Ayu (आयुः)

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Ayu is the Samskrit term which refers to 'Life' or 'Lifespan' of an individual. The term 'Ayurveda' is made of 2 parts, the first part is 'Ayu' and the second part is 'veda'; and thus the entire knowledge of Ayurveda is regarding this 'Ayu' and the measures to obtain it. In few other Indian languages, the term 'Ayu' is used to denotes 'Age' of an individual.

Definition of word 'Ayu'

In the classical Ayurveda treatise Charaka Samhita, definition of the word 'Ayu' is explicitly described. Acharya Charaka states that, Ayu is the time-span for which the continuity of consciousness persists. It means being alive, bonding with the body and its sustenance.

वेदं चोपदिश्यायुर्वाच्यं; तत्रायुश्चेतनानुवृत्तिर्जीवितमनुबन्धो धारि चेत्येकोऽर्थः||२२|| (Char. Samh. Sutra. 30.22)

vēdaṁ cōpadiśyāyurvācyaṁ; tatrāyuścētanānuvr̥ttirjīvitamanubandhō dhāri cētyēkō'rthaḥ||22||

Meaning: After answering question on Veda, Ayu is being described. Ayu means the anuvritti (continuity) of chetana (consciousness) i.e., chetananuvritti, being alive (jeevita), bonding with the body (anubandha) and sustenance of life (dhari).

शरीरेन्द्रियसत्त्वात्मसंयोगो धारि जीवितम्| नित्यगश्चानुबन्धश्च पर्यायैरायुरुच्यते|| (Cha. Samh. Sutra. 1/ 42)

Synonyms of Ayu

The word Ayu is derived from “Ayussu”, meaning life span. Various other words like 'Jivitam', 'Anubandha' and 'Dhari' are used interchangeably with the term Ayu which also imply the same meaning i.e. life span.

The Difference Between Ayu and Vaya

वयस्तश्चेतिकालप्रमाणविशेषापेक्षिणीहिशरीरावस्थावयोऽभिधीयते| C.V-8/122.


Vaya is defined as the state of body corresponding to the length of time that has passed since birth. Vaya (Age) is one of the medium to achieve the knowledge regarding Ayu (span of life) besides other tools [5]. Both Charaka and Sushruta say that before prescribing any therapeutic procedures, physician should examine to obtain knowledge regarding the span of life, strength and intensity of morbidity. (Sush. Samh. Sutr. 35.3)[1]

Types of Ayu described in Ayurveda

Ayurveda has given attention towards the psychosomatic approach of Ayu by describing Sukhayu, Dukhayu, Hitayu and Ahitayu.

Sukhayu, Dukhayu : Characteristics of happy life

तत्रायुरुक्तं स्वलक्षणतो यथावदिहैव पूर्वाध्याये च| तत्र शारीरमानसाभ्यां रोगाभ्यामनभिद्रुतस्य विशेषेण यौवनवतः समर्थानुगतबलवीर्ययशःपौरुषपराक्रमस्यज्ञानविज्ञानेन्द्रियेन्द्रियार्थबलसमुदये वर्तमानस्य परमर्द्धिरुचिरविविधोपभोगस्य समृद्धसर्वारम्भस्य यथेष्टविचारिणःसुखमायुरुच्यते; असुखमतो विपर्ययेण;

People whose body and mind are disease-free, and those who are endowed with youth, enthusiasm, strength, virility, reputation, manliness, courage, knowledge of arts and sciences, healthy senses, objects of sensory perceptions, ability of the sensory organs, riches and various luxurious articles for enjoyment, and who can achieve whatever they want and roam as they please are said to lead a happy life.

Hitayu and Ahitayu : Characteristics of healthy fulfilling life

हितैषिणः पुनर्भूतानां परस्वादुपरतस्य सत्यवादिनः शमपरस्य परीक्ष्यकारिणोऽप्रमत्तस्य त्रिवर्गं परस्परेणानुपहतमुपसेवमानस्य पूजार्हसम्पूजकस्य ज्ञानविज्ञानोपशमशीलस्य वृद्धोपसेविनःसुनियतरागरोषेर्ष्यामदमानवेगस्य सततं विविधप्रदानपरस्य तपोज्ञानप्रशमनित्यस्याध्यात्मविदस्तत्परस्य लोकमिमं चामुंचावेक्षमाणस्य स्मृतिमतिमतो हितमायुरुच्यते; अहितमतो विपर्ययेण||२४||

Those who are the well-wishers of all beings, who do not desire the wealth of others, who are truthful, peace loving, who are thoughtful before taking action, who are vigilant, who experience the three important objectives of life (righteousness, wealth and desire) without one affecting the other, who respect superiors, who are endowed with the knowledge of arts, sciences and tranquility, who serve the elders, who have full control over lust, anger, envy, arrogance and pride, who constantly indulge in various types of charity, meditation, acquisition of knowledge and quiet life (solitude), who have full adhyatmik knowledge and are devoted to it, who work both for the present as well as for the next life, and are endowed with memory and intelligence lead a useful rather beneficial life, while others don't.

Benefit of longevity

According to Ayurveda, “Dhirghayu” or longevity means a complete balance between body, mind and soul associated with longevity, Without this balance a person cannot enjoy the real benefit of longevity i.e., a state of permanent happiness and peace.

According to Ayurveda, there are four basic goals of human life namely, Dharma (religion), Artha (economy), Kama (sense pleasure) and Moksha (liberation). To practice and fulfill these basic goals of life one needs good health. The body is the vehicle on which one rides to their destination. If the body is weak or sick, one cannot function properly and is unable to achieve the goals of life. Therefore, for longevity, good health is important and for maintaining health, physician needs to examine Ayu from birth till death. Ayurvedic text describes how to attain longevity and also mentioned verities of longevity through Ayu Pareeksha. Ayurveda explains certain signs and symptoms to decide the life span (Manam of Ayu) of a patient.

Ayu Pareeksha (Examination of Life Span)

There are three varieties of Ayu Pareeksha namely Dhirghayu, Madhyamayu and Alpayu along with their characteristics are mentioned [6].

Ayu Pariksha has been broadly classified into three broad headings, namely, Dhirghayu, Madhyamayu and Alpayu and these are described by Sushruta [2]. He says that before prescribing any therapeutic procedure, physician should examine life span of the patients and if they have residual life span then his Vyadhi (disease), Ritu (season), Agni (digestive power), Vaya (age), Deha (body build), Bala (strength), Sattva (mind), Satmya (conducive factors), Prakriti (constitution), Bhesaja (drug) and Desa (habitat) should be examined [3]. Tenfold examination are the tools described in Charaka to obtain knowledge regarding the span of life, strength and intensity of morbidity and these are Prakriti (constitution), Vikriti (morbidity), Sara (excellence of Dhatus), Samhanana (compactness of organs), Pramana (measurements of the organs of the body), Satmya (suitability), Sattva (psychic conditions), Aahara Sakti (power of intake and digestion of food), Vyayama Sakti (power of performing exercise) and Vayas (ageing) [4]. The basic purpose of these examinations is to understand the overall condition of the person in order to prescribe meticulous and systematically planned therapeutic treatment to get desirable and satisfying successful results.

Dhirghayu (Long life span)

The following criteria are useful to assess the long life span of the individual and these patients should be treated with all efforts. One who possesses big hands, feet, flanks, back, tip of the breasts, teeth, face, shoulders, forehead, long finger joints, expirations, eyes, arms, broad brows, space in between the breasts and broad chest; short calves, penis and neck; whose mind, voice and umbilicus are deep and breasts are not greatly elevated but are firm; whose ears and back of the head are well grown, big, hairy and body drying first from the head after bath and anointing and the region of the heart later on [6].

Madhyamayu (Moderate life span)

One who possesses mixed features of Dhirghayu (having long span of life) is considered as Madhyamayu along with well manifest, broad, two, three or more lines below the Aksa (clavicles) and whose feet and ears are more muscular, tip of the nose is elevated and appearance of vertical lines on the back. These persons will survive for 70 years [6].

Alpayu (Short life span)

One who possesses opposite of the Dhirghayu (having long span of life) qualities should be understood as Alpayu (short span of life) along with short joints, big penis, chest

having hair appearing in circles (whirls), back is not broad, ears and nose located slightly up than their normal position, gums are visible during laughing or talking and whose sight is unsteady will survive only for 25 years [6].

Characteristic Features Indicative of Life Span of Life In Children

In Charaka Shareer Sthana Jaata Sutriya Adhyaya after performing the rites for giving a name to the child, one should examine the child to ascertain the span of life.

Agrawal M, Byadgi PS, Dwibedy BK. Importance of Ayu Pareeksha for the Management of Diseases. J Clin Diagn Res. 2017;11(1):OE01–OE04. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2017/20881.9144

Factors to be Examined to Determine Residual Span of Life

Charaka in Indriyasthana described in detail about Arista which indicates span of life. “Niyat Maran Khyapakam Lingam Aristam” - signs and symptoms which indicates the definite death of the patient is called Arista [8]. It indicates the residual life span of the diseased person. The following factors must be taken into consideration by

the physician desirous of ascertaining remaining span of life by Pratyaksa (examination by sense organs), Anumana (inference/ medical history) and Upadesha (scriptural testimony) are as follows i.e., Varna, Svara, Gandha, Rasa, Sparsa, Cakshu, Srotra, Ghranam, Rasana, Sparsana, Sattva, Bhakti, Shaucam, Shilam, Achara, Smiriti, Aakriti, rakriti, Vikriti, Bala, Glani, Medha, Harsa, Rauksya, Sneha, Tandra, Arambha, Gaurava, Laghava, Guna, Aahara Vihar, Aahara Prainama, Upaya, Apaya, Vyadhi, Vyadhi Purvarupa, Vedana, Upadrava, Chaya, Praticchaya, Svapnadarsana, Dutadhikara, Pathi Cautpatikam, Bhesaja Samvritti and Bhesaja Vikara Yukti [9]. Nimittanurupa is one of the sub types of Vikriti. This will serve as a yard stick to measure the span of life [10]. Particular symptoms and signs of imminent death indicate the diminution of the span of life. It is the duty of the physician to have a thorough knowledge of this to ascertain the span of life of an individual otherwise it becomes very difficult phenomenon and physician will get bad name and reputation in the society

Agrawal M, Byadgi PS, Dwibedy BK. Importance of Ayu Pareeksha for the Management of Diseases. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2017 Jan, Vol-11(1): OE01-OE04

Scope of Ayurveda : Scope of knowledge of Ayu in Ayurveda

तदायुर्वेदयतीत्यायुर्वेदः; कथमिति चेत्? उच्यते-स्वलक्षणतः सुखासुखतो हिताहिततः प्रमाणाप्रमाणतश्च;यतश्चायुष्याण्यनायुष्याणि च द्रव्यगुणकर्माणि वेदयत्यतोऽप्यायुर्वेदः| तत्रायुष्याण्यनायुष्याणि च द्रव्यगुणकर्माणि केवलेनोपदेक्ष्यन्ते तन्त्रेण||२३||

tadāyurvēdayatītyāyurvēdah; kathamiti cēt? ucyatē-svalakṣaṇataḥ sukhāsukhatō hitāhitataḥpramāṇāpramāṇataśca; yataścāyuṣyāṇyanāyuṣyāṇi ca dravyaguṇakarmāṇi vēdayatyatō'pyāyurvēdaḥ| tatrāyuṣyāṇyanāyuṣyāṇi ca dravyaguṇakarmāṇi kēvalēnōpadēkṣyantē tantrēṇa||23||

Ayurveda is that source of knowledge which teaches about or deals with Ayu. How so? By its characteristics, it imparts the knowledge of joy and suffering, benefit and harm, and authentic/authoritative and unauthentic/unreliable (sources of information). It is also that which informs us about the span of life and substances with properties and actions that result in the same. This will be dealt with in the entire text at various appropriate contexts. [23]

  1. http://niimh.nic.in/ebooks/esushruta/?mod=read