By Roohi Saluja April 2005 While modern science defines health in relation to the body, alternative therapies see health as the natural outcome of a harmonious correlation between body, mind, spirt and its connection with the supreme intelligence. Saurabh is a successful business entrepreneur, earning Rs nine lakh per annum. He lives and breathes his work. At barely 27, he’s terribly focussed-knows what he wants, when he wants it, and how he wants it. No wonder his colleagues call him a hawk! Picture perfect? Take a closer look. Competition puts Saurabh into an overdrive. Regular intake of coffee, and deep puffs of smoke keep him alert and wakeful even at odd hours. Lunchtimes mean important business meetings. The result: Saurabh digs into a burger between phone calls, gulping canned juice in the midst of serious business negotiations. In crutch situations, he takes recourse to two shots of vodka. Lately, Saurabh complains of feeling unusually tired. Vodka shots are now unable to put him to rest. He’s developed a tendency towards acidity and he also suffers from splitting headaches. Clinically, the doctors have given him a clean chit. He’s healthy though just a little overstressed. However, in alternative medical parlance, Saurabh is laying the foundation for chronic disease. His internal system is like an overworked factory. Neurotransmitters and hormones surge within his overcharged system, causing his heart to pump blood five times faster than normal. The smooth inner lining of the blood vessels has started to tear and erode, making them more susceptible to the accumulation of deposits. In the long run, Saurabh is thus becoming predisposed to hypertension, obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease. And now, the million-dollar question: Is Saurabh healthy? Modern medicine might say ‘yes’, with slight ambiguity, but alternative medicine would stamp its foot with a tough ‘no’. Their verdict: Saurabh is unhealthy, but what disease will finally afflict him at a later stage is difficult to predict. This is because the variability in the individual response to pressure is so vast that no single prognosis will apply in generic terms. But what can be said with absolute certainty is that Saurabh’s physiology is already showing signs of poor adaptability, and that the alert should be sounded before it is too late. What is Good Health?In my backyard, I once noticed a bare, lonesome rosebud leaning against the wall, trembling at the slightest waft of breeze. It sought help, and I decided to lend a hand. Day after day, I nurtured it-faithfully watering it, tending its soft thorns, and cheering it to blossom. On the seventh day, I noticed a glorious full-bloomed rose, dancing to the soft breeze, blushing in the warm sun, generously offering itself to the butterflies. It seemed to be saying 0a soft ‘thank you’, in its distinctly splendoured stance. For each of us, our body is like a rosebud that wanes for lack of love, nourishment and attention. If we give it what it wants, it responds with robust, full-bloomed appearance. Health is our natural state, and it is within all our capacities to maintain good health at all times. So, what is it to be healthy? Louis Prato, in Self Healing, describes it thus: ‘When we are experiencing well-being, our bodies feel alive and full of energy, our state of mind is positive, problems don’t oppress or depress us. We’re able to enjoy our work, to concentrate and be effective, and switch off, relax and play when the work routine is over. A positive self-image and love for yourself are the essence of well-being…’ Hari Sharma, in Awakening Nature’s Healing Intelligence on the vedic approach to health says, ‘Health is much more than the absence of disease. It is a state of complete balance on the level of body, mind, and consciousness; a state of optimum happiness, an integrated state of emotional balance and well-being, psychological flexibility and energy. It is an active state of self-realisation, where individuals live and breathe their full potential.’ Ancient PerspectivesWe are all familiar with the vedic aphorism, ‘yatha pinde, tatha brahmande’, meaning that the body and the cosmos are made of the same elements and components. Our bodies could well be said to be made up of the stars. The Buddha once stated, ‘In this six-foot body the entire universe is contained.’ To understand this statement, let’s take a brief look at the esoteric constitution of the human body. Dr P.G. Kurup, in Drugless Therapy, propounds human existence at two levels-the lower self (body) and the higher self (soul). The lower self has a quadruple nature, constituting physical, mental, emotional and etheric body. The physical body comprises various organ systems, and is discernible by the panchendriya (five sense organs). The emotional plane acts like a bridge between the physical body and the mind, translating gross body vibrations into perceptions comprehensible to the mind. The mind, on the other hand, is the vehicle for thoughts, memory, imagination, and consciousness. Of its several sub planes, the spiritual mind is the highest and the purest. The Bhagavad Gita ponders on the existence of the etheric body that contains the physical body, but is imperceptible to the sense organs. This is the individual energy complex that serves as the mode of energy exchange between the lower self and the five universal elements, the panchamahabhoota (earth, air, fire, water and ether). The etheric body helps revitalize the physical, mental and emotional bodies. It absorbs and transforms cosmic energies, redirecting them to various organs of the body. The energy exchange also continues on mental and emotional planes. Perspectives on Disease Contrary to popular understanding, disease is not the converse of health. According to Park’s Textbook of Preventive and Social Medicine, a manual of modern medicine, health and disease is explained to ‘lie along a continuum, with no single cut- off point. The lowest point on the health-disease spectrum is death, and the highest point corresponds to positive health. The health of an individual is a dynamic phenomenon and a process of continuous change… There are degrees or levels of health as there are degrees of severity of illness. As long as we live, there is some degree of health in us.’ While alternative medicine does not deny this view altogether, it delves deeper. The human body is seen to work in harmony with nature. Since the etheric plane forms the most integral link with the physical plane-connecting the gross with the subtle-any fluctuation or disorder in the functioning of this unit plays a key role in understanding disease patterns. Dr Kurup explains that when subjective factors (like anxiety, depression, worry, stress); objective factors (like toxins, physical anomalies, environmental pollutants); or any incongruence between the etheric and the physical plane disturbs the energy balance, disease pattern sets in. The energy is then likely to either accumulate or deplete in the chakras, thus impairing functioning at the physical, emotional and/or mental level. Diseases manifest first at the subtle level. If we become aware of these early warnings, before they surface on the physical plane, a lot of discomfort, pain and anxiety can be easily averted. This is the groundwork of alternative therapies-to witness the subtle workings of the body, identify and invoke its self-healing power, each time making more space to connect with the ever-pure Brahman. And when the ground shifts, learn the lessons, take charge once again, and move on. Health is thus not a form in stasis, but an ongoing process. The Body’s Healing WisdomOur body, with its multitude of cells forming the various organs is a dynamically changing organism-constantly dying and renewing. At the sub-atomic level, our body is at a high convergence point of energy fields influencing each other. The functioning of all organs, cells and systems is interwoven within a network of phenomenal complexity. But what is the controlling factor? Science has no satisfactory answer. Sharma tracks it down to ‘intelligence.’ Borrowing from Vedic wisdom, he explains this intelligence as ‘that which gives direction to change… It is the source of order…the unseen force that aligns the functioning of the parts to the system as a whole.’ In other words, an innate understanding that we are the wholeness in which everything is contained. And that it manifests in each of our fleeting sensations, thoughts, and experiences. The loss of this intelligence is the loss of focus-of being externally driven rather than integrally connected. And the moment this happens, disease occurs. The buddhi aspect-the intellect or discriminating value of the consciousness-then gets lost in the complex, ever-changing vision of the world…’. When individual consciousness becomes ‘object-oriented’ instead of ‘self-attuned’, losing sight of the fundamental wholeness of which both object and subject are a part, it forgets its essential nature, and commits ‘pragya aparadh’ (sinning against innate wisdom). This is the fundamental reason for disease. Saurabh can then said to be committing pragya aparadh. According to modern medicine, his physical imbalances are sub-clinical, that is, they still haven’t reached the stage where they produce any clinical signs of dysfunction. But according to the alternative systems, disease has already begun to manifest in him on the etheric plane. Healing is an effort to revive the body’s inherent wisdom of the self. And this self is not the limited ego, but the expansive pure consciousness, the healthy whole. Paula Horan and Narayan Choyin Dorje, in
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