In biological organisations there comes a question of individuality i.e., every organism is unique and uniqueness is manifested by the peculiarity of its reaction to environmental factors. Through individuality the organism maintains its separative existence. Whence comes this individual aspect of an organism? “Unity in diversity” seems to be the plan of creation.

The keen clinical acumen of Hahnemann led him to state: the inimical forces, partly psychical, party physical, to which our terrestrial existence is exposed, which are termed morbific noxious agents, do not possess the power of morbidly deranging the health of man unconditionally; but we are made ill by them only when our organism is sufficiently disposed and susceptible to the attack of the morbific cause that may be present, and to be altered in its health; deranged and made to undergo abnormal sensations and functions – hence they do not produce disease in every one nor at all times (Sec. 31, sixth edition of Organon).

But Hahnemann did nowhere explicitly discuss about the essential nature of susceptibility to diseases or the factors which increase or diminish the same. In order to understand this problem in detail we have to cross the frontiers of physical science and step into the domain of metaphysics and occultism. Indian spiritual experiences and Ayurveda (Indian system of Medicine) help us in this matter.

The living human body has developed into a minutely constructed and elaborated system of organs and tissues. Their functioning is very delicately balanced. It can easily become a disorder, leading to a general or local disorganisation dependent on an easily disturbed nervous system. Life and matter are not two entirely disparate entities. There is an evolutionary nexus between the two i.e., life has evolved from matter wherein is involved life. On the one hand there is a persistent effort on the part of Life to impose its own laws on matter and on the other hand matter is all the time trying to dominate life.

So long the balance is in favour of life the living body persists and so long the mutual action and reaction is well adjusted there is a condition of life with ease and comfort. We call it a healthy state of the organism. Whenever the adjustment between life and matter fails there appears a condition of disease or illness i.e., a state of suffering. So far the medical science particularly, life goes always with its environment and “Man – cum – Environment” is he unit of study.

In biological organisations there comes a question of individuality i.e., every organism is unique and uniqueness is manifested by the peculiarity of its reaction to environmental factors. Through individuality the organism maintains its separative existence. Whence comes this individual aspect of an organism? “Unity in diversity” seems to be the plan of creation. Transcendental infinite is the fundamental reality which express itself through infinite variations of itself.

That is why each individual manifestation is unique in itself; and this individual soul – substance gives its stamp of individuality on the mental, vital and material sheaths which constitute the human organism. “Each man belongs not only to the common humanity but to the Infinite in himself and is therefore unique” (Sri Aurobindo). The concept of wholeness is also to be borne in mind in all cases of biological entities, so that man reacts as a whole and this wholeness is something more than the parts of which it is constituted.

This individuality goes by the name of constitution in medical sciences. There it is defined as the morphological, physiological and psychological resultant (variable in each individual) of the properties of all cellular and humoral elements of the body, and the combination of these in a special cellular state having a balance and functional output of its own, a given capacity for adaptation and a mode of reaction to its environmental stimuli.

Such a resultant is determined primarily by the laws of heredity, the inherent peculiarities of the individual and secondarily by the disturbing influences exercised by the environment upon the individuals hereditary plan of organisation. In short, constitution implies a peculiar group of qualities and tendencies through the genes which make a man what he is.

Now, a detailed and scientific study of constitution is found in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of Medicine; and this study has developed certain concepts which are equally applicable to physiological and pathological phenomena and can be made use of in therapeutic, hygienic and dietic practices. Ancient Indian philosophers and physicians have studied and analysed the universe from a psychological point of view. We perceive the universe and its contents through our senses which are limited to five. These perceptual qualities are what are know as “secondary qualities” of matter.

This psychological classification is, in a way, the most logical classification as it covers the whole sphere of thought and existence. A living body is endowed with sensations which are the outward expressions of life – force in and through the organism. The mutual actions and reactions between the organism and the external universe take place on the place of qualities.

The sensations of the organism and the so – called secondary qualities of the material things are grouped in ten pairs of opposites viz. (1) heavy and (light); (2) (cold) and (hot); (3) (unctuous or viscous) and (dry); (4) (inactive) and (active); (5) (motionless) and (mobile, fluid that which spread); (6) (clear, transparent) and (slimy, viscid); (7) (smooth) and (rough); (8) (soft) and (hard); (9) (penetrating, subtle) and (bulky or coarse); (10) (dense, solid) and (liquid).

It is easily perceived that in the living human body those qualities are kept in balance so that the organism is at a state of ease or comfort. Disease or discomfort ensues when equilibrium of any of these paired qualities is lost. The question that now remains to be solved is that by what mechanism the balance between these qualities is kept up. Here Ayurveda, the Indian system of Medicine steps in to present a synthetic or integrated outlook which led to the development of the tridosh concept of Vayu, Pitta and Kapha – the triumvirate of biological organisation.

According to the ancient Indian thinkers the material universe is resolved into five fundamental proto – elements i.e. (earth), (water), (fire), (air) and (ether). All different material substances have evolved through diverse permutations and combinations of these five elements possessing those twenty differents kinds of qualities as mentioned above. As the physical body forms a part of the biological living organism, the physical formula has been co – ordinated with and incorporated into this triumvirate of biological organisations to evolve a specific biological formula of the triad of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

The five categories of physical matter are transformed into three by the method of earth and water being grouped into one, and air, ether being combined together, with the result that all five physical proto – elements found place in the living organism being translated into the biological forces of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, i.e., air and ether being combined into Vata, fire turned into Pitta and water and earth combined into Kapha. Life has been conceived to be working in threefold manner through Vayu, Pitta and Kapha principles to maintain the water – balance, thermal – balance and Vital balance systems in the organism.

Thus biological Vayu is conceived to possess the qualities of physical air i.e, it is dry, cold, light, subtle, unstable, clear and rough and it is quieted by substances of antagonistic qualities; Pitta possesses more or less the qualities of physical fire i.e., it is slightly unctuous, hot, acute, fluid, acid, mobile and pungent; it is readily quieted by substances of antagonistic qualities, Kapha possesses the qualities of water and earth, i.e., it is heavy, cold, soft, unctuous, sweet, stable and viscid, it is readily quieted by substances of antagonistic qualities. (Charaka, Sutrasthana, 1, 59-61). Thus physical phenomena have been equated with vital phenomena.

Constitution or (as it is termed in Ayurveda) of a man is an inherited or genotypal condition which is set up by a peculiar influence inherited inherited from both the parents, its own impressions from previous incarnations and the combination of the formative forces, e.g. climate, season, environment etc., obtaining at the time of impregnation. It gives individual a definite predisposition, a definite pattern of tendencies set in motion. It determines his or her degree of tolerance and resistance to external and internal disease factors.

So Ayurveda says that from the moment of conception some men are equibalanced as regards the three determinants – Vata, Pitta and Kapha and some have a predominance of Vata, some of Pitta and some of Kapha. Of them the first alone enjoy perfect health while the rest are ever liable to disease. Each of the bio – genetic type indicates what principle amongst the triune Life – force is predominant and as such impact of what qualities are to be avoided or welcomed to keep the balance of Vayu, Pitta & Kapha. A man, is naturally susceptible to those conditions and circumstances possession qualities to those conditions and circumstances possessing qualities similar to those obtaining in excess in Vatala, Pittala or Shlesmala types.

Such is the secret of susceptibility of a particular individual. In short, all physical substances are reduced to five categories of proto – elements and each proto – element is ascribed certain specific qualities, the total number of all the qualities coming to twenty in number. “thus the body – substance, environmental factors necessary for life – processes, causative or curative factors of diseases – all these are reduced to a specific number of qualities whose presence or deficiency in excess in the body makes one susceptible to disharmony of the sensations and functions which ultimate into diseases; and whose use or avoidance could be prescribed for therapeutic purposes.

Charaka – Samhita says in connection with aetiological factors of disease – conditions that “the complex of causes with reference to disease – psychic and somatic – is either erroneous, absence or excessive interaction of time, mind, senses and sense – objections leading to imbalance in the three determinant principles of Vaya, Pitta and Kapha. The following lines from Charaka – Samhita may be quoted for reference:

Ayurveda also maintains with Claude Bernard that “Vital force directs phenomena which it does not produce and physical agencies produces (in living things) phenomena which they cannot direct.” It is when the bodily constitution is undermined by the non – observance of the Laws of Health such as Ritucharya (seasonal observances), Dinacharya (daily observances), Brahmacharya (observance of celebacy) and Mithya Ahara and Vihara (faulty dietary and mode of life) that the Khetra (soil, the material body) becomes suitable for the growth of germ – seeds which were powerless to do any mischief in the case of those persons who lead pure and healthy lives because the soil was unsuitable for the germination and growth of the seed.

Regarding the present trend in Modern Medicine Lin Byod writes thus in his book “The Simile in Medicine” “Medicine is just in the process of recovering from enthusiasm of the school of bacteriology which saw in bacteria the sole cause of infectious diseases. Medicine is now entering the throes of constitutional school of medicine which perceives in bacteria only one cause of infectious diseases and recognises the constitution and disposition of the patient as equally important factors.” The Ayurvedic approach to he subject clears the problem.

Metaphysical consideration of Disease.

Susceptibility to disease conditions is due to imbalance in one or more aspect of the triumvirate of biological organisation known as Vayu, Pitta and Kapha in Ayurvedic terminology. But why it is not possible for a man to be in a state of perfect equilibrium? To answer this question we have to go deep, very deep in the metaphysical domain. From the phenomenal aspect of the universe mind has evolved from life, which in its turn has evolved from matter. The basis of this world is matter which ultimately dominates over life and mind. That is why the poet sings “All the paths of glory lead but to grave,” So mans mind and life, however developed they might be, are still limited and conditioned by matter and its laws.

Psychologically mans ego is a fragmented consciousness. So he is limited, his power of consciousness is limited. “His limited being is the cause of all the difficulty, discord, struggle, division that mars life. The limitations of its consciousness, unable to dominate or assimilate the contacts of the Universal Energy, is the cause of all its suffering, pain and sorrow. Its limited power of consciousness formulated in an ignorant will unable to grasp or follow the right law of its life and action is the cause of all its error, wrong doing and evil. There is no other true cause; for all apparent causes are themselves circumstance and result of this original sin of the being. Only when it rises and widens out of this limited separative consciousness into the oneness of the liberated spirit can it escape from these results of its growth out of the Inconscience.”

Though individuality is the highest expression of existence, an individual is always handicapped in its fight against the Universal. The individual life exists and acts as a separate life with a limited insufficient capacity undergoing and not freely embracing the shock and pressure of all the Cosmic Life around it. It is impossible for a divided and individualised consciousness with a divided and individualised and therefore limited power and will to be the master of All – Force. So the individual life in the individual therefore must be always subject to the three badges of its limitation, Death Desire and Incapacity. Thus it is evident that a human being because of his inherent imperfection, is bound to suffer at times.

Indian spiritual experience accounts for the origin and mode of attack of illness in human beings in this way:

Illness marks some imperfection or weakness or else opening to adverse touches in the physical nature and is often connected also with some obscurity or disharmony in the lower vital or the physical mind or elsewhere. Illness is a deformation of the physical nature just as lust, anger, jealousy etc., are deformations of the vital nature; error, prejudice and indulgence to falsehood are deformation of the mental nature. Thus the origin of illness may be in the mind; it may be in the vital; it may be in any one of the parts of the being.

One and the same illness may be due to a variety of causes, it may spring in different cases from different sources of disharmony. But to whatever an illness may be due, material or mental, external or internal, it must before it can affect the physical body, touch and pass through another layer of the being that surrounds and protects it. This subtle layer is called in different teachings by various names viz., the etheric body, the nervous envelop. It is subtle and yet almost visible. All communications with the exterior world are made through this medium and it is this that must be invaded and penetrated first before the body can be affected.

If this envelope be strong and intact one can go into places infested with the worst of disease, e.g. cholera, plague, etc. and remain quite immune. It is a perfect protection against all possible attacks of illness, so long as it is whole and entire, thoroughly consistent in its composition, its elements in faultless balance. This body is built up, on the one side, of material basis, but rather of material conditions than of physical matter; on the other, of vibrations of our psychological states. Peace and equanimity and confidence, faith in health, undisturbed repose and cheerfulness and bright gladness constitute this element in it and give it strength and substance.

Yogic experience asserts that if one is conscious of the subtle body or with the subtle consciousness one can stop an illness on its way and prevent it from entering the physical body. But it may come without ones noticing or when one is asleep or through the subconscience or in a sudden rush when one is off ones guard; then there is nothing to do but to fight it our from a hold already gained in the body. Self – defence by these inner means may become so strong that the body becomes practically immune as many yogis are. Still this “practically” does not mean “absolutely.” The absolute immunity can only come with the supramental change.

(Adapted from Sri Aurobindos writings.)

If one wants to get cured there are two conditions. First, one must be without fear, absolutely fearless in mental, vital and physical planes; secondly, one must have a complete faith in the Divine protection. For fear does produce illness. Fear opens the door and illness stalks in. In a epidemic it is this thing that spreads the malady. Fear can produce even an accident by contagion. So fear pricks a hole, as it were, in the nervous or vital – physical sheath and allows the disease – forces to attack the physical body or the mind. In scientific language fear lowers the resistance.

(Adapted from the writings of the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondichery, India,)

We conclude this topic with the following lines from Charakas Sarirasthanam, Second Chapter.

He who is given to wholesome food and conduct, who has discernment and detachment from sense pleasures, who is charitable, impartial, truthful and forgiving and who follows the precepts of sages, lives free from disease. Diseases do not befall a man in whom thought, word and deed are happily blended, the mind is controlled and the understanding is clear and who is possessed of knowledge, austerity and the absorption in Yoga.

N C Das