Sunday, December 26, 2010

M.K. Gandhi on Akash

The following is an abridged version of Gandhi's chapter "Akash (Ether?)" in A Key to Health. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1948. (p. 77-81).

…The first lesson to be learnt is this, that we should not put any partition 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… 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 ceases to be a vehicle for self-indulgence. He will make use of his body for the realization of this unity with the infinite. In the course of 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 surroundings as open as possible. He will not fill the house with unnecessary furniture and will use the minimum of clothes that are necessary. Many households 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 amounts of dust and act as a breeding place for insect life… [M]y desire to be in tune with the infinite has saved me from many complications in life. It led not merely to simplicity of household 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 in 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 yet possesses everything...
It follows that one should make it a point to sleep in the open. Sufficient covering should be used to protect oneself against the inclemencies of the weather… 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 everchanging beautiful panorama of the heavens. He will never tire of the scene and it will not dazzle or hurt his eyes… To watch the different starry constellations floating in their majesty is a feast for the eyes…
Let us descend from the akash above to the akash 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… Similarly we must not fill up the digestive tract with unnecessary foodstuffs. We should eat only as much as we need and no more… The vast space surrounding us is the standing testimony of the truth.