A Question Of Balance

Words: Dr Muralidhar ACHARYA

Ayurveda — Ayur [Sanskrit], meaning, way; veda, knowledge — is the most ancient science of natural health and wellness. It is closely ‘fused’ with the yogic vision of life and consciousness.

Health, to use a standard platitude, is not merely the absence of disease, or limited to a few measurable physiological [functional] parameters. Health is, in essence, the sum total, or harmonious balance, of our physical, mental and spiritual constituents.

The ancient Greeks believed in the ‘miasma theory’ of disease: that ‘miasms’ [unhealthy cloud, fog, or taint] were products of environmental factors, such as contaminated water, polluted air, and poor hygiene. This was the predominant, albeit now antiquated, theory of disease transmission before the germ theory of disease got entrenched during the last decade of the 19th century. The theory, first initiated by Louis Pasteur, FRS, and Dr Robert Koch, MD, ruled the roost for a long time, although it was far removed from the cause [aetiology] of chronic degenerative disease — but, not so much infectious disease.

Fast-forward. Modern gene theory believes that non-communicable diseases are ‘rooted’ in our genes, so we are predisposed to particular diseases. This is true to some extent, but it does not address a large part of our food, or nutrition parameters, including environmental factors, or other influences. You may well ask: so, what about communicable diseases? The answer: there may be a certain genetic predisposition, or susceptibility, towards such diseases, or illnesses.

Back To The Future

The truth, according to modern nutrigenomics — the study of how food affects a person’s genes — and, epigenetics — the study of how cells control gene activity without changing the DNA sequence — is that most epidemics unleashed by chronic degenerative diseases are primarily due to improper diet and skewed lifestyle.

In Ayurveda, this is called aahara and vihara — or, food and lifestyle. Modern nutrigenomics and epigenetics contend that our diet and collective environment influences our gene expression in two ways — positively and negatively. It is, perforce, a popular myth that modern chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, etc., are ‘rooted’ in our inherited genes and, therefore, one cannot prevent them, but can only manage symptoms. The fact is less than five per cent of all chronic diseases are hereditary.

Well, the good news is nutrigenomics has substantiated the fact that our genes are flexible and not completely fixed. What we eat has a direct effect on our gene expression. Epigenetics is, likewise, evidencing that the collective environment, including individual lifestyles, also influence gene expression.

Charaka, the renowned ancient physician and author of the oldest surviving text in Ayurveda, was far ahead of his time. He envisaged that sarveroga malayatanani, i.e., the aetiology [cause] of all diseases were primarily related to a plethora of toxins in the body, faulty diet [aahara] and flawed lifestyle [vihara].

Nutrigenomics and epigenetics have, to use a simile, taken Charaka’s canon ‘back to the future,’ as it were, while establishing, in the process, the value of ancient traditional wisdom — that most chronic diseases are caused by unhealthy diet and lifestyle and that if only we change our diet and lifestyle we can prevent illness and restore our mind, body, and soul, to good health.

The Renewal Saga 

The human body, on an average, has about 100 trillion cells. It replaces about 95 per cent of all cells, in a year’s time, excluding the cells that build bones, which may take about seven years to renew. We also make about two billion new cells every day and in a period of about 120 days we replace all blood cells in our body, thanks to this incessant cell renewing process. What we eat, therefore, has a direct effect [positive, or negative] on our gene expression. All diseases, as you may know, occur at the cellular level; so, if we eat healthy and natural food, we can have a steady, also effective renewal of healthy cells, which would, in turn, replace their diseased counterparts over a period of time. This holds the secret for the prevention and reversal of all chronic diseases and also upholding optimal wellness and healthy longevity.

It’d be apt to recall the famed Ayurvedic proverb in the context: “When the diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”

Prasanna atma indriya manaha swastha iti abhidheeyateSushruta Samhita

This translates to timeless wisdom — that ‘perfect’ health is, in effect, the consonant balance of the three doshas [vata, pitta and kapha], including the digestive fire, agni [metabolism], the body tissues and components [dhatus], and excretory functions, malas [defecation, urination, sweat], juxtaposed by a pleasant disposition, contented mind, senses and spirit.

So, there you are — health, according to ancient wisdom and traditions of the world, encompasses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, by which each individual can live and reach their fullest potential.

Sarira madhyam khalu dharma saadhanam, or the body is the means for fulfilling dharma, or right behaviour and social order.

Our physical body is where we live; it is the instrument to conduct our activities. We have to preserve and take care of our physical body with good, nourishing food, balanced lifestyle and good thoughts.

Our quality of life [QoL], thus, depends on our health and well-being, which, in turn, is determined by the quality of our thoughts and the food we eat.

Our body is a sacred temple, where our soul resides.

Sarve santu niramaya. May all be free from illness, or disease.

Dr MURALIDHAR ACHARYA, MS, MD, PhD [Alt Med], a noted practitioner of Alternative Medicine and proponent of holistic living, first studied Environmental Engineering & Science at the University of Maryland, USA. His lifelong mission is keyed to promoting holistic living, sustainable natural agriculture and public health. Apart from conducting health training programmes and seminars across India, Dr Acharya has published several scientific research papers in international journals — on health, natural farming, alternative medicine and meditation. He’s also authored two much-favoured books, Krishi Yoga and Pancha Sutras for Perfect Health, and channelled his multi-disciplinary knowledge to bridging ancient wisdom and science with modern living and to bringing harmony and enriched life experiences to society. The architect of several social enterprises — Tejas Health & Wellness and Sidhavati Eco Villages, among others — Dr Acharya draws his inspiration from Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram, Auroville, Pondicherry. He lives in Hyderabad, India.

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