Self – Knowledge, also known as Atma Vidya or Brahma Vidya, is Arsha Vidya, meaning the knowledge of Rishis. If forms the subject matter of Vedanta. It is world’s most ancient knowledge which has survived to this day in its pristine purity because of its validity and vitality. It imparts the knowledge that the self, the first person singular ‘I’ as in ‘I am’, in Purnam or limitless fullness meanings a fullness which is beyond all limitations such as decay, disease and death and that its nature is Ananda meaning happiness.
It is harnessing of this happiness dimension of the Purnam Knowledge that promises of anxieties and tensions, frustration and stress that takes a heavy toll of people’s health in the modern world and it is this solution that this book offers. Happiness and health being the obverse and reverse of the same coin, self-knowledge, which ensures steady happiness, can alone free the mind from the destructive tendencies which in fact are the brood of self-ignorance and thereby ensure sound health. The failure to understand the subject matter and the nature of the methods adopted by scriptures has given rise to a number of confusions in the minds of both teachers and students.
This book seeks to steer clear of confusions and presents the spirituality in its pristine purity and clarity.
Kumble Bhoja Rao (b.1929), holding a master’s degree in English literature and a bachelor’s degree in law, started legal practice as a full-fledged advocate at Mangalore in Karnataka, only to switch over to a career with a wider horizon, journalism, dear to his heart. As a young man in his early thirties, he gained recognition as a thinker and writer of rare caliber by winning the prestigious Blitz prize, with his article entitled “The Quest for a Warless World”, in a competition marking the journal’s 20th anniversary on the topic of India’s National Mission. As one with a spiritual bent of mind, Bhoja Rao, even as a teenaged student, was profoundly impressed by Mhatma Gandhi’s book ‘Gita My Mother” and the works of Swami Vivekananda. Since his retirement at the age of sixty from the Press Trust of India, after a distinguished tenure as a special correspondent and a news editor, Bhoja Rao has been engaged in a committed pursuit of Vedanta, for the last more than fifteen years.
A spin-off of Bhoja Rao’s deep study of Vedanta was the clear insight he gained into the correlation between self-knowledge, which is the subject matter of Vedanta, and an individual’s discovered the all-important fact that knowledge once gained in gained for good and, therefore, it is only knowledge-based happiness which remains steady and unabated and can be the basis of steady and sustained health.
Self-Knowledge—Key to Happiness and Health authored by Shri K. Bhoja Rao is a masterpiece. Macfarlane Burnett, a great mind in medicine, once said: “It is plain rubbish to believe that doctors and hospitals keep society, health.” He could not have been more correct as the latest audit in the USA, the Institute of Medicine report, clearly showed that the third cause of death in that country are the doctors and the hospitals while the fourth is the adverse drug reactions [ADRI of prescription drugs.
Spirituality has a lot to do with total health. Health is a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, societal and environmental wellness clubbed with creative enthusiasm to work to live. Mere absence of physical disability could not be considered as complete health. It is now realised that spirituality which in the true sense means sharing and caring, is at the root of a happy mind which in turn keeps the body healthy.
Every single disease, starting from common cold to cancer, starts in the human mind and grows in the body aided and abetted by the environment in which we live. The latter includes our habits like tobacco use and alcohol intake, in addition. The real spirituality began with the Vedic wisdom which has existed on this planet for “times out of mind” and has been the basis of all our efforts in the right direction. The Rg Veda rightly points out that the only two wheels on which the entire world runs are truth and highest ethics applied sternly in our day-to-day activities. How I wish people had known that to remain absolutely healthy.
There are two classes of people that get almost no physical illnesses—our ancient genuine Rishis and confirmed schizophrenics. Both have minds that do not get affected by external sources of artificial sorrow or pleasure! Schizophrenics locked up in Swedish jails (mental hospitals of those days) in the early part of the 20th century were found to have had no physical illness for as long as forty years of their stay in those institutions!
This book brings back all those nostalgic memories of the real causes of disease which the bio-medical model of illnesses and wellness does not take into consideration. Weilness is a holistic concept and not reductionist and does not follow the Laws of Deterministic Predictability Uncertainty is the only certainty in human life. Time evolution in a dynamic body does not follow the linear laws. That is where the present bio-medical model fails to deliver.
While someone is sick it can be considered prudent to intervene using the imperfect modern medical methods of drugs and surgery. In emergency situations modern medicine helps a lot.
The big curse of modern medicine is when we doctors try to meddle with apparently normal people in the fond hope of keeping them well forever. This is the cause of all those deaths and disability that is being reported in the US report cited above. Let us leave the well alone and allow them to follow the dictates in this beautiful book. When they are not well they should see a good and humane doctor for help.
I am glad that this book sees the light of the day in print to help mankind.
Sadguru Nityananda, the renowned sage of Ganeshpuri, near Bombay, speaking after the Bhumipuja of the Arogyashram hospital at Ganeshpuri, a few days before his Mahasamadhi said: "to carry on one's work, a healthy body is most essential. It is most necessary for a happy material living also and also for one's spiritual development. For the ultimate achievement of Moksha, salvation, also, healthy body is a prime necessity."
He significantly added that "a bad and unhealthy mind is the main reason for all physical maladies that cause bad health", thus underlining the spiritual basis of health.
A truth discerned by the Rishis of India is that self-ignorance is the source of an unhealthy mind and that it is self-knowledge that I, Atma, is not the body-mind-sense complex, but Purnam or limitless fullness is the key to the health of the mind and body.
"Vedanta-key to happiness and health" would appear to be a more apt title for this book as what is conveyed by this book is pure Vedanta, of course, with special reference to the key role it plays in sustaining and maintaining happiness and health at the optimum level in one who has gained knowledge of I, the first person singular, being Purnam or limitless fullness. But it would have been a bald title conveying little or nothing to one having no idea about what the knowledge of Vedanta is. Vedanta has as its subject matter "I" or Atma being limitless fullness known as Purnam or Brahman. With a little elucidation, Purnam, meaning limitless fullness, would definitely convey some idea to the reader as to what is being projected as the key to happiness and health. The universal notion is that "I", which is oneself, is in every way a limited being, inadequate and lacking in many ways and the natural conclusion is that I, far from being limitless fullness, is the diametrically opposite limited unfullness. This is self-ignorance. Thus, the self-knowledge that one is Purnam or limitless fullness will serve to shock one's susceptibility and provoke serious thinking and that is exactly what Vedanta welcomes. It calls for vichara or inquiry into Atma and Anatma i.e. I and not-I. Through this process it establishes that "I" is not the body-mind-sense complex or karya-karana sanghata, which is subject to sadvikaras or six modifications of birth, existence, growth, change, decay and death, which therefore is definitely limited unfullness. It then goes on to declare that the truth about I, Atma, which is Brahman, is that it is Sat-Chit-Ananda Atma or Satyam, jnanam, Anantam, Brahma both meaning Existence, Awareness, Limitlessness and that being so, its very nature is Ananda or happiness. Ananda is nothing but the happiness which one enjoys when one is free from all limitations. Limitless fullness is the condition of being free from all limitations.
It is said knower or Brahman becomes Brahman, brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati.
Brahman being purnam, the knower of purnam becomes purnam. Thus the self-knowledge that one is purnam bestows on one the happiness which is one's very nature. Such a person is happy for no reason at all. In a lighter vein Swami Dayananda Saraswathi points out that only two types of people manifest such happiness-a lunatic and a Jnani. Knowledge once gained never goes. This happiness, being knowledge-based, once gained never goes. That is how self-knowledge is key to happiness and health, ensuring optimum level of both.
Also, the core of the teachings of Vedanta is that "I" is purnam, limitless fullness. That being so, the title 'self-knowledge' helps to remain focused on the core, which forms the very basis and the key to the happiness and health to be gained.
It is common knowledge that happiness, expressing itself in various shades like cheerfulness, relaxation, contentment, calmness of mind and the like, promotes health and it is equally common knowledge that unhappiness, taking the form of depression, anxiety, fear, tension, confusion and the like, takes the toll of health, leading to illness and diseases. It is also scientifically well established.
Raga or likes, meaning things one likes to gain and Dwesha or dislikes, implying things one would like to avoid, rise as desires in one's mind Fulfilment of desires produces happiness which, of course, often is short-lived, while non-fulfilment of desires causes unhappiness with all its implications. Generally, being under the sway of raga-dwesha, desires crop up in one's heart one after another: a few of them get fulfilled while many meet with frustration. With their effects inevitably impacting the individual, with unhappiness far outweighing happiness, the health of the individual is under continuous strain; and, before long, he turns to modern medicine for healthcare. The big question is: with what chances of success?
With all its much-hyped high-tech armoury, modern western medicine and medicare has no clue as to where to find the cheerfulness or happiness that can restore a patient's health. All that it can offer is palliatives of sedatives, which, if persisted with, are bound to be counter-productive. Often, the people in the throes of tension and depression seek relief in smoking and drinking and becoming drug addicts, thereby complicating their health problems.
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