The conversation occurred in Vilnius, where Mr. Vignesh Devraj taught local healers in October, 2017. He kindly agreed for the interview with Ignas in the bar of the Old town.


Let’s talk about Ayurveda. Have you got a medical doctor’s degree?

Yes. Ayurvedic medical degree.

What sort of education is that?

A college graduation, where you learn about the basics of the human body like anatomy, physiology, pathology, and the biochemistry aspect of modern medicine. You learn about the real aspects of what Ayurveda is and how it evolved.

You learn about Sanskrit, textbooks, and approach to modern medicine; how you can have good health in a human body through Ayurveda. We don’t prescribe modern medication — we prescribe Ayurveda.

Is Ayurvedic medicine widely taught in India?

Yes.

Where did you study?

In a university called in .

If I am right, you understand the human body according to modern perception — anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry. In addition to that, you have those ancient teachings from Vedic civilization.

Yes.

Okay. Do you know ?

Yes. Without Sanskrit, it’s impossible to understand or comprehend the essence of Ayurveda.

Are you able to read?

Yes, we have to read and write.

Did you study the original text in Sanskrit?

There are various textbooks — , , and .

It says little for the Western audience. People are not familiar with the Vedic civilization. Did you study other texts like ?

You have to learn about Mahabharata and its mythology in school. It’s so huge that you have to devote your life to learn. The structure of Vedic texts is similar to the Britannica encyclopedia or Wikipedia. Nevertheless, different scientists were interested in different regions at different times, so that made different Vedas.

And Ayurveda is one aspect that had its evolution.

How old is it?

Many histories claim it’s over 5,000 years old. The brief understanding is that science imitated nature. We try to learn it from nature.

Still, it’s a science.

Yes, we learn science from nature. The dog will go and eat grass when not feeling good to vomit out. Then, the dog will feel good — the same thing happens with people.

As agriculture evolved, people learned from plants and herbs. We call this knowledge as Ayurveda on medical aspects.

But it’s difficult to prove that various herbs cure various diseases only based on empirical observations.

Herbs have evolved into another stage where it is blending the aspects of modern pharmaceutical companies.

Right.

For example, it’s complicated to take the juice of a herb. According to Ayurveda, juice has a shelf life of three hours. You have to consume it fast. And if you cannot have juice, you make herbal tea. You boil it so that extracts of that herb will blend with the water.

A modern man is lazy — everything is instant. So, he realized he could make a tablet out of that. Thus, herbs are made into a tablet.

Do you approve the switch from fresh juice to tablet?

We have a second alternative now. People are living in a fast-paced life. The question is if you have a choice for a fresh juice.

Do you understand the effect of freshness in this example?

Of course. There is no substitute for that.

Can you scientifically explain this?

Our body is 80% water. Water is the most fertile element. We believe there could be life on Mars because, through satellites, we saw something similar to water. Besides, 70% of the planet’s life lives under the water.

When you’re taking some fresh juice, it is blending with the water extracts — the body will absorb it much faster than a tablet.

So, it is just a matter of water and pure water.

It’s a matter of blending with our body’s elements. If I speak to you in French — you will process it and translate to your language so you could understand. Then information enters you, and you absorb it.

So, if I take a tablet, the tablet has to melt and blend with the water inside my body — only then it will be absorbed.

Today, we know the precise composition of a tablet or even herb. How much active substance is in a herb? It probably varies. It is still unknown whether it’s just a matter of pure chemistry.

Vedas says, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” And our science is still light years away from figuring out many aspects of our own body. Even if you take the best modern medical textbooks, it openly says that more than 60% of the diseases have an unknown cause. If you don’t know the cause, how can you treat it?

We have to accept that we are vulnerable, and we are yet to discover many things. It’s a constant evolution of what is going on. And what Ayurveda says, when it was evolving, it had constraints. We didn’t have the blood tests, MRI, X-ray, or similar things. All they had was their five senses and their sixth sense to understand what is what.

They had a different understanding of the body instead of seeing everything from the molecular aspects and the chemical aspects. And after all, what is science? You need to bridge the cause and the effect. What is the connecting factor between the cause and the effect? That’s what they’re finding. And if you can prove it with a clinical trial, then you’re able to do that.

Yeah, I agree. There is a lot of transparency in pathologies and pathophysiology and so on.

Yes. You asked what I would take: the fresh juice or the tablet. There was research done on turmeric (some of the European countries call it Curcuma). is found in Curcuma as the main active principle.

Yeah.

Modern medicine decided just to take out the Curcumin and make it into a solid replica of that Curcumin and advertise it for the same action that Vedans use Curcuma for. One of the best measures of Curcuma is it’s a great anti-inflammatory.

Yeah, that’s available in Lithuanian pharmacies also.

Yes. And the result that they found out is that it doesn’t give the same effect as Curcuma gives.

That’s understandable because it’s not complete. Fresh herb juice is better, maybe even more active than a tablet, which is synthesized. Can you explain the difference between them?

The difference is everything has a shelf life and expiry date. Ayurveda says the expressed juice of a plant has a shelf life of about three hours, depending on the climate. If you come to a colder climate, it can even be more, but in an environment where it’s more humid — the fungal infection can be high, then it is not even three hours. So, when herbs are squeezed, and when you take juice at the source, the energy is much better.

What sort of energy?

Okay. There was research done about the water we get from different sources: mountains, streams, or other places. Also, plastic bottled water that comes filtered. This research analyzed the molecular understanding of the water. The molecular structure of water that we take from nature looked in a much more soothing way.

When they were looking at the molecular structure, they felt some good energy there. But when you take the industrialized filtered and bottled water, you see different energy there. And the same research was done by a Japanese scientist. He was trying to understand the water molecule. He took the water sample from people who are meditating, who are chanting good things, who are in very good, calm spiritual emotions.

And when that scientist checked the molecular structure of the water, it looked like diamonds. Later, he took the water sample kept near people who are very angry, frustrated, for example, some of the robbers in prison. The molecular structure looked like horror diamonds. Water has a way of storing energy of nearby things because water is life.

But one can skeptically say these are all fairy tales, because water is water, is H2O. It has the same composition: it can be pure or dirty, or some other elements present or absent, distilled or not. It could be of high or low temperatures — all these are physical and chemical matters. And I wonder if there are real differences in molecules. The molecule is very simple. It’s not much to see there.

Well, when you see in an aspect of one hydrogen and two oxygen molecules, you get water whichever part of the world you are. There’s no doubt about that, but it’s not just that. There are many other aspects of water. When you check the water, you see many elements in that. Is it having chlorine, is it having any other bacterial infection? It has many different aspects.

You don’t see it just: two oxygen and hydrogen. Water that you get from green forest, and filtered water, the energy is entirely different.

Okay. So, do you use the word “energy” in a broad sense?

Yes. The life energy or what we call it. How do you feel when you go to nature? And how do you feel when you go to a city full of traffic jams? We feel disconnected. We are a creation of nature — and we are still to understand how nature is evolving.

We are still light years away from understanding nature.

Okay. In which cases you as a doctor could help better than traditional medicine in the Western world?

According to Ayurveda, the human body is called Sharira. It’s a Sanskrit word. And if you try to understand the root meaning of this word, it says that which keeps dying every moment.

Keeps dying every moment.

Our body is something that is dying every moment, which also means that it keeps being born every moment. Now, this is more of a philosophical explanation. But when you understand it, literally what it says is our body is something that keeps eliminating waste every moment. The difference between a living body and a dead body — living body constantly eliminates waste. And a dead body stops elimination.

Okay, that’s common sense.

Yeah, yeah, common sense, and that’s how the body term came.

Ayurveda has fantastic rituals, mechanisms, therapies, medications, and dietary suggestions. Also, how to eliminate waste from your body physically and mentally. And according to this definition, if you are not eliminating waste, your life is low. If you’re eliminating waste efficiently, your life is fantastic.

Okay, but as long as a person is alive, he eliminates this waste only to a certain extent, the rate may vary. Yes?

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

As you say — the objective of Ayurveda is to increase the rate of this waste elimination.

To increase — our waste elimination mechanism should be at its optimal level.

Alright.

When an Ayurvedic doctor is asking, “How are you?” he’s really asking, “Did you go to the toilet today?” If you’re not going to the toilet, it shows up on your energy, and it shows up on our face. [Laughs] It shows up on your whole energy levels. The energy levels of constipated people are different.

And if you see the Greek medicine, the Greek medicine says constipation is the mother of all disease.

Well, constipation is an unpleasant state [Laughs].

Exactly, exactly.

So, it naturally affects the ability to function as a human. Okay, please continue.

So, Ayurveda helps to eliminate things that our body doesn’t need to keep.

Okay. So, Ayurveda helps in this sense. Alright.

Ayurveda helps to eliminate inflammations inside your gut and outside your body.

But Ayurveda is called alternative medicine in Western civilization.

That’s their view.

That’s their view, of course. For you, maybe Western medicine is an alternative. [Laughs]

We call it the last resort.

Which one?

The Western.

Western, the last resort. Okay. So, like for people of Kerala, it would be a natural priority to address the Ayurvedic center.

Things are changing. Let’s say; there is a fire in a building. When the fire happens, you need to call the firefighter. At that time, a person who will tell you how to prevent fire is of no use. This concept is how we can prevent fire.

Ayurvedic?

Yes. And that person will be telling you what systems and processes we can implement in our life so that an accident because of fire doesn’t happen in the first place.

But when the fire happens, you need the emergency support system. And that’s why we call it the last resort. We must try our best to avoid that.

I see.

It’s more of preventive therapy.

Okay. So, following that way of thinking, Ayurveda is best applied to perfectly healthy persons.

Yes, exactly. A perfectly healthy person and also a person who’s recovering from something. It helps to recover faster.

Alright, after he is cured of the fire. If a person feels good, you don’t even help him feel better because he’s feeling good. So, you just help him to feel like this…

Sustain.

To sustain this endlessly, yeah?

Exactly.

Okay.

And feeling good, excellent health in Ayurveda, it is mentioned it’s a continuous never-ending effort.

Of course.

You will never reach there, and it lasts forever. It has to be renewed every day with the right food, right thoughts, proper treatment, the way you respect and treat your own body. And according to Ayurveda, the most crucial person in our life is our own self. At every moment, we are only dealing with ourselves, which is dealing with others. So, how we deal with us is how we deal with the world.

Fine. Okay. So, for you, the typical patient would be a healthy person as long as he’s still healthy.

For me, a typical patient will be a person who wants to become healthy.

To become healthy, but he’s not healthy.

He can be healthy and if he wants to sustain it. Or he wants to get healthy. These are the two kinds of people.

Okay, but if he’s not healthy when he’s ill, he’s sick of something.

Yes, there are many aspects.

I see. Good.

See, when the fire attack happens, we need an emergency. But after the fire sets down, we again put in processes how this cannot happen again.

Fantastic. So, for instance, if we take some infection, are you okay with antibiotics?

See, infectious diseases, emergencies, surgeries, modern medicine is having fantastic methods for that. And that’s also one of the reasons why the human population expanded to this large level. So, we have to understand the contribution of modern medicine in this. That can never be denied.

It’s like plastic. Plastic changed the way human beings live, how we started packing things. But at the same time overuse and abuse of plastic is so dangerous for the planet. That’s the same aspect.

Yeah, that’s a good comparison and perfectly understandable. What means do you use in your treatment of people who want to become healthy or have sustainable health?

In Ayurveda, every disease can be classified into two categories: overnutrition and undernutrition.

Do you get my point?

Yeah, good point.

Undernutrition is vitamin or iron deficiency, or cholesterol, sugar levels are low — blood pressure is low. And overnutrition is when you have too much of something inside you: too much fat, cholesterol, sugar, and blood pressure levels are too high.

And some diseases you have a blend of overnutrition and undernutrition. For example, there is a statement — “We are overfed but undernourished.” You eat a lot, but still, you don’t have the energy. You sleep a lot. Still, you wake up tired. This is “overfed undernourished.”

Now, this is happening because our body’s ability to convert nutrition into good energy is going low. It’s like you have a car, you put in the fuel, but it is not able to convert the fuel into energy to move. That’s what we call as mileage or efficiency.

This ability of the body to convert the nutrition into energy is called in Sanskrit. Agni also means fire. And this is the most potent talent of our body. Once we activate this, once we keep this at its best, our body will produce the best medicines we need. Whatever drugs we buy from the pharmacy today, it’s already produced inside us.

Yeah, yeah. That’s understandable.

And we are just activating that.

By what means? How do you activate that talent of our body?

Yes. Now, we need to understand what brings it down. It is already there. We just need to stop what’s going on there.

Yeah. But you can’t stop life or pollution.

The idea is, how can you minimize it. Some of the things that Ayurveda says the quality of poison is it is difficult for the body to eliminate it.

So, if you’re consuming things that are difficult to eliminate from the body — we have to reduce that. Thus, refined white sugar is the first thing that is very difficult to eliminate.

So, you suggest getting rid of it.

Not get rid of it; minimize it. It’s the dosage that makes it poison or medicine. Okay, you mix water with sugar; what we get is blue because it is sticky.

Okay. So, diet is one approach.

That is the primary approach.

The primary approach.

Once the diet is there, you don’t need medicine.

So, can one say that you wake up this talent of a human body to eliminate waste by suggesting a proper diet?

If you go to a waste management consultant, the first thing he’s going to tell you is, “Let’s try to understand from where all of this waste has been produced. And let’s look at how this waste can be stopped from being formed.” So, the consultant will advise stopping strong plastics from being allowed inside. And change this with a less micron plastic diet, because it can be recycled easier. We should stop taking foods that are difficult for the body to process and eliminate — refined white sugar, gluten.

Indeed, gluten is not good.

Our body can tolerate gluten, but when you overload it, the body finds it as a burden to eliminate it. Talking about sugar, in 10,000 B.C., the sugar consumption of a man was less than 20 teaspoons per year, and today — more than 22 teaspoons a day. We are more tired and fatigued than at any other time in history.

It’s not only because of refined sugar and gluten.

No, what we’re saying is we are more tired despite so much abundance of food.

That’s true. Maybe we worry too much.

Exactly. Ayurveda says, if you want to activate your Agni, you have to cleanse and purify your gut. The gut is like from the tongue till the rectum. In Ayurveda, it’s called Koshta, which is a gastro-enteric system. It means there’s a big channel from which life is allowed to enter your body. If food is good, it is allowed to enter the bloodstream, and the blood will take it to every part of your body. And if you don’t like it, the body wants to eliminate it.

You correct the gut mainly by diet. As you said, nutrition is essential.

Yes.

You’re not offering a cleansing.

That’s also another part.

It is.

Of course. Cleansing is like a jumpstart. It will help to change that. It’s like you go and service your car. You feel good, but you have to maintain it well to sustain that feel-good factor. So, cleansing is one part. Diet is another part of supporting it so that you get the best out of your body.

Okay, so you treat…

On one side, it’s cleansing. On another side, it’s diet. Ayurveda mentions many herbs that enhance digestion and metabolism and cleanse the system.

Fine, what else?

Lifestyle — eating with hunger is very important. Some people say you have to eat on time. Other people say you have to only eat when you’re hungry. Ayurveda says, you should be hungry on time, and then you have to eat. This cycle where you are hungry on time is very powerful. That makes your body very immune to many unwanted things. Also, sleep is critical.

Some sort of a rhythm.

Yes. You see that rhythm in nature.

Of course.

And we are a creation of nature. Sustaining this rhythm and balance makes longevity and life a beautiful experience. And we cannot work the three shifts as we do it in the industrial sector.

Does geographical location matter? People in different countries may have different rhythms. For example, in Lithuania, we have short days, cold weather in winter, and more daylight and warmth in summer.

Everything is an evolution of that place and at that moment. If you find a specific plant here — it is not always necessary to grow it in Kerala, for example. Or the plants that grow in Kerala need not grow in other locations. Of course, the climate will make us crave or want certain foods. It makes us behave in a certain way. And listening to our bodies is one of the key aspects.

So, what’s the regular course in your centre for Europeans? How many days should one spend to achieve a positive effect on their health?

Two to three weeks are ideal for the body to have a decent cleansing. It depends on the severity. Everybody is different. We all have our unique issues. After two to three weeks, you are disconnected from your life, you are investing time for yourself, and you’re eating on time, you’re sleeping on time, and you’re cleansing many things. We are cleaning your gut and bringing back your hunger levels. You become connected with nature, ultimately.

Medicine alone can not achieve such results. This is a therapy you can only experience when you are in an environment that provides you these facilities.

And do you make laboratory tests as well?

Yes, we do blood tests because that’s a great invention modern medicine has gifted us.

Perhaps, yeah.

Blood is a river of life. Today, you can do a blood test for everything: hormone deficiency or virus attack. You can find out even cancer markers or inflammations for the heart, cholesterol, liver function, kidneys. So, modern medicine has done such a fantastic job in trying to understand what are the average healthy levels.

This will help us to understand where we are so we could focus the cleansing on that aspect. Our primary diagnosis is a completely Ayurvedic approach. Along with that, when we take the support of this, we make it foolproof.

I see. Okay. I have some more questions to ask. Dealing with the concept of self, it’s also a very traditional concept in Hinduism. Is this philosophical approach essential for you? Do you focus on that thought yourself sometimes? It’s one of the first inventions in human philosophy. Nowadays, scholars are focused on finding what real self or true self is.

In Ayurveda, Swastha means health. “Swa” means my purest self and “Stha” means connected. So, you’re healthy when you are really connected to your truest self. That’s what we call health.

The more disconnected we are, the more possibilities of disease. The ultimate disconnection is what we call death.

Super.

And how does the connection happen? Very powerful energy called nature created your body. This energy has evolved many things — it has seen many other species evolve and extinct. Our body is one of the greatest inventions or innovations of Mother Nature. And it knows how to heal itself. You get a cut, and it’ll heal itself. Your body is getting tired because you need to stop. The body is telling you, “It’s time to stop. You’re doing something wrong.”

Pain means a block in the natural flow of energy. And pain is the body’s way of communication that you need a shift in some of the things. Pain instructs you that something you’re doing is not correct. It’s an indicator that something has to change in your life.

When one feels any pain.

Pain is saying, “You need to think twice. Is this what you need?”

I see. Does pure self have a location?

When we say location, it’s like asking where is your mind?

Yeah.

It’s like asking where is the mind situated? Is it in the brain, or is it in the heart?

Empirically, we would call it heart. According to Ayurveda, the seat of the mind is in the heart. The heart is the place our hands always go. And the heart is the central organ that decides everything else, which supplies the blood, controls the treasury.

That’s interesting. I can compare the pure self with the perception of the Christian soul. Is pure self eternal?

For sure, the pure self is eternal. I mean, we all have to die one day. Even the sun has to die. Even Planet Earth has to die. Even though we are going to die, there is something inside all of us that tells, “I’m still going to be alive after that. Some part of me is going to be alive after that.” That part is what we call it as a pure soul or pure self.

Beautiful. Maybe that is a good moment to stop because we had a nice conversation, a good ending. [Laughs]

[Laughs]