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  • Writer's pictureGeetanjali Chakraborty

Harmonizing Body and Mind: Insights from the 15th Annual NAMA Conference

This year, the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) convened its 15th annual conference amidst the tranquil ambiance of the 1440 Multiversity in Scotts Valley, California. Aptly themed "Ayurveda and the Mind," the serene Multiversity campus provided an ideal backdrop for profound discussions.

As part of a distinguished panel titled "Food and Mood: Diet Approaches to Balancing the Mind and Feeding the Senses," I had the honor of sharing insights alongside panel chair Dr. Akil Palanisamy, renowned for his work including "The Paleovedic Diet." Meeting Amadea Morningstar, an esteemed figure whose Ayurvedic writings had influenced my own journey, was indeed a highlight.

Panel Discussion: Insights on "Food and Mood"

During my remarks on the panel, I delved into the essence of Dharaniya Vega, Ayurveda's comprehensive approach to well-being, which underscores liberation from unwholesome actions of mind, speech, and body as a pathway to genuine happiness.

Reflecting on timeless wisdom, I shared verses from the Charaka Samhita emphasizing the imperative for individuals to scrutinize their thoughts, words, and deeds:

Seekers of well-being in the present and future must examine the thoughts, words and actions they are holding on to.
- Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 7.26
The virtuous one, who is free from all unwholesome deeds of mind, speech and body, is indeed happy and enjoys the fruits of virtue (dharma), wealth (artha), and desires (kama).
- Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 7.30

Understanding the Triadic Nature of the Gunas:

Central to Ayurveda is the interconnectedness of mind and body, encapsulated by the triadic nature of the gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas. Echoing this concept, a verse from the Charaka Samhita elucidates:

वायुः पित्तं कफश्चोक्तः शारीरो दोषसङ्ग्रहः| मानसः पुनरुद्दिष्टो रजश्च तम एव च||५७||
(Just as) Vayu, pitta and kapha are described as bodily doshas, rajas and tamas are mentioned as the mental ones. [57] -- Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 1.57

Rajas and tamas signify imbalances of the mind, whereas sattva represents a state devoid of such imbalances, facilitating unclouded perception—a natural state of being. While rajas denotes an active state, its healthiness determines whether it manifests as energetic or agitated. Tamas, signifying inertia, reflects either restfulness or lethargy based on its balance.

Crucially, all three gunas play pivotal roles in life. Rajas and tamas are not to be eradicated but rather balanced. Healthy rajas enables constructive action, while healthy tamas facilitates rest and rejuvenation.

Ayurveda not only assesses food based on doshic principles but also considers the gunas. Sattvik food, light and easily digestible, fosters clarity and virtues like forgiveness and austerity. Rajasik food, characterized by spiciness and difficulty in digestion, prompts action but can lead to imbalance if excessive. Tamasik food, heavy and hardest to digest, induces lethargy and ignorance when imbalanced.

Ayurvedic therapeutics encompass a threefold approach:

  1. Physiological Therapy (Yukti Vyapashraya Chikitsa)

  2. Psychological Therapy (Sattvavajaya Chikitsa)

  3. Spiritual Therapy (Daivyavyapashraya Chikitsa)

While physiological therapy often garners attention, psychological and spiritual dimensions are equally indispensable in Ayurveda's holistic framework.

Finally, dispelling the notion that "Khichdi" is universally beneficial due to its tridoshic and sattvik nature, I emphasized the importance of individual constitution and freshness in determining its impact. Leftover khichdi may turn tamasik, while heavily spiced variants can become rajasik, emphasizing the dynamic nature of dietary effects on well-being.

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