Moral health and religion
A striking feature about non-contagious diseases is
that they are mostly linked to life styles and ways of living.
Accordingly, they not only do not pose an immediate and
devastating threat to the state of health of the public, since
they are not infectious, but could also be contained and kept
within limits. However, until these containment measures are
effectively carried out, state expenditure incurred in managing
non-contagious diseases could be very high and this is certainly
true in the case of Sri Lanka.
We have it on the authority of Health Minister Maithripala
Sirisena that the health bill stemming from state efforts at
controlling the proliferation of non-communicable diseases is
beginning to eat into government coffers in a big way.
Accordingly, a policy with regard to managing the increase in
the incidence of such ailments is already in place and a
principal plank of this policy is to induce in the public the
relevant life style changes which could help in reducing the
occurrence of non-contagious diseases.
Of the non-communicable ailments currently growing rampantly
in this country, heart disease, diabetes and cancer seem to be
vying for first place, with depression and other forms of
neurosis contending strongly with them for predominance. It is
the considered view of medical authorities that such ailments
are closely linked with the life style of people and their
emotional states. The close bearing the latter factors have on
the incidence of disease is illustrated very strongly in the
epidemic proportions diabetes is taking in this country. We now
know for a fact that sedentary occupations, twinned with stress
and worry, are ideal recipes for diabetes and heart disease.
Therefore, there is no denying that physical inactivity and
negative emotions have a determining influence on our chief
health worries, which in turn are costing the public purse more
than a pretty penny. As we see it, most of these diseases are
psycho-somatic in nature and could be brought within the
boundaries of manageability through a degree of physical
activity and stress-free living, cemented by some of the
cardinal virtues hallowed by religion from time immemorial. It
is in the fitness of things that we reflect deeply on these
realities at a time when Vesak is being celebrated almost
everywhere in this country, accentuated by the 2600th
Sambuddhathva Jayanthi commemoration. May be for the first time
in a very long time, the relevance of the Buddha’s timeless
message to humanity is being ruminated upon by most
contemplative persons in this country and the moment could not
be more opportune to relate internal states of the human to
As we mentioned yesterday, this country is never short of
religious bodies and institutions of any kind over the length
and breadth of its territory and it is a matter for regret that
the value of religion is not always uniformly realized in this
country. It is, indeed, a very valuable resource for national
rejuvenation that is going abegging. This resource needs to be
harnessed effectively and put to positive use and we hope the
current celebrations would spur Sri Lankans into coming to grips
with the rich possibilities in religion.
However, it is gratifying to note that national leaders are
now taking it upon themselves to underline the importance of
religious practices and we hope that the example set in this
regard by President Mahinda Rajapaksa would catch on steadily
among our populace. It is little realized that competitiveness
generates an ugly discharge of ill-feeling and bad blood among
persons and this factor in turn has a deleterious impact on the
physical health of the human.
That is, emotional and physical ill-health are closely
intertwined. Unfortunately, Sri Lankan society has been veering
in the direction of very aggressive competitiveness and
acquisitiveness over the years, resulting in considerable
emotional and physical ill-health among our population. Small
wonder that heart disease and diabetes, for instance, are
increasing disconcertingly. Besides, growing unhappiness and
frustration over the inability to realize dreams and schemes are
generating a maelstrom of mental illnesses, with depression
forging ahead as a number one debilitator. It would not be
surprising if depression and other stress-linked ailments come
to be closely associated with the numerous cancers which are
surreptitiously growing in our midst.
What this all boils down to is that contendedness could no
longer be considered a ‘given’ in many a life. Inner calm and
happiness are not only hard to come by but need to be earned the
hard way, considering that the struggle for existence has in the
case of many persons, turned harsh and punishing.
The government is obliged to make a major effort to
popularize spiritual as opposed to crude material advancement.
It is spiritual development that religious institutions in
collaboration with the state, need to promote and sustain. This
is the path to emotional and physical health. A great saving of
public funds is bound to follow.