Everything within us and around us is always in flux. The Ayurvedic understanding is that we must consciously, or sub-consciously, be continuously seeking a state of balance – the paradox is that true “balance” does not even exist, as the elements (and therefore the doshas) are always changing in both our external and internal environments. In reality, it is inevitable that we will become imbalanced at various times. This could be mentally and emotionally. Or, we could fall sick with a cold or flu.
The benefit of Ayurvedic understanding is that we can appreciate our weaknesses, and work harmoniously with our environment to stabilise them.
It would be an endless battle to strive for perceived “perfection” – I’m not really sure what that would look like anyway? Yet we can utilise a certain level of knowledge to help maintain equilibrium, physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is good use of the intellect and bodily wisdom, which at times could be experienced as intuition.
Take a moment to consider what you know is, deep down, to be best for you. Maybe it is going to bed early each night? Maybe it is avoiding stimulants, like coffee or the afternoon chocolate hit?Perhaps not checking your phone first thing in the morning? We’re all guilty of ignoring our innate wisdom and intellect.
At various points in life, we are ignorant to what is ideal for our body and mind. We’re too busy dulling our perceptiveness with alcohol, stimulants, technology, food, sleep, busyness, abuse, and poor company. Once we become aware of our defective and unfruitful choices, we’re tapping into our intrinsic insight.
This is where we have the opportunity to create and make new choices for ourselves.
When a part of your mind or body insists on any action which is of a disservice to the rest of you, this is a crime against wisdom. In both Yoga and Ayurvedic philosophy, we call this Prajnaparadha. The sanskrit word prajna means direct insight into the truth; paradha meaning opposition. To make a choice that is of detriment to oneself can threaten your state of health and balance. No doubt you’re familiar with this understanding from some experience in your past? Having a hang over, gorging and overeating, staying up late – these are all acts of Prajnaparadha. Nature will continue to remind you what is ideal. You may experience this through getting sick, or just a general feeling of disharmony and dissatisfaction.
Crimes against wisdom are happening everywhere all the time. We should not get stiff or obsessive about being faultless however. Instead, take all the taps on the shoulder from nature until you learn the lessons which motivate you to implement greater choices daily. This could mean allowing yourself to rest during your yoga practice. This could look like getting out of bed at the same time every day, because you know daily regularity makes you feel good.
We can all understand that wilful and deliberate indulgence in unhealthy practices leads to poor mind-body functions. Here are some 9 key offences and parameters from the Ayurvedic system, all which are helpful for those practicing daily “sadhana” but also in everyday life:
1. Suppressing bodily impulses – We live very unnaturally, and have become so used to becoming ill. Being ill is the new normal. One of the first ways people become ill, is because they’ve trained themselves to hold only bodily impulses, like sneezes, coughs, burping, passing stool. If your body odour is bad, then instead of fixing diet and lifestyle creating the problem, we cover ourselves in deodorant and perfumes. Repressing and suppressing impulses sends a deep message to the body that how you feel is wrong. Whatever it needs to do is embarrassing or inconvenient. Yet, when you’re hungry your stomach ‘grumbles’. When needing to sneeze, the body clearly needs to get rid of something. When tired, the body wants to yawn – yet it’s rude to yawn. We’re training our body to be wrong. We should not be stopping these urges and internal processes. Notice your default settings and responses you have been trained into. We should be incredibly mindful that we do not suppress urination, defecation, breathing, burping, sneezing, crying, coughing, yawning, sleeping, or eating (when genuinely hungry).
2. Absorbing negativity – We obviously feel sensitive to violence and negative circumstances. Society today relentlessly assaults us with adverse messages and influences. Consider the media, what can be seen on television, in movies, games, newspapers, social media, and the like. Negativity can also be in what you eat. However, mentally consumed negativity is much worse than poorly made and produced food physically absorbed. Avoiding negative people is ideal, those people that bring you down or influence you to make poor choices that are not aligned with your wisdom and vision of health. Of course it is also important to reduce and eliminate unhealthy ways in which we vent our own frustrations and anger. Perhaps you might choose to get rid of your TV, a social media account, give up reading magazines, or move to a new circle of friends. We’re like sponges – be sure your absorb positivity.
3. Being sexually irresponsible – this is purely from a yogic perspective, which addresses the energy that transforms and builds within the body (ojas). Doing the practices of yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation, are literally for changes the body’s chemistry. Being sexually irresponsible or excessive will deplete this important energy reserve within. A chemical imbalance can create illness. Doing Yoga helps to change and upgrade the chemical composition of the body and mind, so you’re not producing too many stress hormones. This not to suggest that you should not have sex or that you should be celibate. The point is to not suppress urges, but to not overindulge either.
4. Postponing the treatment or healing of an ailment – This parameter is very easily comprehended. Yet, many of us delay taking care of ourselves properly. We must address illness or dis-ease as it arises. Better still, we can use our intellect and wisdom to detect and treat imbalances whilst they’re incubating, before they turn into major disorder, such as diabetes, cancer, and the like.
5. Seeking wrong treatment for any ailment or disease – Illness has become a very “normal” and lucrative thing. Pharmaceutical companies are out to make big bucks from selling medication. There is so much health and medical (mis)information and advice easily accessed these days, it is very difficult to discern what is reliable and appropriate for any condition. However, fundamentally we must understand and appreciate that most medical treatment these days is only concerned with reducing symptoms, rather than treating the root cause of the problem. To seek treatment for superficial symptoms only is a crime against wisdom. It is a dulling of our body’s messages. We must always look to the underlying issue.
6. Disrespecting elders – This is not to relate only to those who are older in age, but also to those who are wiser, or those with the expertise in any field. In the West, we treat our elderly like an inconvenience. In the East, elders are treated with deep respect (in most cases), and are useful in the family network. They work and contribute until late in life. Those who are elders with regards to having wisdom in their field of knowledge and experience has nothing to do with age. These may be teachers or leaders in the community or your field of study and work. We must respect and appreciate their wisdom. Otherwise we’re starved of an opportunity to learn and grow ourselves.
7. Making friends and keeping company with the wrong people – No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “you are a reflection of the 5 people you spend the most time with”. We should surround ourselves with people that uplift and inspire us, finding a community (sangha) of like-minded people and leaders. It is easy to settle and find a safe circle of friends that keep us stuck in old patterns, or even just on a middle path. Yet we should look to continuously grow spiritually through good people who make good choices, that align with our own vision of ourselves. Look for the right associations, friends, and teachers. Their behaviour will leech into you. Clean up your Facebook friends list, and your email contacts. Contact a peer, and offer to take them for a meal or a cup of tea, in exchange for their time and energy. Make a list of 5 people whom you would like to spend more time with, then go about making it happen.
8. Abandoning good habits – Notice how many times you learn or implement something new, which you intend to integrate into your life every single day. A new meditation technique? A home yoga asana practice? Avoidance of grazing on food? Waking up with the sun? Creating good habits, and sticking with them, means we will automatically avoid bad ones. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds. But we must find whatever it is that is going to help us stay disciplined – scheduling in practices, exercise, home cooking meals, and so on. Surrounding yourself with inspiration that keeps you on track will also be of great help. Try staying away from technology in the mornings (I love the SelfControl app) to avoid distraction. We need to cultivate our own sadhana, a disciplined spiritual practice. Cultivating regularity in our daily routine helps to create discipline and dedication. We are either growing and evolving, or, we are moving backwards. It’s so easy to not prioritise our most important practices. You will alway find an excuse. Always. Keep reminding yourself why your good habits are really good for you!
9. Entertaining negative thoughts – Anytime you feel negativity arising, let it be a reminder that you need to return to love, compassion, and wisdom. We’re not striving for perfection. Negative thoughts will arise. We do not want to suppress them (see point #1), but instead we’re trying to avoid feeding them or giving those thoughts more energy. Again, we’re looking to find balance as best as we can. It is well known that stress causes physical disease. Mantra and meditation can be used regularly to aid in this approach to healing the mind-body. Reflecting upon the negative thoughts and emotions as though they were a mirror, can show us something about ourselves. Patience is essential. It is useful to keep asking yourself if your thoughts and actions are leading you to the life you want to live (svadharma), or if they’re pulling you away. If they’re pulling you away, then it is prajnaparadha.
We must cultivate space and awareness in our lives to be able to listen to our bodily wisdom. This is what it means to live Yoga, and this is what is feels like to apply Ayurveda to life. Your body is a temple. You know that already. So let us tune out the distractions, clutter, and noise we’re bombarded with, and tune into our intrinsic knowledge deep within.
Can you relate to this concept of crimes against wisdom?
Share your insights in the comments below!
Curious to learn more about Prajnaparadha? Check out this TEDx talk.