Jay Glaser, one physician who has helped to improve our life enormously, isone of the best healers we know. His specialty combines the best of modernwestern medicine with the best of Ayurved, the ancient science of life fromthe East. Jay is currently guiding a group (including some of our readers)through a wonderful purification program in India. He is reporting thisback to us and you can learn more about these treatments in India below.
You do not have to go to India however to learn from and be healed by JayGlaser. We are sponsoring Jay for a three-day course here at Merrily Farmson May 23 to 25. I invite you to join Merri, Jay and me at thiscourse. For details go to https://www.garyascott.com/courses/ayurveda.html
Until then, good health to you!
P.S. You can read Jay Glaser's bio at https://www.garyascott.com/advisors/jayglaser.html
News of our Vedic journey to the east — first report from India
This is the diary of Jay Glaser's recent healing tour in India.
Day 1, Feb. 27th: We all knew we had a special group of twenty adventurers when the bus driver took us to the wrong hotel at 3 a.m. because everyone laughed at their first encounter with the land of the Veda as they reloaded their bags, even though they were aching for a good rest after traveling eleven time zones.
Danielle and I had kept a secret from the group: their first adventurer would bea foray into the back streets of Delhi to meet Dr. Brihaspati Dev Triguna, a foremost authority on pulse diagnosis and recent President of the All India Ayurveda Congress. Only a few hours off the plane, the group ducked under railway barricades, climbed over stalled rickshaws, jumped over sleeping dogs and squeezed through broken fences as the street turned into a path. Visiting Dr. Triguna is always an adventure because his clinic is located in Nizamuddin, one of the most culturally interesting parts of town. Dr. Triguna had already seen hundreds of patients when we arrived at noon, and would see a hundred more once we left. He took everyone's pulse, telling them their imbalances in Ayurvedic terms and entertaining their questions. He prescribed everyone an Ayurvedic herbal program and his son, Virendra, prepared for everyone a dietary and lifestyle program.
By the time we negotiated our way back to the bus we felt pretty much integratedinto India. We opted for a South Indian lunch, huge, paper-thin crispy crepes that we dipped in pea curry, washed down with chai. Then we went to a governmentshop where hand-woven clothes are sold. The women wiped out their inventory of punjabi tunics while the men looked spiffy in kurtas and white cotton pants.
Day 2, Feb. 28th: A four hour train ride brought us to Haridwar and from there abus took us to Rishikesh. We were received at our hotel by a pandit chanting Vedic hymns, who applied vermilion to the forehead as the owner garlanded every arriving guest, with cold drinks all around. No one had ever been received so warmly. Every room gives a view of the Ganges with the foothills of the Himalayas rising on the other side. The call of the forest looked so tempting that we decided to approach town from the wild side, the back way through the jungle.
On the way, we met a family of nomads, a Semitic tribe that kept their animals in the highlands in summer and in the jungle near the river in this season. Theyinvited us into their hut and told us that the damage all around was due to an unannounced visit of elephants the night before. Tomorrow is Shivaratri, celebrating the marriage of Shiva and his consort, and we encountered thousands of pilgrims undertaking a five mile trek up the steep mountain to a shrine. We wandered the river banks, passing through the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, where the elephants had also wreaked havoc.
The group met a learned yet humble sannyasin living a life of utter simplicity, Swami Narananda Saraswati, who invited us to sit outside his stone hut and ask him any questions. Sumeet, our guide translated. The group engaged the renunciant in anintelligent discussion about his reclusive lifestyle and the issue of detachmentin the quest of higher states of consciousness. We finished our day with the aarti at sunset on the steps to the Ganga, with 100 Brahmin boys studying to becoming pandits, who led worshippers from the village in traditional devotionalhymns to Shiva.
Day 3, March 1. Today is all about water. We awoke to a thunderstorm and took a bus upriver along a switchback road cut impossibly into the steep hillside 500 feet above the river and sprinkled with signs saying things like, “Better late than never,” and “Life is already short enough, don't make it shorter.” Cars honked politely and zipped by us on the hairpins.
We walked down to a small ashram near the water thinking we would be alone to meditate in Vashishta's cave. Shiva had other ideas. It was his wedding day, andthe village people came to make offerings of Ganga water and leaves over the Shiva lingam in the cave. As we poured, one devotee said, “We pour water on Shiva and he pours water on us.” From Shiva's forehead comes a waterfall, givinglife. A few miles downriver we donned raingear, helmets and lifejackets and ran the rapids of Mother Ganga for about 6 miles. We learned that those in the bow get soaked in Level III and IV whitewater, but have a more exhilarating ride. Noone fell overboard. A day of water.
Day 4. March 2. Our day yesterday was one of water, and last night was wind and fire, a gale coming down the Ganges Valley that rearranged around the rooftops that were poorly nailed down, coupled with a lightning display that overshadowed the fireworks that were lit in every town across the land after India beat Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. With wind, fire and water under our belts, we felt ready to tackle Ayurveda. We planned to ride to near the top of the highest local hill and walk the rest of the way for the view of the snow-capped Himalayas. 2/3 of the way up it became obvious the haze from the rain was going to spoil the view. We stopped to turn around at the summer palace of the Raja of Garhwal, which he is leasing as an upscale Ayurvedic spa and got ourselves invited in for a tour and tea. The magnificent buildings and grounds together with the view of the Ganges valley below put the group in a mood not to leave. Fred offered lunch at their dining room and everyone felt like Rajas and Ranis for an hour more.
We arrived in Haridwar, the holy city on the Ganges 20 miles downriver with an hour to spare before the evening fire aarti on the steps to the river, together with 700,000 pilgrims from around India. Sumeet, our guide, nevertheless got us front row seats perched on columns and pooja stands. The bells, fires and Vedic recitation made a powerful impression of the devotion of the people to the Ganga and what its bounty represents.
Day 5, March 3. We met Drs. Arun Chaudhury and Sanjeev Goel at our hotel in Haridwar and took us on a tour of the Premnagar Ayuvedic factory where we saw how herbs are selected and cleaned, powdered, blended and pressed. We spent an hour in the storage room where the group ran back from the various bins asking, “What's this root, Vaidyaji?” Dr. Chaudhury showed the important herbs used in vajikarana, the science of rejuvenation and potency.
We proceeded to Gurukul University. Dr. Joshi is one of the few experts in Ayurvedic surgery and postponed his train to speak with the group. He explained the concept of “parasurgery” and its practical value for the west, including techniques for treating herniated discs without surgery. We toured the Ayurvedic operating theater before receiving a demonstration and explanation of Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis using willing volunteers from the group as the subjects. We had time to linger and rest in a quiet sanctuary where the modern saint Anandamoyi Ma is interred before catching the train to Delhi.
Day 6, March 4. We headed south by bus toward Agra, stopping in Vrindavan, the childhood home of the warrior, Krishna, who was Arjuna's charioteer in the Mahabharata war, and whose advice to him on the battlefield played a decisive role in the war's outcome. We went, for our experience of this place, to a site revered by Indian classical musicians and which is rarely visited. Here the musician Hari Das played ragas on the banks of the river inspired by the love between Krishna and his lover, Radha. The ascetics were surprised by our arrival but let us linger in the tender softness of the courtyard. We took in the Agra Fort during sundown, the redness of the light playing off the red stone and white marble walls made it look warm, even though most of us were unprepared for just how cold it would get when the sun went down. We were inspired to learn that Akbar, the builder, incorporated elements of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism and Chrisianity into his design in an attempt to create religious tolerance in his empire, an idea that worked until the day he died. From Shah Jahan's quarters where he was imprisoned by his son, we looked down the river and saw his view, from his prison quarters, of the Taj he had built to his beloved queen. It had been a long day; the group basked in the luxury of our 5 star hotel, after roughing it in the Himalayas.
Day 7, March 6. Approaching Khajuraho by air we could see small hills, but nothing resembling a city. As we landed, we flew along side both our hotel, located right next to the runway, as well as a superb temple. In fact, temples like that one are responsible for both the hotel and the airfield in this sleepytown of a few thousand souls. The spirit of the unsung gnenerations of sculptorsand architects is present throughout the town. A series of kings built these incredible structures in honor of their military victories and other auspicious moments. They were almost perfectly preserved by the jungle. First, the Moghuls could not penetrate the dense forests to plunder Khajuraho, and when the town was eventually abandoned, the jungle vines covered the temples so they were invisible. We attended a sound and light show in a cluster of fabulous structures in the evening under a clear, starry sky with a setting thin crescentmoon.
Day 8, March 7. This morning we took a tour with a local scholar, Pandit RK Sharma, who was particularly capable in interpreting the sculptures of special beauty in the Western Cluster of Temples. This is no easy job, because each temple had literally thousands of sculptures, depicting every aspect of earthly life. A small percentage of these laboriously worked sculptures dealt with seduction, pleasure and love in an erotic yet intimate and subtle way. Each figure was a person come alive with a personality, desires and weaknesses.
Arriving in Varanasi by plane, we had a lesson in yoga with Pandit Yogiraj Rakesh Yogi. This scholarly Brahmin is an expert in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, but has also mastered hatha yoga and the six kriyas (yogic proceduresfor purifying and cleansing the body). He gave a demonstration of hatha yoga asanas that most experts could only dream about and showed us more esoteric techniques used for cleansing. At the end of the session he gave a demonstration of stopping the pulse.Dr. Glaser felt his pulse which went from 84beats per minute to over 120 beats as he performed a specific forceful pranayama(respiratory exercise), become faster and fainter until it was imperceptible. This lasted about ten to fifteen seconds, and then the pulse returned slowly andforcefully. He repeated this three times.
Day 9, March 8. Benares Hindu University is the foremost university in India forresearch in Ayurvedic medicine. The vestibule has samples of thousands of medicinal herbs. We received a tour of the Ayurvedic Garden from Dr. Mandal, thechief resident, pointed out the most commonly used herbs and the ones of greatest importance in the west. Sarpagandha (rauwolfia serpentine), from which the modern antihypertensive drug reserpine is synthesized, brought up the issue of whether one should be extracting the active ingredients or using the whole plant. We were received by the Chief of the Department of Ayurveda, Dr. Dwivedi,who used this controversy as a launching point for explaining the holistic valueof herbs and the purpose of the University in documenting the benefits and actions of herbs. He admitted that in their clinic the doctors used the whole plant in an unrefined form.
In the late afternoon, we went upriver in a boat,giving us the first glimpse of the cities ghats, the three mile string of steps going down to the river, and the essence ofVaranasi's life. A concert of Indian classical music was held for us in a tiny intimate temple overlooking the water. After the tabla/sitar ragas, the whole town erupted in a cacophony of bells, conches and cymbals as Varanasi celebratedthe evening rites. Two young ladies arrived and sang beautifully with tambura, tabla and harmonium. We left in a huge rowboat, drifting a mile back down the river in the darkness. In our wake we each lit a candle in a small raft of flowers, and set them afloat on the river. Twenty-five lights bobbed on the still dark water behind us like stars in the sky. No one could say a word as we savored the silence of one of the most moving moments of our trip.
Day 10, March 9. A half hour before dawn found us on a rowboat watching the world's oldest living city come alive at the main ghat where pilgrims from around India come to bathe and perform their prayers. At sunrise the steps were alive with activity. We floated a mile down and back, admiring the thousands of temples and other buildings of Varanasi's “skyline” while on the other side of the river where the sun is rising not a structure is found. One of us dove in atsunrise in the middle of the river where the current is swifter (and cleaner).
We wandered through the back streets of the city where barely two people can pass, to the entrance to the Golden Temple of Vishwanath (Shiva), giving us a flavor of the essence of this city. The temple was under heavy guard, since a mosque is next door and each seems to dispute the presence of one the other. Thedean of Sanskrit College, former director of Maharashi Ved Vishvalaya in Jabalpur, gave a discourse on the structure of Veda and the Brahmanas and their role in spiritual development. The morning wasstill young, so we toured the ruins, museum and deer park in Sarnath, the site where Buddha gave his first sermon. The afternoon found everyone shopping. In the late afternoon we went to Sanskrit College where young Brahmin pandits recited the Vedas, including the Purusha sukta and the Gayatri mantra from YajurVeda, under the tutelage of their master, Pandit Dwivedi. Their voices were strong and sure. The dusk was soft and gentle. The neighborhood people gathered around us seated in the courtyard of their teacher as the Vedic hymns floated inthe air.
Day 11, March 10. Today was a day of intensive cleansing. In response to the description by Yogiraj Rakesh Yogi several days earlier of a yogic technique forelimination, a majority of the group wanted to experience its benefits. The technique is called sakhyaprakshalana. Sakhya is a conch shell, and prakshalana means clean and pure. The nature of a conch shell is white and labyrinthine, so this technique makes the entire labyrinth of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon as white and pure as a conch. It consists of drinking rapidly, under Yogiraj's careful supervision, large volumes of salt water, followed by 25 yoga asanas designed to squeeze and press the water through the gut without it being absorbed. The cycle is then repeated. Most of us did 6-8 cycles with Yogiraj monitoring our progress and telling us when to stop. The twelve people who participated went through 60 liters of water! Everyone was satisfied with their result. We took a light snack to break ! our fast on the plane back to Delhi. It was Sunny's birthday, which was celebrated in style. After some discussion of the passages in the ancient Ayurvedic texts about the effects and benefits of alcohol, Dale ordered champagne.
Day 12, March 11. We hopped an early plane to Kerala in south India, feeling thehumid warm air as we debarked, and immediately noticing the change in flora, dress, language, script, cuisine and nature of the people. Another country. Our resort is barely a year old and is a true paradise, situated on a cliff overlooking a long, wide sandy beach. Our beach is used by the local village of fisherman, and we enjoy watching as the entire village shows up to participate in pulling in the nets, aided by a few of the group. Every cottage is a reassembled (air-conditioned!) 120 year old, intricately carved wooden home and the main building is a reassembled palace, beautifully appointed. Even the bathrooms are special, elegantly crafted and open to the air via a courtyard in which are growing bushes and flowers, so even a trip to the loo is an excursion to nature. On our arrival the extremely competent Ayurvedic physician, Vaidya Vinod, gave the group an orientation regarding the extensive menu of panchakarma (physiotherapeutic purification) treatments that are available, then consulted with each person in the presence of Dr. Glaser, prescribing a treatment program. Massage treatments are traditional and based ontechniques from ancient Kerala forms of martial arts for healing muscle trauma.
We started that very day. The oil massages, called uzhichil (pronounced urichil)were firm and enjoyable, and are performed by the technician using either the hands, or with the technician balancing with a cord hung from the ceiling, and using the foot. The center also specializes in techniques of massage using hot, oiled boluses made from either medicinal leaves, pastes of powdered herbs or a special variety of rice. Everyone is healthy and in heaven.
Day 13. Our group is preoccupied today: Ayurvedic treatments and the beach. It lets me meet people, such as the yoga master. Rajesh had a special relationship with his grandfather. He taught him to fight. He comes from a lineage of warriors, the Niyers, so he is a master of K’lari. A demonstration of this ancient system of hand-to-hand combat that developed in southern India is all flash and fire and looks as much like dance as combat. There is a lot of kicking, slashing and flying through the air, and unless you knew that K’lari isactually older than martial arts from the far east, you¼d actually believe the fighters had been inspired by the latest martial arts movies and professional wrestling.
K’lari, however, is also a spiritual science and Rajesh¼s grandfather taught it to him together with yoga and bits of Ayurveda. Rajesh is now a yoga master and prefers yoga to K’lari. He tells me that many of the techniques of Ayurvedic physiotherapy (called panchakarma) coming from Kerala, the ones we are currentlyexperiencing here at Travancore, were actually derived from techniques used to heal injuries incurred in combat training and that yoga was used by the warriorsfor suppleness and presence of mind. The three sciences became one. What Rajesh would like me to believe is that many of the different treatments used around the world today in Ayurvedic panchakarma were initially K’lari martial arts. Rajesh has an interesting command of English and has never read the ancient books of Ayurveda. He could well be right, though: the treatments he is referring to are not described in the Sanskrit texts.
Day 14, March 13th. Yatra in Sanskrit means a pilgrimage, and we have seen pilgrims all over India, sometimes undergoing arduous treks by the thousands. Our pilgrimage was the temple to Mother Divine at the southernmost tip of India a few hours away. It helps to have an ardent desire or be a little restless to undertake a taxing pilgrimage. As it turns out, more than half of the group are already in paradise at our Ayurvedic spa on the beach, glowing in the luxurious treatments with competent technicians, enjoying tasty food and the slow pace. Sothirteen opted to stay behind and continue serious Ayurvedic treatment. Eight ofus left after morning panchakarma treatments, stopping on the way at a magnificent palace carved of teak wood for the Raja centuries ago. School children crowded into our photos to be memorialized with the first white faces they had ever seen.
The Kanniya Kumari temple to Mother Divine is unassuming. It is below groundlevel: you even walk down to stand on the roof. At its southern wall, the IndianOcean meets the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. Its thick interior gray walls with doorway heights at chest level and thick air could hardly be called feminine. The singular quality making this site of interest for those with a passion for Vedic medicine is that it is imbued with a concentrated presence of the qualities of nurturing, tranquility, and protective ferocity, the laws of nature giving rise to self-repair, growth and immune strength. The brahmins seated us in the inner sanctum to meditate. The ladies' sarees and punjabis weredrenched. The men, fortunately, are not allowed to wear shirts in south Indian temples. For some of us the experience was simply intense, for others emotional.We emerged from the bowels of the temple just after sunset to a moonlit, star-studded sky with heat lightning all around.
Day 15, March 14th. Danielle and Dr. Glaser had commanded a Vedic procedure known as abhishekham for the following morning. The brahmins were already waiting for us at 4:30 together with a few dozen devotees. Before proceeding, they asked us to state our names and sankalpa, the intended result of the performance. We were calling upon Mother Nature to create health for our patients and ourselves. Two hours later we emerged to a glorious dawn and joinedseveral hundred people assembled to witness it. As the red globe appeared, they became silent and reverential. There was an absence of the ooh's and aah's heardin the West; they bowed, hands together, toward the rising sun.
We took a ferry to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial a few hundred yards offshore from the temple with hundreds of devotees and children before returning to the rest of the group and our afternoon panchakarma treatments. In the late afternoon, we took a gondola ride in the backwater canals where the village people live. It was cool and serene, with eagles, egrets, and iridescent kingfishers making their living beside the fishermen.
Day 16, March 15th. After panchakarma treatments this morning we headed back to Delhi and then home. Everyone has remained healthy. Lost in our Vedic lifestyle,no one had even thought about conflict and war; we felt safer than people in North America. We had gained insight during our Vedic Journey to the East about the deepest basis of peace in society: peace within.
We enjoyed a sumptous farewell party at our previous hotel in Delhi, that kindlyprovided rooms for us to rest, shower and change. Tom provided the poetry and Dr. Glaser the blues harp. The group was unanimous in their appreciation to Sumeet Bali, our agent and guide, for making the voyage smooth as well as rich with experiences and knowledge. Danielle and Dr. Glaser announced that they had so much enjoyed this group, with their coherence, flexibility, and sense of humor, that they would plan something even better for next year.
Merri and I utilize a blend of healing technics garnered from healers, shamans, scientists, physicians, spiritual and philosophic leaders that we evolved over long usage…trial and error. The seven practices deal with:
#1: Exercise#2: Nutrition#3: Purification#4: Consciousness#5: Rest#6: Ritual#7: Growth
The next course conducted by Jay Glaser (May 23,24,25) covers all seven subjects and Jay has been instrumental in helping us learn. To Join Merri, Jay and Danielle and me at his upcoming course at the farm sign up here.