THIS ENTRY IS DEDICATED TO LORD GAUTAMA BUDDHA KNOWN AS SIDDHARTHA ( “HE WHO WILL ACCOMPLISH”)
( The photo image of Lord Gautama Buddha belongs to Ms. Ewa Serwicka. www.dalekoniedaleko.pl )
Prince Siddhartha got married at age 16 leading a life of luxury and comfort in a royal palace. While he took a fateful chariot trip outside the palace, for the first time in his life, the young prince witnessed irremediable suffering in the form of physical disability, sickness, old age, and death. He left the palace at the age of 29 leaving behind his young wife and an infant son. After 6 years of ascetic life, while meditating under a pipal tree ( later called ‘Bodhi’ or Tree of Enlightenment ), he became Supreme Buddha ( c.528 BC ) and preached his first sermon at Sarnath and had continued his preaching until his death 49 years later. The Full Moon Day of the month of May or Vaisakh is celebrated as ‘Buddha Purnima’. He had outlined his doctrine of the Four Noble Truths; 1. Suffering or Dukha is implicit in Existence. 2. Suffering has a cause – the Doctrine of ‘Dependent Origination’ – suffering is the result of one’s desires for pleasure, power, and continued existence. 3. Suffering can cease ( stop desiring ). 4. Cessation of suffering can be brought about by the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path; Right Views, Intentions, Speech, Conduct, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration. Buddha had preached to his followers, known as ‘Sangha’, the True Law or Dharma. He had described a three-part scheme of Buddhist life which combines 1. Initial Faith or Saddha, 2. Training in concentration or meditation called Samadhi, and 3. Ethical and Disciplinary practices called Sila. Unlike Jesus Christ, Buddha had never performed miracles. He was not superhuman. He did not restore life to any dead person. He did not restore vision to any blind person. He did not restore the hearing ability of any deaf person. He did not restore the ability of speech of any mute person. He did not miraculously heal any sickness or cured bodily disabilities or infirmities. Gautama Buddha had believed that the greatest miracle was to explain the truth and to make a man realize it.
PHILOSOPHY OF MEDICINE :
I define Philosophy of Medicine as a systematic study of physical, mental, social, and spiritual aspects of man’s well-being in relation to health and disease using reflective methods characteristic of Philosophy. This is a systematic study of man as a physical, social, and moral being. I am concerned with the status of man in the universe, in his natural environment, in his community, and as an ‘Individual’. Man has come into existence as an individual and he exists as an individual according to the Law of Individuality. Man’s existence is defended by his Immune System that deploys unique molecules( polymers ) that display Molecular Individualism. Unlike Gautama Buddha, I would explore the problem of human suffering from my definitions of health and disease. If desire is a causative agent of disease and suffering, I would explore that connection. My philosophical insights would help to make inferences about the purpose and meaning of human life. Philosophy of Medicine is not a ‘Mantra’ or a Magical Word. I am not superhuman. I do not promise miracles. Philosophy of Medicine while exploring the Nature of Human Existence provides the understanding of the vital connections that establish, maintain, and sustain Human Existence. Such understanding would provide a sensory experience called ‘MADHURYA’, a sensation of Sweetness which would enable man to function better and overcome obstacles; and I am equally hopeful that Philosophy of Medicine would provide a bodily experience called ‘ANANDA’, a sense of Pure Joy, Bliss, and Contentment. The goal is not Enlightenment or Nirvana. The purpose would be to improve the quality of life and gain the experience of a whole life.
“VAIDYO NARAYANO HARI” :
Physicians are able to provide preventive, curative, restorative, and rehabilitative services because of the human body’s natural ability to heal itself. The repair process by which body heals itself is described as Inflammation and Repair. Human existence is possible because of this valuable, protective, natural healing mechanisms. This process and these mechanisms are not under man’s voluntary control. Indian thinkers have speculated that Physician(VAIDYA) could be equal to LORD known as Narayana, or Hari. It does not imply that a physician could be superhuman or could perform miracles. A physician understands the natural mechanisms that assist healing and he could use them and manipulate them to provide a remedy or cure. Physician could aim to get connected to Divine Gifts of Healing that already exist and could seek a better outcome while treating a sick or injured person. The mechanism and the natural process could be identified as DIVINE.
MEDICINE AND FAITH :
The problems of disease, sickness, and disability associated with human life should not come as a surprise. The verse quoted in the above caption states that human body naturally experiences age related decay, deterioration of function, and is prone to infirmities. The verse further mentions that human body is subject to sickness or disease. Medicine is viewed as the equivalent of the sacred waters of Ganga or River Ganges. Indian Tradition believes that the waters of Ganga are holy and could wipe away man’s sins and cure his spiritual sickness. Similarly, the Doctor of Medicine could administer medicine or provide medical intervention invoking the Divine Power of Ganga and qualify himself to be known as Lord Narayana or Hari. It suggests that the Physician should seek positive motivation while giving a medicine and the patient should be inspired to believe in the efficacy of that medicine. In any case, seeking or expecting a negative outcome would not be of any use in real life.
THE THREATS AND CHALLENGES TO HUMAN EXISTENCE :
The threats and challenges to human health and well-being come from several directions. Tragically, very healthy individuals may sometimes succumb to injury or sickness. The causative factors of several diseases still remain a mystery. There are several medical conditions which are well-known and well understood but they have no proper remedy or cure. There are medical situations where the only choice that is available would be that of seeking Divine Mercy, Grace, and Compassion.
‘SARVE SANTU NIRAMAYA’ - FREEDOM FROM DISEASE AND SICKNESS :
The Motto of Indian Army Medical Corps is stated as ‘SARVE SANTU NIRAMAYA’. This is an idea expressed in Upanishads. The hymn appears as a benediction to invoke ‘PEACE’ and hence it is known as a ‘Shanti Mantra’. The hymn reads as follows:
OM, Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah,
Sarve Santu Niramaya,
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu,
Maa kaschidh dukh bhaag Bhavet.
May everybody be blessed with happiness(Sukhinah), May everybody live in perfect health free from sickness(Niramaya), May everybody be assured of well-being , lead a life that is safe and secure(Bhadrani), and May there be no mental thought that could arouse sorrow or grief(Dukh bhaag).
Philosophy of Medicine will explore all these concepts and arrange the information into a meaningful pattern and interpret it to describe the Reality. The purpose of Medical Science is to describe and codify observations and experiences. My service in Indian Army Medical Corps had provided me the insights to understand and define Good Health and it would be my desire to keep people in Positive Health.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc. M.B.B.S.,
Service Number: MS-8466, Rank: CAPTAIN, Branch: AMC/SSC
Designation: Medical Officer, South Column Operation Eagle 1971
Unit: Headquarters Establishment No. 22 C/O 56 APO.
Organization: Special Frontier Force.