Section 3

What causes disease?

Embodiments of Divine Ātma !

Science and technology have made great strides in contributing to the progress of human society. In spite of the availability of so many amenities, why is man afflicted with disease? We have to investigate why we lose our health. What is Disease? Disease means feeling uneasy, disturbed, on account of the upsetting of one’s temper or balance or equilibrium, which affects the physical as well as mental condition.

This happens for two reasons: faulty Āhāra (food) and faulty Vihār (activities).

What are the main causes of ill-health?

Food is the main factor in maintaining good health or causing diseases. Millions of living beings grouped as species dwell on the earth; they sustain themselves by means of food secured from Nature, as provided by Nature.

Birds and beasts do not suffer from cardiac and digestive ailments to which man is prone. They lead natural lives. It is only man that is an exception. In order to cater to his palate and other senses, he changes the composition and characteristics of the things provided by nature and prepares, through the process of boiling, frying and mixing, concoctions which have no vitality in them. This artificial lifestyle takes a heavy toll on his health. Birds and beasts do not adopt such destructive methods. They eat things raw and consume the strength-giving vital essence. So, they do not fall victim to the many ills that man brings on himself.

Plant a boiled pulse in the soil; it won’t sprout. How, then, can it contribute life to the living? The Vitamins and proteins that are valuable ingredients are destroyed while it is cooked to please the palate! The billions of cells in the body are so interdependent that when one is weakened or damaged, all of them suffer. There is a limit and a balance which every limb and organ has to maintain. Insufficient or improper food will endanger this balance.

There is an axiom believed in by men of yore, which says: ‘One meal a day makes a ‘Yōgi’, two meals a day make a ‘Bhōgi’ and three meals a day make a ‘Rōgi’. ‘Yōgi’ is the contented God-centred person. ‘Bhōgi’ is the one revelling in sensual pleasure. ‘Rōgi’ is the one ridden by illness.

The quantity of food intake by the well-to-do is now much beyond essential requirements. Over-eating has become a fashion. The breakfast does not serve to break any fast, for, there has been no fasting at all! It is as good as a full meal. Lunch is pressed in and consists of many dishes, chosen for the palate rather than to assuage hunger. Tea is tea only in name; it includes rather heavy fare, out of all proportion to the needs of the body. Dinner at night is the heaviest meal and includes the largest variety and soon he goes to bed, weighted with unwanted stuff, to roll from side to side, in a vain effort to get a few minutes of sleep.

‘Eat in moderation and live long.’ This is the advice handed down through the ages by the seers of the past. This advice is seldom heeded. People fill themselves with such large quantities of food that they find it hard to rise from the eating plate. Ruining their digestive system by consuming heavy, rich foods, the affluent are proud when they host costly banquets. The modern man consumes many artificial foodstuffs and a variety of alcoholic drinks, which are injurious to health.

What is the cause of heart ailments?

Many doctors say that they are due to smoking, consumption of fatty foods, overeating and other habits. Heart diseases are found to be more rampant among non-vegetarians while vegetarians are not prone to heart ailments to the same extent. This is because of a higher percentage of fats in non-vegetarian food which increases the cholesterol in the blood.

Worry causes high blood pressure and ‘hurry’ causes diabetes. Both of them are like twins, one acting on the heart inside and the other externally on the blood. So, worry, hurry and curry (fatty foods) are the root causes of cardiac ailments. The consumption of large quantities of fat is the cause of cardiovascular diseases. Doctors advise against the consumption of fatty foodstuff which causes an increase in weight resulting in susceptibility to cardiac diseases The presence of toxins also inflicts equal damage. Everyone should know how to control these causes.

Man is constantly afflicted with some source of worry or other. He is never free from anxiety. Why? Because he is identifying himself with the body. How did he acquire this body? Through his past activities and deeds. What were they caused by? By the twin pulls of love and hate. How did they originate? They were born out of the entanglement in duality, in the opposites. And, why does he get snared by them? Ignorance of the Truth, the ONE.

The mind has as its warp and woof, desire or thirst for something or other, getting some gain or avoiding some loss. Desire arises from attachment, often the consequence of delusion. Desire distorts and denigrates the mind. It keeps the mind incessantly agitated. No plain of water can be calm when stones are dropping on it and if there is a perpetual shower of desires, the mind too will be pitifully restless.

Indeed, more than physical ailments, mental diseases are growing limitlessly. The most common source of illness among people today is tension. What is the cause of tension? It is indulgence in excesses of various kinds. Mental sickness caused by tension and worry gives us so many bodily ailments. Most diseases have their origin in the mind. Everything has a psychological basis. When a person feels that something is wrong with him, he develops an illness. Man today is afflicted with discontent. As one set of desires are satisfied, other desires go on cropping up. If desires are reduced, contentment will grow.

Excessive thinking, worrying, and studying is the main cause for man’s illness. Some students are absorbed in studies all the time, because of which they lose their health. There is a limit to everything. The Greek philosopher Aristotle conducted extensive research on the digestive system of man, and as a result of too much thinking, his health deteriorated, and ultimately he died of digestive problems. Constant investigations into cardiac ailments made the heart specialist, Dr. Herin, a heart patient, and ultimately led to his death. Excessive activity in any field is harmful to health. Do not spend much thought on the body; some people worry always about health, and they are never satisfied with the care they bestow on the body.

Bear in mind the limitations of the body and act accordingly. The main cause of your illness is psychological. This is nothing but illusion and delusion. We start imagining that a disease that is present in another person may also be present in us. 80% of the diseases are psychological. If you check your pulse rate under anxiety, you will find it abnormal.

Evil thoughts cause ill-health. Anxiety, fear and tension also contribute their share. All these results from greed, greed to have more of things, of power and of fame. Greed results in sorrow and despair. The rich man is not contented in spite of the accumulation of wealth. Worry causes hurry and both together bring about ill-health.

It is not only unbridled passion that damages the health of man. Living on ill-gotten money also causes ill-health to some extent. Living on earnings obtained by unjust means causes many unknown diseases to take root in us. It is said:

As is the food, so is the mind;
As is the mind, so are the thoughts;
As are the thoughts, so is the conduct;
As is the conduct, so is the health.

Man today is a victim of worry. What is the cause of this worry? Lack of contentment is the cause. Contentment can come only from a spiritual outlook.

It is wise to prevent disease than run after remedies after it has happened or grown beyond control. Man does not attend to precautionary measures; he allows things to worsen and then the disease is aggravated by fear, uncertainty and anxiety.


Summer Course, Brindavan, 27-05-2002 Nowadays none wakes up when the cock crows, nor when the loud whistle of train blows, but get up late in the morning at eight or nine. What is the reason? They go to sleep late at night. Are they at least using the night hours for studies? Not at all. They put on Television or Radio, thus polluting their own minds besides wasting time. Much of what is seen on the television are things that are lewd, disgusting, immoral and vile. Such are the undesirable things being shown. None protests against this evil, neither parents inside house, nor the teachers, the educated persons and the elders in the society. The reason simply is that they too have succumbed to this addiction. So if they try to correct children, they would have to face the question “What about you?” Such are the elders of to day to whom children would give a piece of mind. They in fact are the ones who occupy the front seats in front of TV sets. Let me tell you what some of these elders are up to. They tell our students when they go home on vacation, “Son, it is an year since you watched TV or movie, as you were at Puttaparthi. Now go ahead and watch them to your heart’s content”. Mothers even serve meals to them in front of the TV set itself. Should any mother interested in the well-being of her child do this? Certainly not. But unfortunately they are all out to spoil their own children. The government servants themselves are glued to TV as soon as they return home from offices. Or they go to clubs where they drink, fill themselves with unhealthy food and gamble. It is precisely due to these bad habits, evil traits and unhealthy activities that today’s citizens are turning into cruel people. Even their speech is not soft and pleasant but is very rude.

Boys and Girls! Preserve your health. Bad habits are the root cause for ill health; so eschew bad habits totally. Where the young children should have chubby cheeks, you see today faces looking shrunken. You must build up good health. Good health enables you to carry out meritorious deeds. You will derive happiness out of such deeds. Thus happiness is a product of good health. So take proper care of your health to find happiness. Happiness is your greatest wealth. Health is your greatest wealth. Eat your meals on time. Have your fill. Relish and enjoy the food provided by your parents which they have secured through much hard work. Never find fault with it or refuse it. If you relish fondly, it nourishes your body well. Then the body can do any amount of work. 

Students! I am indeed begging of you: please shun your vices, give up bad habits, develop virtues, cultivate good habits, take to right path and enjoy an ideal life. If you have both health and happiness, you need not acquire anything else. Money can always be earned, but what is really important is earning of virtues. Money without virtues is of no use, for, it is virtue that gives happiness in life and not money. Make your parents happy. If they are into bad habits and try to pull you in, tell them as follows: “These things are not good. They spoil us. We know that you wish our well-being but you are showing to us wrong ways of life. Swami told us what is good for our well- being; allow us to do that.” Do lead a sacred life on the sacred path with good behaviour. All of you be happy and I shall tell you many more special things.