Is There Any Benefit to Physical Illness?

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE LAST TALKS AT SAANEN

Is there any benefit to the human being in physical illness?

Is there any benefit, reward, profit, to the human being in physical illness? In being ill? Now I put that question to you.

I am sure most of us have been ill at one time or another, either mentally ill, that is an illness of the brain, which is neurotic, psychopathic and so on, or physically ill, some organ not functioning properly. Now just listen: what is the difference between illness and health? What is health? What is it to be extraordinarily well? The question is: is there any profit, benefit, from illness? What do you think? To that question the speaker would say there is – sorry! When you are ill, what are your reactions, responses? The desire when one is ill is to avoid pain, to take a pill quickly, or immediately go to a doctor, and he tells you what to do. You want to get over it quickly because you may lose your job, etc. etc.

But if you are not afraid of illness, illness has quite a different meaning. The speaker, if I may be slightly personal, was paralysed for a month in Kashmir for various reasons; they overdosed the poor chap with antibiotics, and a few days later he was paralysed for a month. I thought that was final. I thought, there it is. The speaker wasn’t frightened. He said, ‘All right, I’m paralysed for the rest of my life.’ This actually happened. I am not exaggerating. They carried me, washed me and all the rest of it, for a whole month. You know what that means? Fortunately you don’t. But if I had struggled against it and said, ‘What stupid doctors. I am anti-antibiotics’, it would have made it worse and I would have learnt nothing from it; it wouldn’t have cleansed my body, it wouldn’t have benefited me. The speaker has several times been very, very ill. I am not going into that. But if one is not afraid to remain with it, to stay with it, does not immediately rush to a doctor or to a pill, physical illness has a certain natural profit, benefit. You may have to take a pill later, but go at it slowly, patiently” observing what your reactions are, why there is this craze to be healthy, to have no pain, which makes you resist the illness. This self-interest may be one of the factors of illness. It may be the true reason for illness.