If I were to ask you this question, “What is your most precious possession?” what would be your reply?
Many of you, I believe, will point to your properties, the real estate you own—immovable properties as they are called.
Quite a few of you will mention your bank accounts, your fixed deposits or perhaps the stocks and shares, the bonds and government securities in which you have very wisely invested.
Some of you may consider gold and silver, rubies and diamonds, the family jewels as your most precious possession.
And yet, I must tell you that there is something far more precious than all these things put together, which is yours and yours alone! I would go one step further and say that to retain this unique possession, you would gladly part with all that I mentioned earlier—your land and money and stocks and gold —and still feel that you have struck a very good bargain!
I ask you to reflect once again; what is your most precious possession? Indeed, life is the most precious of all.
Lifespan, useless without health
Longevity is not the primary goal of human life. We are told that life expectancy has increased in our times; and this is attributed to better healthcare and the advances made in medicine and allied sciences. But a longer life is not what all of us seek. A life of pain and disease and affliction can only be a miserable burden, when it is prolonged. Thus we have the cases of incurable diseases, and people who are ‘clinically dead’ being put on life-support systems in the ICUs of hospitals. This is hardly the kind of treatment or ‘life’ that we aspire to!
Take the case of a man who is not really ill. He may not suffer from any disease—but he may feel dull, lethargic and listless. He may be unhappy, and beset by negative emotions. Such a man is not really healthy.
True health and wellbeing encompasses man’s physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual state. When there is harmony and integrity between all these states, a man is in good health. This is the concept of holistic health that we need now.
Good health, our birthright
The Sanskrit word for health is swasthya, which literally means ‘to be oneself’. You cannot be yourself when you are ill! Health also means “whole”. A healthy person is whole—his life is balanced and his energy moves in rhythm. A healthy person is happy, within and without.
Good health has been described as the complete integration of body, mind and soul. Grey Anderson, an eminent American counsellor, calls good health “wellness”—he says, “wellness is a choice, a decision that we all have to make in order to maximise our life’s potential. Wellness encompasses all the major areas of our life—the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and spiritual spheres. Wellness sets a new standard for life—it calls for continuing improvement and self-renewal in all areas of our life. Wellness is much more than the absence of illness. It is total wellbeing in body, mind and spirit.”
So good health is the greatest of all gifts, the choicest of all blessings—for without it, we cannot enjoy any of our other faculties and blessings.
Good health is the basis of all that we value and cherish in human life—success, achievement, financial prosperity, emotional security, and above all, spiritual unfoldment and inner peace.
Health and Happiness are twins
Health and happiness are twin goals that mankind has always pursued. Many of us know that we must be healthy in order to be happy; but very few of us realise that we must strive to be happy in order to be healthy!
Since the beginning of the twentieth century we have accepted what is known as psychosomatic unity of the human being. ‘Psyche’ means mind and soul; ‘soma’ means body. Thus the psychosomatic concept tells us that we are not just bodies—but an entirety that includes body, mind and spirit, functioning in a symbiotic relationship in which a separation is impossible to make.
The World Health Organization [WHO] defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing – and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” To this we must add, spiritual wellbeing—without which a feeling of ‘wellness’ is incomplete.
The sad fact of the matter is that people take good health for granted. They don’t even think about their health until they are in danger of losing it—when illness and disease begin to threaten. Even then, they go to a doctor or a hospital, and think that this is all they have to do about it.
You are your own healer
This reminds me of the words of the great comedian, Charlie Chaplin. He said, “When I fall sick, I go to the doctor. After all, the doctor has to live! The doctor writes out a prescription for me and I take it to the chemist—for the chemist too must live! The chemist gives me medication —but I don’t take them, for I too must live!”
I must offer due apologies to the doctors and chemists who are reading this. But I am sure they too will see the point of the joke—you are your own healer. The power of healing is within you. And the time has come when doctors too have realised that they must work not on the disease and symptoms—but on this principle of healing that is within each one of us.
It was Dr Johnson who said: “To preserve health is the moral and religious duty of us all—for health is the basis of all social virtues. We can no longer be useful when we are not well.”
Illness is not inevitable
Many of us have come to accept ill-health as a matter of course. Pain, sickness, ulcers, aches, abnormal growths, weariness—all these have become as inevitable as inflation, taxation and bad weather.
There is no need to accept ill-health with such a sense of stoicism and helplessness. We can and must take matters into our own hands!
Let me explain this to you with a small example:
A young lady returns home after a tough day at the office. She is mentally and physically exhausted. Her back is aching, her head is splitting, she has no energy even to eat food. All she wants to do is take a hot bath and collapse on her bed. Then the phone rings. It is from her best friend who has just come back after a holiday abroad. The friend wants to meet her and take her out to a 5-star hotel for a special dinner party. And she’s got such exciting gifts, which she wants to hand over as soon as possible. Can she please come over?
The girl is galvanised into action. In a jiffy she is bathed, spruced, dressed, made-up, perfumed! She rushes out of the house to meet up with her friend and she spends an exciting evening; she returns home late at night, loaded with presents, which she opens and admires not once but several times. And when she goes to bed, she can’t sleep for sheer excitement!
Everything changes when your attitude changes. Your attitudes control your body. When the girl’s attitude was negative, her mind signaled weariness and exhaustion to the body. The body began to respond to the message with sluggishness. It began to believe that it needed to collapse, it could not carry on! Her entire metabolism had slowed down, accepting the message of the mind.
The phone-call changed all that! Her mind was filled to bursting with enthusiasm and excitement. She was ready to go out, meet her friend, catch up with all the news and share a lovely meal with her. Her emotions were now calling a different tune! Hurry, hurry! She picked up strength, energy, vitality, and a sparkle. She was ready for anything now!
Your body reacts to your attitude
It is a clinically proven fact that your body reacts to your attitude. I know bankers and financiers, who suffered a heart attack when their investments proved to be bad. Equally, I have known chronically ill patients revive miraculously when a marriage is announced or a baby is born in the family. Bad news can make you ill—and good news can make you well.
Negative emotions create an imbalance in your body, leading to ill health; positive emotions restore the balance, bringing good health. Your body reacts to your attitude and changes your life.
Some of our attitudes cause disease, while some of them promote good health. The body has its own excellent self-healing mechanism, and it prefers to be in a healthy condition at all times. Therefore, it is up to us to choose good health—by choosing the right attitude to life.
The vital link
As I have stressed again and again, mind and body are vitally related—they influence each other’s state of being. I would say that ignorance of this vital link causes us to view mind and body separately, identifying the self with the perishable body.
It has been well established through research and case-studies that all major illnesses of the body are linked to negative emotions. In other words, a negatively inclined mind causes physical ailments in the body. Negative emotions create chaos and agitation in the mind, which affect the vital functions of the body. For example, anger and tension release harmful toxins into the bloodstream. On the other hand, goodness and sympathy promote the healthy flow of pure blood to the brain, stimulating the brain cells. Deep breathing, meditation and virtuous living help you overcome infirmities. They infuse vitality and energy into the body. Silence and prayer put an end to nervous tension. Tranquillity clears the complexion and lends lustre to your face. Happiness regulates your blood circulation. Sympathy strengthens the nerves, and generosity keeps your heart healthy and fit!
Your health is yours to choose
Sickness is not a punishment. It is the effect of a cause for which you are responsible. Choosing tension instead of tranquillity, choosing stress instead of serenity, choosing indulgence instead of moderation, choosing bad instead of good, we make ourselves ill!
It is only in recent years that we have come to understand the full extent of what we now call Emotionally Induced Illness – EII. Some doctors think EII is responsible for as much as 95 per cent of all sickness. Another specialist even gives us a break-up: 90 per cent of tiredness, 70 per cent of constipation, 85 per cent of headaches. and the list is endless.
Anger, fear, envy, jealousy, worry. in fact the seven deadly sins of medieval Christian theology—pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth—any of these can make you ill; more than one can keep you ill for a long time; and a group of them can actually kill you. A medical researcher I read, describes the seven deadly sins as ‘sins against common sense’!
We all recognise that other people make themselves ill. “She is killing herself with overwork,” we say. “He is driving himself to an early grave with all that drinking!” or “He eats so much that he is going burst one of these days!” but alas, we cannot apply it to ourselves. We fail to see how we are making ourselves ill! If illness were indeed a punishment, then we are punishing ourselves!
Of course, there are such things are hereditary diseases, birth defects or congenital disabilities and ailments caused by accidents. These are outside our control — but the vast majority of human illnesses are emotionally induced. Therefore, I say to you again: Good health is a gift you can give yourself.
The body is a self healing system
All systems of medicine and surgery are based on the fact that the body is a self-healing mechanism. Drugs are prescribed only to ease symptoms. Surgery is performed to bring cut parts of the body together, after removing infected parts. In either case the doctor knows that if the patient is made to rest in comfort, the healing process of the body will take care of the rest!
If you find this difficult to believe, just consider how the body’s defences rush to the site of the wound when you cut yourself. In a trice, the bleeding stops; in a while, the healing starts; in a few days the wound is closed and the skin is new!
Laughter is the best medicine
In a study conducted recently, ten healthy people had blood samples taken at ten-minute intervals. While five of them sat quietly for an hour in a room, the other five were made to watch a 60-minute videotape of a famous comedian. When their blood samples were tested and compared for eight different hormones and biochemical constituents, it was found that the group which had been subject to the special “laughter therapy” showed a significant drop in cortisol and epinephrine—two stress hormones that are known to decrease immune function.
Laughter heals the sick; laughter improves the mood and relieves the tension of the healthy. And laughter is infectious; a smile is always mirrored in the face of the one you smile at! A few minutes spent in laughing does wonders for our morale.
Health and cheerfulness are vitally inter-connected. Happy, contented people fall ill less often than morose, anxious people. Those who are inclined to look at the bright side of life rarely fall prey to stress related disorders.
A French neurologist, Henry Rubenstein states in his research papers that just one minute of hearty laughter can give the body the equivalent of 45 minutes of therapeutic relaxation. In this, laughter is like exercise—the benefits it produces last long after the ‘exercise’ is over.
Doctors who have worked on the therapy of laughter vouch for the following. Laughter:
- Reduces the heart rate.
- Expands the blood vessels.
- Stimulates the appetite.
- Secretes good hormones that act as a natural painkillers.
- Reduces stress.
- Burns excess calories.
- Improves digestion.
- Relaxes as well as stimulates.
- Spends more oxygen to every cell in the body.
- Speeds tissue healing.
- Stabilises body functions.
- Strengthens the system against infection and abnormal growths.
In fact, doctors conclude that cheerful people resist disease better than glum ones. Or, as a witty physician puts it, “It is the surly bird that catches the worm!”
Man is a combination of the three—body, mind and soul. And if he is to live a happy, healthy and harmonious life, all of the three aspects of his being must co-operate with each other. They must not pull in different directions; they must not work against each other. We must find a way of working out a harmony between these three, if we are to live a life of fulfilment and freedom, a life which is worth living.
The science behind the spirituality
Everyone who knows Dada Vaswani is aware that he is a scientist by training. It is a well-recorded and well-known fact that he got his Masters degree in Physics. Even journalists who interview him, often ask him how he turned from science to spirituality.
However, few people know that Dada has also studied Law. His mother’s ambition for him was to make him appear for the prestigious Indian Civil Services [ICS] examination of those days. With a view to acquiring a good foundation to this tough, competitive examination, he was encouraged to join evening classes for LLB, even as he studied for his MSc degree. The legal luminaries of Karachi would be free to handle classes for students, after their day-long duty in the courts.
Dada attended his law classes regularly for two years. His favourite paper was Roman Law, for he was well acquainted with Latin as a language. He acquired a good background of Law in the two years of his study. But, at the end of those two years, Dada decided not to take his LLB examination. By then, he had already made up his mind that his future lay in the feet of his Beloved Master.
Acquiring a Law degree would have brought pressure upon him to take up the legal profession as a career. Quietly, he chose to forego that option.