Concept of Holistic Medicine: Dr. Shriniwas Kashalikar The concept of holistic medicine emerges as a result of realization of the underlying unity and continuity amongst the apparently different disciplines of medicine. In fact it emerges from the realization of the universal unity and continuity. This is emergence of SATVIKA JNAANA (Geeta 18.20). It is usual for most of us to get stuck to the differences as they strike our senses; and build our concepts; based on these observations of ours. The knowledge of different disciplines and recognition of their separate existence; as disjointed or disconnected entities; is called RAJASA JNAANA [Geeta 18.21]. Those who either practice mixed or integrated medicine or are not averse to dialogue or advocate it, may fit in this category. The third variety is ignorance about every other medical discipline and adamant adherence to any given medical discipline alone is state of darkness called TAMASA JNAANA [Geeta 18.22]. Most of the warring factions from different medical disciplines opposing the emergence of holistic medicine can fit in this category. The word holistic is derived from the Greek word holos which literally means a] Taking in the whole of something b] Whole of organism is a more fruitful field of study than its parts or symptoms. It can be stated for the sake of simplicity and further clarity that the holistic medicine is Transreligious [not religious or not non religious i.e. neither holy nor unholy], Transnational [neither national nor nonnational/antinational], Transcultural [neither of a particular culture nor against any particular culture], Transintellectual [neither bound in a particular intellectual framework nor opposed to a particular intellectual framework], Transideological [neither committed to a particular ideology nor opposed to a particular ideology] and Transscientific [neither unscientific nor locked in rigid criteria of physical sciences] Study of holistic medicine constitutes efforts to understand, visualize and realize the multi charactered, multifaceted, multidimensional and multilayered complex nature of life (in addition to what is learnt in allopathy or what is learnt in any one discipline). The intention of the study is to comprehend the continuity and validity (or otherwise) of the concepts of
different disciplines (allopathy, Ayurveda, SAANKHYA philosophy, homeopathy, yoga, Chinese medicine etc.) which emerge and get evolved from different levels of consciousness of differently constituted individuals in different regions with different backgrounds. The approach of holistic medicine can neither be classified as eclectic, analytical, synthetic or reductionist etc. The holistic approach embodies all these as means to “see” the unity and continuity in different phenomena. The holistic medicine is therefore not a new system or new discipline of medicine. It is a way to see things as they are rather than how they appear and thereby preserve and promote health and improve effectiveness of healing. Implications of Holistic Approach Holistic approach simultaneously makes us aware of possibilities as well as limitations. For example understanding the ayurvedic concepts such as DOSHA, DHATU, MALA, their balance, their imbalance, concept of PRAKRUTI i.e. constitution etc. with holistic approach, add new dimension to the knowledge of the student of physiology as well as to the diagnostic skills of a clinician from the discipline of allopathy. Understanding of the concepts of panchakarma, naturopathy, yoga etc. with holistic approach makes the treatment also more effective because several different modalities and remedies in the repertoire act at different levels or different points and complementarily. Besides, holistic understanding of human existence, which is fundamental to the study of holistic medicine gives us insight into the enormous healing powers within the patient and helps us to help him/her to use them beneficially. This is a great benefit in terms of empowerment of the clinician as well as the patient. Holistic approach relieves health care providers such as doctors and paramedics and all others; from the unhealthy patronizing and condescending attitude and makes us aware of our limitations, i.e. gives us knowledge of our ignorance! It gives us the courage to see our ignorance and admit it. It imparts intellectual honesty to admit the ignorance hidden under the Greek, Latin, Sanskrit or other esoteric/mystifying terms, characteristic to many branches of science in general and medicine in particular.
(Take for example hysteria. We do not know any physiological mechanisms underlying this condition. But the ignorance is hidden under the term. Another example is that dreams, thoughts , emotions etc. The ignorance about the physical dimensions of dreams, thoughts, emotions etc, even as we can not dispute or disprove their existence; is hidden under several terms)! Holistic approach reduces hypocrisy and imparts humility. Some more examples from the disciplines of medicine are as follows. Holistic approach enables us to see the limitations intrinsic to the concept of standardization of weight, height and possible errors in interpretation of biochemical parameters and calculation of regimentalized doses of drugs due to lack of due consideration to variations in the constitutions. Holistic approach cautions us against indiscriminate use of ayurvedic drugs without due consideration to the variation in the quality, nature, source etc. of the ingredients of the drug as well as the constitution of the patient and the type of climate. Holistic approach gives us insight into the possible mechanism of the action of homeopathic drugs on the one hand and cautions about the ambiguity in the method of diagnosis arising out of subjective factors related to the doctor as well as the patient, on the other. Holistic approach reveals to us the possibility of “cosmic homeostasis” on the one hand while simultaneously exposing the possible fallibility intrinsic to bigotry in the practice of gemology, astrology, numerology etc. due to number of different approaches with fundamental differences in the interpretations, without sufficiently convincing reasons. Beside all above, implication of the holistic approach is readiness to change and accommodate new ideas, i.e. not getting shackled in dogmas of any kind. But possibly the most important implication is development of proper perspective about the health and healing, which would help in development of proper policies of services, education, research, production in the field of mainstream medical care, education, research and coordination of all these with a variety of policies (influencing the health directly and indirectly) in other fields such as education, industry, environment, agriculture etc.
From practical point of view, syllabus of holistic medicine including Namasmaran, prayers, water therapy, proper food (diet), mud packing, massage, yoga, music, colors, aroma and such simple healing methods (so much recommended by Mahatma Gandhi) and so many health promoting research and service activities can be introduced. It is this holistic approach, which would help the decisionmakers; to realize that the national unity and even freedom (which is essential for global unity) would be in jeopardy in absence of such holistic (unifying) steps. DR. SHRINIWAS KASHALIKAR