Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ayurveda, Crimes against Wisdom, and Forgiveness

by Anita Perkins

"Prajnaparadha" (noun, Sanskrit) -- "Crimes against Wisdom"

Charaka, the ancient healer and sage, was perhaps the first to codify the world's oldest continually practiced medical system, Ayurveda. For over 5000 years, Ayurveda has been the holistic medical system practiced by millions in India and beyond, and now this ancient wisdom is coming to the West, as a result of the popularity of Ayurveda's sister-science, Yoga.

Ayurveda, Yoga, and Tantra are a sacred trinity of systems the ancient Rishis (seers) practiced to develop the individual towards liberation. Ayurveda develops the individual's body, Tantra the mind, and Yoga the spirit. Practiced together, the individual achieves an ideal, integrated balance of physical health, mental focus, and spiritual enlightenment.

By studying these ancient practices -- Yoga, Tantra, and Ayurveda -- we can learn what is necessary to maintain -- or if necessary regain -- physical, mental, and spiritual balance.

check back: links coming soon....
Introduction to Yoga as a Spiritual Discipline.
Introduction to Tantra as a Mental Discipline.
Here is an introduction to Ayurveda.

Through the study and practice of Yoga, Tantra, and Ayurveda, we can learn what we need to do and not do, to be vibrantly healthy in body, mind, and spirit, and how exactly to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual health and liberation.

In Ayurveda, health is more than the absence of disease; it is a state of optimal wellness, of thriving. Just as consuming the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C will prevent scurvy, but ingesting a larger dose will also support your immune system, Ayurveda not only helps you avoid disease, but promotes ideal wellness.

If we know how we need to behave or not behave, and yet we do not act in accordance with this knowledge, we have committed a "crime against wisdom." "Prajnaparadha" ("crime against wisdom" in Sanskrit) is considered by Ayurveda to be the root cause of all disease. "Prajnaparadha" is willfully ignoring one's inner knowing -- going against your intuition and common sense -- and is the source of all health problems. For example, eating ice cream on a cold, winter day is counter-intuitive. In Ayurveda, eating a frozen dairy product in freezing weather aggravates Kapha dosha, which leads to excess phlegm and mucus production. Really, it just violates common sense.

I've heard many yoga therapy clients, after I've interviewed them about their dietary habits, say "I know I should eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, but..." or "I know I should drink less coffee, but...." But, they don't do what they know they should do, and they do what they know they shouldn’t. And what happens? Their health suffers for it. Someone who is irritable and jittery and has trouble sleeping, and who knows their caffeine intake is contributing to their imbalanced health, and yet drinks a quart of coffee a day, is committing Prajnaparadha. So is the person who eats few if any fruits or vegetables or whole grains, knowing they should, and suffers from constipation (from lack of fiber) and frequent colds (from lack of antioxidants).

We create our own illnesses by violating our own common sense. Excess or deficiency of anything, especially excess of harmful substances or deficiency of helpful ones, throws us out of balance and into illness. Chronically, over time, these excesses and/or deficiencies add up, and can lead to debilitating chronic illnesses.

Even something as seemingly unrelated as choosing to work at a job you hate is a case of Prajnaparadha, and may be a primary source of your ill health. You may blame your job for your unhappiness, but ultimately, your unhappiness will manifest as illness, and essentially, your unwillingness to let go of the job you hate is a crime against wisdom. Why are you choosing to remain in a miserable situation? There are thousands of jobs, careers, schools, and job trainings out there, in thousands of locations all over the country and the world. Your rotten job is not the cause of your ill health, but your choice to work there very well may be.

And that goes for any choice you make to remain stuck in an unhappy situation, whether that choice involves work or school, home or family, or any other environment where we spend our time. Being happy is intimately linked with health, and being unhappy with illness. It comes down to this: Do you want to make a happy life for yourself, or would you rather just make yourself sick? Would you rather make yourself happy, or would you rather just make excuses for your unhappiness? There is no "can't" -- there is only "won't." "Where there's a will, there's a way."

There is only your conscious or unconscious willfulness, your own mentally created self-limitations. There is only you.

So what do we do? Beat ourselves up for deliberately violating such basic shoulds and shouldn'ts? Lash ourselves with guilt and shame for staying stuck in a dead-end job? Arrest us all for committing crimes against wisdom, and put everyone in Ayurvedic prison? Not even close. Just the opposite really: Love. More love, more compassion, from ourselves, for ourselves. Make friends with yourself. Be willing to truly know who you are, what you're doing or not doing, and why. And then team up with yourself to do whatever is necessary to bring yourself back into balance and health.

The necessary attribute for self-change is "Tapas," Sanskrit for "inner fire." This yogic concept refers to austerity, determination, and the willingness to do whatever is necessary to bring yourself back into balance and health. First, identify and acknowledge your crimes against wisdom -- your contributions to your own ill health. Then, instead of beating yourself up about it, realize your inner empowerment. Think about it -- the fact that you've helped cause your illness gives you the power to stop causing your illness. This realization brings you back onto the path of Dharma and renewed health.

Once you feel empowered to do something about your health, to take action to change how you are feeling for the better, the healing process really begins. Draw upon your inner resources, your courage and resolve, your patience and perseverance. Reach out to your family and friends, books, therapists, the internet, get all the information and assistance you can. Change your diet, change your job, change your life – be willing to let go of the past to move forward into a future of wellness. Reach down inside yourself and find the Tapas to heal yourself. You can do this!

And what should you do when you falter? Believe me, you will, my friend, because we all do sometimes -- the road to healing is rocky and paved with good intentions and backsliding -- it's two steps forward and one step back the whole way there. So, what do you do when you stumble and fall -- off the wagon, or off the healing path altogether? Kick yourself? Give up? Not even close! Love. Compassion. Be your own best friend.

Most of us treat our friends way better than we ever treat ourselves. Do we give up on our loved ones when they make a mistake? Do we berate them when they stumble, sneer at them when they fall? No, we forgive them, we cut them slack, we give them another chance. That's exactly what we need to do for ourselves, especially in the beginning, as we make our tenuous way on the challenging journey towards wellness. Treat yourself as you would your dearest and most beloved friend. Offer yourself love and compassion, a cup of tea and a hot bath, words of encouragement and support. You deserve it!

No one can heal you, only you can heal yourself. And you can only heal yourself if you are kind enough to forgive yourself, and courageous enough to stop blaming your mother, your job, the government, your addiction, and everything but the kitchen sink that is not you, and accept your own culpability in your own disease. Then, you apologize sincerely to yourself for you past transgressions, forgive yourself fully and completely, and vow from this day forward to change. You commit yourself fully to being your own true friend and partner in your own healing. And then, and only then, the true healing begins.

I need to be clear on one very important point: Even though healing yourself IS your responsibility, being ill or out of balance is NOT your fault. Yes, your actions have contributed to the outcome. Your smoking or poor diet or stressful lifestyle have contributed to your becoming unwell. But saying that is NOT the same as saying "it's your fault." First of all, it is evident that environmental factors, including our increasingly toxic soil, air, and water, contribute much more to the onset of disease than an addiction to soda pop.

Also, knowing your choices and actions contributed to the formation and maintenance of your illness is ultimately incredibly empowering. Since you helped cause it, and you have been maintaining it, you know you can stop it. You cannot single-handedly purify our global environment (although we should all work together to do that!), you CAN purify and strengthen your internal environment with healthy diet and lifestyle changes. You CAN change your life, and transform your health, for the better!

And finally, your self-awareness must come with self-acceptance. You did the best you could, knowing what you did, being who you were, in your past circumstances. You really did. You are human. You are wonderful. But you are not perfect, never were, and never will be, and neither is anyone else. And that is perfectly okay. What you were, are, and always will be, are perfectly loveable and forgivable.

So, please, don't waste time and energy blaming yourself for past mistakes. Let go of the past, love yourself, and forgive yourself completely. Self-love liberates you from repeating the self-destructive habit patterns from the past that helped make you sick in the first place. Self-love frees you to finally and fully get well.

Confess your crimes against wisdom, whatever they are, and turn over a new leaf. Begin anew with a healthy respect for your intuition, your self-care, and common sense, and pardon yourself fully and completely for the past. Today is the day to begin. Today is the day to transform your health.


Anonymous said...

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Ayurvedic Aficionado said...

You have captured what I have recognized in myself over the past few days. It seems a common habit for some people to go around helping others while putting off their own needs. Your statements of how we treat our friends better than ourselves caught my attention and connected with this idea. At first felt it was noble to take care of myself last, but now I see that by ensuring my own healthy balance, I am preparing myself to better help others. Balance is the key, the balance of the three systems you discuss. I am glad I found your blog.

Anita Luna Perkins said...

Thank you for your comments! I have been working for many years to overcome my unhealthy patterns and transform my health in a holistic and balanced way, and I am happy to be able to share what I've been learning. Wishing you and everyone an abundance of health, vitality, and happiness!

Ayurveda said...

Ayurveda is the integration of balancing the mind, body, soul and senses. This system of healing includes eating the right thing at the right time and adapting healthy daily lifestyles such as meditation and maintaining a purity of the mind and soul. The connection between the mind and the body not only controls the process of thoughts but also helps the body in daily activities such as blood circulation, respiration, digestion and the purging process.

Miric Biotech said...
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