By Frances Bulathsinghala/ Sunday Observer
Colombo, January 10: We are in a new year, nurturing hope for nation and mankind that the Covid-19 health crisis will pass away from our midst. However, judging by reports that there is yet another more virulent strain going around originated from Britain, rationality tells us that it remains a case of each nation to handle this continuing situation. We also hear of a brain eating amoeba spreading through water in the US which poses deadlier threats. The world may have to face even worse predicaments than coronavirus and the level of preparedness for these scenarios lies in each country maximizing its medical expertise, old or new, to fit the need of the hour.
In Sri Lanka, although we followed the same process as the example laid by the Western world, wearing masks and shutting down locations on the detection of even one Covid-19 patient, it is clear that Sri Lankans as a whole are significantly immune to the virus. Many are largely asymptomatic. So why are we so resistant to it when the Western world, the purported hub of Western medical science and ‘development’ is brought to its knees?
The answer could be that although our Allopathic (Western medicine) driven health system has moved us away from much of our local wellbeing practices, such as the administering of the natural immunity boosting Ratha Kalkaya for infants practiced through our Deshiya Chikitsa Sinhala Wedakama, the Lankan ‘thuna paha’ infused traditional diet despite being threatened by the globalised food industry and chemical agriculture, still exists in our midst at least to a basic level which could be the key sustainer of our physical resistance to the virus.
The global media being driven by one particular ideology, we do not hear anything on possible counter narratives from different parts of the world to what is popularly peddled on this virus which Western medical science, is still trying to figure out. Thailand and several countries in Africa are promoting traditional medicine as a last resort for the Covid-19 pandemic.
A respected Allopathic Western medical expert, Dr. Roger Hodkinson, a senior general pathologist certified in 1976 by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada has been under flak for calling the Covid-19 pandemic a ‘hoax’ in his address to the Edmenton City Council in November 2020.
There is utterly unfounded public hysteria driven by the media and politicians. It’s outrageous. This is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public,” Hodkinson told the Council, opining that face masks and distancing were useless because aerosols; hosts of invisible microscopic droplets emitted through breathing already get to the air. Hodkinson proposed to treat Covid-19 as a mere bad flu season. While his medical expertise and stature has been acknowledged by fellow medical critics, he has received significant backlash from those who debunk these statements.
The purpose of using this example, is merely for intellectual pursuit of analysis and does not necessarily mean a justifying of this doctor’s views. Because diversity in Covid-19 narratives doesn’t exist, we will not know multifarious information, especially on immunity that we would like to explore, including knowing ‘medically’ why less vaccinated people, such as us are, resistant to the virus as opposed to distinctly over-vaccinated Westerners.
We do not take flu vaccines every winter season as they do in Europe – such a thought would surely bring a smile to plantation employees who work outdoors, often without warm clothing in the blistering cold of Nuwara Eliya without the luxury of hot baths but never need ‘flu shots.’ Although Sri Lanka has been threatened by chemical agriculture introduced through the green revolution and has lost its authentic traditional diet which would surpass many food cultures in terms of nutrition, it is still in stark contrast to the poisonous fast food pandemic of the West.
What we should understand is that although we have tragically copied to perfection the West and their ‘progress’ if we reflect, shedding all our colonialisation, neo-colonisation and neo-imperialism infused baggage, our pragmatic mind would echo the wisdom of our indigenous knowledge priorities which were always centered around the health of the nation and the health of all living beings which included the soil and the trees. Chemical agriculture if introduced to our ancient ancestors would have been surely looked upon as a cruel abnormality that only fosters sickness.
The likes of Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, would be indeed overjoyed to see how well colonial machinations have worked. Macaulay was a British politician who had abysmal contempt for ancient knowledge of the people of the Indian subcontinent and funded amply the mission of educating Indians on the Western models of knowledge, and placed on the Minute on Education drafted in 1835 the despicable and ignorant opinion of his that, “A single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia,” as an argument to bulldoze out the respect for ancient knowledge, such as Ayurveda and replace it with Western science.
Yet, for the island of Sri Lanka which was world renowned as a medical hub and other indigenous sciences, the challenge remains to eradicate the country of cognitive impairing viruses created by imperialists, such as Macaulay.
We, today, talk of modern education conceptualised by the West as if it was manna from heaven without realising that before this white manna, countries such as Sri Lanka and India had an advanced education system – the Gurukula system that did not separate the spiritual from the worldly and where introspection, contemplation and respecting earth and its resources were a core component of maintaining the health of humans. Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) of today are linked to our warped way of living and producing food, including the heinous crime against living beings; factory farming through artificial means, breeding life for death, which we learnt from the West. From the Covid-19 deaths that we have in Sri Lanka, what does not get emphasised in the media is that they are connected with NCDs.
Sri Lanka’s Deshiya Chikitsa, as an ancient pre-Ayurveda system of preventive and curative healing could be described as being the closest to mother nature. If these traditional physicians were allowed to fight the Covid-19 battle, they would eliminate not only Covid-19 but also NCDs.
We have failed as a nation for seven decades after independence from the British to understand the value of recognising our Deshiya Chikitsa (Sinhala Wedakama) as a medical discipline, even now in the midst of a pandemic that has brought Europe to its knees.
The few members among the team of Ukranian tourists who came to Sri Lanka within the past fortnight and were detected with the Covid-19 virus had been not comfortable with getting medical treatment in Sri Lanka. Why? Because they associated us only with Allopathy and assessed our medical system comparing it with Western technology. The world does not know that we have at least 30,000 traditional physicians in the country, many of whom have been from March researching into how the many diverse herb combinations (different wattoru) could cure the different stages of this virus alongside NCDs. Yet we are talking about tourism and economic revival while the answers are staring at us in the face. Yet this may change with professionals chipping in to assist the Government.
Professionals alongside traditional physicians stress the importance of using traditional medicine before spending billions of rupees on a vaccine.
Although many of our doctors, Allopathy and Ayurveda, may have been on study tours to countries, such as China, we still have not been inspired to set in motion an integrated system such as one in that country which although being the first nation to be hit by the virus also is the first to control it and has not shied away from acknowledging the role traditional medicine has played in this task. China which maximised at the height of the spread of the Covid-19 virus, simple respiratory treatments common to Sri Lanka, such as vapour inhalation, had almost fully controlled the spread of the disease by May 2020.
On June 6, 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping in a keynote address delivered at a symposium of experts and scholars had emphasised that the simultaneous and integrated use of Chinese and Western medicine has been a major highlight of the fight against the epidemic. Yu Yanhong and Yu Wenming writing in the Qiushi, a bi-monthly political theory periodical published in China referred to this speech which stated how China has given a full affirmation to the contribution of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the prevention and control of Covid-19 and how the Chinese President has asked TCM practitioners in China to ‘boost their national pride’ and explore the ‘best of what the treasure trove of TCM has to offer’, highlighting the need to preserve and develop that medical system.
The article also explained the need to foster China’s integrated system of medicine that has both the Western and Traditional system operating side by side for healing patients in whatever system that suits the ailment/s.
While we can look to such contemporary encouraging examples from Asian countries such as China, we should remind ourselves even at this belated stage that we are a civilisation that has the world’s first hospital in Mihintale. Despite such a history, we have done little to support, protect and foster traditional physicians and their families to safeguard and secure the passing on of this knowledge to the next generations.
This writer who started researching about traditional physicians and their problems two years ago is aware of a plethora of issues which is sometimes paradoxically within official structures set up to foster their knowledge. The root of the problem is because we carry forth the Macaulayan mentality that has seeped into every sphere of our education structure and possibly not even sparing Ayurveda. Many Ayurveda doctors are humble enough to admit that they have learnt valuable information about Sri Lankan traditional cures from these physicians.
Professionals of Sri Lanka who are now uniting with Ayurveda and traditional physicians as part of the Sinhala Weda Uruma Baraya call for the immediate use of traditional physicians in the Covid-19 battle, to ascertain if the need for purchasing foreign vaccines arises.
At a meeting of the Sinhala Weda Uruma Baraya held last week and attended by professionals, such as Dr. Nandadasa P. Narayana, one of Sri Lanka’s most recognised inventors of international stature and Tilak Kandegama, one of the most authentic voices of Lankan indigenous knowledge, the focus was on Sri Lanka’s immense potential to rise in this pandemic backdrop in an unprecedented world stature using its medical heritage.
“I have made the blue print for up to 10 health based inventions connected with Covid-19 and the traditional medical system of Sri Lanka. However, the lack of systematic support for promoting local solutions for the virus does not enable persons like me to be of use to my country. Sri Lanka is losing billions per day with this current health crisis,” said Eng. Dr. Narayana.
“We are not a country that needs vaccines for the virus. In one and a half months, we can control the pandemic. This can be done with a simple strategic commitment by using our indigenous knowledge resources,” said Thilak Kandegama who promotes biodiversity centered non-chemical agriculture and has a vast repository of knowledge on the ancient medical practices of Deshiya Chikitsa. “What we need is the confidence in what is ours. We need to help the Government liaise with traditional physicians and others who still have diverse knowledge and the expertise in Lankan traditional medical heritage,” he said.
These professionals alongside traditional medicine physicians call for the ensuring of formal opportunity for traditional physicians who have months ago handed over samples of their anti Covid-19 medicines to the Health Ministry and related authorities to get a chance to provide them to Covid-19 patients.
“We met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and members of the Government and are confident that the people will be happy if the Government uses the skills of traditional physicians and get their medicines cleared by authorities for providing Covid-19 patients.
We can ensure that the world knows about the result before we commit as a nation to spending money on a vaccine,” said Eng. Harsha Kumar Suriyaarachchi, one of the founders of the Sinhala Weda Uruma Baraya.
There are many physicians throughout Sri Lanka, such as indigenous medical physician D. D. Hettiarachchi of Ganemulla whose Covid-19 curative and preventive medicines have been taken by hundreds of Sri Lankans in Dubai and Italy who had got them down through beneficiaries at the height of Covid-19 phase 1 and safeguarded fully from the disease.
Traditional physician Amila Sanjeewa in Gampaha who runs a traditional medicine charity said that he has treated around 18,000 persons against the Covid-19 infection (primarily preventive), (including military and police, other officials in the Covid-19 first and second phase and emphasised that he has written proof to provide).
Nilanka Jayasekera, traditional physician from Kandy has given his Covid-19 preventive/curative medicines to those who had wanted them and Sampath Kalutharage and an Ayurveda Shasthri qualified traditional physician had provided Covid-19 preventive and curative medicines to Dombagoda army camp in Kalutara where 692 military personnel came under quarantine alongside curing 11 Covid-19 positive patients.
There are as per information gathered by this writer, at least 37 indigenous physicians who have handed their Covid-19 targeted medicines the to authorities for approval.