Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

Ideas and Action for a Better India

‘Health and Happiness in the 21st Century: Re-learning the Indian Way’

A talk by

Dr. H. R. Nagendra


Vice-Chancellor of SVYASA

(Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samasthana University)


President of the Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, Bangalore


‘Health and Happiness in the 21st Century:

Re-learning the Indian Way’


Saturday, 3rd July 2010



Left to right: Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman ORF Mumbai, Dr.Nagendra Vice Chancellor S-VYASA, Mrs.Kavita Khanna, Chief Guest

On 3rd July 2010, the Centre for the Study of Indian Knowledge Traditions, an ini-tiative of ORF Mumbai, played host to an intellectual and spiritual guru, Dr. H.R.Nagendra, who in his four decades of exemplary service has effortlessly embraced the worlds of science and spiritualism, challenging the widely held assumption that science is antithetical to spirituality. The chief guest for the evening was Mrs.Kavita Khanna a social activist in the field of health, a lawyer, a corporate leader and a practitioner of the Art of Living movement popularised by Shri Shri Ravishankar.

The event began with a short film on the life and work of Dr. Nagendra, fondly referred to as Guruji by his followers, spanning his remarkable journey from NASA to VYASA. The ensuing joyous and spontaneous yogic dance of Dr. Bhagwati Dadhich, the 71 year old chairperson of the Mumbai chapter of the Stop Dia-betes campaign run by S-Vyasa, to the calming tune of Mul Mantra (Ek Onkar Satnam) and then to Pt Ravi Shankar’s melodious sitar, enthralled the audience.

Dr. Nagendra started his talk by referring to the World Health Organization’s definition of health as a “state of mental, physical, social and economic well being” and “not as the mere absence of disease”.

Physics has made us understand the physical world in all its dimensions, but we need to proceed further from the gross to the subtle, beyond the physical world into the world of consciousness, said Dr.Nagendra. The time has come for us to progress further from the matter‐based to a consciousness based approach where we unravel the mysteries of life, mind, intellect, ego and consciousness in general. This is the key to health and happiness in the 21st century, he explained.

According to Dr. Nagendra, the principles of modern medicine and surgery, as of physics, are based on a deterministic world‐vision. The study of the human being starts with the understanding of DNA and RNA molecules as the fundamental entities of life and proceeds to the systemic study of genes, cells, tissues, and human anatomy. On the basis of the understanding of the functions of these systems and organs, the physiology is developed based on this world view. By this approach, dealing with the gross ailments like bacterial infection and contagious diseases with medicines has, no doubt, made possible the eradication of these diseases saving millions of lives. Similarly, the germ theory and the vaccines were most effective in preventing many epidemic diseases.

 Modern medicine has also devised 5000 different surgical procedures which are highly useful. But the cure is seldom holistic. Dealing with man as a machine by either repairing or replacing his organs through complex surgical operations has no doubt made possible the heart transplant, kidney transplant, etc., but there are no solutions to the modern stress-related disorders. Stress is an unchallenged hazard of modern living, which is at the base of most of the modern ills in society. Lifestyle diseases like diabetes, psychoso-matic and psychiatric problems, which are on the rise in the modern world, have started posing far greater challenges to medical research. That modern medical science is essentially uni-dimensional and physical, while the challenge facing us is multi‐dimensional and multi-layered has come home to its practi-tioners.

There are no complete solutions in modern medicine. Treatment of one disease leads to another and a host of other problems. The dependency on tablets becomes more and more.

Another crisis facing the world healing is the escalating costs of treatment in tertiary hospitals. There are high costs of medical care ‐ more often resulting in extensive diagnostic procedures, medication, surgery and hospitalization. With Yoga therapy, one is paying for the yoga treatment only, not for additional diag-nostic or for the usage of other types of equipment. Many times a natural healer or yoga therapist can observe the nadis, breath and other vital signs without any external aids. It makes economic sense to en-courage patients to seek a more cost effective route which could save medical budgets of billions of dol-lars annually.

It is here that traditional, complimentary and alternate systems of healthcare are being adopted by large number of patients suffering from these diseases. And National Institute of Health, (NIH) USA and WHO have opened their doors to these ancient systems. India’s traditional healing systems of Ayurveda Yoga, Siddha, Unani, provide solutions that are comprehensive and effective in maintaining health and treating diseases.

Dr. Nagendra, addressing the audience at Observer Research Foundation Mumbai, said that the limiting concept of man as the physical body has lead to all of the limitations of Western science, whether that science be medical or social. Herein lies the unique, all encompassing nature of the science of Yoga. Yogic wisdom can rid man from his multitude of ailments, an ambition that modern science still lacks the under-standing and broadness of vision to achieve. The understanding of the body-mind-intellect construct holis-tically is essential for physical health and wellness as well as for man’s ‘inward’ journey of being one with the cosmic consciousness. The time has come for us to progress further from the matter‐based to a con‐sciousness-based approach where we unravel the mysteries of life, mind, intellect, ego and consciousness in general. This is the key to health and happiness in the 21st century Dr.Nagendra reiterated.

Derived from the verbal root Yuj, the term yoga means joining; joining our small individual personality with the all pervasive cosmic personality; raising us from an animalistic level to the highest levels of per-fection, featured by total freedom, knowledge and bliss as shown below. By using this knowledge base called as consciousness‐based approach, a new global era of spirituality (as science) and yoga (as technol‐ogy) will emerge to solve the basic problems of the modern era. Systematic, scientific research is the ap-proach for the acceptance and adoption of yoga, worldwide. Yoga therapy is a cost effective drugless ther-apy. Many diseases have been treated throughout the world and more research is being explored with the help of WHO and NIH.

Ancient sages have explored the depths of our being, and given us the knowledge of the Pancha Kosha (five sheaths), that addresses every level of a human being.

Pancha Kosha comprises:

1. The physical gross body is the Annamaya Kosha.

2. The energy sheath surrounding the physical body is the Pranamaya Kosha.

3. The mental sheath is the Manomaya Kosha.

4. The sheath of intellect or the super conscious mind is the Vijnyanamaya Kosha.

5. The cosmic consciousness is the Anandamaya Kosha.

Dr.Nagendra explained that diseases start in the Manomaya kosa as Adhi and percolate down to the Annamaya Kosha becoming Vyadhi. Unless the root cause is removed these ailments cannot be cured. Diseases are of two types. Anadhija Vyadhi is the name given to injuries, infection and toxins. Here the ailments are at a body level and therefore the treatment can be at the body level too, in the form of medicines, surgery or mantra. Stress leads to ‘Adhi’. Adhija Vyadhi is the name given to stress borne diseases. Stress plays havoc with the immune system; in the case of diabetes, stress inhibits the pro-duction of insulin while in the case of cancer stress allows the uninhibited growth of cells. Therefore Adhija Vyadhis cannot be cured by medicines. Here, the yoga therapy alone will help as it works at the level of the intellect and not just at the physical level. The integrated approach of yoga therapy works at all the levels to solve the Vyadhis completely. Without losing all the advantages of the modern medi-cal system, this method works as an effective adjunct to the modern medical system.

The science and art of Yoga needs to be revived on a large scale not only for its preventive and curative role in healthcare but in the field of education for unraveling the hidden potentials of human beings, for management in the corporate sector, for sports, music, dance and rehabilitation of delinquents.

 S-VYASA has signed MOUs with the following universities, to name a few:

  • H. Lee Moffitt Cancer center & Research Institute, Tampa, USA
  • KWA Kuratorium Wohnen Im Alter gAG, Munich (Herein referred to as KWA)
  • Andaman & Nicobar Administration.
  • Central Michigan University, USA.
  • Japan Vivekánanda Yoga Kendra, Yonago, Japan.
  • The University of Texas M D Anderson Cancer Center, USA.

 Dr. Nagendra also talked about the Stop Diabetes national campaign run by S-VYASA. The objec-tive of this initiative is to adopt this great contribution of Yoga to reverse the growing trend of Diabe-tes in the country to prevent India becoming the Diabetes capital of the world and go down in its pres-ence in the world spectrum on the other side. The world is taking advantage of the popularity of Yoga by large scale adoption of the total approach of Yoga, with this modern pandemic. That would be a great contribution of India to world. Initially programs are running at 10 selected cities such as Banga-lore, Delhi, Dharwad, Mumbai, Hindupur, Kolkata, Balasore, Lucknow or any cities decided by the Min-istry of Health and Family Welfare, Dept. of AYUSH, Government of India, New Delhi.

After Dr.Nagendra’s talk, Mrs Kavita Khanna, chief guest, spoke of her role, as the Director of the In-ternational Association of Human Values, in initiatives such as conflict resolution, disaster and trauma relief, prisoner rehabilitation programs, youth leadership, women’s empowerment, campaigns against female feticide and child labor, and education for all. The Association is working in poor rural commu-nities to promote sustainable growth, and has reached more than 30,000 villages.


Dr.Nagendra is the Vice Chancellor of S‐VYASA University and the inspiration and the guiding force behind the VYASA movement. After a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from In-dian Institute of Science, Bangalore, he served as faculty in Department of Mechanical Engi-neering. He then went to Canada as Post Doctoral Research Fellow in the University of British Columbia. From here, he went to NASA Marshall Space Flight Centre, USA as Post‐ Doctoral Research Associate in 1971 and to Engineering Science Laboratory, Harvard University, USA as a Consultant in 1972. He served as visiting faculty at Imperial College of Science and Tech-nology, London later. In 1975, he joined Vivekananda Kendra, a service mission, as a whole‐time worker. Between 1975 and 1993, he served at the Vivekanand Kendra, Kanyakumari in various capacities. Between 1993 and 2000, he was the Kendra’s All India Vice‐President. From 1986 to the present, he is the Secretary of Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Founda-tion, Bangalore and the Director of Indian Yoga Institute, Prashanti Kutiram. He has published 30 Research Papers in Engineering and 60 papers on Yoga. He has authored and co-authored 35 books on Yoga.

Kavita Khanna is a graduate of London School of Economics, U.K. She is a barris-ter of Law from U.K. Kavita is also a keen sportswoman and was a state swimming cham-pion at the age of eight. She is a health activist and works for the cause of eradication of Kala Azar or sand fly disease which affects the poorest of the poor. She is holding Board level positions in several corporate entities in India and has held been associated with in-dustry associations such as Assocham and CII in an official capacity. Kavita is a member of Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Executive. She has recently been appointed the Di-rector of the International Association for Human Values a humanitarian NGO estab-lished by Shri Shri Ravi Shankar that advances human values in political, economic, in-dustrial, and social spheres in India, South Africa, and Latin America.

ORF observations on Healthcare and AYUSH Sector in India: As part of the welcome address, Radha Viswanathan, ORF Fellow, placed before the audience, facts and figures from the report of the Task Force on Medical Education for the National Rural Health Mission, that necessitate the dissemi-nation of Yoga as a cost-effective and drug-free therapy on a country wide scale, to enable India to move towards ‘Health for All’.

India has 17% of the world’s population and shoulders 20% of the world’s disease burden. There are 2.5m child and 2.5m adult deaths in a year from communicable diseases like tuberculosis, HIV, diar-rhea, acute respiratory illnesses and leprosy. But, public health expenditure barely reached 17% of the total health expenditure (i.e. 0.9% of GDP or Rs. 220 per capita); and the more regressive fact is that 68.8% of the total health expenditure was ‘out-of-pocket’ expenditure (OOP). More worrisome is the fact that the public sector services have a very small, and shrinking base, in the national health system. The private sector is significantly more expensive than public health services and have shown a trend towards high-cost, high-tech procedures and regimens.

Some startling conclusions of the extent of financial catastrophes on account of illnesses are:

  • an Indian who is hospitalized spends more than 50% of his annual income on health; 24% of those hospitalized fall below the poverty line as a result of the financial blow;
  • out-of-pocket expenses can push 2.2% of the population below the poverty line in a year.


The 11th Five Year Plan Working Group on AYUSH has proposed some change in priorities and schemes for improving AYUSH Education, Standardization and Quality Control of AYUSH drugs, Re-search & Development, Medicinal Plants, Mainstreaming of AYUSH. It proposed scaling up plan provi-sion for Department of AYUSH from Rs.1057.26 crore (actual expenditure of first four years of the 10th Plan and B.E. of 2006 – 2007) to Rs.2473.45 crore in 11th Plan. This is a fraction of what was invested in allopathic medicine in 2009-2010, alone is Rs 14050 crores!

Under these circumstances, the neglect of AYUSH as holistic and relatively low cost health care systems by the government is baffling. If indeed the health of the Indians is of any concern, there is no way the government can treat the Indian systems of medicine as they are treating now. There are lots of misin-formation and misconceptions about Ayurveda. We cannot afford to have the kind of misconceptions we have about these medical systems, which have sustained our civilization fairly well and healthily for over 5000 years. It is becoming very apparent that allopathy cannot handle the health problems alone. It is time the AYUSH systems take their rightful place among the healing systems of this nation. Despite statements of intent to the contrary, the AYUSH sector remains neglected in terms of government funding for infrastructure.

The event was brought to a close with a vote of thanks by Varsha Raj, Fellow, ORF Mumbai.

This newsworthy and relevant poster on Swami Vivekananda’s comments on the need for physical preparedness

Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

Babubhai Chinai Marg, Mumbai 400020

022– 61313800


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This entry was posted on 03/07/2010 by in Culture, Public Health.
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