who excels in Ayurveda will feel immense satisfaction ("santustah") in developing himself and within himself. BG 3, 17.

2. But lapses, through blindness, are frequent even among the most diligent ("yatatah"). BG 2, 60.

3. Yet he perseveres in the good he has discovered and which he is determined to realize ("karmanai"). BG 3, 25.

4. He becomes progressively master of himself ("vijita-atma"), after dispelling the illusions that derive from the senses ("jita-indiyah"). BG 5, 7.

5. Everywhere ("sarvatra"), he becomes without delusory attachments ("anabhisnehas"), whether he obtains ("prapya") good ("shubha") or evil ("ashubham") in life. GB 2, 57.

6. He acquires a consciousness ("prajna") that is stable ("pratisthita") and does not forget that pleasure ("bhogah") like misfortune ("duhkha") is limited. BG 5, 22.

7. It will make him into an intelligent being ("budhah"). BG 5, 22.

8. He will become "happy inside" ("antah-sukhah") and "joyfully active" ("antah-aramah") in his personal dwelling. BG 5, 24.

9. It will enable him to view all human beings equally ("samam"). BG 6, 32.

10. He does not solely seek physical exercise for his physical health: he lives in a complete relationship with THE Presence. BG 6, 15.

11. He discovers that no one can become a "yogi" united to the supreme Being if he eats too much or abstains too much, if he sleeps too much or stays up late too much. BG 6, 16.

12. He realizes that his progress is not a simple spiritual or intellectual exercise but an action ("karma") which overrides inaction ("akarmanah") for only action maintains ("yatra’) the health of the body ("sharira"). BG 3, 8.

13. He then merits the appellation "yogi" and he is greater ("adhikah") than ascetics ("tapasvibhyah"), Sages ("jnanibhyah") and philosophers, and greater than those who live for profit ("karmibhyah"). BG 6, 46.

14. His sole goal is to purify ("shuddaye") his troubled ("cancalatvat"), unstable ("na srtiram") side. BG 5, 11 and 6, 33 (which today epitomizes media bombardments promoting consumption or hatred – author’s note).

15. He realizes that he must achieve liberation ("amrtatvaya"). BG 2, 15.

16. He becomes capable of sustained stability ("bhavah") and no longer attributes importance to inconstant objects or feelings of happiness ("sukha") or unhappiness ("dukha"), and strives to be tolerant ("titiksasva"). BG 2, 14.

17. Death itself, in its great manifestation of total change, no longer makes him forget the permanence of THE supreme being ("bhagavan") or our permanence in the past and in the future ("atah param").

In the same perspective, the prayer recited by Jews on Friday night after reading the Song of Songs (prayer that begins with "Ribon kol holamim"), which views plants as a mystical model for the beauty of a husband and wife, asks that "we merit to be placed where the souls and spirits are carved as if we have accomplished all that we were required to accomplish in this incarnation as in others (ve nizke ke makom she ha nefashot, haruhot, ve ha neshamot nehetsavot misham ukheillu assnu ko mal she mutal alenu le assign bein begilgul ze bein begilgulgim aherim)".

The famous Bar Yohai hymn also stresses this double, unique nature: "atsei shitim omedim, you are acacia trees standing)." This alludes to the construction of the sanctuary in Exodus 26, 15, for man is the sanctuary and there is unity in the different forms of nature and in the relationship between the created and the Creator.

This notion is found again in the apex of the Bible, the Song of Songs 2, 5 and 8, 10: "Comfort me with raisin cakes, restore me with apples"; "I am a wall and my breasts like towers, then was I in his eyes as one that found favor" : therapeutic Ayurveda and total yoga.

Bar Yohai articulates the perfect union between God, the Torah and man: "sod Torah ke titsi, ufrahim, the secret of the Torah is like the buds and flowers." It is important to note that these verses are not just poetic or allegorical allusions; they also represent the real universe, as we see in Numbers 17, 22-24 "And Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness. And it came to pass that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded and brought forth buds and bloomed blossoms and yielded almonds." An integral union of revealed connections, which is the exact meaning of "yoga."

This is the reason why Indian tradition describes Sages who are united with the divine thus: "their feet resemble the lotus ("pada")." The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the divine nocturnal light of the moon which nourishes the plants ("pusai causadhih") and gives them taste ("nasatmakah"). While Judaism uses the ram’s horn to herald the return to life, in Indian tradition, the divine counselor and his disciple, blow into divine ("divyau") shells ("shankhau"), making them resonate ("pradhadhmatah") in the midst of battles, in order to connect with truth and goodness as a counterpart to murderous, threatening lies.

Here we end our brief review of the Bhagavad Gita which extends across 18 chapters and 700 short verses. Ayurveda is already readable through the verses we cited and which were written thousands of years before psychoanalysis and psychosomatic theories, before systems psychology, and well before the miracle solutions of non-personalized diets and group gymnastics which purport to be yoga but are devoid of the interconnections and union inherent in the meaning of the word.

We need to undergo an apprenticeship that is gradual ("sankhya") and adapted to ourselves, in order to neutralize the destructive elements in our actions ("sannyasa") and the false ("tamasika") knowledge that makes us think we know everything about ourselves (BG 18: 22, 25, 32, 39), good or bad. In order to free ourselves from self-destructive processes, can discover true Ayurveda with a therapist who has acquired the authentic tradition. Then we will have the joy of achieving understanding ("buddhi") of our personal life, followed by stability ("dhrti"). BG 18, 29.

This holistic state is called "sattvika," BG 18.33. The verses that follow from here to the end of this last chapter provide eloquent support for this complete holistic apprenticeship which, at the beginning of our study on Ayurveda, appeared to concern only diet, plants, massages and oils.

Note: These exists a good rendition of the Bhagavad Gita in English, with a clear, traditional commentary by the Swami Prabhupada.

One should not imagine that self-work through Ayurveda will bring us to a state of paradisiacal nirvana. Treatment and self-management will always be necessary because our internal conditions change, due to processes of growth and renewal.
Judaism is very conscious of this phenomenon : the word for "month" in Hebrew is "hodesh" meaning "renewal" and the word for "year" is "shana" meaning "change."

In the Bhagavad Gita, he who receives the teaching is not a contemplator or ascetic but a "ksatriya" a fighter. The same goes for every person who takes up the challenge of improving himself through Ayurveda. It means abandoning many of our inner, corporal, and harmful illusions and giving up "tapasya" unhealthful practices.

The beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam deals with this problem. Verse 10, 2, 32 tells us clearly that he who considers himself liberated will never attain the liberation he needs. We must abandon false identities and false identifications ("ahankara") and free ourselves from the state of a statue ("murti") which imitates, is anonymous and makes the body suffer. Ayurveda teaches us to recognize who we are, to be ourselves in relation to ourselves ("purnam") and in the inter-connections between the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, sky) and between the seven elements of the body ("saptadhata"). This is what ensures health, wellbeing and longevity.

God told Avram: "lekh lekha, go towards thyself."

Another factor which makes renewal necessary is that stressed by Bhagavad Gita 18, 38, following the description of this wonderful approach:
" Visayendriyasamyogadyattadagre mrtopanam
Parianam visamiva tatsukham rajasam smirtam,
The delight that prolongs contact of the senses with their objects can sometimes act
like a poison even if it appeared before to be like a nectar, thus it was named "rajasika" (nectar-poison).
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