There are three categories of people traveling through the procession of life: time oriented, goal oriented, and purpose oriented. Time oriented people move in the world without understanding why they are moving. They do not have any true vision of the future. They spend their lives fantasizing some idyllic future or analysing triumphs or defeats from the past. They lack a sense of discipline and purpose. Because they are continually living in their projections of the way things might have been, or could be, they fail to appreciate things the way they are, and are thus forever dissatisfied. For such people, staying healthy and finding success is difficult.

The second category of people is those who are goal oriented. They can physically and mentally discipline themselves to a certain extent, and they can conduct their duties according to the circumstances, but their vision remains limited. Their goals are confined to worldly attainments, such as “I will have a house, a wife, a car, a job, and many other comforts.” For lack of a higher purpose their lives remain oriented toward material goals. They think that these things will satisfy them and fulfil the purpose of life, but after attaining them they feel lost because they do not know why they had sought them in the first place.

The third category of people is comprised of those few individuals who are purpose oriented. Whatever they think, speak, or do is in accordance with their purpose in life. They regulate their habits and know that physical and mental health are not two different things, but are inseparable units which are essential for maintaining holistic health. For them maintaining good physical and mental health is like preserving two instruments which can be used to carry out the purpose of life. What label one attaches to this purpose – happiness, perfection, health, a state of tranquillity, nirvana, samadhi, Godhead – is immaterial. The people of this last category are rare, but they are healthy in all respects.

Thus it is clear that the basis of holistic health lies in one’s understanding the purpose of his life and learning how to achieve that purpose. There are many questions that human beings want to answer. However, it is only when they are sick or they don’t have all the normal amenities of life, or when they are befallen by a personal tragedy that they begin asking, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? From where have I come? Where will I go?” These are not cultural questions. They are not social or economic questions either. These are inborn questions common to every human being and they arise when one starts examining life. Everyone has to face these questions sooner or later. Without answers to these questions, mere physical health and mental soundness will not fulfil the purpose of life. An emptiness, a void, and a feeling of dissatisfaction within will still remain.

Editor’s Note

This is an excerpt from A Practical Guide to Holistic Health by Swami Rama, The Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, 2nd edition – 1980, pages 11 –13.

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