“Belief is the truth held in the mind; faith is a fire in the heart” (Joseph Fort Newton).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, i.e. the absence of disease or infirmity. It is a dynamic condition resulting from a body's constant adjustment and adaptation in response to stresses and changes in the environment for maintaining an inner equilibrium called homeostasis” (Business Dictionary). It means that health refers to the general condition of the body and mind. To be healthy refers to the soundness of a living organism, i.e. vitality of the body and mind, and freedom from defect or disease.
The modern medicine considers the recovering as a physiological process by which the cells in the body regenerate and repair themselves in order to reduce the size of the damaged area. An appropriate medication is supposed to be an essential part of that process.
However, the fact of the spiritual healing is rather controversial in the scientific world, but a lot of patients still regard it as one of the most important causes of their recovering, so that it also should be taken into account. Let us have a closer look at this issue and analyze the spiritual perspective on healing from the position of Sikhism, Buddhism and Shintoism in order to compare the philosophy of providing care from these beliefs to the perspective of the Christian philosophy of faith and healing. Let us find out how patients view health care providers, who are able to let go their own beliefs in the interest of the beliefs and practices of the patients.
300 million people around the world are Buddhists
The word comes from “budhi” which means “to awaken”. It originated in ancient India about 2,500 years ago. It was created by Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, who awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35 (Buddha Dharma Education Asossiation).
Buddhism is so different from other religions that some people question whether it is a religion at all. Its spiritual traditions focus on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life.
The foundation of Buddhism includes the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering (Dukkha); the truth of the origin of suffering (Samud%u0101ya); the truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha); the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga).
About 2,000 years ago the two major schools occurred in Buddhism
They are Theravada and Mahayana. The main difference of these schools is the perception of a doctrine called “anatman” or “anatta”. According to thisstudy, there is no “self” in the permanent, integral, autonomous being within an individual existence. Anatman is complicated study to understand, but it is essential in order to make sense of Buddhism.
Buddhism states that there is no primary cause or a basic component that works as a determinant causing something or an event to happen.
Another Buddhist concept that explains human life is Kamma. It is one part of the natural law that refers to the working of intention, or the process of mental proliferation and its consequences. It means that good deeds bring good results and vice versa, i.e. bad deeds bring bad results (Bhikkhu P. A. Payutto, 1993).
Buddhism believes that all life is interconnected. It means that the sympathy is natural and important thing. The practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom can help a person to find the path to enlightenment.
This perception of reality will shape the meanings and the ways of understanding health and illness for a Buddhist. Good health is a result of previous good actions starting from last second, last year, or from the last life. Nevertheless, karma law is only one section of the natural law. Thus, health or disease is governed by the natural law as well. This understanding turns the responsibilities of health back to each individual. Neither modern nor alternative medicines are perceived as the best or only technologies for eliminating diseases. Their position is as one among various elements that can support the healing process. Diseases, in Buddhism, are not perceived only in a bad way. Although those uncomfortable symptoms are unwanted conditions, it does not imply that they are useless. Everyone can gain an advantage from an ailment if he/she realizes its nature. The diseases remind people that the body is so fragile and impermanent.
Shintoism is a religion based on animistic beliefs of the ancient Japanese
The followers of Shintoism believe that the natural world consists of spiritual powers. They suppose that “spirits” called kami live in natural places, i.e. in animals, plants, stones, mountains, rivers, people and the dead. Shintoism was significantly influenced by Buddhism (The United Religions Initiative).
The main spiritual principle of Shintoism is to live in the harmony with the nature and people. Shintoism has no concept of salvation, i.e. everyone defines their natural place in the world because of their feelings, motivations and actions. The four main Shinto rituals include purification (Harae), sacrifice (Shinsenns), prayer (Norito) and symbolic meal (Naorai). In addition, there are more elaborate temple festivals called Matsuri.
The sympathy for others, the respect for elders and the ability to support the sincere and friendly relations with everyone who surrounds are supposed to be the main virtues of Shinto. Anger, selfishness and intolerance are condemned. Everything that violates the social order, destroys the harmony of the world and prevents serving the kami is considered to be evil and harmful.
Sikhism is a religion for more than 20 million people in the world
It was founded in the Punjab in the 16th century by Guru Nanak and 9 Sikh gurus, i.e. the followers of Guru Nanak. The internal religious state of the individual is the most important thing in Sikhism. Sikhs believe that the good life can be achieved by keeping God in the heart and mind at all times; living honestly and working hard; treating everyone equally; being generous to the less fortunate; serving others.
According to the Sikhism, the law of Karma defines the quality of each particular life. This quality depends on the person’s behavior in his/her previous lives. Just pain can help an individual to find out the way out of this cycle and to achieve the complete knowledge of and union with God. Sikhs believe that God cannot be understood by human beings properly, however, love, worship, and contemplation can help to experience him. God is inside everyone, no matter how wicked they are so that everyone can change. A Sikh serves God by helping other people every day. They try to stop their own ego and pride. The three duties that a Sikh must carry out can be summarized as pray, work, and give (BBC).
Sikhs are required to wear five articles of faith at all times
This applies to both men and women. These articles are known as the Five Kakkars or Five K’s i.e. Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (steel bangle), Kirpan (short sword), and Kachera (undergarment). The main vices are considered to be the concupiscence, avarice and avidity, attachment to the things of this world, rage and pride. The road to liberation is open to those who can overcome these vices.
According to the Christian perspective, the healing is connected to God. Person should believe into the God’s omnipotence and allow the healing power to flow into the body through prayer and effect healing according to God’s will. In order to live healthy the one has to feed the mind just as he/she feeds the body. The one has to feed the spirit just as he/she feeds the mind.
The importance of addressing to the patients’ spiritual beliefs in providing high quality medical care cannot be overestimated. The recent multicenter survey of outpatients found that in the setting of dying, 70% of patients would welcome physician inquiry into their religious beliefs, 55% would appreciate silent prayer, and 50% believe their physician should pray with them. However, physician attitudes regarding the importance and acceptability of religion in medical practice show considerable discord with those of their patients (Susi B, Phifer N, et al, 2003).
Although religion and spirituality continue to be contested and controversial topics in our society, the existing evidence highlights patients’ desires to have some level of spiritual interaction with their healthcare providers. Regardless of their personal convictions, medical students, nurses and physicians must be sensitive to the spiritual needs of their patients.