By Punya Srivastava
Long before Western medicine admitted that cholesterol was a bogey or that many of their conclusions were faulty, the eminent Dr BM Hegde had already broadcast them, says Punya Srivastava
At 78, Mangalore-based Belle Monappa Hegde leads a busy life. He travels a lot, attends seminars and conferences, delivers talks at prestigious educational institutes of the country, chairs several committees, and writes articles for various esteemed publications. All this with a beatific smile on his face. Padma Bhushan Dr BM Hegde is one of the leading cardiologists of the country who, ironically, supports and propagates integrated medicine! He has been championing the cause of integrated medicine since the past 50 years. His has been the voice of reason in the mechanistic and reductionist world of Western medicine. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to hail the prolific Dr Hegde as India's foremost 'integrated medicine' man.
Dr Hegde's life has been a testimony to his sheer faith in the holistic approach to life and wellness. He has authored more than 40 books on various topics regarding holistic health and wellness. His papers have found place in esteemed journals like The Lancet. He has been vociferous against the pharma companies' campaign against cholesterol; he has also been fighting against the burgeoning business of angioplasty. Dr Hegde holds prestigious qualifications in the field of medicine - MD, FRCP, FRCPE, FRCPG, FACC, FAMS (from Indian and foreign Universities) – and yet, his life's purpose has taken him beyond the surgery table. He retired as the Vice Chancellor of Manipal University; Professor of Cardiology, the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London; Affiliate Professor of Human Health, Northern Colorado University. He has 40 years of teaching experience in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. He Chairs the State Health Society’s Expert Committee, Government of Bihar, and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Mangalore Kendra. He was also the Editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes. Dr Hegde, an elected fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences, has won Dr B C Roy National Award in the category of an Eminent Medical Teacher, and Dr J C Bose Award for Life Sciences Research. And yet, he doesn't seem to carry the weight of his brilliance on his slight frame. His superlative sense of humour and his childlike enthusiasm for life lends him an aura of carefree exuberance. His joie de vivre is reflected in his twinkling eyes as he regales a captive audience with one anecdote after another. I met him for the first time last year in a one-day seminar on Integrative Medicine hosted by the Life Positive Foundation, and was blown away by his humility. A few weeks ago, I phoned him to interview him, and found him most amenable. Excerpts from the conversation:
Dr Hegde, at what point in life did you realise the limitations of allopathy?
(With a booming laugh) When I was a student at the medical school, in the 1950s! I discovered that all was not well with allopathy. Modern medicine system is based on linear mathematics (Euclidean geometry), which says for example, “the higher the sugar or blood pressure, the quicker you die.” But this is not true. In fact, American Nobel Laureate Hungarian-born scientist, John von Neumann defined science as “making models, mostly mathematical constructs, which, with verbal jargon, are supposed to work.” A human being is a complex entity with a physical body, an intangible mind, and an all-pervasive soul, and I realised that for treating such a complex entity, an equally complex system of Mandelbrot’s Fractal Geometry works, which they don't teach. When I questioned my teachers at the medical school, I was told not to bother as all that was not in the syllabus, and won't come in the exams.
But how did it feel to be part of a system that you had seen through?
Well, people see me and exclaim, “How come you are still alive!” (laughs) Because I know, and most of us know, that pharma industry and medical industry are big businesses. They are quite powerful and want to maintain the status quo. The Establishment doesn't want the truth to be out in the open. Actually, healing and healthcare is very simple – nature has all the cures.
You must have stirred up a lot of opposition. Could you share some of your experiences?
I remember an instance from my early days of practice where I joined a big government hospital in Mangalore as an associate professor of medicine, and had to see 600 patients in the OPD each day. Like everyone else, I also started following the book – noting the blood pressure and prescribing medicines to lower high blood pressure. One day, a patient came for a follow-up and I checked his BP and told him that his condition has improved. He laughed in a sarcastic manner. Piqued, I enquired about the reason. Apparently, he couldn't get the medicine from the dispensary as it was out of the stock. And yet, his blood pressure had come down to the normal range. “You told me that I was all right, that nothing was wrong with me, and I believed you, and went home happily.” The significance of the placebo effect dawned upon me. I did a little study of my own and showed it to my colleagues. Unfortunately, my colleagues and the establishment turned against me. In 1968, I wrote an article, Unconventional Wisdom in Medicine, which further infuriated my colleagues. They wanted to throw me out, saying that I was nuts. However, the authorities said, “Let the nut be there until he wants to leave on his own.” Even today, my latest manuscript did the rounds of the Indian publishing circuit, but no one wanted to publish it. Right now it is with Cambridge University, and they seem to be considering it. Whatever I have been saying for the last 45 years, today the West is also confirming. For instance, now there are studies that say that cholesterol is a myth.
|Dr Hegde with LP President, D R Kaartikeyan: Getting endorsement from the holistic world|
I have been saying so since the past 45 years – that cholesterol is produced in your own liver and without cholesterol you will be unhealthy and lowering cholesterol will kill you. But when I said these things, people became very angry with me. You know, people will only accept that you are right when you have been endorsed by the West. And the irony is that the most famous scientist in the world took inspiration from Indian sages and their philosophy of advaita that dates back to thousands of years. He called it 'a-duality' and came up with E=MC square which won him the Nobel Prize.
What kept you going despite it all?
The hope that good sense would prevail some day. The other day I was in Chennai delivering a talk when a gentleman came up to me and said: "I have all your writings with me since the last 50 years, and I will compile them all into a book, because whatever you said and wrote has today been accepted by the West." Coming back to the question, I have not, till today, used any Western medicine concoctions to heal any illnesses – small, medium or big. Also, I follow the mantra of loving those who oppose me more than loving those who love me back. I have no hatred for anybody. I enjoy what I do, and I don't do anything that I don't like. Doing things you like never tires you. I recall a few lines from William Wordsworth's poem which he wrote in 1802 when the Industrial Revolution was beginning: The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours;We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
How is future medicine going to look like?
Integrated medicine is the future. All systems of medicine must practise together. There are good things for everyone in every system. Modern medicine can't be thrown away lock, stock and barrel even though it is based on faulty science and maths. It is still very much a requisite when it comes to handling emergencies. Further, for better wellness, a tranquil mind is needed because almost all the diseases take birth in the mind. The mind can become tranquil when the person becomes a good human being, and that can be done through yoga. But then also, yoga is not commercial kushti that is seen on the television. Yoga is chitta vritti nirodha which makes you a loving person. When you love the world, your body loves you back and all the diseases disappear.
What is the role of self-discovery in achieving total wellness?
Self discovery is the only path. One has to start socialising with himself or herself. Today, silence is lost on people. Even when people are taking a walk alone, they have earphones stuck in their ears. Discard them; walk with your ears and eyes open to nature and you will start talking to yourself. When you talk to yourself and start understanding yourself, you realise how small you are. And when this realisation dawns, you start losing ego, pride, jealousy, anger, hatred – all these things melt away. All which remains is the all-pervading soul, the all-pervading love, and that is it.
How has your journey of life been?
Well, I never planned anything in my life. I didn't believe in the Western dictum – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I don't think so. I didn't even plan to go to the medical college. Things happen, you are not the doer.
Who sowed the seeds of this awareness within you?
My mother. She educated me. She would often say, “Do nothing that you would be ashamed of doing in public." She would make me read one stanza of the Bhagavad Gita every day. Also, I was lucky that I didn't go to any fancy, upmarket school. I was born in Pangala village of the Udupi region in Karnataka, in an ethnic Tulu speaking family. I attended the village school where I had wonderful teachers. I say today that they were my gods.
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