Ancient Ayurvedic Wisdom on Epidemics

Did you know that Ayurveda addressed epidemics thousands of years ago? Read on to find out more about this ancient wisdom on how epidemics start and spread, and what they think we can do about it.

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Ancient Ayurvedic Text Describes Cause of Epidemics 

Did you know that Ayurveda addressed epidemics thousands of years ago? Read on to find out more about this ancient wisdom on how epidemics start and spread, and what they think we can do about it. 

The main Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhitawritten 2,000-2,500 years ago, is primarily a discourse between Atreya (a great Ayurvedic physician) and his disciple Agnivesa.1 It was first written in Sanskrit in a poetic style, as are all Vedic texts. The rhythm, meter, and melody of the Vedas allowed for easier memorization. 

Vedic knowledge was passed down through memorization, as an oral tradition, for thousands of years. The Charaka Samhita contains over 8,400 metrical verses, traditionally committed to memory by medical students of Ayurveda.2 

While Charaka is a detailed treatise on internal medicine, according to Ayurveda, its treatments are also aimed at treating a deeper imbalance—replacing unconscious behaviors with conscious behavior while  enhancing  awareness of the interconnectedness of all aspects of nature. Once this awareness or oneness is established, a deep mental, physical, and spiritual healing ensues.1,2 

The Charaka Samhita on Epidemics 

In one discourse, Atreya expounds on the features of an epidemic.3 I was struck by how Charaka describes the cause and treatments for epidemics more than 2,000 years ago, and how they parallel our current state of affairs. 

NOTE: The discourse below is quoted from the text with much of Charaka’s poetic metered rhythm intake. 

Atreya suggests an epidemic comes as a result of abnormal conditions in nature, including stars, planets, moon, sun, air, and fire, deranging the environment and the seasons. Herbs lose their nutritional value and potency, while disease and epidemic ensues. He says if medicinal herbs are harvested before this disturbance in the natural cycles and administered correctly, there would not be any difficulty in counteracting an epidemic.4 

Agnivesa, his student, asks how people with different constitutions would be affected by an epidemic. Atreya responds by describing common factors that affect everyone: air, water, place, and time.5,6 

Atreya describes how air can become polluted and become a common etiological factor in disease and epidemic. He describes how water could become so polluted even animals and birds would not drink it. He describes place as the land, and how it would become unwholesome with a toxic color, smell, taste, and touch. The crops would fail, pests would overrun crops, and floods and natural disasters would occur. Time is described as the seasons becoming imbalanced, coming either too soon or too late, being too hot or too cold.6 

Atreya mentions that people on the land would become unwholesome and abandon virtue, truthfulness, modesty, conduct, behavior, and other merits. Evacuative, cleansing, and detox theories were recommended as  best treatment over 2000 years ago.7 

To prevent disease and epidemic, proper herbal rasyanasas are suggested, as well as to restoration of virtue. Truthfulness, benevolence, worship of God, noble conduct, calmness, religious practice, residing in a wholesome home, keeping good company, and spending time with elders is a prescription for what Atreya called “the management and protection of life during a period of epidemic.”7 

Disturbance of the four factors (air, water, time, and place), along with a disturbance of mind (loss of virtue), aggravate vata and can be the cause of an epidemic.8  

They clearly believed a pure heart and mind, called sattva, would resonate with the organizing power of the universe, or God. An impure heart and mind or lack of virture would disturb and derange the subtle rhythms of nature, which we depend on for life. Today, there is emerging research on biophotons, epigenics and the gut brain connection of the microbiome that support the notion that our thoughts are powerful and reverberate throughout the interconnectedness of nature eliciting a coherence or incoherent result. 

We recommend "The Healing Power of Prana, Intention + Biophotons": https://lifespa.com/healing-prana-intention-biophotons/

Finally: The Root Cause of Epidemic 

Finally, Agnivesa asks Atreya, “What is the root cause of vata imbalance, which is the root cause of an epidemic?”9 This was Atreya’s response: Remember, these are written in poetic form, over 2,200 years ago: 

The root cause of derangement of vata and epidemic is unrighteousness. When the Heads of country, city, guild, and community have transgressed the virtuous path and deal unrighteously with the people, their officers and subordinates, the people of the city and community, and merchants carry this unrighteousness further.  

lifespa image, ayurveda, man sitting in nature in lotus position meditation

Thus, the unrighteousness puts pressure on and forces righteousness to disappear. Then the people with righteousness, having disappeared, are abandoned even by the Gods. Consequently, when righteousness has disappeared, unrighteousness has the upper hand and the Gods have deserted the place, the seasons get affected and, because of this, it does not rain on time or at all. There is abnormal rainfall, winds do not blow properly, the land is affected, water reservoirs are dried up, and herbs, giving up their natural properties, acquire morbidity or die. Then epidemics break out due to polluted environment and food.10 

Likewise, unrighteousness is also cause of the destruction of community by weapons. Those who have excessively increased greed, anger, attachment, and conceit, disregarding the weak, attack each other.11 

I will leave it to you to interpret these ancient writings. Do you believe in the interconnectedness of all aspects of nature? Is there something we can learn from the Charaka Samhita about the progression of epidemics? What can you do to restore virtue, humility and truth while protecting water, air, place, and time (seasons)? 

Integrity (righteousness) is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  

C.S. Lewis
We recommend "Do You Give to Get? Hedonistic vs. Eudemonic Giving": https://lifespa.com/do-you-give-to-get-hedonistic-vs-eudaimonistic-giving/

References

  1. Sharma, PV. Charaka SamhitaChaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981. p. xii 
  2. https://www.ayurveda.com/resources/articles/the-ancient-ayurvedic-writings
  3. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3.  Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981. 
  4. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 4.  Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981. 
  5. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 5,6.  Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981.  
  6. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4.  Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981 
  7. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 12-18 Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981 
  8. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 9-11 Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981 
  9. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 19 Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981 
  10. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 20 Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981 
  11. Sharma, PV. Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthanum, Ch. 3. Verse 21 Chaukhamba Orientalia. Delhi. 1981  

24 thoughts on “Ancient Ayurvedic Wisdom on Epidemics”

  1. This is mindblowing! It is as it was written in our times!
    To be truthful, I believe, is the queen of all virtues! From truth can only come more truth, clarity and a healthy vision for the future!
    Such an enlightened text!
    Thank you Dr. John!

    Reply
  2. This info is so shockingly to the point of what we are experiencing today. Thank you for digging this ancient wisdom out of history and sharing. I have been on earth 72 years and in the past 5 years what I have witnessed is daily blowing mind. We are destroying everything . Not every single human, but definitely a majority. It is all moving so fast. With “safer at home” I have found a refuge in my studies (Yoga), reading, practicing, not going out to witness the insane behavior that has become so prevalent in the daily humans actions that are blatant all around. Dr. John, your work supports me immensely.Thank you

    Reply
  3. Could you possibly find a more pointed example of a lack of integrity than what we are experiencing under our current “leadership”? Yes, these words ring true. Greed, avarice, brutishness, selfishness and hatred have been allowed the floor for far too long. Not surprising that this is where we have landed.

    Reply
    • So true! The leaders in our once beautiful state of California have ruined the minds and hearts of the children. To allow and justify their greed and hunger for power. Now we see the result of our unrighteousness leadership.
      The minds of the people when aligned in integrity wouldn’t accept the measures of the deranged despots who are here.
      This shows how powerful we are in healing the planet. Loving Humanity allied with natural laws will bring about balance once more.

      Reply
  4. Yes, these ancient teachings speak directly to what we are experiencing on our planet now. One thing I think is important to remember is that somewhere we all became “unconscious” which allowed greed and grasping to predominant. This manifested in our plundering of our beautiful planet which became ill, and that set up the circumstances to allow what is happening now. This did not start 4-5 years ago. I think we must all look within first to heal ourselves. then We can move outward from the place of true knowing. Thank you Dr. John. I would like to hear you discuss this topic more.

    Reply
  5. Thank you for this information. The current epidemic has frightening results, but the blessing is in the slowing down of our daily lives. What a great opportunity to spend time in meditation and learning. Your thoughts and resources have been part of my growth in these times.

    Reply
  6. Great article! Thanks for sharing. I didn’t see a way to save this to Pinterest. I’d love to be able to pin it there. Is there a way to do so?

    Reply
    • Hi Kim,

      On desktop, we have links embedded for sharing to your favorite social networks, including pinterest.

      This will also be posted on our pinterest soon, so you can keep an eye out for it there and pin it from our profile.

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  7. very interesting. i personally don’t think “the gods” or the source of us and all that is, abandons us ever. but i do think we can pinch ourselves off from our source by being out of balance with who we really are and out of balance with nature. and that can feel like we’ve been abandoned. this BIG contrast that we are all experiencing, is our opportunity to evolve….or not.

    Reply
  8. Yep, yep, yep. You can feel it all around. In the weather, in the people, in the politics. We need to keep ourselves under control regardless of what the governments are handing down.

    Is there a place to get copies of these ancient writings in English?

    Thank you for this most important video, Dr. John.

    Reply
  9. This certainly is congruent with what is happening in the world.
    Our ecological balance has been decimated for profit and greed.
    Our well being is completely affected. Only by working collectively in truth
    can we return harmony and yet it appears in our complacency to not act
    we are too late.

    Reply
  10. Thank you so much for being who you are. I first saw you speak at a Natural Health magazine wellness conference in the 90’s. Your book – Body, Mind and Spirit – had just come out and I remember we practiced some breathing techniques. You sparked my ongoing love of ayurveda and continue to inspire me to be the best I can be. Thank you for all you do. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Excellent again Dr. Douillard! I agree as we are simple human universes and what we do to our Mother Earth affects us ALL. Timeless truth. I applaud your good work in doing this! Thank you!

    Reply
  12. This is mind boggling that Ayurveda knew the real reasons of pandemics, that over 2000 years ago they understood pollution and corruption. Ayurveda teaching will not be understood by most politicians, by greedy corporations, by crazy in their brains people like Elon Musk, Gates, Kurzweil(top head at Google), chemical corporations, processed foods corporations…etc. They do not care. People worldwide should care and get together to pray for the change.

    Reply
  13. I find it interesting that greed and its associated emotion, anger, are root causes of epidemics. Killing is the ultimate act of greed. When one looks at the huge number of animals killed in Canada’s death factories – Canada’s Olymel hog slaughterhouse at Red Deer, Alberta, prides itself on a weekly slaughtering capacity of more than 45,000 hogs. Canadian companies slaughter roughly twelve million chickens per week – one cannot help wondering whether there is a connection. And the triple burger greed is just the tip of the iceberg of consumer greed of ever greater SUVs, the craziest video, the ultimate drug, drink or sex experience. Good thing that Ayurveda not only analyzes but also offers practical help. Many thanks.

    Reply

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