For Whom and When
We have covered this topic more extensively along with a critique of allopathic medicine in the article, One Person’s Medicine is Another Person’s Poison, but it is pertinent to now make a brief reminder of this awesome principle of natural medicine. We can not treat the same symptoms (body or mind) the same way for different people. We must consider: an individual’s constitution, strength, age, etc. as well as the environment – weather, seasons, time, space, community, family, etc.
It is obvious that Western, allopathic medicine and psychology does not consider the specificity that wisdom-traditions like Ayurveda and Traditional Chines Medicine does. But, even in the “holistic” realms people are always trying to make one-size-fits-all rules. They don’t exist.
For example, many will tell you that “yogis say” it is best to be a vegetarian. Or, that we shouldn’t eat garlic and onions. Both of these views are extremely limited. They derive from a transcendental view of yogic spirituality that is dualistic and relatively young. Hailing from the theories of the likes of Patanjali or traditions such as Samkhya or Advaita, these views are heavily informed by the patriarchal mandates of renunciate monks.
In these dualistic traditions the aim is to transcend the body’s limitations and purify the sins of the flesh – sound familiar Christians? This is not a matter of debate but is actually stated in the texts of these traditions. So, the physical practices suggested by these views is to dry up the sexual fluids of the body, making oneself completely “pure” and “light” so that the atman can transcend the bodies limitations.
This is why they advocate vegetarianism and no garlic/oil – meat and tamasic vegetables build the strength of the physical body and enhance its sexual vitality. Therefore, imminent wisdom accrued by eons of householders practicing original yoga and Ayurveda is seen as an impediment to the goal of transcendence.
But, because the vast majority of people who practiced the original way were common people without the means to travel or the desire to proselytize the transcendental message of yoga – spread by the brahmin class of mostly male, renunciate monks - is considered to be “yoga.”
But, really, yoga and Ayurveda has its roots in Tantra. Tantriks seek liberation while living – in the body. Therefore the body must be strong and vital and the sexual energy must be cultivated and refined. Many have taken Tantra’s a-moral stance and perverted it to suit their own gluttonous needs, but Tantra is really about a fine balance between transcendence, imminence and a state that is beyond these opposites.
Therefore, one person’s medicine is another person’s poison. Someone who is very hot might well not want to eat garlic. But, for a wind-consitution person in the middle of winter it might be the perfect ingredient. Similarly, a yogin might be doing practices that are best supported by a vegetarian diet; but to forego meat while doing advanced inner-yogas like mahakumbhaka would create a recipe for disaster. There are no rules in natural wisdom except one: we must always consider, for whom and when?
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