The oldest system of healing in the world, Ayurveda, has eight branches that correspond to eight specialties of modern western medicine. Of these, Graha Chikitsa or Bhuta Vidya as it is also called, is the branch that covers psychic and psychosomatic disorders. It deals with diseases whose causes cannot be determined, and these diseases can be both inherited or acquired. Graha Chikitsa is unique in that is the science of spiritual healing for physical and mental well being. It has its own methods for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the mind, and it deals with these diseases on a completely different level from contemporary modern medicine.
Bhutas and Mental Health
Ayurveda teaches us that when the three vital energies in the bodies- or the tridoshas- are out of harmony, physical health is affected. Similarly, when there is imbalance of three life forces or gunas, mental health is affected. The three gunas are sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is intelligence and goodness, rajas is change and activity, tamas is ignorance and inertia. All three gunas exist in each individual, in a specific equilibrium that differs from person to person. Our ancestors believed that an imbalance of the gunas can be caused by bhutas or spirits, resulting in abnormal psychological conditions. Another belief was that one’s actions in one’s past life had a direct effect on the present. This is known as one’s karma, and mental disorders in this life could be the consequence of one’s karma. Ancient Indian astrology also links mental tribulations to the movements of the planets. Yet another interpretation of the word ‘bhuta’ is that it represents microscopic organisms such as viruses and bacteria that can affect our mental state.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Though the exact cause of a psychological problem may not be known, a practitioner of Graha Chikitsa will first try to explore its history. In fact, the personal and physical history of a patient plays a very important part in determining the course of treatment to be followed. The treatment may include remedial astrological steps, chanting of hymns or mantras, and conducting specific tantric rituals. Yoga, meditation and pranayama are also key elements in restoring peace of mind. Apart from this, an Ayurvedic practitioner or vaidyar may recommend various herbal disinfectants called ‘graha vidya dravya’ which help in making the atmosphere germ free. This is done using small plant sticks with disinfecting characteristics like samidha to enhance the atmosphere around the patient. Proper diet is also important in Graha Chikitsa , as certain foods enhance or dilute the effect of the three gunas, so as to restore mental harmony.
Kerala, the home of Ayurveda, has many skilled practitioners in Graha Chikitsa, who combine psychotherapy, mind power and hypnotism to treat mental disorders. Graha Chikitsa explores the unknown and seeks out the hidden facets of a particular disease. Its route may be different from that of modern medicine, but that does not make it any the less effective. The fact is that today more and more people are willing to learn and benefit from the experiences of the sages of ancient times. Graha Chikitsa or Bhuta Vidya is one such area that has found acceptance for one simple reason- it works!