By Bhaswati Bhattacharya
Despite a litany of lessons in the past 150 years, the global community seems disinterested in taking command over the freedom our foremothers worked so hard to earn. Over the past decades, too much comfort and too many luxuries amid the attendant traumas that happen in such lives, have led to a new generation of complacency, ignorance, and inability to appreciate deeper wisdom.
Ayurveda has seen cycles of generations over the past 10,000 years and knows it will outlast the wars, droughts, destruction, and debauchery. It whispers a few lessons and puts a bug in the brain of a selected few who don’t relax in comfort, but become intent to serve society, preserve the lessons, and teach until they die.
History has taught us the difficulty of being in power and using it wisely. Those who are insecure are gluttons for power. Those who are happily secure do not want to enter the battlefield with the insecure warriors. Only a few wield power in a kind, amazing, fulfilling way that serves society.
Ayurveda tells us that being out of sync with nature will imbalance our bodies and our minds. As time passes and more people have mental imbalances, they either become obsessed with power, or they shun involvement in civil duties, too disturbed to coordinate a life of serving others. When those who grab power begin to drown in the excesses of money, luxury, and servants, they begin to abuse the people around them. They cease to be aware of the needs of others, or of the needs of the next generation. Ayurveda tells us we must be good to others in order to feel that our life was wholesome on the last day we can evaluate it.
A few generations ago many of our ancestors were opposed to the severe trends of extracting products from the earth in the name of development or industrialization. Desire for new products, convenience, and innovations that changed the obstacles in daily life fueled new laws that allowed mining, drilling, smelting, and felling that changed the landscape of the planet. Today, some are considering climate change and its karmic steps as their homes are flooded or burned down or collapsed.
The wave of low awareness of ecosystems has made us forget another lesson of ayurveda. It tells us to clean the air, clean the land, clean the water, and become aware of time if any epidemic arises. Viruses flourish in changed environments that make the human body slightly imbalanced. When the guard has low awareness and disconnection of body and mind, the ability to ward off diseases (vyadhiksamatva in Sanskrt) is less. India never faced a plague during the European dark ages because it understood the ecosystem.
Laws of hygiene developed into practices of ucchistha. We forgot the reasons for the rituals, but kept the rituals. Yet, when the westerner taunted Indians for anything and everything that was not familiar to them, Indians were the first to apologize and abandon their rituals. The rules of touching and not touching are more urgent today and need to be relearned.
Toothpowder is better than toothpaste, as the mouth is already full of saliva and phlegm. Powder is dry and can absorb excess sticky residues and destroy the environment in which microbes grow. Toothpaste is more convenient to the sellers, as they are filled with mining byproducts and sludge that would have to be disposed of more carefully if it were not in toothpaste.
Squatting was abandoned for the chair toilet, despite the awareness that thighs lose strength over time when not used to rise. Water to clean after toileting was replaced with paper, then chemical-laden plastic-embedded towelettes.
Healing that was for the whole body was abandoned for targeted therapy, mostly oral pills, that made a lot of money for the welcome trust and its patent of standard pills, but ignored the whole body-mind approach to healing. Ayurveda tells us 90% of diseases begin in the mind or the gut, but no-one is listening anymore.
Despite parroting the words of evidence-based medicine, we no longer evaluate the evidence, but simply adopt its digested form from our favorite celebrity school, person, or organization. Is it true? No-one is aligning society with true evidence anymore.
The evolution to a personalized way of learning, in which the perfection of teaching was rewarded with a brilliant student who shone light to many, was abandoned by those in power, who do not profit by critical thinking, math-competent students who read and write well. Standardized classroom style and uniformity was the solution to destroy the perfect apprenticeship style of gurukula.
Competence was abandoned for blind loyalty. The few in power command the majority, and the majority do the work to pressure others to follow loyalty and never look inside for answers.
Not to look inside has been the greatest way of forgetting history. When we disconnect with the inner self, we become bioenergetic manual laborers and fleshy robots. Ayurveda saw this in previous cycles of man’s history and remembered. It teaches us to unlock the truths and start remembering again.
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.