It’s not even 7 o'clock and already more and more digital boxes are popping up in the Zoom gathering, everyone eagerly waiting for the last and fourth part of the Ayurveda Unveiled screening to begin. Behind one of the boxes is Gita Desai, the producer of the movie, who is joining live from her home in Los Angeles. Beautifully dressed in a light blue kurta and with a humble smile. She’s here to not only join the movie screening but also to answer questions from the students - being the final guest to participate in the live Q&A following up on other inspirational and prominent teachers in the field of Ayurveda such as Claudia Welch and our own academy teacher Victoria Raven Hyndman and Program Director Coen van der Kroon.
Ayurveda Unveiled is her newest film after Yoga Unveiled (2004) and Raga Unveiled (2009). ‘Of course, if you make Yoga Unveiled you have to make Ayurveda Unveiled, as they are sister sciences. Six years ago I launched my efforts for that. More than any time in human history it [Ayurveda] is more relevant. The pandemic came recently but it’s very evident that it’s one of the supreme gifts from India that humanity can embrace. I think all of you have that power to inseminate that knowledge, so here I am talking to all of you. I wish you all very well as you have embarked on this study. There’s lots of power in each one of you.’
‘The pandemic came recently but it’s very evident that it [Ayurveda] is one of the supreme gifts from India that humanity can embrace’ - Gita Desai, producer and filmmaker
A gift for humanity
Desai may be the driving force behind the documentary, but the real golden nuggets of wisdom and deep insight come from the incredible selection of worldwide vaidyas and practitioners who are being interviewed throughout the whole film. Priceless material that’s giving the film tremendous depth, weaving together the history and essence of Ayurveda. ‘One requirement I had as a filmmaker and myself being a lover of independent films and documentaries, is that I watch them very carefully. I look at them as an art so I needed people with good eloquence, good practices and their own light should be speaking Ayurveda- that’s how I chose. No compromise there. That’s how I enjoy good films and really get inspired by all the information.’
‘Secondly, I chose people who also were practitioners, people who practice what they preach so when they spoke there was a twinkle in their eyes and a spirit in their voice. It must jump out of the screen. Therefore, what they said had so much power. My films have been truly a grace. There was some grace over all the projects. I’m not a yoga teacher, vaidya, scholar or famous filmmaker, so having these kinds of people saying yes to me, giving me time to interview, was a miracle. I was an advocate, I was the chosen one to do it yet I felt a very big responsibility once all these people started saying yes and I was suddenly sitting in front of them interviewing. I wanted a variety of nationalities because of today’s world, and obviously the vision of the Sages was never to contain the knowledge systems only to India. If you read the scriptures there are words like ‘Manusyasya’ meaning humanity. It was meant for the Universe, so my interviewees had to come from the United States, Europe and India.’
Grandmothers always knew
‘Of course I wanted tradition and authenticity to come through, so that all of you can get a glimpse of the context. All these traditions are not just from the scriptures, they are part of life. Ayurveda is about life, every day. I mean, I saw it in my grandmother’s home, in my mother’s [home] - they lived it. The mothers, grandmothers and wifes who were in charge of the kitchen held a lot of power, therefore it was passed down from mothers to daughters. It was quite clever, genius even. So I must emphasize: no time in the history of common people this was a study, unless somebody wanted to be a vaidya or train with their Gurus. Ayurveda and yoga are so integrated into life. Like my spice box. Every household has a spice box that is like a medicine box, which the grandma’s knew. They are old medicines that are covered in the film. It wasn’t a separate study. That’s the genius of the Sages that brought it into the mainstream. If I did not show this context and the birthplace of these traditions, the film would not have roots.’
‘Ayurveda is about life, every day. I mean, I saw it in my grandmother’s home, in my mother’s [home] - they lived it’
The many nodding heads and twinkling eyes seem to agree with her. For the students from all degrees, whether first or fourth year, watching this documentary is truly a heart - perhaps even soul stirring experience. Words and gestures of gratitude and awe are flowing into the chat box when Gita turns the microphone to us for a few moments. ‘Did it inspire you? Did you see the power that every one of you can have on health, people and wellbeing? Does that come through or are you questioning yourself sometimes? ‘It only makes me want to learn more’, one of the students replies with a big smile. The bright twinkle in eyes that Desai was talking about when she was speaking to the vaidyas and practitioners, is also visible with the students this evening. ‘Yes, that’s how I feel when I watch the film. They must be feeling so proud that they can hold such wonderful abilities to create change in so many people's lives’, she responds.
Yet, there’s always this other question that’s often asked before embarking on the profound journey of Ayurveda. Also for students of the Academy. ‘Because I’ve had some teacher training programs, and in the West especially, family members would ask: what are you going to do with the yoga teacher training or with Ayurveda? How are you going to make a living? While, especially right now, more than at any time in the history of humanity, if you think about how lifestyle disorders and diseases are an epidemic by themselves. But you heard what Sadhguru says in the documentary: ‘It’s not about prevention or curing, it’s just about making this body work at its best. And empowering our system so we won’t get sick. So to teach people that, dinacharya and ritucharya, it’s so simple, it’s common sense.’
Celebrate your inner spirit
Common sense but incredibly profound, all packed in 5 hours of unique visuals and explanations that seem to humble and inspire every one of us, including the teachers. This documentary is truly a gift to our Ayurveda community and everybody eager to learn more about Ayurveda coming from the most authentic sources. Something that we must not forget now that the Western winds are blowing stronger and stronger, also increasingly influencing the Indian nation. But Desai did an incredible job bringing us all back to the very essence and roots of Ayurveda, as she felt that these ancient traditions are being diluted in the modern context.
‘It does require multiple viewings as every time you watch it you will find new gems of information. All the films are packed with so much wisdom.’ All passed down from generation to generation, from the family kitchens of Indian grandmothers and daughters to the vaidyas and practitioners - may we deeply thank them for holding and passing on their knowledge and wisdom. Their everyday life medicines and practices that can benefit all of humanity. ‘All these traditions really make us celebrate our own inner spirit and remind us that we can make it in this world. That we have it in us. No matter where you are, it elevates us. That’s what these traditions are all about, self- empowerment.’
On June 18th, Delight Academy will screen the movie Ayurveda Unveiled and have an in-person discussion with creator and filmmaker Gita Desai.