The Dark Side of The Force

The Dark Side of The Force

Everyday Ayurveda by Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya

Oppressors have an amazing power. They are able to multiply their supporters, promoting violence by fanning the flames of insecurity in weak-minded people, then inviting them to indulge. From Tagore’s king of Yaksapuri to Dante’s Inferno to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, characters struggle with their inner demons and become immortal because modern society teaches us it is impossible to tame them. Supposedly, they co-exist as our shadow sides.

Known in the ancient teachings as sanatana dharma, the endless cycles of proper Being tell us gently to live in harmony with the environment of macrocosm and microcosm. We are warned to conquer the shad-ripus of the mind while they are still infants, lest they grow and consume our adult lives. Translated from Sanskrit as the 6 enemies of the mind, because they are the ultimate enslavers, they are known from the Sama Veda. They are kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya.

Kama is addiction to pleasure or desire, often associated with overindulgence of the senses and inability to restrain oneself. The instruction manual Kama Sutra written in the 2nd century CE was so useful to societies in Europe where women were supposed to tolerate not enjoying sensual pleasures, that it became an overnight success in the late 1800s halls of kings and gentry who yearned for something more than the fancy material objects they stole from other cultures. But kama is not only indulgence in sex; it is the uncontrolled desire for pleasure at all costs.  Why is this pleasure so addictive? And why do some societies condone the consequences of such addiction in politicians, businessmen, and celebrities?

Krodha is the passionate state of anger. In the modern world, we know road rage, and overzealous police action. We know domestic violence, passive-aggressive vindictive corporate takeovers and young children who fanatically design elaborate school shootings.  Why are people so angry today?

Attending the best universities, we are taught to do more, to want more, to achieve more. The greed of ambition is rewarded handsomely using good grades and opportunities for better jobs with more perks. Lobha comes in many flavors. A generation of parents have linked their self-esteem and parenting worth to the ambition and achievements of their children. Today’s society also maximizes the ability to buy loyalty and talent with “everyone has a price.” Who teaches us whether greed is wrong? Lobha is a powerful force for sustaining capitalism and it is a mark of success in today’s society. Who decides what is enough?

The normalcy of confusion in today’s young adults typifies Moha. Indecision and inability to discriminate between right and wrong as determined by one’s conscience indicate confusion in one’s mind. Moha is also translated as attachment or lust that occurs from the disconnected state and lack of alignment with self. How do we excuse perilous consequences that we put others through due to our bad decisions during confusion? Where is the accountability for not knowing?

Another normal today is drunken stupor, known as Mada. Mada can be caused by alcohol, any mind-altering substance, or the influence of very strong emotion that renders us incapable of making harmonious decisions.  Road rage, domestic violence, and college rape are examples of mada, sometimes featured as humorous and inconsequential personality traits in the media.

Jealousy is the common English translation of Matsarya, the strong rage and desire that occur when we feel entitled to something that someone else has, whether it is a relationship, a material object or power. Matsarya has been slowly cultivated by the modern world, in which leaders utilize the adage “everyone has something they want because they want it.”

Thousands of years ago, when the Sama Veda was already ancient, the wisemen had seen enough trauma from illness, accidents, war, and death, to know that man was predisposed to illness if the shad-ripus of the mind were not tamed. Society teaches us that our instinctive urges are natural.  How do we tame hatred and burning rage?

Ayurveda teaches us that everything is natural and part of the living ecosystem. The rotting tree feeds insects and ants. But if we allow our shad-ripus to grow, we become a rotting tree. Disease fills us quickly.  Throughout the texts of Ayurveda, we are warned that fear, unbridled passionate rage, and hatred lead to mental and physical illnesses.  We burden our families with those illnesses, pretending we did not know we would get sick, feigning our role in the diseases that torture our loved ones more than they do us. 

With its timeless wisdom, Ayurveda offers us change. It whispers to us to look at our deepest darkness with a larger frame of reference. Gratitude for what you do have now will gradually tame matsarya and lobha. Staying in the present moment will gradually reduce krodha and moha. Daily meditation reduces kama and mada. Volunteer work reduces krodha and moha.  Time and again we learn that the rituals of daily living known as dinacharya, and focused self-care through daily exercise known as vyaayama are multitarget entry passes to a life of richness without deprivation.

Surprisingly, the simple life allows life to be filled with riches, not because we ran after them, but because the Universe handed them to us.  When we run after thing in greed, lust and jealousy, we never know whether they really belong to us. We fear that we will lose them. But when we live simply and something aligns itself into our life, it becomes ours. Simply ours. What we seek is not to be younger, but to be fulfilled. Light fills the heart, and the preference for the dark side of the force is gone.

The South Asia Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2022 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. [email protected]  | 


Being happy can protect you from gastro problems: Research

New York: Researchers have found that Serotonin, a chemical known for encouraging happiness and well-being, can reduce the ability of some intestinal pathogens to cause deadly infections.

The findings, publishing in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, could offer a new way to fight infections for which few truly effective treatments currently exist.

“Although the vast majority of research on serotonin has centered on its effects in the brain, about 90 per cent of this neurotransmitter – a chemical that nerve cells use to communicate with each other – is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, study lead author Vanessa Sperandio from UT Southwestern Medical Centre in the US, explained.

In humans, trillions of bacteria live within this space. Most of these gut bacteria are beneficial, but pathogenic bacteria can also colonize the gastrointestinal tract, causing serious and potentially fatal infections.

Because gut bacteria are significantly affected by their environment, the research team wondered whether the serotonin produced in the gut can affect the virulence of pathogenic bacteria that infect the gastrointestinal tract.

They worked with Escherichia coli O157, a species of bacteria that causes periodic outbreaks of often deadly foodborne infection.

The team grew these pathogenic bacteria in Petri dishes in the lab, then exposed them to serotonin.

Gene expression tests showed that serotonin significantly reduced the expression of a group of genes that these bacteria use to cause infections.

Additional experiments using human cells showed that the bacteria could no longer cause infection-associated lesions on the cells if these bacteria were exposed to serotonin.

Next, the researchers examined how serotonin affected virulence in living hosts.

Using mice, the researchers studied how serotonin might change the ability for Citrobacter rodentium – a mouse gut bacterium often used as an analog for E. coli in humans – to infect and sicken their hosts.

These mice were genetically modified to either over- or underproduce serotonin in their gastrointestinal tracts.

Those that overproduced this neurotransmitter were less likely to become colonised by C. rodentium after being exposed to this bacterium or had relatively minor courses of illness, according to the study

Treating mice with fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac) to increase serotonin levels prevented them from getting sick from C. rodentium exposure.

However, the mice that underproduced serotonin became much sicker after bacterial exposure, often dying from their illness.

In the future, the research team plan to study the feasibility of manipulating serotonin levels as a way of fighting bacterial infections in the gastrointestinal tract.


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