International Ayurveda Conference, London
31 March to 1 April 2007 | Lecture by V. Vasudevan
Based on a comprehensive outlook, Ayurveda can be classified into two – one, Ayurveda Sastra and the other, Ayurveda Tantra. Both these are mutually compatible and inseparable. The philosophical side of Ayurveda is Sastra and the practical aspect is Tantra. It is the right mixture of these two that is mentioned in the treatises. Tantra without accepting the Sastra principles need not be fruitful. Ayurveda is classified into Swasthavritta (observance of a healthy) and Athuravritta (observance of an ill) based on its emphasis. The dietary and other regimens meant for the preservation of health and the treatments for the disease are included in the Tantra. Precisely Tantra is the practical approach.
Contribution to Modern Medicine
Ayurveda had contributed remarkably well to the modern medicine in a variety of ways and especially to point out- the contributions in the Branch of Surgery is of high esteem. One of the authentic scriptures on Ayurvedic Surgery- the Sushruta Samhita was first translated into German language about 2 centuries ago and that must be the point, from where the modern surgery first emerged. Sage Sushruta, the author of Sushruta Samhita is highly honoured for his contributions and entitled -the "Father of Surgery".
Uniqueness –the safest system
The uniqueness that Ayurveda upholds is that it is a natural system of medicine considering human being akin to the nature. Natural herbs and natural minerals are used as medicines after a series of natural processing, by way of making it safer and protecting from fatal side effects. If any side effects are found it must be due to the wrong methods of processing, wrong combinations, wrong preparations and usage. The scriptures say these are Asasatrita (unscientific). Ayurveda attends to all aspects of human life inculcating physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual.
Education- Ancient and Modern
Education is the most vital part of any sublime knowledge in existence, so also in Ayurveda. There had two separate systems of education in this field-One is the traditional Gurukula model of ancient times and the other is the present academic model.
In ancient times, Ayurvedic education was prevalent in the traditional style in India, sharing knowledge from the Guru to the disciple in a special environment conducive to the in-depth studies on the background of Indian knowledge systems. This system was more or less related to the social set up and cultural background of those days possessed by the country – an inter-link of culture and education. The knowledge was gained through personal relationship between the Guru and disciple. In the advent of time, this system had a break-down when the culture and education were separated; as a result the academic education set up had crept into. The focus of academic education is exclusive professionalism that devalued the moral and ethical concepts of higher consciousness- the central theme.
In the traditional education prime importance was given to that consciousness. The scriptures say - an Ayurvedic scholar should be an adept (Sadhaka) or spiritually inclined person. The skill and power of diagnosis and understanding of human nature will have more accuracy at a higher degree of conscience derived out of wisdom; wherein the intuitive powers start working.
The traditional model of education was very much rooted in logic, whereas present day academic education is rooted in science. This scientific mind set of a modern Vaidya inclines him to carry out further scientific research in this field, as a result lot of such activities are carried out today with a craving to prove everything in scientific terms. The logic based studies believe that education itself is the ultimate research, when everything is the projection of that consciousness. Let us think, wherefrom the modern Ayurveda blossomed. The answer is very simple - modern Ayurveda is the contribution of tradition. Once the traditional knowledge is lost we are losing a great treasure that can never be replaced.
It is true that modern education has contemporary relevance, but as much we go back into tradition, a better scope is open in all spheres like doing research, creating awareness and developing skills and so on. The traditional Vaidyas should never be sceptical in their outlook and they should initiate into guiding others as being the torch bearers.
Critics in this field allege that Ayurveda is a system of the past and out dated; unsuitable to attend the present day health problems, since it has not been developing with modern findings and researches. In fact, these arguments are baseless, as Ayurveda is not time bound. The principles of life do not change at any time. A system that suits to all the ages will only survive as being unmatched, unbound, for Ayurveda is the best evidence.
To cite an example, I share with you an interesting case treated successfully, though it has no direct reference in the scriptures. As per clinical investigation report, the patient was having a hole in the heart valve which is a septal defect- either arterial or ventricular valve problem. In infants there is a possibility of closing by itself, if it is mild. In acute cases the babies will not walk freely and some kind of physical debility will occur. My patient was a 60 year old woman who was hardly able to walk and having palpitation while walking. The modern medical system recommends only surgery in such cases, but she was not fit for surgery as she was 60 years old. Only heart transplantation was possible. It was very expensive too. Because she was not rich enough, she didn't go for this and came to Ayurveda. Such cases we can consider as Vata Hridroga (Vata dominant heart disease). Only Vata dosha can makes the hole. Dasamoolam Kashayam and Sthira (Desmodium Gangaticum) milk decoction was given in the beginning. The conditions improved little bit. Later it captured my mind that she had severe reduction of Ojas as she was hardly able to move and feeling without energy. Then I thought of something that bestows energy. I felt that Gorochana will be the best medicine. This is some kind of liquid taken from the bladder of cows. Every cow will not be having this. The cows having this will have lot of energy and in a group of cows this cow will be in the front as the leader. The skin will be very smooth shining and silky like velvet, as no cow dung would stick on it. When such cow drinks water from pond it keeps the front legs in water. The appearance will also be beautiful. All these characteristics show the good amount of Ojas. It is presumed that Gorochana itself is the Ojas of cows. Then I decided this is the medicine and had given it of high quality for an year. After sometime when the test was done there were no symptoms of sickness and the hole was succumbed. I didn't give any medicine for the heart valve and such a medicine I couldn't find out in the scriptures so far. The same medicine I tried in many other heart patients of various types and found effective. The power of curing heart diseases is not at all mentioned in the scriptures for Gorochana, where as the logic made me to think in that line. Instead of doing a research and finding out a medicine for the heart, we may have to explore more into the possibilities and do research on how that end is achieved.
Tradition and Science
Traditional Ayurveda and Modern Science are parallel to each other. Whereas, higher sciences like Meta- physics and Quantum- physics are in close conjunction with the conscience theory of Ayurveda. To be frank, science has to develop to a great extent to understand the level of consciousness that Ayurveda extols, in order to prove its efficacy. Such kind of researches would only be beneficial both for Ayurveda and for humanity at large. The present parameters and methodologies are found to be inadequate to view the larger picture- its universal nature and wide range of applicability. The research becomes successful at a point where "the science meets consciousness".
Ayurveda covers visible and invisible nature of human existence in connection with the cosmos as each and every being is inter-connected and inter-dependent. All visibility is the projection or the outward manifestation of the invisible. Even in a human body, all body functions are better attended by subtle elements than the gross. In this pursuit, an analytical study on visibility is inappropriate to measure something very large.
My treatment experience of Hepatitis B might give some light on how Ayurveda would practically realise the state of invisible.
1. Normally the treatment of jaundice is given in Hepatitis B. I started with the medicines of jaundice like everyone does, and there had no improvement in the beginning. Later I realised that he has Prameha and started giving medicines for Prameha stopping medicines of jaundice. After a course of 6 months the Billurubin and other blood tests showed normal.
2. Another case of Hepatises B was treated with the medicines of Pandu, which started at a stage when the modern medicine has totally failed. After a course of continued treatment for an year, his blood test showed normal. That means Hepatises B in two different people were diagnosed differently and separate treatments were given. The clinical investigations go to the level of subtle visibility shown in the blood test and further pathogenesis till manifestation of disease is invisible. A name is given to the disease at a stage of subtle visibility before the complete onset. If the Vaidya set his mind to the pre- conceived idea of Hepatitis as Kamila (jaundice), he fails to use his expertise, skill and conscience any more.
Once the consciousness is ignored the whole idea gets fragmented and disunited. Therefore, the unified and diversified knowledge of a human person with the conscience as the centre point is the entire content of Ayurveda.
A blunt research is of no use. The research should be positive in line with Ayurvedic concepts. Mostly the research works are carried out only by scientists. The in-depth knowledge of Ayurveda and higher level of conscience are the very essential requirements while doing research. A unique combination of Scholars and Scientists can only make it a success.
The areas of research are to be first identified. Mostly the following are the trends of research and most of them are done on commercial interest.
1. Standardization of Ayurvedic Medicines
As far as the traditional medicines are concerned, Standardization of Quality seems to be a difficult task. Usually the quality of herbs varies from season to season. To cite an example, Amalaki collected during the on-season will be of high quality, but an off- season crop will not be so powerful. More over, seasonal herbs will only have the freshness, not the off-seasonal; and lot of variations can be noticed even in appearance, taste etc. The present trend to maintain the standards is, changing the dosage forms from Kashaya, Lehya etc to capsule, tablet or syrup. When such is the case, the active principle extracts are used in the preparation of medicines. In my personal experience such new dosage forms are not giving the desired results in real medical cases and traditional products are found to be of no substitute. The reason is that it is not a particular part of the herb acting in the body; its taste, potency and other qualities are also involved and the Dravya (the herb) as a whole is doing the Karma. While using extracts lots of potential elements are totally neglected, since they do not come under the purview of science. Beyond the scientifically analysed substances, there are many invisible latent forces inherent in the Dravya.
2. New Medicines
Discovering new medicine or new formula is a very sensitive area. Special care has to be taken in making new formula. The contra-indicated substances should not be mixed together. I had seen a patent product of an Ayurvedic company with the combination of Shilajith and Horse gram. They are very much contra- indicated and should not be given together. It is very much specified that one who uses Shilajith should not use Horse gram even in the food. How or why they are contra-indicated may probably be beyond the scientific scale limits. In such a case a research will mislead and skip away from Ayurvedic concepts. That will do harm than good.
The trend to develop new medicines for diseases like Diabetes, Asthma, Hepatitis and newly found diseases is growing more and more. If that works it is no more Ayurveda, instead a distorted form of conventional medicine. To be successful, research works are to be carried out on the understanding of Doshas and Dhatus- the keynote principles and their malfunctions. New diseases are not a threat or challenge to Ayurveda, since it has its own methods and findings to know the mal-function of Doshas in every kind of pathogenesis.
In this context, my experiment with an Alzheimer's disease flashes through my memory. Alzheimer's disease is a kind of mental deterioration in the middle or old age. It is a neurological problem in modern terms. The patient was 50 year's old. He was not able to remember even his name and not knowing where he was going. Everything happened all of sudden and he was brought to me on the 3rd day of attack. First few days he had been given cow's milk and cow's urine in equal quantity as medicine, and that really worked. After 7 days there had some sign of improvement and he started remembering incidents of the distant past. To remember recent issues it took several months. Cow's urine and milk are brain stimulants. Panchagavya Ghritam is a medicine for Epilepsy containing cow's urine and milk. Epilepsy is called Apasmara in Ayurveda, means loss of memory. Alzheimer's disease is also memory loss. Therefore, I treated him with the medicine of epilepsy. In epilepsy the memory is lost because the 10 Dhamanies (channels) connected to Hridaya that pass massages to brain are getting blocked with aggravated Kapha in the channels. Hence no message is transmitted to the brain that is the reason for the memory loss. Opening up of the channels by way of removing Kapha, purifying blood with Medhya (Brain stimulant) is the logic of the treatment. If a trail is made to trace out Alzheimer's in Ayurvedic scriptures, we will not able to be find it out and confirms that such a disease was unknown centuries ago when scriptures were composed. It's a wrong notion. Ayurveda is complete by itself in terms of principles; and its application has no limits.
Ayurveda is not a social medicine; it focuses very much on individual. It is not only the disease treated but the patient as a whole is treated. In such case, the same medicine for all who come with same disease goes fundamentally wrong and will not work. The treatment of each individual will be distinctively different from the other. If 99% people got relief with particular medicine and one percent not, the question is why the medicine didn't work on the remaining 1%.
Take the case of Diabetes for example. Diabetes is normally treated as Prameha today by the modern Vaidyas. This understanding is well fixed. In my personal experience, only few cases come with real Prameha. In most other cases the treatments are not given for Prameha. In every case, I use Ayurvedic techniques and make diagnosis according to the symptoms. We can confirm Prameha only if those symptoms are evidently seen. Primarily Prameha is a Urinary disorder, if that disorder is not found it is not necessarily Prameha. Just by seeing high sugar level, it cannot be confirmed as Prameha, since the same can be detected in aggravated Kapha and Ama conditions. It would happen in many other Kapha dominant diseases too. Ayurveda views it thus. Sweet taste increases Kapha in the body. The reason is a sweet substance and Kapha are having same elements in their constitution and that is Prthvi (earth) + Ap (water). Same elements will increase the similar substances in the body. Hence, sweet increases Kapha. Sweetness being a Rasa (taste) can be detected only in liquid forms; therefore sugar can be detected only in urine and blood, not in any other Dhatus. In many occasions I had treated diabetes as Ama, piles, Anaemia etc and result were also excellent. Hence, no short cut other than proper diagnosis.
There had a case of cancer successfully treated with Ayurvedic medicine. The patient had under gone surgery and several radiation therapies before coming to Ayurveda. He had been given medicines of Vidradhi (abscess). He remains healthy even after 6 years free from cancer symptoms.
Documentation is a must in the present medical scenario. It should be a blend of Case documentation and Clinical Research documentation. Effort has to be put into the Clinical investigation studies on cases, in order to prove scientifically how the end result of treatment and medicine is achieved. This would help to generate interest and to create awareness of Ayurveda in the official circle and common man; more over elevate the status and get recognition. It is the need of the time.
Effects of Ayurvedic treatment are found not merely by using medicines; rather it is a big process. Food, discipline, way of life, routines regimens etc; have active roles in healing. Ayurveda is a procedure in which medicines are just fitting into, depending upon the stage and condition of the disease. In short, while approaching Ayurveda the totality of the system must be viewed even segmenting it to education, treatment or research. Especially while doing research; the fullness of Ayurveda is to be taken into due consideration. Disregard to the entire concept will make one fail.