James LeFevour – USA
Ayurveda is becoming more known to the west as a form of medicine and natural health. For those who have visited an ayurvedic doctor as an alternative to mainstream medicine you will know that after having one’s blood pressure taken and after a series of questions about natural bodily process, your doctor will explain to you that each physical body has a primary dosha. This body dosha can determine a range of physical qualities including how acidic your stomach is, how easily you put on weight, or what sort of herbs will aid you in good health.
Medicine and physical health is how most people know ayurveda, but this "knowledge of life" as ayurveda translates can be used to understand more than just digestion and bloodwork. Ayurveda dates back more than 5000 years to the Sanskrit texts, the Vedas, and can give us an insight to how we function as spiritual beings.
The doshas for example are not just body types. Everything in the universe could be considered to have a dosha, and that dosha or nature determines how each being or planet or atom works in harmony with everything around it.
One way in which doshas and ayurveda is being applied to more than just physical health is in understanding the mind. As David Frawley says in Ayurveda and the Mind, “Learning the right use of the mind not only solves our psychological problems, but directs us to our higher potential of Self-realization. It leads to the spiritual life, which is our real occupation as conscious beings.”
There are three fundamental doshas underlying the ayurvedic approach, named kapha, pitta, and vata. While in essence these three states of being have a general definition, it applies differently when applied to different things. Having a vata heart rate is different from having a vata esophagus.
In ayurveda there is the concept that each of the doshas are based upon motion. They say vata moves, pitta boils, and kapha binds together. In traditional ayurvedic medicine, these three actions can explain everything that happens in a human body. From an esoteric point of view, the universe is also a body, and everything in that body has a dosha nature.
Another way of explaining how the doshas represent motion is by knowing that the 3 doshas actually come from the 5 elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space. Vata is made of air and space, because in the free and open realm of space air has room to move and breath. Pitta is made of fire and water, because in the close molecules of water, fire and heat bring everything to a boil. Kapha is made from water and earth, because water makes the clumps of earth stick together to make sticky mud.
The understanding that everything is made up of vibration, and that the nature of each vibration is different, is one way of understanding dosha. The nature of all vibrations could be considered by the simple actions of boiling, moving or squeezing from here to there, and binding together. This sounds so simple but when applied to the myriad units of the universe it has a cascading effect. For example when we consider different molecules, and how they each have different dosha nature, even though they are identical at an atomic level.
In traditional medicinal Ayurveda these actions are used to describe processes in the various organs and systems. Boiling would best be explained as what happens in the stomach during digestion. Moving or squeezing is exactly what the intestines do to our digested material. Binding together is like what the lungs do using mucus of phlegm to catch oxygen and bring it into the bloodstream.
For our simple purposes we will consider it like this: in our minds we are vibrating. The frequency of brain waves, according to modern psychological studies, are measured in the human mind anywhere between 3 hz and 13 hz, depending on whether the mind is in a delta, theta, alpha, or beta state.
According to a recent medical proposal by Travis and Wallace, whichever one of three doshas your mind is designated as a type, that also explains the internal workings of various parts of the brain. As they put it, “each dosha type should be associated with patterns of functioning of six major areas of the nervous system: The prefrontal cortex, the reticular activating system, the autonomic nervous system, the enteric nervous system, the limbic system, and the hypothalamus.” This pattern of functioning ultimately determines your type of personality.
Each mental dosha has its own personality qualities and these will be listed and explained. The chart that Travis and Wallace pertain to the six parts of the brain are shown right here.
“Vata types are creative and open-minded, with broad comprehension of diverse topics and quick understanding of many points of view,” says Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley. “They are excellent communicators with mobile and communicative minds and personalities. They possess a strong sense of human unity, are receptive and sensitive to others.”
However when a vata is not doing well they are known as the worriers of the three doshas. Anyone who classically revisits memories from the past just for the purpose of worrying about them is likely a vata. According to Travis and Wallace they are easily overstimulated which leads them to act quickly.
Another way of recognizing a vata is their ability to see the big picture. This can also lead them to not staying in the moment, but some vatas learn to compensate by training their minds to focus on the details. In this way vatas are often consulted for advice and other doshas appreciate their different way of looking at situations.
In extreme cases, vatas are known for craving power. It is better for vatas to learn to live in the moment and appreciate what they have than to subject themselves to scheming for something greater of more influence over others. At their best they learn that they are appreciated for who they are, and let go of the need to prove themselves.
About pittas, Frawley says they “display higher qualities of light, intelligence and warmth, shining like the sun on everyone. They are disciplined, perceptive and discriminating in their thinking, always considering the point of view of others. They are friendly and courageous in their actions, with warmth and compassion for all. They function as natural leaders with strong wills for growth and development.”
Sometimes pittas can have a temper or act without consulting others, which can be a double edged sword as it does lend to their leadership appeal, but can also put people off. A happy pitta is one who teaches themselves to have no regrets. However this will not absolve them from responsibility in the eyes of their peers, but it will teach them to live more for others instead of focusing on their own ambitions.
Out of all the doshas, pittas are the most pleasure seeking in terms of their personalities. It is something they do unapologetically which is liberating for other doshas to be around. It is also something that can promote vanity, which often brings about their downfall.
If they learn to overcome these several trappings in their persona, pittas are actually known to develop a compassionate and positive view of life, and often use good natured teasing as a refined teaching tool on those around them. Although it does take some personal work for them to get to the stage of love and devotion where their interactions are always based on kindness and compassion.
Frawley says that kaphas exhibit “virtues of love, devotion, faith, and contentment which gives them a comforting presence to all who come in contact with them. They have much steadiness, patience, equanimity, and balance of mind. They are loyal, forgiving, nurturing, and supportive.”
Kaphas are often interested in the technical aspects of life, including the arts, social dynamics, politics, and especially technology. It is not that they look for the rush of power associated with these things, it is simply that they like to keep busy and the more technical a subject is, the more details there are to keep their interest.
Kaphas are also prone to fretting, which unlike worry is the act of dispelling ones nervousness through busy work and activity. In fact, it seems the only way a kapha can calm down from nerves is to work it out. Sitting and just simply letting it go is not an option. Other doshas who observe this behavior of fretting might simply see them as a hard worker or a busy body, but kaphas know that they are working their own way to calm.
Out of all the doshas, kaphas are hardest to bother or shake off their sense of center. This leads them to being excellent leaders for any project as there is little ego reward for them in the completion of a task. They are most able to relinquish the fruits of their labors. If they have a downside it is that they like to accumulate things or property, which can be a problem they try to find self-esteem in such an endeavor.
Some good examples of doshas from history:
Vata – Woody Allen
Woody Allen is a director of film who is widely praised for the philosophy in his work. He is also known to constantly be worrying about something, or asking the question “Why?” towards any social situation. His sense of humor often gets his fans and viewers to see the world in a different light.
Vata – Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a shining example of courage. He faced adversity in his mission to unite black and white America, even to the point of receiving significant personal threats on his person and family up until his eventual assassination. It was not his resistance to these threats that pushed him onward, but rather is ability to see the big picture of the importance of what he was doing as well as the constant support of those around him.
Pitta – Mohandas K. Ghandi
Mahatma Ghandi as he is affectionately known around the world, for a time represented the epitome of courage and quiet strength. The philosophy of non-violence, as practiced by him and his followers to rather be struck down in protest instead of fighting back, shows a determination and resolve that is unique. In his youth he was known to be a proud young lawyer, and it was his wisdom and openness to change that led him to become a spiritual leader, a simple husband, and a content practitioner of all religions.
Pitta - Madame H. P. Blavatsky
H. P. Blavatsky is more well known among spiritual circles in the United States, but the appreciation she brought to Eastern cultures of Buddhism and Hinduism in the west led to social change and equality that would not be possible if done any other way. She was known by many to have an unrivaled temper and an unpredictable sense of humor. At her death she was known to have very little money, and yet she worked constantly to bring an understanding of her masters’ teachings and the commonalities amongst all religions.
Kapha – Nicola Tesla
Nicola Tesla was a genius Serbian immigrant to the United States who used to conceive fully formed instructions of inventions in his mind and he would record them for patent. He invented alternating current and revolutionized the electricity industry to make it cleaner and more dependable. His personality was very introverted, but he cared deeply for the select few he took into his fold, and he was known for his generosity.
Kapha - Confucious
Confucious, an honorific given to him posthumously meaning “Master of hard work,” was known to consult kings and wealthy households in ancient China. His adherence to the old ways and customs of China sometimes earned him criticism, but his solutions to political ordeals that avoided societal disaster have earned him his legendary fame as a wise person. His followers worshipped him, and his writings and philosophy are studied to this day.
To be continued