Here is the 1 st 'basic level' report on the 'Ancient diy biotechnology: 〜 outlooks and observations on life from the perspective of the Indian medical system. ' hosted by BioClub. Text by : nk-810
The lecturer, Mr. Hiroo Komine received his qualification in Ayurveda medicine at an Indian University. He has been working as a medical professional at the Hatai clinic since 2008, has been one of the leading clinics using Ayurveda, first using it in 1983. He is also a BioClub member, and is a 2nd generation graduate of BioHackAcademyTokyo where he learned about DIY Biotechnology.
"What appears in your mind when you hear the word Ayurveda ? That it sounds like a cosmetic procedure.. or god like ? I think that's the general image people have. But I came up with the idea for this workshop because I want that perception to change."
It's true that in Japan Ayurveda is considered as something that is "calming" and for "beauty purposes". What comes to mind ( majorly stereotypical ) is a pretty woman surrounded by flowers in a spa having sesame oil dripped on her forehead. However Ayurveda is actually a life science, as it is comprised of Ayus, which means life, and Veda, which means knowledge.
Mr. Komine came into contact with DIY Biotechnology because of its similarities with Ayurveda, and because he wants to tie the two movements together. Although technology, wealth and knowledge can easily be manifested and concentrated within a minority, he wants to contribute towards creating a society that can get better through collaboration. That was biology that everyone could get involved with, and the biohacking movement. He believed this was similar to Ayurveda.
"In ancient times there were people who wanted to know about the workings of life. Today I want to get into their outlook on life, what type of medicine they performed, what type of history, outlook and observations on life that they had. At the end we can all find what type of body types we have."
First from the very basic outlooks on life. There are 3 ancient famous texts to Ayurveda. 'Caraka Samhita', 'Sushruta Samhita', and 'Ashtanga Hridayam'. These texts and the worldview that is presented in them state that "what is spread throughout the world is also spread throughout our bodies, connecting our world and our bodies."
"This sensation in relation to the modern world means that we are not only living with our bodies and microorganisms, but as the author of 'simians, cyborgs and women' Donna Haraway states, that things such as our smartphones are slowly morphing into part of our bodies."
The main feature is to "look at life from a physical perspective". It is divided into curative medicine and preventitive medicine, and in terms of treatment it is divided into the 8 branches of General medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Optometry, Surgery, Pharmacy, Anti-aging, and Sexology. What interested me the most within this was the division called 'Graha', or Psychiatry. It is concerned with what in the old days would've been how to treat someone who had a demon within them, but is now considered as simply a sick person. It is true that someone with a cavity can be described as having a little bad magic within them even now. Even during times where there were no microscopes, through facing issues head on, they began to understand issues that were unable to be seen by the naked eye.
"It seems that in the olden days the ways that medicines were made were also peculiar. For example, you would starve a pig for 3 days before then only feeding it rice porridge. You would then cut open the stomach of said pig, and mix the porridge with herbal medicine and make it alcohol. When I asked a biologist they said that this may have been to get the enteric bacteria from the pig."
Pediatrics were also not simply to do with pre and post natal care, but were also about teaching people how to have sex or how to raise children. When I found out that rather than spas cataract surgery had been performed from back in the day, I was amazed.
The history of Ayurveda is debated, but it is generally considered that it began in 1500BC. From the beginning it was already involved with the caste system, and by around 500BC when the gautama siddhartha began to appear, there was already vast economic divide between the deprived West India and wealthy East India. In East India, where the weather was warm and agriculture and technology was ahead of its time, people began to reach out to philosophy and thus question the class system they were living in. That is how much Ayurveda was already spreading.
“In the caste system medicine, where you were expected to come into contact with blood and dead bodies was considered a shameful job. Doctors at the time also traveled from city to city similar to Bohemians, making their treatment even harsher. Nonetheless the want to know more about life and nature prevailed. This is similar to people in Biohacking.”
Mr. Komine also held a workshop on DIY treatment medicine for Spanish Biohackers recently. Spain has major medical disparity, and there are also a number of illegal immigrants who cannot receive public medical care. As a result there is a group called GYNEPUNKS, comprised of scientists, doctors, and citizens, which aims to create their own healthcare system. Their aims to have healthcare regardless of the caste system is something that I believe transcends the boundaries of time.
“Ayurveda believes that the world is comprised of 5 natural elements ‘ether, air, fire, water, earth’. In Japan the 5 layered pagodas and the colors of the flag are related to the 5 natural elements. The feeling and worldview that arises from this is as complicated as nerve networks or bees. It is not simply just about matter but is also to do with the concept of time.”
For example for the sky it is not how close the molecules are, but how they are used to create a space. Imagine something small enough to become part of an environment that then quickly expands. When this process is repeated things become malleable and susceptible to breakage. Trees grow thanks to water but as time goes along the same water can lead to the tree rotting away and dying. This is because the elements of the sky went into the tree. Veins also expand because they are cylindrical, as the universe exploded with the Big Bang. This is why when Ayurveda present on Anatomical Physiology, they always begin by talking about the beginning of the universe. When I think about how ‘Western’ science is now starting to think about Epigenetics and other more complicated fields, and how those areas had already been thought about by others way back in history, it makes me consider the importance of looking back to the past to find the new.
“Maintaining yourself means bringing in outside materials, creating yourself, getting rid of internal materials and continuously regenerating new versions of yourself. Our hearts were made to maintain and monitor our metabolism. Or that is what the Ayurveda believe. Your sense of touch creates your heart and soul. When it is hot you think you don’t like it, and that you want to escape the heat. That is because your body acknowledges that the heat is not beneficial to your metabolism. Feeling good is also good for your body, and thus taking your cloths off when you are hot can be considered as part of Ayurveda medicine.”
Metabolism is vital for self organization. In coordination to the idea that “moving things, changing it, and putting it together creates balance within the human body”, better known as Vata, pitta, kapha. In the paper published in NATURE in 2015 where the ideas were put together with research into DNA, it seems that this was very much true, updating Ayurveda with western evidence.
“There are guidelines as to what you should eat, how you should exercise and what type of environment you should be in to prevent illness, but these are only 3 fields, and there are personal disparities, so please only think of them as guidelines”
After this is testing time to see what type of body you have. Answering 37 questions such as if you like warm weather, how thirsty you get, and how weak your stomach is will show how your metabolism is.
“In conclusion, the five natural elements that flow through our bodies create our life, and the metabolism pattern can affect prevention and treatment options.”
The next challenge is to create medicine that is right for individuals body types.