An essay by Soma on Health and Eastern phylosophical concepts.
Healing & Spirit
The philosophy of the East speaks about the connection between healing and spirit. I see a common source from both the Taoist tradition in China and the Vedic tradition in India, although they evolved differently due to their cultural backgrounds. However, their tenets speak to the very core of the human spirit, regardless of geographical location.
For those of us not familiar with the Taoist and Vedic philosophical concepts of life and health, l would like to take you on a brief journey through their basic tenets, as I understand them.
The Eastern concepts of health were not separated from philosophy and religion. They all emerged from deep states of contemplation and observation of the natural world. These notions see man within the cosmic picture of the universe, governed by the same laws and not separated from it.
Pull between Heaven-Earth, Yin-Yang, Life-Death
We, humans, are constantly pulled by dual opposite forces, the force from heaven and the force from earth.
The earthly pull is like gravity. It keeps us looking down for a secure footing. It is connected with our instinctual and animal nature. It is concerned with survival and material acquisitions. Power, control, domination, territoriality and reproduction of the specie are some of the preoccupations of our earthly nature.
In Taoism, the spirit of our animal nature is called ‘Po’. When the body dies, Po is said to depart from the body through the anus.
In Vedic teachings, this downward motion of energy is called ‘apan’’ and may be represented by an equilateral triangle with its point facing down. The flesh quickly decomposes but the bones linger; hence, the color white is associated with death in the East. If a person has been unable to peacefully let go of their body or possessions, Po may become a ghost and haunt the living.
The heavenly influence makes us look to the sky and wonder about our existence. It makes us look beyond our personal small set of circumstances and contemplate a more universal picture. It raises the vital questions of why we are here and where we are going and it instills the desire to search for a higher meaning.
Tao calls this heavenly spirit ‘Hun’, the eternal voyager. The Vedic tradition calls it ‘Atman’ and the upward force ‘Udana’. It is represented by the same triangle facing upwards.
At the moment of death, Hun exits the body through one of its apertures, also called gates in the Eastern symbolism, in order to continue its evolutionary journey and find its next rebirth. According to the yogic tradition, Hun must exit through the crown chakra on top of the head in order to be free of transmigration.
These are the two major dual forces, which control our lives. Heaven is Yang; Earth is Yin.
Balance is Health
Health is the right balance between Yin and Yang and this balance is unique for each person. Both aspects of our being need to be understood and nurtured. When we remain stuck with one or the other for too long, we move away from health. Our pendulum always tends to lean more heavily to one side than the other. Either we forget our divine nature and become obsessed with acquiring worldly goods and indulging in the pleasure of the senses, or we become fixated on saintly qualities and repress the basic needs of our bodies.
The seeming duality between the earthly and the divine nature of man creates a friction, which can be agonizing. However it is this very challenge, which allows growth.
There is a beautiful story, which I heard from Osho, which illustrates the point we just made:
“Once upon a time, when man knew how to talk directly to God, there lived a farmer. He always used to complain to God about the weather. “Why does it rain when my crop needs dryness and the sun scorches the earth when I need rain? And there’s hail or insects, which always come at the wrong time….”
One day, God decided to answer the farmer. He said: “I’ve listened to you since a long time and for this next growing season, I want to give you the power over nature. You command when it should be dry or wet and you can stop any plague from attacking your crop.”
The farmer couldn’t believe his ears, but he quickly took the offer. He planted a beautiful field of wheat and made sure that every drop of rain that fell from the sky came at the right moment and in the right amount. The crop was growing beautifully and the farmer was very proud of himself. In fact, the field seemed fuller and taller than usual. However, the grain was slow at appearing and at the time when it should have matured, there was still nothing on the beautiful stalks.
The farmer shouted at God: “Are you playing tricks with me? Where is the grain? This field has grown in the best possible conditions.”
God smiled tenderly at the farmer and said: “This field hasn’t had any challenges. So, it has grown beautiful on the outside only but has remained empty inside.”
Harmony, Balance and Integrity
Three concepts in particular are keys to the understanding of the Eastern way of seeing the universe:
To be in harmony means to feel in the right place with our surroundings. The art of feng-shui evolved around that principle. Harmony means that we recognize that we are an integral part of nature and that everything we do to our own selves affects the outside world and vice-versa.
“As above, so below” reflects that concept.
With that understanding, we choose actions, which consider the whole rather than remove the part from its bigger setting and manipulate it for our own selfish ends. When we build a house, or buy a car, or start a business, or even take a medicine for an illness, we consider the effect it might have to the environment, the society or the long-term health of our body.
Balance means that we recognize the dual nature of all phenomena as the primordial play of existence. This is masterfully explained in the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang complement, sustain, create, control and are an indivisible part of each other.
One cannot exist without the other. Hence, we do not need to take sides between the polar opposites. Not to take sides means that we are neither attracted nor repulsed by one aspect of the duality or the other: day and night, man and woman, right and wrong, life and death….
When the scale stays in the middle, one sees both sides and one starts to see the oneness of life instead of the differences.
Integrity means that thoughts, words and actions are in alignment. When our actions do not reflect what we say or what we think, a split gets created in our being and our life becomes a lie. When we practice integrity, truth comes in our lives effortlessly.
When truth is what drives our lives, we always seek what most closely resonates with our heart rather than with our intellect. Our heart is the receptacle of intuitive knowledge. Intuition is akin to wisdom. Wisdom is the understanding of the world around and within us from a place of oneness.
Shifting the focus on our oneness and similarities enhances love and trust. Focusing on our differences brings separation and fear. The sense of separation brings the concept of ‘mine and yours’ and the concept of possession brings with it attachment, fear of loss, mistrust and suspicion of the other.
The Circular Nature of Existence
Besides being constantly pulled between the basic duality of our two natures, we are also subjected to the inexorable cyclic march of time. Both the Taoist and Vedic philosophy have developed, mapped and described in great details the circular nature of existence. It is better known as the law of the five elements.
The natural cycle of every living being is to take birth, to grow, to come to maturity, to decline and to finally pass away. Nothing known to us in the universe can escape this law. Only the time frame is different. Some insects only live for a few hours, some trees can last hundreds of years; stars or planets measure their life span in billions of years.
Man and everything made by man, from the greatest monuments, civilizations or even the most advanced technological achievement of science, will in its time turn to dust.
Soma Glick, Osho News
Artwork by Bill Brouard from Visual Alchemy © Copyright 2013 – facebook.com/Visual-Alchemy
Soma grew up in Paris and spent her teenage years in Madagascar. Back in France she studied Art and Literature in Bordeaux. In 1977 she took sannyas and remained in Osho’s communes until the end of the Ranch (kitchen and cleaning departments). In 1990 she joined a 3-year Master degree programme in acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. After living in Boulder, she moved to Bali, where she offered free acupuncture treatments to women and children at the Bumi Sehat birthing center in Ubud. For many years she travelled the world, teaching an intensive residential course for licensed acupuncturists on Oriental Medical Pediatrics and Obstetrics. In May 2013 Soma returned to Boulder where she works as a professor at the Southwest acupuncture College and reopened her private practice. somadevi.com