Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sickness And Health

Sickness (atanka, gelanna or roga) is the malfunctioning of the organism due to infection or injury. Numerous types of sickness are mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures including jaundice (panduroga), fever (parilaha), ulcers (aru), cough (ukkasana), hay fever (tinapupphaka), diabetes (madhumehika) and leprosy (kuttha). If every sickness were caused by past kamma, as some misinformed Buddhists maintain, then taking medicine would be pointless. But the Buddha listed eight causes of sickness, only one of which is the result of kamma, the others being imbalance of bile, phlegm or wind or all three bodily humours; change in the weather, improper care and accidents (S.IV,230). In another place he said that a poor diet can also lead to sickness (A.III,144) as can overeating (M.I,473). Seasonal sicknesses caused by the wind, heat or humidity were also recognized (Vin.I,199). According to legend, seeing a sick man was one of the four sights that that led to Prince Siddhattha deciding to renounce the world and search for the Truth.
The Buddha defined health (arogya) as `having well-being, good digestion, not being over-cold or over-hot, balance and being capable of activity' (A.III,103). He considered good health to be a true blessing and an important prerequisite for practising the Dhamma saying: `Good health is the highest gain' (Dhp.204). He advocated a light diet because it contributes to `freedom from illness, to health, to strength and to bodily ease' (M.I,473) and he was aware of the connection between exercise and health (A.III,30; Vin.II,119). He also asked his disciples to contemplate the blessings of having good health and to use the opportunity to practise the Dhamma (A.III,103). Emphasizing the connection between personal virtue and health, the Bhesajjamanjusa, an ancient Buddhist medical work, says: `The person who adheres to healthy food habits and behavior, who is circumspect, not attached to worldly pleasures, generous, equally disposed towards others, truthful, forgiving and who associates with the wise, will be free from illness.'
The Buddha said that employers have an obligation to look after their employees when they are sick (D.III,191). He considered visiting and caring for the sick to be virtuous acts and out of compassion he did both. He once said: `He who would nurse me, should nurse the sick' (Yo bhikkhave mam upattaheyya so gilanam upatthahissati, Vin.I,301-2). Commenting on these words, the Saddhammopayana says: `Nursing the sick was much praised by the Great Compassionate One and is it a wonder that he would do so? For the Sage sees the welfare of others as his own and thus that he should act as a benefactor is no surprise. This is why attending on the sick has been praised by the Buddha. One practising great virtue should have loving concern for others.'


Michael said...

Why did you delete the recent long post with the passage wildly extolling the virtues through several reincarnations of some guru?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Ah! Good to know that someone is taking notice. The Tibetan post's disappearance was due to problems I had with the various computers I was using as I was travelling in Sri Lanka - a land where it often seems nothing works. I will re-post it as soon as the 'Buddha, health and medicine' posts are finished.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Ah, tech glich. I thought maybe a campaign was started by his devotees to complain. I've only been reading your blog a short time but it seemed that was a pretty unusual entry. I enjoyed reading it. I'd love if it were recorded by a deep voiced announcer with his most sincere movie promo voice. Or the amazingly respectful tones used by (English language) narrators of Soka Gakkai promo videos.

Unknown said...

very very good topic thanks you