Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
HEALTH is an orderly condition caused by the regular working of the mechanism of the physical body. The regular working of the physical body depends upon the weather, diet, the balance between action and repose, and the condition of the mind.
Many think that it is some deformity of the body, a curve in the spine or a cavity in the brain that affects the mind; few realize that very often the mind produces an irregularity in the spine or in the brain, thereby causing an illness. The ordinary point of view regards an illness as a physical disorder, which can be cured by the means of material remedies. Then there is another point of view: that of people who think more deeply and who say that by not taking notice of an illness or by suggesting to oneself that one is well, one can be restored to health. This point of view can of course be exaggerated, as when some people claim that illness is an illusion, that it has no existence of its own; but the ordinary point of view can also be exaggerated, if one thinks that medicine is the only means of cure and that the mind has little to do with actual illness.
Both these persons, the one who looks at it from the ordinary point of view, and the one who does so from a deeper point of view, will find arguments for and against their idea. Some people go as far as to say that medicine must not be touched by those who have faith, and others affirm that illness is as real as health. In the absence of illness a person can easily call pain an illusion, but when he is suffering, then it is difficult for him to call it an illusion.
If one asks who is the more subject to illness, a spiritual person or a material person, the answer is that a spiritual person who disregards physical laws is just as much subject to illness as a material person who does the same thing. No doubt a spiritually inclined person is supposed to be less likely to fall ill, because his spirit has become harmonious through his spirituality; he creates harmony and he radiates it. He keeps to the realm of nature, in tune with the Infinite. Nevertheless, the life of a spiritual person in the midst of the world is like the life of a fish on the land. The fish is a creature of the water; its sustenance, its joy, its happiness are in the water. A spiritual soul is made for solitude; his joy and happiness are in solitude. A spiritual person set in the midst of the world by destiny feels out of place, and the ever-jarring influences of those around him and the continual impact of impressions which disturb his finer senses, make it more likely that he will become ill than those who push their way in the crowd of the world and are used to being pushed back.
A spiritual soul is an old soul, according to Eastern terminology. Even a young person who is spiritually minded shows the nature of the aged; but at the same time spirituality is perpetual youth. A spiritual person admires all things, appreciates all things, enjoys all things to the full. Therefore, if one says the spiritual person is like an old person it is true; and if one says the spiritual person is like a young person that is true also.
People nowadays have lost the conception of normal health, for the standard of normal health is below the real conception of health. To be healthy is not only to be muscular: to be really healthy is to be able to enjoy and appreciate life fully. To be healthy means to be thoughtful. The one who can feel deeply shows the sign of health. It is not surprising if a material person becomes ill, nor is it amazing if a spiritual person is unwell. The former becomes ill because he has lost his rhythm, the latter because he could not keep to a rhythm which is not his own. Whether one is spiritual or material, one has to live in the midst of the world, and so perforce one shares the conditions of everyone, both far and near; and one is subjected to the influences all around, whether they are desirable or not. One cannot close one's eyes, nor can one close one's heart, to the impressions which continually fall upon one. The best one can do is to keep a careful watch against all that causes irregularity, inharmony, and disorder, to be resigned to all one has to pass through, and to be courageous in order to overcome all that keeps one back from health and perfection.
The Sufi holds that the perfection of life lies in perfecting oneself not only spiritually, but in all the various aspects of life. The man who is not capable of attending to all life's needs is certainly ignorant of the true freedom of life.
Just as for every illness there is a remedy, so for every disaster there is a reconstruction. Any effort, in whatever form and however small, made towards the reconstruction or the betterment of conditions is worthwhile. But what we need most to understand is that religion of religions and that philosophy of philosophies which is self-knowledge. We shall not understand the outer life if we do not understand ourselves. It is the knowledge of the self which gives us the knowledge of the world.
What is health? Health is order. And what is order? Order is music. Where there is rhythm, regularity, cooperation, there is harmony and sympathy; and therefore health of mind and health of body depend upon preserving that harmony and keeping intact that sympathy which exist in the mind and in the body. Life in the world, and especially if lived among the crowd, tests and tries our patience every moment of the day; and it is most difficult to preserve that harmony and peace which are at the root of all happiness. Life means struggle with friends and battle with foes; it is all the time giving and taking; and it is very difficult to keep the sympathy and harmony which give health and happiness.
All learning and knowledge are acquired; but this is a divine art, and man has inherited it. Although absorbed in outer learning he has forgotten it, yet it is an art which is known to the soul. It is his own being; it is the deepest knowledge of his heart. No progress, in whatever line, will give a man the satisfaction his soul is craving for except this divine art which is the art of being, the pursuit of his soul. In order to help the reconstruction of the world, the only thing which is both possible and necessary is to learn the art of being, and to become an example before trying to serve humanity.