Healing Wisdom: Ayurveda for Life and Love
By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Oregon, USA
Sure, we do a lot of exercise and meditation while practicing yoga. But do we realize that all those routines are just practice for living a mentally centered, balanced life during the rest of the day? Enlightenment, as union with God, is the primary goal of a human lifetime, and we also wisely recognize that, at least in the early stages of seeking, the physical body must be in reasonable repair so it doesn’t become a distraction on our journey. Yoga teachings embody the union of the physical and the spiritual, describing the body as a boat to carry us across the ocean of illusion, and before setting sail on that the voyage, we need to attend to repairing the leaks in the boat. Or, to put it another way, the body is the temple of the soul, and the soul is the temple of God.
Ayurveda is closely associated with Samkhya philosophy, one of the classical schools of philosophy in Indian thought. Samkhya teaches that within the creative force that gives us life (prakruti) are three qualities (gunas). Sattva (essence) is creative potential. The term means pure, true, and balanced, and it represents contentment, joy, peace, and harmony. Rajas is active vital force and Tamas is inertia. Each guna is necessary and part of living in a body on Earth. The goal of yoga and Ayurveda is to live a life of grace and love, to move toward being in a sattvic state of mind, and to lead a sattvic life as much as possible.
Our ultimate task as humans is to quiet the mind and to attain the goal of pure undifferentiated consciousness (nirvana). The human body exists as a physical entity because of the mixing of the five elements with the soul, the mind, the cycle of rebirth and the senses. Managing the energies of the body is part of the yoga system of enlightenment.
Sattvic food is pure, clean, and wholesome and this diet gives life, strength, energy, and courage. It provides the subtle nourishment we need for vitality and consciousness. Food is seen as a carrier of prana, and sattvic foods bring us good quality energy and leave us feeling calm, alert, and refreshed. Yogic scriptures describe the sattvic foods as savory, smooth, firm, and pleasant to the digestion.
When we meditate we feel the inner effects of the food we ate. As meditators, we’re all familiar with the two main problems of ‘nodding out’ and the wandering mind. Falling asleep? Scratch the tamasic foods. Over-active mind? Nix the rajasic chow. To quiet the mind, maintain alertness, and explore your subtle nature, slip into the sattvic diet.
Food is best prepared with love and awareness. Then, pure, sattvic food should be enjoyed for its inherent taste and quality, rather than the spices and seasonings that are added. Sattvic foods are light, easy to digest, mildly cooling, refreshing, and not disturbing to the mind. To live and love to the fullest, focus on fresh fruit, fresh, light milk products, high quality vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and healthy oils.
Rice is a very basic, yet very effective sattvic food. Easily digestible, it increases ojas, moisturizing the tissues. Basmati (literally “queen of fragrance”) is the premier variety. An aromatic, nutty flavored rice, basmati has a scent that has been compared with jasmine mixed with walnut. This rice is used in Ayurveda as a cleanser and healer for all types of people.
Ayurvedic physicians promote sattvic honey to rejuvenate your body. Honey is innately rejuvenating, with its sweet taste, and is considered predigested, allowing it to nourish all parts of the body with ease. For these reasons, honey is considered to be the best enhancer, or “vehicle” for all Ayurvedic rejuvenating medicines. Mixing raw, unfiltered honey into herbal tea allows the honey to act as a vehicle for the active principles of the herbs. Other foods that renew prana in the body are asparagus, broccoli, milk, dates and mango. (The latter two are often blended in milk and rice or made into milk pudding.) Spice things up with sattvic ajwain seed, cumin, turmeric and black cumin (kala jeera).
Live and Love with Herbs
If you want to vibrate in love, add some hibiscus flower (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) to your daily program. Ayurveda calls this beautiful deep red herb japa, because it strengthens devotional meditation on God’s Name. Hibiscus flowers destroy spiritual and material obstacles, and assist us in realizing our goals. They are used to purify the physical and spiritual heart, and to promote wisdom. Hibiscus makes a cooling beverage for beating the summer heat. It is also generally beneficial for kidneys and reproduction (first and second chakra disorders), and these beautiful flowers nourish the skin and hair. Brew a delicious tea and drink throughout the day as you prefer.
Rose petals, little known as herbal medicine here, are popular in the natural healing systems of Asia, where they are used to cool and uplift the mind. They are especially good for reducing excess fire tattva, and its fiery emotions and passions, and they make a good laxative for people of fiery constitution. Taken internally, this delicious remedy soothes not only a hot mind, but also inflamed surfaces, such as the digestive tract. To regulate menstruation, add some rose to your routine and increase the amount gradually until you notice a positive effect.
Often rose petals are mixed with honey or raw sugar and allowed to marinate for a year, creating a sweet, appealing jam, used as a tasty confection with a cooling laxative effect. Likewise, brew rose as a tasty tea, perhaps blended with other cooling herbs. Rose infused ghee is an effective Ayurvedic preparation to cool the heat of on over-energized mind and body.
As we move through our journey toward attaining a life of gratitude, grace, and universal love, it doesn’t hurt to have a few guideposts along the way. Bringing a little discipline to the diet and relying on some daily herbal remedies can add a much needed dimension to the voyage.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Yogaraj, DN-C, RH, is the president of the American Herbalists Guild. He mentored in Ayurveda with Yogi Bhajan for 32 years. The Healing Cures of Yogi Bhajan is his homage to Yogi Bhajan and the wealth of information he had the blessing to learn from his master. Karta Purkh has written over 3,000 articles on health topics and is the author or editor of 30 books on health, including his latest, The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs. He lives in the Northwest with his wife and daughter.