Pragyaparadha: here's how you get ill
Rather than seeing illness as something that just happens to us, Ayurveda asks us to look at our mind and our own behaviour to see what’s behind it. If your digestion is less than great, do you blame a particular food, rather than your eating habits?
If you have a virus, do you think it’s because it was “going round”, rather than considering why your immunity is low? If you have insomnia, do you blame overwork or stress rather than cutting down on work or addressing your stress?
The Ayurvedic view is that we have innate knowledge of what gives us health and vitality, and that making the wrong choices – choosing foods and behaviours that go against our body’s inbuilt intelligence – are what eventually make us ill. In Sanskrit, it’s called Pragya Aparadha, meaning ‘mistake of the intellect’. It can be translated as ‘crimes against wisdom’ or ‘errors in judgement’.
In other words, it is the way our mind is working. Making the wrong choices is the number one cause of disease. It is our own decisions to eat foods we can't digest or choose unhealthy habits in our daily routine that are the root cause of our digestive imbalances, health conditions and illness.
Lack of consciousness
The more we lose our connection with pure consciousness, the weaker the mind becomes and we make poor choices. Then we repeat them, until they become a habit and are hard to break̶ or even to see.
We get caught up in the unhealthy behaviour patterns and eating habits ingrained in our culture – irregular mealtimes, eating at your desk, processed and packaged foods, reliance on coffee, not cooking fresh food for yourself and taking the time to enjoy it, taking work home, being constantly online, being physically inactive and not spending enough time outdoors. This creates internal disharmony, disharmony in our relationship with nature, and eventually disease.
As well as foods, sleep and exercise, we might choose to misuse our senses (in Sanskrit, Asatymya-lndriyartha-Samyoga) and take in the wrong, or too many, sensory impressions.
We can stream music, video, television, films and podcasts on demand and almost anywhere. Even in the toilet! We can spend a large amount of our day engaging with the bombardment of information, advertising, emails, notifications, messaging and alerts. It’s sensory overload!
When we over-engage, or take in the wrong impressions, such as violence, negativity and bad news, it disrupts the function of our senses and allows harmful influences to have a negative effect on mind and body. The mind loses its Sattvic qualities of intelligence, clarity and joy, and becomes disturbed.
If you do this repeatedly, it leads to dosha imbalance and ama (toxins) production. That in turn can also prevent our body from adjusting to the natural changes in climate or season. More ama forms, and disease begins.
When we make these wrong choices there has been a failure of buddhi (the capacity for discrimination). We create disharmony between the five elements and the three doshas. And when the rhythms of our individual life do not align with the cycles of nature, the result is stress, weak digestion and doshic imbalance.
Once this happens, agni (our digestive fire) becomes weak and cannot efficiently convert food into nutrients. Ama forms and the body’s tissues are not sufficiently nourished. If the toxins and imbalance are not dealt with, the tissues become toxic and malnourished, and immunity is affected. Eventually there is a breakdown in the function of the tissues, then in their structure. Pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can increase, allowing infection and illness to arise.
Boost your buddhi
To get your buddhi (your intelligence, your capacity for discrimination) working again, start with simple therapies. Change one daily habit for the better. Avoid the one most aggravating food. Pick a food you like that agrees with you, and make it a regular part of your diet. By seeing how able you are to implement simple changes̶ and, just as importantly, stick to them ̶ you can see how buddhi is working.
Once you get back in tune with your innate intelligence, you will be able see for yourself what is healthy and unhealthy for you: you can follow it and, more importantly, stick to it.
Jacqui Gibbons is an experienced Ayurvedic health coach, currently training as a yoga teacher, and will be offering yoga and Ayurveda workshops in London in 2019