From the Desk of Coordinator, Bioinformatics Centre


January 2006

Allergy - the gift of Fast life      away from Nature

Allergy is an acquired state of harmful hypersensitivity reaction to a particular substance called allergen usually a simple or complexed protein. The word allergy is derived from the Greek words “allos” meaning changed and “ergos” meaning action. Thus allergy refers to “altered or misguided” reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with allergic substance in a particular individual. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans suffer from allergies, the sixth leading cause of chronic disease, with yearly medicine costs of ten billion dollars in United States. Hay fever affects about 35 million Americans, 6 million of whom are children. Asthma affects 15 million, 5 million of whom are children. The number of cases of asthma has doubled over the last 20 years. It was in 1964 when I visited a host family in US in the weekend after being starved with bland foods. When hostess asked me if I like to cook my dish, I offered to prepare upma and asked for wheat rava, onion etc. She spontaneously said that she is having hay fever and is allergic to onion. I was amazed to hear vegetable like onion can cause allergy. In addition to pollen, dust mites,  we are aware of number of food items such as shellfish, peanuts, chana, soyabeans, almonds, walnuts, eggs, milk, food additives, tomatoes, strawberries etc. cause allergy. In Japan rice allergy is more frequent. Thanks to MNCs and TV advertisements, the people are so much afraid of foreign substances causing allergy, when we offered costly Kanjeevaram silk dress material to our hostess, she appreciated but did not have courage to stitch dress and wear.

            The possible causes for increasing incidence of allergy are 1. air pollution, 2. too much of staying indoors (thanks to TV) with highly allergenic dust mites and 3. processing and modification of foods using many chemicals for color, flavour, additives for stability and preservation in sweets, candy, cold drinks and instant foods. Studies have shown increase in asthma and allergy due to increase in consumption of fast foods. Organic carbon in the air, largely due to emissions from gasoline and diesel vehicles has been shown to enhance allergen induced – responses in human volunteers with allergy. One theory to explain the rise in asthma and allergy is “hygiene” hypothesis. With socioeconomic improvement in developed countries, households are so clean and sanitized that our bodies’ immune systems are not sufficiently exposed to viruses and other environmental factors to build up resistance. The challenge is to find ways of producing the protective effects of childhood infections while reducing the burden of getting these infectious diseases. Injectable allergens, which build up antibodies are used to treat severe forms of hay-fever and cat and venom allergies. Genetically modified rice based vaccine is being tested in Japan for allergy treatment, the oral vaccine containing only part of the allergen. Allergy incidence is likely to become a marker of FAST LIFE and modernization, unless healthy life style is practised with less of environmental pollution. Yogic practices, anuloma-viloma pranayama, meditation are beneficial in keeping allergies away. Living in a clean dust – free environment, maintaining healthy diet and exercise, leading a simple, disciplined and nature friendly life are essential to be free from allergy.

                                                                                                                           Prof. B.  C.  Harinath

January  1, 2006

April 2006

India at Crossroads

Economic Globalization Vs. Spiritual Globalization


Our knowledge of science has already outstripped our capacity to control  it. We have many men of science, too few men of God… Man is stumbling blindly through spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of Life and Death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience.”

     Omar N Bradley


            Indians in general are spiritual and live on ‘hope for better future’ as observed by the presence of slum dwellers living in inhuman conditions for generations, around 5- star hotels, posh localities and city’s railway tracts. Our faith in philosophy of past karma makes us insensitive and blind to the miserable living conditions of unfortunate brothers and sisters. Politicians exploit the misery of the poor for their own power games at the cost of economic development. After independence, we embraced communism with cosmetic changes and five year plans in the name of socialism but never critically monitoring the goals achieved. Poor people still live and die with hope. I recall visiting Russia behind iron curtain in 1981 to attend a Workshop. In the period of about 40 years, communism could provide a comfortable living condition for all the people irrespective of rich or poor, though unfortunately behind fear of ‘secret agent’ and loss of freedom. I do remember telling our Director, Dr. Sushila Nayar that Gandhian trusteeship is really in practice in Russia. She did not appreciate saying that it is implemented by force.  As Marxist ideology was diluted with time, corruption and selfishness became rampant, people could not tolerate and revolted when the moment arrived.

Now we have started embracing commerce driven capitalism and consumerism at the cost of spirituality without least inkling, where it will lead our country with vast population. When will we use our ancient wisdom to devise means and conditions for universal well being, with ‘Live and let live’ policy in place of competitive exploitation of one another. India is truly at cross roads to accept either economic globalization or spiritual globalization. Where as the economic globalization serves the interests of western industrialized countries, the spiritual globalization represented by New Age is truly for universal benefit.

            Deepak Chopra suggests that to survive, the human species must move from information and knowledge-based culture to a wisdom-based culture. Wisdom is knowledge and information that could heal the eco-system, resolve conflicts, bring about economic empowerment of the poor, and through leadership, training and empowerment of women, drastically reduce the incidence of diseases like AIDS. Chopra asks whether India is ready to lead the world into a wisdom-based civilization? Everything we need, we already have: Technology, education, cultural diversity, a collective imagination from a vibrant living mythology and a historical context which has drawn upon every possible spiritual and religious tradition – Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity.. the list is endless. These are the raw materials and ingredients for the perfect recipe for a wisdom-based society (TOI, Feb 2006).               

            Dr. Pranav Pandya, Vice Chancellor, Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya sees in the young graduates, crusaders for spread of the message of Hope, Harmony, Happiness and Peace amongst all humanity and says that the Time Spirit has decreed that India will have to play a very significant role in the ushering of the New Era. I realize this truth when I see the new generation of youth abroad saturated with affluence and consumerism, looking for a new direction, enthusiastically involving in Satsangh and social service activities of Spiritual Gurus Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Swaminarayan, Athawale, Chinmaya, Saibaba, Sri Ravishankar, Sri Goenka, Amritamayi inspired organizations and many more.

            Under guidance of Dr. Nagendra, Vice Chancellor, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana has been doing excellent research on Yoga – The science of holistic living for better health and in disease management in collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Johns Hopkins Univ. and Harvard University, USA. Recently held 15th International Conference on ‘Frontiers in Yoga Research and Its Applications’ at VYASA, Bangalore and World Conference on ‘Expanding Paradigms: Science, Consciousness and Spirituality’ at AIIMS, New Delhi are good examples of excellent research being done in India and abroad on Sudarshan kriya, Yoga, Pranayam and Consciousness with active participation of number of scientists from well known institutions. J. Watumull Global Hospital & Research Centre, Mount Abu in collaboration with DIPAS and MDN Institute of Yoga showed Coronary Artery Disease Regression through Life Style changes and Rajyoga meditation. Vipassana or Yognidra under the name of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) is being used in management of stress related health problems at Massachusetts Medical Centre, USA. Swami Ramdev is teaching and doing research on pranayam and has become 5 am family physician bringing change in life style of millions of people watching TV every morning.

            Quantum Physicists have started enlarging the scope of modern science by using consciousness-based approach, the essence of yoga, in contrast to the existing matter based approach. Our research funding agencies are more enthusiastic to look westward and support high tech driven research. It is time to look inwards and support projects related  to Spiritual science with India’s strong knowledge base and Spiritual Gurus with mass support. Let us not wait to welcome consultants from abroad to teach us yoga, meditation, pranayam under different names.

            Based on the ancient wisdom, let India define, practise and propagate the Art of simple living in harmony with nature and concern to the whole humanity replacing Star culture and consumerism dished out by aggressive marketing. It is the last opportunity to survive from the trap of economic slavery for next 50 years. Millions of people throughout the world are practising yoga and holistic living. The trio Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Nagendra and Dr. Pranav Pandya may take the initiative to bring all the noble people preaching yoga, pranayam and meditation on one platform to mobilize masses to bring transformation in the country to embrace and lead the World in Spiritual globalization.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Prof. B. C. Harinath


July 2006

Science, Spirituality & God Gene


In recent times there is considerable interest to find common ground and connect between science, spirituality and religion. If the Spirituality is the soul, the religion is the body with different shapes, colors and practices. Religion is like natural river. At the point of origin, it is pure and clean. On the way it gets contaminated. Great Saints and visionaries started religion based on noble thoughts in the best interests of community living. The ardent and jealous followers made them compartments creating divisions in the people. With time, the religion has become dominant and individualistic, creating sects and conflicts, destroying the very basis of its foundation ie. the Spirituality which it is supposed to propagate. Hence there is considerable dialogue on Science and Spirituality nowadays.

Science and technology have provided considerable comforts but still no peace on earth, questioning the limitations of science and justifying the need for imbibing spiritual values of love, compassion, sacrifice and concern to Nature and environment. Science is objective experience with limit sense perception and demonstrable while Spirituality is subjective experience based on individual effort and extra sensory perception. Hence the Truth of Science itself got limited to only that knowledge which was gained through limit senses.

Science is understanding based on matter while spirituality is understanding based on mind or consciousness. Spirituality is one step beyond science and hence all great scientists and scholars become spiritual. Core impulse of science and spirituality is the same - The Quest for Truth. Hence, Science and Spirituality should complement each other for individual growth and understanding of Nature's creation, which is happening today.

The one area that has great potential for collaboration between Science and Spirituality is the study of the mind, consciousness and human behaviour. The findings show that, "The monks (during meditation) showed greater signal in every part of the brain compared to control group (new meditators), especially in parts of the brain related to attention", says Prof. Davidson.

The MBSR (Mindfulness - Based Stress Reduction) Programme, a pioneering effort at university of Massachusetts Medical Centre, USA, that integrated mindfulness meditation practice into the mainstream of medicine and health care for treating the patients suffering from stress related problems. His Holiness the Dalai Lama - has become involved in a modern - day dialogue between Science and Spirituality under the aegis of the `Mind and Life Institute', on various topics such as Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying, Compassion, Cosmology, Destructive emotions, Nature of matter, Nature of life etc.

In India, Science and Spirituality have always gone together. Besides knowledge of the external world, there is knowledge of the inner world or knowledge of our true nature. Yogic science includes gathering of inner knowledge through reason and experimentation. It includes practices such as asana, pranayama, ritual, mantra and meditation. It can reveal knowledge not only of our ordinary body and mind, but of all aspects of the collective and cosmic minds, extending to the very processes of creation.

In the light of Quantum theory elementary particles were not real like other objects of daily life and verge on the borderline of existing and non-existing. Max Planck's idea of consciousness in material reality, Tablot's concept of an omnijective universe, Wheeler's concept of self-organising systems - all removed the age-old division between mind and matter, pointing to the possibility of Consciousness as Creator (Kundan MN, TOI, Jan 05).

Nanduri says that Science of Cosmic Philosophy attempts integration of Science of Philosophy (Vedas, Upanishads & Yoga) and the philosophy of science (Plasmas, electromagnetic field and cosmology).

When Time (Oct 25, 04) magazine came out with an article 'Is God in our Genes?', in the worlds of science and religion, provocative questions were raised, which came first, God or the need for God? If some people are more spiritual than others, is it nature or nurture that has made them so? There is a growing sense that humans may not be able to survive without religion / spirituality. Hamer, a molecular geneticist who studied 2000 persons through series of a questioner and genome analysis, identified a gene named VMAT2, associated with voluntary and involuntary movements of the body through the release of mood altering chemicals or neurotransmitters. He claims that human spirituality is an adaptive trait and also inherited genetic component and the tendency to be spiritual is part of genetic make up. He found that with a single nucleotide polymorphism out of 3.4 billion nucleotide bases contained in the human genome showed marked reduction in self-transcendence in the person concerned.

Age-old Indian philosophy accepts the existence of inherited traits or vaasanas in humans. Spirituality may not be attributed solely to a single or group of genes. The casual body or the kaarana sarira that vedic literature spoke of, is analogical to genes (Kurup, Bhavan's Journal, April 2006). These vaasanas (a term which can not be literally translated as genes) are responsible for the functioning of mind and intellect, and are comparable to the building blocks (or genes) of modern-day genetics. However, vaasanas would lie beyond comprehension of sense organs unlike genes which are conceived through data collected by sense organs. The Infinite can be perceived, but not through sense organs and it is in this sense that science and Vedanta disagreed with each other. The vedic culture categorically accepts the fact that everything is divine in nature. Possibly this is where, meditation helps in purification of mind thus in turning bad man into a good man. Further refinement of the vedantic tenet takes one to the concept of 'consciousness' which is nothing but the all pervading Brahman, formless, attribute less, pure and transcendent, in other words, God.

 Prof. B. C. Harinath

June 9,2006                                                                                                                       

[This write up is based on numerous articles on spirituality published in Life Positive, Tattvaloka, Bhavan's journal, Akhand Jyoti, Time Magazine, Yoga Sudha, Yog Sandesh, Tapovan Prasad, Yoga the Science, Yuva Bharati and The Speaking Tree, TOI.]

October 2006

Holistic Living and Its Global Relevance


          Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia defines Holistic Health as a non-medical philosophy of well being that considers the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of life as closely interconnected and balanced. Holistic Medicine takes holistic approach involving allopathic and complementary systems of medicine for treatment of patients. Interestingly ‘Holistic Living’ has not been defined either in Wikipedia or in Oxford dictionary. Possibly it has been left to Scriptures and Spiritual teachers to come out with a definition. All religions have spelled out on the goal of life. Christianity and Islam emphasize on Prayer and Submission to God, for salvation or entry into Heaven. Hinduism shows several paths such as Bhaktiyoga (devotion), Karmayoga (selfless action), Jnanayoga (knowledge), Rajayoga (physical & mental, self control by meditation) and of course belief in God for Moksha or liberation from material existence and cycle of birth and death and join “Universal spirit” which is an ultimate goal of life. Buddhism addresses the suffering or misery of living and guides one towards enlightenment or Nirvana for Peace and Bliss. All the religions do emphasize on getting rid of egoism, hatred, greed and selfishness and harbour qualities of love, compassion, spirit of service etc at emotional and intellectual level but how to imbibe these qualities at experiential level is the crux of the problem, that too in consumeristic environment. Going to Temple, Church, Mosque or Satsang have been ritualized without life transformation. There is need for spending a few minutes in silence for introspection on divine nature and purpose of life. In this Globalization era, day to day living with contentment, peace and productivity has become a challenging problem, necessitating the need for a definition and meaning of Holistic Living applicable at Global level.

          There are number of religions and faiths in the world. 75% of the humanity (4.5 billions) belong to major religions namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism with about 16% being secular / atheist (Wikipedia). We have amalgamation of rich & poor, educated & illiterate, intelligent & dullard, ambitious & quiet, hot & cold people in the world. Holistic Living has become even more important, as average human life span is increasing due to better nutrition and health care. Life expectancy is 80 years in developed world today compared to 55 years, a century ago. With anti-ageing research picking up largely in repairing cellular and molecular damage, the time has arrived to ‘slow ageing’ in humans says gerontologist Olshansky. Five technology areas ranging from genetic engineering to replacement of body parts including drugs for enhancing physical performance, cognition etc. have been identified to enhance normal human functioning by the US National Science Foundation. According to some reports, around 10% of US university students regularly take Ritalin as smart drug to boost their attention and concentration. The wakefulness promoter modafinil is increasingly being used. Cosmetic surgery originally used to treat injuries is becoming popular and socially acceptable. The first humans to reach a happy, healthy 150th birthday may already have been born, says Graham Lawton (New Scientist, May 2006). All these new developments make the living a challenging one in the coming years, giving us the option of drugs or drug free holistic living to lead a stress-free healthy and purposeful life. To define and practise Holistic Living without hurting religious sentiments and in the face of aggressive consumer culture is a challenging proposition.

          We have a very long history of Rishis (Seers) and visionaries who have explored understanding of human creation, purpose and life beyond and documented for posterity while modern science with sophisticated technology is just moving farther to understand the higher and deeper dimensions of Reality.

Based on Sanatan dharma and Vedic wisdom we may broadly define  -

‘Holistic Living as Simple, Spiritual, Peaceful, purposeful and productive living in Harmony with Nature’ or simply        

‘Holistic Living is an art of living in harmony with Nature and concern to the whole universe’.

            Patanjali’s Asthanga yoga is science and art of living based on the principles of Ahãr (food), Vihãr (exercise) and Vichãr (thinking). Live in moderation free of excess syndrome and without vulgar display of wealth. Cultivate moderation in food intake, have adequate exercise and positive thinking and attitude to life. The popular techniques which have been helpful in Holistic Living of millions of people are Rajayoga (Yogasana, Pranayama, Meditation), Sudarshan yoga etc.  Meditation is taught as Aãna pãna, Vipãssana, Transendental meditation etc. and practiced with beneficial effect. Regular daily (morning or evening) Yogasana, Pranayama, Meditation (TM, Aãna pãna sathi / Vipassana) at least for 30 minutes on week days help in physical and mental health which are important for healthy body and sound mind. Disciplined life (regularity in day to day activities), Fasting, Prayer (Thanking God for all the blessings) and introspection in silence (30 min. a day in the night) with questions – ‘Who am I ?’ and ‘What is the purpose in this life ?’ will help in promoting Spiritual health generating a feeling of sacrifice, sharing and spirit of service to the needy and less fortunate. Lastly one has to think of how better he or she contributes in one’s own way for making this world a better one.

          Further in the morning or evening on weekends, one should spend an hour appreciating the Nature. Sun is giving bright light without charge. Clouds pour rains for sustenance of life. The plants churn the dirty mud and selflessly provide beautiful flowers and delicious fruits to enjoy. We have to learn selfless and disciplined life from birds and animals with regularity in their getting up, eating, movements etc. and how they maintain health. We are hopeful of thorough deliberations in the November Symposium, and coming out with a definition and module for ‘Holistic Living’ applicable in life and acceptable to the whole world.

          It is nice that 2005 Nobel Prize for World peace was awarded to IAEA institution and its Director General for their efforts to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. India and its Spiritual teachers deserve next Nobel Prize for peace, for presenting wisdom culture based on Yoga (Yogasana, Pranayama and Meditation), the ‘Art and Science of Living’ to the world.                         

Prof. B. C. Harinath

September 5, 2023