Health & Healing Through Yoga
Chapter 1: Human Life - A Precious Gift
Human life is a precious gift and a unique blessing bestowed upon us by nature. The human body is unparalleled in the entire creation; there is no other life form which is inhabited by a similar consciousness, heart, mind and intellect. Whilst peacock, lion or cheetah are so beautiful yet they are oblivious of their own beauty. On the contrary, the peculiarity of human intellect is that even if the person is not physically beautiful, he can still understand with his intellect that ‘I am beautiful and I feel beautiful’.
Infinite Possibilities of Evolution
Other living beings have the body which is controlled by nature, but the human being is endowed with the body which has intelligence, the greatest of all gifts. If we compare the parts of the human body - head, limbs, face, etc. with that of animals, we may find that these parts of their body are more attractive and beautiful than that of human body. But if we compare the human intellect with that of any other creature, decidedly the human is far superior, evolved and incomparable. There are infinite possibilities of evolution in humans, which are not possible in other living beings. From the time of their birth, to their development, until their death, animals remain animals.
The newborn baby of a human being is weak, dependant and helpless. It takes him nine months to sit up, two years to stand straight, and longer to start speaking, whereas the offspring of a cow or deer stands on its feet on the second, third, fourth or seventh day after birth, in fact by the tenth day it starts running. In other words, the physical parameters appear to develop faster and instantaneously in animals than humans, but the basic capability to receive education, the abilities of learning and thinking that are present in human beings are lacking in other living beings. The intellect of other living beings may develop over a period of time, but the intellectual advancement that is possible in humans is totally lacking in other creatures.
A tiger is born a tiger and dies a tiger. A man is born as a man but can die as a saint. The human body is indeed a marvel of superior engineering; our brain is such that no man-made computer can ever hope to compete with it and decode its intricacies. Man is the only creature who has the intelligence to aspire to and touch heights of divinity by expanding his consciousness. He can realise the divinity in himself. He can realise the creator who has created him and this entire universe. Such a realisation is not possible for any other being as the human mind and intellect are unique and not endowed to any other living being.
Now the question arises: Does man understand and recognise his uniqueness? Does he realise that his being is without parallel? Is he properly utilising his body? Or is he destroying his life by an undisciplined lifestyle? Animals die more often because of injury than of any disease - the stronger animals kill and devour the weaker ones. Yet it is true that the possibility of an animal dying of an ailment is very less. I am not referring to those animals that are city bred or domesticated. Animals living in jungles, playing in natural surroundings, are usually killed or die of wounds and injuries inflicted by other animals and not because of disease. We can conclude that animals die a natural death because being killed or eaten by a bigger animal is the order of nature - it is neither unusual nor unnatural. But it is strange that humans are dying less because of natural death and more because of self inflicted diseases.
Why Live Long?
Some yogis believe that the human body can live for five hundred years, but you must not have seen or even heard of anyone who has lived for five hundred years - it seems impossible. Around the age of forty-five man starts feeling old, and after fifty-five he feels he already has one foot in the grave. Even though compared to earlier times, these days lifespan of man has increased - he now lives longer. Medical facilities and availability of drugs have improved, leading to a greater life expectancy. But if we say that the average lifespan has increased, it would be disputable.
It is said that man’s average age in this era is an astounding 120 years. What does this tell us about ourselves when the average age of a human today is merely around 50 years? Some people feel that the average life expectancy has increased; it used to be 45 - 50 yrs and now stands at 70 yrs. But compared to the age of 500 that it used to be, it is difficult to say how significant the current increase is. If achieving the age of 500 yrs is a quantum leap, let us reduce this figure to 250, and further to 200, and still further to 150 yrs. Now how long would you like to live?
There is a very beautiful vedic shloka which says that the rishi wakes up in brahmamuhurta, and after bathing, holding water in his hands, he awaits the sun god to rise so that he can pay salutations - thus a rishi benefits from the first rays of the rising sun. With a pure mind, when he worships the sun, offering it water, he prays, “May I live for a hundred years from today.” This prayer is repeated every day no matter how old he gets - 40, 60, 70, 90 or even 100 years! Thus, he is creating a determined resolve and strengthening it every day.
This determination is neither due to the attachment with the physical body or mental ties with the family, nor is it the result of servitude to home and office. This prayer of a rishi, this determination to seek a long life is in order to pursue the spiritual journey of ascending to the pinnacle of consciousness. It is a long and arduous journey. Now, with a healthy body, the presence of righteous parents, and guidance of a realised master, one has begun this spiritual journey, but it needs time to pursue until the goal is achieved. If a person dies young or falls ill, he will not be able to progress on this path, and the most important fact is that the search for ‘truth’ takes time - it cannot be accomplished in a day. The pursuit of ‘truth’ is more than a day’s job!
The Search Needs Time
You attend a spiritual discourse and learn that there is something called samadhi. But can samadhi be attained in a day? You listen to the wisdom and learn about the atman and paramatma. But are these definitions enough for you? The search needs time, the austerity needs time, and so does any spiritual practice. Time is required to know and understand your own mind, your own body. Therefore, this saying of Baba Sheikh Farid is very appropriate:
Half life squandered in devouring the transient worldly things
And half in sleep, the almighty will ask, what higher purpose did you achieve?
You have squandered half your life in earning money and the other half enjoying your earnings. But the creator will one day ask you, what was the purpose of your life on earth? Was it just to build a house made of brick and mortar? To amass wealth of material goods and money? To collect metals like gold and silver that you consider precious? Do you understand the purpose of your existence? Are you even aware of it? Do you have any knowledge of the subject? The rishi prays everyday, “O Surya Dev! May I live for a hundred years from today.” Why does he do this? What for? He does this because sun is the source of light and energy. This earth exists because of the existence of the sun. It is the existence of the sun that sustains our body, gives life to all vegetation, grains, fruits and flowers; plant and animal life depends on the sun; day and night, life and death are dependent on the sun. What if the sun is not there? There won’t be anything!
Human life, human existence is entirely dependent on the sun. Your body functions due to the sun and your mind works due to the moon. The waxing and waning of the moon affects the human mind. After the full moon night, the moon starts waning. Philosophers and thinkers have observed that as the moon wanes, depression, sadness, worries, madness and confusion increases in human mind. It has been observed the world over, that as the full moon begins to come closer, the restlessness of psychiatric patients increases. The moon causes high and low tides and even tidal waves in the sea. On a full moon night, the tidal range is the largest. If the moon can cause tidal waves in the sea, which can further cause storm, beware as your body too is composed of 70% water. If the rays of the moon have such a deep impact on the sea, won’t they have any affect on your body?
Rising at Brahmamuhurta
The moon is said to be the deity of the mind, and the sun of the body. To keep the body disease-free, the prayer for good health is addressed to the sun because the sun is closely associated with the human body. Therefore, the rishis suggested that one should pay salutations to the sun - the ruler of the body - even before it rises. Just think about this: If you are running a business or working somewhere and your superior officer is coming to visit your office, will you be absent on that day? Let me put it another way. If you have invited your revered master to your house, is it at all possible that you will not be present to welcome him? Just as the employee prepares for his boss’s visit, in the same manner, we should be prepared well in advance to felicitate the sun who is the master of our body - we should rise well before sun rises in the sky.
Waking up at the time of brahmamuhurta is the best way to keep the body healthy and disease-free. The sun’s rays are most beneficial especially ten minutes before sunrise; hence, those who rise early get the benefit of the first rays of the sun which are also rich in Vitamin A. When you bathe in the health-bestowing rays of the sun and absorb its energy, you become resplendent like sun. And just as the sun is a beam of magnificence and vitality, you too start becoming the reservoir of vigour and radiance. When the scholars from the west first learnt about the prayer of our rishis, “May I live for a hundred years from today”, they wondered if the rishis were scared human beings. Did they fear death? Or did they desire to live long? But the rishis neither feared death nor desired to live long, nor did they have any other worries or concerns. Their only aim was to seek the unknown existence of Brahman. To this end, two situations are essential - one is to have a healthy body and second is a reasonable span of life, because nothing can be done without life and if the body is unhealthy, then too nothing can be achieved.