“A Different Approach to
Concept of Guna”
Dr. Paritosh Bhat
based on the lecture available at- A Different Approach to Concept of Guna
In the last lecture, we discussed how the Gunas can be analyzed in the channels. We are going to analyze it further, specifically Srotodushti with Guna. We have understood that every structure is made up of Snigdha and Sheeta, maintained by the optimum level of Agni. Snigdha nature is nothing but the Prithvi and Jala that make up the whole body. We believe that the whole body is composed of various innumerable minute channels. These channels facilitate the free movement of Vayu, through which nourishment is carried from one place to another. This is how Dhatuparinaman happens, and this is how our body functions. If any channel is blocked at a particular time or has any kind of issues, we will have a problem with that particular organ. Just imagine a single channel in your body, made up of Prithvi and Jala, with free movement of Vayu through the Srotas. This whole structure is maintained by the optimum amount of Agni. Now, consider if Agni is increased, this increase in Agni is not in its own place; it is going outside its own place, and then it grows similar to the pathology of Jwara. So, this heat actually starts melting the surrounding structure. In our last lecture, we saw how ice cream melts in inappropriate or higher temperatures. Similarly, the heat melts down the Snigdha nature of the channels, and slowly, obstructions start to form, making the previous easy movement of Vayu no longer possible. Due to this, there will be a Vimarga Gamana of Vayu. Vata, which is supposed to move through the channels, starts moving in a backward direction or some other direction. This leads to a buildup of Vata, represented by Shofam. Just imagine a single channel where the Vata is blocked, building up, and exerting pressure onto the walls of the channels, causing swelling, which we can see as a Shofa or local Shofam. You can correlate this with traffic. If you’re going to a particular place and there is a traffic jam, traffic builds up, and we start taking a reverse direction or smaller roads or pathways. That means we are not driving on our natural or normal road; we are driving off-road, which is nothing but Vimarga Gaman. So, the movement of Vata, which is supposed to go in a particular direction, goes in some other direction. When this pressure builds up beyond the limit, it bursts the channels, damaging them and causing Vrana. This is what we are trying to explain. So, what is happening is that there is heat increasing in the body, Snigdha nature is melting, obstructing the channels, and when the channels are obstructed, the movement of Vayu is also obstructed. The pressure builds up, damaging the channels. This complex of Jwara, Shofa, and Vrana is what we are observing.
Jwara, Shofa, and Vrana :
You can understand that all the disease processes happen in these three aspects: Jwara, Shofa, and Vrana. So, in other words, we can say that the disturbed Agni and weakened structure due to the melting of Snigdha cause the damage.These three diseases can also be considered as separate entities or stages of the disease process. Interestingly, these diseases were emphasized by the Brihatrayee. Jwara was emphasized by Vagbhat, Shofa by Charak, and Vrana by Sushruta.These three diseases are very significant in their own manner.
The disease process begins with the disequilibrium of Doshas. Whenever there is an imbalance of the Doshas, a disease can arise.
The Doshas become aggravated in their respective locations due to various reasons such as Astamya Indriyarth Samyoga, Prajnaparadha, or Parinama. Any of these factors can lead to Dosha aggravation in their original site, and subsequently, they can migrate to different areas.Sushruta explains this concept thoroughly when discussing Kriyakala. Sanchay, Prakopa, Prasar, Vyakti, Kala, and Bheda are the six stages in the development of diseases. The most intriguing aspect is that during the Sanchay stage, the aggravation occurs within the Dosha’s original site. The subsequent stage is Prakopa, where it intensifies, and then Prasara, where it spreads to different locations.The crucial stage is called Sthanasamshraya, where the aggravated Dosha finds a vulnerable environment in a specific part of the body. For example, if Vata becomes aggravated, it can intensify in Pakwashaya. As it spreads throughout the body, it may cause various types of pain.
Some individuals may experience pain in the neck, back, knees, or other areas where there is weakness. This pain arises only in areas of weakness. If a person uses their neck excessively or if it’s stressed and weak, they will experience neck pain because the aggravated Vata, after going through the Prakopa and Prasar stages, lodges in the neck region.Similarly, a person who has a back injury or a weak back may experience low back pain as the aggravated Vata lodges in the lower back. The Doshas that are aggravating can find a suitable place to lodge, which is why we associate problems with specific systems or organs.
These issues may not develop overnight; they can persist for weeks, months, years, or even from a previous birth. The particular part of your system becomes weak due to constant abuse or other factors attributed to Ahita Ahar and Vihar. Because of this weakness, when there is a favourable environment created by incorrect activities and the Doshas become aggravated due to Astamya Indriyarth Samyoga, Pragyaparadh, or Parinama, you will start to experience pain.
We have observed that during the Varsha Ritu (rainy season), when Vata increases, all conditions associated with Vata become more challenging for individuals already suffering from them. This occurs because the aggravated Vata exacerbates issues in that particular weak structure. So, why does this weakness occur?It is only because Jwara has made that particular structure weak, and due to that, it becomes favorable for the aggravated doshas to manifest and progress the disease.
We understand that the structure is maintained by the optimum level of Agni. High Jwara starts damaging the structure, which is Sheeta and Snigdha. When we mention Jwara, we don’t mean just fever. You may not have a high temperature, but you might have Jwara in that localized region or systemically in the body. Many people complain of feeling feverish without an elevated temperature. This is Jwara. And when this continues, there is a depletion of Snigdha in the body. Snigdha is the only thing that diminishes from the system. As this happens, the body gradually becomes weak. When Snigdha depletes, Vata increases because as Snigdha decreases, Ruksha increases in the system.
Let’s consider your system as Sheeta and Snigdha, with Sheeta and Snigdha being prominent. When Jwara starts increasing the heat in the system, Sheeta becomes somewhat weak. This is followed by an increase in Ushna. However, the structure remains Snigdha, and there is still a small amount of Ushna in place.As this heat from Jwara continues, Ushna becomes very prominent. And as Ushna becomes prominent, it will start weakening the Snigdha. This process continues gradually, and Snigdha will gradually disappear. Snigdha will be transformed into Ruksha. Despite this transformation, Ushna remains present in the system.
As soon as the Snigdha diminishes, the Rukshata will increase, and Snigdha will also decrease because Ushnata always requires fuel to burn. When there is no Snigdha, there will be no Ushna left. Thus, it becomes Ruksha-Ushna initially, and then it becomes Sheeta-Ruksha. Finally, that is what we call death.
So, you see, Sheeta and Snigdha represent health, while Sheeta and Ruksha represent death. In between these states is something called Ushna-Ruksha, which signifies disease. Understanding this concept allows us to explain many diseases and patient conditions.
You might be surprised to know that most of our principles align with this idea. For example, Ojas embodies Sheeta and Snigdha, while Visha and Madya exhibit qualities opposite to Ojas, being Ruksha and Ushna. Any substance that is Ushna and Ruksha will counteract Ojas. This is why Ayurveda advises that food should primarily have the Madhura (sweet) and Snigdha (unctuous) nature. While it’s recommended to consume all six tastes, Madhura Rasa should be more prevalent than the others. The emphasis on Madhura and Snigdha in food is because Snigdha is necessary in the system. Without sufficient Snigdha, Agni cannot thrive. So, we can categorize conditions into two types: either Snigdha is in excess or it is deficient.
When we say “too little,” it implies that Snigdha is moving toward Ruksha, which is maintained by the optimum amount of Agni. If Snigdha is excessive, we need to remove it from the body. If Snigdha is deficient, we must replenish it in the system. This forms the basis for two types of treatments: Santarpana and Aptarpana, or in simpler terms, nourishment and depletion. This concept is also known as Bruhan and Langhana.
In essence, we are either providing nourishment or withdrawing nourishment in the seasons. Adana Kala depletes energy, while Visarga Kala replenishes it. Visarga Kala supplies Snigdha, whereas Adana Kala diminishes Snigdha due to the presence of Ushna. During Adana Kala, the sun is near you, which results in more Ushna and a reduction in Snigdha, weakening the body.
We can say that treatment involves clearing channels, establishing Agni, and either removing or supplying Snigdha. Vikruta Snigdha can obstruct channels; therefore, even before nourishment (Bruhmana), initial cleansing (Langhana) is necessary to ensure the channels are clear to facilitate the flow of nourishment. Medicines need to traverse through these channels, and if they are not unobstructed, proper nourishment cannot occur. This is why it is advised to perform Langhana before Bruhmana. If there are any blockages, Ama (toxic substances), or the presence of Vikrita Sneha, they must be cleared first.
If Snigdha is significantly depleted, it will require more effort to replenish it. Snigdha can manifest in various degrees, such as cooked rice, milk, Ghrita (ghee), and Tailam (oil). For example, after Panchakarma, it is recommended to follow Sansarjana Krama, which involves the gradual reintroduction of Snigdha. Manda, Peya, Yusha are variations of easily digestible and mild forms of Snigdha, gradually progressing to thicker forms. After Panchakarma, Snigdha is introduced gradually into the system.
If you have a campfire and the fire is dwindling, you start with a small spark, then add some minimal grass, blow air, and continue adding more until you build a big fire. Similarly, we must ignite Agni by supplying a small amount of Snigdha to the system. After prolonged hunger or Kshudha Vega Dharana, Agni becomes weak, and in such conditions, it is advisable to consume Laghu (light), Ushna (warm), Snigdha (unctuous), and Alpa Bhojana (small meals) to strengthen Agni. It is not recommended to provide juice, as is often done after a hunger strike.
When introducing more Snigdha to the system, the choice depends on Agni and the degree of Ruksha. Ayurveda recognizes four types of Sneha (unctuous substances): Ghrita (ghee), Taila (oil), Vasa (muscle fat), and Majja (bone marrow). These can be administered individually or in combination, including Eka Sneha (use of one Sneha), Yamak Sneha (mixing two Sneha), Trisneha (mixing three Sneha), and Mahasneha (mixing all four Sneha).
If we analyze the treatment protocols for all diseases, they can be incorporated under six headings, as explained by Charaka. Pure Snigdha reaches every Srotas, and this is observed in Snehapana and Pizhichil.It can be observed that in the process of Snehapana, after an increase in Snehmatra day by day, Sneha starts appearing on the skin or an oily nature appears on the skin. Additionally, an oily nature appears in the stool. We consider this as Samyaka Snigdha Lakshana.
Similarly, after doing Kaya Seka for the whole body, after four or five days or seven days, oil starts appearing in the stool. It can be observed that the oil, which is applied externally, travels all the way from the skin to all the channels of the body. Likewise, the ghee that is given orally reaches all the Srotas of the body. Uttam Matra of Sneha cleanses the channels.So, whenever we perform Snehapana, we should aim for the highest level of Snehamatra. It effectively cleans all the channels, and afterward, Rasayana treatment has to be administered. This imparts Snigdha into the system, and the person feels rejuvenated.
In South India, there is a method, especially seen in Karkatamasa, which is observed in Kerala, where a person undergoes therapy every year. We call it the monsoon treatment. There is a fixed protocol where the person prepares the body to get accustomed to Snigdha. Then a significant amount of Snigdha is administered to the system so that it is absorbed and reaches all the channels.Rasayana treatment is advised when all the Doshas come to the Koshstha, following Shodhana. Providing nourishment is recommended after Shodhana. Snigdha needs to be replenished. This is explained by Charaka as Shadvidha Upkrama.
The person who is treating should be knowledgeable about all these six types of treatment, such as Langhana-Brumhana, Rukshana-Snehan, Swedan-Stambhana. If we closely examine this treatment, we encounter six types of Gunas (qualities). Out of the 20 Gunas, focusing on these six Gunas can effectively manage most conditions.If there is excessive Snigdha in the system, we can impart Ruksha. For instance, the application of Udvartana imparts a Ruksha nature. If there is excessive Gurutva (heaviness) in the body, we can use Laghu to decrease Guruta. These Gunas serve as a balancing act for the system, and we are fortunate to possess this knowledge.
By understanding these Gunas, it becomes easier for us to comprehend and share knowledge. In fact, all medicines can be categorized in this manner. Even if you are providing a medicine for a specific condition, there are many variations of medicines available. This allows you to select the appropriate medicine based on the degree of treatment needed.For example, there is something called Vidaryadi Gana. When we administer the Kashaya (decoction) of Vidaryadi Gana, it demonstrates Brumhana (nourishing properties) without a doubt. When we give Vidaryadi Gana in Lehya form (a medicated paste), it becomes even more nourishing and transforms into Rasayana. After selecting the medicine, gradually introducing the Kalpana (preparation) to the patient yields beautiful results, as the patient can fully recover from chronic diseases. This is because we are gradually introducing Snigdha with the same medicines. Kalpana plays a crucial role in imparting Guna to the body.
Another example is Tikta Ghrita. Whenever you want to increase Vata in the system, use Tikta Rasa (bitter taste). It is the best way to increase Vata. An increase in Vata cannot go beyond control when Tikta Rasa is given in Ghrita Kalpana (medicated ghee), thus keeping increased Vata under control.
reatment or medicine works like this: Imagine you have a single channel with a Ushna (hot) nature of the Srotas (channel system). The channel is hot, there is Jwara (fever) in the system, Agni (digestive fire) is weak, and there is the presence of Ama Aavarna (blockage due to undigested toxins). This leads to the melting of Snigdha (unctuousness), mixing of Pitta and Kapha, or Vikrita Snigdha. Due to Srotodushti (channel imbalance), there is a blockage and abnormal movement (Vimarga Gaman) of Vata.
In such a scenario, Ama has to be digested first so that the medicine can take effect. Then, we work on improving Agni and reducing Vidaha (burning sensation). When we administer medicine, this is what we aim to achieve: we enhance Agni, eliminate Ama, attempt to clear Vidaha, and slowly reduce the excessive heat in the Srotas. Vata begins to flow gradually in its normal direction. Anulomana (promoting normal flow) of Vata is crucial, especially in Vimarga Gamana conditions.
At this stage, we begin the gradual introduction of Snigdha to the system. We understand that if Vata is balanced, Pitta is under control, Agni is improved, and then slowly Snigdha can be introduced to the system. In most chronic diseases, we encounter this challenge where we have to administer Snigdha at a later stage.
As Agni is established and the system stabilizes, we eventually recommend Rasayana, which helps restore the healthy Sheeta (cool) nature to the system. We always need to combine Shodhana (purification) and Shamana (pacification) approaches. Sometimes, doshas can aggravate after Shamana Chikitsa (pacification treatment), which is why we emphasize that proper Shodhana prevents dosha aggravation.
Even with a perfect diet that is Hita Ahara (wholesome food) and Vihara (lifestyle), doshas may still aggravate, especially with seasonal changes or other external factors. That’s why it’s essential to understand the Gunas (qualities) and the compatibility of our food, activities, and surroundings.
For instance, consider a person who consumes a perfectly healthy diet, everything is in order, but engages in excessive physical activity. What happens? The Ruksha Guna (dry quality) will increase, and Vata will accumulate in the system. Despite a Snigdha diet, the person may not feel comfortable. Therefore, when Vyayama (exercise) is recommended, it’s important for the individual to exercise up to only 50% of their capacity. Excessive Vyayama increases Vata even in someone who regularly consumes Snigdha foods and is strong.
Understanding the seasons from a Guna perspective:
There are six seasons mentioned in Ayurveda.
चय-प्रकोप-प्रशम: वायो: ग्रीष्मादिषु त्रिषु ।
वर्षादिषु तु पित्तस्य श्लेष्मण: शिशिरादिषु ।। अष्टांग हृदय सूत्र 12/15
Vata is characterized by Sheeta and Ruksha, Pitta by Ushna and Snigdha, while Kapha by Sheeta and Snigdha.
Grishma: By nature, it is Ushna and Ruksha. It marks the end of Adana Kala, characterized by the accumulation of Vata due to the presence of Ruksha and the absence of Sheeta. This leads to accumulation, and the Ushna and Ruksha nature counteracts the Kapha nature, resulting in Kapha pacification.
Varsha: During this season, there is a sudden shift from Ushna to Sheeta due to the presence of clouds, rains, and cold winds. In the early phase of the monsoon, both Sheeta and Ruksha are present, leading to Vata aggravation. Agni weakens significantly, and everything becomes Alma. Initially, Sheeta and Ruksha qualities dominate, causing significant disturbance in Vata. Gradually, as the rain continues, the Snigdha nature in the environment increases. In the later phase of the monsoon, Sheeta and Snigdha become prominent, preparing the body for the next season. Here, it results in the accumulation of Pitta and aggravation of Vata.
Sharada: In Sharada, as the clouds disperse, the environment becomes clear with strong sunlight, leading to a sudden increase in Ushna. There is Snigdha in a more liquid form, and along with Ushna, Pitta aggravates. Ushna and Snigdha qualities are opposite to the nature of Vata, which is Sheeta and Ruksha, thus causing Vata pacification. This marks the beginning of Ushna and Snigdha in the season. It leads to the aggregation of Vata at the start of Sharad. As Sharada ends, Ushna weakens gradually as the sun moves away, and Snigdha solidifies due to the presence of cold.
Hemanta: In the beginning, Sheeta is still weak as we transition into the cold season, and Snigdha solidifies. This marks the end of Visarga Kala and results in Pitta pacification. Pitta contains Jala (water) and becomes more solidified as late winter progresses.
Shishira: As we advance into colder conditions, Snigdha takes on a solid form in Shishira ritu. The nature becomes more Ruksha due to extreme Snigdha. It’s important to remember in this system that when one Guna becomes extreme, it starts exhibiting properties of the opposite Guna.
Vasanta: With the strengthening sun, the body begins to melt the Snigdha accumulated during winter, similar to how ice cream melts outside the refrigerator.
Treatment of Agni:
Regardless of the situation, treating Agni is crucial. Always remember that Agni cannot function without fuel. So, proper Snigdha is necessary for Agni’s survival. If there’s excess Snigdha, provide Ruksha and Ushna substances like Maricha or Sunthi, depending on what is affecting Agni.In cases where Snigdha is excessive, it should be reduced. There are three treatment phases: Langhan (fasting), Pachan (digestion), and Doshavasechana (removing excess Dosha).
If Agni is only slightly disturbed, fasting (Langhana) may be sufficient, as Agni will naturally use the Vikrita Sneha. If not, supporting medicines can be used along with Langhana i.e Langhana-Pachana. For instance, Shunthi can be prescribed along with Langhana to improve Agni and digest Ama, reducing Vikrita Snigdha.
In severe cases where excess Snigdha needs to be eliminated, it must be forcefully removed. If Pitta is in excess, along with Jala, provide Ruksha and Sheeta substances. If Snigdha is deficient, Tikta should be given in Ghrita (medicated ghee) form. Cow Ghee is Sheeta, Snigdha, and Deepan (digestive stimulant), similar to the nature of Ojas.
Conclusion: Everything that is Snigdha is maintained by optimum Agni. When Agni is in excess, it transforms Snigdha into Ruksha. Conversely, an imbalance with more Snigdha and less Agni creates Vikrita Snigdha, such as Ama. Perfect health is achieved when a person has Prakruta Snigdha, maintained by optimum Agni and appropriate Vayu.