Prof Dr Bruno Renzi
is a psychiatrist specialising in Ayurvedic medicine, Director of Maharishi College of Perfect Health International and Co-director of the Maharishi AyurVeda Health & Prevention Centre in Milan, Italy
Ideal Personality Structure in Ayurveda
by Prof Dr Bruno Renzi
In the field of psychology, there have been no studies on defining an ideal personality structure. Typically, current studies are focused on who we are or on our perception of ourselves and of our internal dynamics, on the styles and patterns of behaviour or on the definition of why we behave in a certain way. We do not find, in the field of psychology, definitions of an ideal personality structure or studies on methods to achieve a similar structure.
Because of this gap in modern psychology, we are not able to indicate a pathway that can lead mankind towards a civilised manner of making progress, abandoning the current moral and mental decline that constantly demeans the beauty of man’s existence in his earthly dimension. We are witnessing an extraordinary level of progress on the technological and scientific level, whereas there is no similar, parallel and adequate development of humanity’s collective consciousness, which seems to be showing processes of involution or sensory enslavement. Basically, from a psychological and ethical point of view, we are not witnessing great progress and this is partly because science does not set the terms of ideal objectives.
In Ayurveda the concept of the ideal personality structure was never regarded as something purely philosophical or as a symbolic expression or something that can never be achieved; conversely, it represented a positive mode for the development of life, of consciousness and of the well-being of humanity.
The different Indian philosophical schools expounded the fundamental criteria for the ideal development of personality and we can say that, since Ayurveda has its roots precisely in these schools of thought, it is a form of knowledge that explains with precision the way to achieve such an objective. Ayurveda is the science of life: Charaka says that it is the science which describes the positive and negative factors for the achievement of well-being in life (C.S.I.1.41.), for the achievement of a happy or unhappy life and all that is healthy and unhealthy for life. In this sense, Charaka describes what is beneficial and what is harmful (hita and ahita), what generates happiness and unhappiness (sukha and dukkha) on an individual level and for society: therefore, besides being lived in joy, life must also be spent for the good of the community.
Charaka also argues that health is the fundamental and supreme condition for righteousness, prosperity, pleasure and liberation: these are the four basic objectives that must be achieved during one’s existence. Achieving these objectives is subject to a condition of balance and healthy integration of the various dimensions in the life of an individual, i.e. the spiritual, psychological, sensory and environmental dimensions. These are precisely the conditions that allow us to address a discussion on the achievement of an ideal personality structure or, at least, on the path that an individual can adopt in order to achieve it.
In accordance with the Indo-Aryan tradition, life is a fragment of individual existence and of cosmic existence, within an evolutionary path that has illumination or the return to Atman as its ultimate goal in the eternal cosmic cycle; it is the infinitely dynamic Totality within itself. The fundamental objectives within the life span of the individual are deemed to be dharma or righteousness on one’s own level, artha or prosperity, kama or pleasure and moksha meaning liberation.
Charaka describes these aims in life in a different way and devotes an entire chapter to this subject entitled “Tirsaisaniya Adhyaya”, which indicates that these aims were held in high regard also in terms of therapy and treatment.
A healthy individual from a psychological point of view, with a good level of intelligence and understanding, energy and good relations, who wishes to achieve their own good in this life and in the life beyond life, should pursue the following three purposes: pranaisana, dhanaisana, paralokaisana.
Charaka does not add the dharmaisana as he believes that there cannot be a dharma that is better than paralokaisana. The term esana is used in the sense of desire, purpose. Man is considered to be a desiring animal and we know that, in the psychological field, desire has been given considerable emphasis as the central core of motivation1.
In hormic psychology, an important focus is on the concepts of motivation, aims and needs; in this sense, it is very close to the ancient Ayurvedic theory of the Esanas. Psychoanalysis argues that motivation is the dynamic force in activity. Maslow defines instincts as motivational units.
Recognised instincts can be classified into three or four categories of Ayurvedic esanā, and in Vedic knowledge the esanā are the main existential objectives.
The existence of the esanā (purposes) supports a conception of the finalistic type of life, even if this view has met with a number of objections. At a certain level, our existence is driven by basic instincts that arise from a deep-down dimension in our existence and from a biological matrix with evolutionary connotations; this aspect is a feature of us as a species.
In a complex and dynamic form, Pranaisana represents the life instinct. Charaka says that this esana must be given top priority, since it is the basis for existence. The life instinct can include those biological matrices, which, in their dynamism, constitute the life instinct. In contrast to the life instinct, Freud puts the accent on the death, or thanatos instinct and on the forces which channel hatred. Physiologically, they represent all those forces that tend to destroy organic life or that, on a psychological level, also sustain hostile and aggressive behaviour in sexuality, in addition to those forces aimed at the destruction of entire races.
It is only through the neutralisation of these destructive impulses and through the activation of those which support life that we can allow our species to move forward along its path of evolution, avoiding dangerous imbalances which could lead to our destruction.
Our survival as a species depends on how these forces are channelled or neutralised: this is one of the main issues that we need to address, as a species, for our own survival. So the question we must ask is: what is the purpose of our existence and how do we wish to exist?
In describing those procedures that allow one to maintain an ideal level of health (arogya), Charaka says:
An individual accustomed to a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle habits, who acts after appropriate reflection, who does not remain involved or caught in the vice of the objects of the senses, who is charitable, who behaves in a fair-minded way towards all creatures, who has a good level of religious devotion, who has the ability to forgive, who serves with humility, who is wise and satisfied by what they have, will never suffer from any disorder. An individual who enjoys a happy combination of thoughts, words and actions, who has their mind under control, who has a clear intellect and who possesses knowledge of the soul and observes the precepts of yoga will never suffer from any disorder.
The realization of the above is connected with the profound experience of the transcendental Consciousness which supports our evolution on every level.
In the tradition of Vedic knowledge, there is a description of the techniques which can lead one’s awareness towards the subtler states of existence and as far as the unified source of knowledge: these procedures for acquiring knowledge, in a subtle interplay between intuition and revelation, were revived and restored to the light in their purity by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. These techniques are the same as those used by Himalayan visionaries to reach those states of consciousness which allowed them to see and to come into contact with that transcendent reality which is at the source of the life of the universe, there where the spirit becomes vibration and this then becomes matter; there where the gradual diversification of the basic building blocks of universal existence has its beginning.
This level was experienced by bringing consciousness into a state of self-referral, where the latter interacts with itself in an unbounded, all-pervading, unchanging and eternal field of consciousness, which is at the basis of all manifestations of the universe or multiverse.
In the last fifty years Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has brought this knowledge back into the limelight together with the techniques that allow one to experience transcendental consciousness, revisiting all knowledge through Western scientific methods and within a frame of reference that can be understood by Westerners. Vedic science offers us a methodology that allows us systematically to experience that level of consciousness which contains within itself, in an unmanifest manner, the fundamental principles of the intelligence that pervades the cosmos. This last state experienced by the mind – this state of profound and fundamental awareness – corresponds to the physical structure of natural law, to the fundamental scales of physics; this leads us to the similarity or in-depth correspondence between the structure of human intelligence and the intelligence of nature.
Charaka also states that an individual’s entire activity must be supported and conducted with the purpose of happiness. Therefore, a man eager to achieve happiness must observe those rules that are related to prevention and those rules needed to cure those disorders that have already arisen. (C.S.I.38,35.)
Health is the supreme foundation for the acquisition of virtue, prosperity, joy and liberation. Man needs to monitor the health of his body constantly, just like a gentleman of the city needs to monitor the affairs of the city, or like a coachman needs to pay close attention to the way he drives his coach. (C.S.I.5.103.)
Putting everything to one side, everyone should take care of their body, because being without a body leads to the extinction of all that characterises an incarnate being. (C.S.I.6.7.)
Therefore, it is blatantly clear that Ayurveda places considerable emphasis on the achievement of that set of procedures that allow one to achieve an ideal state of health, where the spiritual and psychological dimension cannot be separated from the physical and behavioural dimension. Good health is one of the prerequisites for Pranaisana, i.e. the achievement of the purposes of life.
The second purpose of life indicated by Charaka is the dhanaisana (creation of prosperity), considering it particularly important from a sociological point of view: it relates to the definition of an individual’s social status within their own group. In stressing the importance of achieving that level of prosperity needed to fulfil one’s individual purposes, Charaka shows a certain realism, saying that the aim of dhanaisana is pranaisana. He states:
Dhanaisana is subsequent to pranaisana, because with life one needs prosperity. It is the second purpose of life. There is undoubtedly no curse that is more unbearable than abject poverty for a man who has a long life, but lacks the means that make that life worth living. So, every effort needs to be made to acquire the means to earn money. (C.S. I. 11.5.)
The attainment of prosperity, as a purpose of life, assumes a certain importance with regard to the development of an ideal personality aimed at the ultimate objective of all existence: moksha.
The last purpose of life described by Charaka is paralokaisana, the attainment of Paradise. In this sense, Charaka uses the term svarga (“Paradise”), inserting this purpose of life within the ultimate objective that is moksha and assuming the concept of reincarnation aimed at spiritual growth towards final liberation as an implicit element within it.
Charaka strongly supported the idea of reincarnation as opposed to certain, clearly materialistic schools that claimed the existence of only what is perceptible. Therefore, his vision was based on the existence of a life beyond the real and perceptible life, whereas these schools upheld that knowledge could only be obtained in the visible dimension (pratyaksa pramana).
Charaka (C.S.I.11.29.) states that the theory of reincarnation was created by the aptamaharishis who had obtained this knowledge through their “divine vision” (divyacaksu). One of the arguments he uses to support this thesis is that people sometimes remember their past lives and that this ability was indicated as jatismarana. Many studies have been conducted on reincarnation in order to demonstrate certain evidence in support of the theory.
Charaka, therefore, accepts the theory of reincarnation in terms of the spiritual evolution that enables one, through cycles of rebirth, to achieve spiritual progress aimed at final liberation.
In these terms, he asserts the need for honest moral conduct through the observance of the scriptures, following with devotion the teachings of the masters, through the observance of one’s oaths and being attentive to the duties towards one’s family life and work; refraining from envy and taking appropriate care of one’s body, speech and mind; lastly, practising yoga and mind concentration to achieve samadhi.
If an individual strives in this way, they will achieve good conduct in this life and Paradise, after death. (C.S.I.11.33)
Moksha, therefore, becomes the final objective, total liberation: once obtained, there is no longer any need for rebirth. The achievement of Moksa is possible through the resolution of every egoic and soul-based configuration that involves the passionate attachment to life and determines the necessity for action. The path indicated in the Charaka is nivritti-Marga (termination of all action) in the final dissolution that allows one to achieve the final peace that is indestructible in the full fulfilment of Brahman.