‘Cure’ is a complex issue. It is not just relief of one symptom to be replaced by another. Relief of symptoms is like cutting off the shoots. The roots of the malady lurk unseen in the secret recesses and throw up their bitter fruit again. The roots, the soil that nurtures them and the climate, all need to be addressed, along with the shoots, for a total cure. But symptom removal is what most remedies do. And in this respect, there can be little doubt about the rapidity of action with which the symptom complex is contained. The effect in a few cases at least can appear as dazzlingly miraculous, creating a sudden turn of events thwarting the immediate threat to life. And that indeed is the real place of modern medicine, in the handling of life-threatening emergencies, provided we use it judiciously. In this sense they can buy time for us to tackle deeper issues and allow intervention at levels that are subtler.
Homoeopathy and acupuncture are two examples of remedies acting at a deeper level. But precisely for this reason, there may be time taken to change appearances. It is quick and easy to detoxify drinking water by putting two tablets in the glass before drinking. This used to be (and perhaps still is) part of the standard kit of a soldier. But the source of water remains polluted. Detoxifying at the source necessarily takes longer and may need alternative water arrangements during that period. But once done, it is more complete. Allopathy provides us with that stopgap alternative.
Collaborating with Nature
An ideal remedy should collaborate with Nature. That is to say, it must either boost Nature’s line of defence (immuno-stimulants, for example) or else supplement it (as do antibiotics). But strong and violent remedies (including early use of heavy antibiotics) simply suppress the information of disease from reaching physical consciousness. In fact, it may even confuse it. That makes it difficult for Nature to respond appropriately. Imagine a frontline battalion, not sending the correct picture of the battle to its rear party. What for us is a disease with symptoms is for Nature a valuable pattern of information. Nature reads the pattern thrown up by its other wave of movement. It reads it dispassionately, without fear of death, without any shrinking recoil (as is the case for our ego-bound human consciousness). It then corrects the movement by reintegrating it in a more harmonious way with the whole. So long as the aberrant movement is not reintegrated, it throws itself up again in another form.
Collaborating with Nature is to acknowledge this deep intent of Nature first, and next study the lines of processes it uses towards fulfilment of this purpose. And since there is not one or two, but many lines of force through which Nature works at each level, so we have many systems of therapy. Each system chooses to observe one line of Nature’s movement, works upon it, studies it in the manner appropriate to that level, discovers the principles behind it and formulates it into a method of practice. Often these diverse systems try to convey the same thing but use different languages since each works at a different level. At a point of time when medicine had not parted from holism by diving into details, there were almost similar descriptions of personality types (seen from a physician’s point of view) and their relation to diseases in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and Allopathy. The pranic healer readjusting the flow of energy through the body often speaks of congestion and shrinking. The modern allopath perhaps uses similar language but does not refer to the energy pattern (of which he has no clue) but rather to the physical condition of the organ. There are therefore points of meeting, even as there are important points of divergence. Modern medicine in this case appears more like a divergent member from the rest of the group, which can fairly well complement each other. The main problem of modern medicine is that it has lost sight of the holism from which it was born. It has deviated far and deep into the woods, labelled trees and studied their colours and tasted their fruits, but in the process lost sight of the forest and direction of the path. It is like a child lost in the woods through an excess of curiosity. The result is that in trying to correct one problem, it creates another. It is like the process of industrialisation, which undoubtedly gave us many useful things, but when it came to be driven by excess of vitalistic, commercial interests (rather than a quest for genuinely making things better) it disturbed the whole ecological world. One can nightmarishly imagine a day when we will live only indoors, where each house has an oxygen-generating plant while the air outside has become dangerously polluted. So too, one can envisage a day when bombarded with chemical bullets (called medicines) mankind as a race loses its natural ability to fight disease. And then, we need just one little virus (which also has been manufactured in the arsenal of weapons) to destroy an entire race, much as plague did in the so-called Dark Ages.
Relief versus Cure
We forget too soon that man, the virus, bacillus, cholesterol, and sugar, and everything else has lived, survived and evolved for millions of years without our one or two or three hundred years’ old modern medicine. And before man, countless forms of life have thrived upon this planet and more species face the risk of extinction from man than that inflicted by an entire cycle of Nature. Most of all, man threatens his own existence as a race, albeit with apparent help. The comfortable cure, the handy pill, all of them make our physical consciousness a little more obscure, inert, dull and less responsive, even though they may alter appearances. Thanks to these wonderful remedies that save our bodies, we are losing faith in our own powers to heal and recover. And it is never a healthy trend to become so dependent on external machinery, whether physical or chemical. The challenge of life is lost, the stress to adapt and thereby evolve through assimilation and harmony is taken away; what is left is a static humanity, perfectly secure but perfectly helpless (despite all the material powers at its disposal) like the paralysed child who never falls.
But what about the alternative systems, do they really cure us? All that we can say is that just as modern medicine has its place in ‘buying time’ in emergencies, so too these systems also ‘buy time’ and also help to a certain extent, though at a deeper level. Flower essences for instance help us reorganise the mental/emotional parts of our nature. Lifestyle changes can put our vital-physical parts into better rhythm. Psychotherapeutic interventions can help us change unhealthy attitudes and thereby clear the soil of those elements on which the roots of malady thrive. But none of these dissolve the seed of falsehood buried deep within human consciousness, so deep that before it, even the might of Nature is helpless. It is as if there was a second, reverse side of Nature, as powerful as the obverse side, which cancels everything, mocks at every effort, negates every ‘cure’. It is this that must be tackled for a radical and permanent cure.
“A theory is only a constructed idea-script which represents an imperfect human observation of a line of processes that Nature follows or can follow; another theory is a different idea-script of other processes that also she follows or can follow. Allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, Kaviraji, hakimi have all caught hold of Nature and subjected her to certain processes; each has its successes and failures. Let each do its own work in its own way. I do not see any need for fights and recriminations. For me all are only outward means and what really works are unseen forces behind; as they act, the outer means succeed or fail — if one can make the process a right channel for the right force, then the process gets its full utility — that is all.” 
The Problem and the Solution
The remedy indeed lies where the problem is. It is not found outside or elsewhere! The problem and its solution coexist. If there is a weakness within us, the strength to conquer it always exists within and in an exact proportion. The weakness is the shadow that stimulates the emergence of the light from within. In the very heart of the seed of death is the seed of eternal life awaiting its hour of discovery. In the densest darkness lies concealed the brightest light. In the slumber of the cells sleeps an almighty power. Surrounded by falsehood thrives the eternal truth waiting to be born when the earth is ready. Disease is one means to awaken the earth and its aspiration towards the highest light. It is one means to prepare the soil of earth for the fruition of the seed of eternal life. It is a call for the inner healer to step forward, remove the weeds and thorns in our nature and clear the soil of matter and the atmosphere of our mind, so that the tree of life can bear the fruit of health and its flowers spread the fragrance of love upon earth.
The remedy and the solution indeed coexist. It is seen in operation in the wonderfully precise ecological balance of Nature where weeds grow with the harvest and so protect it from preying birds. So too we find that the trees and fruits of each region are meant to nourish and nurture the people living in those areas taking into account their specific problems (palm trees in humid places, for example). So too, one often finds ‘antidote’ herbs to poisonous plants and reptiles growing in very close vicinities. The Ayurvedic physician utilises this principle in an interesting way. The herbal extracts (as opposed to the active ingredients), as in the opium plant, ‘digitalis’ tree and sarpagandha, do not usually exhibit the side effects known to their active ingredients. It is as if Mother Nature mixes things in just the right proportion so as to balance the adverse effects in herbs needed for diseases. Our modern civilisation has often played the role of thief, stealing the active chemicals (oil, medicine cosmetics, salts, sugar, etc.) while throwing away the rest of the plant. But stealth has its own untoward consequences and the side effects of this ‘plunderer’s approach’ are only beginning to become apparent. Homeopathy utilizes this principle effectively in its famous dictum of ‘like cures like’. The martial arts use this principle in a negative way by using the energy of the opponent to defeat him. So too in some tantric traditions, it is held that if one can hold within (without giving way) a negative energy for a sufficient period and apply to it the power of will (tapasya = heat) it can undergo a powerful transmutation to its positive counterpart, much like coal turning to diamond. The same principle applies to our psychological being and its growth.
The Mother reveals:
“The nature of your difficulty indicates the nature of the victory you will gain, the victory you will exemplify in Yoga. Thus, if there is persistent selfishness, it points to a realisation of universality as your most prominent achievement in the future. And, when selfishness is there, you have also the power to reverse this very difficulty into its opposite, a victory of utter wideness.
When you have something to realise, you will have in you just the characteristic which is the contradiction of that something. Face to face with the defect, the difficulty, you say, “Oh, I am like that! How awful it is!” But you ought to see the truth of the situation. Say to yourself, “My difficulty shows me clearly what I have ultimately to represent. To reach the absolute negation of it, the quality at the other pole — this is my mission.”
Even in ordinary life, we have sometimes the experience of contraries. He who is very timid and has no courage in front of circumstances proves capable of bearing the most!
To one who has the aspiration for the Divine, the difficulty which is always before him is the door by which he will attain God in his own individual manner: it is his particular path towards the Divine Realisation.
There is also the fact that if somebody has a hundred difficulties it means he will have a tremendous realisation — provided, of course, there are in him patience and endurance and he keeps the aspiring flame of Agni burning against those defects.
And remember: The Grace of the Divine is generally proportioned to your difficulties.”
The difficulty therefore is an opportunity, like a door refusing to open, even though it is the gateway to a new world. It is our conditioned blindness (or ignorance) which prevents us from seeing the remedy even when it is extremely simple and staring us in the face. It is absolutely true that if the seeds of illness are within our subconscient parts, then the fire to burn them lies concealed in our superconscient nature. If the forces of division, disintegration and disease move within us, then the forces of unity, harmony and health also lie dormant in us. If we are doomed to go through the gates of death, then we are also destined to taste the consciousness of immortality. If fear, doubt and worry create in us the conditions for illness, then within us we have a storehouse of faith, trust and peace that can rejuvenate us and bring back the climate of cure. If we seem to be hopelessly condemned to succumb and fall, then we are also being made ready for the Grace that uplifts us, giving a new birth into a new light and freedom. If there are forces of illness, disease, and death then there are also forces of health and healing and harmony and life.
“It may be said in an absolute way that an evil always carries its own remedy. One might say that the cure of any suffering coexists with the suffering. So, instead of seeing an evil ‘useless’ and ‘stupid’ as it is generally thought to be, you see that the progress, the evolution which has made the suffering necessary — which is the cause of the suffering and the very reason for its existence — attains the intended result; and at the same time the suffering is cured, for those who are able to open themselves and receive. The three things — suffering as a means of progress, progress, and the cure of suffering — are coexistent, simultaneous; that is to say, they do not follow each other, they are there at the same time.” 
Treating the Illness
For each plane of consciousness, there is a right law and process of development and growth. Similarly, there are ways to deal with the persistent problems of the subconscient nature. There are also means to equip ourselves against the onslaught of the universal adverse and hostile forces. But first of all we must discover the forces of health and healing within us. These forces are like an armour against every kind of disease. At the same time they are also therapeutic against illnesses in general. From an inner point of view, the type of illness does not matter so much as other factors within our constitution that help or hinder the action of these forces. We define an illness by its outer manifestation and therefore focus too much on specific therapies. This is only natural since outwardly we find a great deal of difference in the signs and symptoms, in pathology and altered physiology. But the deeper we go, we discover that these distinctions are nothing more than playthings of Nature. The mind, however, caught up so much in the world of division, gets enamoured by these surface distinctions and makes a whole science of it. It lacks the total view, the ultimate vision. As we grow in sight and insight we discover the very futility, or else at best a temporary utility, of making so much fuss about the different pathologies.
From a deeper point of view, we trace the roots to a few common problems that set into motion a whole world of different illness patterns. It is like (as in the case of our physical appearances) a few common genes deciding by their mutual combinations the endless variation of the phenotype. The actual classification therefore becomes redundant. The real necessity is to get a clue about the predominant plane involved, the activity of different forces, the receptivity of the body and mind to the energies of health and healing, the choice of the soul including its need for a particular experience and finally the evolutionary necessity of the illness and the utility of cure in our growth. The balance of all this plus the secret account of our destiny decides the final outcome and not the actual therapy given. The outer treatment is at best an occasion, even may be a useful occasion but never the final cause. As humanity evolves beyond its present limited self, it is bound to progressively discard these outer methods and rely more and more upon inner ones.
“There is a sort of protection round the body which we call the nervous envelope….They (the subtle forces of illness) first weaken or break through the nervous envelope, the aura. If that is strong and whole, a thousand million germs will not be able to do anything to you. The envelope pierced, they attack the subconscient mind in the body, sometimes also the vital mind or mind proper — prepare the illness by fear or thought of illness.” 
 Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, p. 514
 The Mother, CWM 3, Questions and Answers 1929-1931, p. 143, ‘Difficulties in Yoga’
 The Mother, CWM 11, Notes on the Way, p. 43
 Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 31, Letters on Yoga IV, pp. 558, 569