Vasant Lad Interview by David Crow & Julie Deife

Dr. Lad is the single most influential figure for Ayurveda in the western world. In this video he is interviewed by Floracopeia founder and master herbalist, David Crow.

Sitting Down With Dr. Vasant Lad

Dr. Vasant Lad, M.A.Sc., is one of the world’ foremost experts in Ayurveda. He holds a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery (B.A.M.S.), a Master of Ayurvedic Science (M.A.Sc.) and his academic and practical training includes the study of allopathic medicine (Western Medicine). In the U.S., he is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the Ayurvedic Institute, which he founded in 1984. Julie Deife spoke with him there.

By Julie Deife
Julie: When does the soul enter the fetus?

Dr. Lad: According to some Vedic traditions, right at the time of fertilization. The moment the male seed, the sperm, and female egg, the ovum, meet. It is called kalala and love is the foundation. That is one school of thought. Another school of thought says that when the fertilized egg undergoes mitotic division. And one school of thought says that the moment the heart is formed, and that period is the third to fourth month. These schools of thought are there and they speak that we carry parents’ VPK (vata pitta kapha) factor.

Julie: What determines the child’s VPK?

Dr. Lad: Mother’s VPK factor and father’s VPK factor and their diet, their seasonal changes, their lifestyle and their emotional patterns. If the father has high pitta and the mother has high kapha, then these two factors will unite to create kapha pitta constitution into the baby. But even when parents have three kids, the three kids will be three individuals, three personalities, three prakrutis because time of conception is different, season of conception is different and the parents who are making love at that time, what was the mental status of their mind? That is also taking part in creation of prakruti, which is constitution.

Julie: Do the karmic properties of the parents influence the prakruti of the fetus?

Dr. Lad: Every soul chooses his or her parents through his own karmic factors. That is called Sanchit karma, the accumulated karma within the astral body. We attract such parents who are karmically connected and the parents’ karma also attracts that soul that is karmically connected to them.

Julie: Has the discovery of the structure of DNA influenced Ayurvedic medicine?

Dr. Lad: No. Even vata pitta kapha has qualities, has energies in the RNA/DNA molecules. We carry cellular memory of our parents and grandparents in us. This memory is recorded into the kapha part of the cell. Intelligence is the pitta part and the vital breath the cell is breathing, that is prana, the vata. So even though there is discovery of DNA, it doesn’t effect Ayurvedic principles because Ayurvedic principles of vata pitta kapha are subtler than RNA/DNA molecules.

Julie: How does Ayurveda see depression?

Dr. Lad: Depression is not a disease, it is just a symptom of some underlying doshic imbalance. And Ayurveda looks at depression according to doshic type.

Depression could be treated like vata type, pitta type, kapha type. Ayurveda says that vata is related to fear, anxiety, loneliness and nervousness. Pitta is anger, aggression, competitiveness and violence. And kapha is rather slow, sluggish, detached. So if we look at vata depression, just like a breeze, it comes and it goes. Nervousness makes the person, even normal person feel depressed. But vata depression, during that phase, the person is agitated and angry, dry tongue, dehydration, little thirst, insecurity and when that is gone, the depression is gone.

Pitta depression is dangerous, because pitta people are very aggressive, competitive, they are always right and they want to be successful and they are always successful, seeking success, and a man of success always carries fear of failure. If a pitta person fails in the business, fails in his image, he becomes upset, he becomes self-judgmental, and then anger comes towards oneself and then he can get thoughts of committing suicide. Such a serious type of chemical depression is a pitta type of depression. It is worthless to live like that, without self-esteem, without self pride.

And kapha depression is rather romantic, sweet depression – when they are depressed they can eat chocolate, and food is a substitute for their depression and they become chubby and obese. We can eradicate the patterns of depression, but Ayurveda is not a quick fix, it takes time.

Julie: In America we often use Prozac and other drugs for depression.

Dr. Lad: It doesn’t go to the root, it is just playing with the branches and leaves and they don’t attack the root cause.

Julie: If I came to you with pitta depression what could I expect?

Dr. Lad: If such a person comes to me, Ayurveda will feel the doshas through the pulse and through tongue and eye examination. Don’t eat hot, spicy food, don’t eat sour or citrus food, follow pitta soothing diet, and then we’ll give pitta soothing herbs. Once we have established the balance between vata pitta kapha, amazing changes will happen. The fellow will become mellow.

Julie: Are organ transplants an Ayurvedic solution?

Dr. Lad: No. The organ transplant concept was not in Ayurveda. If you transplant the organ you are taking the karma of that person, right? And you also do not know whether that person was vata pitta kapha. Suppose a pitta person’s kidneys are given to the vata person? Ayurveda says, why not rejuvenate the organ? But people don’t have patience. People want instant coffee and instant result. And Ayurveda is not a quick fix.

Julie: What about cloning?

Dr. Lad: It is inappropriate for that sort of thing. Our life is a unique phenomenon. Our parents karma, our own karma, and also, life has a purpose – the purpose of life is self-realization. To know oneself as well. In all these artificial means of cloning, we are interfering with the law of karma.

Julie: What does Ayurveda say about Alzheimer’s?

Dr. Lad: Alzheimer’s is kapha blocking vata, so that athersclerotic changes in the cerebral arteries create vata aggravation and vata dries up the brain cells. It will take time for rejuvenation, but Alzheimer’s can be effectively treated with Ayurvedic management of treating the vata dosha, and rejuvenation of the tissue will give quite excellent results. If it is very serious and most of the brain cells are dead, nothing can be done.

Julie: In your most recent book, The Textbook of Ayurveda, you state that Ayurveda uses ordinary perception and extraordinary perception as diagnostic tools. Ordinary perception is experienced by a direct perception through the senses, and ‘extraordinary perception through association and intuition is developed through persistent yogic and Ayurvedic practice and daily observation.’ Would you explain this, please?

Dr. Lad: I am looking at you. This is ordinary perception, how I look at you. Am I judging you? Am I criticizing you? When I look at an object, I become the observer and the object becomes the observed. Observer/observed division in perception is ordinary perception. When I look at something, something goes out of my eyes, that is my attention.

At the same time I look at the client, I look within. Then observer and observed, both are observed. As you are watching, at the same time watch the watcher and when you watch the watcher and the watcher becomes watched, you will have extraordinary perception. Through that total perception, you know what is going on.

Julie: What is intuition?

Dr. Lad: Intuition is insight and insight is inner light, and inner light is the light of attention, the flame of attention. Not to get lost in the object. Hmm? Intuition is there in the heart of every person. Every person is born with it.

Julie: You are also an artist, and as such, would you say that one’s understanding of Ayurveda is facilitated by right hemisphere activity – the practice of visualizing and conceptualizing and synthesizing holistically?

Dr. Lad: Ayurveda is also art. Art of reading pulse, art of looking into the eyes. Art of listening to the heart sound. And art means to put everything in its right place. That is the definition of art. Ayurveda is art and science. Ayurveda is poetry. Poetry is an art. Ayurveda is logical. Logic is science. And you will see in Ayurveda there is a beautiful balance between logic and art. So right hemisphere is art, intuition. Left hemisphere is logic, science. When they both are balanced the third brain (diencephalon), the primordial brain, awakes and that is the ground of Ayurveda.

Julie: You say the seed of the mind is in the heart.

Dr. Lad: Heart means not physical heart. Heart means the seed of consciousness.

Julie: What is the difference between awareness and consciousness?

Dr. Lad: In true awareness, you are not aware that you are aware. The moment you are aware that you are aware, the awareness is released into consciousness. Consciousness is nothing but having boundaries, and consciousness contains thoughts, feelings, emotion and memory. These are the content of consciousness and if you empty the consciousness, it becomes awareness. It loses its boundary. It loses its structure.

Julie: What do you make of research that’s being conducted hoping to prove benefits of yoga and
meditation?


Dr. Lad:
Even in India there has been research and many researchers are qualified medical doctors. They took EEG before meditation and after meditation they took EEG. Before meditation they took blood profile, after meditation they took blood profile, then they do breathing pattern, blood pressure, electro cardiogram.

There are some alpha waves and beta waves, and electroencephalogram shows slower pattern and there is more carbon dioxide in the blood. They come up with some positive, concrete results and then they conclude that meditation is a good stress management program.

That’s very good. Then meditation can reduce the blood pressure, which is very good, then meditation increases carbon dioxide in the blood so the meditation trains the brain cells to live, to survive, to hibernate even if there is no oxygen. That’s why yogis stay in samadhi. So this is good to do research so that will make the pitta mind, the scientific mind, happy and they will think that, oh, well, this meditation does wonderful stress management. I think it is good to do research based upon this modern technology.

Julie: Would you say that students of yoga should study Ayurveda?

Dr. Lad: Yoga and Ayurveda are ancient branches of healing. Since thousands and thousands of years in India, the land of the Vedas, the land of yoga and Ayurveda, they are absolutely together, no separation. It is very important for the yoga person to learn Ayurveda because in Ayurveda it is said that certain asanas are not good for pitta people. Certain asanas are not good for vata people. For example, headstand, shoulder stand and inverted positions are not good for pitta people.

What I say is a yogi without Ayurveda is half a yogi. And an Ayurvedic physician without yoga is half a physician. The Ayurvedic physician must know yoga and yogic person must know Ayurveda because these are two sides of the same coin.

Julie: How much time should a person plan to take for their first panchakarma treatments?

Dr. Lad: Ayurveda is flexible. In the West, people, the lifestyle is so busy, to have five days from their busy schedule is quite difficult. So if they come for five days and do panchakarma, they feel much better. We should slowly, with great compassion, make people aware of the value of Ayurveda, which works, rather than having strict rigidity.

Julie: What about ‘quickie’ shirodhara treatments becoming so popular?

Dr. Lad: That’s fine too. You know, Ayurveda should be done at airports also. There should be one little place where people traveling a long distance have massage and a nice hot shower and shirodhara. It will definitely do wonderful jetlag management.

Julie: What would you like to share in closing?

Dr. Lad: Ayurveda is for those people who are seriously seeking a longevity of life and really want to heal their relationships, who want to change their way of life, the way they eat, the way they respond.

Ayurveda is not only a medical science, it is a science of life, it is the art of living life, moment to moment, in harmony with the nature, so that Ayurveda will make the life whole. And such a whole person is holy. So Ayurveda truly brings that holiness in the life of the individual.

Julie: Thank you for your time.

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