Ayurveda: The Art Of Being

on July 17, 2002 by Jordan Reed
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There was a Time/Life book way back when that showed various medical practices from around the globe, including one in which biting ants were placed on a wound requiring stitches. The ants clamped their pincers into both sides of the wound, then the doctor cut their bodies off; the severed heads kept the gash closed until it healed. A method like that one, along with most of what takes place in "Ayurveda: The Art of Being," a fascinating documentary by Pan Nalin, reinforces the often forgotten fact of the world's remarkably varying human population and mindset, and its capacity to heal using creative, natural and ancient antidotes.

Without turning the film into a moral or spiritual battle between holistic medicine (Ayurveda) and allopathy (Western medicine), Nalin simply documents several cases and treatments in which natural remedies have been used to aid the patient. Ayurvedic doctors employ rocks, plants, gems, even mercury and arsenic in their concoctions to cure various diseases and ailments, including cancer and birth defects. While most of the action takes place in rural India, M.D.s in Greece and America have also embraced the practice. But, unsurprisingly, it's in first-world countries that the psychological requirements of Ayurveda are hardest to maintain. One of the practitioners says, "The mistake of human intelligence is a factor in disease." Another way of referring to stress, it is this "mistake" that also in part prevents Americans from benefiting from holistic medicine. That and the money-grubbing, all-powerful pharmaceutical industry, perhaps.

Ultimately it's the mind/body connection that registers the most awe in "Ayurveda." The doctors themselves are also wonderful to listen to and watch. In places where, to the typically over-stimulated and spiritually bereft Westerner, day-to-day being seems harsh, cruel and woefully impoverished, the simplicity of existence allows for the type of life-changing belief most of us can't even begin to develop. Pass the aspirin. Directed by Pan Nalin. Produced Christoph Friedel. A Kino release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 101 min

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