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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 257-258  

Spiritual well-being: The fourth dimension of health

Founder and President, The Satsang Foundation, Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication24-Jan-2013

Correspondence Address:
Sri Mumtaz Ali
Founder and President, The Satsang Foundation, Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.106411

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How to cite this article:
Ali SM. Spiritual well-being: The fourth dimension of health. Indian J Public Health 2012;56:257-8

How to cite this URL:
Ali SM. Spiritual well-being: The fourth dimension of health. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 Aug 11];56:257-8. Available from:

1.Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Offi cial Records of the World Health Organization,no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948

The classic definition of health according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is, 'Health is a state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity'. 1This definition, could have, been easily from the ancient, spiritual teachings of India, except that the concept of health has an added dimension - 'spiritual health'. It is heartening to note that discussion on adding spiritual health to the classical definition of health has now started.

The entire world's health and well-being is the key concern. "SarveBhavantuSukinah!" (May the entire world be in a state of happiness and well-being), said the Vedas. Now, although, spiritual health is the ultimate aim, the practical steps, start from physical health to mental health - calmness, tranquility, and the next step, true spiritual happiness.

This comes with the understanding that we are all part of one whole, a network of different centers through which the all-pervading Supreme Consciousness manifests. As the Ishavasya Upanishad says, "Ishavashyam, IdamSarvam". To understand this common origin and identity, with the all-pervading consciousness, whose very nature is peace, joy, and tranquility ("Sat Chit Ananda"), is the aim of all spiritual theory and practice. The sages established in this state, say, "Anando Hum, Anando Hum - I am bliss, I am happiness".

If physical health alone were important, why would thousands of sleeping tablets be sold? Man needs rest and tranquility above all. There are perfectly, physically healthy people, who go around with a sad face. I meet many. Either their egos are hurt or they cannot sleep. Somebody told me, "I'll pay you anything to get some sleep. I am sick and tired of sleeping tablets."

Now, the question is-is there a way of life that brings about a state of well-being and is there practical ways of achieving this? Yes! The science of Ayurveda, actually deals with 'Ayu' - life, and is not a set of prescriptions for certain symptoms. A certain diet, a simple way of life is the root of Ayurveda, not drugs, which can be easily bought across the counter.

Yoga is the practical approach to create a balanced life. Although, in Hollywood, yoga is practiced to create an hourglass figure, the real yogi is one who leads a holistic life - 'WHO - listic' life. The definition of yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras, is "YogashCittaVrittiNirodha". Yoga is the stilling of the agitations of the mind. The postures called 'asanas' are only the third step in Ashtang Yoga. The first two are Yamas and Niyamas, which deal with how to live: Ahimsa (non-injury to any living creature), simplicity, few possessions, and so on.

Plenty of fresh air is required for healthy living, so no yogi, would think of felling trees. In ancient times, trees were worshipped. No one cuts down, what he worships. The Peepal tree - Ficusreligiosa, is worshipped as a holy tree. Buddha sat under it and attained "Nirvana". The leaf of the Peepal tree is heart-shaped, the ancient symbol of love. To protect the forests and the environment is a part of holistic living.

Simplicity and environmental concerns can go a long way in countering the crass consumerism, which subverts the movement towards healthy and holistic living. While growth and expansion are welcome, unbridled and unethical growth is counter-productive and cancerous, like the disease cancer, which occurs when some of the cells lose the DNA code that controls their reproduction resulting in non-stop replication.

Now, coming to Pranayama. It is an important part of yoga and is the science of how to breathe correctly, in order to lead to a healthy life. More than that, the connection between the breathing patterns and the state of mind of the practitioner are studied and techniques to alter the patterns of breathingto bring about a tranquil and stable state of mind are practiced.

Inner peace and tranquility are conducive to outer peace and the ancient Indian philosophers believed that no society can be termed healthy if it is in a perpetual state of war brought about by conflict and extreme political ambitions of a few.

The Rishis held that inner tranquility and a conflict-free mind can alone bring about a peaceful society, for society, after all, is made up of individuals. Compassion and love, and not hatred, are essential to create a healthy society.

When the Rishis, taught us to chant, "Om Shanti Om"(may there be peace), they were stressing on the importance of the sacred dimension of health. Jesus Christ meant the same when he said, 'Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the Children of God'. Every chapter of the Quran, starts with, 'In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful'. Love, compassion, and mercy, these are keystones of spiritual health.

Last, but not the least, music, dance, and other performing arts, which heal the soul and take it into 'supra-mental' spheres, are a necessary part of holistic health. In ancient India, classical music, derived from the Sama Veda, was considered sacred, the link between the human and the divine, and the balm for the soul. Same is applicable for Christianity and other traditions. You just have to walk into a cathedral, when the organ is playing,you realize the calming and healing effects of music.

To sum up, perfect health consists of physical and mental well-being permeated by a sense of sacredness. Everything around us, from the speck of dust to the tallest mountain and the roaring oceans, are sacred. When this dimension of sacredness is added to the definition of health, the concept of health becomes multi-dimensional.
"Sarve Bhavantu Sukinah!" May the entire world be happy!

   Authors Top

Sri Mumtaz Ali, also known as Sri M is a crusader for inter religious harmony with a deep knowledge of world religions. In recent times - through a sister organization, Sakshi Foundation, Sri M laid foundation of the Sarva Dharm Kendra and has facilitated a common dialogue between followers of different religions. He has widely travelled lecturing and helping people to explore ways and means to expand the spiritual horizons and to lead a multi dimensional life.


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