There are plenty of religions in the world but almost all of them see the connection between health and God. Health care providers have to deal with people of different national, cultural and religious background; therefore, it is necessary to take into account the attitude of patients to the questions of faith and healing. The following religions which are supposed to be minor ones will be studied below in the aspect of health and healing: Buddhism, Baha’i, and Native Americans’ faith.
The Buddhist concepts of health and illness have a significant influence on all health areas (Wichit & Sringernyuang, 2002, p.96). It is important that the meaning of health in terms of the philosophy of Buddhism is very different from the approach introduced by traditional medicine. According to Buddhism, one can divide the concept health and illness into two areas: disease of body which is related to a conventional truth and disease of mind which is associated with ultimate Truth.
Disease of mind which can also be called mental disease is a very significant matter in for many years; however, it is impossible to achieve freedom from mental disease (Wichit & Sringernyuang, 2002, p.97). Buddhist point of view admits that all people regardless age, status and the state of health have diseases; the exception is the arahant – the perfected being. Buddhism considers health to be the highest gain meaning absolute freedom from all sufferings known as nibbana. One should bear in mind that freedom from sufferings does not mean the absence of diseases; it is disease perception and personal attitude that play a huge role in this aspect.
Buddhist perception of diseases of body has much in common with contemporary conception of health and diseases involving physical and mental health. One should remember that Buddhism considers physical illnesses death and to be a part of sufferings and diseases. Traditionally, in modern American society, good health is a desirable privilege; nevertheless Buddhist principles teach that grief, pain and death are usual things for a human being (Wichit & Sringernyuang, 2002, p.98). However, it should be kept in mind that health maintain is acknowledged to be a duty of every person. This point is the same in Christianity: although God can heal people from diseases, it is a sin if a person does harm to his or her own body. Nevertheless, while good health is gifted to Christians by God, Buddhists believe that good health is gained via good behavior throughout previous lives. Inner conciliation and meditations are the ways that help a Buddhist to cope with a disease. From the medical point of view, there is nothing harmful about that.
Following Buddhist principles makes it easier to take the disease as it is; this significantly reduces anxiety and patients’ suffering (Wichit & Sringernyuang, 2002, p.99). Buddhist patients understand that illness is the result of kamma and is a natural thing: this makes them resign themselves and calm down; the latter is very useful because nervousness and despair are never helpful for healing. One should bear in mind that Christian attitude to illnesses also help people to struggle with fear and despair when some illness occurs. Christianity insists on physical sufferings to be helpful for a person’s soul; therefore, a Christian is to take diseases as God’s blessing. Calmness and conciliation are the factors that only facilitate a healing process, so for a health care provider – even if the latter is the representative of an absolutely different religion – it is advisable not to reassure the patient in the effectiveness of Buddhist approach.
The second religion to be considered is a Baha’i’s faith. This is the youngest world religion (Missaghian, 2012). The fundamental principle of the religion is that Baha’u’llah is believed to be the manifestation of God and that God spoke via him (Gandhi, p.51). People who adhere to this religious confession believe that diseases come from God and the treatment also comes from God. Surprisingly, these people believe in Christ, Buddha and Muhammad as manifestations who expressed God’s will in the past, while Baha’u’llah is God’s present manifestation. Followers of this religious direction believe that illness is a kind of test that God arranges for his believers (Gandhi, p.52). Like Christians, Bahai’s believe that sufferings and illnesses makes people closer to God. This, however, does not imply that the believers do nothing about their diseases. According to Bahai’s principles, patients should be cured by both physical and spiritual treatment. This concept does not hinder traditional medical approach: while a doctor deals with physical aspect of a disease, the patient can do spiritual practicing. This spiritual practice includes praying first of all. Bahai’s approach implies that other people can also pray for an ill person. Regarding the latter fact, one could make a parallel with Christianity: Christians pray for other people, not only relatives or close friends, but even for unfamiliar people. Bahai’s like Christians believe that prayer can be helpful both for sick and healthy people, making God do the best for this person. The similar concept is seen in Christianity because Christians know that God always provide the best outcome for people. Sometimes people do not really know what is helpful for them and what is not. For instance, a person catches cold and regrets that high temperature does not allow this person to take a plane and cross the ocean in order to have a very important meeting and sign a contract. The next day, this person learns from the news that the plane crashed and all the passengers died. This is a literal example of how God’s plan that is unclear for a human leads a person the best possible way. This idea is shared both by Christians and Bahai’s. A world vision like this helps a patient to maintain a positive frame of mind even when the state of a patient is really difficult.
This religion provides prayers that should be read every day, not only when some health problems occurs. This practice has something in common with Christianity: a Christian should also pray every day regardless the state of heath. The last but not the list principle of Baha’is emphasizes the importance of being always happy (Missaghian, 2012). Baha’is agree that it is easy to be happy and joyful when there are no troubles; but it is crucial to lose heart in situations of illness or other troubles (Missaghian, 2012). One can find the same principle in Christianity: Jesus taught people to bear hardships without grumble following His example.
What is also helpful in this religion is that it advocates a healthy lifestyle: the religion prohibits alcohol and tobacco consumption, sexual relationships out of marriage, and drugs abuse. In this light, the religion can be helpful for a patient, and there is no use to tell the patient off this religious world view. Furthermore, if this person stops praying, it is most likely that this time will be spent on moaning and self-pitying.
The third faith discussed in this paper belongs to Native Americans. This may be the most exotic religious approach in spite of the fact that it belongs to American ancestors. For Native Americans, the most important thing that concerns their health is maintaining the harmony between body, mind, and spirit (“Native American Medicine”). According to Native Americans’ believes, when the harmony is destroyed, the man can get sick. Treatment involves the treatment by herbal medicine and various spiritual practices. The latter help a person to reach the harmony in the context of the Creator, the tribe and inside a person. Like Christians and Buddhists, Native Americans admit that people are responsible for their health. Native Americans are very close to nature and use the treasures of nature for their medical purposes. This is combined with various rituals. This faith is very mysterious and full of different strange amulets and rituals. What makes it common with Christianity, is some things that are believed to help a person in a difficult situation or unhealthy state. For instance, Native Americans keep or wear different bundles that help them; Christians have their Cross which protects them. Native Americans use the power of hot stones; Christians drink water from saint water in order to improve both physical and mental state. Native Americans arrange a great range of rituals. Meanwhile, Christians have several sacraments, like Eucharistic, which help a person to gain physical and mental health and be closer to God. It seems very unlikely that a Native American can be reassured to follow the tribe’s traditions. And it is dubious that Native Americans with strong believes and traditions will turn for a western doctor for help. However, if happens, a health care provide should not try to intervene into this person’s spiritual world: after all, it looks absolutely unfruitful.
Many representatives of healthcare agree that faith assists the healing process. In spite of the fact that all the tree religions presented above are very different in comparison to each other and Christianity, they all have some similarities. The three faiths and Christianity imply a tie connection between mind and body – and between sin and health correspondingly. Both Jesus and Buddha agree that it is necessary to have a pure heart (“Can you be a Buddhist Christian?”). Christians, Buddhists, Baha’is, and Native Americans know for sure that when a person gets sick, the first step is looking into the soul and turn to God. Each of the religions has certain methods of coping with diseases and reducing sufferings. Thus, Christians and Baha’is pray a lot, Buddhists start their meditation, and Native Americans wear various amulets.
Healthcare providers deal with thousands of patients every day. The patients have different believes, traditions and world vision. All the three kinds of faith considered above are very different from the traditional medical scientific approach. Each of them has certain peculiarities, but all of them consider the entity of spirit and human body. The task of healthcare provider is maximum assistance. In order to achieve the best results in treatment, doctors should take into account the importance of faith in the healing process. There is evidence when people overcame cancer with the aspirin because the patients believed that the pill would help. Health care providers should not try to reassure the patients regarding their religious believes because this can give the opposite effect. Moreover, this may hinder patients’ ability to trust their doctors.