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Harmonious interdependence is Independence

by Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya

MPH MD (Family Medicine)

PhD (Ayurveda ‑ BHU)

 

 

The ancient land of Bharata was once an island.  Connected deep underground to the molten heat of the earth, the island travelled north through the Tethys Sea and crashed into the ancient land of Laurasia to form the sacred space of the Himalayas.  The mythology of this former island is reflected in the slowly emerging knowledge from the modern sciences, which only validate the metaphors of wisdom behind the myths.

The term Bharata is rooted in several Sanskrt terms, bha, light, lustre, splendour;  bhara, from the root bhri of bearing and carrying forward, supporting something of mass; bharataa, to maintain something of value; and bharata, meaning fire, known as agni with its myriad meanings, including the inner fire engaged in the search for knowledge.

Bharata is also the official Sanskrt name of the country Bharata Ganarajya, known today as India due to its most recent invaders who played off the Persian term of indus, those on the far side of the Indus river. But this is a mistranslation. Bharat will Always include that land east of Afghanistan down to the tip of the land known today as Indonesia which are inextricably interdependent through their connection with the winds and waters of the Bay of Bengal as part of the Indian Ocean. Known also as Akhanda Bharata, it is the ecosystem of indestructible (akhanda = indestructible) connection of Nature, which includes the water, air and soil of 11 modern countries.

Bharata describes the land where the inner light burns, that of wisdom, that of resolve, that of curiosity and searching for knowledge. It describes the fire that burns to keep us alive, in our gut, our mind, our heart. Some will search for the Right meaning with a linear demand, thinking that a term should have only one correct meaning.

Just as a solid tree has many roots, to understand Bharat the thinker must let go of linear ideas of mathematics and see time as a spiral.  In the spiral, each concept has many meanings that layer into a richness over many layers.

We must stop translating Sanskrt terms into English and instead explain meanings with stories and demonstrations, just as we do when teaching children language. Ancient Bharatiya sciences, including Ayurveda, have faced almost 200 years of denigration and condescension, due to the strange worship by Indian “scholars” of Shakespeare, Mendeleev, and Microsoft, but do not know Vaharamihira, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Shailendra or Al-Biruni. They reminded us of the spiral of time.

To understand deeper meanings of difficult concepts that carry us toward true wisdom, notice that complex scientific terms are not translated in the west. No one translates coronavirus for us, though it is a technical term in virology. No one translates megabyte, or GDP, or hybridization. We are forced to understand the terms by going deeper into their source and their usage.  To understand Bharat, we must stop translating Sanskrt.

If we look deeply, Bharata tries to teach us many lessons. The light of knowledge is abundant in the hypocrisy and stark opposites of the land, with saints and criminals co-existing. Poverty and extreme wealth co-exist. Private planes dash off past slums lining the fenced airport, to which only the elite have access; yet the slum children jump in joy watching those jets fly. The land erupts in jewels, which are stolen and exported off to foreign lands. The land even supports many religions, and those of its ignorant children who think of Hindooism as a religion. Hinduism is as much a religion as being Organic is. A way of life has been branded religion, and we the worshippers stay silent and tick off the Hindu box on the Census.

We know the many ways of seeing the divine laws of Nature and admiring them and choosing to live life according to them has been twisted into worship of a pantheon of Gods. Misinterpreted as religion, the sanatana dharma is a philosophy of embracing Nature and its laws of harmony, of understanding the mathematical laws of light and sound and time, and of knowing action is linked to fruits and consequences, of embracing the magic of the interplay of matter and energy. We allow the Truth to remain in the shadows, because the light of its Truth would blind the world, like the star Abhijit.

Over layers and layers of knowledge and wisdom, each of the children of Bharat searches for a different facet of the brilliant diamond, a different unfolding of the 1000-petaled lotus. Those who visit the land behold a different aspect that holds their attention. In ancient times, it was the black pepper and magical healing of the spices of the Malabar coast. It was the intelligent craftsmanship of the people, taking pieces of Nature and converting it to tools of function and beauty. Whether it was pearls from the ocean, or brushes made of strands of coconut or banana leaves, or stones carved into pillars, the people of ancient Bharat were masters over nature. They took plant fibers from hemp and cotton and wove strong ropes and softest cloth for adorning the body. They embraced leaves of Vetiver and made window blinds. They took metals and incinerated them to make medicines that cured sickening ailments.  They took wood that floated and made canoes and ships to visit friends and trade wisdom.

Of course, the visitors were amazed and coveted these talents and the products made from harnessing Nature. They exploited, rather than learning and joining in respectful efforts. They conquered rather than collaborating with the masters. Their understanding of the Universe has been a zero-sum game, disconnected from the interdependence of the earth with its living creatures, invested in the illusion of material wealth and power as a function of ownership.  Conquerors and leaders of the free world are trapped in their illusions of a one-dimensional soul, and a one-dimensional existence.

What unites all who have the DNA of Bharat is the yearning for greater understanding and knowledge beyond the loka of the physical world, using that fire that is inborn and programmed into us.  Born of the soil and air, water and time of Bharat, we are children who search for greater connections with the different dimensions of Being in the world.

The physical part of our Being hunts for Health and satisfaction of the 5 senses that interface with the physical world. The mental and intellectual part of our Being seeks joy that arrives when we sense harmony of understanding. The emotional part of our Being yearns for love and acceptance, to live in a comPassionate world with a sense of connection with others who feel life. The spiritual part of our Being follows the whispers of ecstasy and bliss found in knowing the energy that is Infinite.

Through all our professions, talents and goals, we are actually all playing the game of fire of Bharat, lighting knowledge and feeding from the light as it slowly disintegrates our bodies back into soul-form. This most recent story of independence in 1947 was the Bharatiya fight for independent thought and will, the ability to move freely and self-reliantly, known as swatantra, freedom.

Unless we understand the value of what our grandfathers fought for in creating the modern structure of India, and unless we value having that independence, we do not know freedom. Freedom from misunderstanding and violence, from struggles for artificial power is true freedom.  Freedom from ignorant narratives of religious strife planted into our head by feudalistic values is true freedom. Living with our hearts and minds aligned with our actions is true freedom.  Engaging in work that is in harmony and respectful of the living earth is the path to freedom, as it engages us in the flows of Nature, the ultimate Harmonizer. Freedom and independence depend on understanding our inextricable relationship with Nature, and knowing we are a miniscule but indispensable member of its machinery.

Harmonious interdependence is Independence.

This column is dedicated in loving memory with deep pranams to my mother, who taught me the meanings of Bharat and who passed into Independence from the physical world last month, to join the cosmic consciousness on her most infinite of many journeys. 

 

thesatime | The Southasian times

Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
MPH MD (Family Medicine)
PhD (Ayurveda ‑ BHU)

The South Asian Times Columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright

Specialist 2018‐2022 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill

Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is

published by Penguin Random House.

bhaswati@post.harvard.edu,

www.drbhaswati.com

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The Virus of Violence

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
thesatime | The Southasian times

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.

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