Meditation and Spirituality from the Perspective of Ayurveda

What spiritual lifestyle traditional Ayurvedic scriptures recommend

Author: Prof. Dr. Martin Mittwede
In Ayurveda, spirituality is understood as the pursuit of self-knowledge and ethical action. While this often equates in peoples minds with asceticism, the world-oriented Ayurveda finds practical ways to implement this in everyday life. Prof. Dr. Martin Mittwede explains how important meditation and spirituality are in the Ayurvedic tradition.

Ayurveda originated in the heyday of ancient Indian culture, during which philosophy, science and technology developed in many ways. The Ayurvedic classics find evidence, in which philosophical thoughts process and develop these diverse traditions further . Thus, Ayurveda includes not only medicine and therapy, but is also a teaching of balanced living.

From thoughts of the Samkhya philosophy, both Ayurveda and Yoga have developed their respective views. Common to both is a conception of man, which in simplified form can be described as tripartite:

The psyche, the body and the self together form the totality of being human.

Psyche and body are characterized by the fact that they can be afflicted by disease, whereas the self always remains healthy. The self corresponds roughly to what in we in Western traditions consider to be the soul or spiritual core of the human being.

Based on this view of the human being, Ayurveda consideres spirituality a natural part of being human. On the basis of knowing oneself and knowing what is really strengthening or weakening in life, right decisions can be made, which are the basis of action in everyday life and lead to good habits. Spirituality in this sense includes deep self-knowledge and ethical action at the same time. Inner and outer reality are connected and give an integrated sense of life (sense of coherence in the sense of salutogenesis).


Spirituality in ancient India often had an ascetic, otherworldly emphasis. One aspires to a higher being (Brahman) or to God (Ishvara), which is supramundane and eternal. The transient world, on the other hand, offers no safe place and should be transcended. Yogic practices such as tapas – the building up of spiritual power through renunciation and renunciation, body control with control of sexuality and fasting, but also certain breathing exercises and meditations – also point in such a world-away direction.

Here Ayurveda sets its own and other accents, the senses are an indispensable means for the doctors to come to diagnostic findings. Basically, they serve to open up the world up to a knowledge of the essence of things, which makes it possible to orientate oneself in nature, to grasp and categorize the influences of various substances.

We can say that Ayurveda is world-oriented and life-affirming in its fundamentals.

Thus, it has a special position in ancient India, which makes it a force of its own also in the context of spirituality.

The past emphasized and elaborated the world-oriented side of spirituality in ancient India too little. Because the monks and ascetics have also been literarily dominant. Also, under these points of view, one can examine the different yoga and meditation traditions of the later time and still further. One has to start already with definitions of terms and explanations.


About Sattva, the basic characteristic of “purity, clarity and goodness”, there are many opinions and also many misunderstandings. From the point of view of Ayurveda, it means a mental strength and clarity that gives a person the strength to cope well with the changing situations of life, whichdeal with suffering and joy. The basis for strengthening sattva is primarily the integration of intuition, feelings, thoughts and actions.

The excercises considered good in themselves – such as mental study (svadhyaya) – can be pathogenic from the point of view of Ayurveda.

Too much does not help much, but makes ill. Ultimately, this also applies to spirituality itself.

Whoever overemphasizes it and neglects the realities of practical life can encounter serious problems in his life or fail.

When it comes to life goals, Ayurveda lists three factors in the Caraka Samhita: Health, wealth and spiritual development. Man should take care of all three:

  • around health through an Ayurvedic way of life, diet and balancing measures,
  • about prosperity, so that there are no worries about livelihood, because existential worries always mean stress, and a fulfilling activity in the world gives joy and secures existence, as well as
  • about spiritual development through self-exploration and self-knowledge: among other things, meditation and holistic psychological therapies can help with this.
    Taking care of all goals equally lays the foundation for a life in balance. Too much mental striving can exhaust the body and make it sick. Too much striving for health makes one anxious and neurotic. Striving for wealth is the disease of today. People can no longer find peace because they are only spinning in the hamster wheel.

The spiritual development of a person is a guarantee for health and a long life.

A person who sees a meaning in what he does, who finds fufillment in his activities, who can develop himself and set out for new shores, has good conditions to stay healthy.

Happiness arises from peace of mind and does not come from outside.

The Sanskrit term for health (svasthya),  literally means “resting in the self”.It finds use in Ayurvedic texts, Sva is the self, and the only thing that really belongs to a person is the self, because he is the self, the self is his very nature. But the “own” is also that which suits the person in his individuality.

A particularly important area of Ayurvedic spirituality is mindfulness in everyday life. Here, one does not define one’s own meditation times, but it is about developing a conscious attention, an alert sense for what is beneficial and what is burdensome in a certain life situation.

About the Author

Unser Autor Prof. Dr. MArtin Mittwede

Prof. Dr. Martin Mittwede studied Indology and Religious Studies. He currently leads a master’s program in Ayurvedic medicine and has his own psychotherapeutic practice. He is intensively involved in the connection of psychology and spirituality. His latest book is called “Meditation is the Heart of Yoga”.

This article was originally published in the German special Issue of Tattva Viveka SO No1: Meditation und Spiritualität aus der Sicht des Ayurveda

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