Topic of the month
A CONVERSATION WITH BILJANA DUŠIĆ
Biljana Dušić MD is an expert in Ayurveda. She spent five years learning Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language, in order to uncover its deepest teachings and has been studying Ayurveda through its primary sources for twelve years. She is hoping to see its principles integrated into Western medicine.
After a decade of working in primary healthcare you turned your back on Western medicine and started focussing on Ayurvedic healing. How come? What was it about Ayurveda that convinced you?
I came to realise that the way the medical system approached healthcare made it difficult for me to help people to the best of my abilities. I knew that preventive care was crucial, but it takes a lot of work to raise awareness on this topic. The only path to health is one that includes a deep awareness of ourselves as human beings and of the consequences that our daily habits have on our lives – from our eating patterns to our inner responses to our surroundings. In that sense I feel much closer to the practice of Ayurveda, complemented by yoga, since its understanding of a person's wellbeing includes the psychosomatic traits that are unique to each individual. It postulates that a person's health is inextricably linked to the health of the larger whole that that person belongs to (family, society, humanity, our planet and its natural kingdom...).
Ayurveda as the Science of Life is based on the belief that a person's health depends on living in harmony with this larger whole and that all psychological experiences influence his or her physical wellbeing, as well as the other way around – all physical experiences (from nutrition to exercise) also influence the psyche.
Why do you think that Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of the Indian subcontinent, is becoming increasingly popular in the West?
I think Ayurveda is becoming increasingly popular in the West because it offers answers to the questions of holistic health and healing. The intelligent people of our times have the natural and increasing need for a deeper understanding of themselves and, through that, the world around them. Ayurveda has been looking at health and healing through this prism for millennia. Our Western society has come full circle – in studying every minute detail of our world we lost sight of the big picture. Now we are realising that we still haven’t found the essence of life, the answers to those basic questions: who am I? Why do I feel an imbalance that is making me unhappy? How come we get sick? How does my psyche (together with the environment) influence my wellbeing? Contemporary science is slowly confirming the findings that Ayurveda has discovered thousands of years ago.
What can Ayurveda offer to the modern man or woman?
First and foremost Ayurveda offers a more holistic view of one's health. It offers insight into the ways that the same illness can manifest itself in different ways depending on the person's constitution and into the strong influence that our psyche has on our physical selves. Ayurveda offers many tools that help us find a mental and physical balance, from yoga and various forms of meditation to herbal remedies and various cleansing techniques that often resolve health issues in a much less invasive or aggressive way.
At its core, Ayurveda is not only a system of healing, but helps us adopt a healthy lifestyle that prevents illness in the first place. How can we best integrate the teachings of Ayurveda into our daily lives?
That's true, the basis of Ayurveda is a deep understanding of health as a state in which our body is in perfect harmony with our spirit, as well as with everything that surrounds us. It means living in sync with our surroundings for the good of the greater whole, not only one part of it. It also means living in sync with our constitution which dictates the working of our body and psyche, determines the type and amount of food we should eat and the lifestyle that suits us best. In following Ayurvedic teachings every individual should follow the needs of his or her own constitution when making choices regarding food, daily routine, physical activity and so on.
When do you advise someone to turn to Ayurveda? In which cases is Ayurveda most effective?
I could recommend Ayurveda to treat most illnesses. In India this is a discipline that is studied both in the traditional environment (in which a student spends at least a decade learning from his guru, living in his house and helping out with his work) as well as in Ayurvedic colleges. Like modern medicine Ayurveda has many specialties: internal medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, surgery, toxicology, psychiatry, etc. Because of this it can address a wide array of ailments. Unfortunately there are no Ayurvedic clinics in Slovenia, so we can only cure illnesses that don't require surgery or a hospital environment.
Could you share with us an example of successful Ayurvedic therapy?
I remember the case of a young woman whose pap smear results indicated cellular abnormalities for the third time in a row, so she was scheduled for conisation (a minor surgery that involves removing some tissue from the cervix). Since she wanted to avoid having the procedure she came to me. We agreed on a change of diet, regular herbal baths and some Ayurvedic herbal medicines. Two months later she got another pap smear, which showed nothing out of the ordinary.
What is your answer to the sceptics and those who consider Ayurveda a primitive form of medicine?
In general I don't answer the sceptics, because I don't see the point in trying to change the minds of people whose minds are already made up. Anyone who tries to truly understand the Ayurvedic outlook on life, health and the individual, will find a depth of understanding that reaches far beyond the limited view of modern medicine. Contemporary medical science is discovering and describing physiological facts that Ayurveda has postulated thousands of years ago. It’s nice to witness this convergence of outlooks with the awareness that our young tradition of scientific enquiry still has centuries in which to explore the inner workings of the human body, nature and the universe. This awareness contextualises our discoveries within a broader field of everything we do not yet know and cures the thinking man of unnecessary arrogance.