By Swami Harshananda
Apathya literally means ‘away from the path’.
The system of medicine and treatment, known as Ayurveda (‘the science of longevity’) is as particular with regard to prescribing diet and conduct as with medicines and treatment. The former is called ‘pathya, what is on the right road;’ i.e., what is in consonance with the rules of the science of treatment.
For instance, in almost all the cases of illness, over-eating, drinking, and preventing sleep are to be avoided. If this is done, then it is ‘pathya.’ In dehydrating diseases, the patient should consume plenty of warm water. That is ‘pathya’ for him.
‘Apathya’ is the opposite of ‘pathya,’ the foods, drinks and conduct which will aggravate the disease. For instance, a patient suffering from fever should not take rice or expose himself to cold. It is ‘apathya’ for him. The principles of pathya and apathya can be extended to the field of religion and spiritual life too.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore