‘Everything I do, say, and think has an impact on my body and mind system. If I learn how to do act, speak, think in a way that is appropriate for me then I reach that point of relaxation and the point where I am as strong as possible.’
Ashodakari Dasi is an Ayurvedic practitioner and medical doctor. Her twenty-plus years of experience gives her a wealth of knowledge, compassion, and guidance she’s been able to share as a practitioner and friend. Recently, I sat down with her to discuss Ayurveda and its application to contemporary life and the spiritual path.
What is Ayurveda?
‘Ayurveda is a science that describes the advantageous, disadvantageous, happy and unhappy states of life, in addition to what is good and bad for life and its measurement.’
Ayurveda is a health science, also known as the Science of Life, that comes from the Vedas. It was brought by Narayana Himself in the form of the Dhanvantari who appeared during the Churning of the Milky Ocean; although Dhanvantari did not start teaching Ayurveda until sometime later.
At the time Ayurveda came around, humans functioned with the awareness that they were an embodied soul, rather than a body/mind combination alone. The science of Ayurveda functions on this premise.
What does this ancient science have to do with 21st century life?
Well, everything. The principles behind Ayurveda are still entirely applicable to contemporary life. Ayurveda teaches and guides us to really look at ourselves, understand how we function, and start making decisions that are right for us as individuals. And when we apply this to our daily lives, we can learn to live and take care of ourselves in a balanced way.
What is the connection to sadhana?
Ashodakari Dasi says, ‘It is the only health system that actually prepares you for going deeper into spiritual practice.’
Both Ayurveda and sadhana, like Atma Kriya Yoga, are methods of purifying yourself and finding calmness and balance within, acting as tools and guides on the spiritual journey. She says that both practices are ‘ways of knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and loving yourself.’
‘Your body is a temple where the Lord Himself resides with all His splendor and all His Love. So let’s remind everybody of this sacredness to keep this body healthy.’
How does Ayurveda define the practice of self-love?
‘Your body is your temple. If that is the seat of my soul–-as we are cleaning temples and doing practices here to honor it, why not do that for the vehicle of my soul?’
In the contemporary world, the term self-love or self-care is easily lost in notions that are limited to the body and mind. But Ayurveda views self-love with the understanding that we are embodied souls rather than just the body-mind unit.
Ashodakari Dasi explains that the practice of self-love is not about self-gratification, pleasure, or pampering. It’s more about asking ‘what is in my capability to be as strong and balanced as I can be?’ It requires us to be in touch with ourselves, to be honest with ourselves, and to act for a purpose outside of the sense-gratification of the mind and body. Because ‘if you are not in touch with yourself, how will you take care of yourself?’
Ayurveda is a deeply individualised system. How do I determine what my Ayurvedic lifestyle should look like?
One of the most amazing things about Ayurveda is that it is a system that is deeply personal, individualised to each person. Because of this, a quiz on the internet or a book in the store won’t cover the depth we’d need it too.
Ashodakari Dasi recommends seeing a practitioner of Ayurveda. A practitioner can help guide your discovery process and give you practical tips and practices to support your journey that are completely unique to your nature and environment.
And in the meantime, practise living your life with awareness. Observe yourself. What happens when you eat? Does it make your feel warm or cold? Does it make you feel energised or tired? What happens when you work out? What kind of exercises are you doing? Do you feel energised or exhausted afterwards? Do you feel grounded or ungrounded. Start practising awareness of the impact your actions, thoughts, and words have on your general sense of being.
Throughout your day, bring awareness to your breath. Just by bringing awareness to your breath, you can become more in-touch with your whole system.
Balance can be found. Peace can be found. A calm mind is entirely possible. Divine Love is already there, waiting for us to purify ourselves and be open to experiencing it fully. And while all these things may be hard, we also have all the tools we need to achieve them. But we have to want the change. We have to be willing to put sense gratification to the side of the sake of Love, for the sake of our souls. We have to be willing to take responsibility for ourselves.
So the question is: ‘When will you love yourself enough to take responsibility for yourself?’