The term Āyurveda spans far and wide when used in the context of education. Globally, Āyurvedic education ranges from abbreviated portions of natural health information to long-term, professional programs designed to train legally qualified practitioners.
Āyurvedic education in India
Current professional Āyurvedic Medical education in India is legally regulated by CCIM, the Central Council of Indian Medicine. This top-level regulatory body along with the Ministry of AYUSH (Āyurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) sets the educational requirements for all licensed medical professions throughout India. These country- wide regulations are then adopted state by state and implemented in publicly and privately accredited universities and colleges throughout the country.
When India gained Independence in 1947, “English medicine,” Allopathy or Western medicine, was held as the gold standard for current and future medical practice and as a key indicator of the country’s development.
Over the course of British occupation, Āyurveda was reduced to a second-class citizens’ health care system in virtually every respect. In education, this sentiment continues to strongly influence the syllabus for standard professional training. With the hope of making Āyurveda more respectable and trustworthy, the syllabus for professional education models Western medicine in duration, structure and content
Classical Āyurvedic concepts are organized within the framework of Western Medicine. Where discrepancies occur, new “coined terms” are invented in Sanskrit to help Āyurveda fill in gaps as perceived from a Western perspective.
Āyurvedic medical students are expected to be competent in Āyurveda and Western medicine. From a practical standpoint, this works very well in India for those who remain within their scope of Āyurvedic practice.
The pathway for Āyurvedic medical education in India consists of three recognized degrees at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level, all of which allow successful graduates to become licensed in their state and nationally through CCIM. When students complete the level of BAMS, they are legally recognized as a qualified Vaidya in India.
While the BAMS level is named as a Bachelor’s degree, its study and practice requirements far exceed a normal Bachelor’s of Arts or Science in a standard four-year collegiate education. The naming of the BAMS degree is likely a misnomer. It is actually a First Professional degree, corresponding to a Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), etc.
The BAMS degree takes a minimum of 5.5 years to complete. It consists of 3,500 hours of theoretical instruction plus 2,000 hours of supervised, clinical internship. This is the equivalent of 300 semester credit hours within the US higher educational system. It is currently the most advanced professional Āyurvedic training available globally.
Graduates of Āyurvedic medicine in India are likely the best prepared to practice Integrative Medicine because of the heavy emphasis on Western Medicine.
Āyurvedic education outside India
The export of Āyurveda from India in the form that is popular today began in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It has produced a variety of offshoots over the past few decades, many of which are strongly lineage-based. With education, supply in the West has risen to meet demand and the perceived notion of the science.
From approximately 1980 through the early decades of 2000, those who found Āyurveda valuable were often in need of practical and effective personal healing solutions. Often, solutions from Western medicine did not provide relief.
This resulted in the disproportionate rise of self-help style education aimed towards a disenfranchised group of people which, ultimately, obscured the bigger picture of Āyurveda’s full capacity.
Popular educational programs can directly influence professional educational standards by setting incorrect expectations and promoting a false image of Āyurveda.
The current, popular perception of Āyurveda includes a heavy emphasis on self-healing and spirituality which puts a major limitation on the actual practice of the full science.
There is a serious gap in professional understanding and application of the science outside of India. Many of the professional educational programs in the United States today fall into one of the three categories as recommended by the National Āyurvedic Medical Association (NAMA). These include the Āyurvedic Health Counselor, the Āyurvedic Practitioner and the recently added Āyurvedic Doctor. However, the curricula and syllabi for these courses compared to the classical texts and BAMS make it evident that many important topics are missing and/or misrepresented.
The development of this provisional approach came largely out of the hope to avoid or minimize some of the challenges in teaching authentic, classical Āyurveda. The primary obstacle is the use of Sanskrit, but without it much of the value and knowledge of the entire science becomes unavailable. The concepts and presentation of Āyurvedic Medicine are also distinctly different from the Western train of thought, thus requiring their own appropriately designed framework and presentation.
ĀYU Academy’s take
With a clear understanding of the challenges Āyurvedic education faces both inside and outside India, at ĀYU Academy we have developed a curriculum that is rooted in the classical science. We respect its principles, framework and nomenclature and simultaneously present knowledge in a clear, organized way. This allows students -Indian and non-Indian- to access and learn the real science in the most straight-forward, unadulterated manner, and providing tools to maintain the discipline required to properly learn a complex health care system.
The teaching of Āyurvedic medical Sanskrit and the implementation of experience-based learning principles that allow for a deeper, more integrated level of understanding of the science are at the core of ĀYU Academy’s educational approach.
We are also reinstituting fundamental educational methods that have been core principles in traditional Āyurvedic medical education.
Most notably, we regularly include oral testing as part of the evaluation process of students. Classically, Āyurveda was taught and learned through memorization and recitation of entire texts (saṃhitās). The goal was that the
student could recall large portions of information quickly and accurately “directly from the source” which would guarantee the correct application of the science.
Oral evaluation of students allows for the testing of factual recall combined with critical thinking of applied knowledge. These skills serve the student for effective and efficient delivery of health care through application of knowledge, technical skills, analytical and communication skills. Given the circumstances of Āyurveda outside India today, it is of utmost importance for future professionals to be able to properly explain and represent the science in all streams of practice. Graduates of ĀYU Academy are best prepared to do this with a solid foundation in classical Āyurveda and a forward-thinking approach to practice.
ĀYU Academy aims to establish higher levels of standards regarding professional education and practice of Āyurveda based in the classical Āyurvedic medical compendia and applied to current time, place, and people. We believe that with proper guidance, students and future professionals of Āyurveda can get a grasp of the roots of the science and learn them appropriately in order to practice more ethically and competently.