REFLECTIONS ON AGING
The contemporary view of life holds that health and function naturally decline. This paper examines this view in light of the textual authority of the ancient Ayurveda samhitas. It is our view that the ancient texts describe the disease process and its causes without implying that the process is inherent in the life experience itself. First we will discuss the notion of life; then we shall review the Ayurvedic conception of health and its antithesis-- disease. Finally, we shall examine the concept of aging and show why this is an unnatural process.
Ayurveda, and this means Caraka and all of the other writers too, takes its definition of life from the Sankhya and Vaisheshika philosophies. This conception has two aspects--something non-manifest, non-material and something which is indeed material and manifest. The unmanifest value is often described as a field of pure intelligence, of pure knowledge. When writers refer to material life forms they frequently refer to an Atman or soul, Self, or spirit which denotes this field value of pure intelligence. This soul is the essence of life but without something material it can not be apprehended by the senses. This means that we do not experience it through sensory data. It is said by Caraka however to be the primal cause and the doer of all things (1). It does all things by equipping itself with instruments such as the senses and mind or intellect and body (2). When it combines with the material building blocks of creation--called the pancha mahabhutas (five basic elements) then physical life as we know it begins (3). Physical life, itself, has as its basis this unmanifest intelligence which expresses Itself in what we call matter. This intelligence is described as a field of non-change which gives rise to all change and forms in the phenomenal universe. Each writer expresses these ideas in different ways. For instance, Caraka describes life as the conjunction of mind, body, and soul (4) while Sharngadhara writes that life exists when vayu (the equivalent to atman and the primary animating force of nature) combines with the body (5). Both conceptions include the abstract, unmanifest Self (atman) and the material framework of a physical body, which expresses the ability of the Self to express Its nature as infinite potential and diversity. We want to emphasize with this conception that life is synonymous with both spirit and body.
A contemporary view of life is described by the Merriam Webster Dictionary: Life: 1) the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body or inanimate matter; also: a state of an organism characterized esp. by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction 2) the physical and mental experiences of an individual 3) Biography 4) the period of existence 5) Manner of living 6) person 7) animation, spirit; also: liveliness. (6)
So we can see from this reference that life is predominantly a material phenomenon which has a beginning and an end. We can say that the conception of life includes two aspects: 1) change or dynamism and 2) term or beginning and end. What is between the beginning and the end is dynamism and change. Webster does permit, however, in its seventh usage that life can be understood in terms of something non-material--spirit. This is the locus of controversy because Ayurveda holds that life starts with Self while the modern scientific view says nothing of an underlying source. Dr. Chopra has described this juxtaposition in this way: The modern paradigm holds consciousness to be the epiphenomenon of matter when the reality is that matter is the epiphenomenon of consciousness. We are spiritual beings who have learned how to create a body; we are not matter that somehow has learned how to think, as the modern paradigm holds. (7)
An important difference between these models is that life is eternal in the Ayurvedic conception because spirit is eternal even though its vehicle for expressing itself changes. The modern view is, of course, that life is temporary or measured. Moreover, both views co-exist somewhat in the Sankhya philosophy because the soul is said to reincarnate. This means it transmigrates from body to body taking on new instruments in the form of senses and body until it gains enlightenment during some incarnation. Life is viewed in this context to embrace a changing aspect within a larger perspective of non-change. Although we have the sensory experience of and memory of only one body, we do, in fact, take on many bodies over time.
The concept of life relates to our thesis in two important ways: 1) The concept of death is antithetical to the notion of life as eternal spirit 2) The notion of Self is said to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Regarding death we want to make more than a point of logic based upon definitions--we want to be able to say that death is unnatural from an empirical standpoint also. Because the definition of life is eternal Self plus Its expressions death must be defined as the Self in absence of instruments--Self always exists everywhere. On one level this means that life continues even when its expression does not. On the level of living it means that man should never fear death nor experience it either. We will discuss this point more below.
With regard to our conception of Self we would like to know what this means empirically as well. For instance, we read in the Upanishadic literature that the Self has complete authority over the body. The Mandukhya Karika IV.10 states “that by imagining senility and death, and being engrossed in that thought, souls deviate from their nature (and the body dies).” This suggests that the Self creates its own reality by merely imagining it. Thus the implication is that the body can last as long as the soul (Self) chooses and if it remains aware of its own status as pure intelligence etc.
The Ayurvedic literature is consistent concerning the purpose of life: The four goals are dharma, artha, kama, moksha. Dharma means that one should live in a manner useful to oneself and to society in a creative way. Artha means that wealth is proper to acquire. Kama means that one should have pleasure in life. Moksha means that enlightenment (literally: liberation) or gaining the awareness of one’s immortal and unbounded status is the ultimate end of life.(8) Caraka writes that the absence of disease (health) is the means for attaining these goals(9) which includes both transcendental and phenomenal values--completeness of life. And Vagbhata states that faith in the precepts of Ayurveda is necessary for long life and its goals (10) which requires one follow a lifestyle in accord with natural law. Sharngadhara says a man “gets moksha when he understands himself” (as different from body) (11) affirming the importance of the transcendental experience.
While reading the Ayurvedic literature one gets the impression that the authors are pessimistic about the prospect for these goals being attained. In the very first chapter of Fundamentals Caraka describes why and how the knowledge of life came to mankind--suffering, unhappiness, disease, and short life span were commonplace. (In fact, Caraka states bluntly that the behavior necessary for long life is rare.)(12) The sages realized that man needed help. The knowledge of Ayurveda was brought out for this reason. And of course we find the knowledge of life being taught which is appropriate to the needs of the time even though the knowledge is regarded as eternal and valid for all times. This is just the idea that the scope and depth of the knowledge addresses the most dire needs of man in the most ignorant of ages. Feelings of misery, desperation, hopelessness in this age give impetus to the question whether life span is in fact limited or/and pre-determined. These are discussed in different contexts throughout the samhita.
One aspect of this issue arises in the context of the cycles of time as described in the Sankhya and Vaisheshika philosophies. In the age of truth (satyuga or krtayuga) Caraka states that life span was immeasurable.(13) We remark on this point because above we asked the question whether there is (was ever) an empirical basis to the conception of life being eternal. Here Caraka pointedly declares that life was indeed eternal (because man lived according to his purpose and needs). This state of life was pristine and free from disease and suffering. Because disease did not exist in this age disease can be described only as unnatural to anyone--young or old.
We of the scientific age like to find parallels in nature to support our theories. This idea of immortality has at least one other example in nature in the form of the protozoa. This animal form is truly eternal by virtue of the way it reproduces--mitosis.(14) In other words the very first organism is alive in the form of all living protozoa.
One further glimpse of this immortality is presented by one commentator of Ayurveda as he writes: “vitality is somewhat independent of the physiological processes and life continues without food and breath.” (15) What he means is that when we observe yogis in samadhi breath and food consumption are suspended for days and weeks at a time and yet they remain alive and vital throughout. He states further that Ayurveda holds no limits for life. For these reasons and the others above it is likely that Maharishi remarked (in his characteristic witty way perhaps) that “mortality is manmade.”(16)
But with the passage of time, Caraka continues, life became corrupt (adharma) and life spans began to decline. Caraka even gives a formula for this--one year of life span was subtracted for each hundred years of time.(17) The decrease in the quality of living and the increase of disease and suffering were described as occurring in ages measured in quarters of a complete cycle of time. Thus the first age of satyuga was followed by the age of tretayuga until the present age of kaliyuga--named as the age of ignorance for its destruction to mankind and the environment. Caraka writes that the expectation for life span in the present is are about 100 years (depending upon the method of calculation others have given estimates ranging from 70 to 120 years life span for this age). We would emphasize that life in this age is a reflection of the state of consciousness of mankind. We recall the aphorism from the Upanishads that “as is the microcosm so is the macrocosm etc.” The conditions of life are always the response of nature to gross inner turmoil in man’s life (or lack of it as the case may be). Thus when we say that life span expectations are 100 years we mean that the conditions of existence support life processes but succumb eventually and approximately after 100 years of life.
Different writers found various ways to describe and predict causal elements of varying life spans. Caraka, writing of kaliyuga, states that life span is determined by such aspects as constitution, body elements, self, use of suitable things, etc.(21) and Susruta further elaborates that bodily symmetry correlates positively with longevity.(22)
The question of whether life span is pre-determined Caraka states was answered by Lord Atreya: “If there be determined life span for all there would not be any necessity to apply mantras, herb roots, gems, auspicious rites, offerings, gifts, oblations, observance of rules, expiation, fasting, blessings, bowing, visit to temples, etc. with a desire for longevity nor there be any need to avoid excited, fierce and moving cows, elephants, camels, asses, horses, buffaloes and terrific winds, etc. ....” He states that life span depends upon past and present behavior and their relative strength and merit.(18) This means that all actions of all prior incarnations has influence upon one’s present life and future lives as well. Whether those actions were
good or bad and slight or great are also relevant.
We would like to address one contradictory remark from Sharngadhara regarding our thesis. He writes that immortality is not possible: “Ayus (life) exists when vayu combines with the sharira (body). When they get separated death supervenes. No animal is immortal in this world; death is unavoidable whereas diseases can be avoided.(19) As mentioned above Sharngadhara compiled this work to summarize in brief, workbook fashion the previous works of Caraka, Susruta, Vagbhata, etc. There is far less philosophical discourse in Sharngadhara's samhita because it was intended to be a practical guide to Ayurveda. Thus we are compelled to reject his statement as not reflecting the real essence of the knowledge of life contained in Caraka. Caraka is regarded in Maharishi Ayurveda to embrace the wholeness of the ancient Ayurvedic wisdom and for this reason is the highest authority of the recorded texts. The thrust of Maharishi Ayurveda has been to emphasize the role of consciousness as the basis of the wholeness of life. Although Sharngadhara admits to the accepted Ayurvedic definition of life presented above, his remarks are not logically nor philosophically consistent--life (soul) is eternal or it is not.
Further, we doubt that the nature of life has changed over time. Man’s nature is unchanging Self or Consciousness which expresses Itself through the vehicle of DNA. There is no evidence to suggest that DNA is fundamentally different now than at any earlier age. We believe, however, that man’s perception of his nature and that requisite behavior to maintaining it do change with passage of time. Hence, Sharngadhara in this passage merely reflected man’s experience of life not the reality of life.
We would emphasize at this time that from Caraka’s accounting of satyuga life had no natural term. We emphasize this word natural because one finds this word associated with processes such as decay, degeneration, sickness, suffering, and so on. Such descriptions by our definition are incorrect. Only that expression or manifestation which is evolutionary and in accordance with the laws of nature is natural. Sickness and decay follow the law of cause and effect but are precipitated on the basis of some unnatural thought, action, or speech as said by the Ayurvedic literature.
Moreover, because life is not a condition of non-change, nor are the seasons invariant, we could conclude that the satyuga age of life was characterized by an ability of man to adjust easily to any change in the conditions of life--climate, seasons, time of day, youth, or aged, etc.. We understand from Maharishi that this style of living is based upon a flexible nervous system and unbounded awareness--we could call this perfect physiology. All thought, action, and speech would harmonize and nature would express its flow of change effortlessly--nature meaning all of manifest creation. Life would be experienced as a continuum of dynamic non-change or bliss and also as a continuum of unending change. Life’s experiences would be in the context of cycles of nature--including daily, monthly, etc.; growth, reproduction, accumulation; and creation, maintenance, destruction. In fact, keeping accounting of the changes of life would be nearly meaningless and useless because all changes would be equated with bliss.
Further we can say something about the conception of time itself. In the context of this age time would be non-linear--exactly the same as man’s experience of change. Man’s experiences are the basis of conceptualization. Now we want to examine those conditions which make for long life--we want to look at health.
We can say that health is that status which is natural and which embraces those qualities which are necessary for the experience of bliss. We look to Susruta for these details found in his section on fundamentals: “He whose doshas are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose dhatus are functioning normally, whose malas are in balance, whose bodily processes are normal, and whose Self, mind, and senses remain full of bliss, is called a healthy person.” (For Vagbhata health is simply the balance of doshas.)(25) These are the necessary conditions for strength, immunity, and long life, even though Susruta does not mention them specifically in this verse. He does specifically mention Self, mind, and senses, which are those intangibles underlying the manifestation we call life (body). The functioning of these entities provides a qualitative basis for the experience of life as happiness, health, bliss, or otherwise. We will elaborate on this below.
Caraka defines mind as that entity which upon the contact with Self, the sense organs, and sense objects is responsible for the production of knowledge or otherwise of knowledge by its attending or non-attending, respectively. Subtle and oneness are known as two qualities of mind. (23)
When we speak of mind functioning we are necessarily discussing its conceptual (abstract) aspects of discrimination, memory, and restraint. What we perceive is related to the sense organs but how we understand sensory perceptions depends upon the faculty of discrimination--intellect. Caraka states that if we fail to perceive things as they really are then the thoughts, actions, speech will not be in accord with healthful ways. Imbalance will result somewhere in one of those functional areas mentioned above in Sushruta's definition of health--doshas, dhatus, malas, processes, and so on.
Memory is that faculty of mind which stores all the data and recalls them when desired. Memory of Self, as source of all creation, is that condition necessary for the proper functioning of the intellect also. Caraka says that as it comes and by its emergence one gets rid of misery.(24) Thus memory is also important for the maintenance of health.
The third aspect of mind or intellect is the quality of restraint of the use of the senses. It is possible that the intellect remembers itself as source and perceives the real nature of things but just does not care about the consequences of abusing the pleasure of the senses. When this occurs then, again, behavior can be detrimental to health, balance, or sense of well-being.
We have tried to present the Ayurvedic view of health and of some of those things which support its continuance. It is important to remember that health is a process of maintaining balance when all of the parameters of maintaining that balance are continuously in flux. This implies that perfect health, experienced as a continuum of bliss is a process--a style of functioning--a way of living. Mind is always in contact with body, as Caraka says. When balance prevails health and longevity do likewise. If life is experienced as other than balance or bliss what do we call that state and what might be the causes?
Before we can answer these questions we must give a brief overview of the parameters of physiology--mental and physical. In Ayurveda most of the authoritative texts agree that there are three vital principles which perform all functions. Only Susruta insists that blood has the status of the other three principles.(26) These principles are named: vata, pitta, kapha for the body and rajas and tamas for the mind (Sattva is not a dosha because it cannot contaminate or vitiate. It only supports in the direction of dharma or evolution. As such it does restrain adharmic behavior although it may not prevent such action.)(37) These principles are called doshas. According to Vagbhata and Sharngadhara they are regarded as supporting, corrupting, or vitiating the physiology, depending upon the context of use.(27)(28) When doshas are supportive they are considered as dhatus (tissues of the body). When they corrupt or pollute they are malas (wastes). And when they vitiate they cause the increase or decrease of functioning somewhere in the physiology. Thus Sharngadhara says they destroy the body when they become abnormal and protect with health, strength, growth when normal.(29) Or as we say in contemporary usage doshas are both the cause and the effect--principles of organization which may be excessive or in some way out of balance with one another.
We will briefly describe these three principles which give expression to the diversity of life. Vata is the principle of motion and is responsible for the functioning of the nervous system, breathing, speaking, locomotion, movement, and elimination. Pitta is the principle of heat or fire in the physiology and is responsible for digestion, metabolism, and transformation. Kapha is the principle of structure and is responsible for strength, cohesion, and fluid balance, to name a few of its functions.
Each of these principles is lively in its own time according to the cycles of change in nature. Asking of the physiology out of time can cause one or more of the doshas to misbehave--go out of balance. If vata is stimulated too much and too late at night one might experience headaches or problems with sleep and so on. These discomforts are called by many names: roga (because it produces pain), papma (born out of sin, unhealthy acts), jvara (causing distress), vyadhi (exhibits with many kinds of distress), vikara (abnormality), duhkha (misery), amaya (born from ama), yakshma (symptom complex), atanka (cause of miserable life), gada (born from more than one cause), abadha (continuous or all round suffering).(30) The conventional translation of these terms generally is one: disease. Ayurveda describes six stages of pathology from slow elimination to heart failure but all are said to be disease. We want to be clear on this point that any imbalance is called disease (think dis-ease). Thus Professor Murthy writes that disease is a series of abnormal changes taking place inside the body. (31) Caraka defines disease as imbalance of dhatus. (32) Vagbhata writes that disease is disequilibrium of doshas.(33) Susruta declares that anything that afflicts either the body or the living personality--Self, or both, is called disease.(34)
As we hinted above the causes, as unanimously stated, are three-fold: mistake of the intellect, mistakes of time, and improper use of the senses.(35)(36) On the level of everyday living these causes find their expression in terms of error of diet, faulty regimen, and mental afflictions.(38)
The dietary consideration is extremely important. For example, seemingly innocent substances such as salt have powerful effects. Namely, its excessive use leads to depression, loose muscles, sensitivity to pain, untimely baldness, graying, and wrinkles.(39) Caraka often mentions how the quality or quantity of food when inappropriate cause harm to life span, vitality, and immunity.(40) On the other hand Caraka says that “a good and proper diet in disease is worth a hundred medicines and no amount of medication can do good to a person who does not observe a strict regimen of diet.(41) Therefore, in the age of enlightenment food alone was sufficient to promote and preserve balance and health.
In the area of regimen one reads over and over that suppression of natural urges leads to aggravation of all doshas.(42) Vagbhata declares that all diseases arise from initiation and suppression of urges of the body.(43) He warns that all efforts should be made to clear out wastes timely because accumulations lead to disease and shorten life span.(44) Timely elimination is an integral part of health and balance but can be upset by disallowing the body to express and fulfill its natural needs and processes.
And regarding mental afflictions Vagbhata declares the diseases like passion, desire, plus many other bad emotions spread all over the body, giving rise to anxiety, delusion, restlessness, etc.(45) Therefore just some simple emotion or untimely action or even good food taken to some excess can have an unbalancing effect upon the physiology. Chronic abuse of these disrupting habits leads to severe or disabling
disease conditions. But the important point is that only unnatural actions lead to unnatural results. Unnatural actions are the result of defect of consciousness, of debilitated thinking, etc.
There is an important point about the disease process we should discuss at this time. There is a tendency to understand doshas as physical causes or material causes of disorders (See Ca. Vi. VIII.88). This conception leads one to conceive of disease as material or physical rather than as physiology or process. The important point is that disease in the body (as any of the twenty gunas or qualities of matter) is a force.(46) It is a style of functioning localized, perhaps, somewhere in the body. It is also a process just as the body is a process. It is the flow of energy and information which as Vagbhata nicely states “increases/decreases the residence (container) of life or the resident (content of life)(47). When the container (body) stops growing then the nature of the nurture must change--we feed the intellect more than the body, for example. Therefore, the expression of the needs of life change over time, which finds expression in shifts of influence among the doshas. Balance implies a knowing of these changes and responding accordingly. Imbalance, on the other hand, signals disruption of the flow of intelligence in the physiology or a break of the mind/body connection.
The fact that Ayurveda is about life rather than about disease is why it is concerned most with physiology and health and not with the disease itself. To paraphrase Maharishi we don’t worry about the nature of the disease itself we just bring a person directly to health and the disease will disappear (principle of the second element). Therefore, we nourish the soil--the body--the host and disregard the guest or invader. Infertile soil, healthy physiology disallows growth of ill health.
Thus far we have discussed the nature of life--something which is expressed and something which underlies but which is not manifest. We noted that this combination is inherently stable and resilient even to the extent of immortality. Health is that term used to describe the conditions implied in this pristine, natural state of existence. Something disrupts the physiology and imbalance results, which we call disease. An important and interesting branch of Ayurveda is that knowledge which enables one to rejuvenate the physiology and even to reverse disease conditions. This knowledge is called rasayana (meaning path of essence).
Caraka describes many techniques for revitalizing tired, worn, damaged bodies. Of course he says the best path is prevention based upon maintaining balance but this behavior is rare. The next best approach is to utilize formulations of nature’s intelligence to revitalize the distorted intelligence in a person evidenced by disease. As we noted above man seems inclined to take the cure rather than the prevention so for this reason Caraka describes many formulations (primarily herbal) which promote long life--some for thousands of years.(48) Sharngadhara writes of mercury as the cure for all diseases (49) and some say for eternal life.
What we find with this knowledge is the opportunity for man to undo excesses of the past. Missing or defective intelligence (disease) in the body is corrected with the same intelligence from another part of nature. This is simply another corroboration of the point we started with, namely that life span has the potential for immortality. With this knowledge there is no reason that disease of any kind should long afflict man.
There is one final point which we should mention in this context of rasayana and immortality. In two separate sections Caraka writes about rasayanas leading to immortality and to liberation: “In early days, the old great sages like Cyavana etc., who, desiring vital strength, attained immeasurable life span by using these beneficial rasayana formulations. After attaining longevity they performed, as desired, spiritual penance, celibacy, and self meditation and migrated to heaven....”(50) “One who uses the rasayana treatment methodically attains not only long life but also the auspicious status enjoyed by the godly sages and finally oneness with indestructible God.”(51)
These passages raise some interesting questions: What does it mean to leave the body and is this the same as dying? Does one have the choice or not? If we accept the possibility that these persons were healthy why did they die (?) (drop the body)? Do we need a theory of death to explain the physical event we observe when a person “dies”? Of course the questions aim at the very heart of the notion of life itself. Above we have described life as something eternal which participates in all changes including destruction but which continues to survive to bring about new forms--in an infinite diversity and continuum. The purpose of changing forms serves its ends to express its infinite nature and this it does freely choose. All that is necessary is for it to be aware of its status through its instruments of change and it can evolve back into itself. Thus we don’t really need a theory of death to explain why it is the nature of existence to continue to change--there never is an endpoint or terminus (death).
According to Ayurveda Self re-incarnates until which time It gains Its original status of wholeness. Empirically, this point is the subject of much debate. Hypnotic time regression experiences suggest that re-incarnation is indeed a reality but science relies upon sensory data gathered under controlled conditions--not data of the subjective experience of consciousness. Those people advocating both positions argue that advances in quantum physics are bringing these issues together in a scientific way as embodied in the super grand unification theory of the unified field.
Finally we have to raise the question: What is aging? The answer is: a mistake. If the question means to imply that life naturally declines in function and health, or as Dr. Dash writes: we experience graying hair, balding, wrinkles, declining power of body enzymes to metabolize, etc., etc., (52) then something is wrong. Even Sharngadhara writes that color, complexion, intelligence, skin health, etc., etc., decline in succeeding decades of life.(53) We have accepted the textual accounts of Caraka and others as authority. As we showed above Caraka clearly states that disease--imbalance of doshas--is unnatural. Life was designed to prevail without it. Therefore to accept or assert the contrary is a mistake. In the case of Sharngadhara we have already stated that his work was not intended to embody the entire knowledge of Ayurveda and was a practical handbook basically. Perhaps Dr. Dash has unwittingly accepted the perception of life in the current age to be the basis for his descriptions of natural changes in bodily processes. Dr. Hari Sharma in his recent book Freedom from Disease uses similar pejorative language: “the intrinsic damage done by ‘natural’ aging” (54) and;” chronic and degenerative diseases--a major cause for much of what we think of as normal aging and ill health” (55). This may be writing to one’s audience but we think it is a mistake to imply that any state other that health is natural.
We observe that some other commentators hold no such view of life. Dr. Kasture, for example, writing in his book--The Concept of Ayurveda for Health and Immortality describes only disease conditions which delimit life span when left unchecked. Immortality is, in other words, a legitimate goal of Ayurveda--Ayurveda amritanam.
The situation we now confront is what Maharishi calls “mistake of the intellect” and what the Mandukhya Karika calls “pre-occupation with aging and senility and imagining it,” and what Dr. Chopra calls “programmed collective conditioning.”(56) Clearly we humans have lost memory of Self and no doubt we discriminate very poorly what reality is. What is sad is as Chopra observes there are over three hundred theories trying to understand aging among animals.(57) In these theories we have chronicled such details as: shrinkage of body parts, bone loss, sagging muscles, cellular mutation, cross-linking of proteins within cells and among cells, higher blood pressure, increased fat to muscle ratio, hormone starvation, immune malfunction, oxygen starvation, memory loss, to name just a few of the parameters.(58) Dr. Sharma even offers what he calls a “practical definition of aging: observable results in 1) increased susceptibility to disease 2) decrease in physical functionality.”(59) What all this means is that we are concerned with observable reality--outer and partial values which are constantly changing. Such pre-occupation will only predestine the result as the Karika states.
Chopra’s book--Ageless Body Timeless Mind emphasizes the Vedic tradition as given by the Karika quote above. Chopra states that aging is a mask for loss of intelligence (60) and that it is the result of learned behavior.(61) These two statements are the essence of the verse from Karika. Chopra rejects the free radical paradigm because as he writes: “The main reason why free radicals hold such a strong appeal for scientists is that they are “things”, they fill our need for physical objects that can be weighed, measured, labeled.... There is no denying that free radical damage occurs and is suspiciously linked with aging, along with cancer and heart disease... yet it has not been shown that older people necessarily have higher levels of free radicals in their cells or lower levels of antioxidants.... Free radical damage is but one type of imbalance that can occur at the level of cellular intelligence when the balance tips toward entropy.”(62) What Chopra must mean is that the DNA printout--in the form of the body--may change to manifest dysfunction, malformation, etc., if the programmer chooses to redefine the body. Since we have maintained throughout this paper that Self--the programmer--is all powerful then what It imagines It gets, Chopra’s statement may not be so wrong after all.
Chopra’s model is abstract and it couches all activity in the mind and body as the mere flow of intelligence--of energy and information. “Physiology is nothing but intelligence talking to itself”, he writes.(63) “When the flow of information ceases that is death”.(64) The body is nothing more than the material result of all the intentions you have ever had (65) as well as the memories, experiences, and beliefs.(66) One of our beliefs is that “aging seems to be something that’s happening to you when in fact it is something your body has largely learned to do. The reason, he writes, is because it has learned to carry out the programming fed into it by you--the programmer.(67) Further, “the underlying assumption that humans have to age has not been radically challenged....It makes much less sense in a world where an endless flow of ever-renewing intelligence is present all around us.”(68) “All we need to do is influence the cell’s intelligence directly and we can thwart free radical damage etc. (69)
Chopra writes that another way to look at this is from the quality of attention. He says; “The quality of one’s life depends upon the quality of attention....whatever you pay attention to will grow more important in your life.”(70) Stated alternatively we can say that what we believe we become, what we fear may happen, we become our thoughts in every way--name and form. Every mental experience is a physical one which reflects the inner workings. On the other hand, “All one need do is have the experience of non-change and this brings change under control,” He writes.(71) One technology for bringing this about is to meditate--this brings the field of non-change into the observer’s direct experience. And it’s interesting to note that the change--aging--the programming is so much under individual control and research confirms this. He writes, “aging is much
more dependent on the individual than dreamed of--it is fluid--it slows and accelerates, stops.” (72) When our experience of time and change become one of a continuum “aging” need no longer be a focus of attention and this leads to timeless physiology.
Those who hold that life is bound by the three universal operators--creation, maintenance, and destruction--might argue that all things eventually decay. Chopra rejects this notion by pointing to the distinction between entropy and destructive forces. Life is not possible without destruction (catabolic metabolism, for example) but entropy is the result of neglect. When attention and intention apprehend and reflect the true status of reality--of the unbounded and the localized bounded coexisting as one reality--the balance of creative and destructive forces will result in a dynamic non-change.(73) Life will continue ever-renewing. “The body is a process, and as long as that process is directed toward renewal, the cells of the body remain new, no matter how much time passes or how much entropy we are exposed to.”(74) Maharishi says that the nature of life is to grow. One person paraphrased this with this remark; “People don’t grow old. When they stop growing, they become old.”(75) This notion of having to become frail and slower etc., with advancing age is just a mistake. When we fail to apply prevention with belief, attention, intention, and activity then a lesser reality is experienced. Bliss is not experienced and health is fragile, if at all.
In summary, we have described life as a continuum of change--of diversity ever expanding. We have shown that this change can be perceived as linear because of mistake of the intellect to apprehend reality in its true nature, and through other even seemingly innocent errors of time and senses. The balance of the principles of life--vata, pitta, kapha--is ever changing but this change need not be debilitating in any way if awareness of one’s nature remains full--unbounded. Health, as the experience of bliss, is the natural result of good living and normal physiology. Disease, its antithesis, is nothing other than some interruption in the flow of intelligence in physiology. Nature even provides for the antidote to mistakes in life with such techniques as rasayana, expansion of consciousness through meditation, etc. We can even have experience of disease without aging. We can even experience aging without dying. Aging, as an idea that life must and naturally does decline with age is ignorance--ignorance of our true status as immortal and of the tools which promote longevity. Ultimately, ill health or disease must be seen as inconsistent with Maharishi Ayurveda because of rasayana, meditation, etc. Ayurveda stands for immortality and Jai Guru Dev for its revival in the form of Maharishi Ayurveda.
1) Ca. Sa. I.78
2) Ca. Sa. I.49
3) Vag. Sa. I.1-2 also Sus. Su. I.18
4) Ca. Su. I.46
5) Sharn. Su. V.47
6) Meriam Webster Dictionary p.406
7) Chopra, Deepak, Quantum Healing Seminar (This language is so common to his material that I have attributed it to this source only for convenience of reader to find.)
8) Ca. Su. I.15
9) Vag. Su. I.2
10) Ca. Su. I.44
11) Sharn. Su. 5.70-72
12) Ca. Sa. I.129
13) Ca. Vi. III.24
14) Bhishagratna, Translator of Susruta Samhita, Introduction p.xxxiv
15) Ca. Sa. VI.29
16) Class Notes from video on Ayurveda Date unknown, etc.
17) Ca. Vi. III.25-27
18) Ca. Vi. III.29-36
19) Sharn. Su. V.47-51
20) Sus. Su. XV.38
21) Ca. Sa. VI.30
22) Sus. Su.XXXV.5
23) Ca. Sa. I.18-19
24) Ca. Sa. I.147
25) Vag. Su. I.19
26) Sus. Su. XXI.2
27) Vag. Su. I.6, Su. XI.1
28) Sharn. Su. V.23-24, 52-54
29) Sharn. Su. V.52-54
30) Murthy, Srikanta, Prof. Translator to Madhava Nidanam, Chaukhambha Orientalia, Varanasi, India, (copyright date missing) p.xxiv
31) op. cit. p.xxiv
32) Ca. Sa. VI.4
33) Vag. Su. I.19
34) Sus. Su. I.19
35) Ca. Sa. I.98-112 also Vi. VI.6
36) Ca. Vi. III.25-27
37) Ca. Vi. VI.6
38) MN I.14
39) Ca. Vi. I.18
40) Ca. Vi. II.7 also Vi. V.23
41) Ca. Ci. I.1
42) Ca. Su. Vii.3-4
43) Vag. Su. IV.23
44) Vag. Su. IV.25
45) Vag. Su. I.1
46) Bhishagratna, op. cit. p.lix
47) Vag. Su. XI.28-29
48) Ca. Ci. I.1.78-80 also Ci1.3, 4-6, 9-14 etc.
49) Sharn. Part II, XII.1
50) Ca. Ci. I.2. 17-22
51) Ca. Ci. I.1. 78-80
52) Dash, Bhagwan, Dr. , Fundamentals of Ayurvedic Medicine, Konark Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, India, 7th printing, l989, p81-82
53) Ca. Su. VII.20
54) Sharma, Hari, M.D., Freedom from Disease, Veda Publishing, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1993 p.20
55) ibid. p.16
56) Chopra, Deepak, M.D. , Ageless Body Timeless Mind, Harmony Books N.Y., N.Y. 1993, p.61
57) ibid. p.61
58) Sharma, op. cit. pp.10,96-98
59) ibid. p.95
60) Chopra, op. cit. p.9
61) ibid. p.58
62) ibid. p.123
63) ibid. p. 135
64) ibid. p.15
65) ibid. p.106
66) ibid. p. 23
67) ibid. p.39
68) ibid. p.38
69) ibid. p.123
70) ibid. p.95
71) ibid. p.93
72) ibid. p.5
73) ibid. p.116
74) ibid. p.41
75) ibid. p.125
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