A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 14

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
S. Ganesan pages 142-147

Chapter XIV


I have now said all that I had intended to say on the subject of health. And now, before finally taking leave of my readers, I will say. a word or two on my object in writing these pages.

One question which I have asked myself again and again, in the course of writing this book, is why I of all persons should write it. Is there any justification at all for one like me, who am no doctor, and whose knowledge of the matters dealt with in these pages must be necessarily imperfect, attempting to write a book of this kind?

My defence is this. The "science" of medicine is itself based upon imperfect knowledge, most of it being mere quackery. But this book, at any rate, has been prompted by the purest of motives. The attempt is here made not so much to show how to cure diseases as to point out the means of preventing them. And a little reflection will show that the prevention of disease is a comparatively simple matter, not requiring much specialist knowledge, although it is by no means an easy thing to put these principles into practice. Our object has been to show the unity of origin and treatment of all diseases, so that all people may learn to treat their diseases themselves when they do arise, as they often do, in spite of great care in the observance of the laws of health.

But, after all, why is good health so essential, so anxiously to be sought for? Our ordinary conduct would seem to indicate that we attach little value to health. If health is to be sought for in order that we might indulge in luxury and pleasure, or pride ourselves over our body and regard it as an end in itself, then indeed it would be far better that we should have bodies tainted with bad blood, by fat, and the like.

All religions agree in regarding the human body as an abode of God. Our body has been given to us on the understanding that we should render devoted service to God with its aid. It is our duty to keep it pure and unstained from within as well as from without, so as to render it back to the Giver, when the time comes for it, in the state of purity in which we got it. If we fulfil the terms of the contract to God's satisfaction, He will surely reward us, and make us heirs to immortality.

The bodies of all created beings have been gifted with the same senses, and the same capacity for seeing, hearing, smelling and the like; but the human body is supreme among them all, and hence we call it a "Chintamani," or a giver of all good. Man alone can worship God with knowledge and understanding. Where devotion to God is void of understanding, there can be no true salvation, and without salvation there can be no true happiness. The body can be of real service only when we realise it to be a temple of God and make use of it for God's worship; otherwise it is no better than a filthy vessel of bones, flesh and blood, and the air and water issuing from it is worse than poison. The things that come out of the body through the pores and other passages are so filthy that we cannot touch them or even think of them without disgust; and it requires very great effort to keep them tolerably clean. Is it not most disgraceful that, for the sake of this body, we should stoop to falsehood and deceit, licentious practices and even worse? Is it not equally shameful that, for the sake of these vices, we should be so anxious to preserve this fragile frame of ours at any cost?

This is the truth of the matter in regard to our body; for the very things which are the best or the most useful have inherent in them capabilities of a corresponding mischief. Otherwise, we should hardly be able to appreciate them at their true worth. The light of the sun, which is the source of our life, and without which we cannot live for an hour, is also capable of burning all things to ashes. So too, a king may do infinite good to his subjects, or be the source of untold mischief. Indeed, the body may be a good servant, but, when it becomes a master, its powers of evil are unlimited.

There is an incessant struggle going on within us between our Soul and Satan for the control of our body. If the soul gains the ascendancy, the body becomes a most potent instrument of good; but, if the devil is victorious in the struggle, it becomes a hot-bed of vice. Hell itself would be preferable to the body which is the slave of vice, which is constantly filled with decaying matter and which emits filthy odours, whose hands and feet are employed in unworthy deeds, whose tongue is employed in eating things that ought not to be eaten or in uttering language that ought not to be uttered, whose eyes are employed in seeing things that ought not to be seen, whose ears are employed in the hearing of things that ought not to be heard, and whose nose is employed in the smelling of things that ought not to be smelt. But, while hell is never mistaken for heaven by anybody, our body which is rendered worse than hell by ourselves is, strangely, enough, regarded by us as almost heavenly! So monstrous is our vanity, and so pitiful our pride, in this matter! Those who make use of a palace as a latrine, or vice versa, must certainly reap the fruit of their folly. So too, if, while our body is really in the Devil's hands, we should fancy that we are enjoying true health, we shall have only ourselves to thank for the terrible consequences that are sure to follow.

To conclude, then our attempt in these pages has been to teach the great truth that perfect health can be attained only by living in obedience to the laws of God, and defying the power of Satan. True happiness is impossible without true health, and true health is impossible without a rigid control of the palate. All the other senses will automatically come under our control when the palate has been brought under control. And he who has conquered his senses has really conquered the whole world, and he becomes a part of God. We cannot realise Rama by reading the Ramayana, or Krishna by reading the Gita, or god by reading the Koran, or Christ by reading the Bible; the only means of realising them is by developing a pure and noble character. Character is based on virtuous action, and virtuous action is grounded on Truth. Truth, then, is the source and foundation of all things that are good and great. Hence, a fearless and unflinching pursuit of the ideal of Truth and Righteousness is the key-note of true health as of all else. And if we have succeeded (in however feeble a measure) in bringing this grand fact home to our readers, our object in writing these pages would have been amply fulfilled.