Spiritual Health: New Paradigms in Our Understanding of Spirituality
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defined health as “A state of complete physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity.” This reflects a positive thought about our health. Though this idea is not new- in Ayurveda, our ancient knowledge of human health the ‘balance’ between various physical, mental and social functioning of the human body is considered as a core value of health and wellness. Modern medicine is criticised for its mechanistic approach towards human health and wellness. Even the definition as mentioned above is considered incomplete and misinforming about human health by many people. Addition of the fourth dimension, the spiritual dimension gives it completeness in some respects.With all these criticisms the WHO definition is widely accepted and applied definition of human health across the globe by healthcare professionals and researchers.
The fourth dimension, the spiritual dimension is widely discussed among people, physicians, communities, and organisations involved in the healthcare industry. To understand it we need to understand the term ‘spirituality’ first. It is a difficult task to define spirituality since it has multiple definitions with many complexities and ambiguities created around this. We generally connect our spirituality with our religion, faith or belief system.This is not wrong, but it is partially correct. To understand this, we need to know that both religion and spirituality are the products of a highly evolved human thought process.
The human brain has complex biochemical mechanisms and our various thought processes are the result of those reactions which produce thoughts. It is our thoughts which make us human. Spirituality is the product of spiritual thought process and religion is the product of religious thought process, and both have many similarities. It is true that everyone of us wants to realise our spirituality and for that purpose, we follow religions, gurus, rituals, and belief systems. This is a fundamental difference between religiosity and spirituality, the latter being the aim of the former being the path. Therefore, religion and spirituality are not synonymous.
All religions always claim to provide spiritual realisation to their followers by obeying their gods, practices, and rituals. Religions with all their positive and negative religious thoughts played a significant role in the creation of humanity with human values at its core. Every religion assures its followers help in attaining spiritual dimension; in that way, this assurance helped them in attracting and maintaining their follower base. So, we can say ‘spirituality’ is necessary for the existence of religions. After the scientific and industrial revolution, the scientific thought process is playing a significant role in the formulation of collective human thought process. We can see a substantial change in our understanding of spirituality, humanity, science, religions and their interactions. Current scientific theories of evolution and quantum physics created more modern versions of world view regarding spirituality and religious philosophies.
With this background when we explore spirituality, we can see it at the core of humanity and human values. It appeared as a highly evolved human thought that has all the positive ideas which make the common base for every religion and belief system to exist and finally makes interfaith and inter-religion dialogue possible. It helps in enhancing positive thoughts and controlling and modulating negative thoughts on the premises of belief and social systems. So, to make it simple, less complicated and less ambiguous, spirituality can be defined as “All positive thoughts of humanity and human values which have the enhancing properties for positive thoughts and correcting and healing properties for the negative thoughts in the complex ecosystem of human thought processes.”
Positive thoughts affect physical, mental, and social dimensions of our health. It happens because of the evolutionary process of millions of years, which created our biochemistry to release the biochemicals which produce all positive impact on our mental and physical health by reducing stress, increasing happiness, regulating blood pressure and elevating our mood. Our social and interpersonal relations automatically get a boost with positive thoughts and it finally improves our social and professional life. Negative thoughts have just the opposite effect on our biochemistry and physiology by a sad mood, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, irritable, stressed, and anxious. In all, we feel a sense of well-being and happiness with positive thoughts.
Spiritual thoughts by their inherent properties of creating positive thoughts and healing and correcting negative thoughts helped in keeping the thought ecosystem in our mind on the positive side. This is the reason that the spiritual dimension is vital for our health and well-being in all aspects of our daily life.
From a public health point of view, it is crucial to understand this simple understanding of spirituality and better positive spiritual health. We can see the complexities and ambiguities created around this concept and most of the time they are intentional for various vested interests since all of us want to realise our spirituality, so it is easy to be the easy target of specific vested interests. We can see such scams surfacing from time to time in media. People need to understand that all positive thoughts in their belief systems, all positive ideas of humanity and human values like love, respect, tolerance, helpfulness, kindness and so on are spiritual thoughts and to encourage them at the individual level, in society, and in collective humanity is spirituality. Spiritual health merely is enhancing the positive thoughts, correcting and healing of negative thoughts and getting all benefits of our positive thoughts on all the dimensions of our health. As a human being, it is very natural to have negative thoughts, but this simple definition of spirituality can help us to heal our negative thoughts by enhancing positive thoughts. This will also help people prevent themselves from falling in the trap of vested interests which is not suitable for overall public health.
Nature has created human beings by embedding the codes in their DNA through the journey of their evolutionary process that their physiology and biochemistry will respond with all good results on their health, happiness, and well-being. Simultaneously all the negative thoughts of religion, culture, science, and philosophies will have all adverse effects. The higher notions of spirituality helped in controlling the conflicts between individuals, groups, societies, religions, and nations to prosper the humanity and human values by enhancing the positive thoughts of peace, tolerance, happiness, helpfulness, kindness, and well-being.
(The writer is a surgeon, author, researcher & public health activist based in Dehradun)
Friday, 26 April 2019 |Dr Mahesh Bhatt | in Devbhoomi Spiritual
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