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School Interviews

California College of Ayurveda
Grass Valley, Cupertino, Cerritas, CA
Marc Halpern, D.C., Founder/Director

Why did I start the school? It was 1994 and I was shocked that there was no profession for Ayurveda in the United States. There were only a handful of us in the country at that time that had successful practices. In my hometown, I had a 6 month waiting list for patients to see me. I couldn’t find anyone to help me. I sat in meditation and was gifted with a vision. I saw a profession. I saw a school that could train clinical practitioners, not just those who know the basic fundamentals. I saw a state and national association. I realized that my dharma was being revealed to me. Having long ago surrendered my life to Divine Will, I knew that I had no choice but to surrender and serve. I remember telling my wife and her reaction was “What, are you crazy! Do you know how much work this is going to be?” I didn’t think about that. When you surrender, you give up, or at least you try to give up your free will. You try to listen, surrender and serve. In 1995 the CCA opened up. In 1997 I, along with my first graduating students, started the first State Association in California. And in 1998, along with Wynn Werner, Cynthia Copple and Kumar Batra, started the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.

I’d characterize our school as offering professional training. Clinical training is now just a function of what we do. We’ve gone beyond that in our attempt to shape our students into professionals. This has involved continuously elongating our program and increasing our standards of education. We’ve also added in significant business training.

When our practitioner training program was launched in October of 1995 it was an 15-month weekend program plus a six month clinical internship. Our 2010 weekend program is now 23 months and our internship program is 12 months to become a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist. We also now have full-time training programs, Live Internet programs and distance learning programs. When we first began, our only practitioner certification was that of the Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist. Today we have an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner certification program that focuses on Prevention and the Management of mild conditions as well as the more advanced Clinical Specialist who focuses on disease management. Both programs qualify for an academic Masters Degree in Ayurvedic Medicine though from the perspective of practitioner training this is not that important. We also offer more short courses in various Ayurvedic massage and body therapies as well as Panchakarma.

There are too many gifts and insights that I have received to contain in a short piece. When you focus intently on something, it enters your heart, it unfolds within you. Over time, you lose your separation from the object of focus and you become one. This is a form of yoga. This summarizes my journey and it is a process that continues to unfold bearing new fruit all the time. Some of that fruit has been in the realm of academic understanding and deeper insights. Some more has been in the realm of deepening my own personal practices. The most important fruit however is that which has given me a deeper understanding of myself. Engaging in life with one’s eyes and heart open means that we will begin to see how we get in our own way and how our ego and sense of separation becomes a limitation. All of this leads to obstructing the progress of our mission in life and more importantly our ultimate mission of achieving liberation.

In the future, I see continued growth and evolution of our program. More importantly though, I see the different groups involved in Ayurvedic education in the United States are becoming more cooperative and working together to create our own future. We are moving toward more uniform standards and competencies while respecting different approaches to education. This is very important. I continue to see us building the infrastructure that will one day lead to licensing in all 50 states.

Dhanvantari School, Virginia, Montana, California
Vijaya Stallings, MA, PhD, DAyur. Founder

I started this program by offering some introductory and advanced courses when several people in the Monterey area asked me how to become practitioners. I told them to wait a few weeks and I began the design of the program. I got it approved by Emerson Institute in California who certified the other courses that I was teaching. The program meets the standard requirements as described by NAMA.

In the progam, I emphasize the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of Ayurveda as well as some of the teachings of the ancient Samhitas. Since I have a Master's in Counseling Psychology I also include teachings of eastern and yogic psychology. Rather than a rigid structure, I have adapted the course to each of the individual class desires. One group was especially interested in yoga therapies as they related to Ayurvedic treatment. I taught extra hours for this group over and above the normal requirements to incorporate this information. Another group wanted more on diagnostics and the pulse so I gave more attention to these subjects for them.

Regarding gifts and insights, I have been required to study more from the ancient texts in order to teach these courses. This has been invaluable in my teaching and my individual work with clients. I continuously find new and interesting subjects as well as books to gain more knowledge of this vast and limitless science.

Unfortunately I cannot see the future. I just keep teaching where I am guided to go and on the subjects of interest to people. I currently teach and see clients in Virginia, Montana, and California. I am exploring to wonderful opportuniy in India to research 30-day PanchKarma programs. We will start to offer these in the mountain retreat of a friend and student of Ayurveda with special emphasis on those with substance abuse problems.

Dinacharya Institute, NYC, NY
Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya, Founder
The Dinacharya Institute was originally started to organize the community interested in ayurveda in the New York City area. There are 8-10 of us in practice, but new students had nowhere to get compiled information. We focused on training students with a background in the health and wellness professions that are less interested in exploiting ayurved as a business, but rather respect it as a sacred tool to adapt, with authenticity, to their professional career.

The mission of The Dinacharya Institute is to create a stronger ayurveda community in New York City through high-quality programs, abundant opportunities, promotion of self-awareness, and demonstration of Integrity in education.

In the past three years, our main Ayurvedic Health Coach program has evolved. The textbook is almost ready. To assure quality, we have teachers who understand not just how to put out information, but how to know whether the students are digesting it. I work with vaidyas to ensure they use great educational techniques. To assure authenticity, we have affiliated with the Arya Vaidya Trust in Coimbatore and have our program vetted through the Education Director. The students love having gurus and authoritative information sources with all the debates alive, and they are encouraged to think and understand rather than blindly learning information.

Our work has expanded to include workshops and smaller trainings to graduates of programs nationwide who want to address specific topics of interest, such as Dravya Guna, or how to do research, or how to integrate ayurved into mainstream practice. We also do thinktanks and workshops in India several times a year working with young vaidyas and allopaths, and have an annual Intensive Panchakarma Journey to AVP in Coimbatore, nestled near the western ghats of Kerala.

Dinacharya also sponsors a Holistic Physician’s Leadership Fellowship online to teach basic principles of holistic medicine. We do a lot of workshops for medical students, and health professional schools. Lastly, the film division is producing a lovely documentary that will bring more light onto ayurveda.

“The best teacher is one whose students surpass the guru by ten times.” Our students are out, healing, practicing the art and science of ayurveda, influencing their colleagues and the face of the health care system around them.

The biggest gift I have received as the Director of DIN: I have earned a place at the feet of the eldest teachers on the planet, who call me forth and sit patiently and teach my beginner’s mind.

I see a growing interest in authentic ayurveda worldwide. The biggest change I see is the re-vocalization of the deep knowledge of the vaidyas, who have sat silently for 175 years on the planet, since Macauley.



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