NAMAH Journal
Moving Forward
New Issue
About us
Contact us
Publication Ethics
Other Publications

Print version

Namah Journal

Integral health

Consciousness and healing

Dr. Alok Pandey


This article looks at the consciousness perspective in health and healing. It deals with an understanding of therapies along lines of our individual consciousness.

The search for a panacea

In its search for a panacea for diseases mankind has always been trying out various methods. Its search for the ultimate elixir of life has yet to be found, at least not in the systems of medicines so far practised, nor yet in the physical domain with completeness. However in the course of its journey we have discovered several lines of healing such as Āyurveda, homoeopathy, allopathy and many others. Some concern themselves primarily with healing, whereas others have healing as one of the benefits accruing from the practice. These latter includes yogic practices whose primary aim is far greater than bodily health. Yet since a sound body and healthy mind are greatly helpful, almost indispensable for pursuing yoga in its completeness, many of these practices have been so arranged as to help the body and mind remain in a state of health and balance. Though no practice or method has yet been discovered that can be called as an absolute safeguard, yet each has its role to play in helping our journey during our earthly life.

The reason why the final or perfect remedy still eludes us is twofold. First of all, man is still on an evolutionary curve and until he crosses some crucial landmarks, his bodily, and even his mental life, will remain in a state of precarious balance. This is especially so because our brief existence is surrounded by countless forces that are having an impact upon us all the time and the human body, though evolved in certain ways, is yet not evolved to an extent wherein it can spontaneously detect and protect itself or destroy the invading element that triggers the disease-process.

The final answer that can provide us a spontaneous immunity against all sorts of diseases has to be found within the body itself. A state of health dependent upon crutches borrowed from outside is always an unsure thing. The body must eventually find ways and means to handle and heal the various challenges it faces. In fact that has always been the case and has resulted in the evolution of forms so far through the varied challenges we face. The final answer too lies in an evolution of our human body that is vulnerable to various pathogens and pathological states, into a body that is spontaneously immune.

Diseases as an evolutionary challenge

Most human beings will simply laugh at the prospect even though they believe in evolution through challenges. According to these sometimes well-meaning people, evolution is an unconscious process and if it has to happen, it will happen but there is nothing that we can do to hasten it. The paradox of this thought is that all our human life is governed with this idea of conscious evolution, even though within certain limits. All striving for progress, all efforts towards exceeding oneself, all that tries to go beyond the fixed formulas of life to discover the new and the unknown, all conquest for new knowledge, all spiritual seeking to go beyond the last limits of mind, even of space and time, all urge towards change, in fact, all education implies that in some ways we can evolve. In fact if we look at man, it would seem that he is meant to evolve consciously unlike the animal or the genus and species below him whose evolution is always under the stress of circumstances and challenging situations that eventually threaten its very existence.

But man need not wait for such a long time. He is endowed with a tremendous capacity not only to change and adapt but also to discover new things, integrate new knowledge into his existing frame of life and thereby evolve the frame itself. Now if we take the body itself as a material frame and consciousness as the fabric that builds the frame then it is not difficult to assume that if we can change the fabric, which means the consciousness itself, then the very bodily frame will sooner or later change to adapt and accommodate the new consciousness that begins to operate within it.

What it means is that the fundamental essence of existence is not unconscious matter but consciousness. Consciousness is the fundamental reality behind creation. It is not just a silent knowledge that is inbuilt within created things but a power that secretly effectuates all the various processes according to a deep wisdom that is inherent within it. Each form is a certain self-limitation of consciousness for the expression of certain qualities. The solidity and the strength of the mountain, the flow of the river, the splendour of the sun, the radiance of the stars, the firmness of the earth, the swiftness of the deer, the stealth of the tiger, the beauty of a flower, the force that kills in the sting of a scorpion and snake, the healing properties of herbs, the intelligence of a human being, the love within the heart, the joy that runs as sap through all objects, all are nothing but various qualities of the One Consciousness inherent in all things.

Nay, Consciousness is much more than the qualities. It is One, but many-layered, many- tiered due to which we find that creation is arranged hierarchically from a state of utter unconsciousness to a state that yogis call the Superconscious state. Of course, unconsciousness simply means that the consciousness has entered into a state of its own self-oblivion, in a state of sleep so to say. Each state and plane of consciousness is like a rung in the great ladder of creation. Outwardly, we call it the ladder of evolution that is built as forms evolve and create a hierarchy of creatures. Inwardly it is the manifestation of new possibilities and powers in the One Consciousness. In matter and material objects, we see the concreteness of forms creating solidity and stability. In plants and animals we see a growing vitality, the rushing of life-force towards expansion, growth, enjoyment. In man we see the growth of intelligence and the possibilities of reason, discernment, self-reflection, conscious change, higher seeking, aspiration for a greater and higher life.

Conscious evolution

But man is not complete. There are higher and still higher ranges of consciousness awaiting his discovery through a conscious ascension and integration. The challenges of life are meant to push us in the direction of this conscious evolution and growth.  A consciousness approach means, to begin with, that we use everything, including illness, as a means to push ourselves in this direction of conscious evolution. The process of achieving this is called yoga.

This evolution of consciousness is a twofold process. Firstly it is an inner evolution,  an inner change of consciousness replacing fear with faith, mental will with a higher and greater spiritual will, opening the mind, and life and body to the influx of a greater consciousness that would slowly start putting pressure on the body, even the cells, to change. This growth, expansion, evolution of consciousness gets integrated in the soul-essence and emerges with rebirth to grow further with each life. This growth eventually starts stabilising the body-consciousness itself until one day, at some point, the pressure of a higher consciousness leads to a transmutation of the body itself, creating a new species that would be spontaneously immune to all illnesses. 

Our present state and the path before us

This is the solution placed before us by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, a solution that is radical, complete and definitive. What about the time during which we are transiting from the animal humanity of today to the divine super-humanity of the future? Well, here we have to understand the consciousness-based approach in another way. It means that as it is our consciousness, so are the means that we must use. Therapies too work according to the level and state of consciousness.  The Mother explains this beautifully in response to a question as noted below:

“It is precisely about this progressive transformation that I am going to speak to you this evening.... I have often been asked this question, ‘Why, after having posited as an ideal principle that when we deal with our body we ought to do it with the knowledge that it is only a result and an instrument of the supreme Reality of the universe and of the truth of our being, why, after having taught this and shown that this is the truth to be realised, do we have in the organisation of our Ashram, doctors, dispensaries, a physical education of the body based on modern theories accepted everywhere?’ And why, when some of you go for a picnic do I forbid you to drink water from just anywhere and tell you to take filtered water with you? Why do I have the fruit you eat disinfected, etc.?

All this seems contradictory, but this evening I intend to explain something to you which, I hope, will put an end to this feeling of a contradiction in you. In fact, I have told you many a time that when two ideas or principles apparently seem to contradict one another, you must rise a little higher in your thought and find the point where the contradictions meet in a comprehensive synthesis.

Here, it is very easy if we know one thing, that the method we use to deal with our body, maintain it, keep it fit, improve it and keep it in good health, depends exclusively on the state of consciousness we are in; for our body is an instrument of our consciousness and this consciousness can act directly on it and obtain what it wants from it.

So, if you are in an ordinary physical consciousness, if you see things with the eyes of the ordinary physical consciousness, if you think of them with the ordinary physical consciousness, it will be ordinary physical means you will have to use to act on your body. These ordinary physical means make up the whole science which has accumulated through thousands of years of human existence. This science is very complex, its processes innumerable, complicated, uncertain, often contradictory, always progressive and almost absolutely relative! Still, very precise results have been achieved; ever since physical culture has become a serious preoccupation, a certain number of experiments, studies, observations have accumulated, which enable us to regulate diet, activities, exercise, the whole outer organisation of life, and provide an adequate basis so that those who make the effort to study and conform strictly to these things have a chance to maintain their body in good health, correct the defects it may have and improve its general condition, and even achieve results which are sometimes quite remarkable.

I may add, moreover, that this intellectual human science, such as it is at present, in its very sincere effort to find the truth, is, surprisingly enough, drawing closer and closer to the essential truth of the Spirit. It is not impossible to foresee the movement where the two will unite in a very deep and very close understanding of the essential truth.

So, for all those who live on the physical plane, in the physical consciousness, it is physical means and processes which have to be used in dealing with the body. And as the vast majority of human beings, even in the Ashram, live in a consciousness which, if not exclusively physical, is at least predominantly physical, it is quite natural for them to follow and obey all the principles laid down by physical science for the care of the body.

Now, according to what Sri Aurobindo teaches us, this is not a final realisation, nor is it the ideal to which we want to rise. There is a higher state than this, in which the consciousness, though it still remains principally mental or partially mental in its functioning, is already open to higher regions in an aspiration for the spiritual life, and open to the supramental influence. As soon as this opening occurs, one passes beyond the state in which life is purely physical — when I say ‘physical’ I include the whole mental and intellectual life and all human achievements, even the most remarkable; I am speaking of a physical which is the summit of human capacities, of an earthly and material life in which man can express values of a higher order from the mental and intellectual point of view — one can go beyond that state, open oneself to the supramental force which is now acting on earth and enter a transitional zone where the two influences meet and interpenetrate, where the consciousness is still mental and intellectual in its functioning, but sufficiently imbued with the supramental strength and force to become the instrument of a higher truth.

At present this state can be realised on earth by those who have prepared themselves to receive the supramental force which is manifesting. And in that state, in that state of consciousness, the body can benefit from a much better condition than the one it was in before. It can be put into direct contact with the essential truth of its being, to the extent that, spontaneously, at every moment it knows instinctively, or intuitively, what is to be done and that it can do it.

As I say, this state can now be realised by all those who take the trouble of preparing themselves to receive the supramental force, to assimilate it and obey it.

Of course, there is a higher state than this, the state Sri Aurobindo speaks of as the ideal to be fulfilled: the divine life in a divine body. But he himself tells us that this will take time; it is an integral transformation which cannot be achieved in a moment. It will even take quite a long time. But when it is accomplished, when the consciousness has become a supramental consciousness, then action will no longer be determined at every moment by a mental choice or be dependent on the physical capacity: the entire body will spontaneously, integrally, be the perfect expression of the inner truth.

This is the ideal we must keep before us, for the realisation of which we must strive; but we must not delude ourselves and think that it can be a rapid transformation, miraculous, immediate, marvellous, without effort and without labour. However, it is no longer only a possibility, it is no longer even only a promise for a far-off future: it is something which is in the making. And already one can not only foresee but feel the moment when the body will be able to repeat integrally the experience of the most spiritual part of the being, as the inner spirit has already done, and will itself be able to stand in its bodily consciousness before the supreme Reality, turn to it integrally and say in all sincerity, in a total self-giving of all its cells: ‘To be Thyself — exclusively, perfectly — Thyself, infinitely, eternally... very simply (1).’”

The ground of consciousness

What we need to understand here is that the excessive and sometimes exclusive importance given to one kind of therapy in favour of another is like the quarrels and disputes of different philosophies, ideologies and religions. On the surface, they are divided in their methods and beliefs and premises and discoveries. Each has its strengths and each its limitations. Each works for a few while not for others. Each has its own hits and misses. However, there is common ground or a substrate where they meet. It is the ground of consciousness in which they can be understood on a continuum, a ground that sees not only the system but the healer and the healed all as a single unit in the matrix of consciousness. To discuss all that would require much more space. Suffice it to say, that in the end, all depends upon the consciousness in which and with which we approach a patient, an illness and a method of therapy. In a certain state of consciousness nothing outer is needed and it is enough to merely be convinced of the cure or to have faith in the cure. On the other hand, there is a state in which even a host of the newest medicines and best hospitals and doctors fail. It is this inner state of consciousness that we must pay at least as much if not more attention than the outer method. Let us therefore work towards finding ways and means of changing our consciousness, of shifting its needle rather than simply multiplying hospitals and medications. In a change of man lies the radical cure of all illnesses.

Introducing this ideal in practice

How can we develop this understanding among health-workers at different levels? Of course the first necessity is that there must develop quite organically, or shall we say under the pressure of the new consciousness and the aspiration of the group, those few who have undertaken the journey of yoga to translate the intellectual understanding into real yoga. It is only when a few members, preferably at the core of a yogic community, are actually walking the path. It is their presence that will act as a receiver and transmitter of the Higher Consciousness.

At a second level, there should be a constant ongoing education, an exposure to these deeper truths of life from different viewpoints. This would surely need teachers who can communicate in a way that is consistent with a scientific approach to health and with practical examples. Maybe for the larger outreach, a book on health and healing can be written keeping the nursing-staff in mind.

At a third and pragmatic level, certain things should be incorporated in the very culture of the place. Everything, from the colour of curtains to the walls, the approach of the staff towards patients, should speak of this higher approach. This is very difficult but once it happens then it stays much longer. For example, things like starting work in the ward with a prayer, treating the departed with respect, learning how to instil hope and courage and faith and many such things that are helpful to an integral approach and a consciousness based healing.


1. The Mother. The Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 9. Cent ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1977, pp.108-11.

Dr. Alok Pandey, an editor of NAMAH and a member of SAIIIHR, is a doctor practising at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Share with us (Comments,contributions,opinions)

When reproducing this feature, please credit NAMAH,and give the byline. Please send us cuttings.


The Body


Stealth of the tiger,



Ordinary physical means


Sri Aurobindo