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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin






Integrating Vipassana with Naturopathy-Some Experiences

-By Dr. Jay Sanghvi

In this paper, I would like to share some of our experiences at the Nature Cure Centre, Bhuj (Gujarat), of integrating Vipassana meditation with naturopathy.

After working with pure naturopathy for many years and adding Anapana meditation with the nature cure regime, we began advising patients to take a course of Vipassana before admission, during treatment or after treatment, as per the need.

It has been observed over the years that:

  • Meditation hastens the healing process.
  • The patient's capacity to endure suffering increases.
  • Increase in equanimity reduces the agony of incurable patients in the face of imminent death.
  • Meditation changes the total outlook towards life and illness.
  • In most cases, the role of mind in the genesis of disease becomes evident.
  • Patients suffering from many types of incurable diseases are relieved beyond their expectations.
  • Patients suffering from mental diseases like depression, neurosis, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc., are also helped when we combine Vipassana with other treatments.
  • Patients with chronic renal disease (and even failure), who were on dialysis or who had been advised to have kidney transplants, showed improvement with nature cure and Vipassana.

Before I substantiate the above findings, I would like to give a general picture of our work.

We have been practicing naturopathy in a hospital with twenty beds for the last twenty-two years. After practicing allopathy for twelve years, we switched over to naturopathy. After five years we added Vipassana and Anapana as a part of the therapy. Our three doctors, and the whole staff of fourteen people are all Vipassana meditators. We have a separate hall exclusively for meditation, used by the patients, staff and doctors alike. On an average about 60% of our patients take a Vipassana course. Now I will substantiate the above findings with some case histories.

1. Meditation hastens the healing process

We observed that in asthma, mucouscolitis, ulcerative colitis, hyper-acidity, hyper-tension, peptic ulcer, diabetes, etc., patients recovered quickly when we added Vipassana or Anapana. We observed that with adding Vipassana along with the naturopathy treatment, the duration of the stay was reduced and there was faster relief.

We found in forty cases of asthma that with meditation the recovery was very fast. During acute attacks the patients showed patience, and with their co-operation, they were free from the acute attacks. We could also reduce the medicine in a short time.

I would like to explain one case of a young lady from Bombay, aged twenty-five years. She had had asthma for eight years and was undergoing treatment with a bronchodialater and steroids. She was diagnosed to have allergic bronchial asthma. Ultimately when she developed side-effects from the medicine, her family doctor advised her to try some other alternatives. Then in April 1988 she was admitted in our Centre. After six weeks of treatment, and Anapana, we sent her for a ten-day Vipassana course. Thereafter she continued her diet and treatment plan of naturopathy. She came from time to time for check-ups at our Centre. She has been quite well for all the years since then, with no need for medicines. Sometimes she has slight attacks, but she is able to handle these herself. She kept herself under control, and became more peaceful and co-operative.

When we practice pure naturopathy, this type of patient takes about three months to improve. When combined with meditation, the improvement takes half that period. Several cases of this type have been treated at our Centre.

I now will present some details concerning ulcerative colitis. We have observed about thirty cases of this. A fifty year old man from Saurashtra had had ulcerative colitis for three years. His diagnosis was confirmed with a barium x-ray and sigmoidoscopy. A well-known gastroenterologist treated him with Salezpyrin, steroids and vitamins etc. He got temporary relief, but when he stopped taking medicines his condition became worse. Ultimately he came to our Centre. We admitted him in May 1990. He was having fifteen to twenty motions per day with blood and mucous. His haemoglobin level was very low and his general condition was weak. He could not control his motions and would sometimes even spoil his clothes. After three months of treatment, during which he practiced Anapana and took two courses of Vipassana, he was back to normal and is now cultivating the land. He has been coming for regular follow-ups. His haemoglobin level rose to around 12 gm. and he now has good bowel control.

We have also observed many cases of diabetes, hyper-acidity, peptic ulcer and high blood pressure, but in this paper I will limit myself to these two cases only. (We have on record full details of other patients for those who are interested.)

2. The patient's capacity to endure suffering increases

When a patient starts the treatment, he believes his suffering is not going to change. Since the disease is chronic, he is fed up with treatments, he loses faith and often becomes a total wreck, cursing the situation he is in. In this way he actually multiplies his suffering. Due to all this, he is unable to take the treatment with an open mind. But after learning Vipassana, the total outlook towards life and disease changes. Now he understands: "Oh, this is a good opportunity to reduce my pain and grief." Now he understands his own responsibility. He also realizes that nothing is permanent, that his disease will also change. His pain now becomes a tool to establish equanimity. Hence, he endures the disease with less suffering, instead of multiplying his suffering. The total attitude towards pain and suffering changes.

3. Increase in equanimity reduces the agony of incurable patients in the face of imminent death.

As we are all aware, when patients are terminally ill, they and their relatives are passing through a highly stressful and restless period. In their desperation, they often change therapies and try a number of methods to be rid of this suffering. In this condition, the patient as well as his relatives live in a continual state of insecurity, fear, deep despair, sorrow and distress. Even in this condition, if the patient uses Vipassana along with other therapies, the remaining part of his life becomes less agonizing.

There have been a number of cases in which patients had tried different types of treatment, but ultimately came to us. We start treatment with Anapana, and send such persons for a ten-day course of Vipassana. They may not improve physically but they become strong mentally and learn how to develop equanimity.

One example is a gentleman aged sixty years from Bhuj, Gujarat. He was admitted in May 1988 with lung cancer. He had undergone an operation and then remained under treatment at Tata Cancer Hospital in Bombay for a long time. As the case was hopeless, he was sent to Bhuj, his native place, to pass his remaining time. The patient and his relatives were under great stress and worried a lot. He had himself admitted to our Centre and his treatment started. The main treatment was just Anapana, and within three days he began to feel better, with some relief from pain and fear. We could not send him for a Vipassana course, but he did Anapana quite seriously. He died ten days later fully aware of himself, in a peaceful state of mind.
Another patient was a young electrical engineer, aged thirty-eight from Palanpur, Gujarat. He was admitted in January 1992 in the final stage of renal failure. He was on dialysis at the Kidney Institute but he needed a blood transfusion every time after dialysis. He developed severe anaemia and other complications and hence could not undergo dialysis any more. Someone sent him to our Nature Cure Clinic. On admission his Creatinine was 12, Blood Urea 180, HB 5.8, Potassium 5, Blood Pressure 180/120. He had hiccups and vomiting, severe headache, and puffiness in the face. Urine output was only 200 to 300 ml. We started the treatment with Anapana. After three weeks, his Creatinine was 8, Blood Urea 120, HB 9.6, Potassium 5, Blood Pressure 140/100 and urine output was about one litre. Other symptoms also improved, but still he was worried and stressed, because being educated, he studied a lot about his disease and ultimately he knew the prognosis. We sent him for a ten-day Vipassana course, and when he returned, he had totally changed his attitude towards his disease. He went for another course later on, and continued with Vipassana at home. He died after one year. During this period he remained cheerful, and he died with peace and awareness.

4. Meditation changes the total outlook towards life and illness

We studied five cases of psuedo muscular atrophy and two cases of Pamphigus Vulgaris. The patients were in the worst possible condition and had lost all hope. We treated them with Anapana and three were sent for a Vipassana course. All seven cases showed improvement. Clinically we did not find any physical or pathological change, except for a little improvement for a short time. However mentally they were totally changed persons.

5. In most cases, the role of mind in the genesis of disease becomes evident

After Vipassana, patients start understanding that most diseases are not really physical-they arise in the mind and manifest on the body. We have had a number of cases which improved with simple Anapana and a little counseling.

A young married lady of 24 from Rajkot had been vomiting for eight months. She was treated at various places for peptic ulcer, hyperacidity, gastritis and worms, but her condition kept deteriorating. She was admitted to our Centre in a very bad condition in December 1991. On our recommendation she undertook a Vipassana course. She is absolutely all right now with no medication. We had a regular follow-up, and she is still in touch with us.

This shows how important the role of the mind is when there is any disease. There are many cases we have studied which show that most of the diseases have their root cause in the mind.

6. Patients suffering from many types of incurable diseases were relieved beyond their expectations

There was a man who was diagnosed with ascending neuropathy Gulanbari syndrome. He was admitted in a completely bed-ridden condition. He could not turn to one side when sleeping, and he could not eat unassisted. We started the diet treatment along with Anapana meditation. Because he was bed-ridden, we could not give him any other treatment, but to our surprise, within a short period of six weeks, he was able to sit, take his own food and was able to move his legs. Within three months of his admission he could walk. We sent him to one of our physician friends, who was surprised to see him walk and make all movements in a normal way. He asked me about this magical recovery. When I told him about Anapana and diet treatment, he was not ready to believe it.

We have some other cases with similar amazing results.

7. Patients with chronic renal disease (and even failure), who were on transplants, showed improvement

We have treated many cases of chronic renal failure, and obtained very good results. We observed that if we add Vipassana along with our treatment, the results are more satisfying. Patients easily develop the confidence to go without dialysis. Control of diet becomes easy after Vipassana. In this context, I would like to explain the case of the mother of a well-known doctor of our area. In February 1992 she was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, and was treated at the Kidney Institute, Nadiad. However her condition worsened and the doctor advised dialysis. Ultimately her son brought her over here with high blood pressure, oedema all over of the body, anorexia, with vomiting, breathlessness and low grade fever. Her blood urea was 130, creatinine 7.3, HB 9.5 and urine albumin - 1+. After one month her urea was 100, creatinine 5, HB 11, and she was treated as an indoor patient for about three months. During this period she went twice for a ten-day course. After that she came regularly for follow-up. In her last bio-chemistry, blood urea was 70, creatinine was 4, HB 11, and blood pressure was 140/180.

Her general condition is now very good. She is cultivating her land and looking after her grandchildren, practicing Vipassana. We have many other cases like her's.

Our experience of many years has shown that most diseases are linked with the mind. To cure them, a therapy involving purification of the mind is necessary. It is our conviction that doctors should learn how to practise Vipassana Meditation themselves in order to become good healers.