More Perspectives on Ayurveda

S B from Washington DC writes:

“Hello Kurma. I read with interest yesterday’s exchange with B W. Yes, I agree that this is about much more than black salt. It is the underlying deep rift between the allopathic approach to health versus the naturalistic approach.
I hereby submit this article, quoted in full, that seems to sum it all up more clearly and concisely than I could:”

Kurma replies:

Thanks S! I will publish the whole letter below:

What makes Ayurveda different from other medical systems

“This section discusses the differences between Ayurveda, Western Allopathic medicine, Western Naturopathic medicine and Chinese herbal medicine. These differences are discussed from an Ayurvedic perspective. I have made extensive reference to work by Dr David Frawley in this discussion.

Modern Western Allopathic medicine is based on a medical model which is basically mechanical, materialistic, inorganic and inert. It considers only the physical body and treats the mind as a physical entity. It emphasises the use of inorganic substances (drugs), mechanical testing, invasive treatments like surgery and a passive approach by the patient.

It has difficulty recognising disease which it can’t measure mechanically and it focuses on suppression of symptoms – usually by some form of treatment which destroys healthy tissue and organic functioning and poisons the body while it kills the “external invaders”. This makes it potentially very dangerous and in many cases it’s treatment may actually create new disease. In addition, the focus is often on treating the disease and not the person. In addition, the treatment is seldom applied with any changes to the lifestyle or awareness of the patient.

While it is the most sophisticated and complex form of medicine in terms of equipment, testing and information it is also the crudest in terms of treatment – it approaches fixing the body in the same way as fixing a machine. However it is an extremely useful form of medicine for treating emergency situations such as accidents and heart attack victims.

Advances such as antibiotics and immunisation have also saved many lives. But we need to be aware that allopathic medicine does not have a long history of success. Many of it’s medicines are very new and haven’t had time to prove themselves as safe or enduring. Antibiotics are widely overused and used inappropriately. This is damaging our level of health.

In addition the use by date of antibiotics is just around the corner. Bacteria are adapting to, and becoming resistant to, antibiotics faster than we can develop new ones. This actually says a lot about the life process. Bacteria are living entities guided by the life-force of the Universe. They are outsmarting the material mind which seeks to use simple mental analysis to conquer disease.

Ayurveda should however not be thought of as a total replacement for allopathic medicine. Each form of medicine has its own strengths. Ayurveda is about increasing health and disease prevention through increased self awareness. It is not about treating car accident victims.

Naturopathic medicine on the other hand is organic, naturalistic and energetic. It recognises the life-force as the guiding force behind the biochemical changes that allopathic medicine focuses on. It’s treatment focuses on harmonising the life-force and strengthening the body through natural substances such as herbs and diet, and action by the client such as lifestyle changes and exercise. It often considers the role of psychological conditions in the disease process.

Disease is frequently seen as an expression of the body eliminating excess toxins which have been created by poor diet and lifestyle and therefore a positive expression of the body healing itself.

It is not concerned with the biochemical constituents of substances but on their energetic effect on the life-force and it focuses on creating energetic balance rather than killing pathogens. So, for example, it prescribes hot substances for cold conditions and strong tonifying substances for weak conditions.

However, most naturopathic systems are deficient is in the way they classify the energetics of substances. The majority of systems – Chinese medicine included – considers substance energetics on an outward or quantitative basis only.

For example, meat may be prescribed to a weak person because of it’s strong capacity to strengthen and provide energy. In this way it may balance the person at a gross level. But this perspective fails to recognise the negative impact meat has on an inner level because of the dulling effect it has on the mind, emotions and senses.

Ayurveda’s focus is more on creating energetic balance at the higher energetic or inner level. It sees all life and Nature constantly evolving toward a higher level of consciousness. All substances have an impact at this higher level of consciousness as well as the more gross body level.

Ayurveda seeks to connect us with this intelligence inherent in Nature and uses substances and processes which work positively as this higher level – such as yoga asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation – to facilitate this. It categories substances and activities according to their capacity to achieve this higher level of consciousness. It recommends we avoid substances which stimulate us or dull us.

Stimulants and dulling substances act on the body level, distort consciousness and lead to a lack of sensitivity and self awareness. For example, the cup of coffee we have to get us going in the morning may take us to work and get us to do the job but then who is it that is going to work and running our lives – us or the coffee ??.

Ayurveda recognises that imbalance of the mind and emotion frequently precedes, and is often the cause of, physical imbalances. Because of this, simple prescriptions such as pranayama (breathing exercises), repeating mantras or meditation, may be given rather than complex medicines because these prescriptions address the core of the problem by stilling an overactive mind.

These prescriptions may seem naive or even undesirable – especially to those who live under the rule of their external ego and who therefore value performance in the outside world: material conquest, power and domination: as the important values in life.

Ayurvedic or Yogic medicine is about facilitating the process of raising our level of consciousness. This state of consciousness is defined as peace, union with the Divine or realisation of our true Self.”

Black Salt & Boxing Gloves

black salt:

Allow me to share a recent polite exchange of correspondence, apparently on the subject of black salt. It is about much more than black salt however, and sheds some light on the limitations of blind faith.

Comments, please.

BW writes: “Namaste,

I have been looking at your site, and noticed an
article about black salt
. I notice that you mention that in Ayurvedic medicine,
black salt (kala namak) is thought to contain less sodium that ordinary (sea)
salt. Last year I bought packets of kala namak in India, and after seeing the
original article on Wikipedia decided to analyse the salt myself (I am an
analytical chemist (35 years experience)). I found the kala namak to be almost
entirely sodium chloride, with only minute traces of potassium and other
elements.

It would appear that the Ayurvedic beliefs are incorrect in this case (as in
many cases), but more imporantly people are taking kala namak in the ignorance
that it is low salt. I urge you to point this out, please.

Thanks, B W”

e-boxing:

My reply:

“Hello B, thanks for your letter.

I presume the quote you are referring to is:

… “Black salt is considered a cooling spice in ayurvedic medicine and is used as a laxative and digestive aid. It is also believed to relieve intestinal gas and heartburn. It is sometimes used by people with high blood pressure or on low-salt diets because it is lower in sodium and purportedly does not increase sodium content in the blood.”

It is well known to be cooling, a digestive and a laxative. I have experienced all these benefits on many occasions.

I am not a physician, so the ability of kala namak to not increase sodium in the blood is beyond the scope of my experimentation.

Please note this: I went shopping to an Indian food emporium the other day and asked for black salt. They offered me something which resembled normal cooking salt with a pink colour (rather than the pink powdered black salt pictured above). It was obviously not the real thing. I asked for the whole black salt, large squarish dark purple crystalline rocks. This is real black salt.

I presumed you analysed the real thing and not the common cheap substitute? There is little regulation in the Indian food industry, so one has to be careful what one buys.

I am not a scientist, but allow me to make these observations:

The amount of sodium something physically contains may or may not account for a proportionate increase of sodium content in the blood when it is ingested. There are other famous salts like Celtic Salt which also does not apparently increase sodium levels anywhere near as much as cheap and nasty cooking salt.

And…lemon, for instance, is acidic, but when ingested has an alkaline effect on the body, as opposed to vinegar which has an acidic effect.

Food science and absorbtion of nutrients is a very subtle science.

Allow me to humbly suggest: perhaps it is a bit unfair of you to presume to dismiss Ayurveda on the strength of one lab observation on one product you picked up in an Indian market. Ayurveda is not belief. Many reputable western-trained doctors would agree that real Ayurveda (not ‘pop’ ayurveda) is as much a highly respected science as your chemistry.

Offered with respects,

Kurma”

e-boxing:

B W responds “Hello Kurma,

I thank you for your kind reply, and the spirit with which it was sent, and
received.
However, I would like to take issue with its contents, not to be
argumentative, but because I believe people could be under a grave
misconception, and could endanger their life.

The black salt I analysed (and I admit it was only one sample, so may be I
was unlucky, but there is no way of knowing without resampling many examples,
however, if I found it once, that makes me worry!) contained nearly pure sodium
chloride, and very little else. The only way you could have experienced what
you did, (cooling, etc.) is either that it was not black salt or from a
different source which may in fact be completely different (it would have to be
to give you your apparent relief) or it is that you only believe it affected
you. I would tend to think it was the latter. Black salt has never had
any affect that you suggest, and I don’t believe it would!

My common sense is based on modern science, not pre-science beliefs which are
harmful to mankind. I know I will not convince you of this, and can only hope
you live a long and happy life, but you are also in a position to influence
others, I hope you will sleep peacefully.

The point about the pink powder you were offered as black salt. Kala namak is
composed of deep violet crystals (the form I brought from India), smells of
hydrogen sulphide, and contains black specks of heavy metals and iron. When
ground, the violet crystals provide a pink powder. This is expected.

As to the salt not increasing the amount of sodium in the blood, from a
scientific point of view (and the only one I am prepare to accept) there is no
foundation for this whatsoever. And I ask you again to reconsider your advice
to others.

As for lemon having an ‘alkali’ effect on the body, this is pure fairy story
stuff I’m afraid.

Let me assure you that there is nothing scientific about Ayurvedic medicine,
just google ‘Ayurveda and heavy metals’ to see how toxic some of the
‘medicines’ really are. Things that are supposed to help with health seem to be
doing the opposite, clinically, if not psychologically.

Kindest regards,

B W”

e-boxing:

I respond: “Hello B,

Thanks for your letter.

I appreciate and accept it in the concerned spirit it was offered.

If I was a debating man, which I am not, I would bother to respond to some of your points, many of which I found to be arrogant, patronising and presumptious.

But I will refrain because it seems you have a stubborn, perjorative and unbudging predilection to what appears to me a very narrow sense of ‘western-biased’ empiricism, one which presumes anything from ‘the east’ is childish, primitive and unscientific; or in your words, ‘pre-science’. This term of yours really sums up an unfortunate state of affairs: The arrogant, closed-mindedness of modern medical science.

With respects,

Kurma”

e-boxing:

B says: “Hello Kurma,

I am sorry you have reacted this way. You will believe what you want to believe. In my ‘Western’ way, I believe what can be proven.

I am sorry that I have upset you.

Kindest regards, B W ( M.Sc. F.R.S.C.)”

lotus:

I reply: “Hello Bryan,

I am not at all upset. Just stating what I see as ‘facts’, not belief, just as you are. I enjoyed our cyber Tête à Tête .

Vive la Différence!

Kurma”

lotus:

Bryan concludes: “Dear Kurma,

Great philosophers (Western and Eastern) will say there are no such things as
facts, only beliefs; I’m prepared to accept their wisdom.

I wish you a happy and long life.

B W”

lotus:

I conclude: “Dear Bryan,

Not sure I entirely agree on that perspective about ‘no such thing as facts’. But I do know that what you call science is also based on a great deal of faith.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful benediction. I return your blessings!

Kurma”

lotus:

Eclipsing the Full Moon

Today (for my Australian readers, anyway) is the birthday of Lord Balarama, the eternally youthful brother of Lord Krishna. This evening I’m attending the Hare Krishna festivities here in Perth. Last year at this time I was in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In sacred Vedic theology, it is described how Lord Balarama is the first personal bodily expansion of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All other incarnations expand from Him. In Lord Krishna’s earthly pastimes, He plays as Krishna’s older brother.

Balarama:

Together Krishna and Balarama enact many pastimes as cowherd boys in the land of Vrindavana. Lord Balarama carries a plow and club and is known for His great strength. Whereas Krishna is blue, Balarama is white.

I will be spending a week in the earthly Vrindavana, apparently situated in Uttar Pradesh state, India, later this year. Lord Balarama is the bestower of spiritual strength, an essential and special blessing needed for us to be successful on the long and sometimes rocky road that is spiritual life. It is especially auspicious to invoke Lord Balarama’s generous benedictions on this day.

It is described:

Powerful Lord Balarama is sixteen years old, full of the luster of youth and
has a fair complexion the color of crystal. He wears blue garments and a
garland of forest flowers. His handsome hair is tied in a graceful topknot.
Splendid earrings adorn His ears and His neck is splendidly decorated with
garlands of flowers and strings of jewels. Splendid armlets and bracelets
ornament Douji’s graceful and very strong arms and His feet are decorated
with splendid jeweled anklets.

Lord Balarama’s beauty is enhanced by the earrings touching His cheeks. His
face is decorated with tilaka made from musk, and His broad chest is
ornamented with a garland of gunja. Balarama

Good News from Iraq

shortbread:

Charles from Miami writes:

Hey Kurma, do you have any vego recipes from Iraq?

My reply:

Hey Charles! Yes I do actually. There are some wonderful sweets in Iraqi cuisine. Here’s a nice one. Add a little extra butter if the mixture is too dry.

Iraqi Cardamom-scented Butter Biscuits (Shakar Lemah)

Anyone who enjoys a good shortbread will love these melt-in-the-mouth delights from Iraq. They are exceptionally easy to make. Makes 24 biscuits.

175g (6 ounces) butter

½ cup caster sugar

2½ cups plain flour

1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

icing sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 160° C / 325° F.

Cream the butter with the caster sugar in a food processor. Add the flour and cardamom, and process to form a soft dough.

Roll the mixture into 24 walnut sized balls. Flatten them slightly. Arrange them on baking sheets lined with baking paper about 2cm apart. If you like, press them gently with the flat underside of fork tines to slightly flatten them and mark them with decorative lines.

Bake for about 25 minutes. They will hardly darken, and will appear undercooked, but they will firm up when they cool.

Serve: remove from the paper only when they have hardened, and dredge them in icing sugar.

Zinc

chickpeas:

M from Australia asks:

“Thanks for your recipes Kurma. I had a question: we need to get more zinc into our vegetarian diet – including food for the kids – any suggestions?”

My reply:

Hello M! Easy peasy! Tons of good vegetarian sources like chickpeas, baked beans, muesli, cheese, tahini, wholemeal bread, potatoes, oranges, peanut butter. etc.

lots of info here…
Hope this helps.

Vegetarianism, Ponies and Anorexia Nervosa

anorexia nervosa:

Hardly a cookery class of mine goes by without finding out that one of the ladies in attendance is there because her teenage daughter has just become a vegetarian.

From my discussions with these mothers around the dinner table, it seems some girls certainly do become vegetarian for very whimsical or superficial reasons. Of course it is nice that they do stop eating meat, but if they do so without the proper formula for health and menu-planning, it will fail for sure.

In fact, many of my female students frankly admit that they were vegetarians sometime in their youth, but they now eat meat. They did it maybe for the right reasons, maybe for the wrong, but either way they could not keep it up.

In Australia, female vegetarians outnumber males; many more young girls turn to vegetarianism than young boys. The reasons are varied. Not least of these is the issue of body-image, and the perception that vegetarianism will lead to weight loss, a less-than-favourable reason to eschew meat.

I am not sure about the exact statistics here in Australia; close to 5 percent of young women in the United States suffer from eating disorders like anorexia, an obsession with being thin to the point that you starve yourself and exercise excessively, and bulimia, binging on large amounts of food and then purging them from the system.

Though the reasons are complex, the media has a lot to answer for in the upsurge in anorexia nervosa; thousands of young girls are being allured by so many artificial body-image fantasies.

Read this recent news article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Whilst the article’s title and leading paragraph may be a bit sensational, I think it is pretty fair. It does confirm some of my thoughts on the matter, and does seek to shed light on the seriousness of this illness which is a major problem amongst young Australian girls.

And what about the ponies? Read the article..

The Clown of God

Clown of God:

Just after writing yesterday’s blog I heard a recitation of “The Clown of God”, a delightful short story by Tomi dePaola.

In a nutshell, an orphaned street urchin named Giovanni goes begging from door to door, juggling for his food. He joins a traveling troupe of entertainers, and gains fame and fortune as a juggler. One day he shares his humble lunch of bread and cheese with some Franciscan Brothers, who thank him for his charity and, over lunch, regale him of the Mission of Saint Francis.

Eventually the juggler grows old, retires from juggling, and again becomes a homeless beggar.

On one cold night, Giovanni seeks shelter in a nearby church, run by those same old Franciscan Brothers, and falls asleep. He awakens to the sight of the townspeople offering gifts to statues of the baby Jesus and his mother, and he is astonished and amazed at the beauty and sanctity of the event.

The crowd leaves, and our elderly juggler approaches, to see that the statues appear to him as sad. He puts on his clown face, and juggles as he never has before, to put a smile on the divine Child’s face. In the midst of his devotional performance, he dies of a heart attack.

The monks in the church, some of whom thought that his performance was sacrilegious, turn to see that the statue of Mary and the baby Jesus are now smiling, and that baby Jesus is holding one of the juggling balls. The message of the story expands on the theme of the short film I reviewed yesterday: to offer one’s talents to please God is the perfection of all work.

I can’t find an online version of the book; I guess that’s because it’s copyrighted. It’s worth buying a copy of the charming story, especially if you have children who enjoy bedtime stories with an uplifting message.