True maternity begins with the conscious creation of a being, with the willed shaping of a soul coming to develop and utilise a new body.
– THE MOTHER (of Sri Aurobindo Ashram)
According to a news item published today (The Times of India, 14 June 2017, p. 1) the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy (CCRYN) has published a booklet ‘Mother and Child Care’ advising pregnant women to avoid bad company, bad feelings and non-vegetarian food. As expected, the advice has been ridiculed because it ‘lacks rationale’, forgetting that all scientific knowledge, which is based on reason, is tentative and therefore subject to revision. Leaving aside the debate on the place that reason should occupy in life, let us look at the issue with an open mind, which is a far more essential component of the scientific temper than rationality. An open mind is free of prejudice, preconceived notions, and is willing to unlearn, if necessary for going beyond what one already knows.
The intimate physical and physiological link that unites the mother and the baby during pregnancy is too obvious to need any elaboration. What is not so obvious is that the body and the mind are manifestations of something even more subtle than the mind, and that is consciousness. One mode of consciousness can affect another mode of consciousness. The mother’s mind and body, the growing child’s mind and body, and the food that the mother eats are, in the final analysis, different modes of the same Supreme Consciousness. In fact, there is an all-pervasive unified field of consciousness that can make thoughts and feelings at one place lead to physical changes on the other side of the globe. If this sounds strange, unbelievable, and irrational, ask a physicist well-versed in modern theoretical physics, and he will tell you that this phenomenon is consistent with physics as well as spirituality. If that is possible, why can’t we be open to the mother’s mind affecting the baby’s mind and body while it is in the mother’s womb? Ayurveda knew long ago that the effect exists; modern medicine is slowly coming to terms with it.
The Mother (of Sri Aurobindo Ashram) had once seen two beautiful little girls, twins, whose beauty had the perfection of a child in a painting by Reynolds. The girls resembled neither parent, but it so transpired that the girls’ mother had looked at consciously, throughout pregnancy, especially just before going to bed, and on getting up in the morning, a painting by Reynolds, and had prayed that she give birth to a child as beautiful as the child in the painting. The physical features offer much more resistance to any modifying influence than do thoughts and feelings. Therefore, if even the body of her child can be affected by the thoughts of a pregnant mother, it should be easier to influence the child’s mind during pregnancy. Hence the process of creating a new life through maternity can be a conscious process. The mother’s thoughts and feelings during pregnancy can shape the consciousness of the baby developing in her womb.
It seems a few doctors have also ‘rubbished’ the advice carried in the CCRYN booklet. The doctors do not necessarily have to learn theoretical physics or delve into spirituality to comment on the merits of the advice. Unfortunately, the doctors are not taught anything about the ‘latest’ developments in consciousness-based medicine, on which Larry Dossey, an American physician, has by now written several well-referenced paperbacks. Dossey calls consciousness-based medicine ‘non-local medicine’, perhaps to sound more scientific. The key discovery, or rather re-discovery, of these recent studies is that the healing intentions of a genuinely loving and compassionate person, even if he is not a doctor, can promote recovery from even a bodily illness. The positive effect is seen even if the patient is not aware of these healing intentions directed at him, and it can take place across long distances. If that can happen, why can’t the mother’s mind affect the growing baby in the womb? Baby steps in this direction were taken about twenty years ago in the Mecca of modern medicine in India, AIIMS, New Delhi, where it was demonstrated that music played to fertilized eggs could affect the development of the brain in chicks. About the food that the pregnant women should have, the doctors have said that the advice to avoid non-vegetarian food is ‘wrong’ because a pregnant woman needs more protein. It is an open secret that doctors are not taught much about nutrition during their training. A pregnant woman needs not only more protein, she also needs more energy. If the extra energy that a pregnant woman needs as compared to the non-pregnant state is supplied through a mixture of cereals and pulses, and some milk and milk products, the protein requirement will take care of itself. All that it needs to reach this conclusion is to sit down with the bible of nutritionists, ‘The Nutritive Value of Indian Foods’, published by the Indian Council of Medical Research, and do a few simple calculations (By the way, it is not a new book: the first edition of this book was published before India became independent).
Since children born today are the future of the world, women can contribute to a better future by treating maternity as a process of conscious creation. Therefore, the Mother advised women, and their partners, all the time, and especially during pregnancy, to be conscious of their thoughts, feelings and actions for their own sake, and even more for the sake of their children. We must be ready to change for the better if we want a better tomorrow. Thus, the advice contained in the CCRYN booklet is a small segment of all that we may do for a better future. The language of the booklet may be simple, and even crude; its grammar may be faulty; its tone may be preachy; but let us not miss the grain of truth that it has. Let us not treat ‘scientific’, ‘rational’, and ‘true’ as synonyms; it is because they are not that we have all three of them in the dictionary. Truth is more important than being scientific and rational. Further, truth itself has many layers. When Will Durant wrote in a letter to his famous contemporaries in 1930 that “the greatest mistake in human history was the discovery of truth”, he was referring to scientific truths. Scientific truths are only part of the Truth, the One Truth that incorporates all truths, and remains essentially unknown although it may not be unknowable. But it is because scientific truths, which are at best partial, have hypnotized the modern mind that Will Durant considered the discovery of truth itself to be a great mistake.
The idea behind this blog is neither to tell what pregnant women should eat, think or feel, nor to say that everything in the CCRYN booklet, which I have not seen, is gospel truth. The purpose of writing this blog is only to highlight that rationality is not the final arbiter of Truth, and that something is not wrong just because a few doctors have rubbished it. That would be giving doctors an authority that they do not legitimately possess. Expertise in one area does not confer expertise in another area. Just as a typical yoga expert may not know how an antibiotic works, a typical medical doctor restricted in his knowledge to what he learnt in medical school may not understand the idea of mind over matter. Anybody who rejects what he does not understand is not only being ignorant, he is also being unscientific.