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Svoboda The topic of my presentation this morning is Ayurveda: An Alternative or Complementary Medicine? I am not sure, however, that this is the right question to ask. I think we must first ask several other questions before we can answer this one. Question One: Does modern medicine need alternatives and complements? The answer, I believe, is yes. Modern medicine responds admirably to crises which require quick, intensive, invasive intervention, and deals far less effectively with slowly progressing degenerative diseases The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported that nearly half the people in the United States suffer from at least one chronic illness, and that together these illnesses account for threefourths of all medical expenses in our country. In this climate of change in the West which is now calling into question many of the assumptions which we once accepted unthinkingly an awareness is growing that our paradigm is shifting. A system's paradigm is its pattern, the archetype which structures each of its products. Crisis medicine promotes a crisis-based lifestyle. An imbalance that begins in one location can surface elsewhere, since all facets of the organism communicate with each other; physical imbalances can thus be generated from disturbances of the mind or the life-force, mental disorders can be due to physical derangements, and so on. Imbalanced individuals tend to perturb their surroundings, and a polluted habitat will pollute its inhabitants. Ayurvedists who survey today's world find the human creature destroying its environment and itself everywhere they look, and are not surprised to discover the gargantuan imbalances thus created emerging as rampant disease. The inability of crisis-based medicine to deal with these crises has led to the present situation in the West in which many alternative paradigms compete for the acceptance of scientists and public alike. Last week I spoke at a conference on organ transplantation organized by Howard University. While I was there I attended a lecture by Dr. James Gordon, Professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and first Chair of the Advisory council of the OAM at the NIH. During the course of his talk Dr. Gordon mentioned that 2 out of every 3 people who consult with M.D.s in this country are also doing something extra: herbs, supplements, chiropractic, whatever. 2 out of 3 is a decisive majority. Is it possible that our health care system is changing faster than our ability and willingness to perceive and describe it? Do all the people who are being served by the system still accept the fundamental premises that make up
The same Ayurvedic principles that are used to correct yourself when you are out of balance can be used to preserve your balance once it is corrected. This operation. Empiricism too is fundamental to both. This "superstition" has already contributed much to modern medicine. that Ayurveda's most valuable contributions will be made to the new theory that medicine is trying to grow. yes. on its part Ayurveda has absorbed therapeutic innovations from many sources within and without India over its history. led to the development of plastic surgery as an independent speciality. Ayurveda's materia medica and therapeutic techniques have much more yet to contribute. I maintain. understand and implement Ayurveda? I rather doubt this. which apparently binds cholesterol in GI tract and has been reported to be as good as Lopid at lowering blood cholesterol levels. its darshana. however. During the nineteenth century the Germans translated from the 2000-year-old treatise of the Ayurvedic author Sushruta the details of an operation for repair of damaged noses and ears. More recently it has provided the cholesterolcontrolling gugulipid (from Commiphora mukul). When you can upgrade your health you may find diseases disappearing without ever having been directly addressed. the Ayurvedic author . describe. Though it concentrates first on making simple changes of diet and behavior. Ayurveda has also given us plastic surgery. which is extracted from a plant (Rauwolfia serpentina) that is still used today in India to safely control hypertension. in my opinion. Question Three: Can modern mechanical medicine adequately perceive. shock therapy. Ayurveda focuses on health as a positive condition that is independent of disease. a vision which will facilitate medicine's ability to teach people not just how to avoid disease but how to proactively develop and maintain a healthy "state. and other intensive treatments when mild interventions fail to produce results. Ayurveda does not hesitate to use surgery. These contributions will be derived from Ayurveda's way of seeing the world. all Ayurvedic treatment is carefully tailored to the individual. Many similarities already do exist between the standpoints from which Ayurveda and modern medicine survey the world. Today Sushruta is regarded by plastic surgeons around the world as the father of their craft. an active state of being that can be promoted by appropriate behavior. for simple alterations are sometimes sufficient to produce big results. Question Two: Is Ayurveda a worthy alternative? This answer is also. Both believe in technological progress." Modern medicine defines health as the absence of disease.the system? It would appear that the ajority wants change. which appears in modern textbooks of surgery as the pedicle graft. Ideally. including the drug reserpine.
obesity with reduction in caloric intake. Nor were they less logical. Everything in the universe that is not pure unconditional consciousness is a form of matter. vocation. Everything with which an organism comes in contact interacts with its matter and its consciousness. all living organisms are innately interdependent. which teaches that consciousness evolved from matter. which is known by direct observation as having by nature a specific medical action. In spite of this Ayurveda does not yet have a sterling reputation among physicians of Western medicine. Their inner explorations led these savants to conclude that consciousness is omnipresent in the universe. and discourages Western medicine from accepting. This is the gulf that truly parts Ayurveda from materialist science. its expression varying with the density of the matter that contains it. This posture achieves precision by denying a place in Western experimental philosophy to any phenomena that are not externally measurable. Though most of their experiments were performed internally these were no less rigorous and systematic than those that scientists perform in external laboratories.Sushruta declares. Western materialist science presupposes that the way to eschew ambiguity in science is to distance ourselves from the things that we measure. one recently called it in print "a superstition of ancient times. or even grasping. This premise is fundamental to Ayurveda: that consciousness is omnipresent in the universe. and pre-existed the cosmos. It encourages the free application of both rationality and intuition to scrutinize all states of being." But then this is because the majority of modern physicians do not know what to look for when they look at Ayurveda. however minimally. including diet. and its logic is a fuzzier sort of logic (in the non-pejorative. Over thousands of years the sages who moulded Ayurveda studied how embodied life is affected by what we do and how we do it in all of life's arenas. Ayurveda is a different "language" from modern medicine. "A learned physician must never try to examine on grounds of pure logic the efficacy of a medicine." Both agree that an allopathic approach to disease is ordinarily efficient. avocation. in fact. and in fact pre-existed the cosmos. No conclusions drawn by . that which cannot be explained phenomenologically. and the material universe and all that is within it evolved from and continues to evolve because of that consciousness. exercise. and both thus usually treat conditions with their opposites: fever is countered with temperature-lowering measures. and personal relationships. The Ayurvedic system maintains that all phenomena however ambiguous are worthy of investigation if they influence embodied life. cybernetic sense of "fuzzy logic"). consequently. internal and external. Consciousness expresses itself in and through everything that exists. and so on.
continues to accumulate. as we see today in love-hate relationships and the like. consider for example the generally successful attempts at the end of the nineteenth century to outlaw homeopathy at a time when in many parts of the country homeopathy was more popular than allopathy. research and practice alike. The more that the medical establishment calls chiropractic or homeopathy or Ayurveda "alternative . The approach of Chinese medicine is similar. "The Chinese have never failed to recognize the paradoxes and the polarity inherent in what is alive. Newton's early form of "political correctness" reflects the sad truth that even modern medical science. Ayurveda's approach is more alchemical. is a mark of barbarism. "As Gregory Bateson has rightly remarked. he invented it. but no culture (including India's) is spared this sort of thing entirely. Ambiguity has not always been anathema to science. though it lends momentum. This means that a thing is closely related to its opposite. He eventually decided that he would have to repress this side of himself if he wanted to get ahead in the world of that time. and so purged all references to alchemy from later editions of his works. One-sidedness. at least in the form of observers affecting their observations. How we structure a thing determines to great extent its reality. continues to gain ground as scientific evidence of consciousness's ability to influence matter. materialist science abhors ambiguity. Newton did not discover gravity. and the key to structuring what we believe to be real usually boils down to the amount of repetition and intensity that is brought to it." While Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine try to mirror this ambiguity in their processes. This is merely the most recent incarnation of a generalized ancient trend to support orthodoxy at the expense of innovation. If you call something a duck long enough and loudly enough many people will eventually become convinced that it is a duck.reasoning from one of these two competing and mutually exclusive postulates can be expected to prove or disprove the "validity" of the other postulate. The opposites always balanced one another-a sign of high culture. The "consciousness" model. John Maynard Keynes discovered in 1936 that Isaac Newton had been obsessed with alchemy and had mentioned it in early editions of his books. The alchemical paradigm holds that that reality is paradoxical. Galileo's fate and the witch-burnings were two other European examples. is structured in large measure through political means. Modern medicine itself succeeded in gaining a paramount position in our country with substantial help from political sources. whether or not it actually quacks. however." How we structure our reality determines what might be "alternative or complementary" to it. Carl Jung wrote. India and China have always appreciated life's innate ambiguities.
All medical systems are models. preservation and destruction of our physical reality. has created and is creating enormous difficulties for us humans and for our world. Now the mass of this iceberg is reacting against that neglect. counterattacking with epidemics of psychological and psychosomatic disease. rationally ordered reality for ourselves is itself an active participatation in that reality from which we are trying to separate ourselves. who in his classic book Personal Knowledge showed that (even though most scientists like to claim otherwise) science is a craft. it only prevents us from perceiving it. The modern fixed and unchangeable view of medical reality has meant that until very recently few scientists were prepared to accept that the mind and the body can and do influence one another in measurable ways. assistant to modern medicine. a scientist becomes proficient at his science not by strictly following the dictates of some unambiguous rule book but by immersing himself in the slow trial-anderror process of discerning patterns and learning to follow those patterns.or complementary" the more that is what they will become: secondary to. The most important of our irrational influences exist in the vast terrain of the unconscious mind. adjunct to. Many of the problems that we have today stem from the fact that our reality system officially denies that the mind participates in the creation. has cut itself off from the 90% of the iceberg of consciousness that is outside the control of the conscious mind. To be worthy of possessing alternatives or complements a system should accurately reflect and describe the reality that is embodied life to a substantial degree in a systematic and logical way. Denying the mind its influence does not prevent that influence. This totalitarian rationality. and that we can observe portions of this reality as non-participating observers. Modern medical science. we must learn to improve it like we learn any other craft. We have to do the same thing with our health. approximations of reality. Whether it involves the growing of crystals or the reading of X-rays. Question Four: How can we understand Ayurveda? The Ayurvedic model takes the approach advocated by Michael Polyani. which by denying participation with our reality implicitly denies everything that is irrational about us. may not qualify as such a system. But this act of mechanically constructing a separate. which is currently in the throes of a revolution that will dramatically affect both its vision of the nature of medicine and the way that medicine is practised. but modern science. . Modern medicine assumes that the reality we can perceive with our senses is the only reality there is. by promoting the idea that rational knowledge is the whole of knowing.
We can describe prana as the energy that inspires life to persist within a particular living being. The pattern that these practitioners call prana is as real to them as the patterns that neural networks of taste produce when they sample a mango. Any sensory stimulus that enters one of these networks activates each of the neurons to a different degree. Another is prana. One of Ayurveda's basic theses is that similar patterns appear at all levels of a living organism's existence. both in its internal interplay and in the interplay between it and its environment. You can express your blood pressure in mm of Hg. Students of yoga. Tai Chi and the martial arts who learn to identify and circulate this force within themselves discover that prana is as easily measured with their own internal instruments as it is difficult to measure with external gadgets. Ayurveda suggests that the self-evident good or bad taste of food has more than a trivial effect on the organism that consumes it. the members of the network continuing to share information until a pattern develops. but how do you measure taste? Most of us find it natural to believe that that well-cooked food tastes better than poorlycooked food. Evidence that supports this conjecture has also begun to accumulate in Western science (e. the force of life. Taste is one example of the many patterns in our daily lives than cannot be easily quantified. Instead. Ayurveda asserts that the internal reality of something as outwardly ephemeral as a taste pattern is in fact very real to the tasting organism. It is in fact innate to us. it organizes its neurons into neural networks. patterns are very real to the organism in which they occur. The brain is too parsimonious to assign one memory to one neuron.g. The more highly activated neurons signal strongly and the weakly activated ones less strongly.in studies on the ways in which the taste of fat or sugar in the mouth can influence physiology even before they are metabolized). Many types of patterns arise and are held in the same net. Athletes around the world are now studying the life force as they learn that cultivating a healthy pranic pattern facilitates the type of body-mind cohesion that allows one to shine out on the playing field.This process happens to be very natural to us humans. for this is how the brain learns as well. Each living body hosts a wide variety of strongly-held metabolic patterns which influence its ability to build up . Whatever their external reality. Each pattern affects us whether we are aware of it or not. Taste is only one of the many patterns that characterize our bodies and minds. Athletic training is basically a matter of breaking down old physical and mental patterns and building up new ones. even though there is no way to externally verify this internal perception. which the Chinese call chi and the Japanese ki.
new patterns. but the ways in which people adapt differ from person to person. Dr. and emotional strengths and weaknesses. Americans not only eat too much food.50% of their normal intake) in the laboratory they live about 30% longer than do well-fed rodents. in all aspects of existence but particularly in the context of the Three Doshas. The aggregate of these innate properties forms the individual's "nature" or "personal constitution" (in Sanskrit. and responsiveness to various forms of therapy. for simple alterations are sometimes sufficient to produce big results. prakriti). Though the mechanism of this effect remains in doubt (it may be due to decreased production of free radicals) the effect itself is clear. These three metapatterns are the Three Doshas." They are called doshas ("mistakes. in predictable ways. Ayurveda escalates into surgery and other intensively invasive therapies only when mild interventions fail to produce results. Disease-causing imbalance patterns may result whenever an organism fails to adapt properly to a change in its internal or external environment. . Students of Ayurveda work with the reality of life from the dosha perspective because of its practical utility in everyday practice. the body's so-called "humors. Though many of these adaptation patterns are learned behavior others are innate properties of the organism itself. Everyone has physical. pranic. When they are balanced the Three Doshas ensure that the organism functions well. Each of these classes forms a metapattern. general and specific sensitivity to illness. Modern researchers continue to rediscover truths that Ayurvedic researchers learned many centuries ago. The Ayurvedic approach to healing concentrates first on making simple changes of diet and behavior. psychological. since 1935 modern science has known that when mice and rats are fed a very low calorie diet (30 . taken together these form a set of "reaction prints" which are as characteristic of their owners as are fingerprints or footprints. a pattern which actively reproduces itself whenever it is given the opportunity to do so. The need to adapt is universal. so long as they receive sufficient nutrition." in Sanskrit) because when they are deranged they induce the organism to go off balance. Ayurveda classifies each these many metabolic patterns into one of three classes. For example. Ayurveda defines health as balance and ill health as imbalance. a temperament which profoundly influences predisposition to health. The dosha approach allows associations to be detected between seemingly unconnected causative pathways and manifested symptoms. Dean Ornish has shown how a judicious program of exercise and dietary change can not only control but in some cases reverse the course of obstructive coronary artery disease. too much of that food is fat.
As long as they eat a traditional diet-rice. sodium four ounces of bottled tomato sauce has nearly 700 mg. or the Amazon. Two went so far as to throw away their canes. for instance." The two may have little in common. keep their minds active. Dietary change is potentiated by exercise. and anyone who lives on such a diet ingests about ten times more potassium than sodium. But when they migrate to nearby towns their blood pressure starts to rise with age. unrefined plants provides you the bonus of phytochemicals which combat cancers and boost immunity. and we are the only ones that suffer from hypertension. which in judicious amounts can help everyone. it is a disease of civilization. a little meat. Africa. At the end of this period their average walking speed had nearly tripled. In a study known as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) researchers at several institutions put volunteers on one of three diets. and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables-almost none of them suffer from hypertension. It has been said that "patients suffer illnesses and physicians diagnose and treat diseases. High blood pressure afflicts one-third of all Americans in their 50's.0 mm respectively. Preindustrial people rarely get increases in blood pressure as they age. Dietary changes can reduce blood pressure as markedly as drug treatment. manage stress well. whether they live in China. and more than two-thirds of those over 70. and their balance improved by half.Recall that the two most common diagnoses requiring transplantation in African-Americans are hypertension and diabetes. and never give up. A positive attitude is also a big plus in regaining and preserving health. Dr. Most people who live to be a hundred maintain through their lives a social network of support. Normotensives who ate a low-fat menu including ten daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables plus two servings of calcium-rich dairy products reduced their systolic and diastolic readings by 5. Our ancestors subsisted mainly on fresh plant foods for about seven million years. Maria Fiatarone of Tufts University recently got ten chronically-ill nursing home residents to lift weights three times a week for two months. even the frail. half of those in their 60's. For example. Paul Whelton of Tulane University's School of Public Health has spent the past decade tracking 15. But hypertension is not inevitable. "Civilized" people consume far more sodium. while a four-ounce tomato contains 9 mg. Potassium supplements can bring a similar but less dramatic effect. and in as little as two months. Modern humans are the only mammals that consume more sodium than potassium. Dr. in a seven-year study of 3.500 older people who were asked to . mainly because they do not eat processed foods. Alaska.000 indigenous Yi people in southwest China. but consuming fresh. Hypertensives had reductions of twice that magnitude.5 mm and 3.
and why "true believers" seem more able to produce positive results. "Scientifically. Larry Dossey. and other healthful habits will be health-promotive to the greatest degree. at least initially. M. exercise. including the patient's constitution and age. what we do. In choosing herbs for a patient we focus primarily on the pattern that the disease has generated rather than the specific symptom alone." Ayurveda seeks to find positive ways for each of us to "shove our data around. one must carefully consider all the factors affecting the case. When therapeutic intervention is called for we generally focus on plant materials. Promoting Ayurveda's health in North America in the current environment requires that it develop some sort of relationship with its environment. Conclusion: Ayurveda could be an alternative to modern medicine now . In all cases. not much. This might shed light on why skeptical experimenters appear unable to replicate the findings of believers. Politically. The validity of decades of experimental findings in medical research would need to be reevaluated if it is proved that the mind can "shove the data around. those who rated their health as poor were three times as likely to die as were those who believed their health to be good. Thereafter." Two essential steps on the path to good health are to establish a healthy relationship between yourself and your environment and to enhance and maintain that relationship with your every choice and action." By examining metapatterns in an organism it can help that organism's owner decide what kind of food. quite a bit. Observers can affect their observations. removal of the causative factors is the first step: the patient's diet. The danger is that this will not be a mutually healthy relationship but will instead be one in which Ayurveda will be "commodified" and "mainstreamed" into the current disease-care system.evaluate their own health. When it is too late for prevention early detection becomes the key. desirable or useful is it that Ayurveda be described in and bound by terms provided by another model?" Our answer to this question might be. and what we think. We are what we eat.D. comments: "It appears that doubleblind studies can sometimes be steered in directions that correspond to the thoughts and attitudes of the experimenters. of which a major portion is modern medicine. Question Five: "How necessary. lifestyle. and most importantly the strength of the patient versus the strength of the disease. the season of the year. and way of thinking all must change. meditation. However. those who were clinically in poor health but who rated themselves as being healthy were less likely to die than those who believed themselves to be unwell.
p.except for the facts that the medical establishment in this country is not yet ready for it. 1997. therefore.62 4 Newsweek June 30. M. and create a new model of reality that is a culture of the alternative and complementary.61 6 Mossey and Shapiro. Ayurveda is not yet ready either. Footnotes: 1 JAMA Vol. 72 (1982):800807 7 7 Dossey. 1996. 92 3 Newsweek June 30. pp. 18.D. "Self-Rated Health: A Predictor of Mortality Among the Elderly.. This new model could do much worse than to model itself on the ancient model which continues to serve us so well: Ayurveda. p. 1473-79 2 David Rosen. 1997. 1997. The Tao of Jung: The Way of Integrity. 195 Copyright © 1997 Robert Edwin Svoboda . it will have to act as a complementary medicine before it can become alternative." American Journal of Public Health. Nov 13.64 5 Newsweek June 30. for there is a dramatic scarcity of qualified Ayurvedic physicians. It would be better it would be to first reestablish other modes of thinking and doing science. 1996). Issue No. 276. Now. p. (New York: Viking Arkana. p. p.