Friday, April 20, 2018

What is Indian?

Since independence there has been a great deal of effort, exhortation and expenditure devoted towards Indianising something or the other: Indianising dress, language, industry, psychiatry and so on.

The content of an observation on variable material very much depends on the standpoint of the observer. I am a worker in the field of human interactions. The problems of harmony, disharmony, individual and collective, confront me in the actual attempts at rectification of the machinery involved, namely, the human body and mind, its parts and functions, forces and energies, fields of action and lines of effect, purpose and economy. Such is the necessary concern of my work. Accident of personal circumstance had driven me to the portals of a medical college. Over thirty years of contact showed me the limitations of the grossly mechanistic models of thought to which medical science or at least its practitioners confined themselves. The next years revealed to me the tragedy of medical practice, not only holding on to this model, but cherishing it with suicidal delight, long after the merely mechanistic model of thought was being, literally, blown beyond the sky. The socio-economic factors in this game of self-inflicted blindness require separate consideration.

I was forced to look into the question of what is Indian, firstly by my clients, who by and large, related themselves and their sufferings to some Indian scriptural sanctions, and by the brand of culturally-oriented psychiatric fashion of smuggling in the words Yoga, Indian, etc., and presenting the scriptures
as some sort of appendix to Freud, Jung, ECT. as hallmark of Indianisation. The patient uses or implies the words, Karma, Maya, Dharma, Guru etc., and the psychiatrist works scientifically on the place of Yoga on ECT, on the psychotherapeutic effects of Krishna on Arjuna, Yogic postures in Catatonia as different from Catatonic postures in Yoga, polygraphic concomitants of yogic states etc.

Nervous and mental diseases, 1900s, Wiki commons
In this interesting maze of possibilities in the use of the word, Indianisation, I was forced to search for tools necessary for my interactional use in daily work, not necessarily for absolute truths.

At an early stage in my search, I found that there was little resemblance between the strictly practical and experimental approaches of Krishna, Buddha, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, etc., and the bizarre medley of professional peddlers of Indian philosophy who profess to be propagating the teachings of the above persons. The thing that struck me was that none of the above were preoccupied with concepts of Indianising anything or anybody. They never set out to maintain or perpetuate any tradition, Indian or Western. They  meticulously used their bodies and their faculties to grow into a wider and greater harmony. They occasionally commented on their practice and its results, and help interested persons to personally verify for themselves and grow. For them, the scriptures were a platform from which to launch out into interactional growth, rather than umbrellas to shelter under, or costly mausoleums and glossy philosophies to be entombed in. To engage the body in its totality in verifying the beliefs one holds, and modify body and belief, and never to be obsessed with fossilising a tradition were the hallmarks of these few but formidable Indians I looked to for guidance. 

Abhyasa, practice, is the keynote to engage the body in implementing the beliefs it is given, and in this exercise to become aware of the detailed components in human action: the body and the 'I' which holds the belief, or aim or goal or purpose or pragna, allowing for an evolution of both to an ever elaborate expression of harmony. The evolutional nature of the manifest universe underlies the essence of the teachings of these forebears. Vivekananda called Yoga a means of speeding up the processes of human evolution.

Ramakrishna Mission Delhi , Public Domain
Krishna gives the law of all human knowledge: the body and its knower, the I; the knowledge of the interaction between these two is knowledge. All else flows from this dialectic nucleus. It does not require ages of tapasya to verify this basic law - but there it is. Can anyone know more of himself or the world around him except by what his body and its faculties bring to his awareness.

This is the foundation of all epistemology. Reciting the slokas with reverence and forgetting the implications in practice is the origin of much personal and social chaos.

Idam sariram khalu dharma sadhanam - verily, this body is the instrument of harmony. The instrumental nature of the body has been emphasised by those great experimenters, the Vedic and Upanishadic Rishis, and by the great line of Sufi saints. This instrument had to be personally cultivated and experienced. That the body is a burdensome appendage mysteriously thrust on us, and to be quickly rid of by the seeker of Mukti or liberation is a distortion that crept in at some stage, gaining respectability as a religious dogma.

That it is merely a more elaborate mansion for the dinosaur of yesterday is another popular view. The I and the body seen as a ceaselessly interacting dialectic unit in evolution - that is the implication of the Gita. The exhortations towards a long life and skill in action would appear meaningless if the body was merely regarded as a burdensome baggage, a mere caprice of nature. Too, there is a repeated reference to the necessity of rebirth of the 'I' in successive bodies before it reaches some state of perfection.

The 'I' first becomes manifest in the human body.

There can be, and there are numerous views and treatises on the implications of these statements - but what is truth for is that I exist; my body exists; I know nothing about myself or the world around except by the interaction of these two which constitute ME.

Even in a simple machine like a car, you can only learn its full possibilities by actually driving it. You can only learn while doing. Krishna states very simply, very clearly that your realise your full possibilities in the performance of your daily actions: He distinguishes between works done in consciousness of the 'I' within which are helpful, and acts outside of one's real self-awareness under the impulsion of uncontrolled instincts or equally strong conditioned responses derived from society. A distinction is made between Swadharma, Samanya Dharma, Sarva Dharma, etc., - a discussion of which is beside the point at issue, here.

The essence of the matter is the interaction between yourself and your body. In all action there are two results: that which happens to the thing you are working on, and that which is happening to you and your body during the course of action. You are acquainted with the results of a drunken driver driving his car, vaguely aware of the road, and thoroughly unaware of his own state. You can also visualise the state of affairs when a large body of drunks are in charge of making and enforcing rules of the road for safe driving!

At this point I can restate what I learnt from these Indian teachers. I AM. My Body is My First Instrument, vehicle and weapon. The growing awareness of the interaction between the two is knowledge. This awareness, realisation is gained by and during one's daily actions. The operation of this vehicle, to run harmoniously, requires to be learnt. Abhyasa or practice is the key. The dashboard is Dharma which is your perception of harmony or disharmony. And your attempts at rectification constitute steps. 

The concepts of truth: Here, the Upanishads elucidate the dialectic nature of truth. It is a progression from inaccuracy to greater accuracy. Sa is the truth, ta is untruth, yam is the integrated result in a higher truth, in a ceaseless evolution.

A is truth, U is untruth, M is truth - represented by the trisyllabic - AUM. It is good the Upanishads say this, because I see it in my own experience. Truth is not a mystery. It is said to be Sat, real. It is also said to be Ritam, harmony; and truth can never be for you other than what you and your body have realised in their interaction.

Adhara, and Adhikara, the concept of constitutional equipment of the person and his fitness for a particular task is another framework of reference for assessing a particular action. Thus a person may be a born genius for music, but in the absence of proper training and discipline in the subject  might be considered unfit, say, to be a teacher of music. An awareness of these factors might help in a more balanced judgement of the particular action of a particular person.

The recognition of compassion as the basic law of life. Now, this word compassion must be taken literally - Anukampa - to vibrate with, to resonate. The word, love, prema, occurs long, long after the time of the Upanishads and the Gita. The word prema has many other connotations, and is less evocative of the essential significance f the law of yagna, sacrifice, the law of resonance underlying all interaction without which this universe is unthinkable. The awareness of this property is what makes one essentially human. It is the energy behind all action. All our organs are mechanisms for mediating this law of compassion. Whether the immense energies which the law of compassion opens to you lead you to a chaotic or harmonious interaction is your headache and starting point of inquiry. The more egoistic and constricted your personality, the more restricted your senses, the less compassionate you are likely to be, ad the smaller is the amount of energy available to you, and the more miserable and destructive you become.

Compassion is not pity which is the painted front of a parasitic ego which makes virtue of necessity - the necessity of giving up what it cannot digest.

Desha, Kala, Patra - this is the most useful concept for effective social interaction. This is the call to be aware of the need to see that every action is appropriate to the place, time and person. Krishna, as portrayed in the Mahabharata is a perfect example of this awareness. For me, an Indian is one who recognises the basic truth that his whole knowledge of anything at all rests on the awareness of the world and of himself which his body and its faculties provide in their interaction with himself and the world around, and who systematically tries to enlarge his total self towards the evolution of a more harmonious being.

More catastrophic than the fission of the atom has been the fission that occurred between the I and Its Body, the inseparable dialectic unit. This artificial fission takes the I to an imaginary Heaven, and the Body through real Hell. Somewhere there is the saving link which can  only be forged out in the crucible of ontogenetic or phylogenetic processes as experienced by the individual.

Schumacher says to the effect that civilised man operates on the outside world with his limited capacities and unlimited technology and this he calls science. To deal with himself as a scientific instrument has not yet become fashionable. 

Whether Krishna or Buddha or I said something or not is not so important as what you say, and how you give substance to it, and if you have found it necessary to verify this in your daily life. If what you, or Krishna or an ancient X said is not felt as necessary for you, useful for you, personally verified by you, then it is what explains the irrationality of the world you complain of.

To be an Indian has little to do with philosophy, Eastern or Western, or being committed to the maintenance of any tradition or religion.

I and My Body is the foundation , the seed of all else.

***

Thursday, April 19, 2018

THE FASHION OF THINKING

When a man says he is thinking it is a polite word for saying he is being, right now, absent minded.

The Forgetful Professor, Per Lindroth (1878-1933), via Wikimedia Commons
As a student walks to the classroom he is thinking of the lecturer and lecture and the boredom or of the home work he has not done. He is not looking at the trees, the flowers, the beautiful sky or the birds - for these he must go to Kashmir or see the TV. At last he reaches the classroom. There he sits restless, bored, thinking of the diner date with his friend or of the quarrel he had on the hostel. 

Kokernag Botanical Garden, Kashmir - sandeepachetan.com travel photography
One lad sits in a chair, hunched, with head in hands and says, "I am thinking what to do, man. Examinations are coming near and I have not read a page!" He has not read a hundred pages and so the great man is thinking what to do while time is ticking by. He does not get up and at least read one page. His beautiful, serious thoughts tell him that because he has not read 100 pages, the best way of correcting this defect is not reading even one page in the time available.

Clear seeing and hearing can often help relieving the fatigue of so-called thinking. The effect of this type of thinking is to shut the windows of the mind leading to poor ventilation and suffocation. When fatigued like this, just turning the eye to a tree or the sky or just getting up and doing one concrete action has great effect in relieving this futile, self-perpetuating fatigue.

Perumalnadar, from Wikimedia Commons

It is not that thinking is bad or good. It is the type of harmful, self-defeating responses which one should become aware of and deal with. One's own dashboard must become increasingly sensitive to the very beginnings of these negative responses. The very perception of the negative or harmful nature of what is happening often induces or provokes a corrective response. But such clear perception is corrupted by a learnt behaviour which makes respectable, average response of thinking as the goal, thinking which corrupts perception instead of being guided by perception.

*** 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

WHAT HEALTH, WHOSE HEALTH

I have been a field worker in the field of health for years without ever seriously having to ask myself what health work really is.

What is it? First of all it is my bread and butter. I am a travelling operator for the great firm of global Health Industries unlimited. I have been trained in the use of its techniques and materials. 

I may work for public sector, or private sector, or a purely personal sector. I have something to sell: There are customers: The proceeds support my life. Consequences follow: Investments: returns: measures to break down customer resistance - propaganda, advertisements etc. 

The process whereby health has become a 'commodity' and the consequences thereof have been most clearly brought out by Ivan Illich in his book - Medical Nemesis, the most challenging work of the century.

Now, all human life is commerce; all life is commerce - a mutually beneficial (or harmful) transaction of energies between the organism and the environment. This simple transaction has become increasingly complex with the evolution of new forms.

The tiger is hungry. It kills a buffalo and eats it. But it certainly cannot make ten tigers kill a thousand buffaloes: make ten other tigers skin and cut up the buffaloes and store the meant in coolers in order to sell the meat to tigers who have no mea in exchange for refrigerators to store meat and television sets for lonely and lame tigers to watch distant buffaloes. The tiger, then, delivers a public talk on how it is doing its best to save future generations of tigers from dying from lack of buffalo meat.


Purshi, from Wikimedia Commons
It is said that a certain boy wanted to be a monk. As he was too young he was refused. Thereupon, it is said, that the Buddha himself asked the lad some questions, the first of which was 'What do men live by?' and the boy answered food. The Buddha accepted the boy as a disciple, for the boy learnt to recognise fundamental truths, without recourse to specious rhetoric. Ramakrishna also says that the whole of this civilisation is an extension of the stomach. It does not mean that Buddha or Ramakrishna recommended this state of affairs. Only , when the root or reality is grasped, the dissatisfaction with this reality and the search for another reality begins.

"Ramakrishna trance 1879" by Keshab Chandra Sen - Scan from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons 

The health industry and its personnel differ from other industries in one important respect. In the other enterprises like engineering, the persons concerned have not much difficulty in confessing to themselves or owning it to others that they are working in order to get food and/or its sublimated forms - fame, name etc.

The Health Industry and Health personnel rarely, seriously confront themselves with the basic truth that they are working for their stomach and its cortical equivalents, and more rarely own it up to the public except as a platitude or joke, expecting it to be hotly denied by the audience. Even when they go on strike for increased pay, rarely does a patient (in India at least) think his doctor as any other than the selfless mouthpiece of Aswins, the twin gods of health.
The doctor himself seems to firmly believe this.

There is not a single house where one or the other member of the family does not refer to some pronouncement from the Holy Health order or advice on what to eat, how to breathe, how to be lean or fat, how not to smell of sweat, how to sleep, what disasters occur if you don't take vit X, why though you think you are a picture of health you may be harbouring cancer or high blood pressure or diabetes , and how you can easily go to the nearest parish chapter of health and get your fears of cancer replaced by fear of the less dangerous possibility of Asiatic flu, or you look healthy, but are you sure you don't have a hole in your tooth and so on. Despite the schisms in the Holy Health order and despite the fact that their pronouncements are always modern, latest and up to date , in  the sense that their pronouncements vary and change, these pronouncements are by and large swallowed, and by and large enforced. The orders are never questioned, for have not the priests offered a million sacrifices in their laboratories ensuring themselves greater assurance than the oracles of Delphi or the Tantric priests of Kali?

It is not only the literate customers that are caught. The cinema, the TV, and the satellites are roped in so that the edicts of the order may reach the humblest villages, who hence forward may sit at the primary health centre with a temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit, playing cards with fellow sufferers under electric lights of the rural department, waiting for the visiting health unit to exclude all possible causes of diseases and death tabulated by the Holy Health order.

Unlike in other industries, the Health Industry invades the whole of human social fabric - food, clothing, housing and schools and what not.

If food is one foot of reality of present human existence, their fear of death is the other foot. The Health Religion provides an admirable array of profitable palliatives for this universal pursuit for immortality. 

It is not only Western medicine that constitutes this Health Order. Others are already in or desperately trying to get into the band wagon: Ayurveda, Homeopaths, Naturopaths, Hatha Yoga and so on.

The common denominator seems to be fear of death on the part of the customer and availability of glossy talismans with the sellers. Both hardly seem to consider why the writer of the book on how to live a hundred died at 60 years or ask any other similar question. Such questions are raised as platitudes and rarely is the serious import explored. Those who explored became gods or freaks or martyrs in the hands of the vast multitude who do not expect their questions seriously tackled.

At this point, for all practical purposes, health may be defined as 'Health is what the Holy Health order decides it to be and a healthy man is one who does not, or is not likely to suffer from or be prone to any of the illnesses listed in the Holy catalogue of diseases, and who directly or indirectly buys at the health depots all that is claimed to save the customer from all danger of falling into the proscribed list of diseases. If even then the buyer succumbs, it is because he has transgressed the holy writ or he had not had the benefit of the latest revelation made at a bigger depot.

If any medicine man feels that he works for the health of the public he is most welcome to verify for himself that if there are no patients at his clinic for a week, his wife and himself would be at the nearest temple offering coconuts to Hanuman requesting him to send patients. The great harm, or even the root of disaster is not that the doctor works for food, but that he believes that all he does is solely in the interests of the patient's health. The patient shares this belief.

The doctor's belief that he is saving a person from disease and death and the person's belief that he is being so saved by the doctor sustain an illusion that seems to grow in strength, evidence of millennia of experience to the contrary pointing to the unreality of this illusion. I might say that the health theory and practice have not produced such startling results as to preclude all serious inquiry into the fundamental nature of health. 

It is pertinent to ask the question - what is this 'body'? Is it to be taken as a passive plaything pandering to the beliefs of two persons?

Has it any role apart from being a guinea pig? Who and what is that says I am ill? Can this 'I' which is usually ready to destroy the body by suicide at the slightest frustration, or is willing to have it cut or swallow anything offered to it without the slightest interest in the matter be really considered as the real owner? 'Do what you like doctor, I am in your hands. I completely surrender myself to you'. What is actually behind this high faulting surrender with a smack of spiritual vener, is 'Doctor, I surrender my body to you. Do what you will. But I shall not surrender one bit of my stupidity, my greed, my anger, my hatred, my intolerance, my habitual lying and cheating, in obedience to which my body has become ill. Do something, doctor, anything you like, to this body of mine, this horse, so that it can obey me and enable me to continue on my usual road to being the most clever and well-provided for average buffoon on earth. I surrender all except my stupidity.'

And the doctor, who has already surrendered his 'subject' at the medical college gate, accepts this surrender, and one more 'objective' guinea pig has been provided for his scientific work. Be objective - exorcise the 'subject'. There you have it. The greatest scientific achievement of Health Industry is that it has surgically removed the 'subject' of health. Is it not time to seriously ask, "Who is the 'subject' of Health?"

Now I shall take you through a sample of health concepts observed in practice. I am a civilian doctor. I watch my professor seeing a rich patient with 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperature and a little malaise. "Mr. Jones, we have examined your urine, blood and X-Rays. Nothing serious. You are working too hard, probably a bit of flu. Better stick to bed for a few days and keep out of chill. Hot chicken soup and a bite of toast. In any case, no work. Just lie down and relax, let the office run by itself.  

So, I learnt one principle of health. A month later I join the Army and become a regimental medical officer to a Rajput regiment during war time. At the first day's sick-parade in the morning there were about 20 soldiers. A few of them had 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a little malaise. I ordered full investigations and recommended three days bed rest, hot soup and asked them not to worry and let the Army look after itself. The sergeant-in-charge could not believe his ears. An hour later I was called to the phone, and the voice of the colonel of the regiment bellowed at me. 'Where the hell have you learnt our medicine, doctor? Is 100 degrees Fahrenheit a temperature?  The regiment is marching tomorrow and I can't leave half my men here. So, you will march along, doctor, and see that these men have bed rest while marching.' They marched and I marched. I do not remember anything dreadful happening to them or to me.

It is quite clear that what is health theory and practice is not quite the same for Mr. Jones, the business magnate, and Ramchand, the sepoy.

Climbing mountains and getting frost bitten and fractured, and persisting in such ambition is sign of healthy life for a mountaineer. It is not a sign of suicidal mania or accident prone neurosis. In a mountaineers' club, a man conforming himself to the principles and precautions of health manuals will be considered a health hazard.

A friend of mine, a medical man, concealed an old tuberculous pleuritis in order to escape being sent to a base camp, which would have prevented his epidemiological work which he loved, So it seems to me that if medical theory cuts its size and shape to the clients' social status, the goal of healthful life and what is health vary widely.

Let me take you to the railway station at Commila during the war time and famine in Bengal. Here is an emaciated woman snatching away a banana peel from the hands of a skinny lad and here is another bony ghost of a woman tottering with a morsel fo something to give it to a child. Health is based on amino acids.Take away the amino acids and you have the essence of the subject of health - a beast or a saint.

Then I have read a novel about a number of sailors stranded in a boat on the ocean somewhere. Faced with extremes of hunger and armed with knowledge about calories and human health, they cut up and ate one another.

Then I have read about captain Scott and his voyage to the Antarctic and his diaries - a voyage of a truly normal human representative on the sea of life. Then, too, I have read a few research articles on glossy paper about the disturbing effects of vitamin C deficiency on human behaviour.

Scott, Robert Falcon, via Wikimedia Commons

There was Jack Kennedy who with an injured back, exhausted, swam in the sea rescuing fellow sailors, unmindful of over-salination and dehydration and starvation. It was most unscientific, for had he known better he should have eaten his fellow men. Also unfortunately there was no pH indexometer close by to tell him to give up. 

Here is the person in the ward for terminal patients. This man has cancer and pain and is bedridden. I see visitors, relatives go in to sympathise, with tears in their eyes, and see them come out with a light in their eyes and a smile on their faces. 

Here is the person in the other ward. He has a fractured wrist, is in plaster and the brother who has gone to see him comes out a picture of misery, for the person is in pain and nobody is doing anything, and the visitor has been told how unfeeling he has been and so on.

Health is not just a one man concern. It affects others - not in the way an epidemic spreads, not just a matter of germs being carried. To investigate health with germs as the centre of the stage is to miss the whole point of man as new phenomenon.

The human body appears to be filled with innumerable alternative mechanisms whereby even under extremes of deprivation the body is able to express the aims of the personality.

A health science which is objective and piously deals with all other questions except the subject of health, is, well, yes health! For society has not yet decided who is the subject of health. I speak of myself. I understand less and less of man as I cut up frogs, rabbits, apes, higher apes, dead bodies, foetuses and prisoners and am also encouraged to sell my eyes, my kidney, and brain with a view to profitable business in human spare parts, and don't throw up your arms in cynical sneer at an unscientific man. Textbook of human physiology is the cover title on a book which is merely a massive collection of data on astronomical number of animals killed and on an equally large number of highest apes who have agreed to have themselves treated as test tubes and robots with changeable parts. It is not the textbook of human physiology it is the physiology of the highest ape, desperately trying to descend lower and lower into heights in the scale of apehood.

It might be argued that the Health Industry is not designed to cater to the exceptional cases and that its task is to cater to the needs of the average man. Not only does it succeed in catering to the average man but admirably manages by all the known business methods to keep the average man multiplying and the degree of averageness increasing so that there is hardly any danger of glut and slump in  the health industry whose target is the average man. By assiduously inducing the idea that statistical average of physical measurement and psychological behaviour is somehow the normal, the ideal, the goal is achieved. 

The 'normal man' is 5' 6" high, 70 kgs weight, eats three square meals a day, with at least one pound of flesh (only animal for the present), adequate vitamin coverage, has three orgasms per week, has normal amounts of aggression and greed, and hate, and knows what the time of day is and what to dress, and where to be nude, writes and talks filth but drinks sterile water, plays three games of squash, provides for his future, and has BP 120/80 mmHg, and smokes nicotine free cigarettes, uses condoms when visiting prostitutes, believes in Algebra and Astrophysics, has reasonably rational beliefs, visits the dentist once a month, sees his doctor every three months, lies down in an isolation ward for common cold so that others may not catch the infection, has an IQ of 110, has his children triple and quadruple vaccinated, reasonably hopes to have his heart replaced by a new one, and has evergreen hopes of living endlessly doing the same stupid things over and over again for another hundred years. 

At some stage, this idol of perfect health gets himself entombed in a box of ice. A hundred years later the body may be revived and with the latest technology of a century later he can be filled with brand new parts so that he may repeat his miserable life another century.

No, sir, the average man is the undying god of Health. He will and must remain average and while doing all we can to keep him average we will do our best to prevent epidemics, and wars which are the results of his determination to remain the average man. 

In the global conspiracy to keep the average man average the health industry over the ages has played an important role.

There is worse to be considered. The effort is not only to tie him down to his miserable average, but to drag him down to his animal base. Scientific investigation and publication at unlimited public expense is executed to demonstrate the very obvious biological origin of man. But, the covert and often overt purport of these specious scientific investigations and publications is not merely to demonstrate the biological origin of man, but to provide a solid excuse for man to continue scientifically as a chimpanzee armed with a cortex, contraceptives and atom bombs, and thoroughly devaluate the slightest advance a human being aspires to in the scale of evolution.

My interactions in the field of health lead me to question the very concepts of health as perceived today and the practical consequences of such concepts which are self defeating.

To cater for an average man in order to keep him a healthy average man with the permanent goal of averageness in view is like trying to scale mount Everest while making sure that everyone is lying flat on the Gangetic plain and also making it democratically obligatory for all to do so, with sterile safety belts on.

I have raised some doubts against the background of my empirical experience. I have no definite answers. Some of my other lectures might provide some ideas of my approach to the problem of health as met in the individual and the collective. I am not asking anyone to shut their shops. All I am asking, requesting, as a customer, is dear Sir, have you looked at the short and long term effects of your goods on man or are you looking at the health and longevity of mechanised apes? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

POWER OF THOUGHT

A psychologist friend of mine was sitting with me. During the course of conversation he said how he envied my staying in an Ashram. "No telephones, no appointments to keep, no visits by touring directors and ministers, no classes, no monthly progress reports. I am fatigued. Last two days there have been continual board meetings and bickerings, and tomorrow the Director of Health is coming. I am fed up, I think I will take a couple of days off and drive off to Nandi Hills".

Nikhil.kawale, from Wikimedia Commons

"Excellent," I said, "Today you are fatigued and day-after-tomorrow you will go to Nandi Hills. Why don't you go to Nandi Hills now? What prevents you?"

"What do you mean?" he said. "Just imagination".

"Just close your eyes. Lean back, transport yourself to Nandi Hills. Look at the sky, the hills, the greenery, have a big smile and come back, all in the space of a couple of minutes," I said.

"Is that not wishful thinking?" he said. "Just imagination".

"Look," I said, "Is not your fatigue an imagination."

Yesterday something happened and tomorrow something is likely to happen. These two memories make you feel tense and bothered, and your BP is rising, your intestines are in a cramp, and and your back and legs are tense itching to go, and you give polite expression to this by envying my supposed freedom from all responsibilities. You say you are fatigued. Right now if there is a snake under your chair or a tiger behind you, I bet you will run a mile. You see, though you are a psychologist or because of it, you have made your body forget to look at reality behind a mass of words. This beautiful, according to you realistic thought - yesterday's meetings, tomorrow's worries is right now kicking your insides, all your subtle mechanisms to bits and you are happy because it is respectable. This is the power of thought. All I am suggesting is to use the power constructively. What you are experiencing is the destructive aspect. You are holding back one of your most powerful horses and it is kicking the stall to bits. You say you want to go to Nandi Hills. One part of you, your thought or mind is racing away and you hold it back. 

"Listen, remember you have a number of horses in your stable, a number of forces. Don't mix them up. You are the master, You can be with each one of them. A thought goes, be with it for a few seconds. Later on you may have more control and more skill in combining one horse with another. But right now you must see that your innocent, so-called realistic thinking is chronically killing you."

"Then do you think that all the schizophrenic thought and the irrational thought of mental patients is good," he asked.

"Just now I am talking to you, " I said, "When I meet a schizophrenic or a mental patient I shall know what to do. This hypothetical thinking has its value in your classroom at least in terms of rupees, but it is worthless for the minute to minute running of your own car!"

"O.K., I go to Nandi Hills," he said, "right now! But in a few minutes I am back at the old game. So what is the use?" he asked.

"Look," I said, "your realistic thinking - meaning thereby the rehashing of your yesterdays' memories and all the presently non-existing data of tomorrow over which you have little control is right now a burden on you. It is almost constantly with you. Day after tomorrow when you are at Nandi Hills you will do the same. You will be thinking of the work you left unfinished and the work you have to do on Monday. So right now you are like a coolie with an unrelieved load on your head, trudging mile after mile without relief. Now somebody comes along and lifts it up for a second. The load is on again. A few hours later somebody again lifts off the load for a minute. Do you know what relief it can be. So relieve the tremendous burden on your body even for a few seconds at a time as frequently as possible till you understand the controls more deeply and fully. Do you stop sweeping your room because dust may fall again? Do you stop driving your car ro servicing it because you have to do it over and over again?"

Wikimedia Commons

Your thoughts have power - right now they have power enough to kill you. If you care for your body you will not raise philosophical questions . Don't try to stop your thought - you can't anyway. Try to guide them to a better result. 

***

Monday, April 16, 2018

EXPERIENTIAL PHYSIOLOGY

I have coined the word as a necessary complement to expounded and objectively experimented physiology.

Right now, this tremendous computer called your brain is filled with information supplied by society to enable your body to be used to serve its needs. Whatever big words are used - objective, scientific - this information fed to you is the precipitate of the lowest common factor of the largest number of nice ladies and gentlemen like you and me to earn bread, to marry, to retire, to grow old gracefully, to murder one another according to rules, to rebel, to revolt - all geared to this idol, the common good of the largest number.  

Experiential physiology means to take some trouble to educate your own cortex to become aware of its patent and latent connections with the numerous parts and functions of your body.

One has at one's disposal a huge central computer and array of inputs - eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch, pain, vibration, relative balance, tension and so on; an array of parts, hands, feet, neck and so on; an array of fortunately invisible dynamos - heart lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, brain and so on.

I said fortunately invisible. The divine architect knowing that an ape is still sitting in the control made them invisible, otherwise everyone would have been constantly trying to make up and trim their hearts and lungs to look more respectable, say they would have put golden bangles on the heart, trimmed the intestines to respectable size and applied green paint on the stomach and altered the rate of the heart to suit the recommendations of the cardiological society. Anyhow this what they are already indirectly doing. 

All that has happened in evolution is packed within you - some possibilities to enable a better and higher expression.

Man has no organs for swimming. he swims. He has no organs for flight. One day he might fly. Someone will flout the respectable normality and do it. Not so long ago swimming was considered unethical and only because sufficient numbers do it the swimmers are not burnt. Crossing the waters is unholy and an insult to the god of water - so Gandhi who crossed the oceans to reach England had to undergo some penance. 

Roger Bannister, who ran a mile under four minutes began systematising the hows and whys of it, became the president of Neurological Society and promptly stopped running, I believe.

"1896 Olympic marathon" by Burton Holmes, Licensed under Public Domain via Commons 

A few of my friends at the Ashram ran a cross-country race covering 26 kms. On the second occasion one of them asked me "Doctor, tell me is it true we must take some glucose before running, because a doctor from the medical college told us so. What do you think. If we don't take glucose some acids will rise or fall, they say."

"Has this doctor run 26 kms even once in his life? I asked. "So keep running and tell him how you did it."

The point I am making is that this body is a product in the laboratory of evolution. Whether it is true or not, it is your own body. Treat it as if it really belongs to you. 

Then, your own interest and concern will lead you to the correct contacts and experiences, books, etc.

The urge to exceed himself can never be quenched in man. He will never succeed in his efforts to remain pegged to the goal of being an average man or efficient beast.

Experiential physiology is the logical result of your behaviour as if you really own your body. the textbook of human physiology today is a salesman's trick - the book is to be truthfully titled as "A statistically tailored presentation of data collected about the organs and functions of animals cut up in the laboratory, and on a large number of human beings who volunteered to submit their bodies to be studied objectively by the best and latest techniques in magnification and manipulation of accessible areas of information ignoring all other information in the interests of objective science as defined by the specialists in objective science."This at least will be honest.

Such a heading will do much good. Meanwhile, all those who do not  the wish to be as helpless as average rabbit would get a better idea of human physiology by reading the lives of explorers, mountaineers, avatars and such other abnormals to see what the human body can really do.

I am not running a crusade against the popular statistical scientific approach. It has been so over emphasised that I feel the need to over emphasise the role of individual unit. 

I am a partisan in favour of personal autonomy, and my digs at the protagonists of the collective approach do not diminish my regard for their zeal or sincerity. The aspirant for personal autonomy and self-realisation can learn much from the wealth of systematised information. In any case, it will be one more item for him to deal with and he will learn how to deal with it instead of quarreling with it.

***