Ayurvedic Perspective on Insanity: Through the Lens of Bipolar - Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Perspective on Insanity: Through the Lens of Bipolar

By on June 23, 2016
Bipolar Disorder

Ayurvedic Perspective on Insanity: Through the Lens of Bipolar

“In the modern developed world, our problems are mainly psychological. We have Ayurveda on the other hand, teaches harmony with Nature, simplicity and contentment as keys to well-being. It shows how to live in a state of balance in which fulfillment is a matter of being, not becoming. It connects us with the wellsprings of creativity and happiness within our own consciousness, so that we can permanently overcome our psychological problem. Ayurveda provides a real solution to our health problems, which is to return to oneness with both the universe and the Divine within.”

Ayurvedic Perspective of the Bipolar


In the words of Dr. David Frawley,

“Ayurveda views the body as a crystallization of deep-seated mental tendencies carried over from previous lives. It regards the mind as the reflection of the body and the storehouse of the impressions we access through the senses. It recognizes our true Self and immortal nature beyond the mind-body complex, in which we can transcend all physical and mental difficulties. Ayurveda comprehends body, mind, and spirit in a single view and has specific methods for working on each.

Ayurveda does not look upon the human being as a limited set of biochemical processes. It does not regard the mind as merely a function of the brain. It does not look upon the individual as a product of social circumstances, though all factors can be important. Ayurveda views the human soul as pure awareness, linked with but not limited to the mind-body complex, which is its instrument of manifestation.

 The body itself is a mental organ, a vehicle of perception designed to support the functions of the senses and to facilitate the experience by the mind. Any breakdown in bodily function has its root in the perceptual process and results from wrong use of the senses. Too much, too little, or wrong use of the senses results in wrong actions that cause us eventual pain. To understand how our body functions, we must also see how we use our minds. ”

“The causes of diseases relating to both the (mind and body) are three-fold: wrong utilization, non-utilization, and excessive utilization of time [pariñama], mental faculties [prajñāparādha] and objects of sense organs [asātmyendriyaārtha saṃyoga]. xix


Within the scope of Ayurveda, Bipolar Disorder (BD) is not specifically classified. Instead the symptoms described by NIMH correlate with the definition of insanity, unmāda, which is manasaja (born of the mind) .iii Unmāda is classified into 5 types; vātika, paittika, kaphaja, sānniāptika, and āgantuja. Since Bipolar is oscillation between the doSas of the mind, rajas [active, passionate] and tamas [inert, darkness], along with the physical doSas of vata, pitta, and kapha being aggravated, xvi it would be classified as sānnipātika xv. A “sānnipātika type of unmāda is a serious ailment, caused by vitiation of all the doṣas, [and] symptoms of all three doṣas manifest. xv


Insanity by Doṣa:


Vātonmāda: characterized by mobile fluctuations of mood, lightness of foot and manner, making lots of noises (shabda) “the body is emaciated the person weeps becomes angry, laughs, smiles, dances, sings, plays songs, speaks, does movements of the different parts of the body, roams about constantly, etc. xxii

Pittonmāda: characterized by hot tempers, violence, and tricks of the eyes (Rupa) “the patient threatens others, becomes angry, attacks others with fists…has yellow color of skin and sees fire, flames, stars, and lamp which are not actually present [hallucinations]. xxiii

Kaphonmāda: “the person has loss of appetite, vomiting, very little of desires, foods and talk; desire of woman (sex) and solitude, copious saliva and nasal secretions flowing, terrifying activities, hatredness to cleanliness, sleep, swelling of the face, symptoms strong at night. xxiv


Purva Rupa (premonitory symptoms)

The Pūrva Rūpa include “intellectual confusion, fickleness of mind, unsteadiness of vision, impatience, incoherent speech and a sensation of vacuum in the heart (vacant mindedness)…bewildered mind incapable of experiencing pleasure and sorrow, incapable of conducting himself appropriately…loses peace of mind altogether. xiv


Causative Factors –

The Nidana, causative factors of unmāda are, “intake of viruddha (mutually contradictory), duṣṭa (polluted), and aṣuci (impure) food and drink; pradharaṣaña (insult) to the gods, affliction of the mind because of fear and exhilaration, and unwholesome regime. xiii

The Samprapti goes as follows; “by these causes the doṣas afflict the hṛdaya [the energetic heart and mind connection], the abode of the intellect, of a person having less sattva [aspect of mind representing purity of consciousness], and while being located in the manovahasrotas (channels carrying psychic impulses), they [the doṣas] instantaneously infatuate the mind. xivThe affliction of the mano vaha srotas mental digestion is clouded.

“The “Mano vaha srotas, with tarpaka kapha, sādhaka pitta and prāna vāyu, governs the mental process of digestion. Sensory perception is carried by prāna to the mind, which then feels the presence of an object. Those feelings are carried to prāna by buddhi, where it undergoes a churning process, as buddhi discriminates between right and wrong. The buddhi takes the information to the smruti, which is memory. Here it compares the current information with past memories. Finally, the ahamkāra which is the former “I” or ego, give an understanding with the help of consciousness. This process is mental digestion.”


Bhūtadoṣa – Demoniac Seizure

The classics refer to insanity caused by bhūtadoṣa, demoniac seizure, xi  as well. Those prone to these ethereal possessions of the mind are operating from one of the three main causes of disease prajñāpārādha, xii or “intellectual blasphemy. xii” Meaning they are not listening to the natural intelligence of the body. This can manifest “either in present life or in the previous lives, arising from pursuit of kāma (desires) leading to mistakes in respect of observation of rules of dharma (right conduct [natural order of the universe], vrata (vows), and ācāra (mode of right living). Such a person who is a sinner and a destroyer of his own self, gets killed by graha (evil spirits, demons) and devas (divine beings) which strike (seize) at the time of the chidra (transgression). xii

The different archetypes of possession described resemble those of one within the throes of mania, or a depressive state, also correlating with the subcategories of the Western model of Bipolar disorder. In, the chapter Bhūta Vijñanīya of, the Charaka Samhita, Atreya shares the knowledge of demons as thus: “Observing non-human characters in a human being in his qualities/activities such as general knowledge, special knowledge (science, art, philosophy etc.) speech, physical activities, strength and valor, such a person should be understood as ‘seized by demons’. xvii

He then goes on to list 18 different types of demons, ranging from Gañdharva graha juṣṭa puruṣa a person engaged in good, benevolent activities, joyous, singing and dancing, always engaged in mirthful activites, xvii”. Or Piṣāca graha juṣṭa puruṣaa person who has an unhealthy mind, runs around without remaining in one place, fond of music, dance, humor, wine and meat, crying and weeping without reason, stiffness of body and voice, speaking of miseries both relevant and irrelevant, who has loss of memory, is fond of solitude, sensuality, mingling with bad people, and consumes large quantities of food at times,” xiix.

Another Deva graha juṣṭa puruṣa possession is one with a “face resembling a full blown lotus flower, kind, not getting angry, not craving for food, extremely clean, worshipping gods, bestows favors, not sleeping, yet keeping eyes closed for long periods of time. xiix

These faces of ‘insanity’ very much resemble the highs and lows any of the subcategories of Bipolar disorder.

Interestingly, 38% of Pulitzer prize winners, those who “made the biggest contributions to human spirit” were Bipolar. vii

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Prajñāpārādha and Bipolar Disorder

Prajñāpārādha is classified into the three-fold pattern of Sārīrika (physical), Mānasika (mental) and Vācika (verbal). The overuse, underuse, or misuse of these aspects of the self result in disease. As in the case of unmāda, these are the main factors.

The inconsistency of a rhythmic approach to one’s routine, Dinacharya (daily), Rtucharya (seasonal), can extremely exacerbate this manasaja condition as well. One can uncloud their mind to follow their true intuition and kindle the fires of their bhūta agni. This kindling will help engage the buddhi into clear discernment. If this is done in the beginning stages of disease, finding balance can be easier achieved. However, if allowed to progress, balance becomes more difficult.

“In the first two stages of disease [Sañchaya (Accumulation) and Prakopa (Provocation]], doṣas create intelligent cravings that are an aversion towards the cause of imbalance. From the third stage of disease [Prasara (Spread)] onward [Sthana Samshraya (Localization), Vyakti (Manifestation) and Bheda (Destruction)], when the intelligence of agni  is defeated by the imbalanced doṣas and ama is formed, people have perverted cravings, because the toxins have affected the cellular intelligence.”

Hence, why connecting to the innate intelligence of ones being, proper utilization of the senses, and correct observation of daily and seasonal timing, prevents the further development of any imbalance.


Ayurvedic Treatment Protocol of Bipolar Disorder

In Ayurveda a “Balanced utilization (of time, mental faculties, and object of sense organs) is the cause of happiness [health]. xx” The goal of treatment for Bipolar disorder is sama buddhi, a balanced mind.

“Demons/evil spirits which have no desire to cause harm (the person seized by them) should be won over by incantations (of sacred hymns), fire sacrifices, offering oblations, observing vows, penance, good conduct, religious meditation, charity, acquiring spiritual knowledge, compassion, etc. xxv” “By worshiping…and by doing japa [form of meditation] all the graha (evil spirits) can be won; so all diseases such as insanity, epilepsy, and other disorders of the mind. xxvi

With Prajñāpārādha as a cloud on intellect, disease manifests, in this case unmāda, insanity. With the root of the manovahasrotas (the psychic channel of the body) residing in the heart, the sroto duṣṭi can manifest in 4 different ways. Atipravṛtti (excessive flow), Sanga (blockage or stagnation), Sirā Granthi (growth or swelling), or Vimārga Gamana (improper movement). To clear the channel, sattvic energy, clear pure consciousness is necessary to balance the alternating frequencies of rajas and tamas.

“True intelligence develops from sattvic or finer matters of consciousness (Chitta). However, directed outwardly, intelligence becomes contaminated with rajas, or emotional impurities, which cloud it’s perception, and by tamas, which causes wrong judgment. The seat of true intelligence, like that of consciousness, resides in the heart. However, the seat of intellect, or outer intelligence, is the brain, which is connected to the senses. Intelligence mediates between the outer mind that works through the brain and the inner mind located in the heart. To merge intelligence into the heart is the way to transcend the outer world and return to the inner Self. This is the basis of all true meditation. xxvii

Nidanas of Unmāda

The Nidanas of Unmāda (Causative Factors): are prajñāpārādha (the lack of intellect, self control, and memory) and the “mistakes in observation of” dharma, vrata, and ācāra.).

In order to find balance one must align to their truest Self. In order to not be “the destroyer of the self” aligning to the svadharma, your own personal course of action in life, is integral. “To be healthy is important but health is not an end in itself. It is not enough merely to prolong our lives and have better energy to do the things we want. We must consider what we are using our energy for and why. The quality of our awareness is the real fruit of all that we do. It is our ultimate expression, the essence of who we really are. xxix

“The proper development of the mind requires the cultivation of will and character. This depends upon control of the senses, which means taking in the right impressions, and control of emotions, which means separating our emotional reactions from what we actually perceive. xxx

Research shows that those with a regular practice of prayer, yoga, meditation have a healthy “well-being and over all functioning of the body. xxxi” Meditation especially has been reported to decrease “anxiety, depression, irritability, and moodiness, and improving learning ability, memory, self-actualization, feelings of vitality and rejuvenation, and emotional stability. xxxii” Yoga also has been shown to facilitate an “acute and long-term decrease in blood pressure. xxxiii

Having regularity in life within the consumption of food, stabilizing blood sugar with regular meal times, sleep schedules, and wholesome practices is paramount towards developing a balance of mind. And to avoid the physical diseases that can manifest due to an imbalanced manas. Physically, Pañchakarma techniques of sneha (oil), emetic and purgation therapies, then a gradual increase in diet, followed by enemas and śirovirecana (elimination of doṣas from the head). xxxxi

“A sattvic person does regular spiritual practice”, rajas is “irregular”, and tamas “doesn’t have a spiritual practice or does so for selfish reasons.” xxxiv The manas vikruti (an imbalance of the doṣas of the mind; rajas and tamas) can also be caused by “repressed emotions; “There is no life without emotion. There is no mind without emotion and there is no relationship without it. There is nothing wrong with emotions. Emotions open the door to intimacy and ecstasy. We do not allow our emotions to flower completely, because the flowering of emotion is true freedom. We are afraid of allowing the emotions to flower because the process involves death of the ego. The ego does not want to die; it wants to survive. Therefore, the ego tries to control emotions. Controlled emotions undergo crystallization and these crystals of unresolved emotions build stress in the mind, so that mind becomes disturbed and confused. xxxv

In order to release the negative crystals of the past forgiveness is required, a release of the ‘demons’ that the mind was seized by at these chidras of time past. “Forgiveness is a release of hostility and resentment from past hurts. Research has found “that unforgiving persons have increased anxiety, symptoms, increased paranoia, increased narcissism, increased frequency of psychosomatic complications, increased incidence of heart disease and less resistance to physical illness.” An “act of forgiveness can result in less anxiety and depression, better health outcomes, increased coping with stress, and increased closeness to God and others. xxxvi

By “clearing the root, the hridaya, of the mano vaha srotas of ‘past hurts’, allows for a flow within this powerful channel which is “the seat of the mind, the root of “I am-ness”. “The objects of our sensory perception all enter into the heart, where perception becomes attention and understanding. The openings of mano vaha srotas are the doors of perception, which are the five senses. The main functions are thinking, inquiry, and creating goals and direction. xxxviii

“The mind itself, down to the deepest unconscious, is a social entity and follows collective pattern. It is made up of thought, conditioned by the language used in the social context of our lives. The mind reflects our interactions with other people, starting with our parents. The mind is the record of our associations, which includes not only human beings but all life to which we are related. Our deeper consciousness (chitta) itself is determined by the nature of our associations, which create the most powerful impulses (samskaras [crystallizations]) that we have to deal with. If we go to the core of our hearts, its our closest relationships that most determine who we are. xxxix

Many psychiatric patients are suffering from unprocessed and unresolved traumas. To “win over the demons” within, there needs to be a release, but also an honoring xxxx. The majority of treatments recommended in the Classics for seizure of demons & insanity are oblations, rituals, medicated ghee, and also scenes designed to bring someone back to the point of their trauma in order to release it, “The patient, who has mental perversion, regains his mental composure when he is made to worry about something. In mundane affairs, it is observed that an object which is displaced because of the application of pressure or force can be brought back to it its original position be the same pressure or force again. This applies to the patient suffering from unmāda. The very factor which causes his mental perversion can also be used to bring about his mental composure. xxxxii




The insanity caused by Bipolar Disorder is a result of a person disconnected from their true Self. ““Getting to the level of the soul is the key to all forms of healing. The soul is the great healer because it is one with both God and Nature and carries all their powers and grace. It is not so much that we need to heal our souls as that we have to become aware of our souls. Becoming aware of our soul is the deepest healing possible, not only for the soul but also for the mind. The awareness of the soul releases all the healing powers inherent within us.xxxxiii


There are many who have found success with Bipoar disorder by understanding “the relationship between genius, melancholia, and madness. xxxxiv” The definition of mania and inspiration are closely related. Ayurveda embraces the full picture of each individual as being unique. While encouraging the quest into the journey of learning ones Soul, Ayurveda provides a mental, spiritual and physical framework for helping individuals who suffer from Bipolar Disorder.

Allopathic researchers are finding that the balancing of circadian rhythms, and use of psychotherapy and psychoeducation, are enhancing the effects of treatment among treatments of insanity, including Bipolar diosrder. Ayurveda goes further by outlining the importance of devotion, and regular practices that connect one to their Soul. By tapping into the macrocosms of life, manic and depressive episodes are shown for what they are: tools by which one can learn to face their demons, and also to find inspiration in an overstimulated world.

Disorder is a word that can make someone feel limited which then makes it easier to take a victim role in the world. Getting to know the deepest aspect the of Self can help those learn the balance of sattva in life, and rather than the forces of rajas and tamas ruling the mind, they become instruments in the cosmic play of life.



i: Overview of Bipolar Disorder [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26980087]

ii: Cudney et al. Biological rhythms are independently associated with quality of life in bipolar

disorder. Pg.1

iii: Ca.Su. Vol.3 Chapter IX Verse 8.5 pg. 411

iv: Overview of Bipolar Disorder [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26980087]

v: Miklowitz et al. Psychosocial Treatments for Bipolar Depression pg. 2

vi: Cudney et al. Biological rhythms are independently associated with quality of life in bipolar

disorder. Pg. 1

vii: Dalio, Touched with Fire Article, pg. 2

viii: Cudney et al. Biological rhythms are independently associated with quality of life in bipolar

disorder, pg. 2

iix: Frank et al. Two-Year Outcomes for Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy in Individuals

With Bipolar I Disorder, pg. 1

ix: Miklowitz et al. Psychosocial Treatments for Bipolar Depression, pg. 1

x: Miklowitz et al. Psychosocial Treatments for Bipolar Depression, pg. 1

xi: Ca.Su. Vol.3 Chapter IX pg. 411-4

xi: Ca.Su. Vol. 3 pg. 438 verse 87

xii: Dr. Lad Textbook of Ayurveda Vol. 2 pg. 10

xiii: Ca.Su. Vol. 3 verse 4 pg. 409

xiv: Ca.Su. Vol. 3 verse 6-7 pg. 410

xv: Ca.Su. Vol. 3 verse 15 pg. 413

xvi: Ca.Su. Vol. 1 Ch. 1 verse 56 pg. 41

xvii: Ca.Su. Vol. 1 Chapter 4 verse 1-3 pg. 38

xviii: Ca.Su. Vol. 1 Ch. 4 verse 18-19a pg. 41

xiix; Ca.Su Vol. 1 Ch. 4 verse 30-34a pg. 43

xix: Ca. Su. Vol. 1 Ch. 1 verse 54 pg. 39

xx: Ca. Su. Vol. 1 Ch.1 verse 55 pg. 40

xxi: Dr. Lad Textbook of Ayurveda Vol. 2 pg. 11

xxii: A.Hr.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. 6 verse 6b-10a pg. 57

xxiii: A.Hr.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. 6 verse 10b-11 pg. 58

xxiv: A.Hr.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. 6 verse 12-13 pg. 58

xxv: A.Hr.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. 5 verse 1 pg. 46

xxvi: A.Hr.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. 5 verse 49-51 pg. 54

xxvii: Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind, pg. 99

xxix: Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind, pg. 9

xxx: Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind, pg. 122

xxxi: Joshi et al. Religious Belief and Its Relation to Psychological Well-being pg. 3

xxxii: Joshi et al. Religious Belief and Its Relation to Psychological Well-being pg. 3

xxxiii: Joshi et al. Religious Belief and Its Relation to Psychological Well-being pg. 4

xxxiv: Dr. Lad Textbook of Ayurveda Vol. 2 Ch. 7 pg. 178

xxxv: Dr. Lad Textbook of Ayurveda Vol. 2 Ch. 7 pg. 182


xxxvi: Joshi et al. Religious Belief and Its Relation to Psychological Well-being, pg. 4

xxxvii: Dr. Lad Textbook of Ayurveda Vol. 2 Ch. 8 pg. 192

xxxviii: Dr. Lad Textbook of Ayurveda Vol. 2 Ch. 13 pg 320

xxxix: Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind, pg. 151

xxxx: Ca.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. IX verse 23 pg. 421

xxxxi: Ca.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. IX verse 25-33 pg. 423

xxxxii: Ca.Su. Vol. 3 Ch. IX verse 79-84 pg. 437

xxxxiii: Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind, pg. 135

xxxxiv: Jamison, K. R., Touched with Fire


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About Sarah Galvin

Sarah Galvin was born into a long line of strong female healers. Growing up within the context of a Traditional Chinese Medicine background prepared her for her journey and encouraged her to find Ayurveda at a young age. She followed the path of the Ayurvidya across Europe, North Africa, North America, Central, and South America through extensive backpacking. She furthers her background in herbalism and folk medicine by connecting with Mother Nature. Devoting her time and energy to sustainable lifestyles through working and managing organic farms, she culminated the skills to create her own permaculture off-grid homestead on a remote island in Southeast Alaska. During her travels she shares the love and knowledge that she’s cultivated with all who cross her path. She is a graduate of Kripalu School of Ayurveda, accomplished herbalist, permaculture designer and lifelong yogini. She has recently begun offering consultations in both permaculture and Ayurvedic treatments while also teaching the elemental wisdom of Ayurveda to various individuals and organizations. Currently communing with the wilds of Alaska for the summer, she plans to study the roots of Ayurveda exploring Sanskrit in India during the Winter of 2017. You can contact Sarah at Sarah_galvin@wildmail.com

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