Ayurveda, the “science of life,” is the traditional medicine—the natural healing system—of India and its cultural sphere. It is probably the oldest health care system in the world, with roots going back over 5000 years into the Vedic era. Not surprisingly, it is called the “Mother of All Healing”. Ayurveda is one of the most comprehensive healing systems in the world, dealing integrally with body, mind and spirit. It is allied with the profound yogic view of life and consciousness. Given its antiquity, we could say that it is the original medical system of which the modern medical systems are either derivations or deviations.
Ayurveda has had a strong influence throughout history on many systems of medicine, from the ancient Greek in the West to the Chinese in the East. Ayurvedic herbs and formulas appear in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and an Ayurvedic form of acupuncture also exists. Ayurveda is the basis of Tibetan medicine, which brought in Ayurveda along with Indian Buddhism. Tibetan medicine consists of predominantly Ayurveda with a secondary influence of TCM. Forms of Ayurveda exist in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma, and to some extent in Thailand.
Ayurveda is one of the newest and most comprehensive systems of alternative medicine to be introduced into the West, where its popularity and prestige is growing rapidly. In the Western context, Ayurveda is a system of naturopathic medicine and covers all the domains that we find taught in naturopathic schools from herbs to surgery. Ayurveda is perhaps the world’s oldest and most complete form of naturopathic medicine.
Ayurveda affords much extraordinary knowledge and many opportunities for practice, career development, and for providing service to humanity. Those who learn Ayurveda today will find themselves at the forefront of a great movement that will gain many adherents and have a great effect upon the world in the coming years. Though Ayurveda is just beginning to become known in the West where its practice is still not well developed, particularly on a clinical level, its influence is growing rapidly. Those who learn Ayurveda today will be pioneers of this movement that will continue to grow significantly in the future.
Ayurveda as a medical practice is taught throughout India today in various Ayurvedic colleges and hospitals. As a health system, it is recognized by WHO (the World Health Organization). Many new Ayurvedic schools have opened in India in recent years, and most have full enrollment. Usually a five or six year program is followed at an Ayurvedic college, and a Bachelor of Science degree is required to enter. Many schools are now beginning to teach classes in English and are developing shorter study courses for Westerners. However, study for foreign students in India is not easy. Accommodations can be poor and the teaching methods can be slow, though the situation is improving.