Are Vata, Pitta & Kapha Ayurvedic Concepts?

Mahesh Prabhu

Mahesh Prabhu

Udupi Mahesh Prabhu is a seasoned media, management & political consultant. He is a Founder and Chairman of Vedic Management Center and Vivaswaan. A fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, London (UK) and member of the International Federation of Journalists(USA), he also holds a Masters in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing. For more info visit www.indiamahesh.com

The Vedic Sanskrit word Ayurveda is made of two words, namely Ayu implying Longevity and Veda meaning Wisdom. Since Longevity is meaningless without healthy living, Ayurveda can also be understood as Wisdom on Healthy Living. Ayurveda is principally about understanding the self, mind and body and living a healthy lifestyle and not just a medical discipline.  

There are two principal works that form the crux of Ayurvedic medicine, namely Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. Author of Charaka Samhita was Charaka an eminent physician of Vedic era whereas Sushrutha Samhita was written by the world’s first surgeon Sushruta. The other important work is Astanga Hrudayam, which draws significantly from various Vedic works including the ones by Charaka and Sushruta.

Most practicing Ayurvedic doctors, today, have no understanding of Vedic Sanskrit the language in which these texts are written. And yet there are even those self-proclaimed scholars and teachers of Ayurveda who even go to the extent of saying “they are redundant works.” This lame assumption is primarily because of the silly translations made by people with no idea of Vedic Sanskrit.

Most translations of Vedic texts today are done using a much later version of Sanskrit which follows a book called Panini’s Ashtadhyayi. To know more about the two Sanskrit versions, do watch my recorded webinar, entitled “The Tale of Two Sanskrit.

Also, fascinatingly, all the available Ayurvedic medicines and products in the form of lotion, liquids, tablets, capsules, & inhalers were never a part of the Ayurvedic traditions. Most products, which use questionable chemicals and preservatives, claim their product to be Ayurvedic by simply using herbs mentioned in classical Ayurvedic texts in miniscule quantity.

There are also some detailed clinical studies by credible academics to prove that the prevailing Ayurveda medicines literally fail even basic lab tests for effectiveness.

One of the lame rhetorical argument used by proponents of Ayurvedic medicine to downplay this fact is “traditional medicines cannot be justified with lab results for various reasons…”

Almost every Ayurvedic textbooks are primarily based on the concept of Doshas. The authors of these works claim that there are Tridoshas or Three Doshas, namely: Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Almost every diagnosis or prognosis of Ayurvedic practitioners is based on this theory which they claim to form the foundation of Ayurvedic texts.

There is a fatal flaw with this concept of Doshas. The Vedic Sanskrit word Dosha implies ‘Fault,’ it was never meant to be ‘body types’ nor ‘diseases.’ Faults in our thoughts, food & lifestyle leads, first, to ailment, which is known in Vedic Sanskrit as Ripu, when this ailment is only contained, not cured, it becomes Vyadhi.

One of the often-mistranslated Shloka used to claim Vedic origins of Dosha come from Ashtanga Hridayam, which reads:

वायु पिततं कफशचेति त्रयो दोषा: समास्त: |

विकृता विकृतादेहं घ्नन्ति ते वर्त्तयन्ति चा ||

Here is the popular translation:

Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are the three Doshas of the body. Perfect balance of three Dosha leads to health, imbalance in Tridosha leads to diseases.

I consider this translation to be flawed because: if imbalance of Vata, Pitta, & Kapha are the only three reasons for ailments in the body; how did the Covid19 a.k.a. China Virus infest humanity causing havoc? Why could not Ayurvedic practitioners “balance the Doshas” and cure the body of the virus? This concept is neither scientific nor Vedic in nature. To justify here is my translation using Vedic Sanskrit:

Common ailments in the body are caused owing to three major reasons, namely: when the Air we breathe (Vaayu not “Vaata“) is contaminated, when the Water we drink (Pitatam not “Pitta”) is polluted, and/or when the Food we eat (Kafaashaya not “Kapha“) contains toxic contents or is indigestible. By simply fixing the ailments caused by these three, body’s health could be restored.

While researching for this article, when I shared this work with some Ayurveda practitioners, they provided me with yet another Shloka apparently from a book named Yoga Ratnakara, which read:

वातं पित्तं कफं द्वन्द्वं त्रितयं सान्निपतिक्म् ।

साध्यासध्यविवेकं च सर्व नाडी प्रकाशयेत ॥

According the said practitioner the translation reads:

Pulse denotes VataPittaKapha, their dual and triple disorders, as well as expresses prognosis of diseases.

On closer scrutiny, I found the very work to be a much later creation since it follows Panini’s Ashtadhyayi. Also, since Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are never mentioned in Charaka Samhita or Sushruta Samhita it is but obvious that this text has no connection with original works or concepts of Ayurveda. 

CONLCUSION: Clearly, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are neither Vedic nor Ayurvedic concepts. Since they do not help us determine the reasons for our ailment or diseases; any diagnosis or prognosis based on these concepts cannot be considered sensible or scientific.

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