Sample from the Fall 2008 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine

By Swami Karunananda

Sri Gurudev used to say that God laughs on two occasions. The first is when two neighbors erect a fence and declare, “This is mine, and that is yours.” The second time is when a patient recovers, and the doctor proudly proclaims, “I cured him.”

In the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, sutra 4.3 states: “Incidental events do not directly cause natural evolution; they just remove the obstacles, as a farmer removes the obstacles in a water course running to his field.” From the yogic perspective, the physician or therapist doesn’t cure the patient. Instead, he or she helps remove the impediments, all the toxins and tensions that have built up in the system, so the divine healing energy within the individual can flow unobstructed. At the same time, a course of treatment is prescribed to restore the natural strength and immunity. So we embrace practices that promote purity, harmony and balance, and at the same time, we avoid anything that may cause harm. From ancient times, we have the medical dictum: “First, do no harm.” That is totally in keeping with the yogic approach.

In his youth, Sri Gurudev prayed for and received the gift of healing. People would come to him with all sorts of problems, and he would heal them. After some time, he began to feel uncomfortable, that he was doing something wrong. He would heal them, but they would continue with the same bad habits that had caused the problems in the first place and, after some time, the problems would recur. So he changed his approach. He would give them dietary advice, instruct them in yogic techniques, and then silently add his prayers. That way, they corrected their behavior, and the results were lasting. By their own efforts, they purged their karma, and his ego could not take the credit.

Years ago when my mother was ill, I began to visualize surrounding her with golden light. I would direct the light to heal her in various ways. One day, after several months of performing this practice, the visualization seemed to take on a life of its own. The energy began to move and do things independent of my will or direction. I became alarmed. Was I tampering with powers beyond my understanding or control, interfering with my mother’s karma, unknowingly causing harm? I immediately called Sri Gurudev.

“Gurudev,” I explained, “when I pray for my mother, I don’t feel like anything is happening. When I do the visualization, something definitely seems to be happening, but I’m not sure what it is, and if I’m doing the right thing.” There was deep silence on the other end, and then the familiar, “Hmmm.” I still clearly remember the words that followed, “So, now you’re more powerful than God.” My breath stopped. When I could speak, I simply uttered, “I’m so sorry, Gurudev. Thank you.”

Gurudev told me to just pray to God, to leave it in God’s hands and to not let my ego, my will, get involved. This is so important for anyone pursuing the healing arts: to keep his or her ego out of the mix. Healing is divine. We offer our skill, techniques, medicines, prayers and support. We do all that we can, but the result is not in our hands. Sometimes the treatment is perfect; an operation is successful, yet the patient collapses. True healing doesn’t always mean that the body recovers. Sometimes the body dies, but the patient has healed—learned the necessary lessons, resolved past issues and come to peace. Death isn’t a failure; it is inevitable. And from the yogic perspective, it provides us with an opportunity for a fresh start…

Read the rest of this article in the Fall 2008 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.