Eye-Opening Teachings on the Causes (and Solutions) of Epidemics

Today, the descriptions of epidemics recorded in the ancient medical texts of Ayurveda sound like prophecy. For example, the Charaka Saṃhitā itemizes 4 primary causes of epidemics: pollution of the water, the air, and the land of a country, and disturbance to the natural seasons. 

When these 4 factors are present, the text explains, then a wide variety of people, or people of different constitutions, will fall subject to a similar set of symptoms. Even more explicitly, it asserts: 

Unrighteous actions (adharma) are at the root of the vitiation of these 4 factors. Actions that go against wisdom (prajnaparadha) are the cause. 

“For example, when the rulers of states do not follow duty and mislead their followers, then their subordinates, the common people, and the merchants abandon righteous behavior. Acts against wisdom make any righteous acts disappear.”

(Charaka Saṃhitā: Vimānasthāna, Chapter III: 19-20)

It’s fascinating to read these ancient words and consider their relevance today. It would be hard to deny that as a global community, our water, air, and land are deeply disturbed. Many scientists have noted indicators of climate change and point to an increase in storm intensity data worldwide. 

Sadly, it’s evident that unconscionable abuses of our land and our people are perpetrated for profit every day. How did we get here?

It’s potentially instructive to consider the remedies proposed for such epidemics in these same texts. Charaka recommends that for those afflicted, deep detoxification treatment (panchakarma) is required, followed by rejuvenative medicines made from herbs collected before the epidemic.

Interestingly, he goes on to give much more attention to a set of non-material remedies:

Truthfulness, compassion for living beings, charity, sacrifices, prayer, preventative measures, maintaining calm, protection by mantra, residence in auspicious places, conserving energy, service to those observing brahmacharya, discussion of spiritual scriptures, great sages and those who have self-control ~ and constant association with spiritual, peaceful and learned persons.

These are the therapies which, if adopted during an epidemic, can easily save lives.”

(verses 12-18)

On first glance, while these recommendations sound straightforward, in practice they are rather challenging to apply with any consistency – these are not quick fixes, but lifestyle overhauls that address the deeper issue of how a community arrives at the collective actions that destroy our shared environment. These are behavioral habits that require substantial focus, humility and effort to bring into our lives. 

One of my Ayurveda teachers has advised that the very best thing we can be doing during this shelter-in-place period is to take seriously our own habits of thought and action that we already know are unhealthy, and root them out. 

Now is the time to strengthen our behaviors that create health – which is to say, to do the hard work of creating a truly self-nurturing lifestyle. There is no shortcut to get around this hard work, but the reward is enormous. 

When COVID-19 first came into our global awareness, there were many panic purchases of supplements, vitamins and immune-boosting herbs. It was as if we all suddenly realized that we are not as healthy as we want to be.

The truth remains that there is no pill or herb that will magically convey strong immunity upon us while we engage in behaviors that chip it away.

The only real route to strong immunity is the hard-won path of healthy LIVING. We can’t cram the benefits of a healthy lifestyle into our bodies overnight like cramming for an exam. We must take one small, simple step at time and wait for them to add up.

While that may sound intimidating, this is actually a bright silver lining – we CAN take simple actions and make a vast difference in our health over time. In the days ahead we can invest dramatically in the daily practices that build health and immunity into our very tissues.

Strong immunity from this perspective is a very simple recipe:

  • Eat healthy, simple foods 
  • Effectively eliminate waste
  • Sleep sufficiently and restoratively
  • Move our bodies every day
  • Rest the mind periodically

That’s really it. Of course, I know that list is not EASY to do. But if we take a step to strengthen our daily practices just a tiny bit in one of those areas, and we do that every day – or even 5 out of 7! – we will vastly strengthen our immune system. 

We will massively increase our ability to withstand any illness or infection. 

We will move closer to mental peace and contentment. 

These are goals that are worth working for.

Consider this: the wise thing to do right now is to prepare for the health challenge we are destined to face AFTER this coronavirus recedes – because there is always something else that can impact us. This global moment of recognized vulnerability is a powerful inspiration to actually make the changes we have dreamed of.

If you are ready to shift a habit that you know is not supporting you, I’m ready to help find a strategy that will inspire you. The tools of Ayurveda are vast and specific and uplifting. This moment is perfectly designed to bring us together to do the work you are ready to do.  Contact me here.  Now is the perfect time.

3 thoughts on “Eye-Opening Teachings on the Causes (and Solutions) of Epidemics

  1. Virginia Roberts says:

    Ah it is very important to hear you validate non physical practices for health! I am sometimes caught up in the physical: get and wear mask, wash hands, eat simply, get rest….and I enjoy reading wisdom writers both ancient and current and forget that too is health producing!Thank you for that reminder and encouragement

    • Ivy Ingram says:

      Yes – Satsang is one of the remedies! Spending time with others discussing spiritual texts and wise teachings… this is medicine. And not only medicine for the spirit – when we put ourselves in that space, there is a physiological neuro-chemical response within, so it crosses the bridge from the mental to impact the physical, too.

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