A story of how Devi Saraswati the Goddess of Knowledge and Arts revealed wisdom.
My love affair with the Ashtanga Hrdayam started one evening in mid 2015. I was messaged through facebook a request, asking for my thoughts on a new translation in progress. I was very flattered to be asked and responded, with my thoughts. A few weeks later Dr. Sanjay Pisharodi asked if I would be willing to help proofread and edit the translation of the Astanga Hrdayam. A surge of energy coursed through me as if the ancient seers and Gods of ayurveda had asked me to participate in bringing the text to life for today’s students.
Late at night and early mornings the Sutras of the texts would haunt me. Thankfully they would release me, so I could work. My thoughts were never far from the portion of the text that I was working on. Dr. Sanjay Pisharodi, Swati Pisharodi (his wife) and I would exchange ideas and thoughts on how to make the text accessible for the seeker in today’s world. I am grateful to both of them for this experience.
We started out the discussion on how ayurvedic texts and all great Indian texts have a different structure than ayurvedic textbooks written today. For instance the concept that the first word or the first paragraph is THE most important part of the text. It is said by the sages if you fully understand and embody the invocation of any text you would not need to study any further. Since most of us do not have the capacity to fully embody a spiritual text the author goes on to explain to us the reasons for writing, the meanings of the words and how to put it to use in life.
The same is true for the Ashtanga Hrdayam, the invocation alone took me into a world of sages, gods, and the pursuit of immortality. Yes, I had a copy of the Ashtanga Hrdayam in english on my shelf, but it seemed dry compared to the detailed study and journey I had embarked on. Not only did I discover the depth and breath of Sanskrit, (I still only know a few words and grammar eludes me.) but I discovered that there were many great teachers who have commented on this text. These commentators brought their rich world and practical knowledge to explain the meanings within each Sutra. I felt like I was given the opportunity to bring my experience of being an american woman, and a student of ayurveda in this century, to help change lives for those seeking health.
The second chapter deals with the dinacharya daily regimen. As I practice my dinacharya, the seasons change, outer influences remind me to make changes too.
The Astanga Hrdayam considers seasonal changes too, as it is the next thing that influences life. Acharya Vaghbata writes about the seasons, time and place. These are the things that influence life, more than genes and doshas. In this translation, and in my study we consider environments outside of India. We consider living in cities, with controlled environments and exploitation of our foods. The text lends itself to expand away from its motherland to Europe, Africa, Australia and the Americas.
My thoughts turn from considering environmental influences to the nature of health and disease. What is the cause of disease? The answer is not an injury, germ, virus or aggravated dosha. The answer to the cause of disease is ignorance and all that ignorance leads to. We desire more of what we like and none of what we don’t like. Eventually these desires take form in dis-ease. The final chapter in this volume teaches us to pay attention to our unique nature, circumstances and time of life. The fourth chapter of the Ashtanga Hrdayam gets specific about the doshas, the nature of dis-ease and how to act to remove the cause of the disease in a meaningful way before future chapters discuss specifics. I think of this chapter as “what you need to know and do, before you go to the doctor”.
In early 2016 the book was published and somehow, the energy of Dhanvantari and the sages left. My life took on a new course and I needed to focus on more mundane events. Those heady days of asking questions and bringing a new perspective to the texts were over.
I was excited when my published copy arrived in the mail. As I flipped through the pages, it seemed as if I had hardly worked on it at all. I could clearly read my contributions but they seemed distant . It is as if there is another hand guiding my participation in the book. My role was to read and study over and over.
Recently a small but steady energy returned. My life has stabilized. The book calls to me again. I am fascinated by the concept of dinacharya, the topic of the second chapter. The Ashtanga Hrdayam does not begin with the notion of dosha-s and dhatu-s. It starts with the idea of health, longevity and moves on to daily rhythm. Just the other day, I had another conversation with Dr. Sanjay Pisharodi. Dinacharya is a steady rhythm to the dance of life hangs from. On a subtler plane, the mind and mood conduct the dinacharya. Day by day the song of a person’s life appears.
There are many more chapters yet to be translated. I’m not sure if life will offer me the opportunity to be a part of it. If I can fully embody this first volume, I will consider myself accomplished. The calling now is to share the book and study with others in a small group, discussing and sharing experiences as it relates to ayurveda. These small groups will bring life to the teachings. I look forward to studying deeply the Astanga Hrdayam with others. It is a great wine that needs to be savored enjoyed and tasted again and again.
It feels as if it isn’t my hands typing on the keyboard. I thank the Devi for her guidance. Please join me in this great study of life and ayurveda.
Oh and if you are interested, Click on the image to purchase the book.