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 Interviews with People Who Make a Difference : Making the Temple Right 
Interview with Shyam Singha DO, DAc
   as interviewed by Daniel Redwood DC

Shyam Singha, D.O., D.Ac., is one of the world's foremost practitioners of the natural healing arts. Born in India and based in London for most of his adult life, Dr. Singha is a doctor of both osteopathy and acupuncture, with a practice that also includes naturopathy, homeopathy and meditation.

Born as a prince in the Himalayas, Singha has traveled far from the 300-room palace where his life began. As a young man, he was an engineer, an inventor and a chartered accountant. In World War II, he was a flyer for the Indian Air Force, and also served as the chief cook in a prisoner-of-war camp where 5000 Japanese were interned.

In the late 1950's, he studied at the British School of Osteopathy, earning his doctorate. Then in the early 1960's he spent three years in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong studying acupuncture and Oriental medicine at universities and with wandering monks. He later studied naturopathy (herbal medicine) and homeopathy in Germany. He is one of a very small number of practitioners in the West who are acknowledged masters of both Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Ayurvedic medicine of India, two of the world's oldest surviving healing traditions.

His students have included Dr. J.R. Worsley, the renowned English acupuncturist and educator, and Dr. James Gordon, the holistic physician and author from Washington, D.C. who serves on the faculty of the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Dr. Singha was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and Kirpal Singh, two of India's greatest spiritual teachers of the Twentieth Century. He also was a close friend and later a disciple of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the controversial Indian guru who achieved great notoriety during his stay in the United States. It was Singha who started the first Rajneesh center in the Western world, in London, but he later was dropped by the Rajneesh organization because of his outspoken opposition to its rigidity and dogmatism.

In England, Dr. Singha has practices in London and Suffolk. He is the director of the Natural Therapeutic Trust, a charitable organization dedicated to making natural healing methods widely and inexpensively available. He also travels to Amsterdam and Milan every few months to attend to the large numbers of patients who seek his services there. In Amsterdam, he has designed and implemented treatment programs for AIDS patients based on natural healing principles.

In this interview with Dr. Daniel Redwood, Dr. Singha's unique and uncompromising perspectives on health, diet, meditation, and personal power come through in a lively interchange marked repeatedly by unexpected turns in the road. Singha has a great aversion to becoming stuck in ruts of any sort, and he is dedicated, as a teacher and a medical practitioner, to using all the tools at his disposal to enable others to escape the cages of their own making.


: I want ask you some questions I have heard you answer before, to bring the answers to people who will be reading this.

SHYAM SINGHA: No, hold on. First of all, the answer will not be the same. Second thing, this may sound very funny to you, but I am not talking to you . . .

I have nobody to influence, I have no one to convert, I have nobody to follow me. I have not written a book for 35 years. [If I had] they would tie me to the book, saying "Bloody fool, you saidthat ten years ago, why today are you sayingthis?

DR: Emerson said consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

SHYAM SINGHA: That's why I speak of "bibliographical mind." That means we give a list at the back of the book, the bibliography. "This has been said before, therefore what I am saying .... is actually accurate." I'm not interested in accuracy. I'm interested in touching the heart. I may tell fibs to touch the heart, so they may call me a liar. Do you think people who think that lies are the opposite of truth, know the difference between them? Have they ever felt the difference? What is it like? What is truth? The truth of today is the lie of tomorrow.

DR: Does whether it is truth or a lie come from the intent?

SHYAM SINGHA: Everybody is doing it every day, every moment. Mother is doing it to the children, the husband is doing it to the wife, the boss is doing it to the employees, you are doing it to your son. The moment there is some gain to be had, in that game you are going to tell lies, because you want to get something.

DR: When you tell your stories, are they sometimes a lie on the outside, but true on the inside?

SHYAM SINGHA: For that moment, yes. At that moment the heart wants to touch another heart.

DR: Does meditation open the heart?

SHYAM SINGHA: The word "meditation" itself has to be understood. Meditation is your birthright, like sleep. Sleep is a birthright. If you can go out of, or be lost in the mind, you can also come in to the mind. It's your birthright. The question is, we can discuss how not to meditate. To meditate is your birthright, and you have to find your own way.

DR: How should I not meditate?

SHYAM SINGHA: By dissipating your energy in a hundred million different spaces. There's a very beautiful story about that. The disciple is leaving the master [after a visit] . . . he is walking very happily outside the door, and the master says to him, "Only one thing. You can think of anything else, but don't think about pink elephants." Now of course the poor devil can't think about anything else except pink elephants, and the story is, he gets enlightened because there's only one thought left.

So, that which helps also hinders. One moment it will help, and if you want to repeat it again, it will hinder. Now you're frustrated. You thought you found the answer. And therefore your answer is wrong.

DR: Is it sometimes helpful to do one mantra for years and years, just that one?

SHYAM SINGHA: A mantra also is a sound. Different people have different sounds. Different chakras. Different moods. Now if you give somebody who is totally loaded in the lower chakras "Om" for a mantra, you'll confuse the poor devil, kill him.

DR: What kind of healing qualities come to people from meditation?

SHYAM SINGHA: If you're seeking healing qualities, you won't get it. It comes of its own. If you demand healing qualities from meditation, you are looking for a needle in a haystack.

DR: This is what I was telling a patient of mine last week who has leukemia. Regarding meditation, she was saying "what if it doesn't help my leukemia? I said, "if you're going into it just to help your leukemia, it may be better not to start."

SHYAM SINGHA: Have you ever heard of "placebo?"

DR: Sure.

SHYAM SINGHA: But have you heard the word "nocebo?"

DR: Yes.

SHYAM SINGHA: We do nothing else but put nocebos in the human brain. Parents do it, physicians do it, politicians do it, priests do it, police sergeants do it. Everybody's putting nocebos in.

DR: Wait, I was thinking of a nocebo indicating "pain," like in "nociception." What do you mean by it?

SHYAM SINGHA: Nocebo means "negative thought process." "No!" You're carrying more no's than yeses. Thou shalt not do this, thou shall not do that. Twelve Commandments.

DR: I'm familiar with ten. What are the other two?

SHYAM SINGHA: The eleventh is that there are no commandments. The twelfth is, "Thou shalt not be found out." Nobody should be able to find out.

DR: Amen . . . At this point in your life, what is your practice like?

SHYAM SINGHA: Six month waiting list. And I don't take patients if the patient hasn't come through another patient.

DR: No Yellow Pages?

SHYAM SINGHA: I haven't got a business card. Nothing is written anywhere.

DR: I assume that people come to you for many reasons. Are there certain kinds of ailments, or certain kinds of people, that you feel you are most effective with?

SHYAM SINGHA: There is no fixed pattern. None.

DR: So you are always open to what presents itself?

SHYAM SINGHA: Whether it's AIDS or cancer or depression, it doesn't matter. That's only the name. I'm not treating the name. I'm not putting a diagnosis on my cases. When they come, they already know that I am a "crackpot." They already know they have to take their bloody clothes off. They already know they will have to do something drastic, like dancing naked in front of a mirror until they fall down. If they don't want to follow it, they cancel the appointment. If I find out they haven't done it, I don't give them another appointment. I tell them "you're wasting your money and my time." So nobody does that.

DR: Was there a time when all doctors were like this?

SHYAM SINGHA: Why do you ask that question?

DR: Well, it seems so rare now. Is there a tradition from which you come, in which you believe, in which this is the normal way of doing things? Because it's not normal now. Not here.

SHYAM SINGHA: The dictionary meaning of "doctor" is "teacher." Not [someone] that takes away the pain. So if you can't teach, you are only celebrating somebody's pain. Or suppressing somebody's pain. Or replacing somebody's pain. You haven't enabled them tonot create the pain.

. . . Once in a while a phenomenon happens, an Einstein phenomenon. And when he [Einstein] is dying, you know what he said? He said, "Oh God, if I am ever born again, make me a plumber, not a scientist." Because he created so much misery, by giving knowledge into the hands of fools, who are more destructive than constructive.

DR: What is the moral of that story?

SHYAM SINGHA: The moral of that story is, "Thou shalt not throw pearls in front of swine."

DR: What should we do with pearls?

SHYAM SINGHA: Make a necklace.

DR: Do you feel that the positive value, if there is any, in modern technological medicine, outweighs the harm that may come from it?

SHYAM SINGHA: Modern medicine in many ways is good. If you're run over by a truck, no voodoo is going to save you. You'll need the beautiful hand of a surgeon. I'm talking about unnecessary pill-pushers, unnecessary prescribing.

DR: How about the use of radiation, diagnostically or therapeutically? I sometimes feel that if x-rays had never been invented, overall it would have been better, although I use them sometimes.

SHYAM SINGHA: Do all chiropractors use x-rays?

DR: Nearly all.

SHYAM SINGHA: In 35 years, I have taken x-rays probably three times.

DR: Which times? Why?

SHYAM SINGHA: The brain was not giving an answer. And if the brain is not giving an answer, you should neither fool yourself nor the patient . . .

Tell me, if you went with a glass of water to the tenth floor of whatever the biggest petroleum company in this country is, and you said to them, "I can convert water into petrol, do you think you would come down the elevator again?

DR: No.

SHYAM SINGHA: Good. So most of civilization is run by four items: armamentaria, locomotion, pharmacopia and insurance.

DR: I understand armamentaria. What do you mean by locomotion?

SHYAM SINGHA: Trucks, cars, airplanes. Movement. Pharmacopia and insurance. You take those four out, and there are no roots. You can't grow your principal food.

DR: Do you feel that all doctors make their living from people's suffering?

SHYAM SINGHA: Most surgical interventions become obsolescent within 10 years, and obsolete within 15. Surgeons perform the unnecessary operations not because they are needed, but because the surgeon wants a swimming pool in his back yard. These are not my words. These are the words of the Surgeon General of America.

The hospital is run by 10 departments. So you send them unnecessarily to those 10 departments because you want to maintain those10 departments. Not because it is a necessity. 13.8 percent of diabetes happens because of the glucose tolerance test.

DR: Are you saying the test itself causes people to begin to be diabetic?

SHYAM SINGHA: When a person is diabetic, if you will give him no sugar, and put him on a diet, and not give him the bloody glucose tolerance test, he will not have a shock. You will avert 13 out of 100.

DR: Do you ever recommend that test?


DR: I used to order those tests, but I guess it's been several years since I sent for one. The data was interesting, but some patients really didn't like the test. And I realized you don't have to run the test before making the dietary changes.

Might you therefore do a pinprick for a single measurement of fasting blood sugar, but then skip the 6-hour test?

SHYAM SINGHA: I will check the urine and the pinprick, and then put him on a diet.

DR: What kind of diet?

SHYAM SINGHA: That's the million dollar question.

DR: Depends on the individual?

SHYAM SINGHA: There is no panacea. There is no excelsior.

DR: What kinds of factors do you base it on? Do you base it on the Indian Ayurvedic system, or the Five Element Chinese system, or on a synthesis which is within you?

SHYAM SINGHA: Synthesis. When you have an eye of depth, you will see that all systems somehow or other interconnect. Ayurvedic has five elements, Chinese has five elements. Chinese have heaven, earth and man. Ayurvedic has three gunas; air, water and fire.

DR: But the definitions don't overlap exactly. Fire in one is not exactly fire in the other.

SHYAM SINGHA: True. But the concept, once you understand the body, and look deeper into it, it fits in. Then you are at a level where you can understand another physician from another group altogether. Like let's say a surgeon goes from here to Indonesia, where another surgeon has done a similar procedure . . . they will understand each other.

Surgeons never want to call themselves doctors, you know that? They are called "Mister."

DR: In England.

SHYAM SINGHA: Because most diseases are caused by the physician. Same thing happened in Indian culture. When a physician reached a stage where he could see these things, he was not called a physician, he was called "Kabiraj," "King of Poetry."

DR: Poetry?

SHYAM SINGHA: Because the body is poetry now. He is a physician, but he is looking at the rhythm of the chakras, so he is "Kabi." Same thing happened with the Chinese. When he reached a stage of thankfulness, he was no longer an acupuncturist. He wouldn't stick them with a needle. So you see it's the same. I'll give you an example.

You take homeopathy. One says, "No, no, no! You have to take a constitutional remedy." The other says, "No, no, no! You've got to remove the miasma." [Miasma refers to what homeopaths consider to be three general categories of illness/imbalance. Everyone falls into one of these categories]. The third one says, "No, no, no! First you've got to get rid of the symptoms.

DR: Is there no one answer?


DR: Can healing therefore come from any one of many approaches?

SHYAM SINGHA: In society (now please listen to this very carefully) it is not what you know, but who you know. In society. In healing, it is not what is given, it is who is giving.

The patient rings up, and says, "I've got this disease and this disease." I say, "Okay, take this, this and this." The patient says, "But I have already taken this, this and this that you are recommending."

You know what my answer is? I tell them,"Do it now, and see what happens." They might have done it before, but they were doing it with a doubt in their mind. Now Shyam has said it, and they are doing it without any doubt in mind.

DR: Would you say that standardization of care, which is such a highly valued quality in western medicine, is therefore a mistake?


DR: How then does a patient, or a licensing agency, determine which approach is dangerous, which is helpful, and which is neither?

SHYAM SINGHA: You have to teach the precepts first. Then create a situation where these precepts can be broken. A bandwagon quack, not trained properly, can be dangerous.

DR: By "bandwagon quack", do you mean someone who follows the rules all the time?

SHYAM SINGHA: No. A bandwagon quack is someone who thinks that modern medicine is bullshit. Who thinks he has found "the way," and he calls modern medicine all.... [knocks on table twice]. Nothing on this earth is not useful, but we fall into a trap.

Doctors practice fueled by fear. You want to practice, first you have to have malpractice insurance. So you are afraid before you started.

That's right. [I use] no yellow pages, or brown pages or white pages. I don't even carry a card. I travel all over the world, but I have no card.

[Notices other people around him have finished eating]. I have become a slow eater, or what?

DR: You've been talking. Maybe it's that you chew well also.

SHYAM SINGHA: Chew well! What was the name of that Canadian, who said chew the food 40 times? By the time he was 40, he ground down all his teeth. Gurdjieff was ticked off by a Sufi master, who was giving a discourse while they were having the meal. Gurdjieff was sitting right in one corner. He heard somewhere that you had to chew the food 40 times. The Sufi master gets annoyed, and he says, "You are taking away the bloody work of the stomach!!" It will shrivel. You'll get dyspepsia.

So, that which helps, also hinders. You can do things beyond.

DR: Would it be reasonable then to say that moderation is a virtue?

SHYAM SINGHA: Nothing is a virtue. Sometimes moderation is needed, sometimes total license. So don't feel if you're moderate, "I am pious, I am good, I have no faults." How would you know what good and bad is, if you don't know anything about faults? Do-gooders are a pain in the neck. They bring more harm than good.

DR: If we shouldn't "do good," what should we do?

SHYAM SINGHA: Movement. Response. Spontaneity. What the Chinese masters say: "Find, fix, forget." If something does not work, do not feel deflated. If something does work, do not feel elated. Look, the beauty of that is if something works, you will remember it. If you use it next time, how do you know it is going to work again? You are not finding and fixing and forgetting. You are remembering the formula.

DR: And then applying it inappropriately.

SHYAM SINGHA: To someone else who doesn't need it. And if something doesn't work, how do you know that that very same thing is not going to work better next time.

DR: Is all healing intuitive?

SHYAM SINGHA: What is the meaning of intuitive?

DR: Comes from within you, not based on deductive thought processes or something you were taught in school.

SHYAM SINGHA: When you play the piano, you have to learn, "do, re, mi, fa" and all the bloody things, all the scales and everything. Then one day something happens, and now you can create your own music. You must learn your precepts, and then make music.

DR: If someone comes to you, and says they want to become a healer, what might you say to them?

SHYAM SINGHA: I tell them to go learn a discipline first. No matter what discipline it is, go and learn a discipline. But on the other hand, Christ is always laying on hands.

DR: Without a discipline.

SHYAM SINGHA: Well, his discipline is totally different. He is conscious of his godliness. He keeps repeating "I am the Son of God." They have to go through him. Out of this consciousness, other disciplines will come. So he is the master of the masters.

DR: Is it important to always be thankful?

SHYAM SINGHA: Yes. This has to come not from word of mouth. It has to come from somewhere very deep down, where you say "Listen, I don't deserve it, but you're so kind to me."

DR: You have a reputation as a master of cooking. Where did you learn to cook?

SHYAM SINGHA: All over the world. And once I was the greatest photographer on the earth, hundreds of cameras. This was 1964. This phase passed, and I have never taken another photograph. There are maybe ten cameras still lying around.

DR: Did photography help you learn to see clearly?

SHYAM SINGHA: Quite a problem, how the lens sees and how I see. The day I could see, the camera was of no use to me . . .

In 1953-54, I was employing 12 people [working as an accountant] and my practice had a turnover of roughly 750,000 pounds sterling. Three quarter million. One night this client rings me up, and says "we have to do this and this for the company," and I said "no, that's not ethical." And he said if I didn't, he would take the account away.

I said, "What?" He repeated it. And I said, "You can take your account. Tonight I'm going to close the whole office. No more accounting for anybody." Can you make a decision like that? Have you got the guts? Something hit, that if somebody can bribe me....I went ahead and closed the office.

Nobody can bribe me in medicine. You have to make it so no one can make you do anything, or bribe you to do anything . . . I sold insurance for nine months. I cooked food, "Dial-a-Chef." All the papers wrote about it. You should look at those clippings. Mindblowing! But I don't believe any word of it. Others do. So you ask a question, am I a good cook? Yes. A better cook than a doctor. [Laughter].

When you travel, if you are interested, and you are genuine, and you are a nose-poker.... you know what "poking nose" is? It is being inquisitive. So when I would travel, I would eat and I would ask, "can I go into the kitchen?" They would ask why, and I would say, "so I can teach the chef something." And within a half hour the chef would be saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you," and I would have picked up everything from him. That's how I learned.

You can't tell a master chef, "Well, you shouldn't be doing that." First of all, you will not learn anything, because you already judge that he is doing wrong. Second thing, he won't impart his knowledge. Whether it's Balinese or Chinese or Tibetan or whatever. I once cooked a friend an American breakfast. I said "I am going to cook you an American breakfast." They always thought "you only know how to cook bloody curry in the thing." Any more questions?

DR: Do you think the food we eat should be reflective of the climate in which we live?

SHYAM SINGHA: That's the idea of Michio Kushi and Oshawa [macrobiotics] because they wanted to flog Japanese rice.

DR: It was in Edgar Cayce too, and elsewhere.

SHYAM SINGHA: What I'm trying to say is that you have to make this temple [points to his body] right. If your eating is wrong, it doesn't matter what food you eat. Ayurveda says that once you have sat down at a table, give thanks and eat stones, and it will be digested. Every time you take a fork and say "My God!" [his facial expression indicates scowling rejection of the food], now you have made yourself ill.

The only time you have to think about food is when you are preparing or buying it, not while you are sitting and eating. Eating means, "Eat!" If you start thinking about what to eat while you are at the table, you produce acid and you will destroy everything.

There were 20 people, and a woman walked in, and she was furious, because this Sufi had put her son [who was quite ill] on a vegetarian diet for one month. She walked in, and there was meat and chicken, and she was shouting [because the man himself was eating meat, while he had told her son not to.] So the Sufi lifts the lid off the dish, and a [live] chicken walks out. He said, "The day your son can do that, he can also have chicken."

Now you have to listen to me with a pinch of salt. It has nothing to do with the food. What I am trying to say is that it isthe one who is eating it. Once you are here, eat and thank: "Hello carrot, how are you?" [He eats a carrot].

Suppose you are a vegetarian and she is a non-vegetarian, and you are sitting at the table. Now you are a finicky vegetarian. You look at her eating, and you think, "That food, it is killing her." You think you are doing yourself a favor? You are producing acid, and she is enjoying herself. She is celebrating.

DR: So if we are truly in tune with our own needs, maybe anything is good?

SHYAM SINGHA: You are getting there. It is not the food. It iswho is eating it. That doesn't mean epidemics won't happen, food poisoning won't happen. But that also means that you will eat [only] when you are hungry.

DR: We were planning to go out for dinner last night, but we weren't very hungry, so we just had a banana, and that was fine.

SHYAM SINGHA: This is very good.

DR: Thank you very much.

SHYAM SINGHA: Well, I enjoyed taking to myself.

Daniel Redwood is a chiropractor, writer and musician who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is the author of A Time to Heal: How to Reap the Benefits of Holistic Health (A.R.E. Press), and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. He can be reached by e-mail at

©1995 Daniel Redwood, D.C.
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 About The Author
Daniel Redwood, DC, is a Professor at Cleveland Chiropractic College - Kansas City. He is editor-in-chief of Health Insights Today ( and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the......moreDaniel Redwood DC
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