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Ayurveda and the Mind – The Healing of Consciousness by David Frawley

Published by Motilal Banarsidass Reprint 2006, Delhi - 346 Pages

A book that systematically deals with psychology from an Ayurvedic perspective in a systematic manner and that too in the English language is scarce. It is this gap that David Frawley’s book titled “Ayurveda and the Mind” fills in commendable style. The illustrious author needs no introduction and has published several books on related topics that have been well received widely all over the world.

With characteristic clarity of thought, Dr. Frawley has delved deep into the body of Ayurvedic knowledge drawing inputs from a range of allied disciplines like Tantra and Yoga to weave a coherent web of ideas on Ayurvedic psychology that can be understood by the intelligent laity.

Dr. Frawley’s work is not merely a careful compilation of information from the source Ayurvedic texts. In fact, scholars looking for an exact corroboration of the interpretations given by the author in the light of references from the text themselves may be slightly disappointed. Dr. Frawley’s exposition is insightful to the core. He goes beyond the superficial sense of the original passages and extracts the suggested and deeper meanings and puts them meaningfully in the appropriate contexts with amazing literary skill and imagination.

The elucidation of the difference between the mind and consciousness is striking in its clarity and the relationship between the mind and the five elements have been explained effortlessly with apt illustrations.

The various aspects of the mind have been correlated with the three gunas, the three doshas and with prana, tejas and ojas in a very convincing manner. The author has succeeded in capturing the essence of the Ayurvedic notion of mind and its functions and presented it in a manner that a keen student of Ayurveda without adequate knowledge of Sanskrit could grasp without much difficulty. Additionally he integrates ideas from Tantra and Yoga with Ayurveda and thereby provides more depth in understanding the concepts than one would gain from reading the original texts themselves. He also points out how the notion of the five sheaths of the human persona described in the Upanishads can be discerned in Ayurvedic texts although the terminologies used are different. The correlation of Chitta, Manas, Buddhi and

Ahankara with the unconscious, sub conscious, conscious and self conscious is very interesting and helps in better appreciation of these difficult concepts for the modern mind.

The author also makes passing mention to techniques used in modern psychology and how they can be evaluated from an Ayurvedic perspective. He thus refers to counseling and psycho analysis in relevant contexts and points out their limitations. Towards the end of his book, he gives an exposition on Yoga from an Ayurvedic point of view, which is very interesting indeed. Not many have given an exposition of Yoga based on the principles of Ayurveda.

The author touches upon astrological principles from a Vedic perspective and relates it to Ayurveda. Medical astrology is not seen in the classical Ayurvedic texts although the use of gems, mantra and the like are mentioned. However, it is important to realize that astrology became linked with Ayurvedic practice in a later period, especially in Kerala.

Therapies for the mind have been systematically classified and elaborately explained with many examples and highlights the richness of Ayurvedic approaches to treating the mind.

In the footnotes given as an appendix, the author provides links to the many sources that he has used, which are the classical texts of Ayurveda itself in many instances. The book also has a very useful glossary and other indices included in it.

To summarize, it can be said that Dr. Frawley has sketched a coherent model of Ayurvedic Psychology with reference to the Vedas, Tantra and Yoga. He has also dealt with astrological concepts in relevant areas. It is however, important to realize that one cannot expect to find such an exposition in the classical texts themselves and credit goes to the author for collating scattered information from multiple sources in such an impressive and logical manner.