Harry S. Sharma
November 6, 1977

From time immemorial, man has unceasingly searched for the key of longevity and while in this day and age the search seems unsuccessful, scholars tend to question whether man has not, in fact, lost the key.

It is likely that over the centuries, the 'key' believed to have formed part of the Ayurveda in ancient India, is now un-identifiable?

Could it be possible that the 'misplaced' key is there somewhere buried in the ancient ruins of the land that gave the world a civilisation and culture yet unparalleled?

Indian history is repeat with rishis and sages whose lives spread over centuries.

Even in modern times, there have been reports of long life, and this does not refer to those who survived just five score years and more.

Whether the 'key to longevity' is eventually found - and, naturally, some individuals will spend billions to find it - Ayurveda is undoubtedly a very ancient science, and possibly the original science of medicine from which other schools have branched off or have developed.

The name itself connotes that it is more than just a science and art of healing. It means a body of knowledge that gives the key to longevity, yet modern scientists have spared no pains in their quest.

Naturally, why not just a copy of the Ayurveda and concoct the long life portion?. Just what is preventing this wonder drug from taking the world by storm?.

It is possible that man has found the key but lack the discipline which Hinduism rigidly demands and have thus elected the easy way out...leaving it alone?.

One thing is certain, the 'key to longevity' is no wonder drug:there is yet no single pill to swallow to acquire long life. But there are definitely some guidelines in the Ayurveda.

Ayurveda, then, is that science which lays down what is benificial and what is not benificial, what makes for happiness and what brings unhappiness and what measures the good and evil regarding our life.

That is how an ancient writer on the Ayurveda, Charaka who florished about 400 B.C., has described it all, adding that "it has three aspects: one makes for Swasthavritta, (hygiene), the other induces Sadvritta (a life based on good conduct) and the third is curative."

What is a happy life?

Again Charaka says:

One whose temperament is not, either physically or mentally, affected by ailments and is endowed with youth, strength, virility, reputation, enterprise and boldness, and actuated by knowledge of science, is said to be enjoying a happy life."

Naturally by modern day standards, aided by advanced science and technology, Ayurveda includes not only the curative and the preventive aspects, but also comprehends a positive state of body-mind-soul, thereby anticipating the physhosomatic theory of our times.

Writing in the 'March of India' a few years ago, R.R. Diwakar made the point that 'basically, Ayurveda conceives of health as a harmonious condition of the elements constituting the human body, the mind and the soul.

"Any disharmony or disturbance in the equilibrium of the elements," he wrote "is looked upon as a disease. While treating diseases, Ayurveda regards diagnosis as the first step and pays attention to what is called the millieu-interne as well as the ailing human body and the environment."

"In its materia medica and pharmacopoeia, Ayurveda makes use not only of herbs and minerals but of all organic and inorganic material on which it could lay hands."

Diwaker admits that: "A great deal of Ayurvedic wisdom has come down to us in the form of traditional rules of daily routine as well as diet which Hindus observe.

"One may here refer to early rising , the cleaning of teeth and mouth, daily bath, change of clothes, deep breathing, seasonal change of diet, fortnightly fasting, etc.

"These practices and the use of herbs and homely medicines were known almost to every housewife in India and thus made Ayurveda a very popular science."

It is no secret, however, that with the advent of the British rule in India, the Ayurvedic science which was born centuries before Christ, receded to the background as patronage to Allopathy was extended. The Ayurvedic system, did not remain isolate in India....some of it got out of India even before the British took rule.... but China was undoubtedly / one of the chief beneficiary.

As early as the middle of the fifth century (A.D.) a Chinese Buddhist noble, King - Sheng did a compilation dealing with meditation and know as Che- Chan-Ping-Pi-Yao-Fa (the method of curing diseases), during his visit.

Then during the Tang dynasty, Emperors and nobles of the Court sent a special envoy to hunt for Indian Thaumaturges (Tantrik Yogis) who were supposed to have been in possession of secret methods of curing the effects of old age.

Again in the 11th Century an Indian Ayurvedic book named Ravanakumara - tantra was translated into Chinese from Sanskrit, dealing with the treatment of children's disease. Then too was another translation, Kasyapasamhita... dealing with the treatment of pregnant women's diseases....into chinese.

These Ayurvedic translations into Chinese, however, does not mean that the Chinese did not have their own medical system. Far from it. Fact is, the Chinese took every care to enrich what they had by drawing from India not only Ayurvedic methods but also Buddhism, as their majority religion among other knowledge and sciences.

Some portions of Ayurvedic art and science, nontheless, travelled over the centuries to several ends of the world, particularly during early immigration of Indians to the West Indies.

Today some of the practices are still carried out in our own time... even though we can't boast of Ayurvedic Herbariums as those still existing today in some parts if India... in a variety of ways not excluding the high spice flavoured dishes to be served this Happy Divali.

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