Sadvrtta: Keeping the Mind Aligned and Still

In case you have not realized, a world war waged by the use of digital technology has begun. A few years ago digital power became more forceful than guns, manipulating minds, elections, financial structures, criminal records. The war is waged on the battlefield of economic power and land control, which will ultimately end in clean food, air, energy, and water.

We are quickly approaching a time when depending on recorded documents will be more inaccurate than recorded books, digital documents, and online libraries. Within a decade, Wikipedia has been usurped by young white supremacists who are hired by the power bases to hold information hostage and demand readers to read only what they allow. Banks gather information and use it to cleverly demand us to make decisions. Social media sites take our preferences and clicks and use us the way we use rats in cages to study their minds and manipulate their surroundings.

In turbulent times, we cannot rely on external influences such as society and governmental guidelines, because the public servants are people too, and everyone moves into survival mode, including the professionals who were supposed to uphold the society’s values.

What is a person to use as a guideline then for values in these times?

Ayurveda has seen generations of pre-war, war, and post-war atmosphere. It knows the human cycle for the past 10,000 years. Ayurveda simply advises building up the brain’s capacity so that external data – which become unreliable in times of war – are minimized.  It advises each individual to become a spiritual warrior, cultivating self-control and self-corrective actions based on principles aligned with conscience known in Ayurveda as sadvrtta.

The Sanskrit term sad or sat means truthful, pure or good, depending on context. The Sanskrit term vrtta refers to a systematic collection of information translated into behavior. Sadvrtta involves a personal discussion about good conduct and why we choose to behave the way we do.

When we live by the principles of honesty, our inner power of sadvritti develops. Sadvritti is personal, social and physical alignment in harmony with our inner calling. We should be honest but reserved as we work and live in society harmoniously while facing the complete, unshielded truth when we are alone with our silent selves.  How do we know what honesty is? We must look deep in our heart, beyond the things we fear. Honesty sits there waiting for us to arrive.

The behaviors that help us survive are taught in every book of wisdom:  generosity, serving others while taking care of self, compassion, letting go, music, family, clean food, simpler living, and self-care.

Ayurveda describes three sets of specific guidelines for behavior in society: 1) those for improving physical and mental health, 2) those for proper function in society, and 3) those rightful actions that will align us to achieve moksha, or ultimate liberation of the soul. Like sadvrtta, Ayurvedic principles are grounded in the philosophy of harmony with the universe and cosmos, and are thus often misinterpreted as religion. Dharma is not religion; it is a worldview preference, just as preference for organic food, or a particular sport, or music creates a specific way of looking at the world.

Sankhya philosophy espouses that the sense organs, organs of action and body develop from the mind, which creates and controls the body. Hence, the body is ultimately balanced only through the mind. Mere physical treatments are not enough. We must be aware of the mind’s three gunas or great qualities, called mahagunas. These are sattva, rajas, and tamas.

Sattva describes balance and harmony, while rajas and tamas create imbalance. Rajas increases agitation and dynamism, and tamas increases dullness, heaviness and ignorance. Desire, anger, greed, pride, addiction, fear, worry, jealousy and negative mental urges are due to rajas and tamas, which also aggravate vāta, pitta and kapha, causing physical disease. Sadvrtta increases sattva, which restores health, happiness and peace, preventing mental and physical diseases.

The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati  Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.

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