The Science of Life

Are you tired of contradictory “scientific” studies and health reports on food, diet and exercise ? Overwhelmed with incessant “expert” opinions about lifestyle and habits ? One day dairy is good, another day not so much; high protein or carb-rich diet; cycling or running; raw food or supplements. Ever wondered why there is still no cure in sight for arthritis, asthma, AIDS, cancer or diabetes; why bacterial illness such as TB or Malaria have re-emerged; why primary healthcare has become unaffordable; why almost every synthetic drug comes with its long list of side effects – some including death; why vaccines may be linked to autism in children; why medicines flushed down the drain lead to hormonal imbalances in fish populations; why hospitals produce tonnes of toxic biomedical waste ?

The problem is that modern western medicine takes a narrow reductionist approach towards health based on an incomplete model of Nature. It views the body as a machine, organs as its parts, emotions as chemical secretions and intelligence as an emergent property of the neurons. Specialists are trained to treat body parts rather than a human being. Until very recently modern medicine had completely ignored the mind-body connection. It is this kind of materialistic thinking that drives medics to justify the use of isolated compounds, radiation, vitamin supplements, transgenic organisms, animal trials etc. Such research is usually either inconclusive or results in devastating long-term consequences.

Let’s take the case of vaccination. The blind chase for killing bacteria and viruses is untenable since they mutate constantly and yet a new born child is overwhelmed with a cocktail of foreign bodies with unknown side effects. Even if we were to ignore safety concerns around vaccines, they could still never fight the enormous genetic variability in nature. Inoculation in one form or another has been around for centuries; the small pox vaccine is known to have been inspired by an ancient cow-pox treatment in ancient India.

But microbes do not cause disease; they appear on scene as opportunists and passers by. However every time a new virus pops up on the medical radar, billions of dollars are poured into discovering its genetic fingerprint and attacking its DNA. Viruses that have been around for millions of years are turned into devils overnight by a fear-mongering scientific community and then the media. The fact that it is our body’s natural immune system that keeps it protected from the never ending swarm of foreign bodies is grossly overlooked. A mundane health issue is immediately complexified and commercialized.

Medicine in the west is unscientific trial and error that is statistically bound to encounter failures. And when spooky science gets muddled with greed and the stock market, profit becomes the priority not human health. Despite all its technology and research dollars, modern medicine is clueless about the big picture – the relationship between man and nature; macrocosm and the microcosm; cause and effect. At best, it treats the symptoms of the disease but not the cause.

Enter Ayurveda, literally the “Science of life” in Sanskrit – the 5000 yr old mother branch of Yoga, Acupuncture, Vaastu, Feng -shui, Chakra system and Chinese herbal medicine. Ayurveda‘s approach towards health, nutrition and exercise is simple yet profound.

Central to Ayurveda is the concept of the flow of life-force or Prana in the body. All living beings and the food they eat, are much more than just billions of atoms held together; they have an intrinsic energy that cannot be broken down into constituents. It takes a little observation to realize that Nature gifts this prana to everything that has manifested. Raw foods for instance are high in prana as opposed to overcooked or frozen foods, no matter what their calorific value.

Ayurveda is not concerned with labeling or classifying diseases, chasing symptoms or genomes of random microorganisms. Instead it focuses on the body, mind and the spirit of the individual. Several factors such as a person’s elemental constitution, diet, lifestyle, and environment are taken into consideration. The goal is to balance the natural elements or dosha in the body and then fortifiy the immune system to ward off any external (viral, bacterial, radiological or chemical) or internal (cancerous) attack. For optimal health, diet, Yoga and meditation are prescribed based on the individual’s mind-body type.

It is this balance of doshas that inspires traditional Indian cooking – ghee, spices, khichdi, roti-daal, saag-paneer, aloo-gobi, pickles, etc. According to Ayurveda, no food is good or bad; what is nourishing for one, may be toxic for another. For instance, if a person is of a Vata or dry/airy body type, then eating salads on a cold winter day could aggravate the dryness thus making him sick and unsettled. Instead, eating greasy and oily food would minimize dryness, lubricate joints and ground his “airy” body. People of such body types need little exercise and are less likely to become overweight.

Nature evolved species along with the food that they eat in an ecology they can thrive in. All living beings tap into this pool of natural intelligence for self-diagnosis and self-healing. And Ayurveda is no different. Vaidyas or Ayurvedic physicians don’t rely on intrusive blood tests or body scans for diagnosis. Instead they observe the color of nails, skin, eyes and roots of the hair. Expert Vaidyas can perform accurate diagnosis for several ailments through highly intuitive pulse reading techniques which is a vast subject of research.

So why then do we still pop synthetic drugs with every sneeze ? If the drugs are so effective, why are pharmaceuticals bribing doctors and spending billions on its ad-campaigns ? Why are thousands of innocent animals and people (watch “The Constant Gardener”) being tortured and killed in drug trials ? Why are nearly 70,000 different drugs being sold in India, where given the number of ailments, no more than 700 are needed ?

Aside from surgery as a last resort, modern medicine is redundant and needs to be relegated into the past. To be fair, Susruta performed complicated surgeries around 1000B.C but treatises depicting these operations have been lost to history.

Ayurveda is eternal because it is inspired by the laws of nature. It is not motivated by profit or ego, not based on animal or human trials, not driven by selfish patents and copyrights and not dependent on insurance or charity. It is divine knowledge waiting to be used once again for the good of all living beings.