Ayurveda, alternative medicine, preventive medicine and primary health care were in the news today at the Johannesburg Country Club. The event was hosted by the High Commission of India and orchestrated by the Ayurveda Foundation of South Africa (TAFSA).

The morning was uncontroversial. The afternoon was a rich display of the profundity of Ayurveda and was notable for the profound opposition of the delegates to the proposed regulation of the industry by the Medicines Control Council of South Africa. It seems clear that the consequences of this flawed legislation will be opposite to that intended, by driving prices up and making primary health care even less accessible to the public.

Houghton TM Centre, Ambrosia Import and Export and Maharishi Panchakarma were invited as guests. We were  along with the royalty of SA alternative medicine including the Consul of Bolivia  facing an impressive line-up including the Indian High Commissioner, HE Mr Virendra Gupta, the SA Minister of Communications, MR R.L. Padayachie, Dr Liaqat Azam, TAFSA President, and a number of very senior Indian Government curators of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda means the science of life. Ayu means life and Veda means knowledge.

Ayurveda is regarded as one of the world’s oldest medical sciences. It is comprehensively documented in the world’s oldest literature, the Vedas and practiced and researched for over 5000 years in the Indian subcontinent and now across the globe. Maharishi Ayurveda takes the approach back to its ancient roots by re-introducing the consciousness element, without which, Ayurveda is a baseless administration of herbs and treatments.

Ayurveda follows an integrated approach to health and well-being and defines health as the balanced functioning of the body and a contented state of body mind and spirit. It is a system of preventive medicine. It is based on natural medicine that is free of toxicity and side-effects. It deals with the next frontiers of medicine.

In South Africa, despite our investment in health we are not satisfied with the results said Doctor Monwabisi Goqwana, chair of the Health Portfolio Committee of the SA Parliament. We still have more questions than answers. He called for more access to the knowledge of indigenous medicine.

The Indian government is actively promoting indigenous systems such as Ayurveda and Unani. It spends $192 million p.a. up from $4 million just over 10 years ago. 25% of the budget is for research. In India there are 500 colleges with 30,000 seats of natural medicine. The Indian governed is keen to make Ayurveda accessible and does not wish it to be treated as complementary medicine. Aurveda is mainstream in India, he said.

In our lifetime non-communicable diseases will be the main problems. These diseases include cancer, CVD, lung diseases, diabetes. They are basically all traceable back to lifestyle factors such as alcohol, tobacco, diet and lack of exercise.

The Govenrment of India offers scholarships for study and research into Ayurveda. Get in touch with the Indian National Institute of Ayurveda via the Indian High Commission. The beauty of Aurveda is that it integrates mind body and spirit and we should appeal to the young.

Minister RL Padayachie, the South African Minister of Communication and patron of TAFSA said traditional systems are still outside the system in South Africa. In his fascinating address, he mentioned the profound connection between India and South Africa borne out of principles following our shared histories. “In Mahatma Gandhi, India sent South Africa a ‘Mohandas’, and we returned him as a ‘Mahatma’”, he said.

Our Indian connection will help us to reshape the economic and political systems of the world, he said, echoing the sentiments of Prof Mohan Gurabatham who spoke at the Houghton TM Centre recently.

A common challenge facing India Brazil India, China and South Africa are huge and growing inequalities, poverty and under development, and divisions between rural and urban society.

In the context of South Africa’s new Economic Growth Path, the National Planning Commission discussions have included discussion on the high burden of disease. Ayurveda can help. But who should be the driver?

Firstly it is good that India is sponsoring Ayurveda seats at universities locally,

Secondly, India is offering scholarships to study Ayurveda.

But, thirdly, we must give be sure to give support to the South African entrepreneurs (like us!) because they will develop the market. These entrepreneurs typically fail after 24 to 36 months, he said.

The Minster may be unaware that we operate meditation and Maharishi Vedic Health Centres all over SA. Some 60 000 South Africans have learned one of the modalities of Maharishi Ayurveda, Transcendental Meditation, alone.

“It must be inserted into the understanding of ordinary people that it (Ayurveda) has a truth to it—beyond the practice of ordinary medicine,” he said.

Actually, Maharishi Vedic Health Centres, or TM Centres are doing just this with our ongoing communications via email to our members, in South Africa, India,  and around the world.

Doctor Azam, TAFSA president then raised three major issues in SA: primary health care, climate change, and sustainable development.

“The solutions to these will ultimately be driven by self awareness. This we get from Ayurveda’” he said.

And we agree! Self Awareness, or knowledge of the Self, is a direct consequence of regular practice of Transcendental Meditation.

There are currently 51,000 practitioners of Unani in India, and it is being taught at the University of Western Cape .

Health Minister of South Africa recently called for the entire healthcare system of South Africa to be overhauled. “It must be re-oriented in the direction of preventive medicine.”

Again we agree!

Ayurveda provides well-documented broad ranging health benefits. It should be part of SA’s, India’s and indeed the world’s primary health care system.

Oppose the proposed amendments to the general regulations!

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