As we discussed the definition of health in our previous article, let us try to decipher the concept of disease. “Disorder in any function or structure of a body” is the commonly known definition of disease. There are various types of diseases but are broadly divided into infectious and non-infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are those that spread in a community through microorganisms, fungus, bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The latest addition to this is the Corona Virus.
Non-infectious diseases are those that are not transmitted from one person to another and are more often caused by lifestyle disorders, clinically known as psychosomatic disorders. The root cause of the infectious disease is rather easy to pinpoint and also can be cured through drugs and vaccines. But to get to the root cause and cure non-infectious diseases is quite a complicated and taxing job. Not because there is no cure available but because it requires maximum commitment and patience from a patient to get rid of these.
If we are to take any of the most common modern diseases like diabetics, obesity, thyroid, hyper or hypotension, arthritis, gastritis, acidity, etc, and check closely we will find that main cause or the “cause zero” of all these diseases is our poor lifestyle or our bad habits. Until and unless we were born with any of these conditions, which is an exception, the lifestyle we chose to adopt is to be blamed for the disease we “acquire”. Modern medical science has quite recently started to acknowledge the importance of a healthy lifestyle for a healthy body whereas ancient Indic science has always connected good health to a disciplined lifestyle.
Panch-mahabhoot– The Building Blocks of Creation
The human body is primarily formed of Panch-mahabhoot (five substantial elements of nature) that are Akash (space/ether), Vayu (air), Tej (fire), Jal (water), and Prithvi (earth) thus to maintain a healthy body one is required to maintain the rapport with these elements intact. They are also the building block of the entire creation. When we ignore or violate the rules of nature, out of ignorance, arrogance, or laziness nature also punishes us back by giving us various ailments.
As we all know, there are five sense perceptions – hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell and there are five subtle elements known as Tanmatra corresponding to the five sense organs. These tanmatra combine and recombine in various ways to produce the panch-mahabhoot.
Thus, the tanmatra are the essential elements that are the primordial causes of the five substantial elements (panch-mahabooth) from whose unlimited combinations, everything including the living bodies emanates. This is the reason why the components & functioning of nature is similar to our body components and their functions.
Moving ahead, let us check which organ of our body corresponds to which of these elements.
Akash or space/ether is present in the voids within the body such as the nostrils, mouth, and abdomen. Movement of ingested food from the mouth into the stomach happens through the windpipe and space in the pipe is the akash element in our body. Such empty hollow spaces are called the srotas or the channel of transportation and are present in various systems of the body like the digestive system, respiratory system, circulatory system, lymphatic system, etc. The tanmatra of akash is shabd (sound) and the sensory organ related to it is the ear.
Vayu or air represents the element of movement in the body. It is present in the larger movements of the muscles, the pulsations of the heart, the expanding and contracting of the lungs, and the movements of the stomach wall and intestines. Air is also present in the electrical movements of nerves within the body. Thus, the entire central nervous system of the body is governed by the air element. The tanmatra of vayu is sparsh (touch) and the sensory organ related to it is skin.
Tej or fire controls enzyme function, digestion, metabolism and corresponds to intelligence. As the sun is the source of light and fire in the solar system, the source of fire in the body is metabolism. It is present as the digestive fire or the jatharagni in our body. Tej also activates the retina which perceives light. Body temperature, digestion, the thinking processes, and vision are all functions of tej. The tanmatra of tej is roop (vision) and the sensory organ related to it is the eyes.
Jal or water is present in all bodily fluids, including saliva, plasma, mucus, plasma, and digestive juices. They are the binding or the constructive force in our body. The tanmatra of jal is rasa (taste) and the sensory organ related to it is the tongue.
Prithvi or earth is solid, dense, gross, and very hard and is related to all solid and hard structures of the body like bones, muscles, teeth, and nails. The tanmatra of prithvi is gandha (smell) and the sensory organ related to it is the nose.
Ayurveda believes that these five elements work together in different ways to create tri-dosha (three-humors) known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in the human body. Maintaining a balance between the tri-dosha and panch-mahabhoot is essential to remain in a state of health.
Yoga relates these five elements to our five fingers and different Mudra were developed to balance these. They are called Hasta Mudra in yogic tradition and are used in Naturopathy to treat various ailments. Naturopathy also believes that the cause of diseases is the toxic or morbid material that has accumulated in the body, so flushing out these toxins out of the body is the way to cure it. All these traditional systems of treatment acknowledge the concept of bhoot and dosha and thus focus on creating balance and harmony among these elements to eliminate ailment and achieve perfect health.
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