The Issue of Prakriti in Ayurveda

Many Ayurvedic practitioners and the lay public have often been confused over their so-called Prakriti or biological natural constitution as per Ayurveda. There are many books and quizzes, and many people fill these out, but often feel they are something else. Others have a preconceived idea.

First of all, we must understand that we must not seek to fall into the trap of stereo-phenotyping as a result of our own opinions and preconceptions of ourselves, or the predominating factors of the mind (manas), such as anxiety, anger or calmness representing the three humours of vata, pitta and kapha respectively. There are numerous factors involved here, which are sometimes beyond the scope of even sparshana (palpation), darshana (physical inspection) and prashna (questioning) of the patient, such as what lies within their astrological chart as factors (as karmic and supernatural or adhyatmika factors). One may be a kapha person, but has anger and irritability issues that causes pitta to become excessive as a life-long mental trait (not simply transiently), as a result of say, a Sun, Ketu or mars aspect upon the Ascendant, Ascendant Lord or especially the Moon, which causes heat in the head and psyche and Martian-type mental traits that can cause abnormal physical issues, but not necessarily always relative to the bodily constitution overall. Rahu-Moon, Ketu-Moon etc. can cause vata-type (and also VP, P) psychological derangements and sensitivities as well in any type as life-long psychic factors, again not as per vikriti or disease and transient factors.

Everyone has mixed factors or elemental combinations, and many quizzes today, even lengthy ones often serve to confuse people more, due to temporal factors. As noted, we have preconceptions about ourselves and it is best that a friend, close family member, partner etc. fill out forms for us relative to certain qualities to give us a better opinion. Children for example will have variable ideas about themselves, which parents can fill the blanks in with – what may be temporal factors of vitiation (vikriti) against one’s natural constitution or predominating traits life-long (prakriti).

Here, factors such as one’s predominating and stable (life-long common factors) of jatharagni (digestive strength) or metabolism and characteristics, one’s build at youth to adulthood  (constants) or how one has maintained it (relative to exercise etc. and having difficulty or rapid fluctuations in weight, weight being moderate or having issues keeping slim) as also size and structure of arms, legs, muscles, face in addition provide us with keys as to the constitution, as well as factors as pulse, tongue and most of all, disease tendencies and food intolerance (these changes as per age, sex of the person and also location, however, which provide additional variables to be considered outside the examination of body, but included in them as well for differential diagnosis).

There are also weak, moderate and strong forms of each type. A strong vata person may exhibit great strength and heath, adaptability and a strong digestion, with some issues with lighter foods and issues only in some climates, but be harder to tell. Women after menopause and entering into vata age can often start putting on weight or losing it suddenly due to hormonal changes or even emotional-eating, as females being lunar, are more emotional. Yet, there can still be other factors, as noted. One may be physically a vata person of thin build, but suffer from phlegmatic issues as well and doesn’t exhibit other kapha disorders or features in their prakriti. Such can be due to an excess of dairy and sugars and a hypersensitivity as a result of so-called “unknown” (physical) factors seen in the karmic-Prakriti of the person as in astrology as noted previously. As an example, the Moon in Taurus (exalted) or in it’s own sign, especially in the 5th house can cause congestive issues for some types, or say Jupiter is in Pisces in the Ascendant (his own sign) along with the Moon in it’s own sign (Cancer) in the 5th house, can cause congestive issues; Moon in Pisces can cause a hyper-emotional person of any type and so on. We may have congenital disorders (vikriti) opposite that of our constitution also, as seen in the charts. One living in tropical southern India, prone to stomatitis and bloodshot eyes, especially in pitta age (16 – 60) may have these pitta characteristics, but simply as a result of local dietary and climatic factors as excessive intake of curry leaves  and chilies, combined to the heat that might otherwise disappear elsewhere, or if one gave up spicy foods in a hot climate! Vata types have dry skin, but also thin skin that also burns easier when weather is excessively hot and dry (as in the Mojave desert and high-altitude regions) and peels quickly owing to this lighter, more sensitive layer. Thus, our constitutions shouldn’t be based on superficialised stereotyping and don’t always display their natural selves if we have been exposed adverse external and dietary factors – which for anyone, would cause issues (as also the seasons!). Likewise, not all redheads are Pitta-types (they may have yellowish teeth, fairer skin as a racial type, but not be pitta in prakriti – many sensitive vata traits as hypersensitivity to pain, erratic anger and other hypsersensitivities) as not all think and darker types are vata types, either and not all larger-framed taller types (as blonde, well-built Teutons) are kapha! Racial variations exist here, and other factors, which can be due to genetic mutations, climate and geographical changes over thousands of years or acclimatization. Some races are also naturally more aggressive than others, due to historical concerns (high meat and alcohol intake, war etc.) and thus as a people, be predisposed to such mental or other traits that cannot be neatly placed into the stereotyping models of prakriti.

Hence, there are many factors to consider here, but also not getting too caught up in the stereotypes is the main key and especially not mental  (psychic) typologies. Pitta types will have a natural disposition towards anger, aggression and drive, but they can also have other emotions as well that may predominate as per their karma. Caste-wise, people of a business or kshatriya (militant) background of any constitution will have more rajas or drive and tejas (heat) than most people that can result in quick tempers and excessive drive – what is more a social trait (social rajas + tejas) as a result of upbringing over constitutional also, and must be discerned apart from the Prakriti as well. Sometimes these, as noted can affect the body, but is not always one’s natural PrakritiRoga (disease) and arogya (health) are the real two main states of a person in Ayurveda – other factors simply reveal which predisposition (or combination thereof) one will be more likely to suffer from as is the normal nature (prakriti) for them.

Traditional Ayurveda considers three prakritis or natures in its examination: dehika-prakriti (nature or predominating factors of the body as per vata, pitta, kapha and their combinations), manasika-prakriti (nature or predominating factors of the psyche as per sixteen base personality types) and karmika prakriti (nature or predominating factors of the karma-purusha of the individual or karmic aspects that form the current psyche and also can bring out deviations from these states or vikriti, either congenital in the modern-day [and subtle causative factors behind congenital disorders and features] or otherwise; the subtle factors behind a person’s entire complex).

We should hence be careful doing “mind-body” type quizzes, such as become almost the norm with online quizzes, those in books etc. and relying on these alone. The psyche itself should be and always is assessed separately and as noted, other factors are also at play and various psychological vikritis or deviations from the natural state, as also genetic factors, such as say krodha may be at play as well. Take a premature or weak child for example, that will almost always naturally be, as a result of this, of vata-predisposition (dehika-prakriti) as a result of mother’s actions etc. and at time of conception (any foods, actions or deviating behaviour of mother can vitiate vata and cause such), as well as from parent’s side (say both parents are both vata-pitta or vata-kapha etc.) – if say here the father was vata-pitta and he had more of a rajasic temperament and much krodha or anger and aggression, as also a military person, the child, even with such a vata frame, will be predisposed to krodha due to (a) his vata pushing it, (b) social upbringing and physical manasikahara (mental impressions) in the home and also (c) congenital factors, apart from factors as age, sex, climate and foods that play a role here in the vikriti that shouldn’t be confused with it (alcoholic families and those consuming more spicy foods will be psychologically more aggressive, even if bodily features don’t display obvious pitta features). Here, the karmic prakriti can help shine light on where these factors arise from – genetic, socially etc. and through which parent and in what times of his life they will be most apparent.

These are mere examples of course and numerous factors have to be taken into consideration beyond the mere easy “dosha quiz” and stereotyping alone. Self-assessment can also be dangerous as one can easily have preconceptions about themselves, especially in this superficial age of “boxes” and cultural stereotyping. Practitioners themselves develop various levels of sensitivity and insight relative to assessment due to seeing thousands of patients and examining people, not simply filling out a few forms without considering all the variable factors! This is also much the same as in assessing diseases and differential diagnosis in Ayurveda and any medical system, which is done by trained professionals alone, not Joe Public, after he’s googled his symptoms alone and concludes his own diagnosis!

Once again, it is different to watch a video of, or use a flight simulator and quite another to try and fly and land a Boeing 777 commercial airliner – actually operate it and also know the safety procedures and protocols as also emergency protocols and put them into place in practice when required, over a little theory alone, without even knowing what the buttons actually do and saying “it doesn’t matter, as I know the basics”! Yet, this is what people are now doing with Ayurveda, thanks to the notion of it as a”Self-healing” system!

Note my article here that deals with the scope of Ayurvedic Pariksha and Nidana or examination and pathology.

There are also other variables beyond the Seven-Prakriti model as noted in my article here on the Trayodashi Types that I have constructed as per the classics and employ. Hopefully, this gives people a bit more understanding as per their Prakriti and variables.

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