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Dr K K Aggarwal

Understanding the Gunas

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The mental state of a person in Vedic language is described in terms of gunas. The present state of mind of any person is a result of mixing of three gunas of nature called tamas, rajas and satoguna. In terms of states of mind, they are called tamas, rajas and satva and the nature of a person is described as tamsik, rajsik and satwik.

Whether it is Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagawad Gita or the text of Ayurveda, all talk about these gunas. The sankhya philosophy also says that a mixture of the three makes the cosmic mind as well as the human mind. Bhagawad Gita talks in great detail about the nature, yagna as well as diet depending upon these gunas.

A satwik diet enhances satoguna in a person and makes him/her with a predominant satwik nature. The same is true for the other two gunas. According to Ayurvedic texts and in Atharvaveda. Any food that comes from the roots or underground part of the tree, is tamsik in nature. Tamsik foods should not be eaten raw. They should either be slow cooked or soaked in water for hours before consumption.

Foods which are from the top part of the tree like coconut, fruits, leaves and flowers are satwik in nature and can be consumed fresh, as they are. Food which comes from the middle part of the tree is often rajsik in nature.

Fresh, soaked, sprouted, natural food are often satwik, while left over foods are tamsik in nature. Most satwik foods are naturally white.

Ramayana also has characters with different nature. Kumbhakaran represents a person with tamsik nature, Meghnad and Ravana with rajsik nature and Vibhishan with satwik nature. One can see that the diet of Kumbhakaran was left over foods, onions, radish, carrots and non vegetarian food, all are tamas producing.

Shastras also teach us about satwik food. In Vedic knowledge, God is represented by the consciousness and whatever is offered to God is the one, which is offered to consciousness and hence all offerings to God are soul healing and soul nurturing food items. Only satwik foods are offered to God as one can live on satwik food forever. Examples are dry fruits, fruits and milk. One cannot live on rajsik or tamsik food hence, they have to be taken in moderation only.

The offerings to God include honey, milk, curd, fruits and vegetables, etc. Panchamrit, offered in Puja, a mixture of milk, curd, ghee, honey and sugar, is a classic example.

Yogashastra also talks about the role of satwik diet in great detail. It says people who eat less are yogis, people who eat in moderation are bhogis and people who eat a lot are rogis. The synonymous are tamsik for rogis, rajsik for bhogis and satwik for yogis.

In terms of proper diet, one should eat dinner lighter than lunch, eat only natural food in the night and follow the principles of moderation and variety.

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

Makar Sankranti: Uttarayana: The Medical Importance

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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An extremely auspicious day, Lohri marks the sun’s entry in to the ‘Makar Rashi’.  The next day after lohri is Makar Sankranti. One can remember lohri as the end of winter and Makar Sankranti as the first day of summer.

The word Sankranti means “change of direction” and the sun changes its direction north wards on the day of Makar Sankranti.

The period, beginning from 14 January (Makar Sankranti) lasting till 14 July, is known as Uttarayana (“Uttar” North and “ayan” movement towards).  It is also the last day of the month of Maargazhi, which is the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The Bhagawad Gita deems it as an extremely sacred and auspicious time when Lord Krishna manifests himself most tangibly.  Bhishma Pitamah in Mahabharata also waited for this period (not day) to relieve his body.  Uttarayana is considered to be the holiest half of the year. In Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says, “I am Uttarayana among the Ayanas.”

In chapter 8 shloka 24 Lord Krishna has said “Those who know the Supreme Brahman attain that Supreme by passing away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment of the day, during the fortnight of the waxing moon, or during the six months when the sun travels in the north.”

The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year (peak winter), Paush, and announcing the start of the month of Magh.

As per the “Puranas” Dakshinayana (The other six month period) is the night of the deities whereas Uttarayana is their day. It’s the time to take a dip in the Ganges at sun rise and at sunset and say good bye to winter foods.

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

Should doctors detach themselves?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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In dealing with patients, the traditional Patient–Doctor relationship model has been that doctor should remain cool, calm and collected at all times. The doctor’s approach needs to be strictly scientific, logical, objective, methodical precise and dispassionate. This has been the model since the era of William Osler, the father of modern medicine. The term used is imperturbability, which means coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances. Osler said a rare and precious gift to doctor is right of detachment. The right of detachment insulates doctors and protects them from powerful emotions that patients display in their presence like anger, frustration, grief, rage and bewilderment. It also insulates patients from the rolling emotions that doctors may at times feel towards them. However, a detached attitude also insulates doctors from empathizing with patients. A detached doctor may talk in a language that is over patient’s head. Detachment is not like a light switch that you can turn on and off to suit the situation. Detachment as a practice cannot be in isolation if it becomes your personal style of distracting from the world, it may not be just for the patients but also from your colleague, family friends and even yourself. I recall when I joined by hospital, the first lesson given to me by my boss was not to get unduly attached with patients. As part of etiquettes, we were taught not to socialize with patients. Even today the new American Guidelines talk that doctors should not socialize with their patients on social media including Facebook. Even doctors are human beings and their personal life should not be known to the patients. As far as lawsuits are concerned, it is equally true that known patients file a lawsuit much more than unknown people because over a period of time they know your weakness. One should learn to empathize with the patients and yet be detached from its results. Doctors who follow Bhagawad Gita understand this concept very well.