Excerpts from the book ‘Key To Health‘ Written by: M. K. Gandhi
It is necessary to understand the meaning of the word health, before entering upon a description of the human body.
In health, means body ease. He is a healthy man whose body is free from all disease; he carries on his normal activities without fatigue.
Such a man should be able with ease to walk ten to twelve miles a day, and perform ordinary physical labour without getting tired.
He can digest ordinary simple food. His mind and his senses are in a state of harmony and poise.
This definition does not include prize fighters and such like. A man with extraordinary physical strength is not necessarily healthy.
He has merely developed his musculature, possibly at the expense of something else.
It is necessary to have enough knowledge of the human body which is expected to attain the above standard of health. God alone knows what kind of education was prevalent in ancient times. Research workers on the subject may be able to tell us something, but only something, about it.
But all of us have some experience of modern education in this country.
It has no relation with our everyday life. Thus, it leaves us almost utterly ignorant about our own body. Our knowledge of our own village and our fields shares a similar fate. We are taught on the other hand, much about things that have no bearing on our daily life.
I do not mean to say that such knowledge is of no use. But everything has its own place. We must first know enough of our Key To Health www.mkgandhi.org Page 7 own body, our own house, our village and its surroundings, the crops that grow there and its history before going on to anything else.
General knowledge broad-based on this primary knowledge, alone can enrich life
. The human body is composed of what the ancient philosophers have described as the five elements.
These are earth, water, vacancy, light and air. All human activity is carried on by means of the mind aided by the ten senses.
These are the five senses of action, i.e. hands, feet, mouth, anus and the genitals, and the five senses of perception, i.e. the sense of touch through the skin, of smell through the nose, of taste through the tongue, of seeing through the eyes and of hearing through the ears.
Thinking is the function of the mind and some people have called it the eleventh sense. In health all the senses and the mind act in perfect co-ordination. The inner working of the human machine is wonderful.
The human body is the universe in miniature. That which cannot be found in the body is not to be found in the universe.
Hence the philosopher’s formula, that the universe within reflects the universe without. It follows therefore that our knowledge of our own body could be perfect we would know the universe. But even the very best of doctors and hakims and vaids have not been able to acquire it.
It will be presumptuous for a layman to aspire to it.
No one has yet discovered an instrument which can give us any information about the human mind. Scientists have given attractive descriptions of the activities going on within and without the body, but no one can say what sets the wheel going.
Who can explain the why and wherefore of death or foretell its time?
In short, after infinite reading and writing, after infinite experience, man has come to know how little he knows.
A happy working of the human machine depends upon the harmonious activity of the various component parts.
If all these work in an orderly manner, the machine runs smoothly. If even one of the essential parts is out of order, it comes to a stop. For instance, if the digestion is out of order, the whole body becomes slack.
Therefore, he who takes indigestion and constipation lightly Key To Health www.mkgandhi.org Page 8 does not know the a-b-c of the rules of health. These two are the root cause of the innumerable ailments.
The question that demands our attention next is: what is the use of the human body? Everything in the world can be used and abused. This applies to the body also. We abuse it when we use it for selfish purposes, for self-indulgence or in order to harm another.
It is put to its right use if we exercise self-restraint and dedicate ourselves to the service of the whole world.
The human soul is a part of the universal spirit of God.
When all our activity is directed towards the realization of this link, the body becomes a temple worthy for the spirit to live in.
The body has been described as a mine of dirt. Looked at in its proper perspective, there is no exaggeration in this statement
. If the body was nothing else but this, there could be no point in talking such pains to look after it.
But if this so-called mine of dirt can be put to its proper use, it becames our first duty to cleanse it and keep it in a fit condition.
The mines of precious stones and gold also have the look of ordinary earth on the surface. The knowledge that there are gold and precious stones underneath, induces men to spend millions and engage scientific brains in order to get at what lies in those mines.
Similarly, we cannot take too much pains over keeping in a fit condition the temple of the spirit-the human body.
Man came into the world in order to pay off the debt owed by him to it, that is to say, in order to serve God and (or through) His creation.
Keeping this point of view in front of him, man acts as a guardian of his body. It becomes his duty to take such care of his body as to enable it to practise the ideal of service to the best of its ability.