Book Review: American Veda - From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

American Veda - From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West
by Philip Goldberg
Three Rivers Press/Random House (New York 2010)

“…In February 1968 the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their new guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those forty days in the wilderness …”

With these words, Philip Goldberg begins his monumental work, American Veda, a fascinating look at India’s remarkable impact on Western culture. This eye-opening popular history shows how the ancient philosophy of Vedanta and the mind-body methods of Yoga have profoundly affected the worldview of millions of Americans and radically altered the religious landscape.

What exploded in the 1960’s actually began more than two hundred years earlier, when the United States started importing knowledge as well as tangy spices and colorful fabrics from Asia. The first translations of Hindu texts found their way into the libraries of John Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson. From there the ideas spread to Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and succeeding generations of receptive Americans, who absorbed India’s “science of consciousness” and wove it into the fabric of their lives.

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Book Review: Ayurveda Unmasked

Ayurveda Unmasked
by Ranganayakulu Venkat Potturu, Ph.D.
Pangea Publishers (India, 2015), Kindle E-Books edition

This is an important book that should be read by anyone concerned with the future of Ayurveda, although when I began reading this book I did so with a pre-existing bias: I disliked its title intensely. If something is to be “unmasked” that more than implies that it is wearing a mask, that it is presenting a false version of itself to the world, and hiding a true face that is unsuitable for public viewing or in some fashion unacceptable.

To be sure, Dr. Putturu, a physiologist on the faculty of the Sri Venkateswara Ayurvedic Medical College of Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh, has many criticisms to make of Ayurveda as it is contemporarily taught and practiced in his homeland. Some of his criticisms are valid and well-taken, particularly as they relate to a system of Ayurvedic education that he sees as corrupt, stagnant and overly-emphasizing Ayurveda’s literary canon and Sanskritic tradition while sorely wanting in scientific substance and methodology. Others are not so well-founded and in a few instances are simply factually incorrect.

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Herb of the Season: Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna)

Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is a huge tree native to India and Sri Lanka whose bark comprises Ayurveda’s pre-eminent cardiotonic and cardioprotective herb (hridaya). Interestingly, Arjuna is also the name of the legendary hero figure of the Mahabharata. He brings strength, fortitude and protection to his family just as Arjuna brings these qualities to the body.

Arjuna means ‘white’ or ‘shining’ named after its bark that literally reflects light wherever this huge tree grows. The pale white bark of the Arjuna tree ‘moults’ off naturally once a year, its new skin bringing new life to the tree. It is harvested when the tree is mature, thus attesting to its ability to prolong life, protect the elderly and strengthen the heart.
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Ayurvedic Management of Tinnitus*

*REFERENCES to herbs used in the following text should not be viewed as recommendations or suggestions for the treatment of any disease or condition. Each individual’s therapeutic needs are unique and what may be of benefit to one individual could be harmful for another. For specific information please consult an Ayurvedic practitioner or other health care provider.

Tinnitus, a persistent, unwelcome sensation of “ringing” in the ears, causes the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head in the absence of any external cause or stimuli. Although often referred to as "ringing in the ears", some affected people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking. The ringing can be intermittent or constant-with single or multiple tones-and its perceived volume can range from subtle to shattering.

It is estimated that in U.S. alone, over 50 million experience tinnitus to some degree. Of these, nearly 25% have severe enough tinnitus and about 5% are so seriously debilitated that they cannot function on a "normal," day-to-day basis. The population of affected appears to contain a larger number of individuals involved in sedentary occupations, as opposed to manual workers.
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Staying Healthy With the Change of Seasons

With the change in season taking us from long, warm days spent outdoors to short and cold ones huddled inside our homes, it is quite ordinary for many individuals to feel a bit "off”, disoriented, out of sorts and low on energy. The hours we sleep, the food we eat, and the activities we engage in can all be affected profoundly by our environment and the climactic conditions that surround us.

Ayurveda, India's ancient system of healing (and the oldest medical tradition in the world) has long recognized the impact of seasonal change on the health of individuals, and for countless centuries has helped individuals manage the change in seasons in a healthful fashion. The change in climate that we all experience tends to place a degree of stress on the human body, and we all tend to respond to it in a fashion consonant with our "metabolic type". Ayurveda postulates three such "types," (known in Sanskrit as the ‘tridosha') roughly analogous to the western concepts of endo-, ecto-, and meso-morphism. Thus, types of individuals are characterized by their predominant energy. This includes Kapha individuals (who tend to be compact, heavy, easygoing, calm and self-indulgent); Pitta individuals(exhibiting high energy, irritability, perfectionism and who are generally "intense" in many respects) and Vata types (who are constantly in a `mental whirl,' fretful, forgetful, disliking organization prone to lack bodily moisture, thin and easily fatigued or depressed).
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Book Review: Autism & Varma Therapy: A Parent’s Guide

Autism & Varma Therapy: A Parent’s Guide
by Sri Pranaji
Persatuan Siddha Varma Kalai Publishers; Kuala Lampur, Malaysia (1st edition, 2014, 71pp.)

This pictorial self-help guide has been written to allow parents, children and the wider community to utilize the therapeutic benefits of Varma (aka Marma) Therapy. This traditional therapy hails from the ancient Indian Siddha Medical System, a close relative of some say the inspiration for Ayurveda.

The author, a siddha yogi from a very ancient tradition, has used his deep knowledge of the human nervous system and brain functioning to develop a unique method to help children with Autism using simple technique based on yogic principles. Sri Pranaji is the Founder and Director of the Siddha Applied Science Institute (SASI), an organization he founded to promote the ancient science of Siddha Vaidyam in a way applicable to the modern world.
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Herb of the Season: Punarnava (Spreading hogweed, Boerhaavia diffusa)

Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa, or Indian spreading hogweed) means ‘one that renews the old body’ and it aids in promoting overall health and wellness, its rejuvenative action working via its channel-opening and cleansing activity to allow effective nourishment to reach the tissues. This water-loving, creeping, perennial flowers during the monsoon and grows all over India and Sri Lanka.

Three varieties are discussed in the Ayurvedic literature; red (Boerhaavia diffusa), white (Boerhaavia verticillata), and blue. It can be adulterated with Trianthema species. It is the main ingredient in punarnavadi guggulu, the famous Ayurvedic formula for reducing water retention, congestive heart conditions, and treating edematous inflammatory joint diseases. All parts of the herb carry some medicinal value, with the stem, root, leaves, seeds and flowers being used in different forms to treat differing ailments. It is rich in anti-oxidants and helps in fighting against free radicals, combat the degeneration of cells and delays the effects of aging. It is a superb diuretic and it benefits the heart.
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Understanding Vipaka, Post-Digestive Taste

In studying Ayurveda’s understanding of the physiological effects of food and drug materials, we rely upon four pillars: rasa (taste), virya (heating or cooling energy), vipaka (post-digestive taste) and prabhava (unique, contrary or anomalous properties of the substance that cannot be accounted for by its rasa, virya or vipaka). Of these, the concepts of rasa, virya and prabhava are fairly straightforward and make sense when explained in non-technical language. Everyone knows what taste is, has experienced the effects of heat and cold, and knows that when we deal with complexities things sometimes do not go as expected. But the concept of vipaka, unique to Ayurveda alone, is somewhat elusive and could well bear further exploration and explanation. This is compounded by the fact that there is a wide diversity of views among different authoritative commentators about the number and types of Vipaka. Some commentators are of the view that every Rasa has its own Vipaka, i.e., that there are six Vipakas corresponding to the six Rasas, while Susrutha holds that there are only two Vipakas viz, sweet and pungent.

After rasa (in foods and medicines) has been assimilated – generally 6 to 8 hours after ingestion - a post digestive ‘taste’ emerges. The six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent) are consolidated, leaving three post digestive tastes (vipaka) that remain.
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The Prevention and Treatment of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning (also known as foodborne illness and colloquially referred to as ptomaine poisoning) is an illness resulting from the consumption of contaminated food. Food poisoning is an extremely common illness in the United States, using FoodNet data from 1996-1998, the Centers for Disease Control estimated there were 76 million foodborne illnesses (26,000 cases for 100,000 inhabitants): 325,000 were hospitalized (111 per 100,000 inhabitants); and around 5,000 people died (1.7 per 100,000 inhabitants). Major pathogens from food borne illness in the United States cost upwards of US $35 billion in medical costs and lost productivity (1997).

There are two types of food poisoning: food infection and food intoxication. Food infection refers to the presence of bacteria or other microbes which infect the body after consumption. Food intoxication refers to the ingestion of toxins contained within the food, including bacterially produced exotoxins, which can occur even when the microbe that produced the toxin is no longer present or able to cause infection. The major cause of food poisoning is contaminated food, either taken outside or brought into the home (very rarely does home-cooked food result in this illness) very often caused by the failure to check the expiry date of perishable food items like milk products, bread, baked goods, meat, fish, and canned foods, etc. In spite of the common term food poisoning, most cases are caused by a variety of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, prions or parasites that contaminate food, rather than chemical or natural toxins.
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Book Review: Rasayana: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation

Rasayana: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation
(Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times series)
By Harshranjit S. Puri (CRC Press, 2002)

The word rasayana literally means “the parh that rasa takes” (rasa - referring to the primordial tissue - plasma, and ayana - path). It is considered as the science of the restoration of youth and relief of the suffering and degradation that accompanies aging and bestows longevity. It is believed in Ayurveda that the qualities of rasa dhatu influence the health of all the other dhatus of the body; hence, any medicine that enhances the quality of rasa is a rasayana. Rasayana tantra, the study and teaching of rejuvenation medicine, has long been a traditionally independent clinical discipline within Ayurveda.
Rasayana (rejuvenation or revitalization therapy) one of the historic eight specializations within traditional Ayurvedic practice, although this least understood branch of this science, is becoming of ever growing interest.
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