India’s contribution to Holistic Health by Swami Rama
Holistic health is a modern, scientific and systematic approach to living. One-sided progress is partial—half-truth is not truth. A human being is a citizen of two worlds, the world within himself or herself and the world outside, but there seems to be a great gap between these two. One who is able to create a bridge between the inner and the external life can be considered to be the perfect person.
There are three categories of people traveling through the procession of life—those who are time oriented, those who are goal oriented and those who are purpose oriented. Time oriented people move in the world without understanding why they are moving; they have no true vision of the future. They spend their lives fantasizing about some idyllic future or analyzing triumphs or defeats from the past, failing to appreciate things the way they are, they are thus forever dissatisfied. For such people, staying healthy and finding success is difficult.
Goal oriented people are those who can physically and mentally discipline themselves to a certain extent. They can conduct their duties according to their circumstances, but their vision remains limited. For lack of higher purpose, their lives remain oriented toward material goals.
The third category is comprised of those few who are purpose oriented. Whatever they think, speak and do is in accordance with their purpose in life. They regulate their habits and know that physical and mental health are not two different things; they are inseparable units which are essential for maintaining holistic health. For them, maintaining good physical and mental health is like preserving two fine instruments to carry out the purpose of life. What label one attaches to their purpose—happiness, perfection, health, a state of tranquility, nirvana, samadhi, Godhead—is immaterial. The people of this last category are rare, but they are healthy in all aspects.
The ancients emphasized the need for holistic health; they understood the whole being. In other words, they understood the interrelationships of body, mind and consciousness, for the body is merely a covering outside the mind, and the mind is a covering for the center of consciousness within. It is very important to be aware that the body is merely a tool and not the entire self.
However, because the body is a support system for the mind, it is necessary to take care of it properly. For instance, if the body is sick, the mind is absorbed by pain and cannot function in a healthy way. Conversely, the mind controls the body. Stop reading for a moment. Try to get out of your chair. Watch carefully. You will soon realize that it is not your body which does the standing; it is something else within that orders the mass of flesh and bones to stand. The body is merely an instrument which obeys orders. The center that gives the orders has the potential to be one’s greatest ally or one’s worst enemy, the source of health or disease. How do you maintain good physical and mental health so that the purpose of life can be carried out? I will describe the practices that have been taught in the yoga tradition for centuries.
These are not just physical; they are mental and spiritual, too, for yoga is the science of self-effort, of self-examination and of self-awareness. It is a scientific discipline perfected over millennia. The yoga techniques work. They have been proven and validated by many and by sincerely and honestly following theses simple rules you will achieve success. As you practice, you will begin to see and feel how much you have accomplished through your own efforts, and this way you will understand the way to attainment.
The ancient yoga manuscripts describe two sets of mechanisms in the human body, one for cleansing the body, the other for nourishing it. They work together in harmony, balancing each other. The yoga manuals first make one aware of those systems which cleanse the body: the lungs, pores, kidneys, and bowels. You should watch and see that the lungs expand rhythmically, that the pores are functioning properly, that the kidneys are operating normally and that the bowels move regularly. In other words, you should try to understand your natural cleansing systems and learn to control and assist them, because if these systems are not functioning properly, the nourishing systems cannot do their work properly, and body will begin to break down. Resistance and irregularity create disorders and disease. The mind then remains under stress and the nervous system in tension.