Home » Paramhansa Yogananda, Spiritual Development

Understanding Illness

by Paramhansa Yogananda
Winter 2009 2 Comments

Some people seem to enjoy ill health, due to the fear it puts in the minds of loved ones and the special attention they receive. There is almost a defensive pride in those who constantly warn us: “I can’t do this or that; I have a weak heart.” Often I’m told: “Oh, asthma, (or tuberculosis or diabetes) runs in the family.”

But this, dear students, is a jellyfish philosophy. It is not the way to truth. What is true is that if your father died of cancer and you continue to live as he did, you may follow in his footsteps.

Sickness is the result of breaking some mental or physical law, either in this life or in a past incarnation.  It is your job to free yourself from the shackles of undesirable hereditary tendencies, including habits of ill health. Like everything else worth attaining, you must work for it!

Divine healing at Bethesda
The mind controls the body. The will of a person who has been ill for a long time becomes so weak that he cannot overcome the illness. However, faith can revive the power of his will and effect a healing. The Bible tells of such a healing.

In Jerusalem, Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda, where a crowd of people waited to bathe in the healing waters. At certain times the waters vibrated and emanated healing currents. The first one to enter after the waters moved was healed.

Jesus saw a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years lying by the pool. He had no one to help him, and when the waters vibrated—someone else always got in ahead of him. Filled with compassion, Jesus asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?”  When Jesus found that the sick man was receptive and desired very much to be healed, He said, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk.”

The man was healed by his own awakened faith and the revival of his will, which aroused the latent life energy of his own brain and served as the antenna for the cosmic energy from Jesus.

The power of the mind
Most physical diseases have their roots in the mind. You can produce disease in your body merely by allowing yourself to be hypnotized by the thought of disease. In trying to get rid of an illness, people often concentrate more on the gripping power of the illness than on the possibility of a cure, and thus permit the illness to become both a physical and mental habit.

It is a mistake to think this way. Never allow your mind to entertain thoughts of illness or limitation. The subconscious habit of “disease consciousness” exerts a strong influence on the continuity of chronic diseases. In fact, chronic mental or physical diseases always have deep roots in the subconscious mind.

That is why all affirmations ought to be impressive enough to become mental habits in the subconscious mind, which will, in turn, influence the conscious mind. In this way, strong conscious affirmations can influence the mind and body through the medium of the subconscious.

Fear: the enemy of will power
Will power is the main dynamo of the body, converting cosmic energy into life force. The stronger the will, the greater the flow of energy into the tissues and body parts.

Often during illness, however, people become discouraged and permit subconscious tendencies to hamper the will. If the illness is serious or prolonged, memories of previous ailments, as well as past failures and disappointments, often fill the mind with fear that the body cannot recover.

Fear is one of the greatest enemies of will power and health. It paralyzes the will, disrupts the life force flowing through the nerves, and lowers the vitality of the entire body. Physical health slowly fails from want of life force. If, however, a person resolutely refuses to be afraid or disheartened, his will can produce the life force needed to heal the body.

Health: your divine birthright
Fear of sickness belongs to the domain of ignorance. Of course, if you are stricken with ill health, you should strive for health without being afraid of failure. While struggling, however, you must understand that the struggle for health is born of delusion, for you already have what you need in the inner Self.

Once a healthy, wealthy, and wise prince dreamed that he was poor and ill. In the dream he shouted, “Oh, I am suffering from cancer and I have lost all my wisdom and riches.”

His wife, the queen, woke up and roused him, saying, “Look, prince. Laugh and rejoice, for you are neither suffering from sickness, nor have you lost riches and wisdom. You are comfortably lying at my side in health and wisdom, in your rich kingdom. You were only dreaming about these catastrophes.”

So it is that many people are dreaming about lack when they might claim their birthright of joy, health, and plenty as children of God. Only by meditating and attuning to God’s consciousness, do we realize the truth that this universe is God’s dream. In a dream you may think that you are ill but once awakened, you see it is not true. When awake in God, so also do you  know that this life is nothing but a dream.

Meditation leads to permanent success
We can change certain aspects of our own ego-dream by altering the way we think. For example, when we are ill we can make a strong affirmation of good health and become well again. But meditation alone leads to permanent success.

By connecting your individual energy with the unlimited storehouse of inner cosmic energy, you can overcome ill health. To achieve permanent success, you must meditate morning and night, and concentrate the superconscious peace rays on the brain, scorching out the seeds of past failures and stimulating the success tendencies.

During meditation, you feel the power of concentration in the will center at the point between the eyebrows, as well as a feeling of complete peace throughout the body. To scour the seeds of past sickness from the brain cells, you must transfer the power of concentration felt at the point between the eyebrows and the peace feeling of the body, to the brain. This impregnates the brain cells with peace and power, and modifies their chemical and psychological composition.

By repeatedly concentrating this vital power on the brain for long periods of time, you will eventually destroy all lurking disease tendencies from the past.

Right approach for devotees
Illness can be a serious obstacle on the spiritual path. Do your best, within reason, to achieve health, but always keep your efforts proportionate to the true, long-range goal of life, which is to find God.

Many saints have had serious illnesses. The test of spirituality is one’s inner state of consciousness, and, above all, the purity of one’s love for God.

There was a saint who fell ill. His disciples pleaded with him, “Master, so many have been healed by your intercession. Why don’t you pray to the Divine Mother to heal you, too?” This seemed to him not a bad idea; he accepted their suggestion. When he prayed, the Divine Mother appeared to him.

“Of all things!” She rebuked him. “You, who have realized your oneness with the Infinite, and who have so many bodies you live through, want now, by praying for this one little form, to limit yourself to it? For shame!” The saint deeply regretted his error, and prayed, “Mother, Your love alone is all-sufficient!”

It is wisest to be impartial. If you have health, but are attached to it, you will always be afraid of losing it. And if you fear that loss, but become ill, you will suffer. It is better to rise above outer conditions altogether, so that they cannot affect you. Try to rise above the pairs of opposites: pleasure and pain, heat and cold, sickness and health.

Conditions are always neutral
Remember: conditions are always neutral; they seem happy or sad owing only to the attitudes of the mind. If a man is ill, afflicted with arthritic pain, and slogging through deep mud on a winter night, he can yet be happy just the same. With a strong will, he’d be able to ignore every difficulty and his happiness would remain unaffected.

Not that those circumstances would have been pleasurable. Nonetheless, a human being can be happy under the worst circumstances. Mind has no connection with the body apart from whatever connection you choose to give it. To pass life’s tests, you need to develop elasticity of the mind.

When your mind can remain completely apart from the body at will, you will be free. Why not remain forever joyful in the Self? By tuning into God and waking up in His consciousness, you will know that this life is nothing but a dream.

From articles, and books, 1930-1942.

To view Swami Kriyananda’s talk, “Attaining Radiant Health and Well-Being,click here:


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2 Comments »

  • lynne wood says:

    I just discovered this article as my “illness” gives me a lot of awake time in the middle of the night. I found the article very interesting and helpful. I will focus more on my third eye when I meditate and continue to flood my thoughts with feelings of wellness. The concept of the illusory nature of life is not new, just difficult to live. Years of health challenges has made this body seem very concrete even though I know that it is just my vehicle this time around. Lynne

  • J.M.T. says:

    Thank you for the article “Understanding Illness”. I especially found the following helpful – transferring the power at the point between the eyebrows to the whole brain.

    “To scour the seeds of past sickness from the brain cells, you must transfer the power of concentration felt at the point between the eyebrows and the peace feeling of the body, to the brain. This impregnates the brain cells with peace and power, and modifies their chemical and psychological composition.”

    J.M.T.

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