Healing for an East Indian is based on the ancient Vedas that were passed down to current generations from more than 5,000 years ago. The Vedas have a divine origin and are at the root of all Indian thinking, living, and philosophy. The knowledge found in the Vedas is universal and has application in today’s world as well as in ancient times. The Vedas give guidance to all aspects of life, from details of daily living to the expanses of spirituality. They also contain the yamas and niyamas, guidelines for right living. In the Vedas, there is guidance for what one eats, what one wears, and the deity one worships. In other words, everything one does has a deeper, spiritual basis. For example, specific foods are eaten in the summer, but not in the winter and, according to certain ancient beliefs, food is served in seven dishes (representing the seven chakras). Certain clothes are worn during specific seasons regardless of the outside temperature. Young people do not marry without having an astrological chart done to determine compatibility. Each state in India has a specific deity that is worshipped and each family has their own guru who is followed.
The family system is very strong in India. When a family member gets sick, it is a family problem and the whole family is involved. The family physician is often so trusted, that the sight of him begins the healing process. Indians traditionally believe disease is from within and is caused by an imbalance not only in the body, mind, and soul, but also in one’s lifestyle, karma, planetary influences – essentially everything that has an inner and/or outer effect on a person. The goal in healing, based on the Vedic branch of Ayurvedic medicine, is to bring the all aspects of a person’s system back into harmony.
To do this, the individual, often with the help of a practitioner, moves deeper into the subtle aspects and areas of his being to find the root cause of the disease. If physician knows where the problem lies, he can help the individual strengthen the weaker tissues and energy flow in the body. This would also include strengthening negative mental and emotional patterns, changing eating and drinking habits, and enhancing harmony within the family and community.
Within Ayurvedic medicine there are eight subcategories of healing which include herbal pharmacology and toxicology, psychology, rejuvenation, working with vital essence and life force, internal medicine, obstetrics, and so on. Individuals are made up of subtle energy systems and when these are out of balance, the whole being suffers. In the disease process the normal energy flow is deranged and lodges in the weakest tissues. In order for healing to happen, the root problem needs to be discovered and the energy flow needs to be reversed and returned to its normal flow. This process is exacerbated when multiple problems occur in the body and the psyche. Right breathing, prana (life-energy) control, and thinking, as well as right company affect the healing process. Healing is a matter of individual constitution, rather than an outer “Band-Aid” approach.
Healing in India has a deep grounding in the feminine principle and in the mother archetype (as the one who nurtures and contains the nature rhythms of healing). Indian culture is replete with mythology, gods, and belief systems that are an undercurrent of their life style. It is a polytheistic society that is open to the expression of images in everyday life, in their temples, and in their bodies. The gods are present and traditional Indians are human beings as opposed to our Western predilection toward human “doings.”
To promote healing an individual needs to assume responsibility for their health. As a Jungian analyst and psychotherapist, I also believe the intervention of a practitioner will not help if the person, even at the deepest levels, does not have an interest in their emotional health. There needs to be a strong therapeutic alliance between practitioner and patient. The analyst/therapist needs to be alert and aware of even subtle changes in the person and needs to be attuned to the patient at all times. At the same time, the practitioner must have enough objectivity so they do not get drawn into the subtle, and often unconscious, drama of the patient.
The Ayurvedic practice has much similarity to a depth and Jungian approach to psychology. As analysts, we are also taught to peel back the layers and go to the roots of the affliction. As practitioners, we often intervene and reframe an improper flow of energy that may have occurred during developmental years or as a result of a traumatic event. We host and work with dream images and give them a safe place for expression. We contain and midwife afflictions so life and energy may return to a natural resonance with the world within and without. There is a therapeutic alliance in which both the therapist and patient are working on the healing process.