A Guide to Health/Part 1/Chapter 1

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
The Meaning of Health
S. Ganesan pages 9-11

Chapter I

THE MEANING OF HEALTH

Ordinarily that man is considered healthy who eats well and moves about, and does not resort to a doctor. But a little thought will convince us that this idea is wrong. There are many cases of men being diseased, in spite of their eating well and freely moving about. They are under the delusion that they are healthy, simply because they are too indifferent to think about the matter.

In fact, perfectly healthy men hardly exist anywhere over this wide world.

As has been well said, only that man can be said to be really healthy, who has a sound mind in a sound body. The relation between the body and the mind is so intimate that, if either of them got out of order, the whole system would suffer. Let us take the analogy of the rose-flower. Its colour stands to its fragrance in the same way as the body to the mind or the soul. No one regards an artificial paper-flower as a sufficient substitute for the natural flower, for the obvious reason that the fragrance, which forms the essence of the flower, cannot be reproduced. So too, we instinctively honour the man of a pure mind and a noble character in preference to the man who is merely physically strong. Of course, the body and the soul are both essential, but the latter is far more important than the former. No man whose character is not pure can be said to be really healthy. The body which contains a diseased mind can never be anything but diseased! Hence it follows that a pure character is the foundation of health in the real sense of the term; and we may say that all evil thoughts and evil passions are but different forms of disease.

Thus considered, we may conclude that that man alone is perfectly healthy whose body is well formed, whose teeth as well as eyes and ears are in good condition, whose nose is free from dirty matter, whose skin exudes perspiration freely and without any bad smell, whose mouth is also free from bad smells, whose hands and legs perform their duty properly, who is neither too fat nor too thin, and whose mind and senses are constantly under his control. As has already been said, it is very hard to gain such health, but it is harder still to retain it, when once it has been acquired. The chief reason why we are not truly healthy is that our parents were not. An eminent writer has said that, if the parents are in perfectly good condition their children would certainly be superior to them in all respects. A perfectly healthy man has no reason to fear death; our terrible fear of death shows that we are far from beings so healthy. It is, however, the clear duty of all of us to strive for perfect health. We will, therefore, proceed to consider in the following pages how such health can be attained, and how, when once attained, it can also be retained for ever.