Dr Hari Sharma, MD is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Natural Products Research at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He practices Ayurveda at Ohio State Integrative Medicine. Center for Soft Power had an interesting and enlightening conversation with him on the connection between Vedanta, Modern Science, and Ayurveda.
You can find part one of the interview at https://www.softpowermag.com/the-connect-between-vedanta-modern-science-and-ayurveda/. Dr Sharma spoke to CSP more on the necessity to integration of Ayurveda and modern medicine and what steps can be taken to do so.
When we relate Brahman to DNA, is it fair to include junk DNA too?
The DNA expresses what is necessary for evolution. Currently, less than 2% of the DNA is expressing. The remaining DNA has been referred to as “junk DNA” since its function was not known. However, scientists are now discovering that this so-called junk DNA performs the vital function of ensuring that the chromosomes bundle correctly inside the cell’s nucleus, which is necessary for cell survival. Also, some of the non-coding DNA is used to produce non-coding RNA components, such as transfer RNA, regulatory RNA, and ribosomal RNA. The hidden potential of DNA is high and this potential can be realised only if we can activate it. This happens only when you go to the source of thought. The source of thought is an ocean of creativity, intelligence, and bliss – that is what happens in Meditation – more and more is brought out. This is why Rishis who had knowledge of the Vedas meditated, practiced Pranayama and Yoga, and lived a healthy lifestyle. They functioned from the Source of knowledge, creativity, energy, and bliss, with a strong physical system devoid of diseases and disorders.
Why do you think modern medicine is less accepting of Ayurveda and what are the steps to be taken?
Ayurveda needs to indulge in modern research technology and do a greater number of investigations to prove what is going on. There is a plethora of publications but no one from Allopathy reads them. They think there is nothing scientific in Ayurveda.
The other science that Ayurveda should work on is how to change the expression of DNA. Lifestyle factors, diet, exercise, use of herbs can suppress negative DNA expression and bring out positive DNA expression in a person. The DNA does not discriminate. It expresses what it receives, as it is. So if there is negative input, in the form of unhealthy diet and lifestyle, for example, DNA expression will be affected and the individual’s health will be compromised. On the other hand, if the individual consumes a healthy diet, the DNA expression will reflect that, and better health will result. So, as individuals we are responsible for what happens in our life. Now we know that our health is our own responsibility.
Permitting Ayurvedic practitioners to perform surgeries is considered regressive by many Allopaths and the common man? What are your thoughts?
When you suppress another system, it is partly for business reasons – which is what is happening to Ayurveda. Plastic surgery, haemorrhoids, fissures were all performed by Ayurvedic surgeries. Unfortunately, with foreign rule, the regulations changed, Indians were sent to schools taught by foreigners and they eventually believed what they were taught. Ayurveda also has regulations and those who study Ayurveda adhere to them.
According to modern medicine, 90% of life is controlled by epigenetics. If that is so, prioritising lifestyle, diet, environmental factors is crucial. Isn’t gene therapy contradicting this?
Gene therapy is a very recent venture. So, no one knows the long-term effects. We can change the expression of genes by lifestyle and behaviour, dietary management, stress management, and environmental factors. This should be the focus of Ayurveda. When research shows that Ayurveda is capable of achieving this, it will really reach the top and be the preferred system of health care.
Why is it important to bring Ayurveda and Allopathy together?
Allopathy excels in the management of acute crises and surgery. A major drawback in Allopathy is the use of pharmaceutical medications that have negative side effects. Ayurveda excels in prevention, recommendations for healthy living, management of chronic disorders, detoxification, and rejuvenation. Ayurveda addresses all the aspects of a human being – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. So it’s better to bring the two systems together and have the best of both worlds. We just need to weed out the bad and bring the good from everything together.
The integration is already happening. It’s a very slow process, but it is happening.
What happens when one undergoes negative emotions such as fear, anger, depression?
Histones are proteins that DNA wraps around in the nucleus, forming chromatin. Chromatin can condense or it can relax, thereby changing the expression of DNA. Feelings of anger, stress, frustration, and fear cause the DNA to become shorter and tighter, and switches off many codes. In contrast, feelings of gratitude, love, and appreciation cause the DNA to relax, and the strands unwind and begin to express. When we get absorbed in negative emotions, we are only harming ourselves.
Humans are multi-dimensional – the consciousness that is within all of us is surrounded by different koshas/layers. We have a physical body (waking state), subtle body (dream state), causal body (deep sleep state), and the transcendental totality (Atman) which is experienced in Meditation. These layers are integrated with one another. Through the Nadis (energy channels), bio-electricity (Prana) flows and this flow causes magnetism. Thus, the body is electromagnetic, consisting of different layers, and each layer requires its own type of management.
According to the Vedas, the causal body causes the subtle body, which in turn causes formation of the physical body. When you are treating the physical body, which is constantly exposed to stress, environmental factors, etc., one also has to take care of the mind. Our thinking and emotions depend on our level of consciousness. It is different in each state of consciousness, e.g., waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, and whatever you express depends on your level of awareness. To bring about a change, you have to start at the origin – where awareness or the basis of one’s thought originates. When you are functioning at the level of the basis of thought, the behaviour begins to change. You automatically change from the inside out. It is difficult to produce change from outside to inside.
This shows the significance of Meditation, Pranayama, Yoga, and a healthy lifestyle, which enhance every dimension of life. Funny that we don’t even realise there are multi-dimensions. We think it is just the body and mind. We need to become aware of the truth about ourselves and take care of all aspects of our being.
When a person undergoes severe depression, it is not easy to ask them to meditate. Medical treatment – be it Ayurveda or Allopathy – should be utilized to bring the person to a point where they are ready to learn Meditation. Then initiate the Meditation practise. Meditation is basically going to the source of thought. Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about techniques that control the mind. It is very difficult to control the mind. We need to go beyond the mind to arrive at the source of thought, and ultimately you realize your inner Self (Atman) – the source of knowledge, energy, and bliss, to live a fulfilled life in peace, harmony, and bliss.
For further details, see the following:
- Sharma, H. and Wallace, R.K. Ayurveda and epigenetics. Medicina 2020;56(12):E687. doi:10.3390/medicina56120687.
- Sharma, H. and Meade, J.G. Dynamic DNA. New York: SelectBooks, 2018.