Different systems do not necessarily speak of different causes but they do speak from different levels. Or they may speak of the same thing but use a different language. What we need to understand is that each system probes and understands man and his maladies at different levels of existence. They do not contradict but often complement each other. It is like one person describing the tree as just its roots, another as its trunk and one more as its branches and leaves. Each is right but their perception is incomplete.
As human beings, we are aware of primarily the physical level and the meaning of words in their modern sense. Therefore we have a natural tendency to see everything and interpret every word in our own sense. This is perhaps what leads to so much confusion.
So, for example, when the Ayurvedic physician speaks of three types of dosas (humors), he is not speaking about the physical level but of the subtler elements, forces and energies that feed the physical. Thus, when he speaks of vata dosa (wind and all that partakes of the air element in the body), it does not mean that there is too much gas in the stomach going to the brain, but simply that the flow of the life-energy (the great expander of all things) has become uneven, blocked and is flowing into small and narrow channels thereby not available for better purposes. Again, pitta (fire and all that partakes of this element of heat within the body) is not just acidity and biliary vomiting, but the element that provides heat and light to the body, metabolism for instance. Or else the kapha (phlegm or mucoid) is the fluid element in the body. Again, to take another instance, the Homeopath speaks of miasm as a deep rooted source of the illness, possibly referring to some psycho-physical or perhaps physico-vital plane where the malady hides itself even when it is apparently thrown out of the body only to return later. This hiding place for an illness may well correspond to the Yogic understanding of the karmic seeds that are like energy knots buried in some subconscious part throwing up shoots with a vehement persistence even when there is no apparent cause! So also, the Accupuncturist speaks of the ‘energy body’ as does the Pranic healer. Thus, the practitioners look at the cause on different levels. Something of this kind is already emerging in modern medicine as well. The role of the mind and emotions, our inner psychological state, is being increasingly recognised in health and illness. But the problem is that most illnesses are not uni-dimensional but have multi-factorial causes, each operating in its own way and adding or negating the effect of others. Each system therefore has its own contribution to make, its own strengths and weaknesses, its own field and mechanism of action. Thus the quarrel between the systems is unnecessary and in fact illegitimate.
In other words, we can recognise illness at different levels of our complex nature. The physical — where we usually become conscious of the symptoms — is the last step in a descending chain of cause and effect, whose origin may well lie hidden in depths behind depths that are not always easily accessible to our human vision and experience. In fact, in the body itself we now describe several layers at which an illness may originate, from genes to the gross outer structure and the external environment we live in. If we take the totality of a human being and the many dimensions he lives in, we may well be in for a much bigger surprise.