Spiritual prescriptions learnt from patients
As doctors, we are witnesses to human suffering. When we were young in medical college, we were quite disturbed seeing the sufferings of the people. But, in our practice, we have learnt many spiritual prescriptions from our patients. These have not only helped us to heal our patients but also changed our perception to health and sickness.
I recall, Swami Bodhanand, a disciple of Swami Chinmayananda, was once hospitalized under our care. When I asked him to give me a spiritual message, he said only two words “Detached Attachment”. He said, “As a doctor you should behave like a lotus leaf. It is wet as long as there is a drop of water on it, but once the drop is out, the leaf is as dry as if the water was never there.” The message was that “we should be attached to our patients as long as they are with us. The day they die, we should be completely detached from them or else we will not be able to treat other patients”.
I saw another spiritual guru through our Chief Anesthetist. The fee he paid me was a spiritual message “Suno Samjho Jano Karo – Hear Understand Wisdom and Do”. He said that hearing is different from listening, listening is different from wisdom and wisdom is different from doing. Unless you hear, understand what you have heard and implement, the learning has no value. One of my Buddhist patients gave me a spiritual learning, which has helped me a lot in my routine clinical practice. He taught me the basic Buddhist message that there is suffering all over, there is a reason for every suffering and it is possible to maintain sufferings. This message fits into the main message of Hinduism and also the main teaching from Garud Purana.
In Hinduism, we know that the very fact that we are born in this life means that in our last life, we could not get liberation, as Hinduism believes that after liberation you are not reborn. Not getting liberated in the last birth means that some sufferings were left in our life. The basic purpose of this birth, therefore, is to face sufferings. When the basic purpose of our birth is to face sufferings, then why suffer from these sufferings. Every time we suffer, we should thank God that he has reduced one more. The period in between two sufferings is called a happy period (Sukh). In fact that period is nothing but a period of rest given by God to us to prepare the body for next suffering. This, as a concept of counseling, helps my patients in managing most of their mental disturbances.
Not telling a patient that he is suffering from terminal cancer sometimes works. One of my patient’s father aged 83 years was found to have extensive cancer of the prostate. Medically, we all gave him three months to live. My patient did not have the courage to tell his father or the family members that he (the father) had extensive cancer. He took me into confidence and played a game with the family. We gathered all the family members and told them that with surgery, his cancer had been cured. A party was organized in the evening to celebrate the cure. The magic happened; he lived almost a symptom-free life for the next 9 years. I have tried this on many of my patients thereafter and it works. The probable explanation was loss of fear of death, a confidence in his doctor and faith in himself.
The way to live up to the age of hundred is to go on working in life. My great grand-father-in-law was 75 years old, when I got married. That year, he gathered all family members from across the world and said that his purpose of life was over and he would like a collective family photograph and like to quit the world. Nothing happened for a year and he did this again next year. The entire family from across the world gathered but he remained alive for another year. This went on for three years. Then, we played a spiritual trick on him and told everyone to convince him that he is going to live for 100 years as he has many more works of the family to be done. Every year, we gave him law students from within the family to be taught (he was a lawyer himself), or gave him the responsibility of finding a boy for some eligible girl in the family. We made him teach and search for suitable bride/bridegrooms for years together and he actually died at the age of 100 years. This is the beauty of positive attitude in life.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).