Kala, the Concept of Time: Part Two
by Dr. Vasant Lad
Editors note: Part One of this series is available here.
A person’s life has different planetary periods, called dashas. These are governed by one or other of the astrological planets. For instance, when a person passes through a Saturn period, it can be a very difficult time. In the astrological science of jyotisha, much importance is attached to these periods and they can be an important factor in determining the health of a person.
Psychological time is the movement of thoughts. The mind thinks, evaluates, judges, imagines, investigates, and creates goals. These are all functions of the mind.
Thought is the response of memory and memory is accumulated experience. Memory needs time, so learning requires time. If you want to learn a language, drive a car, fly an airplane, or learn any skill, you need time. Psychological time is a becoming. We say, “I am this, I want to become that.” Maybe we say we want to become a doctor, an engineer, or a scientist, but in the process of becoming qualified there must be time.
Ayurveda talks about biological time, which is the movement of life.
Dosha Kala means the times of each dosha. The body’s biological clock is regulated by the doshas. The time of maximum activity of kapha is during morning and evening from about 6 to 10 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. The pitta period is during midday and midnight, from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., while vata hours are dawn and dusk, from about 2 to 6 a.m. and p.m. Thus a pitta-type disease such as ulcers may cause the most discomfort late at night in pitta time. The reverse is also true, in the sense that experiencing a sharp pain in the stomach region late at night may signify ulcers or another pitta disorder.
Avastha Paka Kala means the time for the different stages of digestion, which is also biological time. When you eat food, it passes through various stages of digestion, each one governed primarily by one taste and a specific dosha. To digest a major meal takes approximately six hours or more. For the first couple of hours after eating food, the dominant dosha is kapha, which is predominant in the stomach. For the next three hours or so, pitta dosha is dominant. This period is associated with the small intestine, where bile and intestinal enzymes are at work. Ultimately, digestion in the GI tract is completed in the colon, the main site of vata, where absorption and elimination occurs. This last stage is a time of vata domination.
Dhatu Poshana Kala means the process of dhatu nutrition. The food chyle, called ahara rasa, is created within twelve hours of eating. This ahara rasa goes into rasa dhatu (blood plasma) and transforms into sthayi (mature) rasa dhatu within five days. It takes five more days (ten in total) to transform into sthayi rakta (red blood cells), then five more days for each other sthayi dhatu (mature bodily tissue). This results in a total of fifteen days for mature mamsa dhatu (muscle tissue), twenty days for meda dhatu (adipose tissue), twenty-five for asthi (bone), thirty for majja (bone marrow and nerve tissue), and thirty-five for shukra and artava (male and female reproductive tissue). Ayurveda talks a great deal about the reproductive tissues reaching full maturation within thirty-five days.
Avayava Kala (Organ Times) Following are the times of day when these organs are most active.
- 6 to 8 a.m. is lung time. Patients of asthma or bronchectesis often have more expectoration.
- 8 to 10 a.m. is pancreas time. Diabetes patients can become very hypoglycemic.
- 10 a.m. to noon is stomach time, when there are pitta secretions and people become hungry.
- Noon to 2 p.m. is heart time. After ingestion of lunch cholesterol can go high, which can clog an artery. People are more likely to have a heart attack
- 2 to 4 p.m. is spleen time. The blood becomes more activated.
- 4 to 6 p.m. is colon, bladder, and kidney time. There is more absorption of minerals and water and people have an increased desire to urinate or defecate.
- 6 to 8 p.m. is pericardium time, where lovers like to be close to their beloved. Even birds come home to their nests at this time.
- 8 to 10 p.m. is pancreas time. Diabetic patients may become hypoglycemic and crave sweets while watching TV.
- 10 p.m. to midnight is stomach time.
- Midnight to 2 a.m. is heart time. It is more likely that someone will have a heart attack at this time.
- 2 to 4 a.m. is liver time. If a person has gallstones or liver problems, the liver starts aching.
- 4 to 6 a.m. is colon, bladder, and kidney time. This is why people wake up to pass urine and, one hopes, defecate in the early morning.
Aging. Psychological aging relates to the growth of the mind, while physical aging is related to the growth of the body and state of the organs. The entire span of human life is governed by three major milestones that relate to the doshas. Childhood is kapha time when tissues are growing and there is increasing body weight. Kapha disorders such as runny nose and sinus congestion are common in this age group. Adulthood from about age 16 to 50 is pitta, a time of competitiveness and achievement. There are more pitta disorders, such as acid indigestion, irritability, and ulcers. From 50 onwards the body starts to deteriorate and the person looks old, so this is vata age. There is more insomnia, constipation and other vata symptoms. All these doshic changes are bound by time.
Samprapti is a chronological movement of the doshas. Pathological time, called kala samprapti, covers the six different stages of disease: accumulation, provocation, spread, deposition, manifestation, and differentiation. Pathological changes can occur because of seasonal influences. People get more pitta disorders in the summer, vata disorders in the fall (autumn), both vata and kapha disorders in the winter, and kapha problems in the spring. Hence summer diarrhea, spring colds, and autumn arthritis are common disorders. Even modern medicine has the concept of incubation periods, which is pathological time.
Chikitsa kala means times for treatment. These include:
1) Dinacharya is the daily regimen.
2) Rutucharya is seasonal regimen.
3) Aushadha sevana kala means the time of administration of medicines. These are categorized as:
a) Ardo bhakta—before food—acts on apana vata in the colon and the lower part of the body.
b) Madhye bhakta—during midmeal—acts on samana vayu and the small intestines.
c) Antara bhakta—between meals—acts on samana vayu in the liver, spleen, and small intestines and helps the process of digestion, absorption, and assimilation.
d) Paschata bhakta—after food—acts on udana and prana vata in the upper body.
e) Samudga—both at beginning and end of a meal—acts on samana vayu, it increases appetite and improves digestion.
f) Muhuhu muhuhu—moment to moment—acts on prana, so used for prana disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, hiccoughs, and even status epilepticus.
g) Svapna kale—bedtime—acts on tarpaka kapha, so it relieves insomnia and induces sleep. Most purgatives are given at bedtime.
4) Appropriate times for panchakarma:
a) Virechana or purgatives (for pitta) are mainly given around 10 p.m., the start of pitta time.
b) Basti or enemas (for vata) are given at dawn or dusk (vata times) on an empty stomach.
c) Vamana or emesis (for kapha) should be done in the morning, during kapha time.
d) Nasya depends upon the type given. Kapha type of nasya is better first thing in the morning; vata-pacifying nasya should be given in the evening; but pitta type of nasya should be given late morning or afternoon.
5) Appropriate times for giving rasayana; determined by prakruti, aggravated dosha, and season
a) In the case of kapha problems, a good time to give rasayana such as pippali, punarnava, or chyavanprash is early to mid morning, especially during winter or spring.
b) For pitta disorders, rasayana like shatavari, guduchi, or amalaki are given before noon, especially in the summer.
c) In vata disorders, rasayana such as dashamula, ashvagandha, and vidari are given during dawn or dusk, especially in fall season.
Other Concepts of Time
Vertical time is ascending, such as when yogis meditate to raise their kundalini from the root chakra to the crown. Time is required for the yogi to become enlightened.
Horizontal time is progressing, such as when we travel, because planes fly in a horizontal movement.
Circular time is related to dextrorotatory and levorotatory movements. ‘Dextro’ means right, such as the right side of the body being pitta because of the pingala nadi (channel), and the left side of the body kapha due to ida nadi. Hence right side circular movement may activate pingala and be pitta provoking, while left side circular movements may stimulate ida nadi and induce kapha.
Birth and death are also a cyclical or circular movement, including birth, infancy, childhood, adulthood, elderly, and then death. This cyclical movement of circular time is responsible for incarnation, birth, death, and reincarnation. This is a cyclical movement related to the soul (jivatma) moving from one cycle of birth and death into the next cycle of birth and death.
The clockwise movement around a chair, statue of God, or other fixed object induces certain changes in the body, and I have observed that it stimulates metabolism, digestion, absorption, and assimilation, increases agni and pitta, and improves circulation. On the other hand, counterclockwise movement induces kapha, slows down agni and metabolism, and decreases digestive and assimilation functions. Circular time, whether it is the movement of a biological lifetime, or a person moving in a circular or counterclockwise direction around an object, has some influence on vata, pitta, and kapha.
If a disease is born in the body, it will stay for some time, then disappear, either with the body or without the body. That is the concept of Mahakala. Mahakala is another name of Shiva, and he is the god of death and the god of time, and a great healer. That which is born on this planet stays for a while, then it has to go away. Ayurveda says that in the treatment of disease, one has to give time for the pathogenesis to resolve. If a person has flu, you have to allow two to three days to heal, even if you are giving powerful medicines. “Svabhava uparam sada” means everything heals in time. Time is a great healer.
Reprinted from Ayurveda Today, November 2002, by permission of The Ayurvedic Institute.