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Ayurveda Lanka Hospital (Pvt) Ltd.
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Ayurveda & the West



Comparison Western and Ayurvedic medical science

( Please also refer to: ayurvedic and western medicine )

Here we have collected some of our own thoughts about the differences of Ayurvedic and Western medical science. It is based on our own personal daily experiences. It may well be that the reader has got different experiences:

Diet / Food

In the West: The taste and sometimes the quantity of the meals are often the only criteria whether a restaurant is good or not.

Ayurveda: The taste is also important (there are even 6 types of taste instead of 5) but it is equally important in Ayurveda that the meal is healthy and matches the individual’s type and condition.

One of our patients made it very clear by saying that it is like comparing fish and chips with rice and curry.

When people talk about a good restaurant in the West they often evaluate only the preparation and taste and ignore the health aspect. (In October 2004 Europe’s best kitchen team was selected among 1100 candidates. The jury based their decision on the following criteria: hygiene, appearance, taste, and also speed. Health was not even mentioned among the criteria).

The Doctors’ recommendation for correct diet

In the West: A particular advice is strictly followed and seen as „forever“. If the patient changes the diet he fear bad consequences. (For example, if the doctor says “Pineapple is not good for your skin” then the patient actually thinks that he should never again eat pineapple).

Ayurveda: Only recommendations are spoken out (unless the patient is ill). When the Ayurveda-doctor says “Pineapple is not good for you” it only means that the patient should not eat 5 pineapples a day. However, if one feel an „overwhelming desire“ to eat pineapple it is better to eat it than to suppress this desire and to “dream” permanently about pineapple. But it is very important that one enjoy the pineapple without feeling guilty or to do something prohibited.

The relationship doctor and patient

Going to an Ayurveda - doctor is quite a different experience compared to a visit at a Western doctor’s surgery. In Sri Lanka the Ayurvedic consultation works like this:

Both doctor and patient greet each other with a smile as usual in Asian countries and the patient takes a seat. The door usually stays open so that everybody can hear what is being said – if he likes it or not. Then the doctor starts by (pulse) diagnosis and might ask the patient’s name to write the prescription. The prescription usually consists of a long list of herbs, roots, and leaves which the patient has to buy himself. Then he is told how to prepare the medicine (e.g. bring everything to the boil for 45 minutes and then drink the liquid Luke - warm). After that they say their good - byes with another smile. Hardly anything was spoken during this time of consultation but anyhow both were satisfied.

The reason for this (for people of the west unusual) type of „silent“ communication is that the diagnosis is done differently to that of a western doctor. The Ayurveda-doctor is familiar with around 10 or even more different kinds of diagnoses ( pulse / iris / nails / tongue etc ). Therefore, he reaches his conclusion about the patients’ problem in a very different way.

A western doctor usually comes to his conclusion by questioning the patient and the answers he gets lead to his decision. Further details will be gathered by test results or specialists.

If an Ayurveda - doctor actually asks a question at all, a western patient would perceive it as rather odd, for example, the doctor might want to know all the tiniest details about digestion, urine color etc and might even ask the same questions every day. Or a patient might be asked many details about his family which could be quite embarrassing, especially if somebody can overhear the conversation.

But our chef - doctor in charge would however like to point out, that she does not like to be seen as a “magician” with supernatural powers when she was able to reach a good result quickly.

We would like to mention here one more thing: a patient should never play any games with the doctor just to find out whether he was able to find out his illness alone or not. It is equally meaningless to be in competition with the doctor about the right diagnosis or if he needs some “help”. Also here team work between doctor and patient has always led to the best results.

The immune system

In the West: For Western doctors there exists only one immune system which is responsible for the whole body and the well - functioning of all body parts.

Ayurveda: There are 3 immune systems (known under the names Vata, Pitta and Kapha) which are responsible for different parts and areas of the body. They are also treated differently by the doctor. For optimum health a smooth interplay among these 3 systems is therefore very important.

Hygiene

In the West: Hygiene is often understood only as external cleanliness and simply means to use water, toothbrush, shampoo and soap. ( But slowly, there are more and more people also in the West, who are started to use e.g. herbal salt and/or purifying teas).

Ayurveda: In addition to the external washing it needs to be complemented with an inner cleansing, such as cleaning the intestines, the blood, the nose (and this will also clean the brain), purifying one’s thoughts for example through meditation, doing physical exercises for discharging sweat. These purifying practices are done on a regular basis not only in the interest of one´s health but also be seen as important as a regular service for the car.

Beauty

In the West: Beauty is mostly seen only external and in terms of perfect measurements which, of course, do not last long. When the “correct” measurement is gone, then cosmetic surgery is needed to help to remain beautiful.

Ayurveda: The attractiveness of a person lies not only in the external appearance alone but also in an inner "glow". Only a person with a glowing face is accepted as beautiful. An example: A Buddha statue is only complete when the artist has been able to express this inner glow in the face of the Buddha.

Aging and old age.

The topic beauty includes also aging and / or old age. Ayurveda knows three ages: Childhood, maturity, and old age. Ayurveda says that it is important to behave according to one’s age and not to pretend to be younger. Therefore, people are “allowed” to age be older in dignity. Older people are never seen never seen as ugly or useless.

Success

In the West: Success is almost always seen in terms of money and power. A person with no or little money on the bank account is regarded as not successful and having failed in life.

Ayurveda: Success is not only limited to the individual. It includes one’s surroundings as well, for example, the family, the neighbors, friends, etc or even the garden with its plants and animals. An example from India makes the difference clear: In India there are old couples who go begging. They have chosen to do this because they want to demonstrate that they have made it in life and that all the family members are well looked after. That is why they can afford to go begging.

We will continue these reflections from time to time.



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