Is Consciousness the Key Factor for Evidence-based Medicine, Personalised Medicine and Integrative Medicine?
The classical Āyurvedic texts explain that the human being (Purusha) is the combination of matter (five Mahābhūtas) and consciousness (Chetana). This view is in contrast to the understanding that consciousness is just the result or correlate of brain activity.
Everyone experiences consciousness as the essence of his life, but surprisingly there are no commonly agreed definitions of consciousness amongst top scientists from the fields of neuroscience, biology, psychology, physics, computation, and philosophy.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has put forward a very simple and straightforward definition: “Consciousness is that which is conscious of itself.” This short Sutra-like definition describes in seed form the sequential development of consciousness interacting within itself, thereby creating the appearance of potential diversity in the form of observer, observed, and process of observing, within the abstract unity of self-referral consciousness. This continuous process of self-interaction then leads to the appearance of matter in the form of the physical body and the ever-expanding universe.
This is in line with the evolution of the universe (Srishti) as described in Ayurveda on the basis of Sāṁkhya philosophy, in which the basic building blocks of matter sequentially emerge from an unmanifest field of consciousness (Avyakta).
Interestingly, some physicists also describe the basic building blocks of creation in terms of qualities similar to those attributed to the Self (Ātma) in Vedic science (Hagelin 1989). A deeper analysis of the concepts of Āyurveda shows that they are more in tune with the latest theories and principles of modern physics, self-organising systems, chaos theory, system biology, epigenetics, pharmacogenetics, stem cell research and regenerative medicine, placebo research etc., than with the concepts of classical physics and biochemistry that are presently still taught and used in the practice of modern medicine.
Maharishi’s Vedic Science and technology integrates these modern theories with ancient Vedic knowledge, and presents Āyurveda as a scientific prevention-oriented system of health care that can be globally implemented and integrated with every existing system of medicine.
Furthermore, the research of Tony Nader MD, PhD (1994, 2012) has shown that the self-interacting structures of consciousness available to us as the sounds of the Vedic literature are expressed in material form in the human physiology, thereby opening a completely new understanding of the human physiology, and new possibilities for prevention and therapy.
All Āyurvedic terms and concepts can be finally understood in terms of their origin in consciousness, e.g. the three Doshas have their origin in the relationship between the three fundamental constituents of consciousness – the observer (Rishi), the process of observation (Devatā), and the observed (Chhandas).
The study of medicine is therefore the study of the physiology along with its source in consciousness. Development of consciousness through meditation is not an add-on to Āyurveda, but a core aspect of its practice, not only for the patient, but also for the physician. Numerous studies in peer-reviewed international journals have shown far-reaching health benefits resulting from repeatedly becoming established in one’s own SELF (Swa-stha) during the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Charaka (Sa. 3.20-21) advises every physician to collect his mind and senses and be established within himself (Ātma) before performing medical duties.
The theory and practice of Āyurveda includes basic approaches that are now becoming popular in modern medicine, such as:
1) Evidence-based medicine: Āyurveda uses a systematic evidence-based approach (Parīkshā) to acquire valid knowledge, such as: expert opinion, authoritative textbooks (Āptopdesha), direct observation and perception including diagnostic tests (Pratyaksha), inference (Anumāna), reasoning (Yukti), and also Kārya-Kāran siddhanta (cause and effect theory).
2) Personalised/predictive/precision medicine: Personalised prevention and therapy based on constitutional types (Prakriti) and precise classification of all influences on health (diet, medicines, behaviour, climate, age, etc.) according to the three Doshas is one of the great strengths of Āyurveda.
3) Integrative medicine: Āyurvedic texts also advise us to also take into consideration other areas of expertise, and integrate this knowledge, as it might not be possible to get the best solution by only considering one field of knowledge.
In order to become a globally accepted system of health care, Āyurveda must expand its present predominantly herbal medicine-based approach, a) horizontally, by including all the 40 aspects of Veda and the Vedic literature (Yoga, Vedic astrology, Vedic architecture, Vedic agriculture, Gandharva Veda music, etc.) and b) vertically, by recognizing consciousness as the primary reality of all aspects of medical practice – physician, patient, and society (collective health).