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Social health

Upgrading social health through Āyurveda

Dr. RiteshGujarathi, Dr. Jasmine Gujarathi


The current scenario is not encouraging in the context of social health. Worldwide, society feels divided over various aspects such as religion, caste, cultures, financial status, etc. Those individuals who represent and govern society have put this world in a difficult situation. When we think about developed, developing and undeveloped countries, the condition worsens increasingly down the scale. The world is divided by different boundaries. People are staying together but mentally they are far away from each other. People have lost their mental peace. In today’s era, health is restricted only to physical and mental health. More and more people are moving away from social and spiritual health. It is thus high time to address these two parameters of health. The social health of a person cannot be addressed without his mental health. Āyurveda provides various guidelines to improve the social health of the individual by upgrading his mental health. After following such guidelines, one can achieve social health. Such socially healthy people will be able to create a healthy society. An attempt has been made in this article to address the social health of an individual by following various concepts like Sadvritta (good conduct and behaviour), Dharaneeya Vega (impulses to be held back or sustained), and Achara Rasayana (behavioural discipline, positive behaviour), etc., described in the ancient Āyurveda texts.


Apart from physical and mental health, spiritual and social well-being plays a major part in the wellness of an individual as well as of society. Amongst all these, social health is the least addressed and the most vital in the current scenario. Today, when the world is in need of global peace, major conflicts have occurred in the last ten years, violence, riots, wars, communal riots, abuses, domestic violence, suicides and many other incidents which are far apart from social well-being and world peace. Social health cannot be addressed until and unless the concepts of Āyurveda are thoroughly studied and followed by individuals. Although people are getting more and more cautious about health, they are mainly concentrating on the physical aspect only. Due to this, people are becoming physically stronger but mentally and socially weaker day by day. Social media have brought the whole world together technologically but people are moving farther away from each other. People’s financial status is improving but this results in them living in big houses with smaller minds. In India, a blind following of Western culture is destroying the mental peace of individuals as well as that of their families. Greed for worldly desires is taking people away from each other. If the same situation continues for many more years it will lead to a great social disaster. This is the time to adopt several changes, keeping in mind our own culture and values. If it is not done then we should be prepared for more and more people suffering from various psychological disorders. Such psychologically ill and socially disconnected people will pose a big threat to society. We have to return to our ancient knowledge, culture and values to get rid of this. As Āyurveda is a part of ancient wisdom, i.e. the Veda, it throws some light on preventive measures and behavioural modifications to be adopted by individuals.

Defining social health

Social health involves a person’s ability to form satisfying interpersonal relationships with others. It also relates to the ability to adapt comfortably to different social situations and act appropriately in a variety of settings. Interpersonal relationships should include strong communication skills, empathy for others and a sense of accountability. In contrast, traits like being withdrawn, vindictive or selfish can have a negative impact on social health.

In one sense, social health refers to the health of a person in reference to his or her ability to interact with others and thrive in social settings. As for society in general, it also refers to how the people of a society behave with each other and how they are treated. Positive interaction not only improves other forms of health of individuals but also helps to maintain wellness in society. Hence an individual’s behaviour towards society can affect directly the health of an individual as well as the health of society in general.

Current scenario of society

• A community can feel divided on the basis of caste, race, religion, nation, education, finance, reservation, etc.

• Social media/networking has also proved to be more detrimental to social health.

• Worldwide political parties (vote bank politics) have divided the entire world into various segments for their own benefits.

• There have been over 250 major wars in the world since World War 2, in which 23 million people were killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved. (1)

• Upto 42 million people were killed in wars of the 20th century. Three times more people have been killed in wars in the last 90 years than in all the previous 500 years (1).

• Current global military spending is approximately $800 billion per year, more than the total annual income of the poorest 45% of the global population (2).

• India accounted for the highest estimated number of suicides in the world in 2012, according to a WHO report published in 2014 which found that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds globally (3,4).

• The status of crime against humanity in the form of murder, domestic violence, rape, enslavement, kidnapping, human trafficking, enforced disappearance of persons, torture, slavery and honour killings has increased.

What needs to be done?

The most important thing that needs to be done is to make this world safer and more liveable than it is today, where people of different religions, castes, cultures, and different financial status can live peacefully with each other.

अयं निज: परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम्।
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्॥

A great concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (vasudhā, the earth; eva = indeed is; and kutumbakam, family) needs to be adopted where the whole world will be one family. The phrase appears in the Maha Upaniṣad (5, 6).

The original verse is contained in the Mahopaniṣad VI.71-73 (7). Subsequent ślokas go on to say that those who have no attachments go on to find the Brahman (the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe). The context of this verse is to describe detachment as one of the attributes of an individual who has attained the highest level of spiritual progress, and one who is capable of performing his worldly duties without attachment to material possessions (8).

Role of Āyurveda

Āyurveda is a science that addresses all aspects of life. Āyurveda strongly holds that a person cannot be considered healthy until and unless four types of health are properly addressed, i.e. physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Various guidelines in the form of Sadvritta, Achara Rasayana and Dharaneeya Vega are provided in Āyurveda texts which need to be thoroughly studied, followed and propagated.

Importance of Sadvritta

त्यागः प्रज्ञापराधानामिन्द्रियोपशमः स्मृतिः|
देशकालात्मविज्ञानं सद्वृत्तस्यानुवर्तनम्||

Staying away from intellectual errors, keeping control over the five senses, good memory, knowledge of the place, time and our own capabilities and Sadvritta (good conduct) will keep a person away from various diseases. So the person who is desirous of his good health should follow this.

Guidelines as per Sadvritta (9)

Āyurveda describes a disciplined life as one with principles governing diet, regimen, code of conduct and ethics in detail. For the improvement of social health, enhancement of mental health is necessary. If the mental faculty and spiritual component of an individual is enriched, it will prevent wrong judgements and misconceptions. Amongst them, here are a few of the ethics or principles to be followed by one to prevent psychic disturbances and maintaining a healthy relationship with society and in turn ensuring social well-being. Ācārya Caraka says rightfully that the individual who acts virtuously attains to the excellent abode of good souls.

1. One should not lie or take over others’ properties.

2. One should stay away from hatred or sinful activities; one should never be vicious even to the vicious.

3. One should not disclose other’s secrets.

4. One should stay away from the company of the unworthy, traitors, lunatics, fallen persons, abortionists and mean and crooked people.

5. One should not long for another’s wife nor have relations with women, friends or servants of bad conduct.

6. One should not speak ill of noble people and teachers.

7. One should not have any inclination towards wine, gambling or prostitutes.

8. One should not insult anybody. Also one should not be conceited, undextrous and unfriendly or indulge in back-biting.

9. Never use harsh words towards old persons, teachers, persons grouped together or kings.

10. One should never be in the habit of postponing things or indulging in any activity without proper examination and giving it proper thought beforehand.

11. One should not be a slave to the senses or be of fickle mind.

12. One should not act or do things in a fit of anger or of joy and should never be under continued grief.

13. One should never be arrogant about one’s own achievements or be desperate in loss, but always remember one’s own nature.

14. One should always have faith in the correlation of cause and effect, i.e. bad acts will produce bad results and good follows good acts.

15. One should follow the path of Bramhacarya, knowledge, charity, friendship, compassion, happiness, detachment and peace.

16. One should be self-controlled and virtuous, envious of the actions but not in the results of others. There may be a struggle or competition or jealousy towards the cause that has led to the richness but not at the result.

17. Be careful and fearless, bashful and wise, have enormous enthusiasm, be clever, forbearing, having faith in God.

18. Be devoted to teachers who have attained spiritual perfection and are advanced in modesty, intellect, learning, heredity and age.

19. One should be friendly to all creatures, reconcile the energy, console the frightened, be merciful to the poor, be truthful and be predominantly of a compromising nature.

20. Be tolerant towards any unpalatable words of others, be in control of intolerance, be of peaceful disposition and conquer the very roots of attachment and hatred.

21. Importance of righteousness: all the scriptures or social restrictions came into existence only for the happiness of people. Happiness cannot be achieved without Dharma, i.e. righteousness or nobility. Hence all should behave in a righteous way, following all social morals.

22. One should give assurance and help to people who do not have the means of earning or are suffering from diseases and who are grief-stricken.

23. One’s speech should be timely, useful, not prolonged, uncontroversial and charming.

24. One should begin speaking with a charming face and tender voice.

25. One should not trust everybody and also should not doubt everybody.

26. Revelation of enmity should not be done in front of others. Also any insult should not be disclosed openly.

27. One’s attitude towards social customs and religions and behaviour towards their practices should be moderate, i.e. not extreme.(Ca. Su. 8/18-29)

Dharaneeya Vega

This is an important concept of Āyurveda where the science talks about the natural urges which are to be suppressed. Non-suppression of such natural urges can lead to havoc in a person’s life.

इमांस्तु धारयेद्वेगान् हितार्थी प्रेत्य चेह च|
साहसानामशस्तानां मनोवाक्कायकर्मणाम्|| (Ca. Su. 7/).

One desirous of his well-being during his lifetime and after should suppress urges related to rashness and evil deeds — mentally, orally and physically.

लोभशोकभयक्रोधमानवेगान् विधारयेत्|
नैर्लज्ज्येर्ष्यातिरागाणामभिध्यायाश्च बुद्धिमान्|| (Ca. Su. 7/27)

A wise person should refrain from satisfying the urges related to greed, grief, fear, anger, vanity, shamelessness, jealousy, too much attachment and malice.

परुषस्यातिमात्रस्य सूचकस्यानृतस्य च|
वाक्यस्याकालयुक्तस्य धारयेद्वेगमुत्थितम्|| (Ca. Su. 7/28)

One should also refrain from letting loose the urges of speaking extremely harsh words, back-biting, lying and use of untimely words.

देहप्रवृत्तिर्या काचिद्विद्यते परपीडया|
स्त्रीभोगस्तेयहिंसाद्या तस्य वेगान्विधारयेत्|| (Ca. Su. 7/29)

Violence to others in whatever form, urges related to such physical actions including adultery, theft and persecution are to be restrained.

पुण्यशब्दो विपापत्वान्मनोवाक्कायकर्मणाम्|
धर्मार्थकामान् पुरुषः सुखी भुङ्क्ते चिनोति च|| (Ca. Su. 7/30)

The virtuous one, who is free from all vices related to mind, speech and physical actions, is indeed happy and he alone enjoys the fruits of virtue, wealth and desire.

Achara Rasayana

सत्यवादिनमक्रोधं निवृत्तं मद्यमैथुनात्|
अहिंसकमनायासं प्रशान्तं प्रियवादिनम्||३०||
जपशौचपरं धीरं दाननित्यं तपस्विनम्|
देवगोब्राह्मणाचार्यगुरुवृद्धार्चने रतम्||३१||
आनृशंस्यपरं नित्यं नित्यं करुणवेदिनम् |
समजागरणस्वप्नं नित्यं क्षीरघृताशिनम्||३२||
देशकालप्रमाणज्ञं युक्तिज्ञमनहङ्कृतम्|
उपासितारं वृद्धानामास्तिकानां जितात्मनाम्|
धर्मशास्त्रपरं विद्यात....................||३४||
(Ca. Ci. 1/4/30-34)

This is the code of conduct every individual needs to adopt. By following such a code of conduct we can have individuals who are healthy mentally as well as socially.

Persons who are truthful and free from anger, who are devoid of alcohol and sexual indulgence, who do not indulge in violence or exhaustion, who are peaceful and pleasing in their speech, who practise japa (Incantation etc.) and cleanliness, who are stable and steady, who regularly practise charity and penance, who regularly offer prayers to the gods, cows, Brahmanas, teachers, preceptors, and old people, who are absolutely free from barbarous acts, who are compassionate, whose periods of awakening and sleep are regular, who habitually take milk and ghee, who are acquainted with the measurement of things appropriate to the country and time, who are experts in the knowledge of rationality, who are free from ego, whose conduct is good, who are not narrow-minded, who have love for spiritual knowledge, who have reverence for elders, who believe in the existence of God, who have self-control and who regularly study the scriptures.


1. Out of the three aspects of health, social health remains ignored.
2. The social health of an individual is responsible for a healthy society.
3. The current scenario is not encouraging in the context of social health.
4. Individual behaviour needs to be addressed for social health.
5. Social health cannot be addressed without mental health.
6. The concepts of Sadvritta, Dharaneeya Vega and Achara Rasayana will be helpful for improving the social health of an individual.


1. World revolution. [Online]. Available from: Development.htm [Accessed 17th October 2016].

2. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Report, ‘The State of the World’s Children, 1999’. World Bank, World Development Indicators, 1998.

3. WHO. [Online]. Available from: suicide/suicideprevent/en/ [Accessed 17th October 2016].

4. Times of India. [Online]. Available from: as on 4th September 2014, [Accessed 17th September 2016].

5. Bashir H, Gray P (eds.) Deconstructing Global Citizenship. Routledge USA: Lexington Books, Rowman and Littlefield; 2015, p. 143.

6. Prabhu SS, Mohapatra N. Reconstructing India’s Identity in World Politics: An Emerging Convergence between Public Diplomacy and Constructivism. Sociology and Anthropology 2014; 2:6: 230.

7. Shah S,.Ramamoorthy V., Soulful Corporations. New Delhi: Springer Science, India; 2014, p. 449.

8. Krishna Warrier AG (ed.) (1953), Maha Upanishad, Theosophical Society, Madras. [Online]. Available from: panishad.htm [Accessed 17th October 2016].

9. Sharma R, Dash VB. (eds.) Agnivesha’s Caraka saṁhitā, Sūtrasthānam, Indriyopakramaneeyadhyaya. Volume 1. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Series Office; Reprint 2004, pp. 171-82.

Ca. Caraka saṁhitā
Su. Sūtrasthāna
Ci. Cikitsāsthāna

Dr. Ritesh Gujarathi is Associate Professor at Dept. of Basic Principles; Dr. Jasmine Gujarathi is Associate Professor at Dept. of Prasuti Tantra and Stri Roga, G. J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat.

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