Leading Healthy, Spiritual, Meaningful Lives


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

7 May 2018 – Large number of people around the world are leading stressful, tension prone lives. This is due to several factors – economic, ageing and health related, racial and caste issues, violence and terrorist activities to name few principal ones. A resultant factor is poverty, loneliness and social isolation. People try to address these problems in their own individualistic manner.

Old age causes tensions due to several obvious factors – worsening of one’s bodily functions — knees, poor eyesight, suffering from diabetes or erratic blood pressure, lack of energy, wrinkles on one’s face etc. If the medical situation worsens one may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that results in memory loss and difficulties in carrying out one’s daily chores. Although many old people suffer from Alzheimer’s, sometimes relatively younger persons are also afflicted with this disease.

Old age is followed by death which is a normal end for all living beings – humans, plants, animals and birds but is the human beings who have a cognitive faculty and are afraid of death and would like to postpone it as far as possible.

There are several means of living a healthy disease-free life. There are modern means of detecting disease—X rays, ECG, MRI, etc.–and having proper treatment either at home or in a hospital.  Sports, jogging, gymnastics, Yoga, help one to keep illness at bay. Apart from modern western medication or surgery, there are other traditional means of prevention and curing of disease – Ayurveda, Homeopathy etc. In the former system, plants and herbs play a very significant role in prevention of disease. These are haldi (turmeric), tulsi and neem leaves. The latter keep one’s lungs and throat healthy. The turmeric (yellow powder) is also useful when a person has a broken bone or a fracture.

In fact, some scientists in USA and elsewhere had tried to get patents for some products that they had made from Neem tree but their request was turned down when it was informed by Indian scientists that the beneficial properties of neem were known to Indian people since prehistoric times. Now a few pharmaceutical companies have come up with easy to use products made from these and similar other herbs, for sale in many countries of the world including in the West.

Apart from health problems, one has to retire from one’s job at the age of 60 or 65 years and this leads to loneliness and isolation which can be a source of tension and despair. In Asian countries families have earlier been extended ones – in other words where grandparents, uncles, aunts and sometimes cousins lived together in a spirit of goodwill and harmony. This trend is decreasing and families are becoming nuclear with only parents and children living together in a house hold. In European and North American countries one finds that children older than fifteen or sixteen often leave their parents’ home and live separately in hostels or in separate rooms due to educational and work related factors.

This results obviously in increasing psychological stress for the elderly apart from age related, health problems. Even youngsters often face psychological stress due to our urban lifestyles where one has to often travel long distances leaving less time for leisure and relaxation. Often pets – dogs and cats and even tortoises become the agents for soothing one’s stress and isolation.

Dogs are extremely popular all over the world for their intelligence, faithfulness and for the company they provide to people. There are countless number of incidents where they have saved children from different hazards and prevented robbers from stealing. They are also used by security people to detect the presence of drugs or weapons. Dogs come in various sizes and colors and belong to different breeds — beagles, bulldogs, German shepherd, Labrador and other breeds that do not have these specialized names due to interbreeding. Normally all dogs have five toes in each foot but there is a breed called Norwegian Lundehund that has six toes in each foot.

Some years ago, I was surprised to talk to a psychiatrist in Canada who mentioned that many young people   are feeling stressed and depressed due to the pressures of urban life despite their having all the comforts and more, and despite having decent jobs. I have seen some persons not having one but even two dogs whom they take out for their morning drill. My family also had a dog named Gappu who gave us love and company for almost 17 years before he was put to sleep due to his old age.

How to lead healthy, stress-free, meaningful lives has become an important objective for scientists, psychiatrists and even Godmen. Some of the latter have been propagating sermons and practices of their faiths. Many people claim that they have benefited from these sermons and rituals.

No wonder that many religions are now becoming popular. Even in the communist countries Orthodox Christianity is re-emerging. The Hindu religion which is the dominant faith in India and Nepal is becoming popular in many western countries due to the efforts of some organizations such as ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) founded by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966. It is also known as Hare Krishna Movement. He has written many books and has inspired thousands of people to this faith. Swami Prabhupada has often said:

We worship all the gods — Rama, Siva, Krsna, Durga. They are all different names for the same Krsna. They are actually all God …

Another well-known spiritual organization was set up by Swami Vivekananda. This is the Ramakrishna Mission named after Swami Vivekananda’s guru and has large number of devotees all over the world. The Swamis of this Mission provide help and succor to thousands of people; they run a clinic for tuberculosis patients in Delhi. They also give discourses on the Bhagwad Gita and other Indian religious epics.

There are scores of ISKCON temples worldwide – in USA, Canada, England, Portugal, Hungary, Australia, etc. apart from many beautiful and inspiring temples in India. It is difficult to write about the core philosophy of the Movement in this short essay but primarily it teaches us to have faith in and to love for the Supreme Deity Lord Krishna and thereby to be truthful, kind and have compassion for all humanity including the poor and the deprived peoples of the world. One is also expected to be kind to the other living beings – animals, birds, fish, plants,

This by implication also promotes a vegetarian diet. It also helps us to appreciate the love for pets displayed by young people in many parts of the world that helps them to keep loneliness in check.

One has to see the chanting and dancing of dozens of ISKCON devotees to appreciate how the philosophy and ideals of the Movement have been grasped and imbibed by them. Even an agnostic or a non-believer will be happy to witness the faith and devotion of these devotees if not actually join them in their dancing and love for Lord Krishna.



Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 May 2018.

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