Buddhist approach about the Causes of Illness and Its Healing

When Buddha was young, he learned the science of medicine. Later, when he had become the Enlighten One, he received a better understanding of the nature and the cure of diseases. He could heal illnesses of the body and of the mind. Buddha could eliminate the disease by going to the heart of the cause and drawing upon his knowledge of the proper remedy. He also became able to guide others to live with ultimate physical and mental health.

abuddism and illnessesAmong the main causes of the illnesses, which afflict the human body, the Buddhist perspective mentions the imbalance of the body elements and the three psychological poisons- greed, anger and ignorance.

According to Buddhism, the body is composed of four impermanent elements – earth, water, fire, and wind. Each of the four elements is able to cause one hundred and one diseases, with a total of four hundred and four diseases possible. Buddhist opinion states that diseases related to the four elements are usually caused by overeating or overexertion. An imbalance of the four elements and the resulting illness can also occur due to a diet inappropriate for the four seasons. Eating a reasonable amount and adjusting the food according to seasonal changes are two important factors in maintaining balance among the four elements and allowing the body energy (chi) to circulate unimpeded through the organism.

Greed, anger, and ignorance, sometimes referred to as “the three poisons,” are also reasons why people are afflicted with sickness. When one allows oneself to be controlled by one of the three poisons, the psychological and physical health hazards are numerous.

   Greed is defined as an improper and excessive desire for something. Too much attachment to what people perceive through the five senses- sound, smell, sight, taste, and touch, can cause both psychological and physical illness. To avoid illness, when a person encounters the multitude of sensations that are a natural part of daily life, it is best to maintain a balanced attitude and practice the Middle Path, which is nor the excessive indulgence, nor the deprivation, but the way between them. In order to maintain optimum physical and mental health, the Middle Path is also the best way to approach sleeping, eating, and exercising. If one decreases one’s greed and desire and approaches life with the attitude of the Middle Path, one can lead a healthier life.

Anger is the most toxic emotion compared to the other two poisons and the harm that can be produced by it exceeds all of the other afflictions as well. Although anger is psychological, it causes severe physical consequences, too. Anger causes poor circulation, which can have devastating effects on the entire body. It acts as a blockade, causing the body and mind to be less receptive to treatment. The patient who overcomes anger will be able to experience a sense of tranquility, so he will heal easier and quicker.

Ignorance makes people unable to understand things as they really are, especially when it comes to illness. Instead of seeing the true cause and effect that will help them to eradicate the illness, and instead of using wisdom to guide them to the proper care, people might be distracted by ineffective remedies, using unsubstantiated methods, unscientific therapies, and unsound doctors.

In Buddhism, there are eighty-four thousand methods that are used to cure eighty-four thousand illnesses. For instance, the Buddha taught that to eliminate greed, one can use the contemplation of impurity. Anger or hatred can be defeated by practicing universal kindness and compassion. If people are ignorant, they should contemplate cause and effect and the law of impermanence, to help them nurture the mindset of non-attachment. Nothing arises outside of dependence origination and nothing that arises will last forever; all phenomena will one-day cease to exist.

There are six principles to follow in order to avoid and cure illnesses:

  1. Generosity cures greed.
  2.  Observing the precepts cures violation of the precepts.
  3.  Tolerance cures hatred.
  4. Diligence cures laziness.
  5.  Meditation cures the frenzied mind.
  6. Wisdom cures ignorance.

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