In the world, illness is often taken as a fact of life. Medical science traces the cause of many diseases back to microbes, toxins, radiation, free radicals in the body, poor nutrition, as well as physical and emotional stress.
But why is it that some people live seemingly unhealthy lives and still avert illness, while others are very careful about diet, hygiene, and exercise, yet are prone to getting sick or contracting serious diseases? Sometimes entire families are plagued with not only illness but also misfortunes in the form of accidents, injuries, and calamities. Genetics is believed to play a role, so some are predisposed to certain disorders.
Tenrikyo teaches that the root of all illness stems from the misuse of our minds. Illnesses are, therefore, warning signs from God, our beloved Parent, that we are straying away from our true purpose for being on earth, which is to live joyously by helping one another. The metaphor of dust is often used in conveying this teaching. Dust is something so minute that it often goes unnoticed and can be swept away with a puff of of a breath. However, if left unchecked dust can quickly accumulate and then will be difficult to get rid of when trying to do so.
The same is true of our self-centered thinking, i.e., the dust of the mind. When we think only of our own well-being, our own pursuits and goals, our own family’s happiness, our minds become cloudy, and we forget that true joy can only be achieved if our happiness brings happiness to others.
I have a number of friends who are battling or have gone through serious illnesses, but when I offer to administer the Sazuke, the healing prayer for physical illness, many of them decline due to different religious beliefs. They say they can get through the situation on their own, with their own faith.
On social media, if one is discovered to be battling illness or going through a difficult time, everyone offers their heartfelt prayers and support.
Praying to God for a miracle cure is a step in the right direction, but it is important to understand that what God accepts is true sincerity. With a truly sincere heart and mind, God says any illness can be cured. But what is true sincerity? Praying hard to get better? Saying you believe in God and will totally rely on God for salvation? These are not wrong answers, but may not be complete. Try this approach the next time you or someone you know are going through illness:
1) Be thankful for the daily blessings of life and the functions of your body. Even thought a part of you may not be operating normally, most of the trillions of cells in your body are working by God’s Providence to keep you alive. These workings are easily overlooked and go on unnoticed until they stop functioning.
2) Pray for others instead of yourself. This is huge. Forget yourself and your current condition completely, and instead use your energy to pray for the salvation of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, or family you know who are battling their own ailments or discomforts. Pray even for those you don’t know, e.g., the homeless and the hungry; the oppressed and suffering people around the world. Also, pass this message on to others, because it is through saving others that you will be saved.
3) Show appreciation for those who are caring for you during this difficult time. As hard as it is, smile at people who come to visit, and try to bring joy to them. Never complain about the food, or the bed, or the physical inconveniences. Rather, use your words to make others happy and brighten their day.
4) Reflect on your possible misuse of mind: miserliness, covetousness, hatred, selfish love, grudge-bearing, anger, greed, and arrogance. Make a vow to cast away self-centered thinking.
5) The real test is when you get better. Anyone can be devout and make promises when they are sick or in need of help, but true sincerity is carrying out your vows and continuing your resolve to help and save others after you are healed. The human mind is such that we tend to forget when we recover. We forget the hardships we went though and revert back to our selfish ways. If this happens, we cannot be said to have been “saved” even we received a miraculous physical cure. Unless we sweep the dust away and change or thinking, sooner or later we will be afflicted by illness again.
If we remember the suffering we went through when we could not use our borrowed bodies the way we desired while we were sick, then we can have a new appreciation for the daily blessings of a well functioning body when we recover. Keeping that mind of gratitude, we can take incremental steps toward attaining and maintaining the mind of joyousness by helping others and spreading the message about the link between illness and self-centered thinking.