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Dr K K Aggarwal

Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee

Common Cold

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  • It is a benign self-limiting syndrome caused by several viruses.
  • It is one of the most frequent acute illnesses.
  • The term ‘common cold’ refers to a mild upper respiratory viral illness presenting with sneezing, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, low grade fever, headache and malaise.
  • Common cold is not the same as influenza or common sore throat, which can also involve the heart.
  • Common cold affects a pre-school child 5-7 times in a year and an adult 2-3 times in a year.
  • It can spread by hand contact, by direct contact with the infected person or by indirect contact with a contaminated environmental surface.
  • It can also spread by small particle droplets that become airborne from sneezing or coughing.
  • It can also be transmitted via large particle droplets that typically require close contact with infected person.
  • Most important is hand to hand transmission of the virus.
  • Infection can also spread through circulating air in commercial airline passenger cabins.
  • Saliva does not spread any cold.
  • The disease is most infectious on the 2nd and 3rd day of illness.
  • However, a person may be infectious for up to two weeks.
  • Normal cold may last for 8-10 days.
  • The diagnosis is based on clinical findings.
  • Common cold can exacerbate asthma in susceptible individuals.

All about depression

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  • Depression is a major public health problem and a leading predictor of functional disability and mortality.
  • Optimal depression treatment improves outcome for most patients.
  • Most adults with clinical significant depression never see a mental health professional but they often see a primary care physician.
  • A non-psychiatric physician 50% of times misses the diagnosis of depression.
  • All depressed patients must be enquired specifically about suicidal ideations.
  • Suicidal ideation is a medical emergency.
  • Risk factors for suicide are known psychiatric disorders, medical illness, prior history of suicidal attempts or family history of attempted suicide.
  • The demographic reasons include older age, male gender, marital status (widowed or separated) and living alone.
  • About 1 million people commit suicide every year globally.
  • Around 79% of patients who commit suicide contact their primary care provider in the last one year before their death and only one-third contact their mental health service provider.
  • Twice as many suicidal victims had contacted their primary care provider as against the mental health provider in the last month before suicide.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death worldwide and accounts for 1.2% of all deaths.
  • The suicide rate in the US is 10.5 per 100,000 people.
  • In the US, suicide is increasing in middle aged adults.
  • There are 10-40 non-fatal suicide attempts for every one completed suicide.
  • The majority of suicides completed in US are accomplished with fire arm (57%), the second leading method of suicide in US is hanging for men and poisoning in women.
  • Patients with prior history of attempted suicide are 5-6 times more likely to make another attempt.
  • Fifty percent of successful victims have made prior attempts.
  • One of every 100 suicidal attempt survivors will die by suicide within one year of the first attempt.
  • The risk of suicide increases with increase in age; however, young adults and adolescents attempt suicide more than the older.
  • Females attempt suicide more frequently than males but males are successful three times more often.
  • The highest suicidal rate is amongst those individuals who are unmarried followed by those who are widowed, separated, divorced, married without children and married with children in descending order.
  • Living alone increases the risk of suicide.
  • Unemployed and unskilled patients are at higher risk of suicide than those who are employed.
  • A recent sense of failure may lead to higher risk.
  • Clinicians are at higher risk of suicide.
  • The suicidal rate in male clinicians is 1.41 and in female clinicians, it is 2.27.
  • Adverse childhood abuse and adverse childhood experiences increase the risk of suicidal attempts.
  • The first step in evaluating suicidal risk is to determine presence of suicidal thoughts including their concerns and duration.
  • Management of suicidal individual includes reducing mortality risk, underlying factors and monitoring and follow-up.
  • Major risk for suicidal attempts is in psychiatric disorder, hopelessness and prior suicidal attempts or threats.
  • High impulsivity or alcohol or other substance abuse increase the risk.

What are Satvik offerings in Vedic literature?

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  1. Food Offerings: Panchashasha (grains of five types – brown rice, mung or whole green gram, til or sesame, mashkalai (white urad dal) or any variety of whole black leguminous seed, jowar or millet).
  2. Panchagobbo (Five items obtained from cow: milk, ghee or clarified butter, curd, cow dung and gomutra), curd, honey, brown sugar, three big noibiddos, one small noibiddo, three bowls of madhupakka (a mixture of honey, curd, ghee and brown sugar for oblation), bhoger drobbadi (items for the feast), aaratir drobbadi mahasnan oil, dantokashtho, sugar cane juice, an earthen bowl of atop (a type of rice), til oil (sesame oil).
  3. Water offerings: Ushnodok (lukewarm water), coconut water, sarbooushodhi, mahaoushodhi, water from oceans, rain water, spring water, water containing lotus pollen.
  4. Three aashonanguriuk (finger ring made of kusha).
  5. Puja Items: Sindur (vermillion), panchabarner guri (powders of five different colors – turmeric, rice, kusum flowers or red abir, rice chaff or coconut fibre burnt for the dark color, bel patra or powdered wood apple leaves), panchapallab (leaves of five trees – mango, pakur or a species of fig, banyan, betal and Joggodumur or fig), pancharatna (five types of gems – gold, diamond, sapphire, ruby and pearl), panchakoshay (bark of five trees– jaam, shimul, berela, kool, bokul powdered in equal portions and mixed with water), green coconut with stalk, three aashonanguriuk (finger ring made of kusha).

Donating blood reduces chances of heart attack

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One should donate blood at least once in a year. Donating blood regularly has been shown in many reports to reduce chances of future heart attacks. Blood donation is also one of the best charities that one can do as it can save multiple lives through various components taken out of a single blood transfusion.

All those who are going for elective surgery should donate their blood well in advance and the same should be used at the time of surgery.

In the current medical tourism scenario, many patients who are Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusion on religious grounds. They do not accept transfusion of whole blood or any of the four major components (blood cells, platelets, plasma and white cells). They are prepared to die rather than receive the blood. They also do not accept transfusion of stored blood including their own due to the belief that blood should not be taken out of the body and stored for any length of time. In such cases, every effort should be made to reduce blood loss, conserve blood and give drugs that can enhance hemoglobin formation.

A new concept called Bloodless Medicine has now become a reality where treatment, surgery and even emergency surgery can be done without using any blood.

Why do we not offer Vanaspati Ghee at the time of cremation or worship?

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Vanaspati Ghee is never offered to God at the time of Aarti in the Diya or to the dead body at the time of cremation. Only pure ghee is offered.

It is considered a bad omen to offer Vanaspati ghee at the time of the last cremation ritual even though the consciousness has left the body.

What is not offered to God should not be offered to our consciousness. Vanaspati ghee increases bad cholesterol and reduces level of good cholesterol in the blood. On the other hand, pure ghee only increases bad cholesterol but does not reduce the level of good cholesterol. The medical recommendation is that one should not take more than 15 ml of oil, ghee, butter or maximum ½ kg in one month.

It is a spiritual crime to offer vanaspati ghee to God.

Tips to prevent Dengue and Malaria

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  • Both malaria and dengue mosquitoes bite during day time.
  • It is the female mosquito which bites.
  • Dengue mosquito takes three meals in a day while malaria mosquito takes one meal in three days.
  • Malaria may infect only one person in the family but dengue will invariably infect multiple members in the family in the same day.
  • Malaria fever often presents with chills and rigors. Suspect Chikungunya if the fever presents together with joint and muscle pains.
  • Both dengue and malaria mosquitoes grow in fresh water collected in the house.
  • The filaria mosquito grows in dirty water.
  • There should be no collections of water inside the house for more than a week.
  • Mosquito cycle takes 7-12 days to complete. So, if any utensil or container that stores water is scrubbed cleaned properly once in a week, there are no chances of mosquito breeding.
  • Mosquitoes can lay eggs in flower pots or in water tanks on the terrace if they are not properly covered.
  • If the water pots for birds kept on terraces are not cleaned every week, then mosquitoes can lay eggs in them.
  • Some mosquitoes can lay eggs in broken tires, broken glasses or any container where water can stay for a week.
  • Using mosquito nets/repellents in the night may not prevent malaria and dengue because these mosquitoes bite during the day time.
  • Wearing full sleeves shirt and trousers can prevent mosquito bites.
  • Mosquito repellent can be of help.
  • If you suspect that you have a fever, which can be malaria or dengue, immediately report to the doctor.

Panchamrit body wash

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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 traditional complete bath prescribed in Vedic literature. It consists of the following:

  • Washing the body with milk and water, where milk acts like a soothing agent.
  • This is followed by 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.

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

Some facts on noise levels

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  • Continuous exposure to sounds above 85 db can cause progressive hearing loss. Anyone exposed to sounds above 85 db of noise requires hearing protection.
  • The special limit for people who are exposed to noise above 90 db is 8 hours, for 95 db is 4 hours and 2 hours for 100 db.
  • A short blast of loud sound also can cause severe to profound sensory neural hearing loss and pain. This usually involves exposure to noise above 120-155 db. Hearing protection in the form of muffins or ear plugs is highly recommended anytime a person is exposed to loud noise.

Prayer for Inner Happiness

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Stress is defined as the physical and mental reaction to the interpretation of a known situation. In absence of a known situation there cannot be a stress. One cannot be stressful for a person who has just died in New York in an accident unless he or she is a known person.

There has to be a right, conscience–based interpretation of the situation as the same situation can bring happiness to one and stress to the other.

The most important consequence of stress, physical or mental, therefore, depends on the right interpretation of the situation.

The interpretation or judgment in the body is governed by chemical reactions and is controlled by the balance of autonomic balance system, which in turn is governed by the interaction of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

During the phase of acute stress, when the sympathetic system is predominant, the heart rate and blood pressure increase and a person cannot take correct and decisive decision.

He or she is likely to make mistakes, which can often be detrimental to living. Sympathetic mode is basically the mode of flight or fight reactions of the body.

Right conscience–based decisions can only be taken in a state of relaxed mind when the intention is inserted in the field of consciousness. The relaxed state of the body is the parasympathetic mode, which is healing and is evident by reduction in heart rate, blood pressure and increase in the skin resistance. Most conscience-based decisions will be based on truthfulness, will be necessary and will bring happiness to both the persons and the surroundings.

The yogic lifestyle by which a person learns the dos and don’ts of living, does regular practice of correct postures, daily pranayama and practices regular withdrawal from the outer atmosphere, helps in preparing a state of physical and mental body state, which is more receptive for conscience-based decisions.

Prayers have no value when the mind is not at rest. All of us have participated in hundreds of mourning prayers with two minutes of silence. This prayer has no value if the two minutes of silence is not observed. If prayer is done without it, the mind will remain restless and we will keep on thinking these two minutes are not over yet.

The process of silence does shift our awareness towards parasympathetic state and temporarily we get to be in contact with the memories of the departed soul and we pay homage to him or her. Today a large number of organizations are teaching the process of meditation but the same cannot be taught unless a person practices procedures by which the mind gets relaxed.

The eight limbs of Patanjali focus in detail about premeditation preparations and once that is learned, one can go to the other three limbs which are Dharna, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Yoga asanas are different from exercises. They stimulate and stretch all or one of the seven charkas, autonomic plexuses, and ganglion and ductless endocrine glands. Also during a yogasana, the mind is in the exercise and not wandering here and there.

Yogic exercises at rest are termed yoga asanas and the same yogic meditative exercises with activity are called traditional Indian dances. Western exercises and dances do not follow the principles of yoga. Many international studies have shown that over one–third of the people during their lifetime pray either for their own illness or for somebody else.

All hospitals should have spirituals areas. The prayer and meditation rooms in a hospital setting invariably will provide an arena which will improve patient-doctor relationship and will reduce the rising disputes amongst them in the country.

Importance of silence

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True silence is the silence between the thoughts and represents the true self, consciousness or the soul. It is a web of energized information ready to take all provided there is a right intent. Meditation is the process of achieving silence. Observing silence is another way of deriving benefits of meditation. Many yogis in the past have recommended and observed silence now and then. Mahatma Gandhi spent one day in silence every week. He believed that abstaining from speaking brought him inner peace and happiness. On all such days he communicated with others only by writing on paper.

Hindu principles also talk about a correlation between mauna (silence) and shanti (harmony). Mauna Ekadashi is a ritual followed traditionally in our country. On this day the person is not supposed to speak at all and observes complete silence all through the day and night. It gives immense peace to the mind and strength to the body. In Jainism, this ritual has a lot of importance. Nimith was a great saint in Jainism who long ago asked all Jains to observe this vrata. Some people recommend that on every ekadashi one should observe silence for few hours, if not the whole day.

In his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra talks in great detail about the importance of observing silence in day to day life. He recommends that everyone should observe silence for 20 minutes every day. Silence helps to redirect our imagination towards self. Even Swami Sivananda in his teachings recommends observation of mauna daily for 2 hours. For ekadashi, take milk and fruits every day, study one chapter of Bhagwad Gita daily, do regular charity and donate one-tenth of your income in the welfare of the society. Ekadashi is the 11th day of Hindu lunar fortnight. It is the day of celebration, occurring twice a month, meant for meditation and increasing soul consciousness.

Vinoba Bhave was a great sage of our country known for his Bhoodaan movement. He was a great advocator and practical preacher of mauna vrata.

Mauna means silence and vrata means vow; hence, mauna vrata means a vow of silence. Mauna was practiced by saints to end enmity and recoup their enmity. Prolonged silence as the form of silence is observed by the rishi munis involved for prolonged periods of silence. Silence is a source of all that exists. Silence is where consciousness dwells. There is no religious tradition that does not talk about silence. It breaks the outward communication and forces a dialogue towards inner communication. This is one reason why all prayers, meditation and worship or any other practice whether we attune our mind to the spiritual consciousness within are done in silence. After the death of a person it is a practice to observe silence for two minutes. The immediate benefit is that it saves a tremendous amount of energy.

Silence is cessation of both sensory and mental activity. It is like having a still mind and listening to the inner mind. Behind this screen of our internal dialogue is the silence of spirit. Meditation is the combination of observing silence and the art of observation.

Tips to prevent water-borne diseases this monsoon:

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  • Drink only filtered/boiled water.
  • Store water in a clean container.
  • Water jars/containers should be washed daily.
  • Always wash hands before and after preparing food and eating. Likewise, children should be educated about the importance of washing their hands effectively and regularly.
  • It is mandatory to wash one’s hands with soaps or use hand sanitizers after using a washroom, changing a childs diaper, or after visiting unclean and infection-prone areas, such as public washrooms, hospitals, etc.
  • Consume warm and home cooked foods and avoid consuming street food.
  • Wash food thoroughly before cooking.
  • Always keep foods/beverages covered.
  • Make sure that the pipes and tanks that supply water to your house are properly maintained and clean.
  • Travelers should only drink bottled water and avoid uncooked food.
  • People suffering from water-borne diseases should not go to work until fully recovered to avoid spreading the infection.
  • Avoid using ice made from tap water.
  • Freezing does not kill the organisms that cause diarrhea. Ice in drinks is not safe unless it has been made from adequately boiled or filtered water.
  • Alcohol does not sterilize water or the ice. Mixed drinks may still be contaminated.
  • Hot tea and coffee are the best alternates to boiled water.
  • Drink only filtered/boiled water.
  • Store water in a clean container.
  • Water jars/containers should be washed daily.
  • Always wash hands before and after preparing food and eating. Likewise, children should be educated about the importance of washing their hands effectively and regularly.
  • It is mandatory to wash one’s hands with soaps or use hand sanitizers after using a washroom, changing a childs diaper, or after visiting unclean and infection-prone areas, such as public washrooms, hospitals, etc.
  • Consume warm and home cooked foods and avoid consuming street food.
  • Wash food thoroughly before cooking.
  • Always keep foods/beverages covered.
  • Make sure that the pipes and tanks that supply water to your house are properly maintained and clean.
  • Travelers should only drink bottled water and avoid uncooked food.
  • People suffering from water-borne diseases should not go to work until fully recovered to avoid spreading the infection.
  • Avoid using ice made from tap water.
  • Freezing does not kill the organisms that cause diarrhea. Ice in drinks is not safe unless it has been made from adequately boiled or filtered water.
  • Alcohol does not sterilize water or the ice. Mixed drinks may still be contaminated.
  • Hot tea and coffee are the best alternates to boiled water.

All about tea

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When we speak of tea, it is commonly assumed to be black tea with milk and sugar. However, the word ‘Tea’ means any herb. This means even hot Tulsi water is Tulsi tea or hot mint water is Mint tea. Many herbs can be converted into tea such as jasmine tea, lemon tea, lemon grass tea, masala tea, sounf tea, etc.

When the decoction of the leaves and the water is reduced to 50% on boiling, it is called Kadha. Black tea without milk and sugar is much healthier than black tea with milk and sugar.

Classical tea without sugar and milk has an astringent taste. But according to Ayurveda, this is good for health as it reduces Kapha imbalance. When sugar and milk are added, both of which have sweet taste, they neutralize the weight reducing and kapha-relieving properties of the black tea. Therefore, milk or sugar should not be added to tea. For the purpose of taste, one can add Gur or jaggery or artificial plant sweetener Stevia.

Black tea is also a mild diuretic and increases urination as it contains caffeine, which is also a stimulant. This is the reason why tea is used to remain awake. In this regard, coffee is stronger than tea. When taken in moderation, black tea is good for the heart and general health. If one has to choose a tea, then jasmine, lemon and lemongrass teas are better.

In Ayurveda, different teas have been prescribed for different personalities. Therefore, you can get vata–pacifying tea, pitta–pacifying tea and kapha–pacifying tea.

Spiritual Prescriptions: Satsang

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Satsang is a common household word and is often held 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 satsangs 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 the 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.

Most uncontrolled asthmatics think they are controlled

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Two-thirds of patients with uncontrolled asthma think their disease is well under control. Asthmatics on proper medicines can not only live a normal life but also reduce their future complications.

Uncontrolled asthmatics invariably end up with right heart complications due to persistent lack of oxygenation in the blood.

Dr. Eric van Ganse, of University of Lyon, France, in a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, examined 1,048 subjects with inadequate asthma control. When asked how they would rate their asthma control over the past 14 days, over 69% considered themselves to be completely or well controlled. Failure to perceive inadequate asthma control was more likely to be found in patients between the ages of 41 and 50 years.

The reasons are:

  • Most asthmatics fail to perceive their level of disease control and with an uncontrolled state they often feel that their asthma is under control.
  • In severe asthma, low blood oxygen levels might impair a person’s ability to assess their own breathing difficulty.
  • The notion of asthma control seems poorly understood by asthmatic patients.

Mild to moderate asthma limits the activities of a person and they, over a period of time, take that as their normal limits.

Do we get a human birth each time we die?

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As per Vedic sciences, Hindu philosophy believes in rebirth unless your Sanchit and Prarabdha Karmas are totally exhausted.

It also believes in liberation wherein once your past karmas debt is over, you do not take a rebirth.

On the other hand, Garuda Purana says that you can take rebirth in animal species, which means you can be born like a donkey or a dog. Vedic science, on the other hand, says that once you get a human body, you will either be liberated or only get another human body.

The message of Garuda Purana can be read and interpreted in a different perspective. In mythology, humans have been linked to animal tendencies. For example, bull is linked to sexual and non–sexual desires, peacock to vanity etc. Probably, people who wrote Garuda Purana meant that if you do not live according to the Shastras, you will end up getting another human body but with animal tendencies and behavior.