Health Care and Faith Diversity
The philosophy of providing health care may differ depending on the faith diversity in the world. Different religious groups have different spiritual perspectives on healing and may also believe in different components of healing. This study therefore explores the Buddhism, Bhai and Judaism faiths and compares them with the Christian philosophy of faith and healing.
Buddhism is an Indian religion that combines multiple traditions and practices and has a complex system of beliefs. The founder of this religion as it is widely believed is Siddhartha Gautama who is commonly known as the Buddha. The word “Buddha” means “the awakened one” or “the enlightened”. It is believed that Buddha lived somewhere between the 4th and 6th centuries BCE teachings in the East of the Indian subcontinent. Buddhism remains the dominant religion in the Far East and has also become popular in the West. Some of the Buddhism sacred texts include: The Gospel of Buddha; Buddha, The Word; Amitabha; The Buddhist Catechism; among others.
From Buddhist perspective, healing is not just a physical process, but it depends on a person’s state of mind as well. The mind has not got any form, shape or gender. It is non-physical. The mind is pure and limitless and it is the mind that is responsible for our sickness and health. Buddhists believe that suffering is unnecessary and once they discover that suffering exists, they can look and discover its cause. Once they find out that the cause is depended on certain conditions, they can therefore find the possibilities of doing away with those conditions. Buddha taught various methods of doing that.
From the Buddhist view, causes of disease are not only the detectable microorganisms, chemical agents, the degeneration of organs and other psychological or environmental factors but also other undetectable beings such as ghosts and demons, and karmas. Lord Buddha allowed monks who had ailment caused by ghosts to eat raw flesh and drink raw blood as a medicine. The intention of actions is karma in Buddhism. A collective of karmas can cause disease and thus good health is a result of good actions. Karma is a natural law and this means that health is governed by natural law as well. Other components of healing in Buddhism include t using of prayer wheels, incense and flags, praying itself and practicing meditation.
When we compare the Buddhism philosophy of healing and that of the Christian, we can see that some of the beliefs do not differ. For instance, the early Christians believed that disease and illness was a cause of sin. In Buddhism they also believe that illness can be caused by individuals’ bad intentions of actions, referred to as karma. Christian church did not disregard medical process and physicians were seen as servants of God. In Christianity, treatment process requires healing of the physical, mental, emotional and religious factors as well as healing of the spirit. God gifted his Church with many gifts including the gift of healing. According to AFCNA workshop (2004), “Christian healing begins from the ministry of Jesus where the healed became involved ‘with Jesus in a victorious encounter of the Kingdom of God with the powers of evil’”. This implies that Christian perspective of healing is that healing is from God, and this includes modern medicine, and the natural laws written into the universe. In both Christian and Buddhism, they believe in natural law and external factors as a cause of illness. In Buddhism, scientific approach and various therapies are allowed as long as they don’t mislead the person’s way to the Buddhist destination. In Christianity, doctors are regarded as the servants of God.
Since Buddhism not a dogmatic religion, there are no specific prescribed practices. The extent, at which a Buddhist patient will require special provisions, differs from person to person. Medical intervention is also allowed even on holy days. However, Buddhist could be filled with emotions and thus healthcare professionals should consult whether medical procedures are scheduled on such days. In Christianity, the same case applies. If there is the need, healthcare professionals perform their duties even during the holy days. Jesus himself healed people even during the Sabbath which is a holy day.
The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religion, the main principle of which is “unity” - the unity of God, religion and humans. Among the main principles of Baha’i are the equality between men and women, the unity of religion and science, the rejection of all the prejudice (gender, racial, cultural or religious). They believe that there is only one God and all the religions have the same spiritual source. Baha’i teachings posit that human purpose is to learn to know and love God through prayer, reflection and serving the humankind.
According to Baha’i, disease can be physical or spiritual. The cause of disease is either physical one, or the excitement of the nerves. Prayer and material remedy is required for curing a disease. The spiritual causes of disease according to Baha’i are the result of turning away from God, generational “sin of the father”, gambling, fear, anger, lack of love and hatred, among others. The physical causes include, germs, genetic, diet, imbalance, among other detective factors. Spiritual and material remedies work together. The remedies of the physician, prayer and turning oneself to God are the critical components of healing in Baha’i faith.
If health professionals understood the connection between the spiritual and emotional well-being of a Baha’i patient and how this can affect their physical health, they would appreciate the benefits of understanding religious practices and beliefs of their patients so that they can provide maximum care for them.
Since healing implies both spiritual and physical, Baha’i’s patients will accept the treatment of those healthcare professionals who let go their own religious beliefs and practices in the interest of beliefs and practices of their patients.
Judaism is the religion of the Jews. It has no formal doctrine or creed which one has to adhere to. “Right doing” has been more important than “right belief”. Jews can choose to worship on their own or pray with others in a synagogue, also known as the Temple.
According to Jews perspective on healing, the interaction of the body, spirit and mind consists of the wholeness of the body. This means that physical illness has a psychological and spiritual effect. Disease and illness are viewed as a part of natural order and they are random. Anybody can become sick according to Jews. The components of healing include prayer and meditation that heals both the body and the spirit. Jewish have a tradition to visit the sick which in Hebrew is, called Bikur Cholim. This religious obligation is highly important in the process of healing.
The values and practices of the Jewish Halakhic are not always in accordance with the secular values and practices of medical professional. When caring for a patient who is near death, healthcare professional should be respectful to the Orthodox Jewish privilege which requires that the loved ones should be present when a patient passes away. The healthcare professionals should understand these beliefs and thus advise the families accordingly.
It is important to Jewish patients and their families to understand and appreciate the faith diversity of their medical and other healthcare professionals so that they can explain to them what is right and what is wrong in regard to their faith. This will enable the professionals to treat them according to their religion beliefs and practices. Loike et al. (2010) found that, “one major philosophical/ethical difference between secular and Halakhic practice is that U.S. law promotes and even relies on autonomy of the patient and family in making medical decisions regarding the dying patient”. Jewish family members, on the contrary, have less autonomous position.
From this research of the philosophy of faith and healing in diverse religions, we can see that the three religions discussed above, all emphasize on healing both the body and the spirit. Since the patients come from different religions with different beliefs and practices, it is therefore important for healthcare professionals to recognize the belief systems of their patients in order to heal them completely. This learning can be applied to healthcare providers through educating them on the diverse belief systems so that they know the best way to deal with patients who posses different faiths from their own. This will enable the medical and other healthcare professionals address their patients’ needs without interfering with their beliefs and practices. For instance, in Christianity, the presence of many denominations makes it difficult to present a single outlook on healthcare.
Issues of abortion, artificial insemination, blood transfusion and organ donation are differently viewed by different Christian denominations. Therefore, healthcare providers should consult the patients and their families regarding what is permitted and what is prohibited by their religions during the medical and healthcare practices.