What is a disease, what causes disease and why some people fall ill and others don't, are the questions we have all asked ourselves many times. Different branches of science and different medical systems have tried to answer those questions, but the right answer is still missing.
In Western medicine, the causes have been looked for among different pathogens, i.e. external causes and genetic heritage or inborn „mistakes“ in the system which result in a disease. Furthermore, there are autoimmune diseases, but there is no answer what exactly causes autoimmune reaction or, to put it differently, why our body „raises its hand“ to itself.
While Ayurveda acknowledges the above mentioned causes of disease, its explanation goes much deeper. Ayurveda says that those causes can manifest themselves only if our body is not in the state of balance and it offers insight into what led to that imbalance. Our body is a complex apparatus and its function cannot be separated from the mind. In Ayurveda, we say that whatever influences the body, influences the mind and vice versa.
We are all influenced by the chronological time and therefore subject to aging. Our body also has its biological time, the time in which our cells are aging. According to Ayurveda, our biological time does not necessarily have to correspond to the chronological time. It can be easily noticed in case when someone looks much younger and vigorous than someone else who may be ten or twenty years younger. How is that possible? Why some people grow old faster and others remain vigorous and healthy until an old age?
Ayurveda has classified the causes of disease into three main categories:
- Asatmendriyartha samyoga
According to Ayurveda, these three main causes of disease enable different kinds of diseases to manifest. Firstly, they lead to the imbalance of the body and /or mind. The consequence of the imbalance is a disturbance of the basic biological principles, which makes the body prone to disease no matter whether it is an infection, manifestation of hereditary inclination or autoimmune reaction.
Let us take a look what each of these three causes means:
This cause is most commonly described as a mistake in the intellect or as damaged intelligence and it involves making decisions harmful to our health. Such decisions can be more or less conscious, and the best way to avoid such decisions is to raise our awareness and to acquire knowledge related to our health. We often know that we have dressed the wrong way for a certain temperature and weather conditions, or that we really do not need another dessert, but there is no will to make the right decision.
Disrespect for knowledge of the fact that what we do is not good for us leads to forming bad habits that consequently create long-term imbalance within our body. Our body then becomes a fertile ground for development of different kinds of health disturbances or disease.
When we show disrespect for what we learned in the past and when we do not recognize the effects of our decisions on our health, the consequences of such behaviour are accumulated and they create conditions for disease development. We could say that Prajnaparadha refers to disrespect for ourselves, our health and the life given to us. It refers to yielding to behaviour that can be described as auto destructive.
Wrong stimulation of senses is the second most important cause of disease in Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, our senses are channels through which our mind is fed. All the knowledge that we possess has been transferred to our brain through our senses. In order to keep our mind healthy, our senses should be well taken care of and stimulated in a way which will not feed them with wrong impressions.
Our senses are the ones who recognize the quality of the food we eat, the amount of noise or visual stimuli, etc. Today, these causes of disease are more important to understand than ever before. Our senses are constantly stimulated by TV, mobile phones, computers, artificial lighting, commercials, sound contamination, electromagnetic pollution etc., and they all demand our special attention. Neglecting signals and warnings sent by our senses inevitably results in imbalance and bad consequences for our health.
Life goes on rhythmically. There is a regular exchange of high and low tide, day and night. Seasons also change rhythmically. Our heart beats rhythmically, as well as our lungs. And our eyes blink in that way. Falling out of that rhythm leads to health disturbance or disease.
Imagine it is winter one day and the very next day it is summer. And then a rainy fall lasts for a year. Imagine a day that lasts for a hundred hours and then comes the night which lasts for only two hours. Imagine you take a two-hour sleep at night or you do not sleep for the next two months and then sleep for three days. What would happen if there wasn't for that natural rhythm? The answer is quite simple: there would be chaos.
According to Ayurveda, Parinama or the third cause of disease refers to living out of rhythm. As time goes by our body is aging, but the biological time goes faster than the chronological time if we do not live in accordance with the rhythm of the nature around us and it will result not only in a disease but also in aging faster.
It is well-known that people often become ill when seasons change or, to put it differently, when there are bigger changes in our environment. It happens because we do not live in the rhythm of seasons and we do not align our habits with these changes through our diet and lifestyle.
Disrespect of life rhythm around us and refusal to align with it inevitably leads to creating conditions where a disease can develop more easily. On the other hand, if we do live in accordance with the rhythm of the nature around us, our biological time will go more slowly, our energy will not be spent too much and if we are willing to pay enough attention to it, we can learn how to preserve our vitality and reach longevity.
In Ayurvedic literature, irregular functioning of Agni or Ama are often mentioned as causes of disease as well as other causes such as external pathogens, hereditary diseases, injuries, traumas, etc. It is important to say that the above mentioned causes of disease, Prajnaparadha, Asatmendriyartha samyoga and Parinama are considered to be the basis for creating all other conditions that can cause health disturbances. Therefore, a special attention should be paid to them in order to completely understand the causes of disease and the right ways how to preserve health. When we avoid making mistakes related to these three main causes of disease, Agni will be balanced and Ama will not accumulate in our body, our immunity will be strong and not prone to infections. Moreover, hereditary factors and influences from the environment will have difficulties to find fertile ground for the disease to manifest.