The selected works of Mahatma Gandhi

Key To Health


Table of Contents

About This Book

Written by : M. K. Gandhi
Edited by : Bharatan Kumarappa
Foreword by : Morarji Desai
First Edition : 3,000 copies, December 1954
Fifteenth Re-print : 5,000 copies, March 2011
Total : 69,000 copies
ISBN : 81-7229-040-3
Printed and Published by : Jitendra T. Desai
Navajivan Mudranalaya,
© Navajivan Trust, 1954


Chapter 13: Akash (Ether?)

Akash is difficult word to translate as are indeed all the other four elements so called. For pani is not mere water in the original, nor Vayu wind, or prithvi earth, or teja light. Akash is either least of all. Perhaps the nearest equivalent is emptiness taken in its literal sense. And it is horribly in expressive of the original. All the five in the original are as living as life. If however we take either as the nearest equivalent for akash, we must say that we know very little about ether itself and akash much less. Our knowledge of its therapeutic uses is still more limited. Akash might be taken for the empty space surrounding the earth and the atmosphere round it. On a clear day, on looking up, one sees a beautiful mauve blue canopy which is known as the akash or sky. So far as we are concerned, this sky or the either is limitless. We are surrounded by it on every side, and there is no nook or corner without it. Generally we imagine that the sky is something resting upon the high it is the blue canopy above us. But the sky is as much above is as below and all around us. We move round and round with the earth. Therefore the akash is round and everybody is within it. It is an envelope whose outermost surface is measureless. The lower strata of the akash for a number of mile are filled with air. But for this man would become suffocated in spite of the emptiness. True, we cannot see the air, but we can feel it when in motion. Sky out air say from an empty bottle and create a vacuum, but who can pump out the vacuum itself? That is akash.
This akash we have to make use of to maintain or to regain health. Air being most essential to sustain life, nature has made it omnipresent. But the omnipresence of air is only relative. It is not limitless in reality. Scientists tell that after a certain number of miles above the earth there is no air. It is said that earthy creatures cannot exists outside this atmosphere. This statement may or may not be true. All that we are concerned with here is that akash extends beyond the atmosphere. Some day the scientists might prove that what we call ether is also something which fills the empty space akash. Then we will have to discover a new name for the empty space that holds neither air nor the ether. Be that a sit may, the mystery of this empty space all around us is most intriguing. We cannot solve it unless we can solve the mystery of God himself. This much might be said that the more we utilize this great element akash the healthier we will be. The first lesson to be learnt is this that we should not put any partitions between ourselves and the sky the infinite which is very near and yet very far away. If our bodies could be in contact with the sky without the intervention of houses, roofs and even clothes, we are likely to enjoy the maximum amount of health. This is not possible for everyone. But all can and should accept the validity of the statement and adapt life accordingly. To the extent that we are able to approach the state in practice, we will enjoy contentment and peace of mind. This train of thought taken to the extreme leads us to a condition when even the body becomes an obstacle separating man form the infinite. To understand this truth is to become indifferent to the dissolution of the body. For to lose oneself in the infinite is to find oneself. The body thud ceases to be a vehicle for self-indulgence. Man will make use of his body for the attempt he will discover that he is part of and one with all the life that surrounds him. This must mean service of mankind and through it finding God.
To return from the high flight, this train of thought will make the thinker keep his surrounding as open as possible. He will not fill the house with unnecessary furniture and will use the minimum of clothes that are necessary. Many house holds are so packed with all sorts of unnecessary decorations and furniture which one can very well do without; that a simple living man will feel suffocated in those surroundings. They are nothing but means of harbouring dust, bacteria and insects. Here in the house where I am under detention, I feel quite lost. The heavy furniture, chairs, tables, sofas, bedsteads, innumerable looking-glasses, all get on my nerves. The expensive carpets on the floors collect large amount of dust and act as a breeding place for insect life. One day the carpet in one of the rooms was taken out for dusting. It was not one man's work. Six men spent the afternoon in doing the job. They must have removed at least ten pounds of dust. When the carpet was put back in its place it had a new feel about it. These carpets cannot be taken out and dusted everyday. Such treatment will wear out the carpets and greatly increase the expenditure of labour. But this is by way. What I mean to say is this that my desire to be in tune with the infinite has saved me from many complications in life. It led not merely to simplicity of house hold and dress but all round simplicity in the mode of my life. In a nutshell, and in the language of the subject under discussion, I have gone on creating more and more contact with akash. With the increase in the contact went improvement in health. I had more contentment and peace of mind and the desire for belongings almost disappeared. He who will establish contact with the infinite possesses nothing and yet possesses everything. In the ultimate analysis, man owns that of which he can make legitimate use and which he can assimilate. If everybody followed this rule, there would be room enough for all and there would be neither want nor overcrowding.
It follows that one should make it a point to sleep in the open. Sufficient covering should be used to protect oneself against the in clemencies of the weather against cold and dew. In rainy season an umbrella like a roof without walls should be used for keeping the rain out. For the rest, the starlit blue canopy should form the roof so that whenever one opens one's eyes, he or she can feast them on the ever changing beautiful panorama of the heavens. He will never tire of the scene and it will not dazzle or hurt his eyes. On the contrary, it will have a soothing effect on him. To watch the different starry constellations floating in their majesty is a least for the eyes. One who establishes contact with the stars as living witnesses to all his thoughts will never allow any evil or impurity to enter his mind and will enjoy peaceful, refreshing sleep.
Let us descent from the akash above within and immediately about us. Thus the skin has millions of pores. If we fill up the empty space within these pores, we simply die. Any clogging in the pores therefore must interfere with the even flow of health. Similarly we must not fill up the digestive tract with unnecessary foodstuffs. We should eat only as much as we need and no more. Often one overeats or eats indigestible things without being aware of it. An occasional fast, say once a week or once a unable to fast for the whole day, one should miss one is more meals during the day. Nature abhors a vacuum is only partially true. Nature constantly demands a vacuum. The vast space surrounding us is the standing testimony of the truth.