Satvavjay : Ayurvedic Psychotherapy

The word satva is used in many senses in Sanskrit. Satva means the mind, it also means virtue/rightousness or morale. Satva is one of the 3 guna (satva, raja and tama) that runs the world as the 3 dosha run the bodies of living organisms.

The 3 guna are basically 3 types of mental orientations. They are a set of assumptions that help us to understand ourselves. Gunas give us emotional and intellectual context for thinking and logic. Gunas are like modes in a video game, where you can choose to play the good guy, the bad guy or the side artist. These gunas form the learning program for all of us.

Satva : the good, signifies light

Raja : full of desires

Tama : signifies darkness

Now, why would a person choose tama or raja guna? Have you seen people who would kill for money? for them, a monk would be no more than a fool who should be punished for his idiocy. Besides, there are also people who would die for a cause even when there is no need to die! But they do die because they are trapped by sattva guna. They have an acute emotional need to show that they stand for good. Thus all gunas are said to be blindfolds, only their colors might be different. Tama might be black in color, raja red, and satva might be white, but still, blindfolds are blindfolds!

Thus the mind is limited by all the 3 guna , even the satva guna. Yes! ond these guna, we can realize the full potential of our mind.

Satvavjaya chikitsa is more about gaining control over the mind. According to Bhagavata Geeta, when mind desires something and fuses its existence with something, event or quality, it develops an imaginary world around it. This imaginary world traps the mind and prevents it from seeing reality. The desire is called “kama”. This can be called the first stage for any mental disorder. Kama is a driving force. It is a force that extinguishes the lamp of discretion and reason.

Sometimes, we know that something is wrong but still we devise reasons and logic to justify it. Kama creates illusions and false assumptions to justify itself. It hides in the subconscious; behind an umbrella of illusion. A person is driven by a desire sometimes does not even know the real cause of his actions. He comes under the influence of “moha” or self-deception.

This is the sunset for wisdom and advent of the night of destiny, where the mind is completely engaged in a dream-world.

An insecure person becomes naturally greedy. Greed creates a lust for more. More accumulation of wealth, power, or even information helps to fortify and secure the dream world of the person. Deep down we all know that the truth is indestructible. Thus we want to make sure that our dream world is the lasting one. Instead of trying to discover the real world, we try to thrust over the dream world over the real one. Greed or “Lobh” is a tool that helps to achieve his end.

Most interesting is the greed for knowledge, good deeds or acceptance. People make big sacrifices, devote their lives in service, or unconsciously choose a miserable life, just to prove a point or to become valued.

In the next stage, the individual tries to protect his imaginary world by creating false assumptions, asking and expecting other people to endorse his world-view. He feels threatened when anyone questions his beliefs. This is the dawn of anger. The person is out to protect his dream world. He might be ready to kill or die for it. ” krodha” or anger is the second level of mental disturbance.

Thus all the mental disorders seem to emerge from the influence of desires. When a person fuses with his desires, prejudices, anger or misery, he becomes an automaton, a robot!

Satvavjaya Chikitsa is mainly about freeing people from their own mental traps and helping them to accept the truth as it is. And this can happen when you tame the mind – the most powerful resource we have.

Satvavjay: Time for Revival

Unfortunately, most of the ancient texts are lost.

But, I observed that essential Satvavjay chikitsa was never completely lost. It was always present deeply ingrained in all ancient cultures, in the form of religious practices. And we can find bits of Satvavjay chikitsa in every culture and civilization.

Today, there is more need of Satvavjay chikitsa than before. I very sincerely believe that all wisdom dwells in the cosmos and we can receive it if we align ourselves with the supreme energy (brahma). So, let us meditate on this science and revive it with the power of a million hearts put together!

Satvavjay Series

In this blog series, let’s explore together different dimensions of Satvavjay and how we can effectively implement it in our lives.

Interestingly, Satvavjay chikitsa includes a number of treatment methods. I don’t know about details because very less is mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic text available today. Most of the Ayurvedic text in BAMS focuses on yuktivyapashraya or body based treatment through medicines etc. However, there are small excerpts mentioning the importance and role of Satvavjay.

So, in 2018 I opted for a PG Diploma in Modern Psychotherapy to understand and find some links to this ancient healing wisdom. And it was a great decision because my course started with Freud and ended with mindfulness meditation.

Since then, I have practiced mindfulness in almost all my patients and have always seen a great result. My Ayurveda practice in the past few years have completely convinced that there can be no physical diseases without something wrong with the mind.

However, mindfulness is only one of many types of treatments. Here is a list of the treatment types that I found in Charak samhita and other classical texts. I will elaborate on all of these in future blogs, according to my understanding-

  1. Ashwasana (Counseling)
  2. Kala (Arts Therapy – Music, Painting etc.)
  3. Atma Vigyana (Mindfulness)
  4. Mano nigraha (Stability of mind through meditation)

All the essentials of manonigraha are amply covered in the great spiritual texts of Ashtang yoga.


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