The Sanskrit term for health is swastha which has two roots: swa means self or soul and stha means situated. Thus, a healthy person is one, who dwells in the Self. The ancient wisdom states that in order to have a healthy body one’s mind needs to develop soul-consciousness and move away from body consciousness. The concept of soul is beautifully described in the Gita:
Weapons cannot cut it, fire cannot burn it, water cannot make it wet, and the wind cannot make it dry. (BG 2.23)
The verse emphasizes the fact that Atman is eternal, indestructible, all-pervading, changeless, immovable, and primeval.
Power of Yoga
Having realized the knowledge of the soul, the question naturally arises: how does one attain soul- realization? Indian scriptures tell us that this can be achieved by a regular practice of yoga, the union of soul with the supreme. The Gita defines yoga as “equanimity of mind” and “excellence in action”.
Yoga practice uplifts the seeker to a higher state of joy and happiness. There is a beautiful verse in the Gita which describes this aptly:
Let it be known that the severance of union with sorrow is known by the name of yoga. This yoga should be practiced resolutely with perseverance, without any mental reservation or doubts. (BG 6: 23)
In the joyous state of yoga, one is situated in boundless spiritual happiness, and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Being established in such a position, one is never perturbed, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.
Life of moderation
The Gita further recommends that a life of moderation, discipline and self-control has to be pursued for attaining holistic health. The following verse aptly describes this truth:
He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working, and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the Yoga. (BG 6: 17)
Sri Krishna declares that those who are moderate, restrained and regulated are eligible to practice yoga, which is the union of the soul with God.
The Gita emphasizes the need for a healthy and balanced diet for the well- being of an individual. In Ayurveda—“the science of long life” the influences of the various kinds of foods we eat on our overall physical and mental health as well as happiness is enumerated.
Persons of sattvic nature prefer foods that promote long life, vitality, strength, good health, happiness and contentment; foods which are juicy, succulent, nourishing and pleasing to the heart. (BG 17: 8)
In this context Albert Einstein wrote: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Purity of Thoughts
The purity of our thoughts is directly linked to our holistic health. In fact, the regular practice of Yoga leads to internal purity. The Gita emphasizes that “One should elevate oneself through the power of one’s mind for the mind can be the friend and also the enemy of the Self.” It is a matter of fact that one’s state of the mind determines the state of his consciousness. Each thought we dwell upon has consequences. Thought by thought, we forge our destiny. It is important to realize that we harm ourselves with every negative thought that we harbour in our mind. At the same time, we uplift ourselves with every positive thought that we dwell upon. So, we must cultivate our own mind with rich and noble thoughts, while weeding out the negative and debilitating ones. This will ensure our holistic health and spiritual well-being.
(The author is a senior diplomat and former Indian Ambassador to Italy the views expressed are personal)