Tantra Yuktis – Methods of Āyurvedic Thought

Tantra Yuktis

In the workshop on Sunday I referenced the Tantra Yuktis of Āyurveda. Tantra means scientific system on a particular topic. Yutki is the process of thinking that comes from experience related to textual knowledge. Yutki also shares the root with the word Yojana (like Yoga). To apply Yojana to something, we apply organized thought to a subject – in this case, the Tantra of Āyurveda. 

Tantra Yukti also implies the proper method of organizing the Tantra. Doing so is said to protect the body of the person reading or practicing, because improper use can cause harm to many, including the reader. The Āyurvedic texts say that misuse of the Tantra is like a weapon.


Why Do We Need Them?

The Vedic schools have always been interested in not just teaching the lessons of their Tantra, but – and often first – they also teach us how to think. This is important because the Vedas also recognize that the mind has such a strong capacity for misunderstanding that it then corrupts the material shared.

Material that is sattvic the in practice becomes rajasic and/or tamasic.

The Yoga Sūtras do this when Patañjali describes correct and incorrect knowledge in the first chapter. The Āyurvedic texts discuss the Tantra Yuktis.

The reason this is important is that when any concise text that is self-referential (meaning that the knowledge of each chapter is built upon the information shared previously) any time that material is taken and used out of context or for another unrelated purpose, it is no longer correct knowledge and thus will not provide proper results.

As we have seen this year, it is very tempting to isolate information from its source, but it leads to confusion and improper presentation of the information. Beyond the confusion, improper comprehension of the information leads to misuse which can cause unintended harm to the user.


What Are They?

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The Tantra Yutkis live in the Caraka Saṃhitā as well as the Suśruta Saṃhitā. They differ in number, the Caraka having 36 and Suśruta having 32, but the ideas are the same. You can find them in Caraka Sūtrasthāna Chapter 12.41-50 and Suśruta Uttarasthāna 65.

Because the texts are written in a concise manner and often in poetic meter, to avoid redundancies and to allow for easeful memorization, the authors have included these modes of thinking to remind readers how to engage with the ślokas as they become briefer and briefer.

Here are a few : 

  • Pradeśa : Often the Āyurvedic texts make lists. Sometimes the lists are long, sometimes the lists are short. In general, it is understood that the lists are not exhaustive. What to do? By utilizing the Tantra Yutki of Pradeśa, one can understand the shared traits of the things on this list and extrapolate what else might fit there. This is very useful as these Tantras were recorded over 5000 years ago. Thus, some of the examples may need to be adapted due to modern experiences or because many of us are practicing Āyurveda outside of India, some of the herbs may not be available.  
    • For example, if a formula calls for an herb like uśira, which is cold, bitter, and absorbs liquid, but we do not have it at our house in the moment we need it, we can think of other herbs or herb combinations that have similar properties, like mint or rose, and utilize them instead.
  • Padārtha : Context implies meaning. There are many ways a words can be used in Āyurveda – but also across the Vedas. To understand the implication, we have to understand where it sits. It is not proper to prescribe the process of Yoga to Āyurveda for example and visa verse because their Arthas – their goals – are not the same. This is also a challenge when we conflate Chinese Medicine with Āyurveda or Yoga or Western Anatomical Science with Yoga or Āyurveda. Because their Arthas are not the same, mixing them, even though they share similarities, leads to confusion, simplification which doesn’t allow any of the systems to shine.
    • For example, in Āyurveda the word Rasa means taste. It also means lymphatic-type tissue. Ahara Rasa implies food that is in the process of being broken down and turned into Rasa. In Yoga, Rasa means the play of Kṛṣṇa and also implies an energetic mood. To know which version of Rasa is being described, we need to understand in which system it lives and where in the text it is being described. Context matters.
  • Atideśa : Indication of how it can be applied elsewhere. When a solution is offered in a particular chapter of the Āyurvedic Saṃhitās, it is helpful to notice where it sits (which chapter) and what it supports (which conditions, which doṣas and which guṇas of those doṣas). We practiced this in the workshop Sunday actually. When we look at the Karma Vidhana (the tastes and qualitities – Rasa and Guṇa – of a substance) we can understand the Phala Śruti (how it will affect the body/create action).
    • For example, Clove (Lavaṅga) is listed as being useful to support Breast Milk. It is also listed as supporting the flow of Vāta. Breastmilk is a by-product of Rasa Dhātu. So, we can understand that Clove then also supports the health of Rasa Dhātu and ensures that it flows properly the way it does for Breast Milk. This is the process of applying Atideśa to Clove. This is how we are to be thinking as practitioners and just people who are trying to live Āyurvedically!
  • Apavarga : This means an exception. Like we discussed Sunday, life is full of exceptions. It is important to remember the basics, but also know that the world we live in is dynamic. For example, it is contraindicated to take fruit with food, but some fruits like raisins, pomegranates, and even apples can be cooked with foods!

Learning is essential, but learning properly is tricky because our minds like to attach to things, and sometimes these attachments prevent knowledge from entering correctly!

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