From self-understanding to self-knowledge

On the profound meaning of healing in Ayurveda

Author: Michael Rohrschneider
Ayurvedic science shows us a way of life in harmony with nature. If we observe its laws, it helps us not only to physical healing, but moreover to true inner self-knowledge. Michael Rohrschneider knows that this requires more than just the accumulation of knowledge.

Ayurveda deals with good and bad, happy and unhappy life, its promoters and non-promoters, its measure and nature.
Hitahitam sukham duhkam-ayustasyahiahitam Manam ca tacca yatroktam ayurvedam sa ucyate.
– Charaka Samhita

Ayurveda, the science of life – Ayur the life and Veda the knowledge. “The ancient, 3000 years existing healing science of long, healthy life”, this is how countless books and articles begin. Are the terms science, life, healing science speaking for themselves or do we give them a preconceived meaning?

What is life, what is science and what is healing?

To truly understand Ayurveda, perhaps we should first approach these terms in a different way and indeed not simply apply the common explanations from accepted modern science. May they be biochemical, philosophical, mechanistic or atomic. In the Shad Darshana (six philosophical systems) mentioned later, we find some parallels. In the following little story it becomes clear that a scientific approach cannot be the only valid one and always leads only to the limit of what is conceivable.

A Zen master and a biologist are walking through the mountains and then find an extremely rare plant, which the biologist digs up to examine and analyze in the laboratory. The Zen master smiles and says: You will never understand the essence of the plant.



The classical Ayurvedic scriptures, such as the Charaka Samhita, begin with statements about maintaining health and only later include healing procedures. In conventional medicine, the term cure is usually equated with freedom from symptoms. In connection with Ayurveda the term “holistic” is used again and again. What does “holistic” mean? It means not only to look at the human being in his complexity, but also to understand and accompany him. First of all, we must realize that no one can heal, only nature itself. Disease and healing are inherent in the organism. Even the best doctor or therapist can only influence the inner milieu through therapeutic intervention to help the organism restore its individual balance of forces.

Ayurveda means to remove from the body what is in excess (Panchakarma) and to give what is in short supply (Rasayana).

Health is not a state, health is a process in the sense of homeostasis, both within us and in a broader sense in relation to the environment, in the form of a natural interaction in the closed system universe.



Ayurvedic healing requires knowledge, experience, empathy and insight. In this context I use the term therapist in its ancient Greek meaning: servant. A servant of Ayurveda, serving our Lord, life itself. A good servant follows the instructions of the Lord, knows what is necessary to fulfill those instructions, practices devotion to his duties, and is well versed in all matters. In the Charaka Samhita there are statements about the qualities of an Ayurveda teacher, here I somewhat modernized them. They also apply to an Ayurveda therapist with appropriately modified terminology.

An Ayurveda teacher or an Ayurveda doctor and therapist should know the corresponding scriptures well;

  • he should have practical experience, should be wise and spiritual;
  • he should be healthy and pure, free from envy, anger, greed and deceit;
  • Should possess all the necessary things to treat diseases;
  • should be fatherly to people and have affection for them;
  • and he should be able to communicate Ayurveda in an understandable way.

Healing is a process of approaching the balanced state of a species physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually.

Being-sanctified is the process of successfully balancing life-related intervals of balance and imbalance through natural self-regulation.

Sainthood is the realization of the true existence, the Self, beyond the mutable.



Shad Darshana are the six philosophical systems of Ayurveda: Shamkya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, Yoga and Vedanta. In these six systems we find essential foundations of Ayurveda. Ways to gain knowledge and to implement it in life, models of the structure of the universe, training in discernment and ways to self-knowledge. From this it is clear to see that Ayurveda is much more than a medicine in the usual sense, but a real science of life, not only in the sense of theories, but also with clear indications of practical implementation in life, as a way of life conducive to development.

Shamkya, Nyaya and Vaisheshika are mainly concerned with the material world,

Mimamsa, Yoga and Vedanta deal with the inner world in order to better understand the outer world, as the basis of spiritual development possibilities.



From my experience, physical existence and healing are mostly in the foreground of an Ayurvedic treatment or consultation. To eliminate physical ailments or to maintain physical integrity are the most frequent occasions to receive Ayurvedic care or treatment. The prominent identification with physicality should absolutely not obscure more complex relationships. To consider the body as a vehicle for our present earthly existence naturally raises the question of the driver. The question of his abilities, and the relationship to the vehicle, which I will return to later. We also need to care for our vehicle, the body. Loaded in the right way and supplied with good operating and building material. The constitution given by nature gives us the necessary indications about measure, time, circumstances and duration.

Ayurveda is an elemental doctrine according to which everything material in this universe is composed of the five elements. The Pancha Maha Bhutas (five great elements) are namely: ether, air, fire, water and earth. Decisive for our physical condition is the individual balance of the three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are unchangeably from birth to death; they determine the constitution, the Prakruti. Each of these doshas also consists of the five elements, only in different proportions.

The optimal interaction of these three principles of action depends on the state of agni. Agni is our digestive and also metabolic function. Vata is the principle of movement, Pitta the principle of metabolism and thus Kapha the principle that gives structure. If the interaction of the doshas is stressed or disturbed the following result is illness, an imbalance of the doshas (Vikruti). Wrong way of living, thinking, eating, emotional disturbances or spiritual misbehavior causes illness.

Über die tiefgründige Bedeutung von Heilung im AyurvedaAbout the profound meaning of healing in

The term dosha can also be translated as “corrupter.” This subsequently comes from the fact that the doshas that are out of balance have a disease-causing, destructive effect. The aim of an Ayurvedic treatment is to restore the natural balance. For example, to rid the body of Ama (Amapacan), to strengthen the Agni (Agnideepan) and to optimize the doshas. To adjust the way of life and diet according to the constitution and age, in order to maintain the balance achieved. The recommendations for the Dinacharya, the daily routine, and the Rutacharya, the seasonal routine, consequently give specific indications of the daily rhythm and the seasonal rhythm, respectively.



Unser Autor Michael RohrschneiderAbout the author

Michael Rohrschneider has been an alternative practitioner in his own practice since 1989, specializing in psychotherapy, Ayurveda and Panchakarma therapy. Since 2004 he has been a lecturer and leader of Ayurveda training and continuing education courses in small groups. He is an author for professional journals and a lecturer at various Ayurveda training centers.




This article was originally published in the German Issue of Tattva Viveka Special Issue: Vom Selbstverständins zur Selbsterkenntnis

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