Ayurveda - The Healing Journey
by Deepak Kashyap
To be healed is to become whole. You can be free of all conceivable diseases, and yet not be whole as long as your latent abilities remain unexpressed. Diseases, though, are the first hurdle in your goal to realizing the 'best you'. To grasp health, you first need to understand disease. Implicit in the karma theory is the notion that physical imperfections of all hues are but a fraction of your due share of existential suffering. You picked them up piece by piece across many lifetimes and now, after a sudden wake-up call, need to purge yourself of them.
Diseases are convenient labels; the real toxins are deep-seated negativities: anger, envy, fear, lust, greed, and so on. A lasting cure lies not so much in freeing oneself of the labels, as in getting rid of these negative patterns to the extent possible. The process is by retracing your steps, described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as tanukarana, thinning out of the karmic grooves or samskaras.
All doctors - allopaths, homeopaths, reiki masters, yoga exponents and the like - if they are to become true healers, need to acknowledge that man is not so much the flesh he measures, as the Spirit that he needs to unleash. While this realisation comes naturally in intuitive bursts to a genuine yoga practitioner, the physician has to gradually cultivate it through right listening and reading till he is able to deeply introspect. The best medical practitioners will now increasingly come from the ranks of those who, by instinct or training, are drawn to the Whole. Equally, patients who would benefit most from treatment of all kinds will be the ones who, without dropping their guard of reason and commonsense, will accommodate spirituality into their healing options. Open-minded scientists are, in turn, our best bet to steer medical science out of the emerging chaos.
New Medical Science
In the early 20th century, antibiotics gained a reputation for banishing killer infections and epidemics and superseded the idea of mind impacting the body that had dominated medicine since ancient times. It was only disillusionment from the physical and financial costs of the cure, including disturbing side-effects, frequent relapses and ravaged immune responses, that drew a few scientists and doctors to rediscover the mind-body connection. Some of them are now even open to the idea of a soul or the 'silent witness' as a major factor in health and disease. Success of 'sham surgery' in cardiac patients, the very real side-effects on cancer victims of 'pseudo-chemo sessions', incredible accounts of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and path-breaking research on rebirth have all combined to bring today's medical science on the crossroads.
Dr. Ian Stevenson, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Virginia, raised quite a stir through his landmark study of 2000 carefully sampled reincarnation cases: people reborn across centuries who carried not only unusual talents, cravings and memories, but at times even precise birth-marks on their person of mortal wounds from a previous life. Dr. Andrew Weil, medical scientist and author of Spontaneous Healing, senses a paradigm shift even as he favors rearranging medical education to include:
o Emphasis on the philosophy of science based on quantum physics, downplaying the archaic notions of Newtonian mechanics and Cartesian dualism.
o Awareness of nature's own healing mechanisms and mind/body interactions including placebos and sycho-neuro-immunology.
o Lessons in spirituality and psychology together with conceptual models explaining physical events as arising from non-physical actions.
o Basic understanding of alternative medicine.
o Instruction in meditation and visualization techniques.
While doctors and scientists have yet to come to terms with this new order, today patients have a wide range of therapies to consider. Which brings us to a critical appraisal of the major options that need to be carefully weighed in your search for the best cure.
Today we are conditioned to visit doctors at the smallest excuse, whether we need to or not. But ideally, the first steps towards health that you must take should be to talk and listen to your own body and untangle your needs from your desires. My own experience tells me that roughly 60 per cent of the surgeries and 80 per cent of allopathic medicines are positively avoidable. While there is no denying that allopathy is indispensable for the treatment of conditions such as peptic ulcers and tuberculosis, it would do well to back it with alternative therapy, if only to perk up the body's natural immunity.
When you do need to visit an allopath, be on the look-out for a doctor who is aware and tolerant of spirituality and alternative medicine. My own experience is that the more qualified among doctors are generally in tune with the new holistic approach.
Ayurveda is the science of life rather than of disease, wherein lies part of its appeal. Its chief drawbacks: high costs, slowness and suspect reliability. Contrary to what some medical experts might tell you, genuine ayurvedic medicine doesn't have side-effects. True, it occasionally employs heavy metals, mercury in particular, that conventional wisdom tells us are toxic. But any good ayurveda text would tell you that the same toxic heavy metals, when burnt or processed suitably as directed by the seers, yield the finest medicinal properties for a range of ailments. Anyway, ayurvedic medicine relies more on herbs than on metals and any good vaidya would happily leave aside metallic preparations, should you tell him about your anxieties on this score.
Because herbs and precious metal ashes don't come cheap, genuine ayurvedic medicines can often turn out to be expensive, inducing some manufacturers to cheat on the quality and quantity of the ingredients. Even as I write this, news comes of a prominent North Indian ayurved-acharya on the run after an arrest warrant was issued against him for treating epilepsy with steroids and allopathic drugs!
All these problems can be largely overcome, though, through adequate homework before taking to ayurveda. With improved technology, product hygiene and processing control are no longer the issues they once were. Some chronic complaints that have no satisfactory answer in allopathy, yet respond wonderfully to ayurvedic prescriptions are rheumatism, acidity, diarrhoea, insomnia, hypertension and blood sugar; patent medicines for these are marketed by many Indian companies. When I made my 65-year-old mother switch from allopathic drugs for hypertension, to a carefully chosen ayurvedic alternative, what followed was both reassuring and alarming. Thanks to a week's overdose, her pressure plummeted to a low of 60/100 and had to be balanced by reducing the dosage to half.
While opting for patent ayurvedic medicines, it helps to know about the role of some of the herbs and minerals used.
Below is a list of some of these along with their effects.
o brahmi (Bacopa monnierii): improves memory, alleviates stress
o ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): rejuvenator, boosts immune response
o giloy (Tinospora cordifolia Will.): promotes immune response
o sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina Benth.): useful in hypertension
o mulethi (Glycyrrhiza glabra): manages acidity, peptic ulcers, chronic cough
o malkangni (Celastrus paniculatus Will.): perks up the nervous system
o tagar (Valeriana wallichii): alleviates anxiety, induces sleep
o shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis Chois.): improves memory
o vacha (Acorus calamus): improves mental alertness
o jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamans): alleviates anxiety, induces sleep
o arjun (Terminalia arjuna): cardiac tonic, useful in strokes
o guggul(Balsamodendron mukul): lowers cholesterol, useful in rheumatism
o shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): aphrodisiac
o kesar or saffron (Crocus sativus): rejuvenator, aphrodisiac
o shilajit (mineral pitch): rejuvenator, useful in blood sugar
o kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata): useful in liver disorders
Amidst claims and counter-claims in this largely unregulated sector, I have seen ayurvedic medicine work less successfully in asthma, obesity, thyroid disorders, heart conditions and in advanced degenerative diseases. The main reason for the relative slowness and inability of ayurvedic medicine in coping with fast-spreading and advanced diseases is that, unlike allopathy and homeopathy, ayurveda is not medicine-centered. Like yoga, of which it is an offshoot, ayurveda is essentially a way of life. Strategic fasting, detoxifying through various cleansing practices (panchakarmas) and strict dietary discipline are nearly as crucial as the actual medicine. The big plus is that it is largely free of side-effects and can be combined with allopathic drugs that you were reluctant or unable to give up.
While the 20th century was dominated by allopathy and the 21st belongs to ayurveda, the 22nd century will be fired by homoeopathy. I can say this with conviction for some of the most sublime cures for diseases incurable in allopathy and difficult to deal with in ayurveda, are found in homeopathy. The importance of energy is increasingly overshadowing matter in science, medicine and day-to-day life. The great thing about homoeopathy is that, more than any other system of medicine, it is energy-centric: restoring health by identifying and correcting energy-imbalances in the body. Before we go any further, a reality check on some myths doing the rounds.
Homeopathy is slow and Mild:
Actually homoeopathy is the fastest and most potent medicine available to mankind. It is stronger than ayurvedic medicine, and in higher 'potencies', has decidedly quicker and deeper action. A renowned professor of paediatrics whose rheumatic joints healed in no time after I suggested some simple homeopathic remedies termed it 'nuclear medicine'. Why is it then seen as slow in action? The reason is that according to homoeopathy, it is in the patient's own interest to unleash the power of the medicine gradually.
Homeopathic Medicine is 'Safe':
Indiscriminately used, homoeopathy can actually have more devastating side-effects than allopathic drugs. So if you have been merrily popping those sweet pills thinking that it could do no harm, stop it right away. From my experience, there are just too many 'killer' homeopaths around in India!
Homeopathic treatment is serious business calling for an insightful doctor who engages a really understanding patient in search of a permanent cure.
Barring a few exceptions, the notion of instant cure is rejected by genuine homoeopathy. Here's a look at some golden principles of homoeopathy and why the average homeopath often contravenes them.
The Like Remedy
This requires that specific remedy be selected based solely on the patient's totality rather than stray symptoms. Hahnemann, the father of homoeo-pathy, defines totality as the essence of the person comprising symptoms, pathology, personality, trauma and inherited tendencies. Thus, a homeopath treating a patient's skin diseases while ignoring his mind, attitude and lifestyle is violating this principle.
This requires that, regardless of the multiplicity of complaints, one solitary medicine is to be given at a time, allowing the physician to observe the effects of that medicine without other variables interfering. Combination remedies that are now becoming fashionable, and may bring relief in the short run, make it impossible to know the effect of individual medicines in the search for the original balance. Homeopathic medicines need to be administered frequently and in higher powers to root out diseases and not simply mitigate them. Increasing the frequency and power of each or any of the combination drugs on hunch, does incalculable harm to the patient, muddling symptoms and creating new imbalances in the process.
One peculiarity of homoeopathy is that when the right medicine is given for chronic diseases, patient's symptoms such as fever, skin eruptions and restlessness may actually increase very briefly for a day or two, before they ebb and wear off. Far from disillusioning the patient, it should actually be welcomed as a sure sign of full recovery. These 'aggravations', as they are called, are minimized and at the same time, the 'vital force' sufficiently aroused to trigger recovery by administering the smallest beneficial dose.
If you take a few precautions, homoeopathy has on offer some amazing cures. Once you have decided that you need to see a homeopath, avoid a doctor who gives two or three medicines at a time and insist on the doctor writing the name of the exact medicine in his prescription. Last but not the least, don't expect overnight cures for diseases that have troubled you for years. Some diseases that respond well to homoeopathy are hypothyroidism, old cases of rheumatism and arthritis, Parkinson's disease, paralysis, insomnia, viral fever, flu and common cold. Hypothyroidism often escapes standard diagnostic checks leaving a practitioner to rely on one's clinical sense. It has no permanent cure in allopathy and ayurveda fares only slightly better. A simple homoeopathy medicine, Thyroidinum, not only brings permanent cure, but also makes your figure and skin look years younger.
Again, homoeopathy is a boon for complications arising out of living in the fast lane. Type A personalities, whose lifestyles are influenced by ambition, irritability, impatience, workaholism, partying, smoking, drinking and late nights, attract diseases such as hypertension, cholesterol build-up, liver dysfunction, angina, peptic ulcers, insomnia, alcoholism, migraine, kidney stones, low-back pain, diarrhoea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Allopathy is of limited benefit here and ayurvedic medicine fares marginally better. A gifted homeopath would, nonetheless, root out most of these deadly disorders with a few careful doses of Nux Vomica, setting off marked positive changes in the way you look at life and handle it. That brings us, on purpose, to where we got started: what you think, you become.
Subject: about Ayurveda Vs Homeopathy Vs Allopathy - 11 December 2011
Dear Dipak,, I am happy and energetic to read your article on health, medicine, ayurveda homeopathy. All the practices are good and fine and will go according to the tunning of the time like 21 and 22 nd century. One thing Here I like to say is that ALlopathic medicine is just mere 200 to 25o yea More...
Subject: healing journey - 4 June 2010
I read ur article it is beautifully written, but the why the WHO banning homeopathy.
by: major beant singh
Subject: good - 20 April 2007
this indeed is a beutiful article with the jist of homoeopathy in it . i am a homoeopathic post graduate student .and ur work is really appreciable seema
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