Ayurveda Day 11: The Elephant in the Room

In today’s class we delved deeper into the many philosophies of India.

I have never taken a philosophy class but have spent most of my life reading on various types, from theistic ones to non theistic ones. I found parallels between all of them, and at its most basic fundamental level, they all seemed to say the same thing. I often wondered, which one is the right one? The real one?

The obvious answer may be that none are right. But the truth is they are all correct.

It is important to note there are many different schools of thought in the world when it comes to answer the deep questions of our existence. What Ayurveda teaches is that there is no one size fits all formula that will stop someone’s suffering, be it physical, mental, or spiritual. Indeed, as an Ayurvedic Practitioner, one must meet the person where they are at, helping them with treatments that will work for them specifically, and deliver it to them in a way that will resonate with them. It truly becomes irrelevant what I believe when I am putting the health of my patients first. What’s important is helping them to break unhealthy patterns, plant new seeds that are in harmony with a healthy life, and give them the tools they need to maintain and cultivate those thoughts, deeds, and actions. If I am too attached to my own beliefs, I will truly fail them as a healer.

From an ayurvedic perspective, there are some practical causes of disease, but there is also one higher cause, which can be summed up as forgetting one’s true nature as spirit. Another way of putting that could be forgetting that we are all just living an illusion of separateness, and the truth is we are connected to each other in wholeness. Whether you are an atheist or a theist, if you are on a path of personal discovery and reflection, you may find this resonates with you. Some might say we are all one with the universe. Others may say we are one with god. Others might say we were all at one point part of a singularity and our separateness came only after the universe expanded (the big bang).

It’s a transcendent thought that tends to remove our ego and make us feel humble and little, yet at the same time connected to all of existence. We are all made of starstuff, as the late Carl Sagan said and whom I quote repeatedly.

You don’t require any faith or non faith in order to see this truth. It’s purely a matter of perspective. From one perspective you could say you are a you. From another, you could say you are a person. From another still, you could say you are an animal. From another still you could say you are molecules. Still further you could say you are mostly energy and empty space. And when we break things down to their most fundamental properties, we find we are all made up of the same stuff, be it the light that emits from a star, the star itself, or the people that exist on the planet that orbit it. Everything is made up of everything. We just continually forget this and convince ourselves we are right.

There is a story that explains this best:

There were 4 blind men beside an elephant. None had ever seen one before. In order to understand what an elephant is, they used their sense of touch.
One man touched the leg and said “I know what an elephant is, it is sturdy and round, wrinkly and strong!”.
The one who was touching the ears said “No, it is floppy and flexible with ridges!”
The one who was touching the tusk said “You’re both wrong, it’s hard as a rock and smooth as marble!”
The one who was touching the trunk said “You’re all wrong, it’s like a garden hose…and slimy on the inside!”

The truth is, none of them were wrong. They were all right, from a certain point of view. But in the end, no matter where they start to interpret what that elephant is, they will eventually journey further and discover there’s more to the elephant than the sliver they experienced. We all think our separateness makes us special in some way and that we are right in what we believe, but it is all just an illusion, albeit a necessary illusion.

As a practitioner, it is important I am knowledgeable in a multitude of philosophies, because as much as it is my job to help a person with their physical and mental suffering, those that want to go deeper will need spiritual guidance as well. The side effect of wanting to lead a healthier life will inevitably be that one will want to reflect more and seek truth. As I quoted my professor in yesterday’s post, there are many rivers that we can take, but they all lead to the same ocean.

With gratitude,



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