The Body (IV)
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 15th July 1972
All the great religions of the world have spoken about the sense functions and the body in a way which is calculated to put us on our guard against them. If we remain mindful throughout the day we will notice that every sense impression gets related to our own body, as we call it, and it intensifies the idea of oneself being the body. Not only that, it perpetuates the duality of self and not-self. The body is me, what is outside the skin, the boundary of the body, is the not me. Sometimes there is harmony to a certain extent between the me and the not me. More often than not there is hardly any relationship which is a proper relationship, it is a state of conflict. So you see, all sense functioning intensifies selfness, self-centredness, it intensifies this opposition between self and not-self, the basic duality which is the root of our state of ignorance, of all our delusions and conflicts and suffering. This is a very important point to bear in mind.
Let us see how this is related to something else, the definition of the word body in our own minds. If one says, “This is my body, that is his body, that is her body or the child’s body or the animal’s body,” we are referring all the time to something physical composed of what little we know about the body. We are referring to a pattern made up of bones, flesh, blood, skin and so on, a particular limited pattern composed of solids, liquids, gases and let us say other energies which are known and measurable energies, electrical, chemical and so forth. That is what the word body means to us. There is nothing wrong in that meaning as such. Where does the trouble come in? It comes in because of our ignorance of the fact that that definition of the body, true as it is, is a very partial definition. We take it for granted that, having said blood, flesh, bones, etc., we know all about the body, that we are conscious of the whole body. But is that the fact? As the years pass, as the centuries roll on, we become more and more acquainted with the nature of the body and we discover with the passage of time that what we thought was our total knowledge of the body was far from total, it was very partial, very slight and fragmentary. So we grow in knowledge of body. Supposing we kept on growing in knowledge of body, what would happen? Would we remain confined to our present conception, and not only conception but our present mode of consciousness, mode of awareness of body? By mode of awareness I mean that unanalysable and indescribable sensitivity which lies at the heart of real knowledge. When we think of the body or talk of it, it is just thinking or talking of something very limited in its scope. This definition of the body, our conception of it, our sensitivity as to what it actually means, ties us down all the time. We have sometimes considered this fact. The body is composed of solids and liquids and gases, the simplest example is the air we breathe in. When I breathe in some air, that air is part of my body, true enough in the ordinary way. I know that when I breathe out it is no longer part of my body, it is no longer me. Or is it? Anyway we do not claim that it is me. Somebody else breathes at least part of that air into his lungs. Now what has happened to body? That air was inside me, it has gone out and it has entered into some other body, as I say. Has that body become related to this body by virtue of sharing the gaseous elements which compose any one body? If there is an interplay, an interaction between organic parts, don’t those or do those organic parts get related into a greater whole? But we are not sensitive to this at all, are we, in the ordinary way?
I remember very well when the idea first came to me years and years ago, how I was enamoured of the idea, but somehow the deep sensitivity was not there. Gradually that sensitivity grew. To have an idea of what is happening is somewhat like an external shell of knowledge, you know the mechanics of it, but you are not in touch with the living reality of it. When this sensitivity begins to function and you are in touch with the living reality of it, the whole sense and feeling of separation between what is commonly called the other and what is commonly called oneself begins to disappear. What then is the meaning of the body? It is very, very interesting and very important to investigate this question of body and what it really means. If we allow the mind to be restful, quiet, in the stillness and the silence within, one becomes sensitive to the fact that body is Totality, the Totality which is manifested. The manifest part of Totality is body.
What is the manner in which we have described that which is manifest? We have talked of it as matter and spirit or mind or whatever word you like to use. Or we have talked of the human being as body, soul, spirit and so on and so on. We have talked in all these ways, but have we ever examined what actually is our conscious awareness, our sensitivity in relation to those words? Have we not noticed that when we say body, soul, spirit, we think of them as different things, not one organic whole, not as a whole. And this is the important thing. The spirit lies in our consciousness. Is there anything like matter and spirit, body and mind? Or is there in fact One Total Reality, altogether One in its wholeness, and at the same time that wholeness consists of multitudinous particulars manifesting the One? But because these multitudinous particulars are in total and complete relationship with each other, we can be aware of it when in a state of ignorance as separate particulars, or when we are in the state of enlightenment as the particulars which make up only One Total Reality, the wholeness. The enlightened state is a state in which one really is conscious of, sensitive to the truth of this One Total Reality. Then there is no conflict within us and there is no reaction of hate, resentment or any such thing against another part of the Totality. Even modern science has come to the pitch where it shows that what was called inanimate matter is alive because it is creative.
There is no such thing as inanimate matter, dead matter. There is no such thing as matter which is the unrelatable contrast to energy. What we, constituted as we are, experience as matter through its qualities, hardness, softness, penetrability, impenetrability (you can put your hand through water; you cannot put it through a brick wall), is actually a manifestation of pure energy. When energy functions thus and thus, produces a human being and produces a stone, the human being says of the stone matter. When energy manifests as lightning or as heat or as chemical energy or as electrical energy or whatever it is, he says energy. The human being says two different things about phenomena which emerge out of the one root source, energy itself, pure energy, both measurable and immeasurable. You see what I am getting at? If they become sensitive to Total Reality, then all these forces of conflict which we ourselves have set going in our minds are no longer forces in conflict. We have said body, mind, spirit and so forth, and they are against each other. This is our state of unenlightenment, and this duality and this multiplicity in fact, which is raised up in our minds through our condition of ignorance, is responsible for all our suffering, which is also responsible for our fear. We have always talked about the One Life, we have used the word Universe. We use the word, we form concepts about it. This superficial activity of the power which is intelligence in us has produced separation and failed to become wholly sensitive to the wholeness, the innumerable parts in complete relationship constituting the wholeness.
This word body is of special importance to us because, all though the waking day at least, the body is certainly the most important thing which we are dealing with. It certainly predominates in our awareness. We may fool ourselves that it is the mind, it is the soul, it is all sorts of stuff like that, which is supposed to be the important thing, the great thing. But we behave and act as bodies, make no mistake about it. Listen to people’s conversation (I am using the nice word, con-versation, which means one person says and the other responds, not the perpetual monologue, which is most people’s so-called conversation). Listen to people’s conversation. What is it about? It’s about body. “I had a headache this morning, I did so-and-so.” “I went to the fishmonger, and would you believe it…” What is it all about? Body, body and body. The so-called mental part, the thoughts and the feelings associated with body come in incidentally actually. They are not the important thing. They are made into the important thing by the individual because of his egoism and his vanity. Then they become quite important. Watch the play of these forces and you will see at what a low level the mind is! In fact we must never forget that even that low level of mind is possible and is in function simply because of body as a totality, the whole body is there.
That is the individual body. If we get free of this false separation which our words imply between body, mind, consciousness, spirit, whatever you like, if you get rid of this false separation, the whole thing is body. If you prefer, you can say that the whole thing is mind and mind only, in which case body loses its position of importance where the denotation of the person is concerned, I, me, that is this body. How are we identified? Our passports have a picture of the body. They have no picture of the mind or the spirit or the soul. The number attached, national insurance number or whatever it is, is attached to the body. If you can’t produce the body, well that’s that, you’ve had it! If you commit a murder in actual fact but the body cannot be produced, then you have not committed the murder! The law just leaves you alone.
Because of our ignorance and because we have not taken the trouble, and do not take the trouble to investigate the truth about this word body, that we find ourselves in so much unnecessary difficulty, conflict, misery, and all the rest of it. Look at the other side of the story. Let us confine ourselves to our human lives for the moment, that is quite enough to be dealing with. Whatsoever of fruition takes place, takes place because there is the living body. When this body dies, I, can’t do anything, say anything, think anything, aspire to anything, do anything at all. All sorts of theories have been invented, that the mind goes on, or “John Brown’s soul goes marching on.” They are statements but are such statements statements of fact? Has anyone actually seen John Brown’s soul going marching on after John Brown’s death? Certain people claim to. But consider, there are three and a half thousand million people on the globe. There may be thirty five who are bold enough to make the claim that they can see John Brown’s soul marching on. It is a fact of human life that if human faculties are true human faculties, they are not confined for ever and ever just to a few. All mankind sooner or later develops them.
We all have eyes, we can see. But a comparatively small percentage of the world population is blind or has not eyes to see. But in this case it is the other way about, isn’t it? Blindness can be cured sometimes. But can all mankind find out the ways and means by which they can develop the capacity of these thirty five people who can see John Brown’s soul marching on? It doesn’t happen that way, Therefore what is the reasonable approach in such a situation? The thirty five people may be quite sincere, but in all probability they are deluded. Consider how such a statement as John Brown’s soul is marching on is made. It is simply because we take it for granted that body and soul are two different things and the one survives the other. The one is mortal, the other is immortal. This is what we say. The body is an entity, and because of our actual experience we know that the body perishes. No one can deny that. But if you postulate soul as an entity, anything which is an entity necessarily perishes. An entity has not existed through all eternity. It comes into being. Whatsoever is born, undergoes change and perishes. Why is this such an absolute fact?
Consider from where entity emerges. Out of Totality. Totality remains Totality. But particular entity emerges in time and space out of Totality and disappears back in time and space into Totality, losing its entity, its identifiability. Therefore to talk in these terms, “John Brown’s soul marching on,” or to say that “my eternal spirit or the spark of God in me which was from the beginning and will ever continue to be a spark,” are not these utterly mistaken statements made by the ignorant, confused person? What is the source from which such statements emerge? The body and sense functions. Our sense functions are limited, we can see only a certain amount, hear only a certain amount. The brain works only to a certain extent, it cannot know Totality or be omniscient in the impossible sense of ignorance. The light is very, very dim and the ignorance is as large as the rest of the universe in each one of us. Because body functions as it does, the brain makes these verbal patterns to express the impress made upon our minds by our experience. So we separate out quite unwarrantably body, soul and spirit but, as we considered earlier on, we separate out one body from another and are ignorant of the total relationship between body and body. Because we are ignorant, not just intellectually ignorance, but ignorant in the very deeps of our consciousness, in terms of what I call this sensitivity, because we are ignorant in that way, therefore the conflict is perpetuated between body and body. If I were wholly sensitive to every body, not only everybody present here, but every body, if I were totally sensitive to it, I cannot, certainly deliberately, react in anger, hate, violence against it. It’s impossible.
If I look in a mirror and dislike my ear and give it a tremendous biff, I would be a lunatic, wouldn’t I? I would split my eardrums and there you are, the worse off for it because I have reacted in anger and violence. But if I am really sensitive, that sensitivity is total acceptance, it is total understanding, it is Transcendent Love. Our sense functions, in the condition that we are in, tend to make difficulty for us. These very same sense functions now become, through understanding and through penetrating into the reality, the indispensable avenues of continuous communion. Whatsoever you see, whatsoever you hear, you touch, you taste, you smell, you feel, is never not loved. It is never not loved because there is no possessiveness towards it, there is no uprising of desire in relation to it, nothing goes out from oneself which is the means of bondage over the other or over oneself. This is Love. There is no jealousy, there is no comparison involved. If one’s normal, ordinary, everyday consciousness is of that nature, then one is in the harmless state, the totally harmless state. And the harmless state is one in which there is no conflict between what is mistakenly called self and not self. The distinction between the two has vanished. This body has become body, total body. As a physical fact, if you like, that is so in actuality. The whole universe is one universe, it is one stuff. It is perfectly true that there are several chemical elements and all the rest of it, but go deeper into it and you will see that there is complete relationship. Then life is naturally peaceful, not because the world as such behaves and functions according to a picture of my desire as to how it should function, but because, whatsoever happens from me, there goes out no element of hate, resentment, violence. Within me there is no conflict of that and myself. So there is both that and myself unpoisoned by selfness in me. This is morality, if you like. This is virtue, if you like. So you see how virtue, enlightenment, body, mind are all most intimately interrelated with each other.
You might wonder, why am I talking like this today? For the very simple reason that the body is something which you cannot neglect. It is there all the time. People say, “I am not the body, the body is my instrument. I am the person, the spark of God, the immortal soul, the essence of mind.” Put all those words on a silver salver or on a banana leaf if you prefer and present them to your neighbour for examination, or look at them yourself and see what happens! They just disappear into the void, the whole lot. So will the body, but before the body disappears into the void, it is the plenitude of your being, don’t forget that. And it is an extraordinary plenitude. It is not merely bones, flesh, blood, skin and so on, it is not merely solids, liquids, gases, it is all these plus every other word you might like to add, feelings, thoughts, ideas, soul, spirit, mind, anything you like, the whole lot. The whole lot, that is body. The whole lot, that is spirit. The whole lot, that is mind.
But ask yourself, is it easier to grasp the reality of body as the whole thing, or to grasp the spirit as the whole reality? But the spirit is a concept with us, whereas the body is a thing of experience with us, continuous experience until the body has disappeared. Have we not insulted the body then, ever since we began to be a little bit clever with our brains, ever since we began philosophizing speculatively? And we experience the delights of intellectual disposition and so forth, and then we raise up all these wonderful phantoms of words and thoughts and say, “This is the reality, whereas the body is a thing of dust.” Was that not a mental escapism, a mental sour grapes because we did not understand and were so baffled that we had to say that the cobwebs I spin out with my intellect are reality as compared with this which is so hurtful, and I can’t deal with it? Think it out carefully. All power, all energy in its final manifestation to us human beings because of our bodily constitution and our sense functioning, all power is locked up in the body. This is one of the extraordinary aspects of Yoga. It deals with the body as the source of power which an individual can utilise. But note very carefully that the real Yogic discipline always starts with the yamas and niyamas, in simple terms the virtues and the observances of the daily life which are the expressions of holiness, or purity. Then it proceeds to the āsanas, the postures and the prāṇāyāma, which deal with the manipulation of energies. This is the basic thing. Otherwise the manipulation of energies can easily go wrong.
Then it brings in the other elements, the subtle elements of existence, the deep states of consciousness, the mind, the turning inside out of the worldly-oriented consciousness, turning it inside out and making it religiously-oriented. It is another form from self-orientation to the total freedom from selfness. But the body holds the central place in this, doesn’t it? And whilst in the early stages we think of Yoga as disciplining the body to such and such an extent, and whilst we think of the body just as a separate body, this body and that body and that body and so forth, if and when the profounder elements come into play, the pratyāhāra, dhāranā, dhyāṇa, and samādhi, then what happens? Body becomes One Body, the Total Body, which is the Absolute All, the One Total Reality. Herein is individual man’s fruition and fulfilment.
There is a relationship between this and what the world commonly calls astrology. Your horoscope is a mandala, it is a pattern which tells you the whole truth, if you are capable of reading, of both aspects, the psycho-physical which is the mandala of your psycho-physical individual being, and the mandala of pure mind as it is going to function through you, if you have the wisdom, and ability and skill to let it. That is why the psycho-physical being has to become utterly purified, transparent, it has to be enlightened from within its limited individual being, in order that this immeasurable Transcendent Mind may function in the world of manifestation, which is again the world of body. You see the tremendous significance and depth of body.
How do we come to take advantage of any sort of intellectual perception of this, along such lines as I have tried to suggest today? Only by pure mindfulness. Be awake, and these sense functions which in the first instance through our lives are the very sources and the means for our bondage and our misery and our conflict and our suffering and everything, these very sense functions through pure mindfulness, right mindfulness, become transformed into the avenues of perfect communion with the Totality. Then you will find that this mandala, this pattern, the horoscope will indicate to you yourself here and now, right down to the levels of your brain knowledge, the design (I have to use this word which is somewhat misleading word, but there is no other) of Transcendence itself for you here.