This compilation focuses on the health of the body and its necessary role in the total transformation of the being as part of the manifestation of a divine life on earth. The material has been organised into sections that explain the importance of a healthy and conscious body reflecting an inner harmony and consecration, the origin and causes of illness, how the right attitude towards sleep, food, physical culture, and medicine, for example, can make the body healthier, and the secret of perfect health in the practice of Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga.
Health is a subject of perennial interest, given the precarious balance of human existence. Much has been written and debated on the subject and each is useful in its own place. But nowhere does one find the depth and wideness of vision as in the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This vision includes all details, putting each in its just measure, right proportion, and true relation to the total scheme of things.
For this very reason it is not easy to bring out a compilation of their writings. Every compiler has a tendency to look at the vastness of the Truth they have given to earth and men from his own narrow angle of vision, to express his own subjective tilt and preference. The average reader, perhaps unable to appreciate the exact shade and context of the excerpt, may run the risk of sometimes turning a wide and plastic truth into a fixed formula. It is important therefore not to use a compilation for quoting purposes, but to try living some of the truths that naturally and spontaneously appeal to us. For only when we live a vision can we truly begin to understand its depth and subtlety. The Mother cautions us:
Each one has his own idea and finds out suitable sentences from Sri Aurobindo’s writings to support his views. Those who oppose such views can also find suitable sentences from his writings. That is the way mutual opposition works. Nothing can be truly done until Sri Aurobindo’s total view of things is taken.
10 October 1954
Words of the Mother. CWM 13: 22
Most compilations suffer from this difficulty and this one is no exception. By choosing a few out of the many more things said about the subject, the compiler often ends up overstressing some points while omitting or downplaying others. Unless care is taken, this may create an impression in the mind of a novice reader that this is all that has been said on a subject and sometimes tend to turn an axiomatic truth into a dogmatic one. Sri Aurobindo cautions us against this tendency:
It is not always safe to apply practically to oneself what has been written for another. Each sadhak is a case by himself and one cannot always or often take a mental rule and apply it rigidly to all who are practising the yoga. What I wrote to X was meant for X and fits his case, but supposing a sadhak with a different (coarse) vital nature unlike X were in question, I might say to him something that might seem the very opposite, “Sit tight on your lower vital propensities, throw out your greed for food – it is standing as a serious obstacle in your way; it would be better for you to be ascetic in your habits than vulgarly animal in this part as you are now.” To one who is not taking enough food or sleep and rest in the eagerness of his spirit, I might say, “Eat more, sleep more, rest more, do not overstrain yourself or bring an ascetic spirit into your tapasya.” To another with the opposite excess I might speak a contrary language. Each sadhak has a nature or turn of nature of his own and the movement of the yoga of two sadhaks, even where there are some resemblances between them, is seldom exactly the same.
Letters on Yoga
SABCL 22-24: 859-60
Given these inherent limitations, this compilation (as well as other compilations) still serves very useful purposes. Firstly, it gives us a sort of overview of the subject, a general and broad outline as it were. Secondly, it presents the subject in a very handy and easily referable format. Each entry is subtitled and the passages are relatively short and simple. It is this which makes it an easy-to-read book. Though the subtitles sometimes do not seem to flow smoothly into each other, this is a minor and incidental flaw, perhaps the inevitable result of transposing an exhibition directly into book form. Thirdly, the passages selected give a direct and practical feel. Many of the sentences chosen have a strong mantric appeal, musing on which can change one’s entire perspective on life. Finally, as in all compilations, it brings us directly in touch with the Force inherent in the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
No doubt there are some omissions; also the stress is largely on the aspects of physical health. Perhaps that is why the title Towards Perfect Health is justified; the ‘towards’ holding out a hope of several other companion volumes to come that would cover all aspects of health from every side and give us a more complete picture. The present volume is rather like a trailer that gives us beautiful hints and suggestions; or as if the compilers have led us to their chosen spots on the banks of a wide river of knowledge and insight, inviting us to enter its purifying waters. It is now for the reader to decide how far and deep he or she wishes to go in their personal exploration.
– Dr Alok Pandey
Dr Pandey, psychiatrist and philosopher, is a seeker on the path of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. He writes and lectures extensively on varied issues of life and yoga.
SABDA catalog listing for Towards Perfect Health
Goodreads.com listing for Towards Perfect Health