The 3 Doshas by Dr. Keith Wallace

According to Panchamahabhuta theory, the five elements combine to form three basic tendencies or operating principles of matter. These are known as the doshas.  Dosha literally means “impurity.” Doshas are considered impurities because as consciousness makes the transition from subjective to objective creation, it becomes “grosser” or more impure. The three doshas are vata pitta, and kapha. Vata, according to Ayurvedic texts, is a combination of akasha and vayu; pitta, of agni and jal; and kapha, of jal and prithivi. In terms of the physiology, the three doshas represent three fundamental metabolic and psychophysiological principles underlying the functioning of the body, respectively: movement, metabolism, and structure.


The three doshas remind us of the three-in-one structure of pure consciousness, in which the three components—knower, process of knowing, and known—are called Rishi, Devata, and Chhandas. In fact, vata, pitta, and kapha are the finest material expressions in the body respectively of Rishi, Devata, and Chhandas. According to Maharishi Ayurveda each person has a different proportion of the doshas at birth. In many respects, this is like saying that we each have a different mixture of genes turned on and off. Although all three doshas are present in everyone, most people have primarily a combination of two of the three, with one predominating. (For example, one might be classified as a vata-pitta, vata-kapha, or pitta-kapha type.) Less common is the pure “mono-doshic” person, in which one dosh predominates. In certain instances, all three doshas may be equally in evidence “tri-doshic”.


Diet, age, weather, and countless other factors influence the proportion of doshas in the physiology. This has profound implications for health. When the doshas remain in their ideal proportion (which is different for different people), an individual remains healthy. When imbalance occurs—for example, if one of the doshas greatly increases or decreases in proportion to the others—the disease process begins. Susceptibility to different diseases, as well as the course of each disease, will vary depending upon which dosh predominates.


The goal of Maharishi Ayurveda is to recreate balance in vata, pitta, and kapha. When the doshas are balanced, the inner intelligence of the body is reflected more completely at all levels of physiological functioning. How can we know the ideal proportion of doshas in the physiology?


How can we diagnose their current state of balance? The traditional texts of Ayurveda describe three means of diagnosis: sight, speech, and touch. The first two involve a physical examination and interview to determine the patient’s medical history and current symptoms. The subtlest diagnostic technique, however, is pulse diagnosis, traditionally called nadi vigyan. The nadi, or pulse, contains information about the patient’s entire physical and mental condition.


Excerpts from Physiology of Consciousness by Robert Keith Wallace, MUM Press, 1993 recently updated