It includes the study of right conduct (dharma), which is necessary for the healthy growth of society in which the man lives. Further it deals with the philosophical aspect of life, the knowledge of which contributes greatly to the comfort and happiness of all human beings. Ayurveda philosophically understands the limitation of human efforts. Still it talks about the means of prolonging life and the methods of invigorating it.
The objectives of Ayurveda are mainly two, the first being the maintenance of positive health, and the other treatment of diseases. These clearly defined objectives are achieved through logically developed means in a classical way. On the basis of objectives defined, the sum and substance of Ayurveda can be classified into two parts -
The Ayurvedic therapy is either palliative (samanam) or purificatory (sodhanam). The palliative approach stresses on the use of medicaments. The famous Panchakarma therapies and the supportive Kerala special therapies belong to the purificatory approach. In both cases, proper control of food and behavioural habits is a necessary component for achieving perfect cure.
The human constitution and the condition of his ailment are ensconced in a three-factorial humoural (tridosha) frame-work which itself is a derivation from the five-factorial (panchabhautic) macrocosmic frame-work. Medicaments, the tools for dealing with a condition of ailment, are also perceived to belong to these two axiomatic frame-works.
Ayurveda is a monumental contribution of India to the world. As the name implies, Ayurveda (ayuh : life, veda : knowledge) is an organized body of knowledge of healthy living.
From where and when the stream of Ayurveda started flowing still remains unanswered. However, it has an uninterrupted history of more than 3000 years. The historians and scholars have their own arguments and reasons in fixing up different time frames. Anyway, one thing can be said for certain that there is no civilization in the world, which has not developed some system of medicine or the other. It was the periodic systematization of such medical knowledge and practice, which led to the development of medical science. The same is the story of Ayurveda with its own variations.
It could be seen that Ayurveda is rooted in the knowledge revealed by ancient seers whose insights and visions are compiled in the vedas. Vedas are the earliest forms of documented knowledge. The six systems of Indian philosophy - nyaya, vaiseshika, sankhya, yoga, mimamsa and vendanta acknowledged the authority of vedas. Of the four vedas, Atharvaveda contain more intimate reference to medical knowledge and practice. Ayurveda is therefore considered as an auxiliary limb (upaveda) of Atharvaveda. Similarly, the influence of classical Indian Philosophies, especially of sankhya and vaiseshika is apparent in ayurvedic literature. These philosophical moorings make Ayurveda more than a medical manual though it is radically health oriented.
Ayurveda does not go deep into philosophy after a certain stage and is more concerned with function and dysfunction of the human body, the orderly up keep of which is the prime requisite to fulfill the human aspirations and to achieve the ultimate goals of life. Ayurveda can thus be introduced as a system of medicine built on philosophical foundation that does not go on changing over time. Ayurveda, as any other biological discipline, is dynamic at operational level. Obviously the super structure of Ayurveda is flexible and flexible enough for appropriate extrapolation. This unique feature makes the art of healing down to earth practical in tune with the changing trends and needs of the human life.
In short, Ayurveda has a unique self-designed axiomatic framework as its foundation, which remarkably holds out a truly global vision. It assumes fundamental continuity between all elements of universe and as a natural extension of this ideology perceives man as an integral part of nature. Ayurveda underscores the fundamental commonalties observed in man and nature and attempts to explain the human life in its totality.
It starts by saying that purusha, the individual being, is a blend of soul, mind, sense organs and body. The structural and functional units of the human body are categorized and represented in Ayurveda in terms of bio physico chemical energies of the living body (doshas), tissues (dhatus) and metabolic end products (malas).
Health is defined as a state wherein the dynamic balance of doshas, dhatus and malas is maintained, the metabolism is at optimum level and soul, mind and sense organs assume sublime position. This definition fully agrees with the integral vision of health envisaged by WHO; the former has an additional dimension of sound spirituality.