The first wealth is health. It is the greatest of all possessions and the basis of all virtues. Without health, life is not life. The person who has good health has hope, and the person who has hope has everything.
The first requisite in life is good health. Good health is a valuable asset for everyone. If one does not possess good health, one cannot prosper in any walk of life. One should have physical as well as mental health.
Even for spiritual pursuits, good health is the prerequisite. Without good health, one cannot penetrate the hidden depths of the vast ocean of life within and attain the final beatitude. Without good health, one cannot wage war with the turbulent senses and boisterous mind.
Without good health, one cannot achieve anything, serve or do nishkama karma yoga. Without good health, one cannot pray, meditate, do any asanas or pranayama. That is the reason why scriptures declare that this body is a boat to cross the ocean of samsara, this illusory world, an instrument for doing virtuous deeds and attaining moksha, liberation.
The instrument must be kept clean, strong, and healthy. This body is a horse to take one to the goal. If the horse tumbles down, one cannot reach the destination. If this instrument breaks down, one will not reach the goal of atma-satshatkara, self-realization.
The body is the most marvelous and delicate machine in the world. It is a highly complex mechanism. Even the most eminent doctors in the world have not completely understood its structure and working. One virulent microbe can destroy the body in an instant. It is surrounded on all sides by enemies – and yet we live. This is a great mystery.
Disease is not a condition that ought to frighten one. It is not brought about by outside agencies, but it is the result of the kickings of life. It is a reaction of life to the entry of foreign matter into the system. Disease is only a sign of health.
Life’s cleansing process is called disease. There is only one disease and that is dis-ease or no-ease. It is the struggle of life to get rid of foreign matter. Disease should not to be suppressed with toxic drugs, but nature should be allowed to get rid of it in her own way.
If one wants radiant health, one ought to return to nature and avail oneself of all the healing agencies in nature, the healing properties of the sun, water, air, earth, the benefits of fasting and herbal plants. Nature tries to keep us healthy, but we bring on sickness by continuous violation of Her laws. Natural laws are relentless and know no mercy. Therefore, we should observe the laws of nature and eat, drink, sleep, think and conduct ourselves in the way laid down by the ancient sages.
In the animal kingdom, there is seldom any sickness because animals do not violate the laws of nature. Before the age of machinery, life was more natural. People of past generations were much stronger and healthier. Life in the twentieth century is becoming more and more artificial. There is much deterioration in health and strength. In spite of the innumerable doctors and the latest medical discoveries, people’s health is still deteriorating.
Take only simple, light, nourishing food. Immediately after taking food it is highly injurious to bask in the sun, swim, ride or run, sing, sit by the fireside, fight, practise physical exercise or asana, pranayama or study. You may rub the feet with oil. It also removes roughness, dryness, heat, fatigue, numbness, and fissures of the feet, sciatic pain and it produces good sleep.
Walking after dinner promotes life. It gives good health. After food, lie down on the left side for a short time. This helps digestion. Half the stomach should be filled with food, one quarter with water and the last quarter left free for air. A hungry man should not drink water and a thirsty man should not eat food. Taking a large quantity of water during food is harmful. One should take a small quantity of water during meals. Digestion will be affected by drinking a large quantity. One must carefully observe the details of one’s health, particularly in relation to diet. Milk is easily digestible to some, whereas it causes retching to others. Certain kinds of vegetables are suitable to some systems but they may be quite disagreeable to others. One must avoid too much of sameness, and too much of variety in a meal.
The power of digestion varies from person to person. Therefore, one must discriminate between the right foods suitable to one’s constitution and the wrong ones which may cause great harm to one’s health. Over and above one should select sattwic, pure, vegetarian food and have moderation in eating, sleeping, talking, drinking, etc. Many people make themselves ill by eating too much and by not eating the right food at the right time.
Night meals should not be taken after 8 pm, and once a week should be foregone. Complete fasting should be observed once a fortnight. It will give rest to the digestive system and the assimilative power will be renovated.
Proper elimination is as important as a correct diet. Even when the right food is eaten, good health will not be enjoyed unless waste matter is properly removed from the system. One must have a good motion daily in the early morning. When one drinks a sufficient amount of water and flushes the kidneys, one will enjoy good health.
For good health, an adult should take six glasses of water daily in addition to water taken in the form of food. This is enough to flush the body and meet the internal needs. The stomach should not be overloaded. The secret of being healthy and happy is to be a little hungry all the time.
What are the ordinary ingredients which help to keep you in good health? They are the sun, fresh air and pure water. One must spend at least one hour and more if possible, in the open air everyday. Sunlight helps growth and gives vigour. Breathe pure air, bask in the sun, eat good nutritious, wholesome food, drink pure water and observe cleanliness; you will possess a high standard of health, vim, vigour and vitality.
Life is a continuous battle. It is a never-ending adventure with dragons to be destroyed as one wages war with the enemies of health such as impure water, bad ventilation, overwork, unwholesome food, germs, and domestic pests such as flies, mosquitoes, the rat and its fleas.
One is surrounded on all sides by invisible foes – pathogens, microbes and bacteria – and one should certainly learn all about these enemies, their ways, habits and strengths, as in some cases one will have to attack them directly, while in other cases one must starve them out. The most up-to-date weapons which modern sanitary science and preventive medicines have given must be adopted.
There are laws of the mental plane. There are laws of physics, astronomy and of mathematics. There are laws of hygiene and health which govern one’s being. In the vast universe, human beings alone break the laws and violate the rules. They wilfully disregard the laws of health, lead a life of dissipation and then wonder why they suffer from diseases and disharmony. They deliberately ignore the rules of hygiene and right living and then weep when they are ailing from an incurable malady.
One should observe regularity in all one’s duties and the work one has to perform. Wasting time for many days and working hard for a few days to make up puts a strain on the functions of the body. Heart ache, dizziness and constipation result. One should always manage to take a little rest for a few minutes in the intervals of the various kinds of work and business.
Regulate the hours of sleep, which should not be more than six hours when you are in good health. This can even be reduced to even five hours if you do not have much physical fatigue or heavy mental strain. A midday nap should be completely avoided by children and young persons. If you have the habit of working late into the night, an hour’s nap during the day will refresh you. Always use your common sense.
Sleeping is normal for all creatures. Animal and human, sinner and saint alike do it. But there is a limit which is a desirable and beneficial necessity. Too much sleeping makes one lazy, dull and ultimately useless to both society and oneself. For the sadhaka, it is one of the most dangerous habits. Habitual oversleeping increases tamas and nullifies sadhana, retarding one’s progress.
Sadhana must also be well regulated. The period of meditation or the practice of sirshasana must be increased gradually and with care. The reduction of sleep should be gradual. When sadhana is done by fits and starts there will be no spiritual progress.
The nervous system is extremely sensitive. It responds even to slight changes and causes distraction of the mind. It is therefore necessary that one should lead a well regulated and disciplined life and be moderate in everything.
One must have some occupation to give bodily and mental exercise, and which engages the attention eight or ten hours daily. Anxiety must be avoided, and one must try to sustain one’s fortitude against the sorrow which arises from misfortune. Wrong thinking is the root cause of human sufferings.
Thought is a vital, dynamic living force, the most subtle and irresistible force existing in the universe. It is caused by the vibrations of the psychic prana on the mental substance. It is a force, just like gravitation, cohesion or repulsion.
The mind controls the body, so the mind should be kept as cheerful as possible under all circumstances. A strong mind wards off ill health and helps to preserve good health.
The best mental and physical tonic is cheerfulness. If one is cheerful, the cells, tissues and nerves are also cheerful and healthy. Therefore, one must cultivate this virtue again and again and be always cheerful. Laughter and cheerfulness increase the circulation of blood. They are blood tonics. Cheerfulness expands the heart and the brain, and fills the system with harmony and peace.
Health is a positive state. It is not simply negation of disease. A healthy person can turn out more physical and mental work, and practise good meditation for a long time. Health is a gift from Mother Nature who is the power behind life. Not disease but health is one’s birthright, and it is as natural to be well as to be born.