SUMMARY: Bhaja Govindam Class 13 - 09/04/23
Chinmaya UK Study Class, Śaṅkarācārya, Swami Chinmayananda (Sw. C.)
yāvatpavano nivasati dehe tāvatpṛcchati kuśalaṁ gehe |
gatavati vāyau dehāpāye bhāryā bibhyati tasminkāye || 6 ||
As long as there dwells breath (life) in the body,
so long as they enquire of your welfare at home.
But once the breath (life) leaves, the body decays,
even your own beloved spouse fears that very same body (corpse).
Verse 6 cont.: It's the Life principle that enlivens the body that is loved...
Cult of the rākśasās (body-worshippers).
A rākśasā is one who lives in the body, for the body.
The example given here is that of Virocana - the king of the rākśasā.
Even after reaching the teacher of wisdom, all that Virocana understood from his teaching was: 'The body alone is the Self, the Ātman, the Eternal. To worship it is the greatest of all religions.'
However, any examination of this proves it false, for how can the body, an inert eternity made of the five elements, be the Eternal Self?
(1) In contemporary times, IF kept well, it may live (if there are no unexpected or freak accidents) to a span of about 100 years. For a child, this may seem like an eternity, but as we grow older and time goes by quicker, we realise it is just a blink of an eye!
(2) During this time, the body constantly changes. We don't have to wait for death to know that the body is not Eternal. We see it now. Your body has changed over the course of your life; it has grown both in length and in width; it is no longer the two-year-old body, nor is it the eight-year-old body or the 20-year-old or the 28-year-olds body, nor is yet your 50 or 70 or 100-year-old self's body. The body has and will change - that is its natural path; however, you were there at all those times. YOU were there at 2, 8, 20 etc... and will be present in the 70, 100-year-old body. You are that eternal entity that is changeless and constant throughout this lifetime and the next. You are Ātman...not the physical body!
The Gīta (2:22) compares the body to a set of clothes that the Ātman discards when its purpose is done and takes on a new garb to continue on its journey hOMe. See a short clip of an explanation of this verse by Sw. C.: https://youtu.be/Dy-QLmh_yjY
Thus, to waste all our precious time in body worship is, says Śaṅkarācārya, a waste of human life.
Śaṅkarācārya observes the lengths we go to "to maintain and to fatten such a bundle of despicable filth; it is why wealth is earned and hoarded many throats cuts, low dissipation practised and cruel war waged!"
This is the same human body that, once lifeless, has even less value than an animal carcass (all parts of an animal can be used - some are stuffed and hung on walls, skins, bones, and so on can be utilised, the flesh is eaten etc.), but for our bodies, even our nearest and dearest, our own life partner, dreads and fears it once the Life principal (Ātman) has ebbed away.
THINK: Imagine the dead body of someone you love dearly, and the body is in the house. How long do you want to keep the body there for? Or vice versa, how long would our loved ones keep our corpse at home for?
This is so morbid - why do we need to reflect upon this?!
Reflecting on this is essential if we don't want to waste our lives in vain pursuits of mere body worship, as it gives us a "healthy disregard for and a profitable spirit of detachment from our body vanities."
Once we get over the personal nature of this, imaging the scene is quite comical, and it becomes crystal clear that it is not the body that we/they love. It's the Life in the body that is loved (and is love).
***CAVEAT - We MUST take care of our bodies***
The body serves us; it allows us to go on our journey hOMe.
So, keep it clean and beautiful, feed it with good nutrition, clothe it, wash it, exercise it, rest it - just as we serve all other vehicles that we make use of in the world.
Serve the body. But always with a firm and steady understanding that this is only an instrument with which we may win the ample fields, i.e. mukti (liberation, freedom, Self-realisation) through acting out dharma and exhausting karma.
So, what to do?
Understand that this body will not remain forever, nor will it serve with equal efficiency for all time. It will perish, as everything that is born must. It is our instrument, the temple for the soul - so keep it well so we may reach the goal of life!