Inaugurating a multi-specialty hospital, PM Narendra Modi recently said that Ayurveda and Yoga have become a reliable system of healthcare. He added that there is a visible change in the healthcare system of the country today and we are also relying on our traditional knowledge and experiences, carrying their benefits to the world. But these benefits can only reach the masses if we have Ayurveda and Yoga practitioners professionally trained and educated in the specific field. Banaglore’s S-Vaysa university is claiming to offer education that mixes the best of Indian medicine system like AYUSh with the best of the modern medical science on the basis of extensive research. FinancialExpress.com’s Tarun Bhardwaj spoke with Dr B R Ramakrishna, Vice-Chancellor of Swamy Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana or S-VYASA and discussed the integrated of traditional and modern medical education, study courses, policies and more. Excerpts:
Svyasa is said to be a pioneer in Yoga research and studies. Tell me, how this university is working on the vision of integrating India’s Yoga and spiritual studies with the best of the West like modern science and research?
There was a United Nations declaration known as the Alma Ata declaration — Its message was ‘health for all’ by 2020. If you raise the question whether we have been able to achieve that target, forget about India, even the advanced countries, none of the countries or none of the states have reached that target.
No doubt, the modern system of medicine has taken a lead in understanding the human system to its minutest level. And today we have seen how the modern system of medicine and healthcare has been successful in controlling pandemics. In India it has been very successful and thanks to PM Narendra Modi ji, for his timely involvement and intervention. And also the vaccines that have been developed which covered the majority of the community. If you go in a little more detail, in modern science, more than 500 types of sophisticated surgeries are conducted, organ transplants are done, robotic surgery is being done. More than 35,000 chemicals are used in the pharmaceutical industry to prepare medicines. So really hats off to the modern system of medicine.
At the same time, look at the rise of non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, psoriasis, allergic disorders, autoimmune diseases, degenerative diseases, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression. These are the diseases which are knocking the door of every home. If you take a survey, you need not be a rich person or a person who is from a higher strata of the society, even among the poor, among the working class, these diseases are spreading like wildfire. So the challenge of the present day is not the infectious diseases; there has been a solution for infectious diseases by most advanced fourth generation antibiotics and people’s hygiene has improved now and almost every village for that matter is being provided good drinking water. So this has prevented infectious diseases.
At the same time, due to abused usage of these inorganic manure, pesticides and preservatives in our food and drinks, one type of disease has increased. More concerning today are the non-communicable diseases. Why are these diseases only at the palliative stage of the modern system of medicine? Still the modern system of medicine is not able to understand the human system in totality. They have understood the human body but human life is not merely the physical body, it is an integrated manifestation of body, mind, intellect, and consciousness.
We have to understand the human system in totality. These are known as psychosomatic diseases. The mind plays an important role in these non-communicable diseases. That’s what in yoga and ayurveda we call as Adhi. It gets converted into Vyadhi. It means that diseases are not merely physical. For that matter, in every disease, there is involvement of mind. Therefore, science, which is yet to understand in-depth knowledge pertaining to the mind, how can we expect solutions for such psychological diseases, psychiatric problems, or psychosomatic diseases.
So, here comes the importance of the entire Ayush system and particularly ayurveda and yoga, which has understood the human system in totality. Therefore, according to me, every system has strengths and limitations. Modern medicine has strengths and also limitations. But now, with these Ayush systems, they have good strength in combating these non-communicable diseases as well as preventive health care.
What are the courses Svyasa University is providing where this integration of the East and the West is taking place?
Right now, there are some problems with reference to the apex body. In India, the modern system of medicine is being governed and controlled by the national health commission. Similarly for the Ayush system, there is one called the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine. To commence a course, apex body’s approval is required, which is not being done. When we approach the modern medical council apex body, they ask us to go to the Ayush system, they in turn ask us to go to the modern system. In this dilemma no concrete course is coming. We are yet to start it because of this problem with the policies of the government and the apex bodies. But still, we are in the process of framing syllabus for short term, certificate, and diploma courses in integrated medicine in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, that is Nimhans, Bangalore. Maybe, soon this certificate course will be launched and this course will be for medical students who have completed their basics, internships or for any of these doctors. For example, an ayurveda or Ayush qualified doctor needs to be exposed to the modern system of medicine and qualified doctors or students of the modern system of medicine need to be exposed to the Ayush system. In that, Svyasa has taken an initiation with Nimhans and shortly the course is going to be launched.
What is the profile of students that you have in Svyasa?
In S-VYASA, we started a very specialised school and later it got converted into a deemed university on yoga. And we have a short course called YIC – Yoga Instructors’ Course, which is actually a three months online course and a one month residential course. And the main objective of this course is to make an aspirant fit to become a yoga teacher. This has become very popular and this is one of our flagship programmes. And more than 17,000 residential students have been awarded this certificate. And now, through our distance mode also this course is being conducted. When the university was established in the year 2002, from that day onwards, we have a postgraduate diploma course in yoga therapy and we have BSc in yoga, and we have MSc in Yoga. In MSc and BSc both, we have yoga and consciousness as part of the curriculum that is more of a pure science and an applied yoga therapy. Plus, we have PhD and we also have MD in integrative medicine courses. Actually, it is open for medical graduates of different systems – ayurvedic, unani, naturopathy, modern system, even dental – all these people, they need to study here and we have collaborations with major institutions like Narayana Hridalaya and so that course is being conducted now very successfully.
Do you have international students here in Svyasa and any collaboration with international universities?
We have collaborations, more than 150 collaborations, which includes both national and international. Coming to this education, we have one collaboration and we have established Vivekananda College of Yoga in China. It is with the Yunnan Minzu University and their yoga course is being conducted. It is a joint degree programme between our university and that university and it was started three years back, now the final batch is going to be awarded. Similarly in Japan also, we have our school in collaboration with them. In America also we have VaYU (Vivekananda Yoga University) University in Los Angeles. There also the course is being conducted. In all these collaborations, we are knowledge partners and they take up the administration aspect and in collaboration it is running.
In addition, for research and all, we have collaborations with many universities.
You talked about policy issues. What expectations do you have from the government on that?
Whether the government agrees or not, whether the policies permit or not, people want integration. It is my freedom to desire and expect what I want. In these policies, what is happening is that the national commission for health doesn’t entertain and this Indian Ayush System Council also doesn’t entertain. There need to be an independent separate council to be constituted by the government of India or they have to entrust this responsibility to either of the apex bodies to give permit.
In the West, it is very easy. There are many universities which conduct these courses. But in India there is a problem because in every stage there is intervention from the apex bodies. So, there has to be change in the policy and the government has to take initiative. It has to come from the government of India, then the integration can happen.
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This integrative medicine is not new to this country. Earlier, in the 1940s and 50s, there were courses actually. In fact, there were no separate courses for Ayush systems, it was taught together. It was known as GCIM – graduate course in integrative medicine or something. Different courses were there. But even there need to be a registration body also. Who has to empower? The government has to create a registration authority and they have to license these people who get graduated from integrative system of medicine. Integrative system of health care is inevitable, especially in a country like India where we have massive rural population. Yoga has now reached every nook and corner of the world. And yoga, herbal medicine, our ayurvedic medicine, unani, all these things, they need to be supplemented, they need to be integrated with modern system of medicine. That is possible only if the government takes an initiation to start an integrative course.
In China it is happening. Why it cannot happen in India? Everyone has to study. For example, Chinese national system, it is called as national system of medicine. They are there to study Chinese traditional system of medicine, they have to study the modern system of medicine and together they become doctors. For this, what can be done is at the degree level there has to be a course which comprises of all these systems, including modern system of medicine. That is called as primary health education. Next is secondary health education. In the primary education subject, the students who enter into course they have to be taught what is important in modern system of medicine, what all important in Ayush system of medicine and they should be prepared to the level that they serve the rural population. In secondary level, there should be specialisations of the subjects they have studied at the degree level. It may be pharmacology, it maybe medicine or surgery or panchakarma or swasthavratta or ayurvedic kaaychikitsa, etc.
So there should be postgraduate courses in all these subjects which are taught at the basic level. Then super speciality comes. So, primary health care, secondary health care, tertiary health care. Otherwise, the students who study Ayurveda or any of these Ayush systems, they are not exposed to modern system or skill. So, when they are posted in rural places, what they can do? They will have the hospitals but they are not useful for them. So therefore, it has be an integrative system of health care at the primary level, and the at secondary, tertiary and further they can make it specialisations.
So for this, the initiation has to come from the government of India and apex bodies should be given clear instructions to allow certain courses. Now, from our institution, a man who does his basic degree in one system later does his post-graduation, he is not permitted to follow all these things. He is allowed only to practice what system he has registered and what system he has studied at the degree level. For example, I have studied an ayurvedic course, later I did my short term course in Karnataka, integrative course. I am entitled to practice both, there is a separate registration board. Now, I have studied yoga, I have done my MS, Master’s degree and PhD. But I am not legally allowed to practice yoga in my clinics because I have not registered. So, these are the things happening.
Which is the best medicine and who is the best doctor? In Ayurveda it is said – any intervention that aims at establishing health should be considered as medicine or therapeutics. Who is the best doctor? He is the best doctor who cures diseases. So there has to be one single window and later you can have specialisations. Otherwise, integration is not going to be easy.
Recently the govt decided that Ayurveda practitioners can do surgery as well. Your thoughts on this?
According to me, if they are trained, well and good. I ask a question. I am supposed to practice whatever is there in my syllabus. For example, you know rectal diseases are there – piles, hemorrhoids, fistula. For this they are trained. But I am not trying to conduct some eye surgery, ENT surgery, and brain surgery. How can I do it?
If I am given an option, I am an ayurvedic doctor. My degree says that bachelor of ayurvedic medicine and surgery. If I am given an option, if I have to go to somebody to get my nose operated, will I go to an ayurvedic person? I’ll have to go an allopathic ENT man. That is the situation, because they have been trained, they are skilled. When I want some panchkarma treatment, why should I go to an allopathy man?
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So, somehow I have my different opinion with regard to that. Because what is required is you cannot experiment on patients, every soul is precious, every life is precious. If you are trained, if you are qualified, if you are legally allowed, then you can practice. Sometimes, the government issues notification without providing the basic skills. Then it is not allowed. That’s what it has happened.
Ayurvedic doctors are allowed to do surgeries means what? Unless they are (trained for the particular surgery) then yes. But our training system is not doing that. Hitherto, our teachers who are teaching our aryuvedic doctors who have not done surgeries. What do they teach us, what can I expect from them?
Therefore, there is a solution, integrate all systems at the degree level and give them basic training of all systems, put them as the doctors fit for villages’ primary health care, then give them advanced training if they are interested, then give them secondary training, then if there is super specialities in any system, put them for tertiary health care education. This is how three tier education system has to be done; this is my perception.