The Contemporary Call for Globalization of Ayurveda- Genuine or Fake?

Today it has become fashionable to connect the ancient holistic knowledge system of Ayurveda with the ongoing globalization that is fast changing the face of the world. While it is true that Ayurveda cannot remain unaffected by the sweeping changes taking place in every other field, it is necessary to critically examine the direction of these changes and assess its impact on the system.
ayur1Ayurveda remained as the pre-eminent healing system in the Indian sub-continent through the centuries. Without any serious challenges, little streams of other smaller systems that appeared over the ages were quickly absorbed into Ayurveda’s broader and deeper stream, without any difficulty. However, with the ascendance of modern medicine in the beginning of twentieth century, Ayurveda faced its first major challenge. With the relentless onslaught of reductionist, super-specialized modern medicine on every aspect of this traditional medical system, ’change or perish’ was the only option then before it.
However, over a century a resilient Ayurveda retained its position by adapting many of the standards developed and demanded by modern medicine and its fashions, including commercial marketing of Ayurveda drugs and pharmaceuticals, setting up of educational and research institutions modeled after western medical institutions, use of modern equipment and instruments for diagnosis and tracking the progression of diseases.
Unfortunately and distressingly, in the garb of globalization Ayurveda is today commercialized to a degree that it is unrecognizable from commercialized modern medicine, but for the nature of drugs used for treatment. Instead of promoting genuine Ayurveda, globalized Ayurveda is show-cased to attract gullible medico-tourists. Concerns of the world scientific community about ‘evidenced-based Ayurveda’ are set aside, and no serious attempts are made for scientifically validating the efficacy of Ayurveda treatments. No genuine attempts are made to create awareness in foreign lands and minds about the foundations and strengths of this holistic system of health and healing. The rich possibilities the wealth of knowledge that Ayurveda and other Indian systems of medicine offers for developing novel approaches in Integrative Medicine are not being considered, investigated or promoted. Nor are attempts being made to facilitate its recognition by foreign governments so as to achieve true globalization leading to reforms in education and research in Ayurveda.

ayur2Today the Ayurveda community is obsessed with globalization of Ayurveda, ostensibly for promoting Ayurveda, but in reality promoting only the short-term self interest of the promoters. The ethical and epistemological foundation which distinguishes Ayurveda from other healing systems is completely forgotten. To all who are concerned with promotion of genuine Ayurveda, the mere celebration of Ayurveda, in its current form, appears as false, unethical and hollow.

In order to find a place for Ayurveda in today’s globalized world, the Ayurveda community needs to take several corrective

in India, has to put its own house in order before show-casing it as a medico-tourist attraction to measures. Some of these are easily identified. For instance:

  • Ayurveda in its widest sense, particularly others.
  • ‘Cure-for-all’ Ayurveda-advertisements should be discouraged/ banned.
  • Recognition for genuine Ayurveda and its wise Acharyas and skilled Vaidyas is fundamental to promotion of real Ayurveda.
  • Courses in “Classical Ayurveda” for those who seek to learn Ayurveda in its pure form and integrated courses that draw on such strengths have to be reintroduced or developed.
  • Ayurveda education, by its students, promoters and practitioners, has to be further stream-lined through decentralization and by providing autonomy to reputed institutions to develop their unique strengths.
  • The syllabi for modern medicine need to include inputs from Ayurveda and other traditional Indian systems of medicine – informing students of the need to appreciate holistic and complex systems and their interactions respected in ancient systems of health and healing.
  • Linkage with other traditional systems like Siddha, Tibetan Medicine, Unani and Yoga needs to be explored and furthered.
  • Clinical research in Ayurveda and other Indian systems of medicine should be on holistic, evidence-based treatments and approaches rather than on proving the efficacy of drugs.
  • Ayurveda treatments even in integrated medical projects should not be only drug-based; but based on procedures/protocols prescribed in Ayurveda.
  • Epistemological studies on the classical texts of Ayurveda have to be carried out to expand the knowledge base of Ayurveda, question and refine the clinical approaches and applications.
  • Partnerships with reputed institutions need to be on a much larger scale, remembering and respecting the epistemological foundations of ancient systems of medicine.
  • Promotion of folk medicine parellel to the promotion of Ayurvedha Would be needed to promote growth of decentralized and pluralistic traditional medical systems in the country.
  • Efforts for promotion and propagation of medicinal plants need to be up-scaled.
  • Human resource development in traditional medicines should not be haphazard; it should be systematic and purposeful.
  • Ayurveda has to be promoted within India to gain acceptability as a public health system, as being done in Kerala.
  • Attempts to get recognition for Authentic Ayurveda in other countries can help people outside India to benefit from wealth of wisdom of Ayurveda.
    The purpose of Ayurveda is to facilitate individuals to attain purushartha ; to promote physical and spiritual wellness in individuals; to reinforce the ethical and moral dimensions of life. Dressing up such a rich system with the aid of ‘cosmetics’, disregarding its moral and ethical basis can rob Ayurveda of its immutable core values, values which have stood the test of time. The time has come for Ayurveda community to come out with its own self regulation or code of conduct. Otherwise Ayurveda as a unique healing system will be deeply mangled and the benefits it offers mankind will never be realized.

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