Or The Yogi Philosophy Of Physical Well-Being
by Yogi Ramacharaka (1904)
Our Friend, The Vital Force.
Many people make the mistake of considering Disease as an entity—a real
thing—an opponent of Health. This is incorrect. Health is the natural state
of Man, and Disease is simply the absence of Health. If one can comply with
the laws of Nature he cannot be sick. When some law is violated, abnormal
conditions result, and certain symptoms manifest them-selves, and to which
symptoms we give the name of some disease. That which we call Disease is
simply the result of Nature's attempt to throw off, or dislodge, the abnormal
condition, in order to resume normal action.
We are so apt to consider, and speak of, Disease as an entity. We say that
"it" attacks us—that "it" seats itself in an
organ—that it runs it's [sic] course—that "it" is very
malignant—that "it" is quite mild—that "it"
persistently resists all treatment—that "it" yields
readily—etc., etc. We speak of it as if it were an entity possessed of
character, disposition and vital qualities. We consider it as something which
takes possession of us and uses its power for our destruction. We speak of it
as we would a wolf in a sheepfold—a weasel in the chicken roost-a rat in the
granery—and go about fighting it as we would one of the animals above
mentioned. We seek to kill it, or at least to scare it away.
Nature is not fickle or unreliable. Life manifests itself within the body in
pursuance to well established laws, and pursues its way, slowly, rising until
it reaches its zenith, then gradually going down the decline until the time
comes for the body to be thrown off like an old, well-used garment, when the
soul steps out on its mission of further development. Nature never intended
that a man should part with his body until a ripe old age was attained, and
the Yogis know that if Nature's laws are observed from childhood, the death of
a young or middle aged person from disease would be as rare as is death from
There is within every physical body, a certain vital force which is constantly
doing the best it can for us, notwithstanding the reckless way in which we
violate the cardinal principles of right living. Much of that which we call
disease is but a defensive action of this vital force-a remedial effect. It is
not a downward action but an upward action on the part of the living organism.
The action is abnormal, because the conditions are abnormal, and the whole
recuperative effort of the vital force is exerted toward the restoration of
The first great principle of the Vital Force is self-preservation .
This principle is ever in evidence, wherever life exists. Under its action the
male and female are attracted—the embryo and infant are provided with
nourishment—the mother is caused to bear heroically the pains of
maternity-the parents are impelled to shelter and protect their offspring
under the most adverse circumstances—Why? Because all this means the
instinct of race-preservation .
But the instinct of preservation of individual life is equally strong.
"All that a man hath will he give for his life," saith the writer,
and while it is not strictly true of the developed man, it is sufficiently
true to use for the purpose of illustrating the principle of
self-preservation. And this instinct is not of the Intellect, but is found
down among the foundation stones of being. It is an instinct which
often overrules Intellect. It makes a man's legs "run away with him"
when he had firmly resolved to stand in a dangerous position—it causes a
shipwrecked man to violate some of the principles of civilization, causing him
to kill and eat his comrade and drink his blood—it has made wild beasts of
men in the terrible "Black Hole"—and under many and varying
conditions it asserts it supremacy. It is working always for life—more
life—for health-more health. And it often makes us sick in order to make us
healthier-brings on a disease in order to get rid of some foul matter which
our carelessness and folly has allowed to intrude in the system.
This principle of self-preservation on the part of the Vital Force, also moves
us along in the direction of health, as surely as does the influence within
the magnetic needle make it point due north. We may turn aside, not heeding
the impulse, but the urge is always there. The same instinct is within us,
which, in the seed, causes it to put forth its little shoot, often moving
weights a thousand times heavier than itself, in its effort to get to the
sunlight. The same impulse causes the sapling to shoot upward from the ground.
The same principle causes roots to spread downward and outward. In each case,
although the direction is different, each move is in the right direction.
If we are wounded, the Vital Force begins to heal the wound, doing the work
with wonderful sagacity and precision. If we break a bone, all that we, or the
surgeon may do, is to place the bones into juxtoposition [sic] and keep them
there, while the great Vital Force knits the fractured parts together. If we
fall, or our muscles or ligaments are torn, all that we can do is to observe
certain things in the way of attention, and the Vital Force starts in to do
its work, and drawing on the system for the necessary materials, repairs the
All physicians know, and their schools teach, that if a man is in good
physical condition, his Vital Force will cause him to recover from almost any
condition excepting when the vital organs are destroyed. When the physical
system has been allowed to run down, recovery is much more difficult, if,
indeed, not impossible, as the efficiency of the Vital Force is impaired and
is compelled to work under adverse conditions. But rest assured that it is
doing the best it can for you, always, under the existing conditions. If Vital
Force cannot do for you all that it aims to do, it will not give up the
attempt as hopeless, but will accommodate itself to circumstances and make the
best of it. Give it a free hand and it will keep you in perfect
health—restrict it by irrational and unnatural methods of living, and it
will still try to pull you through, and will serve you until the end, to the
best of its ability, in spite of your ingratitude and stupidity. It will fight
for you to the finish.
The principle of accommodation is manifested all through all forms of
life. A seed dropped into the crevice of a rock, when it begins to grow either
becomes squeezed into the shape of the rock, or, if it be strong enough,
splits the rock in twain and attains its normal shape. So, in the case of Man,
who manages to live and thrive in all climates, and conditions, the Vital
Force has accommodated itself to the varying conditions, and, where it could
not split the rock, it sent out the sprout in a somewhat distorted shape, but
still alive and hardy.
No organism can become diseased while the proper conditions for health are
observed. Health is but life under normal conditions, while disease is life
under ah-normal conditions. The conditions which caused a man to grow to a
healthy, vigorous manhood are necessary to keep him in health and vigor. Given
the right condition, the Vital Force will do its best work, but given
imperfect conditions the Vital Force will be able to manifest but imperfectly,
and more or less of what we call disease ensues. We are living in a
civilization which has forced a more or less unnatural mode of life upon us,
and the Vital Force finds it hard to do as well for us as it would like. We do
not eat naturally (1 rink naturally; sleep naturally; breathe naturally; or
dress naturally. We "have done those things which we ought not to have
done, and we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and
there is no Health within us "—or, we might add, as little health as we
We have dwelt upon the matter of the friendliness of the Vital Force, for the
reason that it is a matter usually overlooked by those who have not made a
study of it. It forms a part of the Yogi Philosophy of Hatha Yoga, and the
Yogis take it largely into consideration in their lives. They know that they
have a good friend and a strong ally in the Vital Force, and they allow it to
flow freely through them, and try to interfere as little as possible with its
operations. They know that the Vital Force is ever awake to their well-being
and health, and they repose the greatest confidence in it.
Much of the success of Hatha Yoga consists of methods best calculated to allow
the Vital Force to work freely and without hindrance, and its methods and
exercises are largely devoted to that end. To clear the track of obstructions,
and to give the chariot of the Vital Force the right of way on a smooth clear
road, is the aim of the Hatha Yogi. Follow his precepts and it will be well
with your body.