Homeopathy: A Sri Lankan Odyssey

Homeopath Vaish Sathasivam shares her journey to practicing homeopathy in Sri Lanka. She includes her experience treating viral fever, influenza and dengue. Creating public awareness about homeopathy and holistic health in Sri Lanka has been one of her many goals.

homeopathic medicine for surgical shock

For my father and all those who are beacons of love.

I had imagined many life paths to follow which included veterinary surgery, pop stardom and being an activist for Green Peace. The actual choices were doctor, engineer or accountant and doctor seemed to be my preferred persuasion. I did find medicine fascinating but some discontent tugged at my heart. Fiona, my friend at school, proved to be the messenger for the life-changing events that brought homeopathy to me in 1990. We were eighteen and she had detected a growth that made me think the worst. I spent many a day at the British Council library in Colombo searching for some information that could help her. I came to understand that medical interventions involved surgery and drugs with side effects which offered short term cures.

Disheartened, I continued reading at the library until one day I literally stumbled upon three books and the word homeopathy caught my eye. In this vast array of shelves and books on medicine, squeezed together were a manual on homeopathic educational institutions and two first aid books. The hairs on my neck stood on end as I read the brief introduction to homeopathic philosophy – which made perfect sense of course! What really got me excited were the names of remedies like Ignatia amara, Pulsatilla nigricans and Natrum muriaticum. I can only describe the feeling as one of familiarity even though I had no previous encounter with homeopathy. I took the books home and called Fiona and told her something like, “there is another way to cure and this is the kind of medicine I want to study”. “The highest ideal of cure is rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of the health, or removal and annihilation of the disease in its whole extent, in the shortest, most reliable and most harmless way…” (The Organon of Medicine by Samuel Hahnemann, aphorism 2)

The growth turned out to be a fibroadenoma for which she did have surgery. Consequently, I told my incredulous parents that I wished to study homeopathy and it took me four years to convince them and travel to England to do so. I never gave up as I knew it was my soul calling.

The College of Homeopathy in 1994 was nestled amidst Regent’s Park, Central London, and was to me, what Hogwarts was to Harry Potter. I was trained at Ainsworths Homeopathic Pharmacy as well, which added to the imagery of potions and wizards to coincide with the release of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone in 1997.  England itself held all the allure of Dickens that had accompanied my early life in Sri Lanka. To meet homeopaths and other holistic practitioners who gave of their time was magical – from miasms to morphic resonance, what a breadth of knowledge. Life was not all magical of course, with many challenges like the winter, a meagre budget and homesickness. But I was on a quest!

As students we were given hours to write up a single case and come up with remedy suggestions for patients. Thank you, Mike Bridger, Kate Diamantopoulo, Tony Hurley and Linda Razzell, for your inspired teaching. Twenty years on I am a little faster at prescribing and can take case histories in Tamil and Sinhala! I remember the nerve-wracking moments of having to talk to patients and build rapport in the teaching clinic. I understood what it must be like for patients, when two years into my studies I developed pulmonary tuberculosis. It was in an advanced state by the time it was diagnosed. The roles were reversed and I was the patient and solely dependent on the doctors and staff at Northwick Park Hospital, Middlesex. After a lengthy recovery and intense soul searching, I was back at classes.

The kindness and guidance of Barbara Harwood, college staff, family and friends are never forgotten. It was a time of reflecting on physical and emotional pain and that I had had a near death experience. This only deepened my empathy and spiritual resolve. Graduating in 1998 I returned to Sri Lanka to be of service – perhaps for my higher purpose as Hahnemann would put it. I said this prayer, chanted at Plum Village in France by Thich Nhat Hanh, as I sat to work each day. It was a reminder of Hahnemann’s words “The Unprejudiced Observer”:

“We evoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening, in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen, in order to understand. We evoke your name in order to practise listening with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We shall sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what has been left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person”

It is true that nothing prepares you for actual practice in Sri Lanka or anywhere. In the summer of 1995, I had returned home for a holiday and worked at the government homeopathic clinic in Welisara under the supervision of Dr G.G.A. Aponso. Penny Jayawardena, it is an inspiration to see how you love and serve the community. Thanks also to Dr Ganesh Ratnam of Ratnam Hospital, Colombo, for your guidance. I came with expectations of a vibrant future for homeopathy and to be able to make changes. I soon understood that it was a battle that had to be approached differently and so I settled into practice, wrote articles to local newspapers and launched awareness programmes for the public. I sensed great apprehension and mistrust in Sri Lanka regarding homeopathy and I felt that educating each client could be the way forward.

In 2010, I set up a Facebook page titled ‘Homeopathy’ and it has helped create further awareness. Sri Lanka has an act of parliament to regulate the practice of homeopathy but little progress has been made to support practitioners and the profession. The kindly Dr H.T. Anandarajah, gave me twelve medicating potencies to start up with. What a thrill it was to dispense my own prescriptions!

I left for England yet again in 2001 to study with Jeremy Sherr in the picturesque town of Great Malvern, Worcestershire. To study remedies like Chocolate and Adamas were intriguing as were his references to the Tao Te Ching. The proving that year was Cygnus cygnus or whooper swan. In 2002, I was back in Colombo and nine months later my father died of an aneurysm. The grief was deep and thinking back, I should have had a dose of Cygnus. The tsunami that affected Sri Lanka in 2004 and the prolonged civil war we faced, are some factors that contribute to the trauma and grief of our collective psyche.

Sri Lanka was in the grip of a virulent viral infection, namely Chikungunya in 2006 to 2007. Dengue fever was already causing seasonal epidemics for which I was using remedies such as Apis mellifica, Rhus toxicodendron, Cinchona officinalis and Eupatorium perfoliatum. This virus was confounding, because it elevated white blood cell counts and platelet counts in certain cases. It was an intuitive decision and one born out of practical necessity to prescribe Echinacea angustifolia for these cases. It changed the blood count favourably and I understood how remedies act on the Vital Force by regulating cell production as demanded by the situation (bringing counts to optimum levels). Previously, with cases of Dengue I had only seen it increase blood cell counts.

Mostly, I was treating individuals who could not raise themselves out of bed because of the excruciating pain and swelling in the body. Therefore, it was practical to give a single remedy and one dose hourly. Once the patient was clinically stable (Packed Cell Volume/Haematocrit was stable), I could support with other remedies. Echinacea has become a familiar name in my practice and I use it during Flu season as a preventive, keeping in mind that each season varies and so do indicated remedies. In 1998, I had submitted my final year project on ‘The Therapeutic Use of Homeopathy in Cholera’ and it gave me the impetus to treat viral epidemics. For further information please refer to my Hpathy article of November 2012. Thank you, Elizabeth Adalian, for your expansive knowledge of therapeutic remedies. I recall the Trifolium pratense that you prescribed to a patient who had pre-cancerous cells in their pap smear. The follow-up test came back all clear! Trifolium pratense has been a vital cancer therapeutic remedy in my practice. I have had the honour of mentoring and teaching homeopaths and other holistic practitioners who set up their practice in Sri Lanka.

There was a day I dealt with seven cases of viral fever from the town of Negombo. Several members of one family had been ill simultaneously and had to be managed. There were many flu seasons of sleepless nights, being inundated with blood reports and calming patients and loved ones. I have to mention the Jehovah’s witness community, who do not accept blood transfusions on religious grounds. Keeping them safe has been an added responsibility but they take the remedies with such faith. I am humbled by the efforts of those clients who travel for hours to consult me, from Kalpitiya, Hambantota, Tissamaharama and Jaffna. Homeopathy is yet to fulfil its potential in Sri Lanka in terms of having adequate numbers of homeopaths island-wide, pharmacies that make homeopathic medicines accessible to the public and even a teaching institution.

To all those who come to me and share your stories in trust, your fears and aspirations, past life connections and tales of abuse and depression – I appreciate your courage and commitment. In 2010, Avisha who was six years old, came to see me with his mother. I looked into his eyes and the fact that he was autistic and non-verbal did not pose a barrier. Avisha’s parents were going through a separation which significantly impacted his progress. His mother was the intuitive guide and we soon came to respect and collaborate with each other in order to help him. We shared the excitement of the single dose of MMR 30c that produced a green bowel movement, and also the heart-breaking moments of his journey. He made me work hard at prescribing (Ignatia amara 1M, Zincum metallicum 200c, Aquamarine gem essence 1M, Morgan Bach 200c and Stramonium 10M) and reminded me that true healing comes when we keep our hearts open through the vagaries of life.

Last year I conducted two workshops themed ‘Health in Your Hands’. The first one was held in April titled ‘Homeopathic First Aid’, and the guest speaker was my colleague and friend who is a classical acupuncturist. In June, I followed up with ‘Homeopathy and The Mind-Body Nexus’ together with a drama therapist. We had small groups, it was interactive and we focussed on empowering individuals towards their health. From 2017 I trained and started using Bioresonance Scans (Sensitiv Imago) – all thanks to Anisis my Reiki/past life regression therapist and friend. Clients report significant improvements and it complements homeopathy well. Two medical doctors that I know of in Colombo, have been open to homeopathy and we refer patients to each other. It has been a dream of mine to practice in an environment where homeopaths and other therapists work as one integrated system.

I leave you with this musing:

“In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force (autocracy), the dynamis that animates the material body (organism), rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both sensations and functions, so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence” (The Organon of Medicine by Samuel Hahneman: aphorism 9)

These lines struck a chord in me all those years ago and is, still, the essence of the Organon for me. Firstly, it draws attention to the innate life force that we each have and its intelligence in keeping the mind, emotions and body in harmony.  Secondly, that as homeopaths or healers, we may have the privilege of witnessing the metamorphosis in those who seek healing and the opportunity to be transformed ourselves.

About the author

Vaish Sathasivam

Vaish Sathasivam

Vaish Sathasivam LCH practices in Colombo, Sri Lanka and has served as the Honorary Treasurer of the Homeopathic Association of Ceylon. She graduated in 1998 from The College of Homeopathy, London and pursued post-graduate studies at The Dynamis School for Advanced Homoeopathic Studies with Jeremy Sherr. She has also worked at Ainsworths Homeopathic Pharmacy, London. Vaish has given several interviews, written numerous articles and been involved in creating public awareness about homeopathy and holistic health.

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