“Once upon a time” is a magical phrase conjuring up possibilities that exist as known truths somewhere deep in our collective consciousness. Although usually invoked to add a possibility of reality to a fairy tale, these words can bring a sense of wonder to other myths, both old and new, because, after all, myths are revealing symbols of universal truths that uphold the very fabric (dharma) of our existence. Their actual reality as an “occurred in time, space paradigm” becomes immaterial.
Once upon a time Lakshmana lay grievously wounded on the battlefield, a heartbeat away from death while an enveloping despondency cast a dark shadow over his elder brother, Rama, giving great hope to the forces of darkness. Hanuman would have none of this. He flew to the hut of the royal physician Susena who was busy preparing formulations and was not to be disturbed. Hanuman gently lifted the whole cottage and carried him, undisturbed, to the battlefield. When Susena came out he was surprised to see where he was and although his initial reaction, born of great training, was to assist the dying human, he faltered: “I am physician to Lord Ravana, Laksman and Rama’s mortal enemy. How can I assist the enemy?” In answer, it is said, Hanuman reminded him of the code of ethics of a vaidya (Ayurvedic physician) including the admonishment that to a vaidya there is no enemy, only a patient. Susena immediately saw the clarity of his path, took the secret pulse at the thumb base and realizing the gravity of the situation stated that only the sanjivani herb, growing on the distant Dronagiri, could save this precious life. Hanuman flew to the Himalayas, located the mountain, but in the dark could not tell which of the radiant herbs at the bottom of the Palash tree were sanjivani, which katuka and which kalmegh. He therefore, growing immensely in stature, brought the entire mountain to the battlefield and the great Susena was able to give life back to Lakshmana by squeezing a few drops of sanjivani juice into his mouth!
Once upon a time, the fifth century Chinese monk, Fa Hsien, traveled to Pataliputra in India and this is what he wrote:
The cities and towns of this country are the greatest of all in the Middle Kingdom…All the poor and destitute in the country, orphans, widowers, and childless men, maimed people and cripples, and all who are diseased, go to those houses, (charitable hospices) and are provided with every kind of help, and doctors examine their diseases. They get the food and medicines which their cases require, and are made to feel at ease; and when they are better, they go away of themselves.
According to Vasant Lad, an Ayurvedic physician’s medical ethics prevent him from pointing out the faults of other vaidyas. He/she must treat any client, of whatever class, creed etc. This is what Hanuman pointed out to Susena and this is what Fa Hsien found centuries later as practiced.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, when Banyan Botanicals was being set up, Hart de Fouw told Scott Cote that he must never look upon his competitors as enemies or even rivals. Scott followed this policy closely. He says that he feels the energies of his competitors and Banyan, when looked upon in this manner, may have had a “piggyback” effect on each other to raise the bar to higher degrees of professionalism and integrity. Banyan Botanicals today is one of the most successful Ayurvedic product providers around.
Once upon a time, a few short years ago, when I hosted an Ayurveda Awareness Month at City Yoga, I invited both Banyan Botanicals and Om Organics to bring their products and to participate in the workshops. Kevin from Banyan unfortunately could not come and suggested that Prashanti from Om Organics speak on Banyan’s behalf. I cannot remember which of the two said “we are like brothers” but I think it may have been both. Prashanti did speak quite eloquently about Banyan’s Chyavanprash. It was a memorable workshop of great inspirational value to all who came.
Once upon a time could be now. In an ancient human tradition, it is said that great gifts must be treated as treasures and must be shared not stored nor made secret. Great gifts must in turn foster greater gifts in return. Ayurveda and yoga have come to this great land as the harbingers of a new age in healing that sees no difference between healing cancers, broken bones, mental disorders and spiritually bereft souls losing their direction. This great land, built on an unprecedented idealism of a perfect nation, can mirror this gift by bringing back a sense of unity and friendly cohabitation to these great arts. One where we “piggyback” each other, practitioners, teachers, students, patients to a greater place of wisdom and compassion, the cornerstones of all healing.
Once upon a time, TODAY, we can realize the truths inherent in every fairy tale, every myth and every true story, of the greater potentiality of humanity that exists in the singular power of unity.
With great gratitude to Dr. Lad.
Can we still get the Sanjivani herb in India? Not the tablet form but the herb form?