A HISTORY OF AYURVEDA AND THE GROWTH OF THE MATERIA MEDICA

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AYURVEDA IN CONTEXT
This post gives a broad overview of ancientIndian culture and ayurvedic history. It discussessome of the original concepts that developed outof this ancient culture and have had such a profoundinfluence on Ayurveda. Modern Indianculture appears to be a unified tradition andmany sources claim that it has always been so,but searching deeper reveals layers of differentcultural influences woven together. For example,it appears today that Ayurveda and Yoga havealways been a part of the same system, but historicaland textual evidence does not back thisup. They may now be inextricably linked andeven work very well together but, as we shallsee, this link has not always been in place. It isan error to claim that they have always been apart of the same system. Some authors and promotersof Ayurveda today claim that Ayurvedahas always been a part of mainstream Indian culture. This is not the case. The one continua lthread in Indian culture is the trait of absorption,cohesiveness and collection of ideas within mainstream Indian culture. This integrative tendency of absorbing diverse cultural elements is a recurrent theme throughout Indian history.And so it is with Ayurveda, which is the result of assimilating different cultural strands and medical
insights.Culturally speaking, in India there has always been a competitive atmosphere between an orthodox religious tradition and a heterodox religious tradition. Everything in India had a relationship with religion and Ayurveda developed within this
cultural friction. Early in Ayurveda’s evolution there was tension between the superiority of ritual practices versus the scientific use of herbs. Which was the most effective medicine, ritual or science, the past tradition or new experience? The Ayurveda practised today is a result of this development in a paradoxically conservative yet progressive culture. These cultural tensions are clearly expressed in the texts as well as experienced in the clinic. Modern Ayurveda is also theAyurveda is declared to be eternal, because it has no beginning, because it deals with such things that are inherent in nature and because the nature of matter is eternal. For at no time was there a break either in the continuity of life or in the continuity of intelligence

result of scientific research into and experience of nature. The defining context is that Ayurveda is a medical tradition steeped in religious tradition as well as natural medicine, and it is based on both tradition and experience.




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