20 May 2013

Faith and healing

Not all diseases are known. Not all known diseases have cures.  Then there are ailments of the body and ailments of the mind, cures for the latter being more elusive than those for the former. 

Both body and mind are vulnerable.  The environment is full of disease causing matter, which become potent when the elements conspire to generate certain configurations.  So we  protect ourselves by staying out of the burning midday sun, sheltering from storms, drinking ‘safe’ water, eating healthy, keeping fit etc. 
It’s not fool proof though.  We still fall ill, sometimes because of hereditary causes and sometimes due to negligence or ignorance.  For example, there are many food items in supermarkets that are really not good for our health, but we have no clue about these issues.  We don’t read the warning labels and neither do we check the ingredient lists or the sources. We allow ourselves to be swayed by advertisements which tend to use as much misinformation and false claims as they employ the device called exaggeration.  While there are things we have little control over (like genetic factors and germs), we still stuff our bodies with impurities and even poisons.  So only those who are very alert, educated, intelligent and informed can claim to have insured themselves against these kinds of threats, and then too only to an extent for no one is ever fully alert and informed.

What of the mind? It is the least understood of the ‘all’ that makes up a human being and just like the body (which receives and in which is resident many disease-causing things and diseases themselves), the mind too is not impervious to illness-causing impurities.  These ‘impurities’ are of many kinds and what is ‘bad’ for some may not cause any damage to others.  Like bodies, some minds are resilient and some are not.  And just like bodily diseases can be kept at bay with protection and diligence, the mind too can be insulated, to a point. It’s the same with cures.  Some bodily diseases are curable and some are not, some can be contained and some will eventually prevail.  
Among us, there are those who are quick to anger, easily disturbed and frequent victims of depression.  The world, in its larger dimensions and the smaller universes relevant to individuals (home, family, workplace, career options etc.), is made of vicissitudes and marked by unpredictability. We are surprised and dismayed, thrown off balance and often helpless. We don’t know what to do or where to go.  

We have heard people say, ‘I have tried to live a good life without harming anyone, not even in thought, so why is this happening to me?’  This same question was put to me on two occasions recently, one by a Christian and one by a Buddhist, the former a man the latter a woman, the first in tears and the other fighting them back.  Only those well versed in these matters of body and mind, the cosmos and cosmologies, faith and healing are really equipped to respond, but I offered the following with relevant caveats regarding my limitations.
To the Christian: ‘The question ‘why?’ should not arise.  Be strong in your faith.  According to your belief system this is the will of God, so you can tell yourself that He is testing your faith; do the best you can do is to maintain fidelity, trust in Him, and abide by His dictates.’ 

To the Buddhist: ‘The karmic forces are not self-contained within lifetimes but play themselves out over lifetimes, across sansaara.  So who can tell about the real source of these processes which have culminated in this moment of distress and despair?  Abide by the dhamma. It tells you how to be and therein you get the answer to the question ‘what to do?’  It is all about treating with equanimity the vicissitudes of life, acknowledging the transient nature of all things, cultivating the sathara brahma viharana.   I don’t know any other answer.’ 
Faith helps.  In the very least, it takes emotion out of the equation, calms the mind and allows you to respond in a rational manner to whatever it is that causes distress.  The Lord will help if in the Lord you place your trust.  That’s quite an unburdening.  In Buddhism, you are encouraged to reflect on realities and the virtues of a particular approach to things and processes. The mind itself is employed to cure those mind-elements that bother. 

The right and wrong of these approaches, the existence or otherwise of God, the superiority of this faith over that and such are not important here.  The mind is made for clutter and among the most mind-cluttering things are fear, ignorance, arrogance and greed.  Faith helps subdue these ‘impurities’ that rebel against clarity and calmness and this helps recovery, whether the ailment is of the body or the mind. 



Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Sum said...

I'm sure you know about the Christian who explained body/mind sicknesses through Karma.

Edgar Cayce and the book about faith and healing - Many Mansions. Sansaara Mandira in Sinhala.

Sansaara Mandira left a lasting effect in me. That's when I started to feel sorry for the perpetrator than for the victim...