Everyday Ayurveda by Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
If you are South Asian, many people assume you meditate, even when fires burn in the land. Supposedly, meditation technology is in your blood, as though your ancestors sat every day at dawn staring toward their third eye. Did all our ancestors have time to do meditation? How many are even now privileged to have quiet time alone in the early morning or at sunset?
Humans have suffered from distracted minds throughout history. Torture and violence in every century has been the norm for over 2000 years. Even India, whose people never left Bharat to violently conquer other lands, faced regular invasions and the greed of power-hungry men. That violence stems from the ignorance that teaches that conquest, dominion over others and material possessions mean having power. They suffer from childhood insecurities that grow up to stir great chaos in their hearts that then provoke actions of wanting to hurt others. These men never learned that true power is the conquest over one’s own heart and mind.
People having something that oppressors want are most at risk of violence. For west Africans, it was their stamina and knowledge of the land; white oppressors took advantage of their kindness and enslaved them for generations. For Chinese, it was their mastery over mining and rocks; white oppressors enslaved them with opium and luxury, taking advantage of their cultural honor system. For Indians, it was the spices and knowledge of medicinal plants and the making of extraordinary medicines; we were enslaved with European feudal language and culture. Even today, most of the Indian Penal Code is archaic British societal construct of white Christian supremacy. Its energy creates riots through improper use of foreign words, such as Citizen Amendment instead of Asylum Assistance.
As they looted and burned their way through others’ lands, oppressors created waves of poverty. The next generation needed to climb to reestablish wealth and privilege. Those frustrated being poor often remained poor for more than a generation, losing the tools and attitudes needed to recreate the wealth of their forefathers. Meanwhile, most overly wealthy people suffered deep insecurities and the real poverty of inability to be happy with their luxuries, always hunting for more.
The next wave of torturers were people tormented by the twisted thinking that more wealth meant greater power. To build wealth, they submitted themselves to bullies such as white supremacists who used collective strength to create campaigns to collectively hurt others. These gold-diggers maintained silence and outwardly benefitted as continued oppression filled their own coffers. At home, both wealthy oppressor and poor oppressed were tormented. They abused their husbands in the name of frustration. They beat their wives hunting for power. They stole from their brothers and their parents and tortured their children, creating a new generation of abusers.
Most Indians on the planet today had grandparents who were essentially slaves. Grown in the British Empire, whose now-ceremonial queen still wears the stolen jewel of India in her crown, Indians grew up hiding their wealth so that the Oppressor would not come hunting them. They disguised their assets even from their own people in fear of moles ready to betray them. Generations later, we have lost that knowledge of health that was our greatest wealth. India is the global diabetes capital. In the current generation of Indians, tens of millions have risen out of poverty using professions of engineering, medicine, real estate, computer technology, film, and pharmaceutics to climb the ladders out of the refugee colonies and slums that the British put our ancestors into. Many of us live with a spectrum of memories of both abject poverty and jet-set luxury, earning money and comfort but riddled with health issues and disconnection from the inner self.
And most are still mentally unsettled. We are torn between an ancient philosophy that teaches us to hunt inside for wealth and inner power, and to live in modern society where material possession is indeed wealth. The coveted elite institutions teach us that capital gives buying power, where we can choose to direct and control our wealth to change society, once if we have it. Or so we think. We buy in and become blind and deaf. We become the silent supremacists. Our hearts know better, tormenting us in our dreams. We become fragile inside. Our guts do not flow properly. We have insomnia. We learn that heart disease and cancer are inevitable.
To jump off this crazy cycle of need, greed, and oppression, Indian philosophy teaches us to go inside and simply search for our dharma–our life purpose. Each life purpose is to find Integrity and align our minds with truth, equanimity and discovery of that ability that makes our heart sing. It fulfills a dream that aligns us with our soul’s purpose.
To find that land of individual wholeness, we must travel inside and connect with our emotions and inner wounds, whatever they are. The only way to arrive is through our issues, not around them. If our karma is ambitious, our roles sometimes make us do work that empowering others’ oppression. Until we release the chains of the passive-aggressive violence around us and find the strength to bow with Integrity, we lose power. Sometimes the silver lining is failure in the ambitions we were taught to pursue. A simple life purpose as an inextricably essential but minute component of a large movement in society saves us from a place we were not supposed to be. Fame and fortune and its complications leave our minds, and with them so leaves our stress. We see that we have enough and we shift focus toward our relationships and our health rather than accumulating accolades from people who don’t really care about us.
Ayurveda teaches that health is wealth — mental, emotional and physical. It teaches that a wholesome life, called hita, is found when we help others and share our abundance with them. It teaches us to grow plants and trees and spend time in Nature. The magic of the forest air and the mountain waters is revealed only in the experience.
Letting go of the dark desires, known as the Ripus, and allowing the Universe to give us what we need was the way most Indians adjusted in the past. This allowed them to accept painful karma and the state in which they lived. The lessons of transformation are there for each person, but coded in secrecy so that we have to work to unravel them, whether we are materially rich or poor. The lessons, often dedicated to the Saturnian cycles of forcing us to find who we really are lead us to discover the wealth in our own Being. Then Lakshmi and Saraswati sit together and we have true wealth.
Bhaswati Bhattacharya, MPH MD (Family Medicine), PhD (Ayurveda-BHU)
Dr. Bhattacharya is Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, 2018-2022 Fulbright Specialist in Public Health and author of best-selling ‘Everyday Ayurveda‘ published by Penguin Random House.Read More