It is always interesting to dig into the mystery of the mind. Since ages, man has been trying to figure out the mystic nature of the mind. A lot of attempts have been made in this direction, yet the conflict of mind versus physical matter (body) continues.
The expounders of Ayurveda have taken a keen interest in describing the nature of the mind. Ayurveda considers both mind & body as the substrates of disease as well as of positive health.
Ayurveda has universally accepted that the mind connects the soul and the physical body.
It is hard to accept the mind as a physical matter but Ayurveda and ancient Indian VEDIC knowledge firmly believes that. But it accepts mind as not an abstract entity rather a subtle physical matter.
Impairment in functions of the mind is one of the leading causes of various miseries & ailments. Hence, the study of the mind is essential for all medical concerns.
What is Manas (mind)?
The literal meaning of word manas is knowledge. Our senses derive their inspiration from the mind through which we can perceive and understand. It acts as a driving force for all sense faculties.
That is why we understand something only when the mind motivates the contact of the soul with the senses & their objects.
Ayurvedic scholars have described the mind as Atindriya i.e., it transcends all sense perception. It is a physical matter as it is made of pancamahabhutas. Mainly Vayu (air element) controls functions of our mind.
Our mind is influenced by three phases of activity called Trigunas (Sattva, Rajas, & Tamas). Sattva gives us a desire to know, create, & think while rajas let us initiate & act on something, and Tamas creates lethargy & urges us to finish the work.
The mind controls our sense organs, & reinforces self-restraint. These two actions of the mind are essential in maintaining health. Any impairment in carrying out these functions is a sure invitation for diseases.
What are the types of the psyche?
Ayurveda says that man is a complex combination of spirit, mind, & body. Though we are all the same yet, we differ a lot from each other. Our thinking, mental status, response to events & circumstances vary widely. What makes each of us different?
It is the balance of Trigunas i.e., Sattva, Rajas, Tamas, in our minds. Based on the gunas, there are countless types of psychic behavior. Our mind projects so many facets as per the influence of Trigunas.
But basically, our mind is always dominated by one of the Triguna, which decides our nature.
- Sattvic– always chooses things that promote wisdom, happiness, & fulfillment. Such people inherently know what’s best for them. They are honest, pure, dutiful, prideless, equal to all, and are free from confusion, greed, anger, envy.
- Rajasic– such a mind is always racing fast & never settles down. They keep looking for things, unable to decide what exactly is right; thus, they always are unsatisfied with themselves. Such people are generally laborious, greedy, intolerant, envious, and fond of food & sex.
- Tamasic– have slumberous habits & can’t think wisely. Such persons are lazy, dull, confused, angry, sinful, ignorant, & disrespectful of others.
It’s not that a person is dominated by just one kind of guna. Everyone has features of all three gunas but is expressed at different times.
How the mind impacts our health?
Our mind has an immense power to control our body. As soon as our mind gets clouded by Rajas & Tamas more or less knowingly, we commit to unhealthy habits. This concept in Ayurveda is known as Pragya-apradha i.e., perverted use of mind intelligence.
It is true that in today’s highly competitive world there is too much influence of rajas & Tamas guna on our minds. Rajas & Tamas are doshas of mind. They distort the naturally positive aspects of our mind and have a negative impact on us.
Intellectual error is the cause of many physical illnesses, epidemics, & especially of several mental disorders.
Eating hot, spicy, stale foods, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, watching too much TV & movies, working exhaustively, avoiding sleep are some of the common examples of intellectual errors we do when our mind fails to restrain itself even after knowing adverse effects of such activities.
Such physical factors & misuse of mental faculties give way to grief, anger, greed, attachment, envy, delusion, selfishness, and these emotional faults further pave the way for various mental disorders.
How does Ayurveda deal with mental disorders?
Ayurveda has always stressed upon the mind and its vulnerability towards imbalance. Ayurvedic texts mention that an efficient physician must have a good knowledge of psychology.
Ayurveda has a psycho-somatic approach to mental health & illness. Prime importance is given to find the cause of disease. Rather than tranquilizing or providing symptomatic treatment, withdrawal of the mind from those harmful causes constitute psychic therapy of Ayurveda.
To treat mental disorders, it is essential first to examine the nature & cause of mental illness. Sattva pariksha i.e., the examination of mind is necessary to treat such diseases. It involves the analysis of emotional and mental behavior types.
This helps in deciding the mental status and involved doshas to choose the best treatment as per the patient’s needs.
What is Ayurvedic treatment for mental illness?
Psychic therapy in Ayurveda is extensive, and various methods are employed to treat mental illnesses. However, primarily, there are three methods of treatment in Ayurveda:
- Daiva vyapasraya (spiritual therapy) – It is often seen as a last resort when all kinds of treatment have failed.
It involves mantra & hymn chanting, wearing precious stones & gems, auspicious offerings, observance of spiritual rules, atonement, fasts, obeisance to gods, or going to pilgrimage.
- Yukti vyapasraya (therapy based on reasoning) – Many somatic or bodily diseases causes mental imbalance, and hence it is essential to treat the mental doshas with the help of medicines, diet, lifestyle & purification procedures
- Sattva avajaya (psychotherapy) – It is carefully considered by the physician what is useful or harmful for a patient’s health. He is encouraged to adopt a wholesome regimen concerning his life-goals by following the course of Sadvritta (well-conduct), healthy thinking, and self-realization.
Also, with sheer assurance & encouragement, the patient is made to accept things without hostility & distress.
The mind is what you make it
Naturally, our mind is born with a balance of three gunas, but it later becomes distorted due to various stimuli such as our thoughts, emotions, types of things we choose to focus on, quality of food we eat etc.
Fortunately, Ayurveda has gifted us with invaluable insights on what exactly mind is. Ayurveda also emphasizes the importance of a healthy mind.
Comprehensive and practical attempts of Ayurveda can surely give us good results if we put a little faith in the nature, the creator of our body.
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