Article published in Everyday Ayurveda 05 October 2014
Modern science is now exploring circumstances that change how genes are regulated and expressed. A stressed depleted individual will transfer different gene tendencies than a healthy and happy parent. Āyurvedic teachings take new depth within the science of epigenetics.
The modern understanding of genetics started in 1866 by Gregor Mendel and his research only began to be fully understood around 1915. Today, much is understood on a biological level, but many mechanisms of genetics such as transgenerational epigenetic inheritance are still not fully understood and new research changes the models regularly.
Recent research is indicating that nutrition and other lifestyle factors have the ability to change how a gene expresses its various potentials. The health of the sperm is affected by the weeks prior to conceiving. The nourishment given to the foetus is based on the present health condition of the mother and the food she eats during pregnancy. Caraka Saṁhitā talks about gene selection in the Śārīrasthāna [II.26-27]:
garbhasya chatvāri chaturvidhāni bhūtāni mātāpitṛisaṁbhavāni
āhārajānyātmakṛtāni chaiva sarvasya sarvāṇi bhavanti dehe 26
teṣāṁ visheṣādbalavanti yāni bhavanti mātāpitṛkarmajāni
tāni vyavasyet sadṛśatvahetuṁ sattvaṁ yathānūkamapi vyavasyet 27
The reproductive material of the  mother and  father, the  nourishment (āhāra-ja), and the  soul’s past actions (ātmakṛta) are the four [factors] which all have four elements given to the foetus. The mother and father’s karma creates which of these becomes predominant to cause the looks of the child, along with the nature of the past existence.
Āyurveda is using four primary factors and taking into account the epigenetic impact of nutrition and the character of the incarnating soul. This makes sixteen factors, as each of the four sources has their particular four elemental make up1 of which any of the sixteen parts can dominate and express themselves. It is interesting to note that Mendel worked with a chart of four parts, though it took only the mother and father’s genetics into account.
Āyurveda says the distinguishing strength (visheṣādbala) of karma chooses which genes will express themselves. This is similar to Augustin Sageret’s concept of ‘dominance’, which explains how certain characteristics of a parent are more likely to appear in the offspring and ancestral characteristics not found in the parents can appear in the offspring.
Both my parents have brown eyes. My paternal grandmother and maternal great grandmother had blue eyes. Āyurveda does not consider it chance that I received blue eyes, while my brothers both have brown eyes.
Āyurveda’s genetic philosophy takes into account both the physical, mental and spiritual components of gene determination and gene expression. Charaka discusses physical cleansing and tonifying (garbhādhāna-saṁskāra) before conceiving and the food and activities to create a healthy child [VIII.4]. The mental aspect is approached through visualization of the desired child and mantra. Charaka engages the spiritual component by recommending ritual (pūjā) to gain blessings, transform karma, and attract a good natured soul to support the highest potential gene transfer from the parents to the child.
All these aspects of gene transfer are supported or hindered by nutrition and situations during pregancy. Modern research is now studying how epigenetic variations at the early stage of embryogenesis effects gene expression. Charaka mentions that the sounds heard by the mother during pregnancy will impact the mental disposition of the child. The factors causing the mental disposition are explained in Śārīrasthāna [VIII.16],
sattvavaiśeṣyakarāṇi punasteṣāṁ teṣāṁ prāṇināṁ mātāpitṛsattvānyantarvatnyāḥ śruta
yaścābīékṣṇaṁ svocitaṁ ca karma sattvaviśeṣābhyāsaśceti 16
The disposition of the mind which determines a soul’s regular actions are determined by  the mental disposition of the mother and father,  that which is heard repeatedly by the pregnant woman,  the nature of the soul (svochita), and the  the mental nature of the soul’s past habits/practices.
The soul that enters at the time of fertilization plays a crucial role in the physical and mental nature of the child a couple will create. The couple may be healthy, cleansed and toned and play spiritual music the whole pregnancy, but this is only half of what creates the nature of the child.
We get what our karma creates. In Vedic Astrology, the nature of one’s children is related to the nature of one’s consciousness (chitta) seen in the fifth house. We are creating what our mind dwells upon, in our life and in our children. What one is continually thinking about is indicative of the nature of the child they will create. The Śārīrasthāna of Caraka Saṁhitā says,
garbhopapattau tu manaḥ striyā yaṁ jantuṁ vrajettatsadṛśaṁ prasūte II.25b
A woman produces a child that resembles her thoughts during embryogenesis.
A woman (strī) produces (prasūtā) a child (jantu) that resembles (sadṛśa) her thoughts/inclinations/mood/mind (manas) during the production (upapatti) of the foetus (garbha)2. The mental state during the time period of conception3 and during the pregnancy impacts the nature of the soul that incarnates into the womb. Modern epigenetic research would say that stress measured by cortisol levels impacts gene expression in the early stage of embryogenesis. Either way it is said, it’s important to be calm, happy and centered when creating a child. It is not only the moment of copulation, but the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical landscape before and during the creation of a child that influences it’s nature.
The soul which enters the womb is attracted by the resonance of the parent’s mind with the resonance of the soul’s past actions. The practice given by Charaka is for the mother to visualize the desired child and eat, dress and live in the way that represents the culture wanted in the nature of the child [VIII. 10-14]. This lifestyle supports the visualization and is aimed at attracting a soul desired by the parents.
The child of musicians is more likely to be a musician because the parents were more likely to be in the resonance of music while attracting a soul, conceiving and pregnancy. But if there were financial stresses and the parents mind’s were more focused on making money, then they happen to birth a little financial analyst instead. In this way, the thoughts and desires arising from the past karmas of the parents attracts a soul of like nature.
My teacher’s grandfather fasted for forty days and went on pilgrimage to the temple of the family deity (kuladevatā) before conceiving his children. He performed spiritual penance and prayed with the intention to have a child who could carry the family tradition. With ritual or penance we ask destiny (daiva) to bless us and we earn this blessing.
In Vedic Astrology, mantras relate to the fifth house, the same house as children. The indications of the mantras or spiritual practice a parent performs shows up in the birth chart of the child. A mantra reprograms the mindfield. A parent that worships the goddess Sarasvati, will have a child with intelligence and a creative nature. Who we are being shows up in the children’s astrological chart, therefore we have to be what we want to create.
The fifth house in astrology is our mindfield (chitta) and the desires growing there show what we are creating, and so also represents our offspring. Are you aware of what you are creating in this world, where you are headed, and what you are working to achieve with your life?
Our mindfield (chitta) and the desires growing there show what springs forth from us, in our life and in our offspring. Presently, it is popular in India to try and control the child’s destiny by a caesarean birth with an astrologer’s date and time. But a caesarean birth has its own issues in the imprinting of the consciousness.
Everything in our life is just a reflection of our own growth and consciousness- therefore we must clean the dirt from ourselves not from the mirror. The real recipe for an incredible child is the inner cultivation of ourselves.
Altering Birth Time [added notes as reply to some questions]
I had a client that has complications in her pregnancy, and the doctors required her to be induced. So we choose an auspicious time period for the birth to happen. It has become very common (particularly in India) for people to have an astrologer pick a good chart and to have a caesarean section birth. Many debates on the ethics have arisen about those who are performing caesarean-section just to get a ‘good chart’ and without any medical need.
An associate of mine was consulted by a gentleman who wanted a chart to have his child born through caesarean. He asked for a chart best for politics and wealth. There was no reason for the mother to have a caesarean birth except that the father was trying to control the child’s destiny. In these cases, negative combinations can show up in the chart which were overlooked by the astrologer, or other such things happen. We must be careful how we try to control destiny- as destiny is daiva, which comes from the devas, and it is not our job to play god.
The birth time is determined by the soul and shows up in the birth chart of the child. Even if it is a planned caesarean (when the doctor surgically removes the child), the synchronicity of which astrologer the parents chose, and the date the astrologer choses is guided by the unborn soul. The circumstances of birth are indicative of the nature of the child being born and their strengths and weaknesses in life: Nikala Tesla was born during a lightning storm.
A question arises as to whether the caesarean-section changes something in the birth chart, or if the chart counts. The chart will count and it will indicate the situation of birth. A caesarean-section birth cuts the child out of the mother and therefore Mars will be very strongly impacting the chart. Drug induced or heavily sedated deliveries give birth to children with a strong North Node (Rāhu). A water birth indicates a strong impact of the Moon. In this way, the factors of birth are part of the birth, no matter what they are.
 Śārīrasthāna II.31 states the transmigrating soul carries the four elements (earth, water, fire, air), and moves according to its past actions (karma-atmakatva). The next few verses elaborate more on this topic.
 This verse has often been taken to mean that the child looks like what a woman is thinking at the exact moment of ‘copulation’ leading to conception. There are two words often used to refer to conception; niṣeka which means ejaculation and ādhāna which means placing, depositing which is often associated more with fertilization. The term used in this verse is garbha-upapatti which literally means production of the foetus. This can be interpreted as the time period when the parents are working towards conceiving a child as well as conception and the time period while the foetus is growing in the womb.
 The semantics of the English term ‘conception’ is debated and not used in scientific literature as it does not differentiate: the fertilization of the ovum (sperm meeting egg) or the merging of the sperm’s nucleus with the egg’s to make a zygote (taking about 30 hours), or the implantation of the resulting cell mass (blastocyst) onto the wall of the uterus (1-2 days later).
 Charaka Saṁhitā, Śārīrasthāna, Atulyagotriya Sharira
भूतैश्चतुर्भिः सहितः सुसूक्ष्मैर्मनोजवो देहमुपैति देहात्| कर्मात्मकत्वान्न तु तस्य दृश्यं दिव्यं विना दर्शनमस्ति रूपम्||३१||
bhūtaiścaturbhiḥ sahitaḥ susūkṣmairmanōjavō dēhamupaiti dēhāt| karmātmakatvānna tu tasya dr̥śyaṁ divyaṁ vinā darśanamasti rūpam||31||
The soul, along with four subtle bhutas, at a speed like that of the mind, transmigrates from one body to the other according to past deeds. It cannot be seen without divine visual sense. ||31||
स सर्वगः सर्वशरीरभृच्च स विश्वकर्मा स च विश्वरूपः| स चेतनाधातुरतीन्द्रियश्च स नित्ययुक् सानुशयः स एव  ||३२||
sa sarvagaḥ sarvaśarīrabhr̥cca sa viśvakarmā sa ca viśvarūpaḥ| sa cētanādhāturatīndriyaśca sa nityayuk sānuśayaḥ sa ēva  ||32||
The soul is omnivagant/ omnipresent (can move anywhere and everywhere), sustains all bodies, performs all actions, and takes all forms. It is the source of consciousness, transcending all senses, as it is always associated (with intellect etc.), it gets involved in attachment etc.||32||
रसात्ममातापितृसम्भवानि भूतानि विद्याद्दश षट् च देहे| चत्वारि तत्रात्मनि संश्रितानि स्थितस्तथाऽऽत्मा च चतुर्षु तेषु||३३||
rasātmamātāpitr̥sambhavāni bhūtāni vidyāddaśa ṣaṭ ca dēhē| catvāri tatrātmani saṁśritāni sthitastathātmā ca caturṣu tēṣu||33||
In the body, the bhutas are sixteen (each set of four bhutas is of four types), originating from maternal nutrition, the self, mother (ovum) and father (sperm). Out of these, four are associated with the self and the self, in turn, depends on these four.||33||
भूतानि मातापितृसम्भवानि रजश्च शुक्रं च वदन्ति गर्भे| आप्याय्यते शुक्रमसृक् च भूतैर्यैस्तानि भूतानि  रसोद्भवानि||३४||
bhūtāni mātāpitr̥sambhavāni rajaśca śukraṁ ca vadanti garbhē| āpyāyyatē śukramasr̥k ca bhūtairyaistāni bhūtāni  rasōdbhavāni||34||
The bhutas from the mother and the father are known as ovum and sperm in the fetus respectively. The bhutas which nourish these sperm and ovum are nourished from the mother’s nutrition. ||34||
भूतानि चत्वारि तु कर्मजानि यान्यात्मलीनानि विशन्ति गर्भम्| स बीजधर्मा ह्यपरापराणि देहान्तराण्यात्मनि याति याति||३५||
bhūtāni catvāri tu karmajāni yānyātmalīnāni viśanti garbham| sa bījadharmā hyaparāparāṇi dēhāntarāṇyātmani yāti yāti||35||
Four karmajabhutas (derived from the past deeds) which are atmaleena (associated with the soul) which enter into the fetus are known as beejadharma. These (four bhutas) along with the soul transmigrates from one body to the other (in a cyclic of birth and death). ||35||
रूपाद्धि रूपप्रभवः प्रसिद्धः कर्मात्मकानां मनसो मनस्तः| भवन्ति ये त्वाकृतिबुद्धिभेदारजस्तमस्तत्र च कर्म हेतुः||३६||
rūpādhi rūpaprabhavaḥ prasiddhaḥ karmātmakānāṁ manasō manastaḥ| bhavanti yē tvākr̥tibuddhibhēdārajastamastatra ca karma hētuḥ||36||
Based on one’s past deeds, one’s physical form is influenced by the physical form of a past life, and one’s mind from that of a past life. Whatever difference is observed in the physique and psyche of one’s life from those of the other is caused by rajas, tamas and the past deeds.
अतीन्द्रियैस्तैरतिसूक्ष्मरूपैरात्मा कदाचिन्न वियुक्तरूपः| न कर्मणा नैव मनोमतिभ्यां न चाप्यहङ्कारविकारदोषैः||३७||
atīndriyaistairatisūkṣmarūpairātmā kadācinna viyuktarūpaḥ| na karmaṇā naiva manōmatibhyāṁ na cāpyahaṅkāravikāradōṣaiḥ||37||
रजस्तमोभ्यां हि मनोऽनुबद्धं ज्ञानं विना तत्र हि सर्वदोषाः| गतिप्रवृत्त्योस्तु निमित्तमुक्तं मनः सदोषं बलवच्च कर्म||३८|| rajastamōbhyāṁ hi manō’nubaddhaṁ jñānaṁ vinā tatra hi sarvadōṣāḥ| gatipravr̥ttyōstu nimittamuktaṁ manaḥ sadōṣaṁ balavacca karma||38||
The soul is never dissociated with the subtle and sense-transcending bhutas, past deeds, mind, intellect, ego and other doshas or vikara. Mind is associated with rajas and tamas, while all defects are caused by ignorance (tamas). The cause of movement and inclination of soul from one body to another is defective mind and potent past deeds. ||37-38||