HJ: In this physical reality, the body is the foundation on which the mind and spirit rest. Therefore, as goes the body, (to a certain degree) so go the mind and spirit. The body is the vehicle for our experience in this world and so must be maintained in optimum condition for the highest possible experience. This is not to say everyone must constantly be focused on the minutia of how many calories are consumed per day and what the ideal body-mass index is, but rather, in a general sense, it is imperative that we keep the body in good condition so that it can perform all its essential duties without being a hindrance in any way. This is the ideal — we may only ever get within reaching distance of this state, but that is close enough. Simply making the intention to reach this level of health and adopting a lifestyle that promotes it, is enough to get most of us where we need to be.
The difficulty lies in the fact that our society lives in such a disconnected, unhealthy state on the whole. Therefore, we typically have some work to do in order to get us close to this ideal state. However, once we are there, it is not difficult to maintain and furthermore, the habits that keep us healthy are self-reinforcing. Good health serves us by providing ample energy, clarity and comfort, which all facilitate its existence and the discipline necessary to maintain it.
Our clarity of mind, spiritual awareness and sensitivity to subtle energy will all be greatly enhanced by nurturing our health. As Brunton points out in his essay below, pain and suffering are very distracting. Trying to meditate or be of service to others while we are suffering in some way always produces diminished results. Therefore, one of the major ways in which we can minimize this suffering on a physical level is through maintaining good health.
The Healers Journal regularly publishes articles and guides to health and nutrition that provide profound insight into the nature of these sciences/arts. By simply following the advice given freely, one can improve their health to a very significant degree. To see a list of recently published articles on health, start here: Healers Journal Articles on Health
By Paul Brunton | PaulBrunton.org
When a man’s health has broken down, nothing seems so important to him as its restoration. It is only then that he really realizes the value of good health. This has been stated from the merely conventional and worldly standpoint. But what of the spiritual standpoint? The aspirant whose health has broken down becomes continually preoccupied with the condition of his body, so that the thoughts and time which he gives to it are taken from the thoughts and time which he could have given to his spiritual aspiration. And when he comes to his meditation periods, he may find it difficult to rise above his bodily states, so that even his concentration and power of meditation may be disturbed by it. For after all, the body is the instrument with which he has to work, and through which he has to achieve his high purpose during incarnation on this earth. This is why systems have been created to lay a foundation of health and strength for the spiritual endeavours of the aspirant. Moreover, if he seeks to be of service to his fellow men, his capacity to serve will be limited by the condition of his health, and may even be inhibited on the physical plane altogether. With good health he becomes more valuable to others but with bad health less so.
What is wrong with offering physical benefits to the students of philosophy? Why should it not make them healthier and help overcome their difficulties? Why should philosophy be indifferent to their personal welfare? Is it something fit only to be read about in library chairs or meditated upon in mountain caves? That is to say, fit only for dreamers and not for those who have to struggle and suffer in the world? No–it is something to be proud of, not something to be ashamed of, that philosophy shows us how to live so as to prevent avoidable sickness and how to find a path out of perplexing difficulties.
There is nothing meritorious in meekly accepting illness and disease because they are God’s will. The human being is entitled to defend its body against them.
He should be ready to die at any time but not willing to do so. For the need of staying on in the body until a deeper spiritual awareness has been gained should make him care more for his health, fitness, and efficiency.
If the body does not become non-existent because, ultimately, it is a thought-form, neither does it become unimportant. For it is only in this body that we can attain and realize the ultimate consciousness. If, as has been explained in The Wisdom of the Overself, the physical wakeful state is the only one in which the task of true self-realization can be fully accomplished by the individual, then it is also the only state in which all mankind will ever accomplish it. As the social arrangements and living conditions in the world may accelerate or retard the process of enlightenment, it becomes clear that the nature of those physical arrangements and conditions is important in the eyes of those who care for mankind’s spiritual welfare. Consequently, true wisdom cannot be indifferent to them but, on the contrary, will always seek to improve the one and ameliorate the other.
Why should we refuse, in the name of an other-world sanctity, the healing gifts of Nature because they help the body which belongs to this world? Are we such ethereal creatures already, have we attained the disembodied state, that we can afford to neglect the aches and pains, the ills and malfunctions of this, our earthly body?
Most of the individual’s health troubles are the result of karma. The body is a source of pleasure and misery to nearly all; but both being temporary, the one balances the other. He should do his utmost to keep his body in good health by following the best program of physical living, diet, and so on, that his own experience and expert advice can suggest. He should try the most reasonable treatment for illness which both the Indian (including hatha yoga) and Western medical systems can offer. After he has done these things then there is nothing more he can do except to take his sufferings as a constant reminder of the necessity of seeking happiness in a spiritual self above the body self.
The question you ask about the inevitability of ill health on this path needs a page to itself. Generally speaking, there is no such inevitability. Indeed the cleansing of the subconscious mind, the discipline of the bodily senses, and the quieting of the emotional nature promote good health. Where, however, the student through ignorance or through outside factors fails to make certain necessary changes in thought, feeling, attitude, or living–necessary at a certain period for his further evolution–then his higher self forces those changes upon him through upheavals or upsets in his environment or in his body. This is done by sending down some karma. In the latter case it means, of course, illness or disease–sometimes “accident.” This covers certain individual cases, but there are many others where ill health is only the ordinary karmic result of earlier transgressions of the laws of physical, emotional, moral, or mental health, and not the result of special Overself intervention. Finally, there is the third group where it is the result of the natural imperfection of life on this earth where everything, as Buddha said, is doomed to decay and perish. Nobody escapes this general law. Mrs. Eddy could not escape it nor could Buddha himself escape it, as he once explained when he fell ill with fever. Such imperfection is, however, one of the causes which drive mankind to seek a higher life, a diviner better existence; so it is not useless. This earth is not our true home. We belong elsewhere, nearer to God’s perfection, beauty, harmony.