Attitude is the most important factor in realizing health. Many people actually want to be unhealthy, sad, and miserable. They develop the tendency more and more until they create that personality for themselves. Later on they become helpless and do not want to accept the fact that they themselves are responsible for their ill health. It is important for people to become aware of the fact that staying healthy is not merely a matter of good diet, taking vitamins, or even doing proper exercise. More crucial than any of these factors is keeping a healthy state of mind.

Good mental health cannot be disturbed no matter what happens. Many people today say that they spend so much time eating, sleeping, talking to others, and carrying out other duties that it is not possible for them to attain the goal of human life in this lifetime. So they want to know about previous lives in order to understand their link with the past. It is a natural tendency of human beings to brood on past experiences. It is also their nature to imagine what the future might hold for them. But when they spend so much time thinking about the past or worrying about the future, they never learn how to be here and now. They cannot understand it; they cannot realize it, and no one can teach them how to be here and now. The moment they think of now, it is no longer there. One cannot think of now and live in the now at the same time, but once one understands what “now” means, he comes out of the past and future and learns to live in the present. Those who learn to live in the moment and have a purpose do not know what sadness is, nor do they sway with the moods and phases of life.

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 human beings want to answer. However, it is only when they are sick or they don’t have all the normal amenities in 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. They 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 or mental soundness will not fulfil the purpose of life. An emptiness, a void, and a feeling of dissatisfaction within will still remain. For instance, after attempting many experiments along the path of happiness, couples frequently do not know why they are still unhappy. Although they live together, love each other, are sincere and honest, and do their duties, they are not fully satisfied. They do not know why they are unhappy because they still do not know the purpose of their lives. It is very important to realize the source of their unhappiness so that their unconscious minds do not create problems and keep them from being free. For if one knows where he has come from and why he has come, and if he has no fear of death, then he will enjoy life, even on the sensory level. Commonly people cannot really enjoy their pleasures because they are more concerned with their fears. They worry: “What will happen if this thing is snatched from me? What will happen if one of us dies? What will happen if something suddenly occurs?” Fear is our greatest enemy, and if allowed to develop excessively, it even threatens our sense of self-preservation. To succumb to fear is like committing suicide. But with human beings there is always fear, always something that does not allow us to fully enjoy life’s privileges. Only when one can attain a state that is free from fear can he enjoy all things within and without.

I am not talking about emotional or ignorant fearlessness. For instance, I once saw a bull rush in anger to attack an oncoming train. He killed himself, of course. I am talking about that fearlessness that can be attained by understanding life as much as possible through mental concepts and behaviour. Human beings are perfectly equipped with all the necessary resources to attain this state of fearlessness, and happiness, wisdom, and enlightenment can only be achieved through that state. Otherwise, happiness is only a word that one knows how to spell, while he cannot understand what it really is until he achieves freedom from all anxieties.

To achieve this understanding one must have a practical philosophy of life. This begins to evolve the moment one realizes that it has been missing.

Editor’s Note:

This is an excerpt from A Practical Guide to Holistic Health by Swami Rama, pages 10 – 14 in the 1980 edition.

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