By Anupama Bhattacharya January 1998 Master of many ethnic healing systems, including African and Indian, Robert Svoboda believes that the secret of health lies in preserving our harmony with nature Master of many ethnic healing systems, including African and Indian, Robert Svoboda believes that the secret of health lies in preserving our harmony with nature ‘If ayurveda were a religion, nature would be its goddess,’ says Robert Svoboda, the only westerner to have earned a degree in ayurvedic medicine and surgery. His journey of transformation began in 1972 when he traveled to Africa. While visiting the Ivory Coast, he suffered from dysentery. However, he was soon healed by a local medicine man. This sparked his interest in folk medicine and he joined an ethnological expedition to the Pokot tribe in Kenya where he was invited to join the tribe ritually and learn about their traditional cures. His next stop, obviously, was India with its rich tradition of healing systems. Amazed by India’s ancient physical, mental and spiritual healing arts, he joined the Tilak Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya in Pune to study ayurveda instead of returning to study medicine at the University of Oklahoma. ‘The materialistic bias of much current scientific opinion impedes the easy conversion of ayurvedic concepts into western equivalents,’ writes Svoboda in his paper Ciratposana of Prana—A Modern Interpretation. But that did not deter him from staying in India for years, diligently studying the ancient sciences of ayurveda, jyotish (astrology) and yoga. His book Light on Life, co-authored with Hart Defouw, has been considered by many as one of the best books on astrology. Svoboda also has the singular honor of being the only westerner to be accepted as the student of Aghori Vimalananda. Aghora is a tantric tradition based on extraordinary extremes and intensities where an aspirant sets out to overcome human limitations by destroying all human restrictions and taboos. Svoboda’s acquaintance with Vimalananda opened for him the hitherto restricted domain of tantra and its unique philosophy. Through his studies in India, Svoboda learnt that it is necessary for man to preserve his harmony with nature. And ayurveda, according to him, teaches just that. ‘Ayurveda is the product of a civilization which is deeply rooted in Mother Nature,’ writes Svoboda in Ayurveda:The Marriage of Art & Medicine. He says that one of the first things he learnt in India was that medicine is an art where the involvement of a healer as well as the understanding of nature is essential. According to him, it is necessary to understand one’s constitution (whether one is vata, pitta or kapha type) and live according to it. Svoboda has authored a number of books including three famous books on tantra: Aghora:At the left hand of God, Kundalini:Aghora II and Aghora III:The Law of Karma. He has also written many books on ayurveda including Ayurveda: Life, Health and Longevity, Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution, and Women and Ayurveda. Svoboda, who has lectured extensively in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia, feels that most people either go through their lives too fast and burn out, or go too slow and fail to make full use of their potential. This is where ayurveda can help them by identifying their types and helping them regain their balance with a personalized lifestyle plan. Svoboda has been licensed to practice medicine in India since 1980. However, the license does not extend to the West where ayurveda is not recognized as a medicine system. He doesn’t mind since his first love is writing books. He also holds workshops with topics such as ‘Prakriti and the Three Doshas‘, ‘Subtle Energies and Prana‘, ‘Herbs and Herbology‘, ‘Daily and Seasonal Routines, Food and Exercise‘, and ‘How Personality Shapes Health and Diseases‘.
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