The ancient Indian system of medicine Ayurveda has much to offer the modern world. Ayurvedic texts such as the Ashtanga Hridaya and the Charaka Samhita are filled with extensive commentary on human suffering, pathology and disease and are a veritable treasure house of healing wisdom that can assist in the transformation of outdated western allopathic medical paradigms and unrealistic expectations of healing without patient accountability.
However some of the most unique ideas expressed within the medical system of Ayurveda are the appropriate qualities of the patient and the expectations of the patient themselves in order to facilitate healing. In Ayurveda, the patient is expected to have a strong focused will power, control over his or her senses, and be capable of accurately and cogently expressing his or her health to the respected physician; the Ayurvedic physician is not a God or a magician and must work along with the patient to create an environment conducive for the healing power of the body to awaken.
The Ayurvedic texts are also very clear as to whom the physician should reject as a patient: those who are rude, ungrateful or impolite, those who claim to be too busy to follow prescribed protocols and attempt to mold the prescription to their dysfunctional lifestyle, and those that are constantly skeptical or afraid of the prescribed regimen.
This is not a cold moralistic judgment but rather an attempt to protect the honor of the physician as well as the honor of the system of Ayurveda. If a patient is unable to follow the precepts of a respective system of medicine, he or she cannot expect the system of medicine to provide succor.
This is not just within an eastern system of medicine like Ayurveda, but also applies to allopathic medicine. For example, if an allopathic physician prescribes a diet and exercise protocol to control hypertension and the patient is “too busy” to change their diet or exercise, one cannot say that the prescription “did not work.” However this is quite common in the western world, with patients running from physician to physician until he or she receives a convenient prescription which suits their emotional tastes while blaming the physician for treatments which “did not work.”
The system of Ayurveda has a unique term which describes this type of mental obfuscation, prajnaparadha : “intellectual error” or “mistake of the intellect.” This term describes how an individual can both cause and empower a disease when falsely believing they are taking an appropriate route in both diet and life. It’s as if one is undertaking a journey with faulty directions and refusing to believe that one is going “the wrong way.”
It important to remember that Ayurveda considers diet as more than just what we eat with our mouths but also what we “eat” with our senses and mind. Consequently just as there is digestion in the physical body, there is also digestion in the mind. When one suffers from prajnaparadha, one makes poor dietary choices for both the mind and the body. Ayurveda lists prajnaparadha as one of the fundamental causes of all disease and offers various methods for addressing the digestive fire of the intellect and memory as well as the physical body in all cases of sickness.
The ideas found hidden within the Sanskrit term prajnaparadha have much to teach the western mind and western allopathic medicine. These ideas of patient accountability and responsibility found within the medical system of Ayurveda are also quite accurately applied to the ideas of initiatic transmission found within esoteric systems of gnosis.
It is a common western notion that everyone should have free access to all information at all times regardless of one’s qualifications or preparation. This is particularly rampant in occult circles with individuals seeking to penetrate into “secrets” before even attempting to learn the fundamental infrastructure of an esoteric system and criticizing anyone who asks for systematic preparation or standards prior to initiation.
It is quite common for individuals to seek to create a persona of being iconoclastic and claim to be breaking down walls and allowing everyone access to hidden secrets when in reality they are simply revealing themselves as impatient and immature individuals afraid of personal accountability or evaluation by a higher mentor or master.
The aforementioned Ayurvedic qualifications and expectations of the patient clearly apply in the modern world of occult groups. Rather than judging a teacher or Hierophant for rejecting a student perhaps an individual should ask why the rejection occurred.
In initiatic esoteric gnostic groups, chelas or students are expected to express many of the same characteristics that Ayurveda asks of patients: to not be rude, disrespectful or impolite, to not be too busy to apply themselves to the respective system and its qualifications of study, and to not be skeptical or afraid of the respective system of study. While these may seem like common sense, over and over, I have seen these simple ideals thrown by the wayside in modern occult groups. The idea of not being rude or disrespectful is quite simple and needs no intricate explanation in this short essay. However the ideas of having a pace of life too hurried to adequately proceed deeply in esoteric study and not being skeptical or afraid of the respective system are vital ideas which should be fleshed out.
Before one can expect to progress with any undertaking, one must organize one’s life for success. If one does not set aside adequate time and space in one’s life, it is not possible to have successful and healthy mental, emotional or spiritual “digestion”. Just as Ayurveda teaches to leave room in the stomach for food to digest, we must leave room in our lives and our minds if we wish to undertake any deep study particularly initiatic esoteric study which is of a subtle and non-linear character.
Esoteric transmissions cannot be rushed or expected to fit into modern fast paced lifestyles. If a Hierophant or teacher suspects that one is not ready for deeper study or initiation based on simple observations, it is not so much a moral judgment as a keen clinical evaluation; the soil is not ready to germinate the subtle seeds of initiation. The admonition of not treating an individual who is skeptical or afraid of the respective system is of particular importance when discussing the transmission of initiatic seeds.
It is all too common for the western mind to practice a “religion of skepticism” in the name of “science” all the while using this as a subtle subterfuge of protecting the egoic stronghold on the mind. It’s important to cultivate a balanced level of discrimination on any spiritual path in order to avoid manipulation and obsession however the modern world often uses the façade of skepticism in an attempt to force esoteric systems into the mold of the modern mind rather than allowing the mysterious subtly of the system to unfold in its own way unpredictable journey within the body of the
This is reflected in situations where the individual seeks to pick and choose attractive “secrets” from various traditions without taking ample time to establish important ontological foundations which form the fecund soil from which the initiatic seeds take root and eventually reveal their fruit. If the individual cannot trust the system he or she seeks to explore, perhaps a different system should be chosen which is better suited to prepare the student for deeper work.
The idea of avoiding treatment or initiatic transmission with an individual who is afraid of the respective system is also very important as fear will most often prevent subtle transmissions from taking root. The medical analogy is quite effective to express this as in more mechanistic systems of therapy such as ER medicine or surgery fear is not so much of a roadblock.
However as one moves into more subtle areas of medicine such as long term case management or chronic disease, fear can be a substantial roadblock to healing. This is subsequently the issue when one connects this idea with subtle areas of esoteric study and transmission. The parasite of fear penetrates the individual with viral efficiency using the individual’s emotional desires as fuel for its life force. Hence individuals with high levels of fear will doubt every step of healing or esoteric transmission which demands them to shift to a new perspective so necessary for alchemical transformation to occur.
A healthy amount of fear is a sign of life. However, deep-seated fear of any change or transformation which entails substantial paradigm shifts is a dangerous viral parasite which not only prevents healing and initiation but also breeds illusions and solipsistic neurosis. Therefore if a physician, teacher or Hierophant chooses to politely refuse someone based on this concern, it is out of a deeply contemplative perspective not moralistic elitism.
It is the responsibility of the physician or Hierophant to take the respective individual’s unique expression into account and as is the case with any good caretaker, refer the individual to a system or specialist more qualified if necessary. Sometimes the referral which seems like a refusal is actually the beginning of the journey itself.
Craig Williams is the author of Tantric Physics Vol I: Cave of the Numinous. He has been a practitioner of Yoga, Ayurveda, Tantra, Jyotish and Vedanta for more than 25 years and has undergraduate degrees in Religious Studies, Philosophy and English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine. He is also an ordained gnostic Bishop and an adept of Esoteric Voudon.
Craig lives in Austin, Texas where he operates a busy private medical practice specializing in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Ayurveda (www.AyurvedaAustin.com). He is a licensed Acupuncturist and a Professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.