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
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
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
SHYAM SINGHA Interview
DR: 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
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?"
SHYAM SINGHA: But have you heard the word "nocebo?"
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
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
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?
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
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?
SHYAM SINGHA: No.
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
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."
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
DR: Is there no one answer?
SHYAM SINGHA: Can't be!
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?
SHYAM SINGHA: Totally.
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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com.
©1995 Daniel Redwood, D.C.