– By Dr. Dimple Arora
Since I was 10 years old, my father used to take us to visit his Guru, a venerable Buddhist monk in Bangkok, His Holiness Luang Phaw Thavisak. At that time, we went because we liked the idea of a picnic in the countryside with ample space to frolic around in the lap of nature. The monastery was a good two hours ride away from the city. Our guru’s upright soldier-like stature, his resonant voice and heartwarming smile when he greeted us are crystallised in my memory. Thirty years later, we are greeted with the same demeanour–the unwavering voice, the upright posture, the purposeful gait, and that all-knowing smile. Apart from the white hair stubs on his pate, he didn’t seem to have aged at all. Our jaws dropped in disbelief when he revealed his age–110 years old!
Centenarians are a rarity in the era we live in. Healthy, independent and fully functional centenarians are unheard of, at least in the urban world as we know it. H.H. Luang Phaw seemed to have defied all rules of aging and degeneration. His mind was still alert, his memory crystal clear, his voice and hands steady as ever, while his gait could make a modern 40-year-old seem jaded! What was his secret?
I have been a practicing Buddhist for most of my adult life. I have had the blessed opportunity to rub shoulders with yet another living Master who is nothing short of an avatar in the Buddhist world, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness is fast approaching 90, and yet, when I met him a couple of years ago, his radiant smiling presence seemed ageless. Not a wrinkle on his face, bright knowing eyes, a great memory (he remembered a child from the audience whom he had met a few years ago), and of course, that beatific smile, which could uplift you to seventh heaven in an instant and make you forget every earthly misery!
Did Buddhism have anything to do with arresting the aging process of people who practiced it with due diligence? Maybe it’s time the world at large finds out about the basic governing principles and practical applications of Buddhism (with a real impact on human health), which is not only limited to monks in the monastery. The simple rules are derived from a natural way of life, based on loving-kindness and common sense. The life enhancing holistic impact can be felt on every level of our being–from the cellular to the spiritual. Let’s discover.
Compassion. Gratitude. Tolerance. Non-violence. Loving-kindness and respect to all living beings. Detachment. These words and phrases are at the core of Buddhism. Metta, Karuna, Upekha–Pali words I hear each time I am in the presence of my loving master. And yes, Katanyu or Kritagyabhaav–deep gratitude for your parents, teachers, masters, ancestors and the Earth.
“Gratitude is a powerful wellness emotion which can significantly impact the water crystals,” said the late Dr. Masaru Emoto, an internationally renowned water scientist from Japan, who dedicated most of his life in photographing water crystals to scientifically demonstrate a few esoteric truths about this life sustaining liquid on our planet (1). According to him, water is the most malleable substance on this planet, which makes up 70 per cent of the earth and the human body. However, the quality of water is largely depended on its molecular structure, which alters in various environments and sources. Pure spring water was easiest to digest and absorb, since its perfect crystalline structure allowed for better absorption and nourishment.
According to him, water is alive and the molecular crystals of water even responded to human thoughts and emotions. When a pot of water was prayed to and subject to affirmations of gratitude, the resulting crystalline structure was well-defined in small harmonious clusters, as opposed to water from the same source exposed to disturbing music with hate words. Photographs revealed the latter water molecules to have no symmetry, loosely clumped to each other. Quite amazing indeed!
Practicing active gratitude and compassion can likewise improve our cellular symmetry and intelligence, since water makes up most of who we are on the physical level. Perhaps, that is why our old and wise ancestors always prayed before mealtimes, offering gratitude for the meal to be consumed. The Buddhists take this a step further–they offer gratitude to the Earth for yielding the bounty to be consumed, the farmers for expending their sweat in tilling the earth, the cook and all involved in helping the food reach the table, and above all, to the food itself for nourishing their body and the divinity within. The tenets of loving-kindness, forgiveness and compassion ensure they harm no being and live a life of moderation. So most diligent Buddhists veer toward a humble vegetarian diet. Buddhist monks have a modest breakfast and consume their last meal before 12 noon! This relieves the digestive system of unnecessary load and hence helps the body conserve vital energy. Again, there is no dearth in modern research and evidence that a vegetarian diet is indeed easier on the gut, conserves vital energy, and is associated with low risks of cancer and other autoimmune disorders.
Compassion and loving-kindness are expressions of one fundamental life-sustaining emotion–Love. Ancient Vedic Science informs us that three fundamental energy principles account for life on this planet. The first principle of constant movement and change is blatant in the incessant forces of rotation and revolution of our planet, which account for air circulation–the most basic source of life force (prana) or simply life. The warmth and light of the sun represents the second immutable principle, that of metabolism, without which matter could not derive energy and exist. This fundamental principle of light also reflects the light of intelligence. The last of the trinity is the compelling magnetic force of the Earth, which holds things together and gives each iota of matter a structure and purpose. This immutable energy principle of cohesion (of which gravity is an expression) is love at the very subtle level–that which holds things together and accounts for wellness on this planet.
Life, Light and Love. By aligning ourselves with these omniscient life sustaining forces with a mindful practice of compassion, a discerning middle path and loving-kindness towards all beings, we widen the horizons of our heart to love beyond personal relationships. The emotion of love has been clinically studied to have an uplifting impact on the human physiology–enhanced secretion of wellness hormones, blood pressure regulation, stress relief, release of tension from muscles, and increased circulation, amongst other things. Compassion begets selfless service to the society, which deflates our prana–consuming ego over time, ensuring our vital energy is not dissipated in feeding ego-centric desires and pursuits. The result of such mindful conservation of vital energy is a visible delay in the physical aging process of cells and tissues, which get more oxygen and nourishment as a result.
My life has found depths of peace and fulfillment by following the Buddhist principles. From my personal experience, the Buddhist practice I find most elevating and liberating is the practice of detachment. The constant reminder that everything is sentient, temporary, born to die and decay. This daily meditative practice is like a saw which slowly and steadily chisels away our attachments and expectations in this physical world. After all, the root of all suffering is desire and craving, says the Buddha. Attachment begets expectations, which gives rise to disappointment and anger. Anger, envy and unfulfilled desires are highly inflammable emotions, which readily dissipate our vital life force or prana shakti or chi. Being a doctor of natural medicine, I have come across many clinical cases and research studies which confirm that chronic anger is as likely to lead to liver degeneration as chronic consumption of alcohol. Our liver is perhaps the most vital organ, performing more than 20 vital life-sustaining functions. It is at the root of longevity. Classic Ayurvedic rejuvenative treatments always aim to relax, detox and rejuvenate the liver to enhance life span.
By simply understanding and practicing the very simple, yet profoundly effective principles of the Buddha, one can achieve rejuvenation and vitality on a daily basis. The harmony within will inevitably reflect in your demeanour, rendering an ageless charm and radiance. As I write this article, I feel a deep sense of gratitude to my Guru for showing me the path of Buddhism, and for this opportunity to share wellness revelations from natural medicine which totally validate Buddhist tenets for a meaningful life. I dedicate this article with loving-kindness and compassion for the benefit of all fellow beings.
References: “The Hidden Messages in Water” by Dr. Masaru Emoto
Dr. Dimple Arora is a doctor of Natural Medicine (M.D.A.M) and a practicing Buddhist. Dr. Arora runs a private practice in Bangkok (Golden Awareness Holistic Nutrition & Ayurveda) and has authored a book on holistic healthcare now available in India on www.sangopan.com. She can be reached at www.goldenawareness.com.