Religion, faith and medicine


Holistic medicine is an integral part of a healthy body, mind and spirit. Ideally, holistic medicine is balanced application of conventional and contemporary therapies. The origin of a disease is considered to be a manifestation of social, environmental, mental, physical and spiritual elements. The aim of any practitioner of holistic medicine therefore is to address this particular imbalance. The scientific advancement and advent of allopathy considered the human body to be a machine and separated spirituality and medicine into watertight compartments. However, there has been a recent revival of spiritual and religious healing methodology which supplements the modern medicine.

Medicine and Religion

Effective interaction between medicine and religion may be expressed in the following four perspectives –

Medicine and Religion are different – As per this view, medicine and religion are considered to be radically opposite to each other and it is asserted that they have nothing in common.

Medicine and Religion have a common goal – As per this view, medicine and religion is interspersed with each other. Both of them try to enhance the quality of human life. Numerous examples can be quoted where medicines were applied in combination with spiritual practices to holistically heal an individual.

Medicine and Religion are complementary – As per this perspective, medicine and religion are complementary to each other. They supplement the effectiveness of each other to improve human living. ‘Daiva Vyapashraya Chikitsa’ is a pertinent example of how spiritual practice can be combined with therapeutic applications to cure human ailments.

Religion may help people cope with stress – As per this view, religion combined with medicine to bring mind-body communion and thereby aids the individual to counter stress or emotional breakdown.

Clinical experiments have further established through rigorous empirical activities that spiritual boost in combination with advanced medical science can effectively address human physical/mental concerns.

Faith, a Great Healer

Faith healing essentially theorizes that human ailments and injuries may be treated by certain practitioners via there their communication with higher spiritual beings. Since time immemorial, references have been found about numerous saintly personalities curing hundreds of people through miraculous powers.

Faith healing can be performed through prayers, chants and even meditation. In 1998, Duke University research papers established the fact that religious individuals effectively countered physical ailments than normal human beings.

Shamanic Healing

In existence for thousands of years, Shamanic healing is a combination of spirituality, magic, folklore and medicine. It originally evolved from tribal and community gatherings. Shamanism considers the human spirit to be a part of the greater whole and is the causative factor of all events in life. Therefore, Shamanic healing specifically addresses the spiritual concerns of the individual and supplements it with medicinal dosages to cure humans. The practitioner or the Shaman delivers Shamanic healing to the affected through communications with the ethereal world. This communication process is established through chanting, ritualistic drumbeating and intake of hallucinogenic plants.

Medicine, the Best Practical Religion

The practice of medicine can become the best practical religion. According to Swami Vivekananda, a human being is the best and highest temple of god. To consider the sick and suffering as veritable embodiments of god and to serve them in the spirit of consecration is the first condition for transforming medical practice into a religious act. We may best summarize the purport of the inseparable relation between the practice of religion and the practice of medicine in the words of Sister Nivedita as she explained the practical philosophy of Vedanta in the light of Sri Ramkrishna and Vivekananda’s teachings “No distinction henceforth” she said “between sacred and secular. To Labor is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion. To have and to hold is as stern a trust as to quit and to avoid.”

Published On: 08-03-2014