This section discusses the differences between Ayurveda, Western Allopathic medicine, Western Naturopathic medicine and Chinese herbal medicine. These differences are discussed from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Modern Western Allopathic medicine is based on a medical model which is basically mechanical, materialistic, inorganic and inert. It considers only the physical body and treats the mind as a physical entity. It emphasises the use of inorganic substances (drugs), mechanical testing, invasive treatments like surgery and a passive approach by the patient.
It has difficulty recognising disease which it cant measure mechanically and it focuses on suppression of symptoms - usually by some form of treatment which destroys healthy tissue and organic functioning and poisons the body while it kills the "external invaders". This makes it potentially very dangerous and in many cases its treatment may actually create new disease. In addition, the focus is often on treating the disease and not the person. In addition, the treatment is seldom applied with any changes to the lifestyle or awareness of the patient.
While it is the most sophisticated and complex form of medicine in terms of equipment, testing and information it is also the crudest in terms of treatment - it approaches fixing the body in the same way as fixing a machine. However it is an extremely useful form of medicine for treating emergency situations such as accidents and heart attack victims. Advances such as antibiotics and immunisation have also saved many lives. But we need to be aware that allopathic medicine does not have a long history of success. Many of its medicines are very new and havent had time to prove themselves as safe or enduring. Antibiotics are widely overused and used inappropriately. This is damaging our level of health. In addition the use by date of antibiotics is just around the corner.
Bacteria are adapting to, and becoming resistant to, antibiotics faster than we can develop new ones. This actually says a lot about the life process. Bacteria are living entities guided by the life-force of the Universe. They are outsmarting the material mind which seeks to use simple mental analysis to conquer disease. Ayurveda should however not be thought of as a total replacement for allopathic medicine. Each form of medicine has its own strengths. Ayurveda is about increasing health and disease prevention through increased self awareness. It is not about treating car accident victims.
Naturopathic medicine on the other hand is organic, naturalistic and energetic. It recognises the life-force as the guiding force behind the biochemical changes that allopathic medicine focuses on. Its treatment focuses on harmonising the life-force and strengthening the body through natural substances such as herbs and diet, and action by the client such as lifestyle changes and exercise. It often considers the role of psychological conditions in the disease process. Disease is frequently seen as an expression of the body eliminating excess toxins which have been created by poor diet and lifestyle and therefore a positive expression of the body healing itself.
It is not concerned with the biochemical constituents of substances but on their energetic effect on the life-force and it focuses on creating energetic balance rather than killing pathogens. So, for example, it prescribes hot substances for cold conditions and strong tonifying substances for weak conditions.However, most naturopathic systems are deficient is in the way they classify the energetics of substances. The majority of systems - Chinese medicine included - considers substance energetics on an outward or quantitative basis only. For example, meat may be prescribed to a weak person because of its strong capacity to strengthen and provide energy. In this way it may balance the person at a gross level. But this perspective fails to recognise the negative impact meat has on an inner level because of the dulling effect it has on the mind, emotions and senses.
Ayurveda`s focus is more on creating energetic balance at the higher energetic or inner level. It sees all life and Nature constantly evolving toward a higher level of consciousness. All substances have an impact at this higher level of consciousness as well as the more gross body level. Ayurveda seeks to connect us with this intelligence inherent in Nature and uses substances and processes which work positively as this higher level - such as yoga asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation - to facilitate this. It categories substances and activities according to their capacity to achieve this higher level of consciousness.
It recommends we avoid substances, which stimulate us or dull us. Stimulants and dulling substances act on the body level, distort consciousness and lead to a lack of sensitivity and self awareness. For example, the cup of coffee we have to get us going in the morning may take us to work and get us to do the job but then who is it that is going to work and running our lives - us or the coffee ??.
Ayurveda recognises that imbalance of the mind and emotion frequently precedes, and is often the cause of, physical imbalances. Because of this, simple prescriptions such as pranayama (breathing exercises), repeating mantras or meditation, may be given rather than complex medicines because these prescriptions address the core of the problem by stilling an overactive mind. These prescriptions may seem naive or even undesirable - especially to those who live under the rule of their external ego and who therefore value performance in the outside world: material conquest, power and domination: as the important values in life.
Ayurvedic or Yogic medicine is about facilitating the process of raising our level of consciousness. This state of consciousness is defined as peace, union with the Divine or realisation of our true Self. A distinguishing feature which sets Ayurveda apart from other alternative systems of medicine is the fact that Ayurvedic treatment treats patient as a "whole" i.e. a combination of the body,the mind and the soul.
This Vedic system of medicine repeatedly emphasizes the common origin of mankind and the universe.Our relationship with our environment is intrinsic.The elements which compose the universe also constitute the human body and therefore the laws which govern the universal elements also govern the human realm.
These profound concepts based upon an astute understanding of the universal laws and practical observations about the world around give us the indication about the holistic approach of Ayurveda and its potential in alleviating many health related problems afflicting the whole of humanity.
Health is essential for enjoyment of all the worldly pleasures in a righteous manner. Ayurveda goes much beyond the realms of ordinary medicine and gives practical measures on how to maintain and protect one`s health and well -being and promote longevity of life. Ayurveda is thus not just a system of medicine,rather its a way of life! Illness, according to Ayurveda is a condition of imbalance, which originates from some fundamental deficiency and something more than symptomatic relief is needed for its cure.
Ayurvedic medicines predominantly being plant based are in close harmony with nature and hence easily assimilable by the human body.Ayurveda thus helps maintain the integrity of the unique elemental balance in each individual and treats the ailment at its root cause.