This year’s Nobel prize for medicine has gone to a Japanese scientist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for his research in autophagy
Autophagy means to “self heal”. In other words, it is the process by which the human body eats its own damaged cells and unused proteins. It is a natural process and also one which occurs in case of starvation. The failure of autophagy is one of the main reasons of accumulation of damaged cells in the body, which eventually leads to various diseases. its is important to prevent and fight cancer, and it also plays a vital role in degrading and consuming cells infected by bacteria and viruses.
Ancient India has recommended a practice of fasting on one day in a fortnight, based on the waxing and waning phases in a lunar calendar. It is termed as Ekadashi. Many Indians religiously follow this practice to this day as a ritual to achieve spiritual progress, without any idea of the biological and therapeutic benefits of this practice.
Through this process of fasting for a 24-hour cycle - from sunrise to sunrise, once in 15 days, induces autophagy in our body, which in turn repairs the damaged cells or uses up the proteins of the damaged cells.
It seems almost fantastical that whenever modern science conquers a frontier in any field, it somehow relates back to an ancient spiritual practice or ritual, followed in India for generations.
A day every fortnight, spent in prayer and divine contemplation was a tonic for the mind and soul, while the practice of fasting ensured that the body would heal and rejuvenate itself.
Clearly, ancient India believed in a process of holistic healing of both the body and the mind. They were able to, quite remarkably connect the yearning of spiritual progress in a human body to its healing. One cannot but marvel, and bow our heads with admiration and reverence at their wisdom and deep scientific understanding of the body and mind.
It is, indeed, wonderful to know that we have the answer to so many problems. Unfortunately, we have not retained the scientific reasoning or scientific perception to our ancient traditions. But, all is not lost, for there will always be gifted minds in the world that will be able to unravel these mysteries and connect the dots.