Rongoa meets Ayurveda: Traditional Indigenous Healing Models

Dr Erena Wikaira - IIRC20
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Rongoā Māori is the traditional Indigenous system of healing in Aotearoa. In pre-colonial Aotearoa/New Zealand, traditional Māori health systems (rongoā Māori) maintained the health and well-being of Māori communities. However, colonisation marginalised and oppressed the practice of rongoā Māori and forcibly imposed reliance on Western health systems. Whilst rongoā Māori is still practiced in Aotearoa, it has suffered a reduction in use due to colonisation, and is criticised and critiqued from a Western dominated health system. This has resulted in gaps in knowledge and a fragmented system of knowledge translation. Māori and Indigenous peoples suffer widespread ongoing health inequities, maintain a preference for rongoā, and there is potential for the revitalisation of rongoā to contribute to improving Māori health outcomes.

In order to support rongoā and Indigenous healing system revitalisation, it is critical that Indigenous bodies of knowledge (mātauranga), theories and philosophies that underpin these systems are also understood. Many Indigenous knowledges worldwide include complementary fundamental knowledge sources, and hence offer the potential to contribute clarity and depth of understanding of theoretical and physical concepts – that can be applied in practice.

Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old Indigenous system of healing in India, originating from the historically larger Indian sub-continent and derived from a combination of formal and informal healing practices. Ayurveda is a systemic science that makes sense of remedies. The term ‘Ayurveda’ translates to mean ‘the knowledge / science of life’ and hence focusses largely on understanding human health in direct relation to knowledge of the natural universe and it’s fundamental operations. In practice, Ayurveda prioritises longevity through disease prevention by aiming to maintain health as a state of equilibrium at multiple biological levels.

In exploration of the mutually beneficial learnings between rongoā Māori and Ayurveda, in 2019, a group of Māori scholars with an interest in rongoā Māori attended a 6-week intensive course in Ayurveda at the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP) hospital and training facility in Mankarai, Coimbatore, India. The course consisted of in-depth practical and theoretical teachings of Ayurvedic medicine, underpinned by historical Indian knowledge systems, and supported by understandings of Western medicine, science, physics, biology, astronomy, alchemy, and chemistry. One aim of this learning was to explore similarities and differences in the theoretical knowledge systems underpinning both Rongoā Māori and Ayurveda. This presentation presents and explores the alignment of
some of the fundamental knowledge frameworks for Ayurveda and India
alongside rongoā and Māori.