(Sri Sri addressed over 200 medical professionals through The Symposium for the Medical Fraternity of Calgary, at the Libin Theater, Health Sciences Center.
The health providers in attendance came from a wide variety of health professions; doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, internal medicine specialists, naturopathy, homeopathy, as well as some working with veterans, medical students and residents.
Below is a transcript of what Sri Sri said.)
You must have heard a lot about meditation and pranayama. Do you know, this ancient science has been there in India for the last 5,000 years to 8,000 years? This science combined with Ayurveda (the herbal science prominent in the East), has been responsible for taking care of the health and wellbeing of generations of people.
Millions of people have benefited by this ancient science, but unfortunately, there has been no scientific documentation, as such. So we have started taking a step in this direction. Our foundation, The Art of Living, is making a small effort in documenting the benefits experienced by people. Until now, what was missing was this documentation.
In fact, the Government of India is now putting together an Ayurveda Research Wing as well.
We have a Medical College based on Ayurveda, which has been running for five years successfully. And we have also started an Ayurveda Hospital in Bangalore, at our campus, which is one of the best Ayurvedic hospitals in Asia. I would like to invite all of you to visit the hospital and also our Ayurveda Medical College.
There are a number of different research studies that has been happening at our college. We are treating Varicose Veins and Piles with a near 100% success rate. Only 0.1% of people have had a recurrence of piles after the operation, which is done using the ancient Shara techniques. It would be nice if we could have a dialogue to exchange views between Allopathic and Ayurvedic medicine researchers and practitioners. I think it would benefit the world population.
Coming back to meditation and pranayama, you have already heard a lot from the research experts. I am a lay person. But one thing I would like to say is, if you observe a baby, from the time it is born to the age of three, it does all the yoga postures. You only need keen observation to recognize this, not a yoga instructor.
When a baby is born, it is born in a particular mudra, which is called Aadi mudra (thumb tucked into palm and other fingers wrapped into a fist) in the science of yogic texts.
When babies sleep, if you notice, they sleep with their hands in Chin mudra (tip of thumb and fore finger touching and other fingers are extended), and Chinmayee mudra (tip of thumb and fore finger touching and other fingers are rolled in touching the palm).
They also do the Merudanda mudra (thumb pointing up and other fingers rolled in) when they suck their thumb.
A mudra (hand posture) stimulates certain parts of the brain and certain parts of the body. So babies do all these different mudras.
If you notice, whenever someone feels cold, the first natural tendency is to hide the thumbs under the arm-pits, to keep the thumbs warm. Actually, in yoga, the thumbs are very important. It is said, if you keep the thumb warm, the whole body is kept warm.
In yoga, it is also said that the tips of our fingers are energy points. Similarly, our ears are also energy points. In Ayurveda, these are called Marma points; the secrets points of energy in the body. When these points are stimulated, they release energy into the system. This is the tradition of Ayurveda.
Coming back to observing children, if you notice they also do the Cobra pose, where they lie down on their stomach and lift up their neck. Then they do the Boat pose, where they lie on their backs with their hands and legs off the ground.
They do almost all the yoga poses before the age of three. We simply need to observe them. Also, the way children breathe is different; they breathe from the belly.
Every emotion has a corresponding rhythm in the breath. You may have observed that when you are happy, your breath moves in a different rhythm as compared with when you are unhappy. The temperature, speed, length and the volume of your breath is different. (This is even taught in theater classes; how to express different emotions by changing the breath.) So, our emotions are linked to the breath and to some parts of the body.
In The Art of Living Advanced Meditation courses, we teach about Chakras, energy centers in the body.
In Yoga, it is said that these energy centers have specific qualities and specific rhythms, and they are connected to certain elements. So working with chakras bring a lot of benefit.
In the whole body, there are 108 chakras, of which 12 are very important, and seven of those are even more important. By placing our attention on these centers, we stimulate and relax these centers in the Advanced Meditation Program.
Questions & Answers
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Are you saying we should all do yoga and not any other form of exercise such as aerobics or walking on the treadmill?
Sri Sri: I’m not saying that you should only do yoga. I am saying that yoga is a natural phenomenon, which occurs in creation all over the world. We all have done it as children. As you grow up, you may need aerobics; and if you eat too much, you may need to get on a treadmill to burn those calories.
What is the relationship between meditation and God? I have read about the Advaita philosophies.
Sri Sri: If you think God is truth, beauty and love; yes, they are connected.
If God is the summum-bonum (highest good) of the whole creation, if the entire creation is made up of one thing, that one energy can be called God. It is what everything is made up of and it is connected to everything.
There is not one thing in the world that is not connected to God.
However, if you think God is a person sitting up there, somewhere, trying to give you a finger so you can catch hold of him, and then he goes away; that sort of God has nothing to do with what we are talking about.
If you see God as an energy, as a presence, as love, (love is the nearest emotion the human mind can comprehend), as that huge field of energy, then yes, there is no escape from it for anyone. We are all in it and will be in it. We were in it; and even if we are not there, it will be there.
Is meditation the most effective way of harmonizing that relationship?
Sri Sri: Any technique will have to lead you to meditation.
There is only one way to quench your thirst, i.e., by liquids. Only liquids can quench your thirst, right? It can be any liquid, but it has to be liquid, right? So, meditation is a state which is not waking, sleeping or dreaming; it is the fourth state, where your body is restful, and mind is alert.
Prayer and meditation are very close. In prayer, you are thanking or asking for something; whereas, from a layman’s point of view, in meditation, one is ready to listen. So, you could call meditation a higher form of prayer.
Meditation is a state of the mind; it is not just a process. It is also the final product.
Should we always meditate in sitting posture or can it be done in any other posture?
Sri Sri: The sitting posture is better to meditate. You could lie down and do it too, but the risk is that you may fall asleep. You may think you are in meditation, but actually you could be in deep slumber.
How can one make meditation a regular practice?
Sri Sri: I have made a number of meditation CDs. You could use these CDs for a couple of days or weeks to begin with, and get into the habit of meditation. Once you get into practicing it regularly, you won’t need a CD, you will be able to do it by yourself. All you need is a little bit of practice of meditating, of letting go. It is all about letting go.
Is there an advantage that Art of Living techniques have versus Transcendental Meditation (TM) or other techniques?
Sri Sri: I am not a good salesman! I don’t know how to tell you how to compare techniques. There are a number of meditation techniques; you should choose whatever suits you best.
Some techniques, like Buddhist mediation techniques – Vipassana, long silent meditation courses, require several hours of practice for long periods of time.
The advantage that The Art of Living techniques have, from what I have heard from people, is that it is not as time-consuming. You get results very quickly, because you are changing the rhythm of the breath. The technique is highly suitable for people who are very busy in their lives. It is like a power nap. It quickly gives you the experience of a deep meditation.
Even TM brings you that inner calm and peace. People who have done TM also, find it even more beneficial when they do Sudarshan Kriya and the breathing techniques. They find it very complementary to their practice, and it helps them go deeper in their meditation.
In The Art of Living techniques, there is not much effort involved. It suits the modern day lifestyle. Some yogic practices need a much disciplined lifestyle; you have to wake up and meditate at 5 in the morning, have proper food (there is a whole guideline about food, rest and meditation time). The Art of Living technique has very few restrictions, making it easier for people with busy life-styles in urban cities. They also find it easy to practice them.
How would you compare the Art of Living techniques with Paramahansa Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga?
Sri Sri: Yes, that technique has more meditation on different chakras.
From what you are saying, meditation is a state of mind. How do I know if I have been in that state of mind?
Sri Sri: It is similar to having a good nap. You know when you have had a good nap, right? And when you have had food, you know you have had food. It is as obvious as that. You feel so relaxed from within; it is hard to explain. You feel very good and pleasant. There is a sense of pleasantness that comes from within, and one is totally at ease.
I try really hard, but I can't seem to get rid of negative thoughts?
Sri Sri: That is the problem. When negative thoughts come, don’t chase them. If you chase them, then they come back with a big army. Just shake hands with them, say, ‘Come on, sit with me.’ Then they will disappear.
These are the reasons we need to learn to meditate. When we meditate, we learn how to handle negative thoughts; or any thoughts for that matter.
How to distinguish meditation from sleep or day dreaming? These are the things covered in the three day Art of Living Meditation program.
Is levitation something abstract or is it something that actually happens? What are the benefits of levitation?
Sri Sri: To be honest, I have not seen anyone floating. Definitely, there can be jerks in the body, and the body can jump off the ground. It can happen after a little longer practice of meditation. You suddenly feel the body is very light. This happens in every meditation.
Does the body need sleep? Can sleep be substituted with meditation?
Sri Sri: Your body needs certain amount of sleep. If you have deprived the body of sleep, it will take it. After certain amount of sleep, meditation becomes deeper. First, you have to fulfill the body of deprived sleep. Profit is only counted after the debt is cleared!
Can meditation make people non-violent? Can it help people who are incarcerated?
Sri Sri: We have been doing our program in prisons around the world. If you can take some time to visit the website and read the experience of the prisoners, you will see the impact it has had on them. Nearly 400,000 prisoners around the world have done the program, and their negative mindset has completely changed from a criminal mindset to a compassionate mindset.
We have also been doing this program in schools; where there are challenged children and many incidences of violence, it has helped there too. In a Chicago school district where there were 260 incidences of violence, after the program was taught to all the children, it came down to 62 incidents, within a short period of time. So, the impact is very clear. It is obvious that meditation can make people non-violent, from within.
Can people with epilepsy do pranayamas?
Sri Sri: I would be a little careful with pranayama for epileptic patients, though it has benefitted many of them. First, we ask people if they have any history of epilepsy. If so, then they are asked to go slow, start with some simple pranayama and breathing exercises before leading them into the regular ones.
As far as simple meditation is concerned, it is like relaxation, it does not do any harm. However, you need more stamina to do the Advanced Meditation. It involves stimulating different energy centers or Chakras.
I have not come across anybody who has done our programs and become psychotic. However, there are possibilities, if they are already bi-polar or schizophrenic. Thus, we tell them to avoid doing the Advanced Course programs. We ask them to stick to the basics; simple meditation, yoga asanas and simple pranayama. That should be alright.
We ask people not to overdo the practices. Since people feel so good doing them, they find it so enjoyable and stimulating; sometimes, they tend to overdo it. They may start meditating for 6 hours to 8 hours. This is where the problem occurs; which is why you need proper training, and a good trainer to guide you to do it within limits. We need to do only as much as is prescribed. Overdoing anything is no good. It is like consuming a lot of vitamins at one time. It throws one off balance.
It is absolutely safe to meditate for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or up to an hour. Then, people become a little spacey, or lose touch with reality. Such sort of things can happen to people if they overdo it.
What is the difference between meditation and realization? Is meditation a process towards realization?
Sri Sri: Yes, meditation is a process, and self-realization is the effect. See, you are asking me a question and I am answering you. You are hearing the answer, and you are nodding, saying, ‘Yes’, on the inside. That is realization.
Why does India have so much of contrasts?
Sri Sri: India is full of contrasts. We have snow-mountains and deserts. Similarly, we have extremes in life. We have very calm minds and you also find completely agitated minds too. India is a mixture of sand and sugar; you have to be like an ant; humble to pick the sugar.
I would like to share the latest development from our R&D department. I would like someone to come up. Tell me how much poison does it take to destroy the human body of 80-90 kilos? A drop of poison can destroy the body right?
Our R&D department has come up with some distilled water of some Ayurvedic herbs, one of which is called Amrutha belli (nectar). This boosts the immune system in the body. It is called Shakthi drops.
The Tata Memorial Cancer hospital in Mumbai is now doing research on Shakthi drops, and will be publishing a paper by the end of the year. They have found that in 48 hours, these drops have been able to reduce the cancer cells by 40% in the body. This has helped so many people going through chemotherapy, without feeling the side effects. It is able to reduce the mass of the cancer cells in the body, and has helped people with many things, such as reducing pain.
How can one improve the presence of the mind? One has such long hours and so much travel these days.
Sri Sri: Some breathing techniques, pranayama, and meditation would help you improve your presence of mind. Doing pranayama in the morning and evening keeps you really fresh. I work for about 19 hours every day, and I keep travelling quite a lot, also. Do I look tired? It definitely helps!
How you would like to see Allopathic medicine and professionals in that field collaborate with Ayurvedic professionals?
Sri Sri: The Government of India has setup an institution called Ayush, which is working towards this collaboration. Of course, if we have a tie-up between the two disciplines of medicine, there is a lot that can be done. The world will be greatly benefitted