Ask the Vaidya
Energy, Ayurveda and Consciousness
This month we look at the subject of vitality — or energy — through the lens of Maharishi Ayurveda. Our Maharishi Ayurvedic Expert, Vaidya Manohar, contributes to us from India and explains the view of energy in terms of Maharishi Ayurveda.
Question: How is "energy" understood in Maharishi Ayurveda? When someone says I wish for "more energy," what are they really asking for?
Answer: In Maharishi Ayurveda, the word we use for energy is "bala."
To understand this word, we must look into the understanding of energy in Maharishi Ayurveda.
Balance or bliss is the resource of unbounded energy available in the Unified Field of Consciousness. When we say balance, we mean balance in every aspect and avenue of life. That is, balance of consciousness, of mind, of body and of senses such that they become identified with the Unified Field. Life is then sustained by the balance inherent in this state of Unified Consciousness. The balance experienced in consciousness is reflected in the body — this experience of the state of Unity balances the doshas; the digestive fire known as "agni;" the tissues, known as "dhatus;" the functioning of the process of elimination; and the operation of the senses, mind and consciousness — and in this "togetherness" all remain in bliss. It starts here.
In terms of ayurveda this energy, as expressed in the body, is balance or homeostasis, supporting wholeness and bliss which upholds vitality in an everlasting way in any individual, irrespective of body type, age, or time.
Maharishi Ayurveda is distinguished by its understanding that consciousness is primary and that consciousness forms the basis of the body and health. Numerous scientific studies, hundreds in all, demonstrate the power of this principle in action. Published peer-reviewed studies show that the experience of transcendental consciousness, achieved during the practice of Transcendental Meditation®, produces a significant balancing and purifying effect on the body. This consciousness technique has demonstrated long-term health benefits, treating numerous diseases and addressing a broad spectrum of health conditions.
So with this understanding of the role of consciousness, when we explain how "purity of mind resulting from settled senses will bring good vitality," we are describing the fundamental role of consciousness in health, and specifically vitality. Examined in terms of a physical issue, "vitality" has its basis in perfect health and a profound balance of mind and body, which is an expression of establishment in transcendental consciousness.
Vitality on a physical level mainly depends on fullness of ojas. Ojas is described in MAV as the most refined and subtle essence of the physical body. Ojas is the end product of food. When we take food, it is transformed through agni (the digestive fire), and then transformed into dosha, dhatu, and malas, finally emerging as ojas. It is too refined to be seen under a microscope. It is not quite pure consciousness nor concrete physical matter. It acts as the lamp at the door, between both worlds. It creates "bala," or strength and vitality in the body, promoting healthy immunity. When ojas flows unobstructed in the channels of the body, it supports vibrant health and enhances inner bliss.
The experience and presence of ojas in every cell of the body is the foundation of vitality in every cell of the body. Impurities — called ama in ayurveda — play a role in limiting the flow of ojas. If the channels or shrotas are clogged, vitality is restricted. So vitality is optimum when bodily channels are clear because ojas is the material aspect of consciousness, and carries intelligence and bala. When ojas is flowing through bodily channels, every cell of the body is nourished with energy and intelligence. Ojas, the physical expression of pure intelligence, simultaneously nourishes each cell with vitality.
Lack of Vitality — Three Main Causes
Question: What causes a lack of vitality?
Answer: If you are not feeling vital, we must look to three main causes of the loss of vitality:
- Lack of ojas — Good ojas is the source of good vitality. Ojas is the end product of digested food. So when we eat food, it gets transformed through the digestive fire, which means, the food is "transformed" into the doshas, dhatus, malas and in its most refined state and the final and ultimate outcome of digestion, into ojas.
- Blockage of channels, or shrotas — this is caused by a buildup of impurities, or ama.
- Imbalanced or weak digestion — Balanced agni (digestion) helps to form balanced tissues — tissues which sustain the body. Balanced agni is the source of good ojas.
Balanced tissues have seven functions that support good vitality:
- life supporting
- covering all bodily organs
- creating unctuousness
- sustaining the physic of the body
- filling the bones
The balanced elimination of waste products, called "malas" in ayurvedic terminology, includes: elimination of urine, bowels and sweat. This is very important to maintain proper vitality.
There are three types of bala, or vitality, or strength: 1. Natural, 2. Based on time, and 3. Acquired. These will be discussed in detail in the second installment of this article in August.
The Core Concept of Vitality
The concept of "vitality" or "energy" is an ancient one, referred to in Chinese medicine as qi (pronounced "chee"), and in ayurvedic medicine as ojas. This concept is now emerging in the practice of integrative medicine. Traditionally, modern medicine defined health as an absence of symptoms of disease.
Modern medicine addresses the concept of vitality in its conception of "homeostasis," a physiological mechanism that maintains the balance of innumerable biological activities to ensure that the body functions within "normal" parameters. Homeostasis is just one example of vitality.
The Substance of Health: Ojas
In ayurveda, ojas is described as a subtle force that keeps the body, mind and senses continuously refreshed. It is always at work. Two types of ojas are described: one called para ojas, which is located in the heart and represents a subtle, cosmically sourced or divine "breath" that separates the animate from the inanimate; and apara ojas, which is found in a state of continual flux. Apara ojas is derived from the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breath and our experiences.
What we commonly experience as "vitality" is apara ojas. It changes from day to day, depending on how well we eat or how much sleep we get. This form of ojas is considered to be the "sara" or "essence" derived from all the bodily tissues as they metabolize the nutrients we consume. When the food is pure and correct for the season, time of day and individual physical constitution, and when the tissues function normally, the net result is plenty of ojas.
The strength of ojas can be assessed by factors such as the luster of the eyes, the strength of the limbs, and the function of the mind and senses. When the ojas is strong, the person is bright and shining. The greatest concentration of ojas is found in the reproductive tissues — highly intelligent structures and delicately balanced functions responsible for creating new life.
Sleep is the one time that ojas is allowed to freely circulate. It is also replenished during sleep. So the importance of sleep cannot be overestimated, and insufficient sleep, which for most people is less than eight hours a night, gradually leads to a diminishment of ojas and promotes aging and disease.
Ideal Digestion Creates Ojas
From the ayurvedic perspective, in disease very often the flow of ojas is blocked, and it is this blockage in energy that gives rise to pain. The primary cause for the blockage of ojas is toxins called ama. In Sanskrit, ama literally means "undigested food," which not only suggests the importance of a proper diet and good digestion to maintain health, but also the route by which these toxins enter into and accumulate in the body.
The most important factor to prevent the accumulation of ama is the strength and potency of digestion, called the agni, which refers to digestive fire. When the diet is proper and digestion is strong, ama never has a chance to form. However, when foods are eaten that agni has a difficult time processing, ama beings to form. As ama accumulates, it blocks the flow of ojas, robbing the tissues of their vitality.
This is why, prior to taking a rasayana (rejuvenative) therapy to enhance ojas, a method of purification and digestive enhancement is undertaken first, to eliminate ama and strengthen agni. If this is not done, the rasayanas might not be properly processed and may actually enhance ama, making the situation worse.
Fortunately, some rasayanas — herbal preparations — are so potent that not only do they enhance ojas, but they also dispel ama and strengthen the digestion simultaneously. A rasayana is the most highly refined and powerful herbal and fruit combination in ayurveda, and is known to promote long life and vitality. A rasayana promotes ojas, the finest product of digestion that prevents disease, creates luster in the skin and rejuvenates the whole body.
One of the primary goals of ayurveda is in Sanskrit, "Swaasthasya rakshanam" — preserving health. Rasayanas are considered a primary method for maintaining health and vigor. Literally translated, a rasayana is "that which enters the essence" — in other words, that which promotes health and longevity. The Sanskrit definition for a rasayana is "yat jara vyadhi nashanam tat rasayanam" — translated it means "that which negates old age and disease is called a rasayana." There are many individual fruits, herbs and spices in ayurveda that are considered rasayanas — for example, the main two fruit ingredients in Amrit Kalash, Indian Gooseberry (Amla) and Indian Gallnut (Chebulic Myrobalan), are both deemed premier rasayanas in the category of fruit. If you read ayurvedic texts, it is clear that these two fruits can help towards a long, happy, healthy and blissful life. They promote bliss in body, mind, spirit and senses. Turmeric and Long Pepper (Pippali) are rasayanas in the category of spices, well known for their healing properties. We have another entire group of rasayana herbs called medhya rasayanas. Medhya refers to the mind and intellect. The medhya group of herbs helps enhance the ability to learn, retain and recall information. One such herb in Amrit is Indian Pennywort or Gotu Kola, which we sometimes call Brahmi. Shankapushpi, or Aloeweed, which is also an ingredient in Amrit, is another medhya rasayana. What is so great about Amrit is that it is actually a rasayana of rasayanas — what you could call a "super" rasayana. It incorporates all the best qualities of the best herbs in ayurveda, in a synergy that is able to deliver all of the benefits that researchers are beginning to tabulate.
A good example of this is the famous ayurvedic herbal formula that includes three herbs. It is commonly referred to as Triphala. A premium-quality Triphala forms the basis of MAPI's Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus). This is one of the most famous herbal compounds in ayurvedic medicine. Triphala literally means "three fruits." The three fruits contained in Triphala are Haritaki (Chebulic Myrobalan), Amalaki (Amla), and Bibhitaki (Belleric Myrobalan). Traditionally, Triphala comes in many different forms, including the Triphala tablets available as Organic Digest Tone from Maharishi Ayurveda Products International. A growing body of research on Triphala worldwide suggests this classic ayurvedic formulation possesses remarkable benefits for health.
Triphala can also be mixed with other herbs in compound formulations. Triphala Guggulu, for instance, is much more powerful than Guggulu (Guggul) alone.
Besides nourishing the mind and body and promoting longevity, Triphala has many specific effects. It is particularly rejuvenating for the digestive tract, and is a rasayana for the eyes and the skin. Organic Digest Tone is a simple ayurvedic insurance policy for good health and abundant vitality
Question: How can we measure our vitality?
Answer: Strength is determined by our capacity for exercise. Individual strength is determined by the body's nature, the place where a person lives, the time (including age and season), strength of digestion, or state of agni.
Question: What are the sources of "energy" or vitality for a person?
- Perfect health is the main source of vitality.
- Balanced digestion.
- Balanced nourishment to the seven tissues or dhatus.
- Purity of mind, settled senses and nourishing behavior.
- Balanced nutrition, according to one's body type — eating fresh organic food, with a good variety of organic vegetables, fruits, diary products, oils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Good routine and the regular timing for our daily routine. Go to bed by 10:00 PM; eat your main meal at lunch time, around 12:30 PM; and wake up before 6:00 AM.
- Exercise according to one's own body strength. One should use 50% of his body energy for exercise.
- Sleep is most vital for physical and mental vitality. One should go to bed naturally.
- Seasonal detox — purification of bodily channels will enhance good digestion, enlivenment of ojas and vitality.
- Regular intake of rasayanas.
Question: Can you also suggest MAPI products that support vitality and energy, and briefly explain what they do?
Deliver bliss to the senses. To accomplish this use:
Ears — Gandharva Veda melodies, Samaveda, Vedic recitations.
Smell — Maharishi Ayurveda Aromas.
Mind — Herbs for nourishing the mind include Stress Free Mind, Stress Free Emotions, or any of the intelligence formulas that support emotions and enhance the power of intellect, retention, and memory. The regular practice of the TM Program and the advanced programs of consciousness; the TM-Sidhis program is also a primary support of the mind.
Experience of consciousness — Blissful Joy.
Question: What is the MAV understanding of food, at surface and depth?
If you have balanced food, you don't need supplements. If you have wholesome, complete food, taken properly, at the proper time and with proper seasonings, supplements do not give beneficial effects.
Food is totality. The nature of the mind depends greatly on what food we eat, because food not only nourishes the body — it nourishes the mind too.
Food should be organically grown, should include the six tastes, and be cooked and prepared with the correct spices to aid proper digestion. This is the best kind of food for good digestion and vitality. Eating your main meal at lunch (around 12:30 PM), of sufficient quantity to satisfy the hunger, as well as eating with peace and happiness will have a profound effect on digestion and vitality.
Certain foods give direct ojas, or vitality (Always favor organically grown foods. If available, use foods grown according to the principles of Vedic organic agriculture):
For more information on foods visit mapi.com.
In the second part of Viadya Manohar's discussion of "bala" or vitality, he will look deeper into the ayurvedic understanding of vitality and provide insight into this very advanced understanding of immunity — an understanding that goes deeper than the modern model of immunity because it includes and addresses the role of consciousness.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.