The authoritative Ayurvedic text called Charaka Samhita talks about the consumption of alcohol both for benefit and as a dangerous toxin. The texts of Ayurveda, which are estimated to be 2,000 to 5,000 years old, also discuss the curse of alcoholism and alcohol abuse with surprising detail.
The Alcohol Warning From Ayurveda
In the Charaka Samhita the chapter dealing with alcohol consumption and alcoholism begins with the warning that alcohol is considered a toxin. It provides a list of strict rules for the consumption of alcohol and states strongly that if alcohol is taken, strict rules apply, and only then should it be consumed. The ayurvedic texts declare that a medicine properly used becomes nectar and improperly used becomes poison.
The Charaka Samhita describes a number of important rules that should be observed for taking alcohol. The first rules establish pre-conditions of external and internal purification, the right type of clothing, bathing and the taking of the right food in accordance with the seasons. The rules describe what types of container the alcohol should be served in, what type of food should be taken, and other small points. There are also strict rules governing the effects of alcohol consumption on Vata, Pitta and Kapha constitutions. These rules are meant to prepare the person to counteract the imbalance created by alcohol on each specific dosha.
The Ayurvedic perspective on alcohol consumption is straightforward: if you have not prepared your body to take a toxin properly, then don’t do it.
Alcohol - The Opposite of Ojas
The qualities of alcohol are laghu (light), ushna (hot), tikshna (sharp), suksma (subtle), amla (sour), vyavaayaaaal (pervading all of the body), aasuuga (swift), ruuksha (rough), vikaasa (expansive), and visada (drying). All these qualities are the opposite of qualities of ojas. Ayurveda makes clear that alcohol quickly and easily reaches the heart and has a direct effect on the ten qualities of the body’s most subtle essence, ojas. Because its qualities are opposite those of ojas – which has a direct effect on the sattva, or purity of the mind – alcohol causes agitation or intoxication. The heart, which is the seat of many of the important qualities of the body necessary for life, is afflicted by the excessive intake of alcohol.
In Vedic times, alcohol was made from a variety of ingredients, such as fruits, cereals, roots, flowers, leaves, stems, bark and sugar, and it was prepared in many ways.
Modern Research on Mind-Body Damage from Alcohol
Long-term use of alcohol in excessive quantities is capable of damaging nearly every organ and system in the body. The developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of alcohol.
Ethanol, the main type of alcohol in beverages, acts as a central nervous system depressant and has psychoactive effects in small amounts. Cell membranes are highly permeable to alcohol, so once alcohol is in the bloodstream it can diffuse into nearly every biological tissue of the body. Based on its abilities to change the human consciousness, ethanol is classified as a psychoactive drug.
The effects of alcohol on humans have been well researched and documented. Alcohol consumption at low or moderate doses acts primarily as a modulator of the neurotransmitter GABA. Activation of GABA receptors causes experiences such as relaxation, relief from anxiety, sedation, ataxia, increase in appetite, lowering of inhibitions and in some people violent behavior. There is a strong correlation between high levels of alcohol consumption and an increased risk of developing alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, malabsorption, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer. Damage to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system can occur from chronic alcohol abuse.
Recent research in the US presented at an international conference suggests that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol increases the risks that range from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown dementia. The risk was higher in those who drank more than a moderate dose. Those involved in the study who reported drinking in moderation – that is, 7 to 14 drinks a week – developed problems with memory and brain functioning that are seen as precursors to dementia.
The Ayurvedic Perspective
If taken at all, the texts of Ayurveda make it very clear that alcohol is a poison, unless it is taken in the appropriate manner, time and place. It is always remarkable to read the Ayurvedic texts, as the wisdom is unequalled in terms of the broadness of thinking. Ayurveda makes it very clear that unless one follows strictly the rules of alcohol intake, it will create misery. If those strict rules are applied, then it has benefit.
Certain Ayurvedic preparations called Arishtas are herbalized wines, of which there are many varieties for a variety of ills. They are generally delicious and, when taken appropriately under guidance from someone with knowledge, have great benefit. The amounts taken are generally no more than 4 to 6 teaspoons after meals.
Some modern studies have shown that moderate consumption of wine is statistically associated with a decrease in death due to cardiovascular events such as heart failure. Some epidemiologists suspect that the association between moderate wine drinking and health may be related to confounding factors; for instance, the average moderate wine drinker is more likely to exercise more, to be more health conscious, and to be of a higher educational and socioeconomic class. A natural phenol called resveratrol has become the supplement of choice in the last few years, and is found in the skins of grapes and in small amounts in red wine. Research has demonstrated some positive benefits from taking it as a supplement; however, there are some studies that advise caution. Interestingly, it’s worth noting that the resveratrol in most supplements comes from Japanese knotweed. Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, syn. Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica) is a large, herbaceous perennial plant, native to eastern Asia in Japan, China and Korea.
The Loss of Happiness
No matter “what your poison” — beer, spirits, wine — the texts are clear about the abuse of alcohol. From the Ayurvedic perspective, the abuse of alcohol affects the tranquility or the settled state of the mind which is essential for life and attainment of enlightenment. The texts state:
“Those who are unwise and ignorant, who are imbalanced, consider the taking of alcohol to be a creator of happiness; these people lose happiness and purity of mind. The wrong use of alcohol will cause illusion, fear, grief, anger, death and disease. If the memory of our true unbounded nature is impaired, then misery will follow. The wise, acquainted with these adverse affects, avoid alcohol.”
These rules state if one takes alcohol, it must be in due regard to food, drink, age, disease, strength, season, and nature of the mind and dosha. Without the application of these rules, it is best to avoid alcohol.
Introducing The Second Element – The Light
Maharishi Ayurveda places primary importance on the field of consciousness. The term Veda means Total Knowledge; it is the knowledge of all the Laws of Nature, their structuring dynamics, and the transformations that uphold the infinite diversity of the universe in perfect order and maintain evolution. Veda is self referral, pure consciousness. Veda is structured in consciousness, and consciousness is the field of intelligence that is a unified state of knower, knowing and process of knowing. Consciousness is the most basic element in life. Our body, our behavior and our environment are all expressions of consciousness. All our actions, our speech and behavior are fluctuations of consciousness.
Because the brain is the receptacle for experience of consciousness, then it is only appropriate that we take substances that create a balancing effect on the brain. From the Ayurvedic perspective, alcohol, as it is currently used in Western society, does not support the balanced functioning of the brain.
Many people drink to relax. This form of alcohol use treats alcohol as a psychoactive drug. It is a chemical that can cross the blood–brain barrier and act on an individual’s central nervous system to change brain functioning. This causes changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior. There are other choices – more sustainable, healthy choices – that are better for relaxation and development of real happiness through the development of consciousness.
Transcendence and Happiness
An example of a program that balances functioning of the brain is the Transcendental Meditation® program (TM), which enlivens this field of pure consciousness or pure intelligence in the mind and body. Research has shown clearly that through the influence of experiencing refined perception during the Transcendental Meditation® program, a unique style of physiological and psychological functioning is seen, and that this unique style of functioning has many health benefits. It is an individual’s perception that determines whether or not homeostasis is challenged; therefore, it is the conscious awareness or state of consciousness of the individual that is primary to the creation of health. Previous qualitative and quantitative reviews of studies on the effects of the TM practice on substance abuse have shown positive outcomes for reducing alcohol consumption.
Through the repeated experience of transcendence through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation® program, the individual is culturing the nervous system, the seat of consciousness, to function from the most refined level of its functioning – the state of Self consciousness, which is transcendental in nature. This continued culturing process of transcending leads to a more efficient nervous system, and therefore a more balanced physiology – one capable of dealing with the stresses of life and actually perceiving the world in a more positive way.
Heyam Dhukam Anagatam – Avert The Danger Not Yet Come
Techniques for the development of higher states of consciousness, such as the Transcendental Meditation® program and TM-Sidhi® program, are part of the holistic programs that make Maharishi Ayurveda prevention oriented. Prevention is encapsulated in the Vedic expression “Heyam Dhukam Anagatam,” which means, “Avert the danger that has not yet come.” This is the essence of Vedic defense. If one wishes to negate negative influences, then it makes sense to do it before they have an influence or lead to a negative situation in one’s mind and body. In the physiology, this means create a level of intelligence where the individual always makes the correct decision as regards to lifestyle and dietary choices, so that the individual’s thoughts are guided by the very intelligence that administers the balanced functioning of the universe. This includes not only choices at the level of the conscious mind, but also at the level of abstract intelligence, the transcendental aspect of one’s consciousness.
Looking from the fundamental level of creation, as understood by Maharishi Ayurveda, allows us to see how pure consciousness, or Atma, manifests as creation through the many natural laws, and that this manifestation is a sequential process. If this process or sequence is blocked or disrupted through poor lifestyle choices, then the sequence changes and it is not natural or Veda – it is the sequence of disease. The choices we make in life will affect our path of evolution, our path of health.
Listed below are a group of Maharishi Ayurveda herbal formulations that support the development of consciousness.
"The huge ever-expanding universe, with its countless suns, moons and stars, has been engineered by, and is eternally upheld by, total Natural Law – the Unified Field. Vedic engineering provides the technologies to enliven this enormously complex and complete field of engineering within the Transcendental Consciousness of everyone. By aligning his awareness with cosmic creativity, any individual can create anything."
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - October 3, 2004
Higher States of Consciousness and Maharishi Ayurveda Herbals
As modern research shows, experiences of higher states of consciousness have a corresponding physiological state of profound balance. These experiences require a state of profound balance in the body and mind. Specific Maharishi Ayurveda herbal formulations work at deep levels to support this balance, and enliven alignment with the field of natural law and the development of higher states of consciousness.
Ayurveda - for 5,000 years - has understood this essential core principle of health: supporting and nourishing consciousness in turn supports and nourishes the body. Numerous studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique have demonstrated this direct and powerful relationship between consciousness and the body. The numerous health benefits of the TM technique have been recognized by the National Institutes of Health, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the American College of Cardiology and the American Psychology Association.
The following herbs have been recommended by Vaidya Manohar, a Maharishi Ayurveda expert. He also recommends that Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) be taken as a companion product to support the assimilation and efficacy of all other herbs.
Maharishi Ayurveda Herbal Formulas Supporting Higher States of Consciousness
- Support for higher states of consciousness: Intelligence Plus or MA 674
- Balancing in a way that deepens experiences: Mind Plus
- Supports clarity in transcending: Organic Youthful Mind or MA 421
- Support of natural law: Herbal Di-Gest
- Supports deeper transcending: Worry Free
- Supports sustained experiences of totality: Veda Herb 2404
- Supports refined perceptions: MA 287
Herbal formulas supporting transcendence:
- Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus)
- Blissful Sleep
- Deep Rest
- Organic Rose Petal Spread
- Mind Plus
- Organic Premium Amla Berry (formerly ReGen Vitality)
- Amrit Kalash Nectar and Ambrosia
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- ^ California Air Resources Board, Definition of a Low Emission Motor Vehicle in Compliance with the Mandates of Health and Safety Code Section 39037.05, second release, October 1989
- ^ Lowi, A. and Carter, W.P.L.; A Method for Evaluating the Atmospheric Ozone Impact of Actual Vehicle emissions, S.A.E. Technical Paper, Warrendale, PA; March 1990
- ^ Jones, T.T.M. The Clean Fuels Report: A Quantitative Comparison Of Motor Fuels, Related Pollution and Technologies (2008)