Interview by Evelyn Einhaeuser
What led you to research Ayurveda and find bridges between the ancient model and modern science?
My profession is not Ayurveda. However, when I started to work on the evolution theory that was formulated by the sage scientists of India, it so happened that my intuitive brain explored the dimensions of Ayurveda, as well as Siddha as natural medicines that originated as part of the human evolution compared to the the man-made modern medicine.
What is the difficulty between bringing ancient science and modern science together?
There is no such difficulty in bridging ancient science and modern science. The difficult process is more to spread the message of ancient science in the world. Since there is a difficulty in processing the information from both sides, the East and the West, the bridging process is getting delayed.
This difficulty came into existence because of the following factors: The identification of modern science took place only between the 6th and 7th century. It can be traced to Europe beginning with its separation from religion during the lifetime of Copernicus (1473-1543AD) and Aristotle (384 BC- 322 BC). After around 2000 years Copernicus took the non-religious approach to knowledge that is now broadly known as 'modern science'. This development stands in stark contrast to the path of ancient science in India that dates back 10, 000 years wherein ancient science was well integrated within the cultural and spiritual context. Unlike modern science ancient science has not been separated from religion.
Even if we do seperate religion, spirituality cannot be separated from the holistic ancient science as consciousness is the biggest uncertainity that will remain as a part of ancient science. By the way, ancient science is not just limited to Ayurveda but applies to all divisions of Indian science, be it ancient economics or political policies, ancient business models, ancient agricultural practices, astronomy and astrology, evolution theory, ancient physics, chemistry, principles of non-violence, etc. to name only a few.
Inclusion of ancient science into modern science can bring back great changes to the planet as a whole. The key difficulty is to make the people of the Indian culture aware that there is a complete science hidden in the culture that can be identified and separated. The other difficulty is the uncontrollable mass-commercialization of modern science to all corners of the World, giving false assurances that modern science can solve all problems in the World.
The ego of modern science should fade away such that it can accept the traditional knowledge of other cultures. Today we are learning a science that comes from only one side of the World and reduce it to the views of a certain culture. Ancient science needs to be given equal opportunity in the modern curriculum, only then can we call it a complete science.
I can give you very simple examples of how simple things in modern science affect everyone, even a person in the East like India or countries like Africa. For example, if a state in US is documenting something that says that co-bedding with kids is dangerous and that the Sudden Death Syndrome(SDS) is caused due to co-bedding. Now you need to consider cultural parameters, for example for a country like India the concept of ‘single parents’ doesn't really exist. Even if the spouse passes away or divorces the partner, kids are in most cases raised by other family members as well. People have been sleeping with their kids in India for generations without anyone dying.
Just by doing a simple survey on a small group of people who are taking heavy drugs such as alcohol or marijuana in between their busy life-style disorders, which is a major cause for SDS, one cannot generalize the application of this research outcome world-wide.
Other examples are false generalizations like ‘banana causes constipation’. People have been consuming bananas for digestion purposes for thousands of years. And just because someone does a simple lab experiment with a monkey for ten years you cannot disprove century old concepts and realities. There are so many other things in modern science that have affected and are continuously impacting the personal life of everyone, no matter where they live and in which regional and cultural context they live. Now it has even become difficult to erase this ‘science ideology’ from a person living in India; they have started to believe in modern science to an extent that even neglects their own values, originality, identity and culture. For nothing.
Since the Cartesian split modern medicine perceives the human structure as dualistic and each part separate from the other. Ancient medicines perceive the human body as a holistic entity with each layer influencing and interpervading the other. How can that distinct difference be brought together?
Ancient medicine is not based on assumptions, the way it is constructed is what I call as ‘Femto-technology and beyond’ well below the atomic scale’ which I have written about in our journal Ayuvedic, Vol 1, #1, 2014 (you can read it here).
For example, in Ayurveda, all diagnosis is based on the Panchaboothas. Unlike looking on a cellular level, say the level of micro or even nano technology, Ayurveda works on a fundamental energy particle level, the five element or’ Panchabootha Thatva’, which is way below atomic scale. Therefore, the problem is Quantum Mechanical in nature. Hence, discussion of all the Saint Scientists of India begins with Quantum mechanics in ancient India. Since it was very subjective, abstract and documented in a different language it is difficult to explain the nature of this problem by the East and due to linguistic barriers there was always a misunderstanding by the Western scientists who assumed that this literature has something to do with the Hindu religion.
Many people think of ancient healing methods like Ayurveda as only “complementary”, because they perceive them as not very scientific. You try to explain that ancient Rishis were not just spiritually evolved, but also extremely advanced scientists. Can you explain what led you to this thought?
The first thing is to understand that modern medicine is supposed to be based on empherical proof. In reality it is not true. Most of the mechanisms are based on theories and hypothesis. These theories keep changing as a function of time. Therefore, empherical proof is not what we think as ‘absolute proof’ or truth. However, statistics is very important for any science. Though Ancient Science has statistics it has not been documented for marketing purposes. But now there is a need for documentation if we want to bridge sciences.
How can an energy body or energy be explained by modern science?
We need a paradigm shift approach to understand energy and that is luckily happening today. So far Western approaches on energy were limited by a cultural bias. When ancient science becomes inclusive in the broader domain of ‘Science’, then the understanding of energy will become clear to the West.
In the West or for anyone with only Western education, ancient Science needs to be relearned starting from its fundamentals. This should be a separate curriculum incorporated in the modern education system. Schools should include ancient science from a kindergarten level, so that it can be integrated in the future. Energy levels need to be understood by experience also. Experiments should be conducted in school so that students can feel these and explore what the techniques are. Or what the mental zone of frequency is that we need to understand energy etc. Now, if we pick chakras, nadis, energy bodies such as Astral and Causal bodies as fundamental axioms then it is possible to explain the phenomena of energy. When already something is constructed you don’t need new ways to explain this, we just need to accept it and then do experiments to prove or disprove it.
How can a bliss body and concepts like the spirit be explained by modern science?
Organizations such as the Society for Scientific Exploration are encouraging such studies now. I am also part of it. There are many such things that can be explained using modern Quantum Mechanics. However, there is a limitation in this approach due to the uncertainty principle. Therefore, there is a need for bringing the Ancient Axioms back into the picture to explain bliss body, spirit etc.,
How can the five elements be explained by modern science?
Simple ‘Femto-Technology’. In one of my paper titled “Ayurveda-Ancient Sceince and Technology- A quantum paradigm shift” I have clearly illustrated the construct (you can read it here).
Can you explain how modern evolution theory and quantum mechanics is also explained by the Vedic tradition?
When the essence of Eastern philosophy was discussed by Eastern scholars with some eminent scientists from the West, the core concept/philosophy was misunderstood. This later reappeared as the modern quantum mechanics but in that the connection to consciousness was removed, making it very materialistic.
What is generally needed so that ancient healing modalities and modern medicine can connect and communicate?
First, ancient science needs to be built separately based on its own axioms, based on the statistics of the ancient sage scientists and their literature and by translating it into other languages. Later it is possible to merge both and take the best out of both cultures (sciences). Anything unwanted can be got ridden then. I have submitted a proposal to the Indian Government and World leaders on how this can be achieved.
Can the herbal medicines and some of the therapies that Ayurveda proposes also be integrated into modern medicine or not?
Modern science can be very useful in bringing Ayurveda to the world. The modern science framework is good. However, we need to eliminate some fundamental errors. Then it is possible to integrate both medical sciences very well. After all it is not an argument about which Science it better, it is about how science can be useful for humanity as a whole. We cannot blame anybody for what has happened in the past. With wisdom we should proceed towards the path of truth now and in the future.
Shanmugamurthy Lakshamanan, M.Sc., M Phil., M A., M.S., PhD., Massachusetts, USA is a Research Scientist at Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts. His research focus is on Nanotechnology and Siddha- Ayurveda Photomedicines. He is a distinguished Scientific Advisor and VICE President for International Research at the World Institute for Scientific Exploration, as well as the Direct and Head of the Indian Division of Sciences. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of two peer reviewed international journals, "Ancient Science" (http://www.vedicjournals.com/index.php/AS) and "Ayurvedic“ (http://www.vedicjournals.com/index.php/AV) as well as the Chair and Research Director representing the Research and Development division of the Association of Ayurvedic Physicians of North America(AAPNA-Harvard branch). Inspired by Sage-Scientist Vethathiri Maharishi’s effort towards bridging Physics with Philosophy he established the World Community Service Center-USA in 2005. For the past twenty years he has been working on a paradigm shift theory using Ancient Indian Science and has organized numerous international conferences, workshops and seminars on this topic. He also introduced ancient agriculture and food technology via community vegetable gardens and community kitchen concepts in the United States. With the help of his MIT and Yale collaborators he is now building ancient Science curriculums so that these could be included into the curriculums in the United States and India. He has submitted his revolutionary proposal on the change of the educational system to the World leaders that include H.H. Dalai Lama, Dr. Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister of India and the President of India. Shanmugamurthy Lakshmanan is a scientist, philosopher, editor, author, poet and farmer.