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Dr K K Aggarwal

Ganesha, the Stress Management Guru

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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If Lord Krishna was the first counselor who taught the principles of counseling, Lord Ganesha taught us the principles of stress management.

We should worship Lord Ganesha and become like him in the face of any difficulty or are stressed out.

The elephant head of Lord Ganesha signifies that in the face of a difficulty, we must use our wisdom, intelligence and think differently. We can think of it as the Third Eye of Lord Shiva. Elephant is considered the most intelligent animal. Wisdom, here, signifies thinking before speaking. Lord Buddha also said that we must not speak unless it is necessary and is truthful and kind.

The big elephant ears of Lord Ganesha signify that we must listen to everybody when in difficulty. Elephant’s ears can hear long distances. Elephant’s eye can see a long distance.In mythological terms, it symbolizes that we must acquire the quality of foreseeing when in difficulty. The mouth of Lord Ganesha represents speaking less (and listening more).

The huge tummy of Lord Ganesha symbolizes digesting all information gathered by listening to people in difficulty. The trunk is a symbol of using the power of discrimination to decide from the retained information. It is also a symbol of doing both small and big things by yourself. The elephant’s trunk is capable of picking up a needle as well as a tree.

The teeth, broken and unbroken, signify that we must be in a state of balance, both in loss and in gain. One should not get upset if a task is not accomplished and also not get excited if the task is accomplished. Ganesha also teaches us that we must not lose strength and control our attachments, desires and greed.

The four arms of Lord Ganesha are a symbol of strength. Ropes in two hands symbolize attachment; Laddoo or Sweet in one hand symbolizes desires while the mouse represents greed. Riding over the mouse signifies controlling one’s greed.

Lord Ganesha is worshipped when we are about to start a new work or when we are finding it difficult to complete a task. In both the situations, these principles of Lord Ganesha need to be inculcated in one’s habits.

The lips of truth shall be recognized forever

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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This is a sutra from Bible which has a deep significance in day-to-day life. Truth lasts forever and always ends up in internal happiness and self-realization. In the long-term, it provides happiness. A lie, on the other hand, provides momentary pleasure but will eventually lead to some difficulty later in life.

Spoken words cannot come back, just likean arrow released from the bow. One cannot get back his youth or respect, once lost. Likewise, spoken words cannot be taken back and bad words, once spoken, will continue to create negative waves in the other person, to whom they were spoken.They will persist as repressed thoughts or memory in the other person’s mind forever. Such bad memories keep on coming back in the person’s mind causing damage to the personal relationships.

A spoken word is a karmic expression. For every karmic action there is an opposite and equal reaction. For every negative karmic action, one has to pay the debt, either now or in future. According to the law of karma, every debt has to be paid.

One must avoid using negative language, both in spoken words as well as in the mind. The yoga sutras of Patanjali describe thinking, speaking or doing anything wrong as having the same karmic significance. We should not only purify ourselves in actions and spoken words but also in the mind. If a person has negative thoughts in the mind, the same will be reflected to the outside world.

The momentary pleasure which one gets by lying has no spiritual significance; it only satisfies the person’s ego or makes him attached to any of the five senses. The transient pleasure that the body experiences stimulates a cascade of reactions, including action, memory and desire, resulting in action again, which will eventually heighten greed and attachments. In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna gave two examples, which work as an exception to such a situation. Any truth, which may be harmful to others, may not be spoken and any lie which does not harm anyone but benefits a few may be spoken.

Truth is the opposite of doubt. It is always better to clear all the doubts from the mind as any repressed doubts can lead to heart attack, paralysis and cancer.

Truth also signifies taking consciousness-based decisions as the consciousness never lies. While taking any decision one should always ask oneself— Is it the truth? Is it necessary? And will it bring happiness to me and the people around?

Lord Krishna has also been described as “Satchitanand”, which indicates qualities of truthfulness, consciousness-based decisions and internal happiness. Truthfulness has to be practiced over a period of time and made a part of one’s daily life.

Panchamrit body wash

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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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 taken by the human body. Panchamrit bath is the original and traditionally full bath prescribed in Vedic literature. It consists of the following:

  • Washing the body with milk and water.Milk acts as a soothing agent.
  • Washing the body with curd, which acts as a substitute for soap and washes away the dirt from the skin.
  • Then, washing the body with desi ghee, which is akin to oil massage.
  • This is followed by washing the body with honey, which acts like a moisturizer.
  • Last step is to rub the skin with sugar or khand. Sugar works as a scrub.

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

Express gratitude

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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  • Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what we have.
  • Appreciate the roof over your head, the good health you have, people you have in your life who care about you.
  • Set aside a few minutes every day and think about five things you’re grateful for, whether big or small. Write them down.
  • Be specific and remember what each thing means to you.

Should doctors be detached in dealing with their patients?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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When dealing with patients, the traditional Patient-Doctor relationship model states that the doctor should remain cool, calm and collected at all times.

The doctor’s approach must be strictly scientific, logical, objective, methodical, precise and dispassionate. This has been the model since the times of William Osler, the father of modern medicine. Imperturbability is the term used, which means coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances.

According to Osler, a rare and precious gift to doctor is the right of detachment. This right protects the doctors from powerful emotions that patients display in their presence, such as anger, frustration, grief, and rage. Additionally, it protects patients from the rolling emotions that doctors may feel towards them.

A detached attitude also shields doctors from empathizing with patients. A detached doctor may talk in a language that goes over the patient’s head.

Detachment is not like a light switch being turned on and off to suit the situation. Detachment as a practice cannot be in isolation if it becomes one’s personal style of distracting from the world.

One must  learn to empathize with the patients and yet be detached from its results. Doctors who follow Bhagawad Gita can understand the concept well.

There is a ritual of offering food to God before eating

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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This is a Vedic reminder to oneself that one should eat only those foods that are offered to God. Each time you offer food to God, it is a reminder to you to change your decision and choices. For example, alcohol, tobacco, onion, garlic, radish, etc., are not offered to God. If they are part of your food, there are chances that you will not consume these food items, if you observe this ritual.

Cheating is permitted one day out of the 21 meals in a week. Over a period of time, people have stopped following this ritual and now eat some foods which cannot be offered to God in all their 21 meals. This is the reason why the incidence of lifestyle diseases is increasing in the community.

Forgetfulness and Age

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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As we cross the age of 40, most of us develop minimal cognitive impairment and a memory loss of very recent events or objects. This is age-related and should not be considered as dementia.

This can also be seen in patients who are vegetarians and have vitamin B12 deficiency. People often experience difficulty in naming objects and remember names of the people.

Just as a computer hangs when multi-tasking, so can the human mind. While handling multiple projects at the same time, one may experience thought blocks, which is natural. It is not a sign of a disease.

When we introduce ourselves to a new person, we often tell them our name first. It is possible by the time you finish your conversation, the person may forget your name. Therefore, one should either introduce himself at the end of the conversation or introduce oneself both times, i.e., at the start and at the end of the conversation.

Some people introduce themselves before the conversation and hand over their visiting card at the end of a conversation. This is also taught in how to market yourself.

As a medical doctor, quite often we face these difficulties. Unless full information is given to us by patient on phone, mistakes may occur, especially, if it is a phone consultation.

You see people the same way as you are

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Honest people see everybody as honest and dishonest people see everybody as dishonest. It all depends on the type of people you interact with. If you do not take bribe, nobody will come and offer bribe to you and you will feel that everybody is honest. However, if you take bribe, then everybody will come to you to offer bribe and you will feel that everybody in the society is dishonest.

Never judge people with your personal experience. Once, a doctor said that every doctor takes and gives bribe because he was running an imaging center and every doctor who approached him asked for a bribe. But he did not take into consideration the doctors who did not approach him.

The spiritual meaning of the word ‘Artha’

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are the four fundamental principles of our very existence which means earning righteously with a desire to fulfil the inner happiness.

Righteous earning is called ‘Artha’ and mistakenly it has been linked to materialistic money. In mythology, Artha is synonymous with Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kali where Lakshmi represents righteously earned materialistic wealth, Saraswati represents wealth of knowledge and Kali represents wealth of wisdom to fight the bad in you and in the society.

In any country, it is the wealth of knowledge, which is more important. India was ruled initially by warriors (Kali), later by money (Lakshmi) and in future will be ruled by knowledge (Saraswati).

It is the human resources, which today decide the growth of a company and the amount of money invested. If you have good human resources, your company is going to succeed.

Persist in your efforts and you will be successful

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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All success stories are stories of great failures. The key is that every time they failed, they bounced back. This is termed as failing forward, rather than backward. You learn and move forward. Learn from your failure and keep moving.

The third avatar of Vishnu, the boar, signifies the same. The answer is persistence in your objectives.

Here are a few quotes and success stories:

  • “So never mind these failures, these little backslidings; hold the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more. The ideal of man is to see God in everything”.  II.152 (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda)
  • “It is in the nature of things that many should fall, that troubles should come, that tremendous difficulties should arise, that selfishness and all other devils in the human heart should struggle hard, when they are about to be driven out by the fire of spirituality. The road to good is the roughest and the steepest in the universe. It is a wonder that so many succeed; no wonder that so many fall. Character has to be established through a thousand stumbles”.  VIII.383 (C W of SV)
  • “Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny”.  II.225 (CW of SV).
  • “Successful people don’t do great things, they only do small things in a great way”
  • “One day a partially deaf four year old kid came home with a note in his pocket from his teacher, “Your Tommy is too stupid to learn, get him out of the school.” His mother read the note and answered, “My Tommy is not stupid to learn, I will teach him myself.” And that Tommy grew up to be the great Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison had only three months of formal schooling and he was partially deaf”.
  • “Henry Ford forgot to put the reverse gear in the first car he made”.
  • “Thomas Edison failed approximately 10,000 times while he was working on the light bulb”
  • “Henry Ford was broke at the age of 40”.
  • “Lee Iacocca was fired by Henry Ford II at the age of 54”.
  • “Young Beethoven was told that he had no talent for music, but he gave some of the best music to the world”

(With inputs from Dr Vivek Chhabra and Ravi Ponangi)

Think Differently

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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There are three ways to manage stress. One is to think opposite, while the second is to think different and the third is to think positive.

Thinking opposite has been advocated by Patanjali, thinking differently by Adi Shankaracharya and thinking positive by Gautam Buddha. Out of the three approaches, the Indian Vedic philosophy focuses on thinking differently. Thinking positive and thinking opposite may not be feasible at the time of an adversity.

Thinking differently has been emphasized in mythology at multiple places. The 10 heads of Ravana, five heads of Brahma, elephant head of Lord Ganesha, fish incarnation of Lord Vishnu and third eye of Lord Shiva, all remind us of the principle of thinking differently.

We can see or analyze a person or a situation with the eyes of our physical body (physical eye) or eyes of the mind (thinking and analyzing) and eyes of the soul (consciousness-based decision).

Lord Buddha said that a good action should be based on truth, should be necessary and bring happiness both for the person doing it and the society.

The 3H principle advocated in the West is also based on the same principle, which means before any action, think from your Head and from the multiple options available, choose from the Heart and then order the Hands to do the job.

The first incarnation of Lord Vishnu, fish, indicates the capacity of swimming against the stream. The third eye of Lord Shiva symbolizes thinking from the mind and choosing the right answer from the heart. The 10 heads of Ravana and five heads of Brahma also denote thinking to get multiple options.

The example of thinking differently comes from the dialogue between Urvashi and Arjuna. Once Urvashi, in a mind full of Kama, went to Arjuna and said “If you are not going give me a son like you today, I am going to curse you”.

Arjuna was in a dilemma but he thought differently and said – “Why do you want to wait for 25 years to get a son like me; from today I am your son, Mother.”

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

Meditation can change genes

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The Amarnath cave was chosen by Lord Shiva to narrate the secrets of meditation, immortality and creation of Universe to Parvati.

A spiritual journey requires a spiritual frame of mind and a commitment of 7-10 days for self-purification. Most spiritual destinations are located high up in the mountains to provide a pollution free environment and involve a difficult travel so that nobody can reach the destination before 7-10 days. This duration helps in controlling the mind, intellect, ego and getting rid of the desires, attachments and greed. On the path of spiritual journey as one is travelling alone without carrying the worldly attachments, one invariably reaches the destination in a positive state of mind and in a meditative phase to experience the truth of life and answers to unanswered questions.

The Amarnath Story

Once Parvati asked Shiva to let her know why and when he started wearing the beads of heads (Mund Mala). Shiva said whenever you are born I add one more head in my beads. Parvati said,” My Lord, my body is destroyed every time and I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please let me know the secret of this.” Shiva replied that it is due to Amar Katha.”

Spiritual Significance

The spiritual significance of the above is, that here Shiva represents the Soul and Parvati the Body. The soul never dies and is immortal. The soul is the energized filed of information and in computer language is like the web of energized information. Every time any work is done (sanskara), a copy of the same is kept in the memory in both the soul and the spirit.

The further part of the story is the katha or the process of doing meditation and its benefits.

The story

“Parvati insisted on being told the secret. For long Shiva continued postponing.  Finally on consistent demand, he made up his mind to tell the immortal secret. He started for a lonely place where no living being could listen to it. He chose Amarnath Cave.”

Spiritual Significance

The first principle of learning how to meditate is dedication and persistence. Second is silence or a place with no internal and external disturbance. In ashtanga yoga, it is called Pratyahara (the withdrawal of senses).

The story

“Shiva left His Nandi (The Bull) at Pahalgam or Bail Gaon; his moon from his hair (jata) at Chandanwari; his snake at the banks of Lake Sheshnag; his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Hill) and his five elements at Panjtarni.

As a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world, Shiva and Parvati did Tandav dance. After leaving behind all these, Shiva enters the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati. Lord Shiva takes his Samadhi on the Deer Skin and concentrate.”

Spiritual Significance

In the process of meditation, one first gets rid of desires (Bull Nandi or the mind), discriminating, expectations and power of analyzing thoughts (moon or the intellect) and ego (snake). Once that is done, one is away from the worldly desires totally (Ganesh and finally the five elements). Now the body is in symphony with the soul (Tandava dance).

The story

“To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale, Shiva created Rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to spread fire to eliminate every living thing in and around the Holy Cave. After this, He started narrating the secret of immortality to Parvati. But as a matter of chance one egg which was lying beneath the Deer skin remained protected. It is believed to be non-living and more over it was protected by Shiva-Parvati Asan (Bed). The pair of pigeons which were born out of this egg became immortal having listened to the secret of immortality (Amar Katha).”

Spiritual Significance

It again signifies the importance of undisturbed state of mind at the time of meditation. Fire indicates the internally meditation generated spiritual fire or agni which burns all the negative thoughts and negative energies. The egg of the pigeon indicates that spiritual knowledge can transform at the level DNA. It also tells us that those who are sitting near the meditating person also get benefitted.

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

Top Characters of Mahabharata

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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To be in harmony with the body (five elements represented by Draupadi), one must acquire five qualities or in other terms, live a focused life, full of strength and not being disturbed with loss or gain and finally working for the welfare of the society without having any partiality towards anyone.

  • Balanced mind: Yudhishthir (“sthir” or balanced in “yudh” or disturbed state of mind)
  • Focused vision (Arjuna)
  • Using internal power or strength (Bhima)
  • Not being partial or remaining neutral (Nakul)
  • Working for the welfare of the society (Sahdev)

With this, one can kill 100 negative qualities that a person can have (the 100 Kauravs). The hundred negative qualities are acquired because of cunningness (Shakuni), not working with the eyes of the soul (Dhritarashtra) and keeping a blind eye to any wrong happening (Gandhari).

The main negative qualities are taking decisions in daily life situations (Duryodhana: dusht in yudha or war) and choosing wrong choices as a ruler (dusshasana: dusht and shasan).

The positive qualities, once acquired, will also win over other negative qualities like blind faith or undue attachments (Bhishma pitamaha); unrighteous loyalty (Dronacharya) and unrighteous ego (Karna).

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

Vedic principles behind cognitive behavior therapy

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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1) What is counseling?

A: The mental process involves generation of a thought or idea, which is analyzed and then acted upon. Thought, analysis and action, are the three processes of human mind. Counseling encompasses actions at all the three levels.

2) What are different types of counseling?

A: Counseling involves two principles – Cognitive counseling and behavioral counseling. Behavioral counselling focuses only on the actions, while cognitive counselling focuses on the changes in either the thought process or in the interpretation of the thought process.

3) What is cognitive behavior therapy?

A: As opposed to pure behavior therapy where a person is counseled to do pre-defined things at regular intervals, cognitive behavior therapy is aimed at changing the actions by altering observations of the interpretation of a particular situation.

4) What is the origin of counseling in India?

A: The origin of counseling dates back to the Vedic era. Upanishads were nothing but text books on counseling based on the original knowledge of Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda and Atharvaveda.

5) Is there a relationship of Bhagavad Gita with counseling?

A: Bhagavad Gita is counseling done by Krishna that aims to resolve the conflict in Arjuna’s mind whether to fight or not. Counseling at that time was done by the elders in the family.

6) Are the principles of Bhagavad Gita followed today?

A: All the principles of cognitive behavior therapy today have their roots in the principles that have originated from Bhagavad Gita.

7) What is the first principle?

A: The first principle is that counseling cannot be done in 1 or 2 sessions. It requires up to 18 sessions which is what Krishna did in Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Gita contains 702 dialogues in the form of Shlokas. A proper counseling involves in-depth conversation between the counselor and the patient.

8) What is the second principle of counseling?

A: The second principle of counseling is to listen to the patient in the first session in great detail. Krishna did the same in Bhagavad Gita. In Chapter 1, only Arjuna speaks and Krishna listens. A patient listening is half the healing done.

9) What is the third principle?

A: The third principle states that the second (first interactive) session between counselor and the patient should be the longest one. Chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita is the gist of Krishna’s counseling.

10) What is the fourth principle?

A: The fourth principle is that after giving a detailed counseling in the second session, the patient is expected to be confused. In start of Chapter 3, Arjuna says to Krishna “I am confused. Sometimes you are talking about one path and other time you are talking about another path. Guide me again.” The third counseling session is the most important where one has to counsel slowly and in great detail.

11) What is the fifth principle?

A: The fifth principle is to give reasoning to the counseling. One should not take the patient for granted. Krishna discusses each and every aspect of life with Arjuna in great detail giving scientific reasoning at every stage.

12) What is the sixth principle?

A: Provide reassurance to the patient repeatedly. During his counseling, Krishna assures Arjuna on multiple occasions to do his job and not to worry. I am with you.

13) What is the seventh principle?

A: The seventh principle involves creating some fear in the patient’s mind. This is what Krishna does while showing his virat swaroop. This especially works in patients of addiction. Some degree of fear with re-assurance from the counselor works well.

14) What is the eight principle?

A: The summing up counseling session should be as long as the second session. Chapter 18 of Bhagavad Gita is as big as Chapter 2 where the whole Bhagavad Gita is summarized again.

15) What are the ingredients of counseling?

A: Counseling involves in-depth knowledge of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. They are greatly described in Dharmashastra, Arthashastra, Kamasutra and Upanishads through various Vedas.

16) What is stress?

A: Stress is the reaction of the body or the mind to the interpretation of any situation.

17) How can stress be managed?

A: Stress can be managed by either changing the response of the body through yogic living, or changing the interpretation by understanding the principles of counseling or changing the reaction by wilful actions.

18) Are different nitis of our scriptures based on counseling?

A: Yes. Vidur Niti was the counseling given by Vidur to Dhritarashtra when he was not sleeping and Chanakya Niti involved how to rule a country. Yoga Vashishtha was the counseling given by Vashishtha to Rama to acquire higher levels of spiritual knowledge.

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

Win Relationships and Not Arguments

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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It is a well-known saying that when you are arguing with a wrong boss, you may win the argument but you may invariably lose the relationship and not argument. Lord Krishna was born after Lord Rama and Krishna taught us when to say ‘sorry’ even if you are not at fault. Never hurt the ego of a person who is under influence of alcohol or boss when he is angry.