Ayurveda and the WHO Definition

The WHO, in the 1950s, laid down the definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Today, it is widely believed and understood, even in the spheres of Western Pharmacology, the suggestion of a strongly linked physical and psychological dimension to health and the disease. We never refute that physical symptoms sometimes have psychological origins. In essence, the psychic and the physique are complexly intertwined and they interest not only the practitioners of medicine but also in common men and women like us, to reflect on our daily lives.

Thus health which has to be addressed at the multiple levels which affect it is enshrined in the societal consciousness as that which ideally balances the physique and the psychic. Sadly, in this world of IT and fast food, this definition of health is being challenged as being ‘utopian’ and there is a move to develop what is described as a more practical and workable definition that focuses on certain “key indicators” – that which is addressed by the consumption of targeted concentrated western medication. This is in contrast to what the WHO defines.

Almost two millennia ahead of the WHO Susruta describes the same albeit in a different tone. He writes, ‘health is also affected by one’s moral, social and spiritual values’. Susruta adds on that ayurveda holds that Dharma (spiritual gains), Artha (monetary gains), Kama (sensual gains) and Moksha (liberation), the four primary objectives of human life, are possible only for a healthy human being. Thus laying the foundation that healthy people are a prerequisite to optimize human resource utilization. In conclusion, we see that an ideal health care system as defined by Ayurveda is one which cures a disease without causing or precipitating other illness or as it is said in Sanskrit ‘Shamyet yo na kopyet’.