One of the challenges all human individuals, including spiritual seekers and yoga practitioners, have to face, is the issue of illness. Illness was described as one of the ‘four noble truths’ by the Buddha, when he described the human condition and why he recommended that people take up the spiritual life to escape the suffering of human existence.
Spiritual paths have tried numerous different ways to deal with illness when it comes. Some of them simply accept it as a fact of human life and try not to let it interfere with their spiritual effort. Others try to use various forms of faith healing or ‘mind over matter’ practices to overcome or prevent illness. Some paths develop extensive methodologies to create new power and endurance in the body and some use mantras to cure diseases! Sri Aurobindo reported once that his brother was violently feverish and a wandering yogi came by, said mantras over a glass of water and after partaking of the water, his brother was cured.
Some years ago a researcher at Jipmer Hospital, Pondicherry was doing research on using vibrations to both diagnose and cure diseases. He was infecting mice with cancer cells and he monitored the tumor growth and took regular photographs, including Kirlian images, to monitor the progress of the disease. He also measured the vibrational pattern of both sick and healthy mice. At a certain point in time he began to play back the vibrational pattern of the healthy mice to the sick mice, and was able to document the reduction of the tumors! Clearly new vibrational patterns as they develop have the opportunity to enhance the strength and resistance of the body to disease, and even cure disease once it has gained a foothold.
In Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga, the body is the physical foundation for the transformation of life on earth through the next evolutionary manifestation. As this occurs, changes can and must occur in the physical being as also in the vital and mental levels to embody the new force and give it its complete scope. In the interim, while the seekers are still immersed in the current normal human consciousness, the body should be kept fit and strong, as possible, without either giving too much influence to its demands, or getting caught up in focusing entirely on the illness of the body when it comes.
.Sri Aurobindo notes: “Your theory of illness is rather a perilous creed — for illness is a thing to be eliminated, not accepted or enjoyed. There is something in the being that enjoys illness, it is possible even to turn the pains of illness like any other pain into a form of pleasure; for pain and pleasure are both of them degradations of the original Ananda and can be reduced into the terms of each other or else sublimated into their original principle of Ananda. It is true also that one must be able to bear illness with calm, equanimity, endurance, even recognition of it, since it has come, as something that has to be passed through in the course of experience. But to accept and enjoy it means to help it to last and that will not do; for illness is a deformation of the physical nature just as lust, anger, jealousy, etc., are deformations of the vital nature and error and prejudice and indulgence of falsehood are deformations of the mental nature. All these things have to be eliminated and rejection is the first condition of their disappearance while acceptance has a contrary effect altogether.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Illness, pp 318-322