Rāgā Cikitsa: Desire as Cause and Cure of Disease

Rāgā Cikitsa: Desire as Cause and Cure of Disease

रागादिरोगान् सततानुषक्तानशेषकायप्रसृतानशेषान्

औत्सुक्यमोहारतिदान् जघान योऽपूर्ववैद्याय नमोस्तुतस्मैः Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdayam:I:1 

rāgādi-rogān satatānuṣaktān-aśeṣa-kāya-prasṛtān-aśeṣān autsukya-mohāratidān jaghāna yo’pūrva-vaidyāya namo’stu-tasmai //1//


Obeisance be unto that unique and rare (incomparable) physician [that’d be God] who has completely eliminated limitless diseases that are closely associated with and spreading all over the body and mind, perpetually causing anxiety, confusion and restlessness. These diseases include attachment (and aversion) and their various transformations which are an integral aspect of all living beings.


It is taught that the first line of a classical text contextualizes the rest of what is in the book and the first word of the first line holds a particularly important position.


The above verse is the opening verse of Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdayam, one of the, “three great” (bṛhat trayī) ancient, foundational texts of Ayurveda. The first word of the verse is rāgādi, which is translated here as, “attachment, etc.”  Rāgā –attachment–could also also be translated as, “desire.” or, “passion” and many other words. In this context, it means that desire– or attachment– is a root cause of disease.


This is the same rāgā that the Bhagavad Gītā teaches we must be free from, should we wish to attain the grace of God. (BG: II:64)


From these authoritative texts, we understand rāgā to be a main cause of disease, as well as an obstruction to union with the Divine.


So far, pretty consistent. If we left the matter here, we would understand it is pretty…bad.


But what about when we consider rāgā in the context of music? Here rāgā means, “melody” or, “musical note”. You may have heard Indian rāgās—those rich and transportive compositions played on sitars, santoors, flutes and many other instruments, including the voice.  


What do those have to do with desire? Could we say they cause disease? If we listen to them, does that keep us distant from Grace?


Or can rāgā be instrumental in curing disease? Can it serve as cikitsa (treatment)?

Is there detrimental desire and also desire that leads us closer to mental, emotional, physical or spiritual health?

These are questions we plan to explore in one of Satsangam’s  Vedic Threads membership course sessions in February 2023. With us to explore this, we are fortunate to welcome Dr. Shubham Kulkarni, BAMS MD, an Ayurvedic doctor, trained Indian classical singer, and music therapy practitioner who treats disease with rāgā. Rāgā cikitsa.


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