Dhanvantari Ayurveda Center Michael Dick, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Leesburg, Florida e-mail:
Inside This Issue
Health and Science in the News
|Defining Soul and its Treatment
|CITES -- Endangered Flora and Fauna
The Value of a Label
The dental amalgam controversy rages on despite the science against its safety. For those of you who have gold crowns you might be interested to learn that dental practice includes using mercury-based materials to build up the tooth prior to capping. Several bad scenarios are set in motion. Recently, a non-profit group formed to assist needy persons with the financial burden of removing their mercury fillings--Jigsaw Health Foundation. If you know someone who is in need but can't afford the work here's the contact information: or call: 206-283-0553 and ask for Colleen Skipper, Executive Dir.
The National Research Council released findings on fluoride exposure. Added to the drinking water levels (1ppm) are close to the EPA 4ppm maximum exposure level. Fluoride has been linked to damaged tooth enamel, brittle bones, disruption of nervous system, brain, and endocrine system. A recently published doctoral thesis found a link between bone cancer and fluoridation in boys.
Interested to follow these two issues? DAMS Intl. -- dental almalgam mercury syndrome--would be happy to send you its publication--Dental Truth. Write: 1043 Grand Ave, #317, St. Paul, MN 55105 or call 651-644-4572.
Study suggests Ayurvedic herb can help prevent heart attack 28 September 2006 - A study conducted in India's premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) suggests that the Ayurvedic herb called Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) contains properties that help prevent heart attack. Ashwagandha is used in many traditional Ayurvedic formulations.
New Zealand: Natural medicines found to be safer14 October 2006 - A report by Dr Wallace Bain, Acting Chair of the Coroner's Council, stated that extensive research found no deaths occurred in New Zealand due to taking natural medicines, such as
vitamins, minerals, and herbal products.
US: Food illnesses decline nationally 30 September 2006 - United States federal statistics show food may be safer now than at any other time in the last decade, with illness occurring at record-low rates.
Recent headlines announced the 7% decline in breast cancer deaths for 2003. Some experts believe that this is the result of stopping hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which occurred with the announcement by the FDA that HRT was determined to be increasing the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.
Defining Soul and its Treatment
We know that Ayurveda is a body-mind-spirit-oriented health system and we have discussed that the classical authorities specified technologies for treatment of spirit-related diseases. In the main we have the sense that the authorities were employing energetic techniques to dispel spirit possession and similar themes. The subtle idea was that we can use mantras, yagyas, gems, and the like to protect one entity from negative effects of another. In the Sanskrit language there are many terms which relate to disembodied beings / spirits. The VS Apte Sanskrit English Dictionary does not differentiate among these terms / entities--usually calling them ghosts. There is another point of confusion too: spirit and soul are terms used interchangeably by many. So if we admit to the first issue--the existence of disembodied entities-- the remaining question is: Is there a difference in meaning of the terms spirit and soul?
Aspects of this topic are explained in the writings of some modern day scholars-- Mitchell Gibson, MD, for example. His research of all major spiritual traditions has compelled him to believe that there is a difference between the spirit and soul. Further, the spirit is eternal but a soul is not. There exists a technical distinction in the Vedic literature between entities with personality and those without. Those entities having personality, according to Sankhya, may loose their personality, mind, senses, and body. For some modern thinkers such an entity may be usefully called a soul. The soul comes and goes in different incarnations and carries samskaras and vasanas (impressions and desires) along with mind into its various incarnations. Such soul has, as one aspect of its nature, something eternal and non-changing; this eternal nature has been termed by some as spirit or divine spirit. Thus the difference between soul and spirit is personality and mind--spirit has no personality and no mind. For Sankhya this is the difference between avyakta (Purusha and Prakriti) and its manifestations (the 23 qualities including mahat, ahamkara, manas, and so on) which emerge from the Purusha-Prakriti interaction. The products of this interaction are created and destroyed. Purusha & Prakriti are never created nor destroyed. This pairing is roughly equivalent to Brahman of Vedanta or Bodhisattva in Buddhist theory.
According to Gibson, a soul has a crystal-like "form" with 617 facets, which together describe the unique entity we are. He states further that energetic and material practices do affect the health or vibrancy of the soul. This kind of discussion is not in the classical Ayurvedic literature at all. We have yet to make this distinction in our treatment protocols, too. The material of Barbara Brennan--Hands of Light, for example, gives great value to healing work that projects one's own soul energy onto another for the purpose of healing the other. Yet in some ways this material is compatible with orthodoxy. It’s interesting to note that the Ayurvedic treatment of spirit, according to Caraka, involves application of energetic modalities.
Souls have personalities and memory and each incarnation serves as a vehicle for their expression (in a context of karmic principles). A given soul may animate numerous living beings at any one time and they need not necessarily be only human either. This construct is useful to explaining the popular concept--soul mate. Any soul would naturally seek out its dual.
Gibson states that the soul is degraded in facet-count by damage to or loss of physical tissue/limbs etc., by emotional or/and mental trauma. Loss of facets translates into potential separation of soul and body. A 50% loss is sufficient to produce chronic severe health conditions, multiple personalities, dementia, and so on. The body gets its energy from the soul. One must strive to maintain mental/emotional and physical well-being. One should never willingly give up one's power--avoid abusive relationships.
Gibson suggests the following specific acts to rejuvenate soul facet count/vitality:
Pray to God to restore the soul health. He'll do that.
Take a tolerably hot bath of 1# rock salt and 1# rye flour once per month.
Daily apply holy water (from any tradition of one's choice) to temples, hands and feet.
Take a tolerably cold shower once per week.
Visualize the restored soul in its intact wholeness.
A person who knows healing words of power who can do intervention / rebuild the gem (shamanism).
Eat red meat for one month post-trauma
Drink 1cup holy water per day for month
Avoid recreational drugs--tobacco, alcohol, etc
During a recent seminar involving teaching the shirodhara (pouring of oil, etc. on forehead) I had the opportunity to hear accounts of recipients describe transcendental experiences. "Out of this world," "Somewhere else," "I wasn't sleeping but time just passed" were some descriptions of experiences of the effects of receiving the shirodhara. One knows that he is aware but there is no specific object of awareness. There often is a sense of expansiveness, of wholeness, perfection, and even bliss. Well, in my judgment, these were direct observations of the knower; that is, these accounts were consistent with experiences during meditation. We know that the knower is the Self, the spirit/soul. Because so many who experience shirodhara express similar words, we must conclude that this is truly a body/mind/spirit technology. When we can help the knower know Itself then the Self value of life is enhanced. One becomes aware of, familiar with, and understanding of Self. One's consciousness is raised and with this the quality of life is enhanced--better understanding of cause and effect relationships, better choices, avoidance of causes and so on. While shirodhara is mostly oriented at the nervous system physiology it certainly seems to affect the most important aspect of life as well.
What is CITES? (Quoted from its web site ) CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between Governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The collection and trade of endangered species is a very important issue for the modern world. The world press, writing on the benefits of guggulu, caused so much increased interest in this plant resin that the world supply was dramatically reduced in only a year's time. Presently jatama§si and kaµuka are on the endangered list of Indian herbs. As users, growers, and harvesters of plants we must use these resources carefully. There is some thinking that the plant--brahmi--is no longer available, even though there is an official listing for it in the API. Commercial harvesters are increasingly growing their own plants but this effort may not be enough to conserve plants for future generations.
Widespread information nowadays about the endangered status of many prominent species, such as the tiger and elephants, might make the need for such a convention seem obvious. But at the time when the ideas for CITES were first formed, in the 1960s, international discussion of the regulation of wildlife trade for conservation purposes was something relatively new. With hindsight, the need for CITES is clear. Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.
Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington DC., United States of America, on 3 March 1973, , and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force. The original of the Convention was deposited with the Depositary Government in the Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish languages, each version being equally authentic.
CITES is an international agreement to which States (countries) adhere voluntarily. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention ('joined' CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
For many years CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now 169 Parties.
How CITES works
CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system. Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on the status of the species.
The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. (For additional information on the number and type of species covered by the Convention click here.)
The Value of a Label
A basic task of any science involves creating its nomenclature. The terms of a science define its scope, its players, its principles, and so on. For Ayurvedists living today the task is more about memorizing the terminology of our science rather than formulating it. The clinical area of Ayurveda is particularly robust with terms relating to diseases. Some relate to effects of a pathology, some relate to locations, others relate to etiology, and so on.
In my short career of teaching Western students I have come to the conclusion that some labels are more important than others. For instance, I wondered of what value was learning the English or/and Sanskrit names for the thousands of diseases that have been identified by pathologists. These names of pathological states are particularly useful to doctors who have specific protocols for the treatment of specific diseases. In the US the training of Ayurvedic practitioners is not at a level with traditional standards in India. Further, in the US the states having right to access laws are only Minn. and Ca. An Ayurvedic practitioner operating in any other state faces strict licensing laws for the practice of medicine--if you diagnose and treat disease you're practicing medicine and subject to prosecution for breaking the law.
Given the above, the question arises: "Is there another label that is useful?" The answer is: "Yes." and the word is (patho)physiology. The term relates to process rather than to structure (pathology). Our friends, the doshas, fill this function fully; moreover, they give indication of cause. Knowing cause enables one to treat accurately, etc. This term connects directly to the information gained through Ayurvedic pulse assessment--nadi vijńanam.
Pulse assessment is that one technique which best reveals the state of physiology or pathophysiology of animals--human and non-human alike. With this technology one can assess the functioning of the doshas, digestion, the tissues, most organs, some system-like aspects, and more. While this information can only suggest structural ramifications, it does help explain them--form follows function. In a legal climate unfavorable to the practice of medicine along medical lines it is my opinion that we can forget about pathology and focus on physiology and the pulse is the best instrument for this. One need not know the name of a disease, the pathology of a situation, nor its unique treatments; one need only know that vata, pitta, or kapha is disturbed and give advice for balancing the appropriate dosha. Targeting the proper dosha also targets the cause. This is not to suggest, however, that the patient need not know, through a qualified medical doctor, the name of a medical condition. After all some conditions are inherently life-threatening and need to be dealt with in such a manner. In this light complementary approaches are never a substitute for licensed medical care.
There remains the legal issue whether giving health advice is equivalent to diagnosing and treating--the purview of licensed medical doctors. In some states there is a difference provided no fraudulent claims or representations are made and one does not encroach boundaries of related regulated practitioners. One can always counsel against the cause by advising avoidance. Avoidance of causal diet and lifestyle are the most important areas for remediation or improvement of health. If nothing else is done this alone can produce benefit. Moreover, if one learns what promotes good physiology we can counsel for the adoption of certain positive or proactive measures. Remember one need not know the name of a disease to improve health. I counsel my students to be good (patho)physiologists.
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