Interview (Part 2) with Dr. Antonio Morandi, MD, Phd
Dr. Antonio Morandi, MD, PhD, was born in Florence, Italy. He studied Medicine and Surgery at the University of Florence, specialized in Neurology and Neuropathology. He then continued as a researcher in Cleveland Ohio, USA working on “Aging changes in neuronal structure and function and synaptosomes and axons”. He returned to Italy to Fida Research Laboratories, Abano Terme in the province of Padua, heading their research laboratory of neuropathology of aging and later the Research and Project Management. He is also an Ayurveda Vaidya (Ayurveda Academy, Pune, India, and Joytinat International College of Ayurveda). He is the President, CEO and Founder of Ayurvedic Point srl (www.ayurvedicpoint.it/), Milan, a leading institution in Italy and Europe for therapy, research and education in Ayurveda.. Dr. Morandi is also Founder President of the Italian Scientific Society for Ayurvedic Medicine (S.S.I.M.A.), an association of medical doctors practicing Ayurveda, which is a founding member of the Italian Permanent Consensus Committee on Non Conventional Medicines. He is also the Ayurveda Project Leader for the European Research Group on Metaphysical Medicine.
In 2003 he was awarded the honorary doctorate, ‘Ayurveda Acharya’ by the Ayurvedic Institute Ashtavaidyan Thaikattu Mooss, Kerala, India. He is also Director and Professor of Ayurveda section at the Post Doctoral specialization course in “Health Sociology and Non Conventional Medicine”, University of Bologna, Italy, and has been called to teach Ayurveda in several Italian and foreign Universities.
Even today, many are there who still believe that Ayurveda is very primitive and not at all a science. What do you think in this regard?
It is being said so just because of ignorance, it is a big mistake that still persists in the Western world. Actually, it is not a mistake, it is a confusion. A confusion between what is culture and what is technology. You may have technology which has culture, but you cannot have technology without culture. And you may have culture alone. But if you confuse the technology with the culture you will have big problems.
For example, suppose you have a television – it is technology. But without culture, you don’t know what to do exactly with that television. And if you have a wrong culture, you will use it wrongly, it will be harmful. So culture is a very basic awareness. You can use any tool both positively and negatively.
It does not mean that one is inferior to other or vice versa. We should have an advanced perspective. See nature, it is not ‘technological’ and we cannot live without it. We need both culture and technology and that which brings a confusion here is the modern man’s ego. Modern man thinks that he can control nature with his technology. He tries to decide what nature should do. It is not the way. We need culture and technology in tune with nature. We need an opening of minds and also a humanitarian approach to bridge both streams, Eastern and Western or Modern and ancient wisdom.
Moreover, Ayurveda is a time- tested health- care science, which had originated since time immemorial and is still alive as it was many thousands of years back.
Besides all these technical advancements, we have a lot many diseases which are still remaining unmanageable.
You know, the basis of disease management is prevention. But in modern bio-medicine, prevention is mistaken with early diagnosis. Prevention is, to have a behavior in such a way that I prevent the diseases with my life-style. The concept of dinacharya in Ayurveda is the basic scientific form of prevention. Medicines
For an analysis or diagnosis, Modern science has its own methodologies and parameters. Is it possible to use the same parameters in the case of Ayurveda?
The parameters in Modern science are limited in some specific areas. For example, we have various sections of science like Botany, Biology,Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology etc., which are all different vast areas. Inside these, we have smaller sub- areas and all these divisions ensure more control over the subjects. Each of these areas are being developed on certain parameters. The funny thing is that nature needs no such divisions. Nature is there as a whole, we have created all such divisions.
We can try to find a new language to solve this question, to develop a new relationship between these different points of view. We can develop new parameters, but with a scientific and systematic approach, because we are trying to analyze a very complex system, nature. To analyze it, we need an all -inclusive methodology, we need a new approach other than the reductionist approach of modern science.
Think of a flock of birds flying, which is a complex system. You cannot ask a single bird where it is flying to or why it is doing so. The single bird is part of the whole and most of its actions depend upon the flock’s movements, which depends on the overall needs of the community. There is a community ‘dharma’ among these birds.
Our body is also like this – a flock of billions of cells with various functions! As the flock of birds get adapted to various situations, the cells in our body also try to be fine-tuned with surroundings. The secret of healing lies in this ability to adapt to various situations.
While prescribing a paracetamol tablet, a modern physician may be able to explain well about the impacts due to the intake of that medicine inside the body. Is this applicable in case of an Ayurvedic physician?
This is not so true. While prescribing a paracetamol, the physician understands it as an analgesic or antipyretic. But this is just one view; along with its expected effects, it bears some side- effects too. That also is a mistaken term: these are not just ‘side- effects’, but ‘other effects’, than what it is intended for.
But the most important thing is that if you analyze paracetamol from an Ayurvedic perspective, you may derive its effects and other effects you may have, even without any animal experiments.
In Italy, in our college- Ayurveda Point- we have one branch of study for the doctors that deals with how to learn to use chemical drugs in an Ayurvedic fashion. They searched for the Guna, rasa, virya, vipaaka, prabhava etc. of a chemical drug, and try to use those as Ayurvedic drugs, even though they are chemicals. As per the principles of Ayurveda, a chemical is also being made up of Panchamahabhutas. Chemicals also should have various own qualities (gunas) like rasa, veerya and vipaka etc. If we think this way, we can understand that anything can be a medicine, if used wisely. You don’t need to throw away chemicals if you have only those with you. You can use it as medicine, but only after knowing all about its gunas (qualities). You have been made up of elements, you can use elements to heal you. If you have nothing other than chemicals, if you want to move forth, you should find a way to use chemicals in a most naturally- optimized fashion.
So what should be the role of Indian Ayurvedic community in this scenario?
Well, what I have to suggest is, what India has to export right now is not herbs or medicines but the logic – the science – to understand and analyze a herb or any such usable substance from an Ayurvedic point of view, in order to find its medicinal values. There are different elements and different combinations. Ayurveda has a specific approach towards elements. It teaches us about the qualities of various substances and also about how to use these qualities. This should be conveyed to the West. This is very important. Because this would spread the original Vedic thinking all over the world. I think the future of Ayurveda lies here – trying to convey it’s all- inclusive, holistic logic in such a way that can be understood by modern medicine without using its reductionist tool. Otherwise they won’t understand it.
Every year I send our students to India to have a direct touch with this approach. It is not only for learning some special techniques. Ashtavaidya Dr. Narayanan Nambi and his family supports us in this regard, and his family is home for us. Actually, we are trying to understand a different way to live in this world with different logic.
Yes, in India, there are Six darshanas (aastika), all explain the same world but with different views and still they stand mutually complementary. It is a very wrong idea that these darshanas are all contradictory to each other, or fighting against each other. Darshanas show us a world which is all -inclusive. Following this wisdom will definitely expand your
What is the current status of Ayurveda practice in your country?
In Italy, As a doctor, I can practice Ayurveda. That means you have to be a medical doctor prior to getting into the practice of Ayurveda. But in case of therapists there are some difficulties. It still is not a recognized profession there, but we are on the way to achieving this. And you won’t get facilities like insurance etc. But the attitude of Italians towards Ayurveda is very positive.
And some companies are here, manufacturing good- quality Ayurvedic medicines with Italian herbs. They follow the Ayurveda logic and they are trying to develop more medicines.
How do you identify the various ‘Ayurvedic’qualities of Italian herbs?
Well, we study about the herbs, try to understand their qualities viz. rasa, veerya, vipaka, karma etc., the Ayurvedic way. Actually, we also have a great legacy of ancient wisdom which was being recorded in ancient texts like ‘Materia Medica’, the most important one, with a lot of commentaries. It was written by the Ancient Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides in the first century AD.
The ancients, both Greeks and Indians, used similar logic for analyzing the properties of plants. Both schools were based on the theory of great elements. So we have those ancient information with us which is very much useful in our latest studies. We are using all available information both ancient and modern, to verify facts, to develop a proper database to move it further, towards an appropriate localization of Ayurvedic wisdom in Italy.
I hope studies like this will continue to happen all over the world, and will bring forth a better, nature-centric healthcare system for the betterment of all mankind.