My Health Care Teachers
My parents, of course, were my first health care teachers. I started learning to do yogic asanas from my father when I was about six years old. A couple of years later he encouraged me to go to an akhara (a gym for wrestling and other exercises) that I visited regularly for about 8 years. He taught me the benefits of walking and use of body in doing little daily chores, such as washing, cutting vegetables, cleaning; also cycling and swimming.
My mother taught me to prefer whole foods and always to avoid refined ones. She encouraged me to eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables. I have always remembered her insistence on eating freshly ground whole-wheat flour. In Karachi, where we lived, it was not possible for her to have a small hand operated mill to grind every morning. But she never got more than 5 days’ supply of flour ground from the mill in our lane. At that time we children laughed at her for being old fashioned. But the truth she told was reconfirmed over and over. Some years ago my mother’s advice was reconfirmed to me for the hundredth time in a famous book named Laurel’s Kitchen. The authors quote research studied that clearly indicate that delicate nutrients contained in the germ of the seed are mostly lost in flour more than ten days old.
I had many more teachers, but because there is not enough space to talk about all of them I will briefly describe some useful teachings from just three of them; Gurdayal Mallik, Vinoba Bhave and Swami Sahajananda.
Gurdayal Mallik. He was a short old man with a radiant shining happy smiling face. His flowing white hair and a full beard made apparent the joy of life that filled his every pore. He believed in the enormous healing power of our natural immune systems, and therefore rejected antibiotics. He was so strict that several times he had to cancel his foreign trips because he refused to take the required (in those days) inoculations. Finally, the Quaker body American Friends Service Committee had to arrange a special dispensation from the President to allow his visit to the USA without a ‘health certificate’. He spent a healthy and very happy life, but died of a painful throat cancer. When the excruciating pains came, he suffered them hiding alone in a corner. When the pain was gone he rushed to play with the children of the neighborhood. He never asked why he was given pain but asked for more if that would hasten his step to a union with his Beloved God. He died happily as he had lived his life.
Vinoba Bhave. Vinoba never took any medicines. He cured himself by fasting, resting, controlling diet, chewing herbs, meditation and chanting mantras. Body’s immune system was his trusted physician. During the Bhoodan (land-gift movement) days when he was walking 50 miles a week he would sometimes fall sick in the evening. But invariably he would be up 4:00am and be ready to resume his yatra (march) the usual hour.
Vinoba had hernia. He tied his waist with a piece of khadi cloth to keep the intestines in their place. He walked 25 to 30 thousand miles in this fashion. A friend who walked with Vinoba for 2 years reported that when properly tied down, hernia did not bother him much.
Swami Sahajananda. He taught me fasting as a method of healing the body. My first fast under his supervision had to be stretched from 3 to 8 days. It was to heal some persistent stomach ailment. Even though the stomach was set right in 3 days Swamiji urged me to continue. About the 5th day of the fast my body began to cleanse my intestines and continued to emit hard, gummy old stuff for a whole month. I could clearly feel the working of the ‘brush’ beginning from my stomach and going all the way to the anus. As a result I felt lighter and transformed; this happy effect is with me to this day 17 years later. Nothing else, less dramatic, could have convinced me of the power of fasting.
Since then I have read several books on fasting and to my surprise found that it is known and practiced all over the world, even in the industrialized countries. Fasting for healing is practiced among the forest dwellers everywhere. I have also learned that cows, dogs, cats and all other animals fast to cure their illnesses. As people who keep farm animals or pets know, it works and they get well
I am fortunate to have been given this knowledge and feel glad to share it.
September 22, 2007