Ayurveda is a healthcare system often referred to as a ‘complementary alternative medicine’, when in fact it is a traditional medicine system, established long before we got our version of modern medicine today.
Permaculture is a design system for food production also often referred to as an ‘alternative way of agriculture’, when in fact it is based on nature’s own system which was in existence long before our version of mono-agriculture was established.
So both systems could also be coined ‘original’ rather than ‘alternative’. However, they will stay alternative until more people learn and embrace them a bit more and use their benefits mainstream.
Ayurveda contains two Sanskrit words, i.e. AYUR and VEDA. The word AYUR means life and VEDA is the science of it. Vedas are ancient texts dealing with everything humanity wants to know from physics to medicine. The ‘science of life’ explains how to live and stay healthy, how to flourish, and the cause of disease and treatment. There are Ayurveda hospitals & Ayurveda practitioners everywhere in the world. They are helping with issues of pro-active health and wellbeing, lifestyle-coaching, and chronic diseases. The practice of Ayurveda relies on a natural environment, clean air and water, and unpolluted food, including herbs and plants to promote longevity, health and wellbeing in the individual.
Permaculture contains two English words, i.e. PERMA and CULTURE. The word PERMA means duration and CULTURE is the sum of ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. The Australian Bill Mollison, who observed the laws of nature to compare them to agriculture, coined the term permaculture. It means the conscious design of food production systems, supporting and utilising nature, and reaping the benefit of sustainability and permanence. There are permaculture farms, projects and practitioners globally, helping with issues of farm design, greening the desert, global warming, and organic home garden food production. The practice of permaculture relies on conscious creativity, designed in line with natural laws, and an acute understanding that unless we change agriculture, then health and wellbeing in the environment, and in us, is destined to collapse.
What do both systems have in common?
1. Seeking to maintain homeostasis, i.e. natural balance
Nature has the ability to adjust and rebalance in response to external stressors, albeit within reason. There is a point where this is no longer possible. This represents a tipping point where a degeneration process cannot be halted and requires healing, and interference. Ayurveda uses the three-humor-theory to explain this process where the elements Air/Space form the Vata dosha, the element Fire the Pitta dosha and the elements Earth/Water the Kapha dosha. (Note: these are functional, physical and metaphorical elements.) These three humors must be balanced for nature to manage the self-adjustment process. If one or the other is accumulating, gaining dominance and/or deranged, the disease process starts to kick into motion.
This understanding is true for any self-adjusting eco system on earth, outside the body as well as inside the body. Permaculture helps the environment back into homeostasis, whilst Ayurveda helps the living body back into homeostasis.
Both use ‘growing processes’ as Ayurveda will only accept substances to be used within its philosophy of health and wellbeing which grew in the natural environment, and ideally in the local proximity. So vitamin pills made in chemical factories in China are totally off the Ayurveda menu. And permaculture facilitates the growing process with natural methods, which are often referred to as organic or biodynamic processes (but I won’t go into these terms in details, as this will make another essay entirely). The point is, permaculture, likewise Ayurveda, only uses substances, which are grown to promote growth in return, and are ideally locally produced, certainly not artificially made in chemical factories.
So, in summary, Ayurveda and Permaculture look to achieve homeostasis, which is a bandwidth of a state allowing for nature to balance itself out. They do this by promoting and using naturally grown substances and the laws of nature. When a body (human or environmental) has left this bandwidth of homeostasis, conscious designed interference in line with the laws of nature is required, also referred to as healing.
2. An alternative option to the current mainstream problems
Current mainstream philosophy guiding agriculture and medicine is to ignore the natural laws and switch/kill these off, rather than make a virtue out of their existence. The long-term flaw with this approach is that humans, as biological entities, depend on a complex, biologically functional system, both on the inside and on the outside. The destruction of the environment, soil degradation, desertification, mono-culture, food degradation, food gamma irradiation, pollution, changes to our natural habitat, mind control technology, television, marketing, advertising, concrete jungles, automatization, commuting, building sickness syndrome, lifestyle epidemic diseases and lifestyle changes, just to name a few, have an unstoppable, detrimental effect on human health and environmental health, now reaching crisis point.
Ayurveda and Permaculture are viable alternative options to a mainstream culture, which has gone down the dysfunctional and life-threatening path. In the words of Bill Mollison: ‘We don’t practice agriculture to produce food, we practice it to produce money’. The same can be said for healthcare: We don’t practice medicine to create health; we practice it to create money.
3. Conscious thought processes applied
When we work with nature, we need to be able to use our sharp sensory organs for observation and undergo training in the ‘zen simplicity of analysis’. One modern problem is that our sensory organs have been over-stimulated, dulled down, and our adrenals are fatigued, so natural laws can pass us by unnoticed. It is evident that the conscious thought process of working with the laws of nature is not a natural state for human beings anymore.
There are three points of designed interference, which are:
• Maintaining a healthy system, which is perfectly capable of self-adjusting.
• Continuously promoting a healthy system for greater levels of health, wellbeing and vibrancy.
• Creating healing in a diseased system, which can no longer self-adjust.
For example, a practitioner may observe excess dryness in a body, human or environment. We have learned that dryness is caused by the elements of wind and space. In the environment, this could mean that a previous healthy, vibrant and lush landscape has turned into a desert due to mono-culture lifestyle choices by humans. This landscape is unable to recover on its own, it is infertile, empty, salty, and bleak – unable to function in the ecology.
In a human body, this excess dryness is called excess Vata and can lead to premature aging, anxiety, stress, constipation, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, heart disease and cause a knock-on effect for many other diseases until the person is unable to function. A practitioner will then revise a strategy using entirely natural means to bring the elements of earth and water into this system as a first line of action. Later on, the practitioner will make other observations and integrate these in order to achieve homeostasis of a living body.
Many great case studies exist for both Ayurveda and Permaculture. Case Studies are still a little bit too modern in the Science of Medicine and Agriculture, which are dominated by the Randomized Control Trial methodology of statistical, mathematical evidence, popularized around 2000 AD. In the words of Bill Mollison: ‘Scientist learn from closed systems, they make exclusions. As a result, science knows nothing about the natural world, which is an open system. In particular, they can’t measure it, it is immeasurable and it is in the process of constant change. In all of science there is nothing about the natural world.’