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The way to health and happiness

Dr. P. Ram Manohar


Āyurveda teaches us that health and happiness are achieved through control in the mind. Only when we have unclouded awareness can we then focus on the essence and everything necessary will come to us.

रागादिरोगान्सततानुषक्तानशेषकायप्रसृतानशेषान्।औत्सुक्यमोहाऽरतिदाञ्जघानयोऽपूर्ववैद्यायनमोऽस्तुतस्मै।। यस्मिन्लब्धेसर्वमिदंलब्धंभवतिनिश्चितम्।तस्मिन्परिश्रमःकार्यःकिमन्यैःलब्धवस्तुभिः।।स्व।।

Invocatory Verse, Aṣṭāṇgahṛdayaṃ, Sūtrasthāna1

“One has to strive to obtain that, by gaining which everything that is needed becomes ours. What is the use of obtaining anything else?”

This is the unsaid philosophy of Āyurveda. Modern medicine has progressed in leaps and bounds. With advanced technologies, it is possible to even move organs from one body to another like files from one computer to another. Yes, modern medicine can save many lives in critical moments, but in the long run, the health (Ārogya)of the individual is compromised and it can even lead to premature death. In the United States, the doctor is considered to be the third leading cause of overall morbidity and mortality.

It is our experience that in pursuit of life (Āyu), we can lose health. In pursuit of health, we can lose resources (Aiśvarya). In pursuit of resources, we can lose both life and health. We are unable to gain recognition in life (Yaśa) because we do not have the ability to make significant contributions to society. And finally we succumb to our worries, failing to secure our future either in this life or the life thereafter (Śāśvata Loka). This is the misery of human life.

Āyurveda says that there is a way to have everything — life, health, resources, fame and a secure future. But we have to focus on the essential. When we focus on the essence, all that is needed comes to us. Or else, we lose all that we aspire for by simply chasing them. By a radical change in mental attitude and behaviour (Ācāra), all that makes life complete and fulfilled comes within our reach.


Ācāra means action with awareness in all circumstances. Only a mind focused on the essence can act with awareness. The power of being focused on the essence is unimaginable. Fortune will chase us and not vice versa. The invocation in the beginning of Aṣṭāṇgahṛdayaṃ tells us how to be focused on the essence.

The ideal physician is the one who has shown the way, the remedy to solve this problem: the ultimate medicine for the ultimate cause of all diseases. The physician par excellence, the physician without a precedent, the physician without a second… the ideal physician is called as the apūrvavaidya. Such an epithet has been ascribed to the ideal physician for no mean reason. The exemplary physician is extolled for his/her ability to eliminate forever or for demonstrating the way to eliminate forever the diseases beginning with rāga. The diseases beginning with rāga torment not only human beings, but all embodied beings. The situation is all the more deplorable because the diseases beginning with rāga torment living beings constantly. In other words, there is no respite from this stress. Eventually, life breaks down under this stress and the signs of impending death are seen – autsukya (anxiety), moha (confusion) and arati (restlessness).

To obtain that, by gaining which everything else is gained, one has to focus on the essence. To focus on the essence, one must have unclouded awareness. When awareness is clouded by emotional turbulence, then the focus moves away from the essence. Rāga is the beginning point of the emotional turbulence that clouds awareness — rāgaādiryeṣāṃ. Tamas eclipses awareness and rajas distorts awareness. Rāga means to colour, rāga also means attachment. When awareness is distorted, we become attached to objects. Therefore, in the Bhagavad Gītā, it is mentioned, Rajorāgātmakaṃviddhi. Rajas colours the mind and creates attachment. This is the seed of all emotional turbulence and stress, Kāmaeṣakrodhaeṣarajoguṇasamudbhavaḥ….

The invocatory verse of the Aṣṭāṇgahṛdayaṃ thus points to the way to a complete and fulfilled life. Virāgata (detachment from sense objects) or Vairāgya (state of absence of raga, the attachment to sense objects) is the only way to live in the world without being affected. Without losing awareness and initiating the cascade of stressful emotions. Vāgbhaṭa almost echoes ĀdiŚankara when he says rāga is the basis for disease and sorrow.

sarvaparigraha bhogat yāgaḥ kasyasuk

Vāgbhaṭa begins the Aṣṭāṇgahṛdayaṃ with the disclaimer. A warning: attachment to objects can lead to serious illness and death. It’s very much like the warning issued when selling alcohol and tobacco. It is a statutory warning: smoking cigarettes is injurious to health; drinking alcohol is injurious to health. In spite of the warning, people smoke and drink. That is another thing altogether. In spite of the warning, the awareness of people gets distorted and they become attached to objects. That is the way of the world.

Śuddhasyacetasorajastamobhyāṃrañjanaḥrāgaḥrāga is the colouring of the mind with rajas and tamas. Rajas distorts perception and then tamas causes attachment. Rajas and tamas have been mentioned as the two faults of the mind. When we do not understand the proper significance of the sense objects in the world, we get attached to them or develop aversion. Under the grip of rajas and tamas, our interactions with the world become unwholesome. The mind becomes emotionally turbulent leading to the hijacking of intelligence. When emotions hijack the mind, then there is disaster; there is a crash. But the problem is not with the world. The problem is not with the sense objects. When our mind is in control and when our interactions with sense objects are wholesome, then we experience happiness and health.

1 “Live in a temple or under a tree, wear the deer-skin for the dress and sleep with mother earth as your bed. Renounce all your possessions and enjoyments. Blessed with such dispassion, could any fail to be happy?”

Dr. Ram Manohar is Director of Research, Amrita School of Ayurveda, Kollam, Kerala

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