Ayurveda – A Definition and a Display

“This is the goal of Ayurveda: relevant longevity, how to maximize frictionless flow, and frictionless living in a body for the maximum relevant period of time for however long this body is destined to continue existing.”

Thom Knoles

Ayurveda is often defined as “the science of life, but this definition is somewhat simplistic, and doesn’t fully describe the origin and intent of the word.

In this episode, in answer to a listener’s question, Thom gives a deeper explanation of the subject, including its origins and a fuller description of its meaning.

This question and answer sets the stage nicely for the follow up contribution from a listener, which is effectively a display of both Ayurveda and self-referral in action.

No matter what your level of understanding of Ayurveda is currently, this episode is sure to deepen your appreciation for it.

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Episode Highlights


Q- Can You Describe Ayurveda from the Sanskrit Perspective?



A – Knowledge has Organizing Power



Apaurasheya – Without and Author



Veda Vyasa Categorizing the Vedas



The Four Vedas and Their Significance



Ayurveda: A Subordinate Veda of Rig Veda



Breathing and Longevity in Ayurveda



Ayurveda’s Goal: Maximizing Joy in Relevant Longevity



Q – Seeking Vedic Guidance on My Journey to Wellness



A – The Rishi in You



Autodidact of Veda



Learn from a Vedic Master to Accelerate Progress


Jai Guru Deva


Ayurveda – A Definition and a Display

[00:45] Q- Can You Describe Ayurveda from the Sanskrit Perspective?

Hi Thom, this is Alicia from Reston, Virginia. Your description of the Sanskrit language was so beautiful and helpful. I was wondering if you would do the same for the Sanskrit word Ayurveda. Thank you so much.

[01:01] A – Knowledge has Organizing Power

Yes, Alicia, I’m happy to do so, and thank you for the flattering comment. I know you didn’t mean for it to be just flattery, but I do find it helpful to hear feedback on that level.

Ayurveda. Ayurveda. Let’s start with Veda. We know a little bit about Veda already since this is the podcast on the Vedic Worldview. Veda is the word for knowledge. It’s also the word for truth.

But this is knowledge of all three aspects of knowledge, which is knowledge of the Knower, knowledge of the process of Knowing, the processes, and knowledge of that which is Known.

So, knowledge of the Knower is referred to in Sanskrit as Rishi. Knowledge of the process of observation, the process of gaining knowledge, is known as Devata, D-E-V-A-T-A, Devata. And then knowledge of that which is the known is Chhandas, C-H-H-A-N-D-A-S. Chhandas. Knower, Knowing, Known; these three things together make up Veda. Veda.

And without knowledge of the Knower, that is, direct experience of transcendence, direct experience of pure consciousness, then the other two processes of Knowing and the Known are subject to a tremendous amount of variability.

When we have knowledge of the Knower, we have knowledge of That, capital T, That by which all other things are known. So, knowledge has organizing power. This is a truth and a fundamental tenet of information theory. And therefore, knowledge of That by which all things are Known, knowledge of consciousness, has infinite organizing power.

[02:50] Apaurasheya – Without and Author

So, we add infinite organizing power and we have Veda. Veda. Veda is able to be understood in terms of many of its representations and categorizable fields of knowledge.

And these categories of the way in which Veda was experienced by the great rishis of the past, a rishi is a seer of the Veda, someone who is able to cognize the Veda.

And the basic idea here, with which we’re quite familiar now, is that Veda is not written by anybody. Veda is Apaurasheya. Apaurasheya is spelled A-P-A-U-R-A-S-H-E-Y-A.  Apaurasheya. Apaurasheya means without an author.

That which is without an author is vibrant in the consciousness field. Veda, complete knowledge, is vibrant in the consciousness field.

And where is the consciousness field? Deep within you. Yes. Deep within you, at the source of thought, is the consciousness field. Veda. And where is that? Not just at what layer of your own thinking, is it? It is everywhere. There’s nowhere that it is not.

Veda can be cognized by anyone who has the capacity to cognize it. And prior to 5,000 years ago, many different rishis, seers, had cognized Veda and expressed their cognition in songs.

The Veda was sung in the form of hymns. Vedic Hymns or R-I-C-H-A, and then, when we want to pluralize it in English, we put an s on the end. A Richa is a particular paragraph of music sung with a particular cadence.

And so, for example, I’ll give you an example of the first verse of Rig Veda, and we’ll talk about Rig Veda a bit more in a moment, is Agnimile purohitam yajnasya devam rtvijam hotaram ratnadhatamam like that. And so it has a certain cadence. And rhythm and melody to it. And so this is the sound of the first verse of Rig Veda.

[05:06] Veda Vyasa Categorizing the Vedas

Now then, Vyasa, 5,000 years ago, one of the great Rishi was not known for being a seer of the Veda. He was known as Veda Vyasa. Veda Vyasa. Vyasa is spelled V-Y-A-S-A. Veda Vyasa. Because he took the existing songs or cognitions of the Rishis, several of whom were his own ancestors, his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and others who were the spiritual brethren of those, they all knew each other in those times. They were all associated with each other. They were associates.

Some of them familial, as in the case of Vyasa, whose father, Parashara, and his grandfather, Vyasa’s grandfather, who was known as Shakti, and Vyasa’s great grandfather known as Vashishta, and Vashishta, had many spiritual brethren who were also great Rishis.

And there were women involved, too. A female Rishi is known as a Rishika. And there were many female Rishis as well. Some of them the wives or daughters of extant Rishis in that era.

So Vyasa took some of the extant cognitions of the Veda in their particular melody and form and discovered that there were patterns by which you could categorize the Veda into subject matter.

And the first major division that Vyasa makes is in four major categories of knowledge, Rig Veda, which is encyclopedic Veda. R-I-G is Rig. Sometimes, it’s spelled R-G, Rig. Sometimes it’s spelled R-K, Rik, because it’s a kind of a closed sound, Rig, and it’s a little bit indistinguishable as to whether it’s a “v,” a “g,” or a “k.” It doesn’t matter. Rig Veda, we could just say it.

[07:03] The Four Vedas and Their Significance

Rig Veda is the first major subdivision of the four subdivisions of Veda Rig Veda, and then next, Sama Veda, Sound Veda. This is the Veda of the way in which you can use sound to elevate consciousness. Sama Veda, S-A-M-A Veda. Sama Veda.

And then next comes Yajur Veda, Y-A-J-U-R. How to make certain actions and performances that allow the human to interact effectively with the laws of Nature, to bring into being certain forms, functions, and phenomena. Yajur Veda. Yajur Veda Is the third of the four.

So we have Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda. Next, we have Atharva Veda,

 A-T-H-A-R-V-A. Atharva. Atharva Veda.

And then Vyasa goes on to say each of these Vedas has a subordinate Veda. Atharva Veda is the Veda of miscellany. Everything else.

So, so far, we have encyclopedic knowledge. Then we have knowledge of sound, Sama Veda, the how to elevate human consciousness through the creation of sound. And then we have Yajur Veda, that has to do with Yagyas.

A Yagya is a performance that humans can do, creating sound and using the other five sensory objects in such a way as to interact with the laws of Nature to cause something to come into being, some desirable thing, form or phenomenon to come into being.

And then Atharva Veda, which covers a variety of topics that were not covered by the first three.

[08:56] Ayurveda: A Subordinate Veda of Rig Veda

And then Vyasa goes on to say there are Upavedas. U-P-A, Upa in Sanskrit, it means sub, a subordinate Veda. Subordinate Veda. Upa. I won’t go into the Upavedas of all of the four major Vedas for the moment because of your question, I’m going to go into the Upaveda of Rig Veda.

The Upaveda of Rig Veda is when we divide the two words, is Ayush, A-Y-U-S-H Veda. But there is a rule in Sanskrit grammar that you can’t say a ‘sh’ sound and a “vh” “v” sound in sequence. And so we have Ayurveda, A-Y-U-R, the sh turns into an r, in order to make it, it’s a flow rule called a Sandhi rule. A Sandhi rule, S-A-N-D-H-I, Sandhi rule, is a rule of flow.

Ayush Veda can’t be said grammatically correctly. So we have to say Ayurveda. So, we know what Veda means, now, let’s look into the meaning of Ayush. Ayush.

Whenever we have a word in Sanskrit that starts with the letter a, then we have a negating sound for what comes next.

So, for example, if we want to say knowledge, we say gyana. And if we want to say ignorance, we say agyana. Another way of saying knowledge is Vidya, V-I-D-Y-A. The way to say ignorance is avidya.

One way of saying death is mrt, M-R-T with an rolled R. Mrt. The way to say immortality is amrit. And this is very instructive to us because our word immort comes from the Sanskrit amrit, immortality. Amritananda. So immortality is that which negates mrit. Amrit negates mrit. Amrit.

[10:53] Breathing and Longevity in Ayurveda

Ayush. Yush has to do with the speed with which we expend our breaths. We have a certain number of breaths assigned to us in a body life. How fast do we use up the breaths? As meditators, because we go so deep in our meditation, our breath becomes very soft and settled for the period of time of meditation, and we’re not using up our bank balance of breaths as quickly.

When people are very stressed, they breathe far too much. Heavy breathing, very audible breathing, is one of the symptoms of somebody being very stressed. Ayush has to do with aa yush. How to use the breaths at a slower speed, in other words, longevity.

But there is an element of the relevance of longevity as well because, evidently, it is not relevant for humans to continue in the same one physical form for longer than a certain number of years. So far, in recent history, at least, the largest number of years for which humans are known to exist is less than 130.

And then, we have to ask the question about immortality. Is immortality, in fact, a relevant phenomenon in the human condition? And we would have to say evidently not. There has to be succession. There has to be allowance for the next generation to rise into prominence and predominance and to show what they have and what they’re made of. For them to become the senior members of society is a very important evolutionary phenomenon.

[12:35] Ayurveda’s Goal: Maximizing Joy in Relevant Longevity

I’m getting down to the meaning of the word Ayurveda has to do with relevant longevity. For how long is it relevant for your body to stay alive and well in order to support The Universe having a human experience.

The Universe would like to have a human experience. We would like for that human experience to be the most delightful possible. How to have maximum joy, physiological joy, freedom from barriers, freedom from pain, freedom from dis-ease, so dis-ease means non-ease, so maximum ease, maximum ease of existence inside of a human body for the most relevantly long period of time.

Now, there are great masters, and naming them would be helpful. The Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth lived to be, what, 33? The great master Shankara, of our tradition that brought us Vedic Meditation, Shankara lived to be 32. It appears that it wasn’t relevant for them to live beyond that age.

Ayurveda is all about how to get the maximum enjoyment from whatever your relevant longevity may be. Is it relevant for all of us to live to be 130? Perhaps not. But some longevity and then maximizing joy in that longevity. This should really be the goal.

So, this is the goal of Ayurveda. Ayurveda, relevant longevity, how to maximize frictionless flow, and frictionless living in a body for the maximum relevant period of time for however long this body is destined to continue existing. Ayurveda, the Upaveda, the subordinate Veda of Rig Veda.

Jai Guru Deva.

[14:25] Q – Seeking Vedic Guidance on My Journey to Wellness

Jai Guru Deva. My name is Jimmy. I’m located in Sydney, Australia, but I travel the world as a tattooer. I’m about to do 28 cities across Europe. And the reason for my question is I’m in a progressive stage of multiple sclerosis. So, I’ve been in a wheelchair recently, I’ve been blind a few times in my life, I’ve just come out of an eyepatch, and I’ve found what I believe to be a system which has led me into being an accidental Vedic.

So, the practices I have been fine-tuning for 15 years with this disease, once I found out about Ayurvedic knowledge, they are very similar to what I have been doing, trial and error on my body.

I meditate twice a day, but before meditation, I do a very intense yoga workout. I wouldn’t call it a workout. I would call it deep, deep breathing exercises through the nose, out the mouth to take the stress out of my muscle system.

And the food that I’ve been selecting have been sulfur-rich vegetables, three cups of kale, seaweed, organ meats, very nutritious food, and I’ve been healing.

I’ve restored my eyesight, I got out of the wheelchair, I don’t need the walking stick anymore. I’ve started doing chin-ups, gymnastics, but I’ve only recently found out about Ayurvedic knowledge, and it seems to co-exist with the path that I have intuitively found during my meditation to help myself.

Now, I want to further my studies and be guided by a Vedic master to help me further understand this miraculous thing that I’ve done, changing my body from being crippled and obsolete to athletic and able.

Jai Guru Deva.

[16:38] A – The Rishi in You

Jai Guru Deva, Jimmy. It’s such a joy to hear from you, and what a remarkable story that is.

And it’s the story of someone who, without realizing it, has had glimpses of being a Rishi. R-I-S-H-I. Rishi means a seer. The idea about the Veda and Vedic knowledge is that it is Apaurusheya. Apaurusheya means it is without an author.

The knowledge of Veda is embedded in the consciousness field itself. This is one of the statements of the Veda itself, about itself, Richo akshare parame vyoman.

And that means all knowledge, all that can be known, already exists embedded inside your consciousness field in your least-excited state.

And there’s absolutely no doubt that you got drawn into that least-excited state, and you’ve been harvesting knowledge, harvesting knowledge from there. And this has put you on a track that, frankly, and this is going to be one of the ways that I approach your subject, Jimmy, it makes sense of the reason why you ended up with MS.

You got MS, not because it was time for you to go into attrition, as most MS sufferers will, without meditation, without Ayurveda, but so that you could become a Rishi. And it may be well looked at that had you led an average life, you might not have ever had the impetus and motivation to dive into the knowledge as deeply as you did.

And you have dived into that deep inner knowledge, which is the place where the Veda exists. So you have been touching the Veda through your discoveries, your practice, as you called it, trial and error. I would just call it research.

Doing your research, you have learned how to touch on the Veda.

[18:37] Autodidact of Veda

Someone who is a very capable pianist and who’s never learned to read music and who plays piano by ear can still go to a fine institution like Juilliard or Berklee College of Music in Boston, and training under a master pianist can take themself from where they are to that level where they can play anything that’s played by anybody.

The problem with being a pianist, and you’ll see the analogy in a few moments when you contemplate it, the problem with being a very capable by-the-ear pianist is that if you hear a particular piece played by a master, you have to watch their fingers. You have to be present and see where they’re placing their fingers. They have to show you how to play what they’re playing.

Being someone who’s trained in piano and trained in music, you can take a music book by Beethoven and read the notation, and you can play exactly the way Beethoven intended it to sound. And you can switch to Bach, and you can switch to any great pianist’s work.

And so where you are now is something akin to being a self-taught, an autodidact is the word that’s used for this, autodidact, a self-taught Rishi. And the MS has been the challenge and the demand with which you have interacted. You haven’t simply reacted to it; you’ve interacted with it. And in interacting with it, you have derived knowledge, you’ve really paid attention.

[20:17] Learn from a Vedic Master to Accelerate Progress

Now it’s time for you to learn with a master, as you yourself stated, to accelerate your progress. And really, one of the things that happens when you’re self-taught is that, because you’re doing research, you do make mistakes here and there that then have to be corrected.

One of the great things about learning under a master is that we can eliminate the research element. We can just say we already know what happens if you do that research, and that’s time-consuming, it eats up days and nights. Better to do it this way and don’t eat up the days and nights.

For each and all of us, these bodies in which we find ourselves encased are on their way to the grave. All bodies are. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the death rate of bodies on Earth as it stands now is 100 percent. Longevity is no guarantee of immortality. Longevity means you live a few years longer than average.

And there are many who’ve gone before you, Jimmy, who have similar neurological and neuromuscular diseases. I’m thinking of Stephen Hawking, the great physicist, who outlived his prognosis by probably 35 or 40 years. He was not supposed to be able to be what he became, and he became one of the greats.

Jimmy, I think the same thing will happen with you. But let’s get you off of the trail of you being the self-taught pianist and get you into the College of Music. Get you under the training of a master.

And I’m going to request my team of people, with your permission, Jimmy, to reach out to you and make arrangements for you to learn Vedic Meditation formally. It won’t be in the least bit foreign to you. It will simply be like putting a turbocharger on what you’ve already been practicing.

And then, as soon as you can, see if you can make arrangements to cross paths with me wherever I may be at a convenient time. I’d love to meet you. And I’d also love to see some depictions of your work.

All right, Jimmy, I think that probably just about does it. Thank you for your comments, and thank you for listening to my comments in return.

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