The teachings relating to health tend to focus on foods that will strengthen the body or on removing toxins that block the flow of energy in the body. These teachings are an important part of the picture so long as you haven’t reached a certain level of spiritual realization.

But we need to understand that health is a total process and primarily a reflection of our strength inwardly. Illness and other health troubles come from not being in touch with our deepest reality. Our true nature is healthy. It can’t be otherwise because we are children of God.

Spiritual ignorance, therefore, is the greatest disease of all. From spiritual ignorance all other mistakes follow. When you are ignorant of the fact that you are a child of God and not just the body and personality, when you are ignorant of your wrong attitudes, it is possible again and again to make mistakes that create bad karma and illness. Therefore the most important thing of all is curing this ignorance.

A healing through will power

I once knew a woman who had been hired as a cook at Mount Washington. She was a big, strapping woman and strong enough to carry things it would normally take two or three people to carry. I was very surprised when she told me she’d had polio and was told she would never walk again.

She responded to her illness by telling herself, “I am not going to be a cripple for the rest of my life!” When people weren’t looking, she would tumble out of bed and kind of crawl across the floor and huddle against the wall. Using all of her will power, she would then try to push herself up to a standing position, leaning against the wall for support. She did this repeatedly and with great determination.

She didn’t know anything about drawing energy from the cosmic source, but she just kept trying. She kept sending out the thought that she wanted her legs to move, which was, in fact, sending energy to her body. Little by little, her body started to respond. And after a while, the miracle occurred. She overcame the paralysis completely.

This woman healed herself without knowledge of spiritual laws. How much easier it is to use will power to heal yourself when you know that energy can make you well, and that a strong affirmation of wellness can draw energy from the cosmic source and heal your illness.

An ocean of cosmic energy

The body’s ability to heal or resist disease depends primarily on being able to draw energy into the body from the cosmic source. We live surrounded by an ocean of cosmic energy, and we draw on it to a greater or lesser extent all the time, depending on our will power or willingness, and on the clarity of our awareness. There are a number of saints and yogis who have lived for many years without eating, yet somehow they manage to carry on and, in fact, they put everyone else to shame with their high level of energy. They are sustained by that cosmic source.

The energy we bring into the body from the cosmic source is intelligent. It can transform the chemistry of the body. It can become whatever chemicals we need in order to heal because all of these chemicals are manifestations of cosmic energy. The body itself is not a physical object. It is a holding pattern of energy and this pattern can be changed. When we change the holding pattern, we suddenly find new and different chemicals rushing in to take the place that’s been created for them.

It is by changing the holding pattern that amazing miracles and instantaneous healings have occurred: people dying of cancer who suddenly became well; people who bathed in the waters at Lourdes who suddenly grew new organs. The woman crippled by polio, by her will power and determination, changed the holding pattern and healed her legs.

Learn to draw energy into the body from the cosmic source with the Energization Exercises.

How to offset the karma of illness

How do we become ill? Illness enters the body through the agency of our karma. Our karma creates weaknesses in the aura, and through those weaknesses illness can enter. There isn’t anything we can do about the existence of that karma. We can’t banish it. But we can we can offset karmic law by spiritual means, by devotion and being more in tune with God.

There was a young boy at the Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage in Encinitas who had an accident which resulted in his cutting off a finger. Paramhansa Yogananda said he had seen a black cloud in the boy’s astral body shortly before this accident. Yogananda said that if the boy hadn’t been at the hermitage, the accident would have been far worse.

Something very similar happened to Daya Mata shortly after I came onto the spiritual path. She was rushed to the hospital with an illness which the doctor diagnosed incorrectly. Karmically she was supposed to die but by Yogananda’s blessings, she lived. Explaining the situation, Yogananda said, “That’s the way karma works. The doctor diagnosed it wrongly because it was her karma to go.”

Attunement with the Divine gives you a very strong aura. It’s as though you were wearing armor. Any bad karma that comes either can’t get through or is greatly lessened.

Illness and spiritual growth

There are certain instances when it is not appropriate to offset the karma of illness. An example involved a very saintly 19-year-old girl in India who had healing powers. She had healed many people but she steadfastly refused to heal her father, who was very ill.

Finally her family, and especially her mother, pressured her so much that she had no choice but to pray for him. However, she wrote her mother a note saying, “You will see what will happen.” She prayed for her father and he became well. Not very long afterwards, he began living a dissolute life.

A dissolute life in the past had created the karma for her father to be ill. His illness was a means of creating a break with his past and changing the mental tendency to lead a dissolute life. For that change to occur, however, the illness needed to reach deep enough levels of his mind to rid him of those old tendencies. When his illness was removed prematurely, all of those old tendencies surfaced.

Illness and physical problems are often an important part of spiritual growth. They are the means by which the soul propels us away from error and toward God.

Love: your greatest protection

Paramhansa Yogananda had a great deal of respect for Christian Scientists but he said that good health requires more than mental affirmation. Our mental attitudes, our dynamism and optimism, are very important. But the most important thing of all is our attunement with the Divine. Swami Sri Yukteswar said that the unfolding of the heart’s natural love fills the body with such harmonious energy that it banishes all disease. To develop the natural love of the heart is the most important thing that we can do for our health.

Saint Francis had so much love that he could eat the scraps in people’s garbage pails, yet he was untouched. His deep attunement to God and Christ protected him. The best thing is to have a balance – to eat properly, to exercise regularly – while always keeping in mind that the greatest need is for loving God, for loving people, and for having this kind of harmonious energy.

Anything that makes us more giving towards other people, more sharing, less defensive and less competitive with them, helps very much in the development of devotion. On the other hand, attitudes of aggression, defensiveness, worry, fear, and self-condemnation constrict the heart and are harmful to the body.

God has no favorites

Divine love not only fills the body with harmonious energy and dissolves impurities, it puts us in tune with the great universal flow. When we are in tune with that flow, we have the power of the universe supporting us, giving us strength. Try to rely more on God. You have to do your part but God has no favorites. Anytime you put yourself in His hands and just flow with His great symphony of life, everything seems to work out for the best.

A lovely instance of this occurred when I visited India some years ago. I had written to friends that I was coming to Calcutta. When I didn’t hear from them I naturally wondered if they had received my letter and would be at the airport to meet me. And yet, I thought, “Well I’ve done my part. God will take care of the rest.”

When I arrived at the Calcutta airport, my friends weren’t there, but I didn’t worry about it. I just stood there thinking, “Well, Master, what do you have in mind?” Hardly ten seconds later a man came up to me and asked my name. He said he had seen a photograph of me a few weeks earlier. It turned out he was in Calcutta to visit a dear friend of mine, someone I had hoped to see while in India but whose address I could not find—and he took me to see this friend. I later got together with the friends who were not at the airport to meet me.

So don’t think you have to do everything. Do your best in a common sense way but, above all, try to be in tune with Him and the universal flow will constantly sustain you. The right things will happen for your physical, mental, and spiritual health. The right guidance will come at the right time. The right kinds of foods will be there when you need them. Everything will be there if you cling to God with faith and devotion.

You have come from Infinity

This body is just a small part of that which you really are. For a while you are living in this body, but the truth is that you have come from Infinity and are living only temporarily in this little physical form.

You will not be anything but hopelessly diseased until you realize the truth of your own nature, the reality of your oneness with God. Ignorance of your oneness with God is the supreme disease of which all others are merely outward and limited manifestations. Banish that ignorance and know who and what you really are.

From a 1981 talk at Ananda Village.

Related reading: The Art & Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda


  1. My daughter aged 26 is very divine by nature,hates to hurt others,respect elders never back replies anyone,butbecasue of this +two break-up where she tried to be too good and got hurt she suffered mentally with the result physically why?if it is karma where dose god fits in?very confused inspite of this she can never be bad to anyone is it good to be good nowadays

    1. Dear Seema,

      You ask the question that people often ask: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It is important to understand, as Swami Kriyananda says in this article, that everything comes to us from God and is meant to propel us toward the Divine. This is the function of karmic law, even though, often times not easy to see. The karmic difficulties that your daughter is experiencing may be caused by errors from past lives, but karmic law can be offset by spiritual means: devotion and being more in tune with God.I hope this is helpful.

      Joy to you,
      Nayaswami Nakin

  2. What an inspiring, fresh way to look at “disease”. Thank you Swami Kriyananda and Clarity for this brilliant article.

  3. Wow, this is a hot one: self-condemnation constricts the heart and is harmful to the body. Does this include having regrets about past decisions and blaming oneself for making those past decisions? There is heartache, despair and negative feelings in these, so I think the answer will be an emphatic “yes”.

    This is the reason we should be grateful and appreciative for everything, all experiences, especially if we got out of them with God’s blessing and inspiration. Everything is a learning experience, after all, no need to beat ourselves up over it. This was the reason for my anxiety disorder, the constant beating of myself and blaming myself. The nervous system protects itself by shutting down from this verbal abuse and hence we experience the de-personalization symtom of chronic anxiety, not a good thing, believe me! It is as if you are not here. This had a lot to do with my upbringing as well, for my mom used physical force most of the time and raised us in fear.

    Yet, it is up to each of us to change these patterns and thought processes, be kind to ourselves, and align with God, with the result of feeling better!

  4. Blessing for this! Yes, cling to God with faith & devotion.

    Aum, Peace, Amen.

  5. It was so lovely reading this article. I believe all that you say, absolutely, but living as I do , amongst “unbelievers” it is incredibly reassuring, coming across thoughts of this kind. Thank you.

  6. So basically everyone who has a disease is sick because of “errors in a past life”? What a dangerous and nasty belief to have! Living with disease is already hard enough without piling shame and judgement onto people on top of that. How about some kindness and compassion instead.

    1. Karma refers to the result of a person’s actions primarily in this life. This is not a “belief to have”. This is how the world works and exactly what Jesus taught. You should try to realign with God and resolve past issues by forgiving the ones who hurt you. Just release all those old things and believe that you are loved dearly by God. Change your ways.

    2. The concept of karma shouldn’t involve condemnation of self or others. Everyone is dealing with a full plate of something or other. I have chronic illness and most other people do not, but they have other issues. And supposedly most of us have Karmic issues that may never come up during this particular lifetime because we’re already busy working on other Karma. There is the concept that within one lifetime we can only unravel a few major strands of Karma.

      I can’t pretend to understand Karma, but accept the idea that my chronic illness is part of a process that I somehow set in motion sometime, somewhere. That is the extent of my understanding. I cheerfully admit I would love to be rid of it!

      There is also the possibility that this situation arose to help me develop certain qualities. By working with health issues over decades, I have developed patience, compassion, determination, resourcefulness, an ability to stand up for myself, and independence of judgement. Sometimes we grow through struggle.

      Though my life is often difficult, it still has beauty and meaning. I watch people coping with kids on drugs, financial crises, and loveless marriages, and I am grateful for my life. Whether or not you believe in Karma, it is easy to see that everyone carries a burden. It is important to maintain compassion and kindness for all, beginning with ourselves.

    3. I am fully with you, being sick because of “errors in a past life” is a dangerous and nasty belief to have. If it works like this, then one really has to question the qualities of what the author refers to as “God” – he would be plain evil, and “aligning” to him would be something one should dearly avoid. I also believe that we are spiritual beings but being forced into an existence in a body that is marked by chronic, perhaps even terminal illness is something that none of us deserves – the suffering is very real with nothing positive coming from it.

  7. I started learning and exploring meditation, reading about spirituality, and learning about energy healing. Good things happened, some of my psychological and physical problems healed with energy ?.. One new problem in my body is happening, I had been trying to address the reason of these great pains in my head and feeling weakness in my hands, legs and body as well, I realized that whenever I feel pain in my hand, my father feel also pain in the same location in his body. Then I do some meditation to cut my spiritual cord with my father because the energy is exchangeable between both of us. I did some relation and inner child healing between me and my father. I am trying to understand my father thoughts as is, as his full being without resentment from my side. I accept him with forgiveness.
    Why this is happening to me?

  8. We’re all connected, especially to those in our everyday lives. This sentiment runs deep. Illness can come about not due to karma only but to disharmony in this life. Unknown disharmony caused 25 yrs of chronic illness for me. It was instantly cured when I learned the truth about those in my life I was lead to believe were different people. Secrets and lies create dis-ease. ‘Always tell the truth’ said Jesus. This is extremely important. On a spiritual level we know there’s disharmony in our peers/partners/family, but consciously we are not aware. Illness is the result of subconscious spiritual ‘knowing’ and apparent conscious beliefs being conflicted.
    Beware your physical food diet, of course. Beware your social, personal people diet too. The discord in others close to us can cause physical illness in any or all. Talk deeply to those you share your life with about hidden issues if you find yourself in a rut of illness that diet/supplements/health practices won’t cure.
    Forgive, them and yourself. The outpouring of divinity is worth the pain of the path.
    Love is powerful beyond words, it’s not just a feeling, it’s a ‘state of heaven’ we can become if we let go of toxic boundaries that prevent the flow of UNCONDITIONAL Love.

    Know you can heal friends! Truly imbibe this knowing… absolutely can do it…if I could, being open but certainly not religious, you can too. Ask your divine self to show you an opening how to heal fully. Then note where your thoughts wander….it might be a swimming pool….you need exercise, water earthing…it might be a person pops into your head more often, so talk to them … could be to take a trip somewhere….go with that calling….only you truly know how to heal blockages to allow more divine love to flow back into your being. Just ask yourself to show you the way…and observe your dreams, thoughts and new things that come into life, however mundane or insignificant they may seem, note them mentally and see if it’s a repeating ‘cue’ to follow.

    The Kingdom of Heaven IS Within your being. No doubt. Knowing….strength….determination, and loving faith.

    With love from the Emerald Isle.

  9. Digging in the spiritual reasons of why things happen , The true nature of things . I have been doing this a long time.
    About 30 years, some findings took a long time .Like How do people get cancer ? and why ? Yes I found out how that works too.

    Meaning the mechanics of it , I use the words spiritual reason , but that seems to imply as opposed to a non spiritual reality.
    for me there is no such thing, also using the word spiritual is just a handle . more accurate would be how creating your reality works.

    for me humans as souls create their reality from source , source is unconditional , does not create our reality .

    to simplify matters lets look at what happens all around us , people use language in speech and written form.

    now here lies the problem , what is language ? seems to me to be a two sided being . one upfront and as is ,
    as is thought in school, the other through the back door .

    what does that mean ? what do I see when I look at the use of language ? I see two people and they interact
    with cords made out of source energy , these cords are connecting them . these cords have intention.

    intention is what language means, is about , is what is shared between souls. .

    and by trough the back door is its multidimensional aspect . a text even can be seen full of these energy cords.
    Reaching out to who ever ‘understands’ its meaning, connects to it , to the energy cords.

    Now there is that which is called energy stealing ,this than is an energy cord that takes energy away from an other soul.

    sucks his energy . This can be done in many ways all different but all using cords with intention .

    Here lies our problem to look at for doing so creates karma , karma is just creation but if its not good (undesirable)

    you will end up returning what you did , so if taken energy you end up returning it , are forced to return it .

    now we are close to the problem , since the energy is needed to stay healthy and feed your self . you can than

    no longer do this since the energy draws away from you and you get ill , cancer happens.

    The place where it happens will show you the nature of your mistake .

    Here is what Louise L. Hay writes on reason for cancer.

    ‘Cancer Deep hurt Longstanding resentment Deep secret or grief eating away at the self.Carrying hatreds ‘whats the use’ ‘

    What it doesn’t mention is why this happens , as I now have explained much seems result of karma from energy stealing

    from others coming back to haunt you and deplete you of your own life force ,an energy so much needed .

    ‘You ended up taking away from your self what you wrongly took from others’.

    and that ‘wrongly’ would mean some how used as weapon towards others .

    There are many variations in this theme explaining specific cases but that’s what it boils down to

    so here is just a few lines of a subject that could fill many pages , written down for those that can use it

    in one way or the other.

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