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 reconstruction or towards the betterment of conditions is worthwhile, but what we need most is the understanding of 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 that gives 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, there is sympathy. Health of mind and health of body therefore depend upon preserving that harmony, upon keeping intact that sympathy, which is going on in the mind and in body.
Remember that life in the world, and especially if lived amidst the crowd, will test and try our patience every moment of the day, and it will be most difficult to preserve that harmony and peace which are all happiness. What is the definition of life? Life means struggle with friends and battle with foes. It is all the time giving and taking, and it is most difficult to keep the sympathy, to keep the harmony, which are health and happiness.
Where are we to learn it? All education, learning and knowledge are acquired, but this one art is a divine art and man has inherited it. Absorbed in outer learning he has forgotten it, yet it is an art which is known to his soul, yet it is his own being, it is the deepest knowledge of his heart. No progress in whatever line will give a man that satisfaction his soul is craving for, except this art which is the art of life, the art of being, which is the pursuit of his soul. In order to serve the reconstruction of the world the only thing possible and the only thing necessary is to learn the art of being, the art of life, for oneself and to be an example oneself before trying to serve humanity.
What is Sufism? It is that art which has just been spoken of, the art through which the music and symphony of life can be preserved, and through which man can enable himself to become the proper servant of God and humanity.
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 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 means of material remedies. Then there is another point of view: that of people who think 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 be exaggerated, when some people claim that illness is an illusion, that it has no existence of its own. The ordinary point of view can also be exaggerated when one thinks that medicine is the only means of cure and that thought has little to do with actual illness. Both these persons, the one who looks at it from the ordinary point of view and the other who sees 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 some affirm that an illness is as real as health. It is in the absence of illness that a person can easily call pain an illusion, but when he is suffering, then it is difficult for him to call it an illusion.
The question, who is more subject to illness, a spiritual person or a material person, may be answered thus: a spiritual person who discards spiritual laws. No doubt a spiritually inclined person is supposed to have less chance of being ill, because his spirit has become harmonious through spirituality. He creates harmony and radiates it. He keeps to the realm of nature, in tune with the Infinite. Nevertheless, a spiritual person’s life in the midst of the world is like the life of a fish on 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 continually striking 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 ready to be pushed away.
A spiritual soul is an old soul according to the Eastern terminology. Even a spiritually minded young person shows the nature of the aged, but at the same time spirituality is perpetual youth. A spiritual person admires all things, appreciates all things, and enjoys all things to their fullness. Therefore, if one says that the spiritual person is like a young person, this is true also.
People have lost the conception of normal health these days when 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 is ill because he could not keep to a rhythm which is not his own. Be one spiritual or material, since one has to live in the midst of the world, one shares the conditions of all those who are far and near, and one subjects oneself to the influences, desirable or undesirable, coming from all around. 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 comes upon one causing irregularity, inharmonic 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.
Health is a most important subject. There is a Hindustani proverb: Health is a thousand gifts. The other interests of life should be sacrificed to health.
If the veins and tubes of the body are stopped up, this causes disease. If they are stopped up by water, it causes colds and coughs. If they are stopped up with air – that is by poisonous gases – one gets rheumatism and similar diseases. If they are stopped up by a sort of rust, there are circumstances, there are germs that cause disease, but the disease comes in proportion to the welcome one gives it.
One way is giving too much sympathy. If a child has a headache, and the mother says: ‘Oh poor child, you must lie down on your bed and I shall bring you an apple and an orange,’ the apple and the orange are brought to the headache, the bed and the sympathy are given to the headache to welcome it. If it is given such a welcome, it will make its abode there. There are some people, who love themselves so much that they say, ‘Oh, poor self, what a pity it is that you should be ill, that you should suffer.’ Self-pity is a great cause of disease.
Then there is fear. If there is a dog in your street, and you show the dog that you are afraid, it will attack you. So it is with disease. I know this through my own experience. When I used to go about in India to give concerts, I used to think, ‘What will happen if I have a cold on the day of the concert? If it comes before it does not matter, but if it comes on the day of the concert, it will be terrible.’ And on the day of the concert the cold came and went into my throat. Until I learned the way of it the cold would always come. Another thought is ‘What will become of me I am well this week, but how shall I be next week? I may be ill. I am well this year, but next year I may be ill. I must take some precautions.’
A rich lady whom I knew in Paris once wrote to me saying, ‘Murshid, I cannot come to your lecture.’ I went to see her, expecting to find her very ill. She said, ‘I cannot go out of the house or see anyone; the doctor forbade me.’ I asked, ‘Have you any pain?’ ‘No’, she answered, ‘I do not know; but the doctor told me not to go out.’ I said, ‘Is your doctor a god, is he a prophet or a messenger of God, that he has brought you a message of sickness?’
Question: Why does illness come upon us?
Answer: Illness comes because we allow it to come. We allow it either consciously or unconsciously, and it stays where it finds a welcome, sympathy, a bed prepared for it, a doctor to attend to it. Illness always comes from something bad: bad atmosphere, bad food, and bad surroundings.