Why do we get sick? What does Ayurveda have to say about the Cause of Disease?

As part of the 3rd Annual Sivananda Ayurveda Conference, Dr. Marisa Jackson-Kinman taught a program explaining this extraordinarily important and empowering topic: The Causes of Disease. Interestingly, Ayurveda has understood the Cause of Disease for thousands of years. In fact, one of the things that makes Ayurveda so powerful and effective is that it doesn’t just put a “bandaid” on illness, but addresses the root cause. 

So what is the Cause of Disease according to Ayurveda? Well, Ayurveda teaches that there are three Fundamental Causes of Disease and one “Primordial” Cause.

The three Fundamental Causes include, first, Misuse of the Senses. This involves taking in improper impressions and substances through the 5 senses (junk food, junk sight, junk sounds, junk touch, junk smell). How can you be healthy if you’re taking in junk? Consider your own life – are you taking in that which will bring you health or disharmony?

The second Cause of Disease is the Failure of the Intellect. How many of us know that we’ll be healthier if we eat organic food, go to bed early, get up early and meditate? And yet how many of us actually do these things on a regular basis? The voice of the ego often shouts loudly to go for that which is more “fun,” while the soul gently whispers what is healthy for us. Which one wins? Not doing the things that support optimal health opens the door for disease and disharmony.

The third Cause of Disease is based on Time and Motion. We all know that as the years we go, we age and decay. We have no control over the passage of linear time, which is based on the movement of the Earth as it rotates on its axis and encircles the sun. And yet Ayurveda teaches that there are two kinds of time; linear time, which is static, and biological time, which is dynamic. Both are based on movement; linear time is the time we are most familiar with. But we do have control over biological time, because it is also based on movement – the movement of thoughts within the mind. By slowing down the mind, becoming still and remaining in present moment awareness, time stops – and the aging process slows. 

And behind all of this is the “Primordial” Cause of Disease: FORGETTING OUR TRUE NATURE AS SPIRIT. Forgetting our True Nature as Spirit is actually where all the trouble begins, because when we forget that we are spiritual beings having human experience (not the other way around!), we get caught up in the dramas of life. This causes the mind to move and our intellect to fail. We then misuse our senses, which disturbs the doshas of the body – causing disease and disharmony. 

We can take conscious control of this by slowing down, meditating, doing yoga, and cultivating present moment awareness. Doing so unwinds the disease process and leads to perfect health. Ultimately, Ayurveda teaches that the path to perfect health parallels the path to enlightenment!

By Dr. Marisa Jackson-Kinman, C.A.S., P.K.S., A.Y.T., Faculty at the California College of Ayurveda