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Overeating

Nabil Moghaddam is in his final year of a three-year program in Homeopathy, Health Sciences and Nutrition through the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine who are regulating the homeopathic profession in Ontario, and his thorough training matches the competencies required by the College of Homeopaths of Ontario.

He’s combining his knowledge of the Writings, with the learning he is getting in his program.  It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone attempt to balance science and religion on this topic.

Here is what the Writings have to say about homeopathy as a scientific discipline:

One of the friends of Persia wrote to Shoghi Effendi and asked this question: “Is it true that ‘Abdu’l-Baha has said that biochemical homeopathy, which is a form of food medicine, is in conformity with the Bahá’í medical concept?” The beloved Guardian’s reply to this question in a letter dated 25th November, 1944 was as follows: “This statement is true, and the truth thereof will be revealed in the future.”   (Shoghi Effendi and Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 485).

Physical Treatments for Disease

 

This is part eight of an eleven part series on the Baha’i Perspective on Disease.   In Part 1,  we looked at how I got interested in this topic and looked at some quotes on prevention of disease.  In Part 2, we looked at the reasons for disease.  In Part 3, we looked at the physical cause of disease, in Part 4 we looked at the spiritual causes, in Part 5 we looked at the effects of disease, in Part 6 we looked at the attitudes we want to strive for, when we are diseased, in Part 7 we looked at the spiritual treatments for disease.

Use of Doctors:

In the Bahá’í Teachings it is made quite clear that when one is ill, one should seek the best available medical advice. This naturally leaves a person free to choose what they consider good in medical opinion.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 284)

According to the explicit decree of Bahá’u’lláh one must not turn aside from the advice of a competent doctor. It is imperative to consult one even if the patient himself be a well-known and eminent physician. In short, the point is that you should maintain your health by consulting a highly-skilled physician.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 155)

It is incumbent upon everyone to seek medical treatment and to follow the doctor’s instructions, for this is in compliance with the divine ordinance, but, in reality, He Who giveth healing is God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 155)

It is possible for a man to hold to a book of medicine and say, “I have no need of a doctor; I will act according to the book; in it every disease is named, all symptoms are explained, the diagnosis of each ailment is completely written out, and a prescription for each malady is furnished; therefore, why do I need a doctor?” This is sheer ignorance. A physician is needed to prescribe. Through his skill the principles of the book are correctly and effectively applied until the patient is restored to health.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 248)

Do not neglect medical treatment when it is necessary, but leave it off when health has been restored.   (Bahá’u’lláh: Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, 1980 ed.,p. 106)

Even doctors need to consult doctors:

According to the explicit decree of Bahá’u’lláh one must not turn aside from the advice of a competent doctor. It is imperative to consult one even if the patient himself be a well-known and eminent physician. In short, the point is that you would maintain your health by consulting a highly-skilled physician.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 285)

Seek the best doctors you can find:

…thou hast written about thy poor sight. According to the explicit divine text the sick must refer to the doctor. This decree is decisive and everyone bound to observe it. While thou art there thou shouldst consult the most skilled and the most famed eye specialist.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 285)

Get a second opinion:

Before having any serious operation, you should consult more than one qualified physician.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 291)

Use doctors and know that healing comes from God:

It is incumbent upon everyone to seek medical treatment and to follow the doctor’s instructions, for this is in compliance with the divine ordinance, but, in reality, He Who giveth healing is God.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 284)

One must obey the command of God and submit to medical opinion. Thou hast undertaken this journey to comply with His command and not for the sake of healing, since healing is in the hand of God, not in the hand of doctors.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 285)

Bahá’u’lláh tells us that in case of disease we should pray but at the same time refer to competent physicians, and abide by their considered decisions. Shoghi Effendi wishes you therefore to find whether your some has really become ill, and if he is, then follow the directions of the doctor. Being versed in the medical sciences they can treat better than even a loving mother can. You can render your assistance by praying for him and at the same time helping the physicians to treat him.         (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 286)

Diet and Foods:

Treat disease through diet, by preference.  (Bahá’u’lláh: Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, 1980 ed.,p. 106)

The science of medicine is still in a condition of infancy; it has not reached maturity. But when it has reached this point, cures will be performed by things which are not repulsive to the smell and taste of man — that is to say, by aliments, fruits and vegetables which are agreeable to the taste and have an agreeable smell. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 256)

The Báb hath said that the people of Baha must develop the  science of medicine to such a high degree that they will heal illnesses by means of foods.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 152)

It is the function of a skilled physician to determine which constituent of his patient’s body hath suffered diminution, which hath been augmented. Once he hath discovered this, he must prescribe a food containing the diminished element in considerable amounts, to re-establish the body’s essential equilibrium. The patient, once his constitution is again in balance, will be rid of his disease.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 152)

The proof of this is that while other animals have never studied medical science, nor carried on researches into diseases or medicines, treatments or cures — even so, when one of them falleth a prey to sickness, nature leadeth it, in fields or desert places, to the very plant which, once eaten, will rid the animal of its disease. The explanation is that if, as an example, the sugar component in the animal’s body hath decreased, according to a natural law the animal hankereth after a herb that is rich in sugar. Then, by a natural urge, which is the appetite, among a thousand different varieties of plants across the field, the animal will discover and consume that herb which containeth a sugar component in large amounts. Thus the essential balance of the substances composing its body is re-established, and the animal is rid of its disease.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 152)

It is, therefore, evident that it is possible to cure by foods, ailments and fruits; but as today the science of medicine is imperfect, this fact is not yet fully grasped. When the science of medicine reaches perfection, treatment will be given by foods, ailments, fragrant fruits and vegetables, and by various waters, hot and cold in temperature  (Abdu’l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, 1982 ed., 257-259)

Drugs:

Refrain from the use of drugs . . . Abstain from drugs when health is good, but administer them when necessary.  (Bahá’u’lláh: Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, 1980 ed.,p. 106)

Many of us rely on prescription medications with a long list of side effects.  This can’t be good for us:

If a remedy is the cause of disease it would be better to do without the remedy.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 349)

Any remedy that causes disease does not come from the great and supreme Physician.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 130)

If the remedy bring on disease, then put it aside.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 248)

Now, is it possible that man’s sense of smell, the sense that differentiates odours, should find some odour repugnant, and that odour be beneficial to the human body? Absurd! Impossible! . . . Again, if the sense of taste, likewise a faculty that selecteth and rejecteth, be offended by something, that thing is certainly not beneficial; and if, at the outset, it may yield some advantage, in the long run its harmfulness will be established.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 152)

The majority of the diseases which overtake man also overtake the animal, but the animal is not cured by drugs. In the mountains, as in the wilderness, the animal’s physician is the power of taste and smell. The sick animal smells the plants that grow in the wilderness; he eats those that are sweet and fragrant to his smell and taste, and is cured.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 257)

Herbs

. . . if you find what is required in a single herb, do not resort to a compounded medicament… (Bahá’u’lláh: Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, 1980 ed.,p. 106)

Homeopathy:

One of the friends of Persia wrote to Shoghi Effendi and asked this question: “Is it true that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said that biochemical homeopathy, which is a form of food medicine, is in conformity with the Bahá’í medical concept?” The beloved Guardian’s reply to this question in a letter dated 25th November, 1944 was as follows: “This statement is true, and the truth thereof will be revealed in the future.”  The Universal House of Justice has also asked us to inform you that it does not wish the above statement to be circulated in isolation from the many and varied other texts in the Writings on medicine. However, you may share it with any of your friends who are interested.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 485)

Chiropractic:

There is nothing in the Teachings about chiropractic as a method of healing. People are free to turn to it if they pleas and find help through it.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 289)

Magnets:

The other kind of healing without medicine is through the magnetic force which acts from one body on another and becomes the cause of cure. This force also has only a slight effect.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 254)

Laying on of hands:

Sometimes one can benefit a sick person by placing one’s hand upon his head or upon his heart. Why? Because of the effect of the magnetism, and of the mental impression made upon the sick person, which causes the disease to vanish. But this effect is also very slight and weak.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 254)

He who is filled with love of Bahá, and forgets all things, the Holy Spirit will be heard from his lips and the spirit of life will fill his heart. … Words will issue from his lips in strands of pearls, and all sickness and disease will be healed by the laying on of the hands.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 112)

Strong Constitution:

A strong constitution often overcomes disease.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 255)

Rest:

. . . rest the body in order to do better.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 384)

Thank God I see you spiritual and at rest.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 48)

You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer meditation, but for real rest and relaxation. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 297)

Suspend all other activities so you can focus on getting well:

Now your father has taken you to the best nerve specialists in…, and they all recommend that you should suspend all your activities until you are fully recovered. It is now your duty as a Bahá’í, and specially as a young believer who has still great services to render the Faith, to make every effort to recovery your health, and to be confident that by making such an effort you will be attracting the confirmations of Bahá’u’lláh, without which no true and lasting healing is possible.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 291)

Sleep

There are very few people who can get along without eight hours sleep. If you are not one of those, you should protect your health by sleeping enough. The Guardian himself finds that it impairs his working capacity if he does not try and get a minimum of seven or eight hours.           (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 291)

Education:

A number of development projects have also shown that people’s lives can be altered substantially by appropriate messages through the mass media, reinforce with practical activities. This is being achieved, for example, in the field of health, where communication programmes alter people’s fundamental attitudes towards diarrhoeal diseases. In some instances, people are persuaded to behave in ways opposite to their accustomed behavior (e.g., to feed children instead of withholding food during a diarrhoeal episode).  (Baha’i International Community, 1988 Mar 17, Rural Women)

As a means of service:

You should always bear in mind Bahá’u’lláh’s counsel that we should take the utmost care of our health, surely not because it is an end in itself, but as a necessary means of serving His Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 291)

Euthanasia and Living Wills:

We have received your letter of March 18, 1974 in which you ask for the Bahá’í viewpoint on euthanasia and on the removal of life support in medical cases where physiological interventions prolong life in disabling illnesses. In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of life, can alone dispose of it as He deems best, and we have found nothing in the Sacred Text on these matters specifically but in a letter to an individual written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary regarding mercy killings, or legalized euthanasia, it is stated:  “…this is also a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to legislate.”  “Until such time as the Universal House of Justice considers legislation on Euthanasia, decisions in the matters to which you refer must be left to the conscience of those responsible            (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)

As to the Bahá’í viewpoint on the removal of withholding of life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illnesses, nothing has been found in the Sacred Text specifically on this matter. In such cases decisions must be left to those responsible, including the patients.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)

The Universal House of Justice has found nothing in the Sacred Text about the matter of with-holding or removing life support in disabling or terminal illnesses where intervention prolongs life. Therefore, until such time as the House of justice considers legislation on these matters, it is left to the conscience of the individual concerned whether or not to subscribe to a “living will”.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)

For more in this series:

Part 1: Intro to Disease

Part 2:  Reasons for Disease

Part 3:  Physical Causes of Disease

Part 4:  Spiritual Causes of Disease

Part 5:  Effects of Disease

Part 6:  Attitudes towards Disease

Part 7:  Spiritual Treatment for Disease

Part 8:  Physical Treatment for Disease

Part 9:  Why People Aren’t Getting Better

Part 10:  Advice to Doctors

Part 11:  Prayers for Health

Diet and the Foods We Eat

 

In light of the upcoming holidays, which often lead to over-eating and thoughts of diets in the New Year, some of my life coaching clients have asked what the Baha’i Writings have to say about diet.  I’ve put together the following compilation to respond to their questions.

Are there specific dietary laws in the Baha’i Faith?

  • . . . there is nothing in the teachings about whether people should eat their food cooked or raw; exercise or not exercise; resort to specific therapies or not; nor is it forbidden to eat meat.  (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual 18 December 1945 in Health and Healing, p. 38-9).

What guidance is given on what to eat?

  • . . . the food of man is cereal and fruit.  Some of the teeth of man are like millstones to grind the grain, and some are sharp to cut the fruit.  Therefore he is not in need of meat, nor is he obliged to eat it.  Even without eating meat he would live with the utmost vigour and energy.  For example, the community of Brahmins in India do not eat meat; notwithstanding this they are not inferior to other nations in strength, power, vigour, outward senses or intellectual virtues.  Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is somewhat contrary to pity and compassion and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruit, oil and nuts, such as pistachios, almonds and so on, it would undoubtedly  be better and more pleasing.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, From a tablet to an individual believer, in Health and Healing, p. 8).
  • . . . All the teeth of man are made for eating fruit, cereals and vegetables.  These four teeth (the canines), however, are designed for breaking hard shells, such as those of almonds.  But eating meat is not forbidden or unlawful, nay, the point is this, that it is possible for man to live without eating meat and still be strong.  Meat is nourishing and containeth the elements of herbs, seeds and fruits; therefore sometimes it is essential for the sick and for the rehabilitation of health.  There is no objection in the Law of God to the eating of meat if it is required.  So if thy constitution is rather weak and thou findest meat useful, thou mayest eat it.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, From a Tablet to an individual believer, in Health and Healing, p.  9.)

What will be the food of the future?

  • Fruit and grains.  The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten.  Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground.  The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Ten Days in the Light of Akká, p. 8-9, found in Health and Healing, p. 29.)

How much should we eat?

  • In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation; if the meal be only one course this is more pleasing in the sight of God; however, according to their means, they should seek to have this single dish be of good quality. (Bahá’u’lláh, From the Kitáb-i-Badí, found in Health and Healing, p. 2.)


What happens when we overeat?

  • But man hath perversely continued to serve his lustful appetites, and he would not content himself with simple foods.  Rather, he prepared for himself food that was compounded of many ingredients, of substances differing one from the other. With this, and with the perpetrating of vile and ignoble acts, his attention was engrossed, and he abandoned the temperance and moderation of a natural way of life.  The result was the engendering of diseases both violent and diverse. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 152-3).

How can I know which food is best for me?

  • In matters of health, particularly regarding diet and nutrition, the House of Justice advises the friends to seek the help and advice of experts and doctors.  This is what Bahá’u’lláh has recommended and He does not indicate which school of thought or practice they should belong to. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual 19 June 1977 in Health and Healing. p. 48-9).

What’s the relationship between diet and disease?

  • The outer, physical causal factor in disease, however, is a disturbance in the balance, the proportionate equilibrium of all those elements of which the human body is composed.  To illustrate:  the body of man is a compound of many constituent substances, each component being present in a prescribed amount, contributing to the essential equilibrium of the whole.  So long as these constituents remain in their due proportion, according to the natural balance of the whole – that is, no component suffereth a change in its natural proportionate degree and balance, no component being either  augmented or decreased – there will be no physical cause for the incursion of disease.

For example, the starch component must be present to a given amount, and the sugar to a given amount.  So long as each remaineth in its natural proportion to the whole, there will be no cause for the onset of disease.  When, however, these constituents vary as to their natural and due amounts – that is, when they are augmented or diminished – it is certain that this will provide for the inroads of disease.

This question requireth the most careful investigation. . . (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 153).

  • . . . it will be clearly seen that the incursion of disease is due to a disturbance in the relative amounts of the bodys component substances, and that treatment consisteth in adjusting these relative amounts, and that this can be apprehended and made possible by means of foods. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 154-5).
  • But the principal causes of disease are physical, for the human body is composed of numerous elements, but in the measure of an especial equilibrium.  As long as this equilibrium is maintained, man is preserved from disease; but if this essential balance, which is the pivot of the constitution, is disturbed, the constitution is disordered, and disease will supervene.

For instance, there is a decrease in one of the constituent ingredients of the body of man, and in another there is an increase; so the proportion of the equilibrium is disturbed, and disease occurs.  For example, one ingredient must be one thousand grams in weight, and another five grams, in order that the equilibrium be maintained.  The part which is one thousand grams diminishes to seven hundred grams and that which is five grams augments until the measure of the equilibrium is disturbed; then disease occurs.  When by remedies and treatments the equilibrium is reestablished, the disease is banished.  So if the sugar constituent increases, the health is impaired; and when the doctor forbids sweet and starchy foods, the sugar constituent diminishes, the equilibrium is reestablished, and the disease is driven off.

Now the readjustment of these constituents of the human body is obtained by two means – either by medicines or by aliments; and when the constitution has recovered its equilibrium, disease is banished.

All the elements that are combined in man exist also in vegetables; therefore, if one of the constituents which compose the body of man diminishes, and he partakes of foods in which there is much of that diminished constituent, then the equilibrium will be established, and a cure will be obtained.  So long as the aim is the readjustment of the constituents of the body, it can be effected either by medicine or by foods. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 257-9).

Can diet be used to treat illness?

  • Treat disease through diet, by preference, refraining from the use of drugs; and if you find what is required in a single herb, do not resort to a compounded medicament. . .  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 106, in Health and Healing, p. 3).
  • At whatever time highly-skilled physicians shall have developed the healing of illnesses by means of foods, and shall make provision for simple foods, and shall prohibit humankind from living as slaves to their lustful appetites, it is certain that the incidence of chronic and diversified illnesses will abate, and the general health of all mankind will be much improved.  This is destined to come about. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 156).
  • The Báb hath said that the people of Bahá must develop the science of medicine to such a high degree that they will heal illnesses by means of foods.  The basic reason for this is that if, in some component substance of the human body, an imbalance should occur, altering its correct, relative proportion to the whole, this fact will inevitably result in the onset of disease.  If, for example, the starch component should be unduly augmented, or the sugar component decreased, an illness will take control.  It is the function of a skilled physician to determine which constituent of his patient’s body hath suffered diminution, which hath been augmented.  Once he hath discovered this, he must prescribe a food containing the diminished element in considerable amounts, to re-establish the bodys essential equilibrium.  The patient, once his constitution is again in balance, will be rid of his disease. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  p. 154).
  • It is therefore, evident that it is possible to cure by foods, aliments and fruits; but as today the science of medicine is imperfect, this fact is not yet fully grasped.  When the science of medicine reaches perfection, treatment will be given by foods, aliments, fragrant fruits and vegetables, and by various waters, hot and cold in temperature. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 259).

Conclusion

In matters of diet, as in medicine, the Universal House of Justice feels that the believers should be aware that a huge body of scientific knowledge has been accumulated as a guide to our habits and practices.  Here too, as in all other things, the believers should be conscious of the two principles of moderation and courtesy in the way they express their opinions and in deciding whether they should refuse food offered to them or request special foods.

There are, of course, instances where a believer would be fully justified in abstaining from or eating only certain foods for some medical reason, but this is a different matter and would be understood by any  reasonable person.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice 24 January 1977, in Health and Healing, p. 48).

What are your thoughts about diet and food?  Post your comments here: