A symposium on Health & Happiness was organized at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi on July 5, 2012. The symposium brought together nine religions under one roof and the result was a very fruitful discussion and insight into how each religion approaches happiness. The essence of the whole discussion was that all religions are essentially one on health and happiness. Dr Karan Singh, MP (Rajya Sabha), eminent author, thinker, educationist was the Chief Guest.
A panel discussion followed the keynote address. The objective of this discussion is to come out with the best of all religions and adopt them to be happy and healthy. The discussion was moderated by Padma Shri Awardee Dr B C Roy National Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India.
Welcoming the chief guest and panelists and the gathered audience, Mr Ashok Pradhan, Director, BVB, Delhi Kendra said that the objective of this seminar was to have an enlightened discussion. Body is a vehicle for performing dharmas. If the body is not healthy, it is not possible to enjoy fruits of life, advance spiritually. Most religions all over the world have evolved a code of conduct on health and happiness. This symposium would give us an essential view on unity of religions. Harmony within and harmony without – this would take care of half of our problems
Mr CR Gharekhan, Chairman, BVB said that he believed in universal religion i.e. not to harm anyone, even in thoughts and respect others. Avoid excess of everything; this simple mantra should be followed to be happy and healthy.
Dr Karan Singh delivered the key note address. He said that every religion believes in a healthy body. A healthy body does not guarantee happiness, but an unhealthy body guarantees that we will not be happy. Every religion speaks on the importance of health. India is perhaps the only country where all systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Homeopathy, and Siddha have flourished. We have accepted as part of our pluralistic structure the importance of languages, the importance of religions. Human being is a multidimensional entity. Health can also be looked at having many dimensions.
We generally neglect physical health in our country. We have given up on regular physical exercise. We need a national fitness campaign. We don’t need expensive gyms for yoga. The culture of physical fitness needs to re established. Don’t poison your body with alcohol, tobacco, unsafe sex, drugs. I tell the young, what you do now will determine how you age. Youth do not realize that every day they are missing an opportunity to improve their health. Smoking is an antisocial act. Alcoholism has become a major menace today. It affects not only the alcoholic but everybody. Regular exercise, proper diet, regulated alcohol, no smoking, proper posture, how to breathe properly – these are very fundamental and simple steps that we neglect. These should be incorporated in our daily lives.
Speaking on the subject of emotional health, Dr Karan Singh said that our emotions are as important as any other aspect of life. There is a proven direct relationship between emotional and physical health. So we must have emotional stability. Life is not all smooth, there are ups and downs. We must maintain our equanimity in all situations. With the growth of consumerism now, lots of negativities are emerging. We should realize the importance of physical health, emotional health and spiritual health.
So a person should not only be physically healthy, but also emotionally stable and intellectually alert. In order to fulfill our potential, we also need to develop a spiritual dimension.
“Prof. Sunil Kumar, of the Ramakrishna Mission, who represented Hinduism, said that to change our mindset is a very, very difficult task. So values should be taught at a young age in schools. To be healthy is to be swastha, which means to be established in our own
self. Happiness must be the very nature of our self because when unhappy we struggle to regain it. It is the mind which does not allow one to experience the full happiness within the self. “I am today a slave of all impressions that I have gathered’. To regain happiness, viveka needs to be awakened to know what is right and what is wrong. The youth and students must be established in righteous conduct and commitment to duty. Vedanta explains that the self or spirit which is within me is the source of happiness or nanda, and explains that the cause of happiness is dharma i.e. righteous conduct. It shows that the happiness acquired through objects is very temporary. He outlined the 4 spiritual paths of yoga, which must be followed: Karma yoga (work as worship for whole society), Gyan yoga (I must be able to understand that my source of ananda is within me), Bhakti yoga (devotion to the divine) and Raj yoga (Meditation)”.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a noted Islamic scholar and spiritual leader said that Islam means peace. According to Islam, supreme principle in life is nature. The whole universe is following the laws of nature, so is required by man. Good health is our birthright. But how do we attain good health? We have to follow the laws of nature. One must avoid overeating. Take simple food; avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking as well as bad habits. Happiness is but the other name of peace of mind. If one is tension-free, you can live a happy life. Problems should be taken as part of creation. Do not try to take way the problems, try to manage them. He cited the example of a rose. The rose bush has beautiful flowers, but it has thorns. The rose flower is able to live in peace with thorns. Similarly we have to learn to adopt life as demonstrated by nature. We have to try to turn negativity to positivity. So if you adjust to nature, there is no problem.
Peace is the basis of all good health and happiness, without peace, there is no development or progress If Christianity is to be described in one word, it is Love and compassion. Christianity means to love everybody, said Fr Mathew Abraham. Suffering is universal. Sickness too is a form of suffering. So are all healthy people happy? Are all sick people unhappy? The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us that one cannot be indifferent to the sufferings of others. Healthcare is a vocation. No institutions can replace a human heart, compassion. Each day is filled with countless reasons for joy. What we need to learn is how to savor the joys that the Creator places in our heart. Faith brings happiness and joy. True joy is supernatural which helps us to deal with challenges of daily life.
Paramjit Singh Sarna, a Sikh Scholar said that Seva and simran keep our morale high. Give a part of our earnings to the needy people. Sikhism totally prohibits any kind of addiction.
Samani Rohit Pragya described Jainism in one word as non violence, in thoughts, action and words. She said Violence is not just to kill somebody. Non violence is reverence to life. A person who has passions (anger, greed, deceit) within him cannot be healthy. A householder cannot be completely non violent. So, one must practice restraint or sayam in order to end the violence in onseself. Purification of psyche is important. Flow of pure emotions and thoughts will lead to happiness. We should be aware of each and every moment
The Bahai faith was represented by Dr AK Merchant. The Bahai faith states that there should be unity in diversity. We have the capacity to truly live unitedly in diversity if we make the right choices, he said. What is important is our relationship with ultimate divinity, interpersonal relationship at home and workplace and how do we relate to ourselves. Ill health is the manifestation of inner disturbance within each of us. Each one of us is caught in their selfish thoughts.This has disturbed our relationship with ourselves. Human happiness is founded on spiritual behavior. Prayer is conversation with divine, meditation is conversation with oneself. They have to go together. Meditation has to complement prayer. We must take out time for prayer and meditation.
Buddha teaches us that human beings are connected to each other, so it is very important to be compassionate to each other. Speaking on Buddhism, Dr TD Kartsang, who heads the Tibetan Medical Institute, said that in the Tibetan system of medicine five elements that make up nature play an important role in our life. All sickness is due to imbalance of these 5 elements. Cure also comes through these 5 elements. When a child is born, the spirit already carries the root cause of suffering – ignorance, hatred, attachment. In Tibetan system, we divide food as: 50% food, 25% liquid and 25% should be kept empty so that digestion is better. If you follow this, you have a healthy life. Tobacco, drugs, alcohol are poisons in Buddhism. He said that compassion has to be practiced to be happy.
Rabbi Esekiel Isaac Malekar said that Judaism believes that our life is a precious gift, we have to take care of our body, and it is the temple of God. A person should thank God for what he has. Enjoy what you have. To take care of the body, a positive attitude is very important. Fasting is very important. If you take care of your stomach for the first 40 years, it will take care of you for the next 60 years. Take care of the vulnerable sections of the society – children, old, disabled, and aged. All should take care of their parents. God’s mercy and confession will be on us.
The Talmud says who is rich and Happy? A person who appreciates what he has with positive attitude and enjoys it with gratitude to Almighty is a happy and rich person Happiness comes from mastering the art of appreciating and consciously enjoying what you already have. You may have everything in the world but still you may lead a miserable life or you may have relatively less, but you will lead life with unbounded joy Therefore happiness is not confined what you acquire or achieve but it comes from within.
Mr Dinyar Patel said that Zoroastrianism in one word can be described as goodness. How do I become a good person? Zoroastrian religion places lot of emphasis on action. All through life, we are faced with decisions. Working for the betterment of the society should be our objective. It is also important to have a good sense of humor. You should not take yourself too seriously. We must realize that we are just a part of something bigger.
Summing up the discussion, Dr KK Aggarwal said that to be happy, follow nature. Think differently; convert negativity to positivity, manage your problems and practice righteous conduct. He further said that what stands out is how all religions are unquestionably united on most important aspects.
• Say no to tobacco.
• Say no to drugs.
• Avoid excess of alcohol.
• Eat less or eat in moderation
• Every religion believes in seva.
• Don’t complain, criticize or condemn.
• Prayer is important.