Gifts of Illness

When chronic conditions can provide discipline and focus in one’s life

BKS Iyengar at 0:19 of this video famously stated, "I was born with a gift of illnesses, one after the other ..." . Similarly, I too was blessed with a few gifts in my life in terms of chronic conditions that require discipline and active management. When I was younger, I was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes. My body did not produce insulin. Though I did not have the common markers of this condition (from blood and genetic testing), I still had to deal with all the "benefits" of this mysterious condition. However, the first feeling I got was, life became extremely simplified. Many people who are free of chronic conditions are often faced with a plethora of choices in life, like which meal to order in a restaurant among 50 mind-boggling choices. I had no such difficulty. It is usually that one low glycemic-index vegetarian meal that is there on the menu for the odd person like me. With the discipline of a yogic lifestyle, I have managed to keep my HbA1c (a measure of how good the blood glucose control is) between 4.8 and 5.2, which is better than that of most "healthy people" my age and even lesser than my age, so much so that my primary care doctor would often say "If all my patients were like you, I will be left without a job". The shloka in chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita was always an inspiration to me.

व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिरेकेह कुरुनन्दन |

बहुशाखा ह्यनन्ताश्च बुद्धयोऽव्यवसायिनाम् || 2.41||

vyavasāyātmikā buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana

bahu-śhākhā hyanantāśh cha buddhayo ’vyavasāyinām

O’ Joy of the Kurus, there is only one well-ascertained understanding in this field (of Moksha or Liberation); The notions of those who lack discrimination are many branched and endless.

As though one gift is not enough, the universe blessed with another. This time it was severe pain in my right hip for nearly a decade which resulted in a right hip joint replacement as you can read about more here:

At this point, I thought, O' my God, I should have had a lot of bad Karma from past lives to have had all these "gifts". So I consulted many well known Vedic Astrologers, called Jyotish, to probe into my baggage of Karma and their answers surprised me. They said that from my chart it was clear that I was a Yogi in my past and Yogis always like to "up" the challenge of discipline. Whether it is my baggage of karma, or the Yogis love of austerities or challenge, I have these gifts to provide discipline and direction this lifetime in my work on Yoga.

Of course, all this would not have been possible if I had not been born in the traditional south Indian family I was born in.

"अथवा योगिनामेव कुले भवति धीमताम् |

एतद्धि दुर्लभतरं लोके जन्म यदीदृशम् || 42||

atha vā yoginām eva kule bhavati dhīmatām

etad dhi durlabhataraṁ loke janma yad īdṛiśham

Or they are even born in the family of wise Yogis; a birth like this, verily, is difficult to attain in this world  


1) Podcast with Harmony Slater and Russel Case