Physiology of Ojas
Prof. Sangeeta Gehlot
Dept of Kriya Sharir,
Faculty of Ayurveda, IMS, BHU
based on the lecture available at-‘Physiology of Ojas’
Ojas has been mentioned as best essence of all the Dhatu. In text of Ayurveda many sites of Ojas have been mentioned, but main site of Ojas is heart. It circulates all over the body to maintain the homeostasis. It is very difficult to say that which substance in body is Ojas. The term Ojas has been derived by adding ‘Asun’ Pratya in ‘Ubjja’ Dhatu.
प्राणिनां पुनर्मूलमाहारो बलवर्णौजसां च | Su.Su. 1/28
In human being, Ahaar has been considered as the root cause for the production of strength, complexion and Ojas.
पुष्यन्ति त्वाहाररसाद्रसरुधिरमांसमेदोस्थिमज्जशुक्रौजांसि | Ch.Su. 28/4
All the seven Dhatus and Ojas is nourished by Ahaar Rasa. Hitkar Bhaav is the cause of growth and development while Ahitkar Bhaav is the cause of diseases.
तत्र रसादीनां शुक्रान्तानां धातूनां यत् परं तेजस्तत् खल्वोजस्तदेव बलमित्युच्यते, स्वशास्त्रसिद्धान्तात् ||Su.Su 15/19
The essential superior most fraction of all the Dhatu that is Teja or Saar is known as Ojas. This is also known as Bala, Teja is considered as Agni but here this word Teja is considered for Saaransha. Being similar in technical perspective, Ojas and Bala is different. Bala is not Pratyaksha, it is Anumangamya.
Ojas is the composition of the body while Bala is the function of Ojas. Bala is assessed by weight bearing capacity while Ojas is having Rasa, Veerya and Varna (Colour). In Vedic literature various synonyms of Ojas like Tejas, Veerya, Bal, Manyu, Sehas, Varchas,Urja, Prana, Daksh have been mentioned. All these terms indicate power, strength, energy of the body.
Bal, Ojas and Kapha
प्राकृतस्तु बलं श्लेष्मा विकृतो मल उच्यते|
स चैवौजः स्मृतः काये स च पाप्मोपदिश्यते||
Sleshma in normal state is called Bala as well as Ojas but when this Sleshma becomes abnormal then called as Mala and Paapma. Mala means waste and Paapma means disease or in other word we can say that Sleshma in normal state supports the body and maintains health and on abnormality leads to diseases. Unctuousness, binding, firmness/stability, heaviness, virility, strength, forbearance, restraint and absence of greed are the properties of Kapha.
स्नेहो बन्धः स्थिरत्वं च गौरवं वृषता बलम्|
क्षमा धृतिरलोभश्च कफकर्माविकारजम्||
Ch. Su 18/51
It provides lubrication, compactness, stability, heaviness, virility, retaining power and greed lessness. Bhavprakasha has mentioned Ojas as the unctuous part of all the Dhatus as milk bears the ghee. As per Ashtang Sangraha it is the Saara of Shukra Dhatu as mentioned.
Shukra Dhatu is a pure Dhatu and always devoid of Mala. According to Ashtang Hridaya, Ojas is the Mala of Shukra Dhatu.
Bala and Immunity
Development of immunity is a process by which body learns from experiences of past infection to deal efficiently with subsequent ones.
Good immunity is the only factor which is sufficient to oppose the strength of diseases.
न च सर्वाणि शरीराणि व्याधिक्षमत्वे समर्थानि भवन्ति| Ch.Su.28 /7
Acharya Charak has mentioned that all the individuals do not have similar immunity.While commenting on this verse Chakrapani has mentioned
व्याधिक्षमत्वं व्याधिबलविरोधित्वं व्याध्युत्पादप्रतिबन्धकत्वमिति यावत्| Chakrapani on Ch. Su28 /7
The term Vyadhikshmatva is first time used in Ayurveda to represent the immunity of the body against the onset, occurrence or recurrence of diseases. It is also used to denote the resistance to arrest the progress of disease. Immunity of body is usually represented in term of Bala. Ojas has been explained as the resistance against the decay and degeneration of the body. Sushruta has given stress to maintain the resistance which will check the progress of diseases. Lack of Ojas will not be able to maintain the body even though doshas are in equilibrium.
Sites of Ojas
Acharya Bhel has mentioned twelve sites of Ojas. These are Shonita (blood) Mamsa (muscles), Meda (fat), Asthi majja (bone marrow), Shukra (genital secretion), Shukla (body fluids), Sweda means sweat, Pitta means GIT secretion, Sleshma means mucoid secretion, Mutra and Purish for urine and stool. As Acharya Bhel has described twelve sites of Ojas, it means Ojas is not a single entity. It has different functions at different sites. But ultimate outcome of this is to protect the body and provide strength. For example, if Rakta is site of Ojas, RBC increases oxygen carrying capacity of blood. In anaemic patients decreased oxygen carrying capacity leads to suppress immunity. Body fluids and mucoid secretions if site, lysozyme in nasal secretions, saliva, tears and intestinal mucus which attacks the cell wall of bacteria and protect our body from diseases. Regarding Pitta, as the site of Ojas, hydrochloric acid in stomach and lysozymes in intestinal mucus kills ingested bacteria and protects these parts. Bone marrow is the site of production of all the blood cells which are responsible for maintenance of immunity. In sweat, fatty acids and high cell content prevents growth of microorganism on the skin.
Flushing action of urine also provides protection from microorganism. Purisha is a good culture media for the growth of certain bacteria which are responsible for synthesis of vitamin K, vitamin B complex, etc. Proteins, albumin and globulin in body fluids form immunoglobulins. Concentration of immunoglobulins reflects the immunity status of the body. And WBCs present in body fluids may kill foreign bodies by the process of phagocytosis.
Acharya Sharangdhar has mentioned that Ojas is diffused in entire body of living beings even in every cell. Ojas is found in the cellular organelles of all the Dhatus. The site in the cells may be mitochondria, which is the storehouse of energy and due to which Ojas is called as strength.
ओजस्तु तेजो धातूनां शुक्रान्तानां परं स्मृतम्|
हृदयस्थमपि व्यापि देहस्थितिनिबन्धनम्||
स्निग्धं सोमात्मकं शुद्धमीषल्लोहितपीतकम्|
यन्नाशे नियतं नाशो यस्मिंस्तिष्ठति तिष्ठति||
The superior most essential fraction of all the Dhatu is known as Ojas. Residing in heart, it circulates throughout the body and maintain the normal status of the individual. It is of Sheeta quality, white in colour with yellowish-red tinge. Due to its loss, life is also lost while on normalcy it maintains the steadiness of life. Although Ojas is present in entire body, but main site of Ojas is Hridaya. Because cardiac muscles are rich in mitochondria and glycogen to provide the energy for its continuous function.
Qualities of Ojas–
ओजः सोमात्मकं स्निग्धं शुक्लं शीतं स्थिरं सरम् |
विविक्तं मृदु मृत्स्नं च प्राणायतनमुत्तमम् ||
Ojas is cool in nature, Snigdhda, unctuous, white. While commenting on the word Snigdha and Shukla. Dalhan has mentioned that Snigdham means Sneha Gunayuktam Shuklam means Ati Shweta.
Chakrapani on commenting word Sthir that means causes stability in happiness and sorrow.
Saaram means having free flowing capacity. Viviktam means best quality of nutrition which is foremost in action. Soft, sticky and considered as best site among the Prana. Ojas is considered as one of the most important parts of the Pranayatham.
Circulation of Ojas–
दश मूलसिरा हृत्स्थास्ताः सर्वं सर्वतो वपुः||
रसात्मकं वहन्त्योजस्तन्निबद्धं हि चेष्टितम्|
Ten great vessels are connected to heart which carry Rasatmaka Ojas on which entire life is relied. Ten great vessels may be considered as superior and inferior vena cava, four pulmonary veins, aorta, pulmonary trunk and two coronary arteries. Here Ojas is called Rasatmaka because it circulates with Rasadhatu. The Rasatmaka Ojas may include all WBCs present in intravascular compartment.
प्रथमं जायते ह्योजः शरीरेऽस्मिञ्छरीरिणाम्|
सर्पिर्वर्णं मधुरसं लाजगन्धि प्रजायते||
Ch. Su 17/75
First of all, Ojas is produced in this body. It’s having the color of Ghrita, taste of honey and smell of Laja.
Characteristic of Ojas:
यत् सारमादौ गर्भस्य यत्तद्गर्भरसाद्रसः |
संवर्तमानं हृदयं समाविशति यत् पुरा ||
Ch. Su. 30/9-11
The Ojas is first produced in the body of all living beings. Ojas is established since the fertilization of sperm and ovum takes place. It means Ojas is already present in sperm and ovum in Saar form. When these sperm and ovum combine with soul, Garbha is formed. In morula stage of foetus, Ojas is present in the form of Garbha plus Saar. When the body parts of foetus form, Ojas is manifested by its features.
In other words, we can say that this Ojas before pregnancy remains in sperm and ovum in early pregnancy in the form of Garbha rasa while in fully developed foetus present in heart from where it is circulated by vessels all over the body and regulates the function of the body. The Ojas is that which exists all sentience by satiating those in absence of which life does not exist. Destruction of which causes restriction of life or death which is located in heart is quintessence of entire body and in which life is located. Ojas is present in all the three stages of foetus that is at the time of or immediately after fertilization.Para Ojas in the form of essence. In Kalala that is morula stage at the quintessence of rust and during development of body parts, the Ojas exist with specific characters.
Types and measurement of Ojas
तत् परस्यौजसः स्थानं तत्र चैतन्यसङ्ग्रहः|
हृदयं महदर्थश्च तस्मादुक्तं चिकित्सकैः |
Ch. Su. 30/7
Heart is also the seat of par Ojas and receptacle of consciousness that is Chetana. That is why the heart is said as Mahat and Arth serving the purpose by the physician.10 great vessels with wide base having their roots in heart carrying Ojas which pulsate or are spread in entire body. On this basis, these Dhamani are called Mahapala while Ojas and Hridaya is called Mahat. Two kinds of Ojas that is Par and Apar is mentioned by Acharya Chakrapani. Par Ojas is Ashtabindu and Apar Ojas is Ardhanjali. These are important and significant in context of Vyadhi Kshamtva interpreted both as Vyadhi bala virodhitva i.e., resistance against the strength of disease and Vyadhi Utpadak Vibandhagata i.e., resistance power to prevent the onset of disease. Ojas have a direct bearing on body’s defence against decay, degeneration and infection. Charak hence mentioned Sleshmi Ojas as Ardhanjali in quantity.
मस्तिष्कस्यार्धाञ्जलिः, शुक्रस्य तावदेव प्रमाणं, तावदेव श्लैष्मिकस्यौजस इति| Ch.Sh. 7/15
Chakrapani has differentiated this from the Ashta bindu Ojas. He stated that Sleshmika Ojas is not Ashta bindu Ojas. It is transported through the Ojovaha Dhamnis and similar in quality of Shudha sleshma which is Ardhanjali in measurement. The seat of a per Ojas are 10 vessels connected with Hridaya.
Par Ojas which is best and originated in intrauterine life on an individual and its main function is to sustain. It is not affected by easily. Apar Ojas is also nourished by food, diseases and other etiological factors affect this.
सकलशरीरव्यापिनस्तस्य षड्बिन्दुकस्य विशेषेण हृदयं स्थानम् Commenting on a A.H 11 / 37
Acharya Arundatta has told that being present in all over the body, its special sight is Hridya. And its measurement is Shad Bindu means six drops.
हृदि तिष्ठति यच्छुद्धं रक्तमीषत्सपीतकम्|
ओजः शरीरे सङ्ख्यातं तन्नाशान्ना विनश्यति||
Ch. Su. 17/74
Heart contains white, slightly red and yellowish stained substance. With the destruction of Ojas body also dies. Colour of Apar Ojas is like ghee, smells like Laja (cereal) and tastes like honey. Residing in heart, it circulates in the body with the help of ten vessels connected to heart. It performs all life activities and maintains the homeostasis of the body.
Dalhan has described two types of Ojas, Upchaya Lakshan Rupi and Shakti Lakshan Rupi. Upachaya Lakshan Ojas reflects gross substances and essence of all the Dhatus and Ardhanjali in measure, while Shakti Lakshan Ojas is microscopic and 8 drops in measure. Differentiating in Ojas and Bala, Dalhan has commented that Ojas is realized by Upchaya or nourishment and which is unctuous. It bears physical properties like colour, odour. Whereas Bala is realized by weight carrying capacity, does not bear physical or chemical properties. Acharya Hemadri has mentioned four types of Ojas.
- Rasatmak Ojas
- Dhatu Tejo Rupi Ojas
- Jeevshonit Rupi Ojas
- Shukramal Rupi Ojas
The Ojas which circulates all over the body with Rasa Dhatu known as Rasatmaka Ojas.
Dhatu Tejo Rupi Ojas:
The Ojas which is present in all tissues called Dhatu Tejo Rupi Ojas. The immune mechanism present at tissue level like tissue macrophages, mast cells and WBCs present at tissue pool may be considered as Dhatu Tejo Rupi Ojas.
Jeevshonit Rupi Ojas -It is specific for blood cells.
Shukramal Rupi Ojas–
It may be considered which enter in foetus to protect during intrauterine life. Immunoglobulins which across the placental barrier may be considered under this Shukramal Rupi Ojas.
Functions of Ojas
तत्र बलेन स्थिरोपचितमांसतासर्वचेष्टास्वप्रतिघातः स्वरवर्णप्रसादो बाह्यानामाभ्यन्तराणां च करणानामात्मकार्यप्रतिपत्तिर्भवति || Su. Su.15/25
Sushruta had mentioned the functions of Ojas which is present in form of Bala. It causes stability of Mamsa dhatu, provides nourishment, provides capacity to perform all types of function, improves complexion and voice. External and internal sense organs efficiently involved in performing in their works.
Ojas as Upadhatu
Chakrapani on Ch. Su 30/7 has described Ojas as Saar of all Dhatu.
Sharangdhar has explained Ojas as an Upadhatu. Acharya Chakrapani while mentioning the opinion of others included Ojas under Upadhatu. Dhatu sustains the life and also nourishes the body. Though Ojas also sustains the life yet does not nourish the body but devoid of Dehposhak function. Thus, cannot be accepted as Dhatu. But Ojas supports the body therefore being some similarity may be considered Upadhatu but it cannot be considered as Dhatu. Some have mentioned it Shukra vishesh but it does not contribute mental pleasure as it is said that as black bee collects or nourishes itself from honey, from fruits and flowers in the same way, in human being Ojas is collected.
Causes of Ojas Kshaya
When Vata and Kapha diminishes the Pitta displaces the Ojas of body and produces lassitude, weakness of sense organs, polydipsia, unconsciousness and loss of activity. Sushruta has mentioned the causes of Ojaskshya are trauma, Dhatu Kshaya or loss of tissues, anger, anxiety, exertion or physical work, hunger. Due to this Ojas flows from out of body tissues and gets associated with ages and instigated by Vata and troubles the body greatly.
व्यायामोऽनशनं चिन्ता रूक्षाल्पप्रमिताशनम्|
वातातपौ भयं शोको रूक्षपानं प्रजागरः||
कफशोणितशुक्राणां मलानां चातिवर्तनम्|
कालो भूतोपघातश्च ज्ञातव्याः क्षयहेतवः||
Ch. Su 17/76-77
Acharya Charak has mentioned the general causes of Ojas Kshaya and the general causes are excessive exercise, fasting, worry, intake of less quantity of measured food, use of excessive sitting, standing or sleeping, etc. In wind, some heat, fear, non-unctuous drinks, excessive discharge of mucus, blood, semen and excreta. Time factor means old age and season and effect of Bhuta that is pathogenic organism.
There is three Bala Dosha i.e. Visranas, Vyapat and Kshaya but they are also considered the three stages of decrease of Ojas. Visranas is the first stage. The features of this stage are looseness of joints, body hair or weakness of the body, displacement of Dosha i.e. Vata, Pitta and Kapha from their normal sites and hindrance in all body movements, debility of the body, fatigue, improper execution of the movement.
तस्य विस्रंसो व्यापत् क्षय इति (त्रयो दोषाः;) लिङ्गानि भवन्ति सन्धिविश्लेषो गात्राणां सदनं दोषच्यवनं क्रियासन्निरोधश्च विस्रंसे, स्तब्धगुरुगात्रता वातशोफो वर्णभेदो ग्लानिस्तन्द्रा निद्रा च व्यापन्ने, मूर्च्छा मांसक्षयो मोहः प्रलापो मरणमिति च क्षये || Su. Su15/ 24
Stiffness and feeling of heaviness of the body, Vatika odema, discoloration, exhaustion, stupor and more of sleep are the symptoms in second stage i.e., Vyapath.
मूर्च्छा मांसक्षयो मोहः प्रलापो मरणमिति च क्षये || Su,Su 15/ 24
Fainting loss or decrease of muscles or emaciation, delusion, delirium and death are the features of Kshaya. Charak has mentioned the general features of Ojas Kshaya.
बिभेति दुर्बलोऽभीक्ष्णं ध्यायति व्यथितेन्द्रियः|
दुश्छायो दुर्मना रूक्षः क्षामश्चैवौजसः क्षये||
Means in case of Ojas Kshya individual is teased with fear complex, is excessively weak, always worried, their sense organs are already aggrieved and deranged complexion. Other symptoms are distressed sense apparatus, dryness of skin and emaciated. Chakrapani has mentioned loss of strength of Manas.
Visransa, Vyapath and Kshaya are three stages of Ojas Kshya which may occur in various conditions and diseases ranging from physical and mental fatigue to acute and chronic, mild and severe types of diseases. According to ancient Ayurvedic view, these conditions may arise as a result of metabolic abnormalities leading to diminished production of Ojas. Loss of integrity of Dhatuvah Srotanasi, non-supply due to obstruction of Srotanasi leads to increased susceptibility to diseases like Rajyakshama, Sannipat Jwar, Madhumeha.
The term Hat Ojas has been used by Sushruth to describe a special variety of Sannipat Jwar known as Abhinayas. In this stage of Visrans and Vyapath, one should always make efforts to initiate immunity while the stage of Kshya has been considered as incurable.
Classification of immunity
There are three types of Balas Sahaj, Kalajam and Yuktikrit. Sahaj means genetic, Kalaja pertaining to time that is life and season. Yuktikrit means that is acquired. The Sahaj that is constitutional strength is that which comes from birth and increases with the growth and development of the body without the help of extraneous factors for growth. It is seen that few persons are strong by nature while others are weak. The colour’s strength is that which is affected by time, means old age or seasons as is said that in the beginning of Visarga Kaal that is rainy season and end of Adan kaal that is summer season, the debility or weakness is experienced. It is maximum in young age and minimum in old age. Food i.e., meat, ghee etc. and activity, exercise etc. and can be combination of both is Ahar Chesta yoga. However, few experts accept use of Rasayana from the word yoga.
Bala Vriddhikar Bhaav are those which increase strength such as
- Place of birth, having naturally strong person, time of birth which is conducive to strength, conjunction of favourable time.
- Excellence of attributes of sperm and ovum and uterus.
- Suitable and excellent diet.
- Excellence of physique.
- Most suitability of diet and mood of life.
- Excellence of sattva or psyche.
- Favourable factors related to nature
- Physical exercise
Place-Sindhu etc. places where persons are naturally strong due to effect of place. Person born during Hemant and Shishir Ritu are naturally strong due to strength of time. Premature delivery of new-born baby may occur due to defect of Kshetra that is uterus. eg. Bicornuate uterus and fibroid uterus. These premature babies have lowered immunity. Genetic disorders found due to defect in sperm and ovum i.e. X linked with gammaglobulinemia.
Intake of nutritional diet is responsible for the maintenance of immunity.Immunity is suppressed in an individual suffering with protein energy malnutrition, intolerance or hypersensitivity to particular food substance may lead to disease. Example lactose intolerance etc. Such individuals have low immunity and prone to infectious disorders.
Excellence of Satva– It provides strength to the body as the body also follows the Satva.
Swabhav Sansiddhi: Obtaining strength through activities such as exercise. As due to regular practice of exercise, strength increases. Immunity can be enhanced by performing different exercise.As Charak has explained, exercise increases strength and produces body stability.
The physical activity or movements being done with desire to cause stability of body and increasing the strength is called Vyayam or exercise. One should practice it in moderation. Exercise in moderation is that which brings lightness in the body, its overuse produces over-exertion and giddiness. Sushrut has also mentioned that the walking does not cause much body ache, promotes longevity, strength, intellect, digestive power and activates sensory organs. Physical exercise brings lightness of mind and body, excellent working capacity, tolerance to trouble, stability, elimination of those or increases digestive power.
In features of Vyayam, it is mentioned that exercise is responsible for the increase in the digestive power.
Antigen exposure and host response.
Substances which possess opposite qualities to body tissues when enter in body come across the antagonist of body tissues. This indicates how immune system responds when an antigen enters the body. Specificity of physiological factors. Dosh and Dhatus govern bodily immunity or susceptibility for the diseases. The peculiarities of Nidan is physiological factor, Dosha that is innate pathogenic factors and Dushya, Dhatus becomes specific for manifestation or non-manifestation of diseases. When all these three specific factors either do not get attached or combined with each other, follow after a long time or in a weakened state, then either the disease does not manifest or manifest lately or in mild form without all the described features.On the contrary, the result will be also opposite.
Concept of active and passive immunity.
Administration of specific antidote helps in alleviation of pre-existing diseases due to development of passive immunity while prior sensitization of the body with specific antigen develops active immunity.
This indicates the concept of active and passive immunity was known to our Acharyas.
एषां खल्वपरेषां च वैरोधिकनिमित्तानां व्याधीनामिमे भावाः प्रतिकारा भवन्ति|
तद्यथा- वमनं विरेचनं च, तद्विरोधिनां च द्रव्याणां संशमनार्थमुपयोगः, तथाविधैश्च द्रव्यैः पूर्वमभिसंस्कारः शरीरस्येति|| Ch.Su.26/104
Here Abhisanskar refers to continuous use of substance which makes tools compatible to the body elements or else preparation of the body with suitable immunizing substances to prevent ill effects of antigen. Such substances may be specific antidotes or that promoting general resistance power.
Instability of Ojas
Ojas is unstable in 8th month because exchange of Ojas takes place through blood vessels from mother to foetal heart and from foetal to mother’s heart. When Ojas is transmitted from foetus to mother, she looks happy and born foetus at this time will be prone to develop infectious disorders due to which delivery in this month is to be considered dangerous. This might be caused by the synthesis of certain substances at this particular time and transfer of these two mothers suppress the immunity of the foetus.
ओजः पुनर्मधुरस्वभावं, तद् यदा रौक्ष्याद्वायुः कषायत्वेनाभिसंसृज्य मूत्राशयेऽभिवहति तदा मधुमेहं करोति|| Ch.Ni.4/37
Ojas is sweet in nature due to roughness of Vayu when Ojas gets associated with its astringency.Ojas by nature, of sweet taste. However, its roughness causes Vata to convert it into an astringent tasting element. This Vata afflicted Ojas when gets into the urinary bladder, causes Madhumeha. Therefore, to maintain the immunity of the body, one should avoid the exposure to the factors responsible for Ojas health. Milk and ghee along with the drugs of jeevniya group may be used, give up the causes which are injurious to mind and heart, follow the such regime which is beneficial to the heart and does not obstruct the channels.
We may conclude that Ojas is an entity which functions for harmony of structure, body components with their functions and special sense organs and also with mind.
- Ojas is Bala and Prakrit Sleshma which provides strength to fight against infectious agent by providing substrate.
- These may represent energy providing substances that is glucose, glycogen etc, fat, plasma, lymph, serum, anterior pituitary hormone, thyroid hormones, etc.
- Blood cells, macrophages, monocytes, neutrophils, lymphocytes, etc. provide immunity by releasing different enzymes which kills microorganism.
- However, Ojas is considered as Bala means strength which can be achieved by Urja or Ushma that is energy. In other words, these substances ultimately produce energy at cellular level in mitochondria with the help of different enzymes.
- All the functions including intrauterine function in Garbha formation, normalcy of voice and complexion, motor and sensory function of organs performed by the Ojas can be considered due to this energy.