February 4th is World Cancer Day. On this occasion, campaigns are held to spread awareness and also raise funds towards research, prevention and cures for cancer. In this article, an excerpt from “Cancer – A Yogic Perspective”, Sadhguru looks at how the yogic system views cancer and what can be done to avoid the disease.
Why Does Cancer Happen?
Sadhguru: If you have read what has been written about cancer, you may have noticed that opinions and concepts seem to change frequently, sometimes dramatically. But the fundamental physiology, the chemistry, and the very basis of your existence has not changed. So why is it that these concepts keep changing? From concepts to consciousness is too much distance. With concepts, there can be no consciousness. So, rather than reading everything from the outside and getting confused as to what is true and what is false, if you start listening to your body and gain a deeper understanding and insight of your own system, you would be able to handle it more efficiently.
We are looking at it from an experiential perspective, because what is you is everything. Anything that is worth knowing can be known in a single moment if you are willing to turn inward. You may not discover how to build a nuclear reactor, but you would know how the atoms in your body are behaving. If you turn inward, it is all right there – you are a cosmos by yourself.
There are millions of people right now going through different states of cancer. These things occur for a variety of reasons and all of us are a part of it. This is not only because of external situations, but also because of how you maintain your system. It is not just external chemical influences that are acting on you. Your body is the biggest chemical factory. If you do not handle this factory properly, it produces the wrong kind of chemicals and freaks out on you in some way.
Yogic Perspective of Cancer
In yoga, we do not look at cancer as different types. Where and how it manifests in a particular individual may depend on various aspects of one’s physiology, genetics, lifestyle, diet and so on, but we always see the root cause as an imbalance in what is called the pranamaya kosha or the energy body.
Fundamentally, the yogic system looks at physiology as five different layers. We will look at the first three; the other two are not concerned with health. The first layer is called the annamaya kosha or the food body. The food that you eat has become this body, isn’t it? If you do not eat anything, this body will dissipate. So, the physical body is referred to as the food body.
Until recently, medical science was only involved with the food body or annamaya kosha. They did not focus on anything else. They thought they could handle all the infections in the world, but then they found they were unable to do anything about chronic ailments like blood pressure and diabetes. This is because they were looking at the food body, which is only an external manifestation.
Within this is the manomaya kosha, which means the mental body. Today, medical science recognizes that man is psycho-soma – whatever happens in the mind naturally happens in the body. For example, if you create mental tension, your blood pressure will go up. So, there is a mental body that needs to be properly taken care of. This mental body and physical body can function only because there is an energy body. The work of yoga is fundamentally on the level of the energy body or the pranamaya kosha. From the yogic perspective, cancer and other disturbances or diseases that the system manufactures from within, are caused by an imbalance in the energy body.
Cancerous cells are present in everyone’s body, but having a few cancerous cells that are disorganized will not affect your life or health in any way. However, if you create certain situations within the energy body, they organize themselves – they go from petty crime to organized crime!
Cancer Cells: the Body’s Criminals
If we use an analogy to describe cancerous cells, we could say they are like criminals in a society. If there are individuals here and there doing little things, it does not really affect the society as a whole. There are petty criminals in every town who do a little pick-pocketing now and then – no problem. But if fifty of them get organized, the whole atmosphere in the town suddenly changes. When these fifty criminals come together, it becomes dangerous for you to step out on the street. That is all that happens in the body. If the cancerous cells loaf around by themselves, they are not a problem. Once they all gather in one place and hit it off, it becomes an issue.
Initially, a criminal is happy picking somebody’s pocket. Two of them dream of breaking into a house. Five of them meet and dream of robbing a bank. If the law enforcement is conscious and active, it makes sure criminals never gather in big numbers and become a major problem. The same is true with the body. You have to dissolve these cells before they gang up.
Due to certain “blanks” that happen in the pranamaya kosha, either because of attitude, lifestyle, food, or so many other reasons, the energy body gets affected. If the flow of energy is not proper in certain areas of the body, cancerous cells will generally choose those places to grow and fester. When it comes to chronic diseases, the root cause is always in the energy body. Once the energy body is disturbed, it will naturally manifest both physiologically and psychologically.
For example, we generally find that for people who smoke regularly, their breathing is very different from non-smokers. Because of this restricted way of breathing, naturally the energy levels in that area become low and that becomes a place cancer is attracted to.
Another example is breast cancer, which is rampant today, especially in Western societies. This is because a lot of women do not conceive when they are at a child-bearing age. The mechanism of the breast, which was mainly made to feed the offspring, is either not utilized or is only utilized during a specific time period. In the past, if a woman went through the normal process of conception, from the age of around 16 or 18 till about 45 she would conceive periodically, which would have kept her whole system, the uterus and the breast active in so many ways. This would have also kept the energy flowing.
Today, some women do not conceive at all, or for most women, child-bearing is over before they are 30 years of age. Then for another 15 to 20 years of their life when they are still able to bear children, the necessary hormones and enzymes are still being produced but are not made use of. Because it is not made use of the way it should have been physiologically, that part of the body becomes low energy, which attracts cancerous cells and becomes a place for them to accumulate.
Does this mean we must produce more children? Please don’t. This is an already overpopulated world. There are other solutions for this. Rather than allowing it to happen according to the atmospheres in which you live, it could be corrected by balancing the system and making it a more controlled process. There are certain types of yogic practices or inner work to control the body’s hormonal levels, which can handle this.
The Energy Body - Health Connection
If your energy body is in full flow and properly balanced, there cannot be any disease either in your physical body or your mental body. People come to us with asthma for example, and we give them a certain practice that may release them from the condition. Someone else comes for diabetes, and we give that person the same practice, which works for them too. This is because we are not treating the disease as such. The disease is only a manifestation of the disturbance that exists in the energy body.
Fundamentally, yoga is not a form of treatment. This is a way of balancing your inner energies. We never really treat the physical or mental body in that sense. Irrespective of what the disease is, we only aim at balancing and activating the energy body.
Editor's Note: For more of Sadhguru’s insights on cancer and healthy living, download the ebook, Cancer – A Yogic Perspective.