An Ancient Science in Modern World: Ayurveda
Interview with Dr. Jayarajan Kodikannath
by Elena Mariakhina
An interview with Dr Jayarajan Kodikannath, the Director of Kerala Ayurveda Academy (USA) responsible for all academic programs conducted internationally by Kerala Ayurveda with a focus on bringing quality education on authentic Ayurveda across the globe; the Board Director of National Ayurvedic Medical Assosiation.
Today, many alternative medicine systems afford various solutions for those who want to live long and happy life. Ayurvedic system is not so well-known as homeopathy, different Chinese practices, or yoga. What does Ayurveda deal with?
Indeed, there are many natural healing sciences across the globe. Ayurveda is a holistic natural life science from India with a history of more than ten thousand years. Hence, through lectures and chanting, teachers shared with students their deep knowledge of human connection with nature and their rich experience of human life. They considered the physical, the mental, and the spiritual plans of human life deeply interconnected.
Ayurveda is a science of life. “Ayus” means life, and “ved” means knowledge. It is a real knowledge about life – the knowledge about what the real life is and how to manage it.
Are there any treatises that enlighten this old scientific knowledge?
For any Indian traditional science, two types of history exist: mythological and factorial. Mythological history played a big role in keeping the scientific heritage. At the same time, Ayurvedic is based on factorial history a lot. Due to archeological escalation, four classical ayurvedic texts written in Sanskrit are available now: Sushruta Samhita, Charaka Samhita, Ashtanga Sangraha, and Ashtanga Hridayam.
The books and the scriptures were written on palm leaves because there was no paper at that time, and, with that process of writing, the treatises could stay centuries without any problem. The books say that the Creator himself gave this great science for the well-being of all entire living beings – not only for human beings. Some branches of Ayurveda deal with treating animals’ diseases (Amrita Ayurveda) and cultivating plants (Vriksha Ayurveda). Of course, the books mostly explain human life, human conditions, physiology, and human curator-metrology.
How did you start learning Ayurveda? Did you have a tradition in your family?
Yes, I have a strong background of Ayurveda in my family. My mother’s linage has a lot of ayurvedic practitioners. My father is a farmer, who grows up organic grains, spices, fruits, and vegetables. My parents incarnate the principles of ayurveda in their real life. So Ayurveda was my inspiration from childhood, and I’m truly devoted to it. My aspiration was to become an ayurvedic doctor, and I got all the motivation from my family.
What are the fundamental principles that Ayurveda based on?
Ayurveda is a very simple science, and its fundamental principles are all about the nature.
Above all, we all are the parts of nature. We are created by nature, nurtured by nature, and taken by nature. We are coming from nature and we are going back to nature. That means we are nature. Every vital breath, consciousness, and an individual soul are given by nature. An individual life and nature are the same. If this principle is clear then how Ayurveda works is also clear. For human body, mind, and spirit, all the supplementation and solutions are available in nature. Understanding it, everyone can make the use of natural resources to find his or her own balance and to enhance life.
Then, each individual carries a healer within. That healer is the immune system of the individual. If we cut a finger, even without any medicine it will be naturally healed. Who heals it? It is the healer within, the immune system within. By putting some right energy and material to the system, giving right direction to it, and creating a proper situation of healing, we can help the body to be healed on its own. So the individual is the healer – not a practitioner. Practitioner is only a teacher, a guide, and a support.
The next fundamental principle says that there is nothing non-medicinal in the cosmos. If we use each and every item in a correct time and in a proposition needed, we create the situation of healing. Even a poison can be a medicine when we are using it in a correct context and in a right dosage.
Now, everyone knows that like increases like, and opposite balances. Everything in nature has some particular qualities. So to heal an imbalance, we need to use an opposite quality. For instance, Ayurveda characterizes conditions like high pressure or burning in stomach as the imbalance of fire quality. If we know about the particular qualities of food, it becomes easy to find a solution. In this case, milk and rose water are cooling, and using them we let the burning go away.
How does Ayurveda define wellness and health?
Ayurveda gives a lot of importance to defining health and wellness because if you know what health and wellness are, you can understand what the disease is. In terms of Ayurveda, health and wellness mean balance – the balance of physical system, mental system, and the balance of interaction between our system and nature.
In that, the physical balance is the balance of digestion and metabolic fires that converse outside and inside worlds. An apple, which someone ate this morning, had been a part of the outside world, and now it is a part of the inside world. This apple is going to change the skin, muscles, and bones of the person. So digestion fire is the key requirement in insuring the flow of the external world into the internal world.
Though physiological aspects are important, a person should also have a pleasant mind and a pleasant soul to become healthy, for the real health is the balance of all the energies in the body.
What leads to all the physical imbalances in human body?
Physical reason is one. When we eat some wrong food, we tend to get a disease because the material we take is inappropriate for enhancing the body.
Mental reason is second. Today, mental origin problems are more complicated than physical origin problems. From childhood, from the age of 3 or 4, children start to experience the level of stress, for competition and struggle start there, and all this stress can lead to a psychological crisis in future. The mental imbalance causes physical imbalances and, especially, autoimmune disorders. Mind plays a very big role in it.
Sometimes a child is born with a disease. He hasn’t had any lifestyle yet, and he didn’t do anything wrong. How does Ayurveda define that situation and what can be done for this child?
Here, we should consider the different levels of disease process. The disease can be transferred from sperm into ovum when the fertilizing happened. This is what we call genetic diseases caused by parents’ wrong deeds. Every bite of wrong food that mother eats during pregnancy can affect baby. Also, something may happen during delivery, such as a cord around neck. Then, after the baby is out of the mother’s pomp, since the first days of the baby’s life, some wrong nutrition or routines may cause the imbalance.
We have to know, though, that each disease starts from many generations before. Charaka Samhita tells us how we should behave to give life to a healthy baby. Being aware of and following the main principles of Ayurveda increase parents’ chances for having a healthy baby.
So current generation should take care of themselves to make sure that their children are healthy. Someone can have a hereditary tendency of diabetes, but if, realizing the point, the person takes care of his or her own health, the chances of diabetes get less for the individual. Moreover, the specific food, routine, practices, and management of stress that the person follows increase the chances for the next generation to be healthy.
Also, parents’ proper care of their baby, diet, and activity that is proper for the baby can help the child to overcome the disease. If people are conscience of ayurvedic system – this natural support, then next generations will be able to come out of many diseases.
Can the date and place of birth determine our life?
You are asking me about the concept of Vedic Astrology that is strongly connected to Ayurveda. The time and place of birth can define human life, indeed. Like high tide or low tide of the ocean happen with the attraction of the moon, human life is influenced by each planet and every particle of the cosmos. The position of the planets in a particular moment influences the processes on the Earth, and it influences every living being. So there can be no two identical babies in this world that means everyone’s situation is unique. Considering these influences of the planets on each individual, ayurvedic doctors are able to apply the principles of Ayurveda to any particular situation.
Ayurveda is a holistic science. How could you explain the holism of Ayurveda?
Holism can be explained in different ways. Someone can say that a clinic is holistic because doctors use different modalities there, such as complex exercises, nutrition, and medications. However, the holistic approach of Ayurveda is different from that.
“Hole” means complete. What makes a human or a living being complete? There are only three layers for a human life to be complete: physical layer, energetic layer, and conscious layer. Since Ayurveda considers all the three plans of existence, we call it a holistic system.
European medicine is focused on healing the symptoms of an imbalance. Why did our modern medicine loose this holistic approach?
I think of this as a crisis of human evolution. Many years ago, some creatures lived in a forest, and they were close to nature. Once they invented fire and weapons, they gained a lot of power over other natural beings –plants and animals. They started enjoying the process of going inside things rather than just enjoying these things – enjoying their connection with nature. Since that, human evolution became reductive. When we see a flower, we need to know what inside the flower is and to explore a petal, tube, and pollen rather than enjoy the flower itself. So what happened to us in that process? We only think about what a chemical or a molecule can do with a particular part of the body. This chemical medicine is not adjusted to the problem but addressed to certain symptoms.
For example, someone feels pain and takes a pain-relief medication that the allopathic system affords. Our modern science identified that the cause of the pain is a chemical getting released in that area of the body. We call this chemical “prostaglandin.” So we invented a new medication that stops the prostaglandin from getting released, but we never thought of what makes our body to produce this chemical. In fact, the production of the prostaglandin was a kind of supporting mechanism for us.
The same, if fever increases, temperature increases. Why does it happen? Our body is trying to burn something which it cannot handle. So rather than helping the body to handle this crisis, we are forcing our body to reduce the temperature. This way, we are actually working against our natural healing system.
Analogically, when someone has allergic asthma, his or her system is scared about pollen coming in because the pollen causes the inflammation reaction. The lungs’ closing means that they cannot handle it. So what we need to do is to strengthen the support to our healing system, which is trying to handle the pollen. In place of that, the allopathic system forcefully will make the lungs open, and we are going to suffer.
We are looking at one point, one cell, or one chemical instead of taking a human being as a hole. We became more reductive, and that is not working so well.
When people have a pain, it seems comfortable enough to stop it. What people should realize to start healing the roots of illnesses?
We are talking about two things here. First is managing our suffering, and second is healing the problem completely. Getting an immediate relief is always attractive for any human being. Since we take a tablet, we think that we are comfortable now. But by taking the pill, we are just masking the symptom, while the disease is increasing. This way, going from one tablet to two, from two to four, and from four to eight, we are not addressing to the problem and creating new problems because every medication has its side effects. We should realize that pain relief only doesn’t help anyone to overcome diseases; then, we will start searching for long lasting results. We need to help ourselves to come out of the problem.
Ayurvedic doctors don’t prescribe a medication only but a complex therapy. What does it consist of?
Helping an individual, Ayurveda uses all the possibilities of support from nature. What does nature give us? Using right natural ingredients, a human being will be able to express a long-lasting health potential. Then, we can use water as a best cleanser. From air, we can get Prana – a natural energy. With every breath, the energy comes into the body and gives over oxygen to all the internal organs and nourishes all the tissues in the body.
Finally, perception plays a big role in healing. For example, a woman thinks that her husband always talks against her. Do such thoughts add to her health? But if the wife understands that the way her husband talks is a part of his imbalance and disease, she will be able to create a calm atmosphere in her family. The atmosphere of compassion, support, and understanding could help her and her husband to get out of suffering and to overcome many diseases.
The primary requirement is reaching the entire balance – physical, mental, and emotional. This balance can be reached only by complex therapy that consists of an individual nutrition, diet, herbs, spices, exercises, perception, and many other things.
In India people have found a way to combine modern medicine and ancient medicine. How do they work together in India and how could they work together in the U.S. and in Europe?
Ayurveda is a very beautiful system. It will work very well with any other medical system. Nature is nature. Whether it is in India, or America, or Europe, human body works the same.
Also, I strongly believe that every system has its good points and its limitations. Working together, modern medical system and ayurvedic system of healing can reach good results in making current and future generations healthy.
As for the modern medicine, many a time it showed itself as a life saving system. It is also succeed in reducing suffering and pain. Using the chemicals is highly necessary because if somebody is going to die, giving a dose of steroid or any other life saving medicine will help to preserve the life. There are a lot of things that modern medicine can offer – an immediate surgery or anesthesia. At the same time, if a person has an ayurvedic specialist supporting the patient with the proper understanding about the body, mind, and energies within, and helping the patient in basic corrections of food, nutrients, thinking, daily routines, herb, and spices, then the person will work with the roots of the disease and will get the long lasting results.
The idea is to combine modern and ayurvedic systems without any contradiction. For example, Kerala Ayurveda is running a department in a modern medical college in India, Bangalore, and these two medical systems respect and support each other. The modern medicine department refers to ayurvedic department and vice versa.
What are the main goals you are working on as a current Board Director of National Ayurvedic Medical Assosiation?
I am totally dedicated to Ayurveda. My main goal is to bring the ancient science to people so they could be aware of how important life is and how to care about this life according to the holistic approach of Ayurveda.
Elena Mariakhina has worked as a freelance writer for local Russian newspapers writing on socio-cultural events. She regularly writes in her bilingual blog at http://litcollage.wordpress.com/ on various issues related to art, culture, community, etc. Since she moved to the USA in 2010, she’s been studying Literature and Journalism, and is currently enrolled in the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in Writing in Berkeley.
Astrology, Ayurveda, interview, Vedic astrology