What is the source of Ayurveda? Most people think that it is a folk science. It may have gradually developed with a lot of trials and errors. But that is not the case. Ayurveda is a comprehensive structure with eight distinct branches and this level of development is not possible with a scientific approach. So, let us look at the four basic pieces of scientific evidence used in Ayurveda.
Scientific Research System in Ancient India
The Ayurvedic scientific approach is based on research and proof. There are four scientific parameters/proofs required to establish an Ayurvedic finding. These proofs are calledpraman.
The Sanskrit word pramanmeans testimony, proof, or authority. It emerges from the word prama, which means wisdom. Therefore, praman is also “a source of wisdom.” It is the scientific and logical proof or validation of a hypothesis. All Vedic sciences including Ayurvedic are based on scientific validation by numerous seers over thousands of years.
Vedic logic enumerates many types of praman. However, Ayurveda uses three of the most expensively. They are –
PratyakshaPraman(visible or verifiable proof)
AnumanPraman(Logical Assumption or Extrapolation)
Aptopdesh (Words of the Wise/Apt)
Ancient Vedic people followed a scientific procedure similar to today’s lab experiments. They had three tiers of scientific verification – pratyakshapraman (visible and verifiable proof), anumanpraman (Logical Assumption or Extrapolation), and aptopdesh (Words of the Wise/Apt).
The word pratyaksha means visible. Something visible is the most reliable and established proof of a hypothesis. That is, what you can see is the truth or part of the whole truth. PratyakshaPramanmeans that proof of the pudding is in the eating.
There are two aspects of pratyakshapraman.
PratyakshaPramanapplies to directly visible things. For example, if a honey bee stings you, you will get swelling. This praman says that “cause” produces an effect. And therefore, something that visibly produces an effect, should be the cause of that effect.
Another example is a fire. When you are close to a fire, you feel the heat and the light.
Another aspect is experimental proof. When you perform an experiment and visibly verify an assumption, then also pratyakshapraman is at work. For example, you have an assumption that when sunlight passes through the water droplets, they form rainbows. You
can pass sunlight through a similar refractory medium like a prism and it will visibly prove the hypothesis.
Pratyakshapraman is the visible and verifiable proof. It is the closest to modern lab-based experiments. A simple example of pratyakshapraman is the feeling of heat in the vicinity of the fire.
The second praman (logical proof/validation) is the anumanpraman. The word anumana means assumption. A logical assumption, theory, or postulation that gives consistent results in a specific condition at any point in time is AnumanPraman(verifiable hypothesis).
AnumanPramanstands on the foundation of previous experience or information. The classical example in Vedic texts for AnumanPramanis a forest fire. We know that fire produces smoke. So, when you see smoke rising from the forest, you can safely assume that there must be a fire in the forest. This logical extrapolation of the previous information is anumanpraman.
AnumanPramanis esp. important when it is impossible for us to visually verify subtle things, like concepts or systems. For example, the Id, ego, and superego form a concept, proposed to understand the functionality of the mind. We cannot see any of these components physically, but we feel their presence in the mental functioning. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” The same is goes for the concept of the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind. They are result-oriented logical assumptions, not physical entities.
Similarly, many concepts in Ayurveda, like the dosha (physiological factors), are logical assumptions that help people to understand the body and its functions. Acharya Charak says that we cannot see the dosha but they demonstrate their presence through their metabolic activity. Anuman or logical assumption is the only basis to understand such concepts.
Anumanpramanis the logical or scientific extrapolation of previously known facts. Another name for anumanpraman is a logical inference. Most scientific information is verified and proven in inference. For example, the distance of the sun from the earth cannot be physically measured, but it is inferred from the speed of light and other known facts. And the ancients got this distance right –153.6 m km!
Aptopadesh (Wise Words)
Aptopadesh is the most intriguing, yet the most reliable praman in Ayurveda. The word “Apta” signifies the wise one. The word “upadesh” signifies a sermon or precept. Aptopadesh is the wisdom shared by the seers or the enlightened ones. In modern science, the hypothesis proposed by Einstein or Freud, or Newton are generally well accepted. Normally an established authority in a field is looked up as a guide for evolution and proper dissemination of knowledge.
However, the Vedic concept of Apta purush (a person fit to provide Aptopadesh) is slightly different. These were the sages who meditated for years and reached a sublime state of mind where they discovered the secrets of nature. Other sages of similar caliber validated these discoveries.
If we look at all the modern scientific discoveries, most of them were made accidentally. The structure of benzene or the concept of the nucleus emerged in the dreams of their discoverers. It signifies that all the knowledge is already present in our subconscious mind. And if we can reach that state, the truth of nature would shine upon us.
Therefore, this praman is the most reliable. However, the tradition of Aptopadesh and sharing true knowledge is lost in moral and social corruption. At present, texts by sages like revered Charak, Sushrut, Vagbatta, are Aptopadesh. Bible, Geeta, Kuran, and such religious text are Aptopadesh. And they are true guides to the human race at all times.
Apt People Today
Today also, we find people that reached a certain higher state of consciousness and had a glimpse of reality. Donna Eden, a lady who can see the subtle chakras and energy meridians, is working to revive the ancient Ayurvedic technique of energy healing. Her words are Aptopadesh in the field of energy medicine. There are many such people with proven clairvoyant abilities. These people may come under the category of apta (people with high levels of consciousness)
Most of Ayurveda, as we know it, is Aptopadesh. According to Charak Samhita, Ayurveda emerges directly from Brahma, the creator of the universe and the source of all wisdom. It works on the fundamental laws of the universe.
Aptopadesh means words of the wise people. In Sanskrit, the wise were called apta and their words were considered as good as facts. However, this proof requires visible and verifiable proof to establish itself.
Ancient Vedic people had their unique system for scientific research. The three primary Vedic proofs were – visible and verifiable proof, logical inference, and wise words. Their method of scientific discovery is still equally relevant as it was thousands of years back.
The fundamental proofs applicable to modern science are visible proof and logical inference. However,aptopadeshis becoming increasingly relevant with the discovery of the God Code, and the concept of divine matrix.
This blog is a super-brief introduction to the scientific approach in Ayurveda. There are many other types and subtypes of praman. Besides, there is an immense ocean of Vedic knowledge with gems like tantra yukti, nyaya darshan, and so on.
I hope that this information helps all to understand and appreciate the depth of Ayurveda.