The Kingdom of Vesali was famous for its pleasure gardens, beautiful courtesans, as well as the democratic rule of the Licchavis. However, drought, pestilence, crop failure, and famine fueled an epidemic that ravaged Vesali. Brahmins and their attendant Kururaals (‘Kapuwas’) followed the time hallowed Vedic writ, offered animal sacrifices, performed Yagas and Poojas. Yanthra armed with Manthra were distributed. Herbal cures hallowed from ancient times were administered. The city was washed with Gomuthra following tradition. Freshly made pots blessed by holy men and filled with milk and holy basil were launched down the Gangak River – a branch of the Ganges that flows by Vesali. Great torches made of herbs and incense were carried in procession to the Abhishek Pushkarini, the coronation tank, to banish evil spirits.
Unbeknownst to the ancients, all such events got the people to congregate, and aided the epidemic to rage stronger. Dead bodies piled up with none to bury, as the Chandalas and the poor were the first to die. Allegedly, non-human ghouls, vultures and wild animals feasted on the corpses. Mara himself, in the guise of a headless body – a KABANDHA – was said to lead the ghouls. None dared to step out.
The King was at his wits ends. The wisdom of the Vedas, the “time-tested truths, treatments and remedies”, had failed. Even the medicine men were dead. A group of Licchavi princes made a week’s journey to Rajagaha to seek the Buddha’s intervention. The Buddha understood that the epidemic would reach full herd immunity by the time he reaches Vesali. What already prevailed in the land was mass hysteria and fear. Reassuring a mortified public and psychological redress were the dire need.
The Buddha and Monks arrived in Vesali, when a quarter-moon had passed. Ven. Ananda and younger monks fearlessly entered the city and chanted the “Ratana Sutra” along its streets. The Buddha, the Elders and the Licchavi walked in procession to the City Hall to reassure all and chant the Sutra. The Ratana Sutra, presumably 26 centuries old, is remarkably modern in NOT appealing to Occult Powers – it was no BHAKTHI POOJA or YAAGNA what so ever. It extols a human, the BUDDHA, his teaching (Dhamma), the mindfulness and compassion of his disciples (the Sangha). They are said to be “steadfast in mind, free of passion but full of compassion”. That is, the Ratana Sutta is a rationalist discourse that could have pleased Spinoza, Bertrand Russell or Francis Crick.
Buddha’s presence and Pirith provided the PSYCHOLOGICAL courage, solace and catharsis that the Vesalis needed, but without any appeal to any occult “Brahmajaala”. Ancient societies did not have the scientific tools to fight pathogens that cause epidemics. They had to heroically await herd immunity. Physiological tools, i.e., medications and vaccines for fighting the pathogens are available to us today because of the systematized body of scientific knowledge that the human species has acquired over centuries.
However, just as charlatans and quacks exploit the gullible with miracle cures, there more educated are attracted to more sophisticated marketing trends. These exploit the public preference of familiar home remedies and the distrust of the novel. Human health depends on many factors, and “boosting immunity” is an easy sell. The social media are flooded with “immunity boosters” – amulets, natural diets, “organic” herbal elixirs, “detoxifying portions”, thermal cures, and mega Vitamin therapy.
We have medical doctors lobbying for mega vitamin D to “cut the Covid”. The numbers of firm believers in Vitamin C or Vitamin D as immunization against Covid, and sales of Vitamin D, have hit an all-time high! U-tube videos on Vitamin D have suddenly joined the club of “most viewed”. Because Vitamin D does not become toxic easily, we are told to NOT TO WAIT till scientists say “OK”. You are to go for 4000 IU/day or even more Vitamin D! After all, the CNN doctor has recommended it! Sadguru says it is “Soorya Shakthi”. Trump plays golf in the sun!
The Washington Post (Jan. 11) ran a feature in favour of Vitamin D although carefully titled “Vitamin D sales are up. But experts still don’t know whether it can prevent or treat Covid”. The regulatory bodies only recommend 800 IU/day for seniors, and less for the younger. The US dermatology society has allowed that 1000 IU/day may be taken. The regulatory bodies in all countries have been very hesitant about mega Vitamin doses, and with very good reasons.
The Prestigious British medical Journal, Lancet (January 11) editorially wrote, “evidence supporting the role of Vitamin D in …acute respiratory infections remains patchy, …. Randomized clinical trial in 20,000 Australian adults suggest that … Vitamin D did not reduce the risk or severity of acute respiratory infections”.
Residents of Florida and California love sun bathing, and yet these are the worst Covid locations in the USA. Manaus in Brazil is a tropical town with sun loving white-skinned people who are, however, dying like flies in the face of Covid. So Vitamin D seems to fail them, even though in some instances Vitamin D seems to help. In sunny Andalusia, Spain, Covid cases have increased with a vengeance even after a program of public Vitamin D supplementation.
Since it is hard for most people to go sun bathing, and given the publicity for mega doses of the Vitamin, many will opt to buy tablets. However, while the drug companies and their doctors will make handsome profits, the cheapest, safest and SUREST DEFENCE against the virus IS THE VACCINE. Furthermore, even if 4000 IU/day of the Vitamin were consumed, the bio availability, the method of encapsulation and drug delivery are critical issues that the average consumer is unlikely to know about, to make the right choice. The “right choice” turns out to be too expensive for most of us.
In effect, only about 50% of the Vitamin D ingested is available to the gut for absorption from the cheaper tablets. According to a 2017 study by Maurya et al ., only a fraction of this 50% is actually absorbed depending on the complexity of the food eaten (the amount and type of fatty acids, dietary fibers and presence/absence of Vitamin D enhancer and inhibitor), and its interaction with other fat soluble compounds as well as consumer-associated factors (age, disease, surgery, obesity, genetic variation etc.). In a 2019 Study on laboratory rats, Simolunas et al found that micro-encapsulation was needed to obtain high bio-avalability.
In Sri Lanka Vitamin D tablets are at least as expensive as in rich countries, and typically cost Rs 4000 for 90 capsules with 2000 IU. It is not clear if they ensure high absorption in the gut. Assuming 60% absorption, with Rs 200 to a dollar, it will cost about $300 per year per adult at Colombo’s prices
to provide 4000 IU/day of Vitamin D. On the other hand, the AstraZeneca vaccine would cost about $2-3 per person per year, with 80-90% efficiency. Furthermore, the Vitamin-D based immunization has no authenticated efficiency although there is much hype. So it is a gamble of $300 against a near sure $3 bet!
Even the more expensive Pfizer-Biontech vaccine, at $20, would be 15 times cheaper than using Vitamin D as a preventive. Furthermore, the new RNA technology is the perfect answer for new mutants. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said to Bloomberg News that the vaccine will work just fine against mutant strains, and that “the beauty of the messenger RNA technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine, which completely mimics any new mutation,”
What happens to the partially absorbed Vitamins and other pharmaceuticals consumed orally by the public? The unabsorbed vitamin ends up in the sewers and in the ecosystem. Unlike traces of glyphosate that are destroyed by aquatic green matter and soil organisms, pharmaceutical byproducts have a long life. A seven-year study of the great Lakes in Canada showed that chronic low-level exposures to common pharmaceuticals like metformin and birth control drugs affected the fish, causing near extinction of the study sample. Vitamin D is a steroid, and the consequences of the influx of trace amounts of it into the ecosystem are in uncharted territory. So, if mega doses of Vitamin D are to be used, then only the highly absorbent nanotechnology-enabled micro-encapsulation should be used. Alternatively, mega doses of the Vitamin has be administered intravenously.