by Bhaswati Bhattacharya
Yoga succeeded by suppressing its authentic core of use as a medical system and eliminating yoga as a medical system in its teaching to the West, focusing on wellness and mental calm. Yoga also eliminated its core spiritual connection and focused on tangible practices such as postures, breathwork, and meditation, using fashion and fitness branding to achieve clout. The yoga audience today spends $75 billion for yoga mats, cushions, blocks, and ropes, uplifting clothes, music, accessories, and publications.
Few discuss the authentic anatomy-physiology used by yogis to understand and heal the diseases of the body using subtle energies as its cornerstone. Those who do venture beyond the acrobatics of aasana (not asaana) pose competitions into the inner space discuss shockras, not cakras – the wheels of circulating energy that provide bioelectric and electromagnetic currents in the body. They chant mantras emphasizing the importance of Sanskṛt, but cannot distinguish the four ‘d’ sounds, or the differences between voiced and unvoiced, aspirated and unaspirated consonants. Yet, yoga concerts and chanting gatherings are more popular in the West than they are in India.
The real problem with preserving ancient Bharatiya sciences lies in the unspoken bias against them by Indians schooled in today’s “universities,” which notably do not represent the universe of wisdom but rather a biased westernized view. The top schools in India embrace modern sciences and western scholars’ work in the arts.
It is not money but mindset that is needed to catapult Traditional Bharatiya Sciences such as Ayurveda into the mainstream.
Riddled with hinduphobia, hindumisia, and unresolved dissonance between eurocentric abrahamic capitalist concepts, the works of authority that young Indians learn today separate them quickly from their great-grandparents’ world view. Today’s scholars systematically ignore the evidence in the most ancient knowledge systems known to humans in this universe, asking for proof of modern relevance, while never questioning the faulty experiments of the past 50-70 years that have multiple limitations and disputes among its own scholars.
Sadly, Ayurveda has been bludgeoned by its own children who have descended through time and are alive today, simply because their forefathers used ayurveda. The true science and wisdom of ayurveda is whispered only by a few thousand experts who resonate with Nature and the seamless web of sciences that interrelate the patterns of Nature with the realities of our own human healing.
These true experts understand the challenge of conveying ancient wisdom in the modern day. Due to misguided school-based education by dangerously-uninspired teachers, children have poor learning abilities. Human perception and competence must be cultivated in order to understand how Ayurveda connects the world around us. A few wisemen still live who can discern the order in which to teach any individual, the language that must be used, and the techniques that close the mind. These true teachers understand the power of non-sexual intimacy, that is needed to heal and open the mind to learning. These wisemen understand the power of light and sound, and how our daily rituals if imbalanced disconnect us from understanding how to use subtle energy to receive and communicate. The use of attuned dinacharya and rtucharya can realign our senses with proper subtle perception and open our minds.
Unfortunately, we cannot force modern society to respect Nature, and prioritize it over technology toys, easy food, free disconnected sex online, or the increasing recreational drug community. If people are not ready, the wiseman cannot teach. They cannot translate or adapt ancient sciences into the infantile, dumbed-down language of current modern sciences. Reductionism and fractionated disciplines lost the patterns and trends that are only seen when looking beyond one’s own defined, limited specialty of expertise.
How can the amazing reproducible and logical science of plants’ growth, harvest, and medicine-making for healing of incurable diseases be translated into the senseless and robotic concepts of biochemistry and cell biology of the modern day, which lack connection to the rest of the world? Most biochemistry is an artifact of experimenting with models or looking at dead cells. They rarely follow models in nature or keenly observe the actions of other organisms in their native environments. Self-proclaimed experts in science and modern ayurveda fail to piece together the basic concepts of ayurveda because they cannot perceive beyond the paralyzed techniques of their discipline. They cannot heal their own misperceptions that prevent clean profound perception, and thus they cannot provide a proper interface for using ayurveda optimally with the patients who most need it.
In the end, the scientists have the most closed minds because they are not open to the possibilities proposed in Ayurveda. They then propagate their ignorant skepticism to the media and to the common public. Ayurvedic wisemen must overcome the closed-mindedness of modern society, or they will die with their knowledge. Fortunately, there are many open minds who are discovering the emperor of science has no clothes and everyone is blindly pretending it does. They are waking up and embracing the logic, elegance, and timeless wisdom of yoga and Ayurveda.
The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.