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Dr K K Aggarwal

Smile is a sign of joy, while hug is a sign of love. Laughter on the other hand is a sign of inner happiness. None of them are at the level of mind or intellect. All come from within the heart. They are only the gradations of your expressions of your happiness.

It is said you are incomplete in your dress if you are not wearing a smile on your face. Hug comes next and laughter the last. Laughter is like an internal jogging and has benefits like that of doing meditation.

But be careful; we must know when not to laugh. The most difficult is to laugh on oneself.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

Switching to late nights and late mornings on the weekend is associated with cardiometabolic risk. Termed “social jetlag”, it is associated with poorer lipid profiles, worse glycemic control, and increased adiposity in healthy adults, as per a report published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. These metabolic changes can contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A total of 111 study participants had a social jetlag of more than 60 minutes. Compared to the other study participants, these individuals had:

  • Higher mean triglycerides: 107 mg/dL versus 91 mg/dL (P=0.009)
  • Lower mean HDL-cholesterol: 54 mg/dL versus 57 mg/dL (P=0.014)
  • Higher mean fasting insulin levels: 13.5 µU/mL versus 12 µU/mL (P=0.03)
  • More insulin resistance as measured by homeostatic model assessment: 4.0 versus 3.7 (p=0.028)
  • Greater mean waist circumference: 94 cm versus 89 cm (P=0.001)
  • Higher mean BMI: 28 versus 26 (P=0.004)

It has been shown that regulating sleep times can help treat insomnia, and this emerging evidence along with others suggests that perhaps doing so will have benefits in treatment and prevention of other diseases.

The blue neck Shiva, called Neelkanth, symbolizes that one should neither take out the vices or negative emotions nor suppress them. Instead one should alter or modify them.

The blue color, in mythology, symbolizes slow poison that includes attachments, anger, greed, desires and ego. Blue neck means to hold on to the negative emotions temporarily so that they can be neutralized at appropriate time.

Suppressed anger releases chemicals, which can lead to acidity, asthma, angina, future heart attacks, diarrhea, etc. Similarly, expressed anger can cause social unhealthiness and acute heart disease.

The only way to manage anger is to take the right and not the convenient action. One should neutralize anger by wilful cultivation of opposite, positive or different thoughts.

Anger is a known risk factor for heart blockages. Anger can evoke physiological responses that are potentially life-threatening in the setting of underlying heart blockages. It has a dominant influence on the severity, frequency and treatment of angina.

This Vedic message of Shiva is being validated by many western scientists.

Anger has many phases –

  1. Anger Expression Inventory
  2. Assesses anger frequency (trait anger)
  3. Anger intensity
  4. Anger expression (anger-out)
  5. Anger suppression (anger-in)
  6. Anger recall.

Both anger-in and anger-out are associated with heart blockages.

  • Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, from Women’s Health at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has shown women who outwardly express anger (anger-out) are at increased risk especially if they also have other risk factors like age, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. The findings are a part of Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation Study, a multi-center, long-term investigation sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
  • Anger-in is also related to severity of blockages. Dr TM Dembroski in 1985 has shown that potential for hostility and Anger-In are significantly and positively associated with severity of heart blockages, including angina symptoms and number of heart attacks. Suppressed anger is also associated with increased carotid arterial stiffness in older adults, a condition making them prone to future heart attacks and paralysis.
  • A univariate correlational analysis by Anderson DE from National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, Maryland in 2006 has shown a significant positive association of anger-in with artery stiffness.
  • Suppressed anger has also been shown to increase blood pressure by Thomas and group from University of Tennessee.
  • Recall of suppressed anger has been shown by Dr D Jain in 2001 from Yale University to be associated with angina, LV dysfunction and rise in upper blood pressure.
  • G Ironson and colleagues from Department of Psychology, University of Miami in 1992 have shown that anger recall produces more stress than the actual stress in a treadmill. Intensity of anger was associated with severity of angina. In the study, vasoconstriction only occurred with high levels of anger. They also showed that there was no narrowing of non-narrowed arteries indicating that anger recall produces coronary vasoconstriction in previously narrowed coronary arteries.

Panchamrit is taken as a Prasadam and is also used to wash the deity. In Vedic language, anything which is offered to God can also be done to the human body. Panchamrit bath, therefore, is the original, and traditionally, full bath prescribed in Vedic literature. It consists of the following:

  • Washing the body with milk and water, where milk acts like a soothing agent.
  • Next is washing the body with curd, which is a substitute for soap and washes away the dirt from the skin.
  • The third step is washing the body with desi ghee, which is like an oil massage.
  • Fourth is washing the body with honey, which works like a moisturizer.
  • Last step is to rub the skin with sugar or khand. Sugar works as a scrubber.

Panchamrit bath is much more scientific, cheaper and health friendly.

Positive Attitudes

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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All those out there who feel you are at your wits’ end wondering how things don’t ever work out for you, can now relax and dwell on all those failures that life has taken you through and turn failure into success.

  1. Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure. But it does mean you haven’t succeeded yet.
  2. Failure doesn’t mean you have accomplished nothing. It does mean you have learned something.
  3. Failure doesn’t mean you have been foolish. It does mean you had a lot of faith.
  4. Failure doesn’t mean you’ve been discouraged. It does mean you were willing to try.
  5. Failure doesn’t mean you don’t know how to do it. It does mean you have to do it in a different way.
  6. Failure doesn’t mean you are inferior. It does mean you are not perfect.
  7. Failure doesn’t mean you have wasted your life. It does mean you have a reason to start afresh.
  8. Failure doesn’t mean you should give up. It does mean you must try harder.
  9. Failure doesn’t mean you’ll never make it. It does mean it will take a little longer.
  10. Failure doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. It does mean God has a better idea.

Spiritual Prescriptions – Controlling the Inner Noise

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Yoga Sutras of Patanjali define yoga as restraint of the mental states (Chapter 1.2). In the state of total restraint, the mind is devoid of any external object and is in its true self or the consciousness. To control the mind, many Vedic scholars have given their own formulae. Being in touch with one’s own consciousness requires restraining of the mind, intellect and ego on one hand and the triad of rajas, tamas and satwa on the other hand. Every action leads to a memory, which in turn leads to a desire and with this a vicious cycle starts. The mental turmoil of thoughts can be equated to the internal noise and the external desires and objects to an external noise.

The process of withdrawing from the external noise with an aim to start a journey inwards the silent field of awareness bypassing the internal noise is called pratihara by Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It involves living in a satwik atmosphere based on the dos and don’ts learnt over a period of time or as told by the scriptures.

To control the inner noise, we either need to neutralize negative thoughts by cultivating opposite thoughts or kill the origin of negative thoughts. Not allowing thoughts to occur has been one of the strategies mentioned by the scholars. One of them has been neti–neti by Yagnayakya.

The other method is to pass through these inner thoughts and not get disturbed by it and that is what the process of meditation is. This can be equated to a situation where two people are talking in an atmosphere of loud external noise. For proper communication, one will have to concentrate on each other’s voice for long till the external noise ceases to disturb. In meditation, one concentrates on the object of concentration to such an extent that the noisy thoughts cease to bother or exist.

One of the ways mentioned by Adi Shankaracharya in Bhaja Govindam and by Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Chapter 2.35) is that whenever one is surrounded by evil or negative thoughts, one should think contrary thoughts. For example, if one is feeling greedy, one can think of donating something to somebody. Deepak Chopra in his book Seven Laws of Spiritual Success talks in detail about the importance of giving and sharing. He says you should never visit friends or relations empty handed. You should always carry some gift of nature, which if nothing is available can be a simple smile, compliment or a flower. By repeatedly indulging into positive behavior and thoughts, you can reduce the internal noise, which helps in making the process of meditation or conscious living a simpler one.

Washing out negative thoughts is another way mentioned by many Vedic scholars. Three minutes writing is one such exercise which anybody can do. Before going to bed, take three minutes to write down all your emotions and then discard the paper. Another exercise is to reward or punish oneself at bed time for the activities done during the day by either patting or slapping yourself.

Spiritual Prescriptions: Satsang

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Satsang is a common household word and is often held in many residential colonies. Traditionally, Satsang means the regular meeting of a group of elderly or women of an area with a common intention of attaining inner happiness or peace through Bhajans or devotional songs for a particular God or Gods. In Satsang, people realize that it is the Self, communing with Self.

The Sanskrit word ‘Satsang’ literally means gathering together for guidance, mutual support or in search of truth. It may involve talking together, eating together, working together, listening together or praying together.

Most scriptures describe Sat and asat. They discriminate that this world is maya (asat) and God is Divine. Furthermore, they state that maya is not yours; Divine is yours.

Sang means to join, not just coming close, but to join. And how do you join? Only with love, which acts as glue. So Satsang is: Sat—Divine, Sang—loving association. In non-traditional Satsang, people verbally express themselves to others in an uninhibited way. Here, each participant talks free of judgment of others, and self. In this way, each person is able to see many viewpoints, which may serve to diminish the rigidity of their own.

Satsang is one way of acquiring spiritual well-being. Many scientific studies have shown that when mediation or chanting is done in groups, it has more benefits than when done individually. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once said that if 1% of the population meditates or chants together, it will have a positive influence on the entire society.

Satsang also helps in creating a network of people with different unique talents. Satsangi groups are often considered in a very deep-rooted friendship.

Adi Shankaracharya, in his book Bhaja Govindam, also talks about satsang in combination with sewa and simran and says that together the three can make one acquire spiritual well-being. Nirankaris and Sikhs also give importance to satsang and in fact, every true Sikh is supposed to participate in the Gurudwara on a regular basis.

Chanting of mantra or listening to discourses in a satsang helps to understand spirituality through gyan marga. Group chanting continued on a regular basis is one of the ways of meditation mentioned in the shastras. It shifts consciousness from sympathetic to the parasympathetic mode.

The medical educational programs of doctors of today can be called medical satsang as whatever is discussed is for the welfare of the society.

Satsang also inculcates in us, one of the laws of Ganesha, the law of big ears, which teaches everyone to have the patience to listen to others.

In satsang, nobody is small or big, everybody has a right to discuss or give his or her views. Over a period of time, most people who regularly attend satsang, start working from the level of their spirit and not the ego.

The Spiritual Meaning of Lord Shiva

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Most of us worship Lord Shiva without understanding the deeper meaning behind him. In Hindu mythology, Shiva is one of the three forms of God (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh).

The Parmatma or spirit or GOD can be equated to a mixture of three forces representing Generator (Creator or Brahma); Organizer (Maintainer or Vishnu); Destroyer (Winding up or Mahesh or Shiva).The same three forces are also present inside our body to perform any work, which can be linked to create or generate an idea, maintain or organize the contents of the idea, and then destroy or wind up so that new work can be undertaken through Ganesha – the Lord of new happenings.

For day-to-day life, one has to understand and implement the principles of Lord Shiva which can be known by understanding the meaning of Shiva.

Shiva is worshipped in a meditating pose, sitting on a deer’s skin in the white Himalayas in the background of blue sky. Shiva is also depicted as smeared with the ash of graveyard, having a snake around neck, Ganga emerging out of his matted hair, three eyes, blue neck, trishul in one hand and damru in his other hand.

All these symbolic representations have a deep spiritual meaning and tell us about Shiva’s principles of success.

Shiva’s third eye means thinking differently or using the eyes of our mind and the soul. The message is, whenever you are in difficulty, use your intelligence and wisdom or think differently for getting different options. The third eye opening also represents the vanishing of ignorance (darkness or pralaya).

Shiva sitting in an open-eye meditating pose indicates that in day-to-day life, one should be calm as if you are in the meditation pose. Calmness in day-to-day practice helps in achieving better results. In allopathic language, it is equivalent to mindfulness living.

The snake around the neck represents one’s ego. One should keep the ego out and control it and not let it overpower you. The downward posture of the head of the snake represents that ego should be directed towards the consciousness and not outwards.

The blue neck (Neelkanth) represents that one should neither take the negative emotions out nor suppress them but alter or modify them. The blue color indicates negative thoughts.

The same in the neck indicates that negative slow emotions akin to negative emotions are neither to be drunk nor to be spitted out but to be held temporarily and with continuous efforts (matted hairs) with cool mind (moon) and with positive thoughts (Ganga), should be directed towards the consciousness, keeping the ego directed towards it (sheshnag).

Suppressed anger or any other negative emotions will release chemicals in the body causing acidity, asthma, angina and diarrhea. Expressed anger, on the other hand, will end up into social unhealthiness.

The ash on the skin of the body of Shiva reminds that everything in the universe is perishable and nothing is going to remain with the person.  The message is that ‘you have come in this world without anything and will go back without anything, then why worry’.

The Trishul in one hand represents control of three factors, i.e. mind, intellect and ego. It also represents controlling your three mental gunas, i.e. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.  The damru, the hollow structure, represents taking all your ego and desires out of the body.

The blue sky represents vastness and openness and the White Mountain represents purity and truthfulness.

If one adapts to Shiva’s principles in day-to-day life, one will find no obstacles, both in his routine life as well as to one’s spiritual journey.

On the Shivratri day, it is customary to fast. The fast does not just indicate not eating on that day, but its deeper meaning signifies fasting of all bad things in life like – “seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil”. Fasting also indicates controlling the desires for eating foods (like fermented, sweet, sour and salt) and control the negative thoughts both in the mind, deed as well as actions

The Science Behind Addiction

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The three main reasons for any addiction are ignorance, ego and dependence. If you ask people why they smoke, some would say that they were ignorant about its side effects (ignorance), while others would say that it gave them a status in the society (ego). And the rest would say that once they started, they could not quit and are now dependent on it (dependence).

The treatment of ignorance is based on education – the principle of hearing (suno), listening (samjho), understanding (jaano) and action full of wisdom (karo).

Ego can only be treated by proper counseling. The principles of counseling are well described in Bhagavad Gita and involve 18 sessions over a period of time.

Dependence treatment involves early detoxification followed by counseling and education.

What is the importance of life force?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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A physical body becomes useless once the life force is gone. The same body, which was lovable to everyone, becomes a liability after death. Everyone wants to dispose it as early as possible as keeping a dead body at home is considered a bad omen.

During the transfer of dead body from one place to another, nobody wants to keep the body in a vehicle other than a hearse van, whose job is only to transport dead bodies. No family will be willing to carry the dead body of a person in a car in which the deceased person has been traveling or driving for years.

May be for any reason, health or rituals, once you touch a dead body you are required to take a bath before you commence your daily routine.

Within a matter of hours, in absence of life force, the physical body starts disintegrating and in a matter of days, it shows signs of self-destruction and putrefaction.

This vital force is nothing but the soul, aatma, brahma, spirit or consciousness, described in different Vedic texts.

Adi Shankaracharya in his book Bhaja Govindam Shloka 6 says:

yávat–pavano nivasati dehe

távat–pøcchati kuùalam gehe,

gatavati váyau dehápáye

bháryá bibhyati tasmin káye.(6)

“Till the life force remains in the body, people come and enquire about your welfare. But, the moment the life force goes out, even your wife is afraid of coming anywhere near your body”.

Life force can be equated to the network of information in computer, radio, television or mobile phone. All these gadgets, without data, are useless and are thrown away. This silent data, which can be retrieved by operational and application software, represent the life force or soul of these electronic gadgets.

Just as one does not give importance to a computer without data, one should not give importance to the physical body. It is the life force within the body which is respected and cared for and that is what real “I” or “We” is. All glories of the body are only until the life force remains in it.

In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna in Chapter 2 (2.23) says about this life force or ataman: “Fire cannot burn it, weapon cannot cut it, water cannot wet it, air cannot dry it; it is immortal”.

Life force has no dimensions: height, weight, color or image. It is immortal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The weight of a live and a dead body immediately after the death is the same.

It is the same life force, which dwells in everybody and during life is modified by actions, memory and desire cycles. If one gets attached to any of the three, one starts getting detached from the soul or the life force. People who are in touch with their life force all the time attain peace and happiness and die young in old age.

Most Vedic mahavakyas say that it is the same spirit, which dwells in everybody and hence every person in the society should be welcomed and treated with equal importance. Aham Brahmasami, Tat Tvam Asi, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, etc. are few such examples.

According to Adi Shankaracharya, one can achieve non-duality only by seeing God in everyone. ‘Athithi devo bhava’ is also based on the same principle.

How to Remove Negative Thoughts

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Darkness is absence of light and similarly negative thoughts are absence of positive thoughts. The answer to negative thoughts is to bring back positive thoughts. An idle mind is a devil’s workshop and will always think negative.

Here are some ways by which you can remove negative thoughts –

  • Think differently, as taught by Adi Shankaracharya. Once Menaka approached Arjuna with lust and said that she wanted to have a son like him with him. Arjuna said that why wait for 25 years; consider me as your son from today.
  • Think opposite, as taught by Patanjali. For example, if you are having a thought to steal, silently start thinking of charity.
  • Think positive, as taught by Buddha. Make a list of positive actions to be done today as the first thing in the morning and concentrate on that list. Divert your mind to the pending works. It’s a type of behavioral therapy.

Science behind regrets

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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In a US-based study, dying people were asked about their regrets, if any. The top five regrets were:

  1. I wish I had the courage to live a life I wanted to live and not what others expected me to live.
  2. I wish I had worked harder.
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself to be happier.

Regrets are always based on suppression of emotions or non-fulfilment of desires and needs. These need-based desires can be at the level of physical body, mind, intellect, ego or the soul. Therefore, regrets can be at any of these levels.

I did a survey of 15 of my patients and asked them a simple question that if they come to know that they are going to die in next 24 hours, what would be their biggest regret.

Only one of them, a doctor, said that she would have no regrets.

Only one person expressed a physical regret and that was from a Yoga expert who said that her regret was not getting married till that day.

Mental regrets were two –

  1. A state trading businessman said, “I wish I could have taken care of my parents.”
  2. A Homoeopathic doctor said, “I wish I could have given more time to my family.”

Intellectual regrets were three –

  1. A lawyer said, “I wish I could have become something in life.”
  2. A businessman said, “I wish I could have helped more people.”
  3. A retired revenue inspector said, “I wish I had married off my younger child.”

Egoistic regrets were two –

  1. One fashion designer said, “I wish I could have become a singer.”
  2. A housewife said, “I wish I could have become a dietician.”

Spiritual regrets were six –

  1. A Consultant Government Liaison officer said, “I wish I could have made my family members happy.”
  2. A businessman said, “I wish I could have meditated more.”
  3. A Homoeopathic doctor said, “I wish I could have spent more time with my family.”
  4. A reception executive said, “I wish I could have spent more time with my parents.”
  5. An entertainment CEO said, “I wish I could have taken my parents for a pilgrimage.”
  6. A fashion designer said, “I wish I could have worked more for the animals.”

In a very popular and successful movie, Kal Ho Na Ho, the hero was to die in the next 40 days. When asked to remember the days of his life, he could not remember 20 ecstatic instances in life.

This is what happens with each one of us where we waste all our days and cannot remember more than 50 or even 20 of such instances. If we are given 40 days to live and if we live every day ecstatically, we can get inner happiness. Therefore, we should learn to live in the present instead of having a habit of postponing everything we do.

We should learn to prioritize our work and do difficult work first or else we would be in a state of constant worry till that work is over.

I teach my patients that they should practice confession exercise and one confession is to talk about your regrets and take them as challenge and finish before the next Tuesday. When working, there are three things which are to be remembered – passion, profession and fashion. Profession is at the level of mind, ego and spirit.

We should convert our profession in such a manner that it is fashionable and passionate. Passion means working from the heart and profession means working from mind and intellect and fashion means working the same at the level of ego which is based on show-off.

Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Most of us are taught to prostrate before our parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. They, in turn, bless us by placing their hand on or over our heads. Prostration is done daily or on important occasions. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify.

Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength through the transfer of energy during blessing. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed, whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.

Other forms of showing respect are:

  • Pratuthana: Rising to welcome a person.
  • Namaskaara: Paying homage in the form of namaste.
  • Upasangrahan: Touching the feet of elders or teachers.
  • Shaashtaanga: Prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
  • Pratyabivaadana: Returning a greeting.

The Seven Dhatus in Ayurveda

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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As per Ayurveda physiology, food is Brahman and contains the same consciousness as in us and this consciousness is the essence of any food. Any food digested is converted into three portions, the gross undigested food is converted into waste (feces); the middle part is converted into one of the Dhatus and the subtlest form gets converted into ojha or the immunity.

As per Ayurveda, food once eaten is converted into the first Dhatu, i.e. Rasa. Once the formation of Rasa is complete, the remaining is converted into Rakta (blood). The left over essence of food makes Mamsa (muscles), left over of which makes Medha (adipose tissue) and so on to form Asthi (Bone), Majja (Bone Marrow) and Shukra (sperm/ova).

As per this physiology, the second Dhatu will only form once the first Dhatu is of good quality and so on. And, at any step, if a Dhatu is not formed properly, the subsequent Dhatu will also show defective formation. For example, a defective Dhatu at the stage of Asthi (bone) will have normal plasma (blood), muscle and adipose tissue but may have an impaired immunity/sperm/bone marrow. Similarly, defective Dhatu at the level of bone marrow may have only impaired immunity with no impairment of other Dhatus. On the other hand, impairment of Dhatus at the level of plasma or blood will involve all other Dhatus in sickness. Isolated disorders of Shukra may have no involvement of other Dhatus at all.

This Ayurveda principle can help us in answering many unanswered questions in modern allopathy such as – Why are all the organs involved in typhoid fever? Why no other organ is involved in azoospermia?

Upanishads have described the formation of Dhatus in much more detail. According to them, different types of food make different types of Dhatus. The fiery foods like oil and ghee are responsible for formation of Karamaindriyan (part of shukra), bone and bone marrow (Dhatu). Earthy foods are responsible for formation of Gnanandriyan, while Manas (shukra) and muscle (flesh) and water in food is responsible for formation of Rasa and Rakta (plasma and blood) and Pran (Shukra).

This means that every different type of food would make different types of Dhatus and balanced food with a combination of fire, water and earth will only be responsible for formation of shukra, immunity or the essence.

The Science Behind Addiction

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The three main reasons for any addiction are ignorance, ego and dependence. If you ask people why they smoke, some would say that they were ignorant about its side effects (ignorance), while others would say that it gave them a status in the society (ego). And the rest would say that once they started, they could not quit and are now dependent on it (dependence).

The treatment of ignorance is based on education – the principle of hearing (suno), listening (samjho), understanding (jaano) and action full of wisdom (karo).

Ego can only be treated by proper counseling. The principles of counseling are well described in Bhagavad Gita and involve 18 sessions over a period of time.

Dependence treatment involves early detoxification followed by counseling and education.