You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : November 1999

Re: caring for body: sAttvic?

Ramanbil_at_aol.com
Date: Mon Nov 29 1999 - 14:39:02 PST

Dear Bhagavatas

This question is quite relevant.
Almost all AzhwArs and AchAryas have been dinning into our ears that that it 
is vipareetham to confuse body as Atma as it leads to our concentration on 
grooming the sareeram to the detriment of spiritual development. 

This is true because we can see for ourselves how when we make an incision 
say, of the size of a quarter on the skin and leave it as it is, it starts to 
stink. Also, the body generates all unpleasant odors and secretions like 
perspiration, phlegm, spittle and the like and is the receptacle of all waste 
materials like urine, feces etc. Even a newly washed and dried cloth becomes 
"Vizhuppu" (contaminated) on merely coming into contact with the body. 
Therefore, no doubt, it is despicable. 

May be for the very reason that these are inevitable so long as we live 
clinging on to our bodies, that we take bath to keep our body clean to the 
extent possible. By extension, there does not seem to be anything wrong in 
grooming also to make oneself 'presentable,' let alone engendering a feeling 
of '"freshness" if not '"beautification" and a sense "wellbeing." 

I entirely agree with Sri Vijayaraghavan Srinivasan when he observes-
" I think spirituality and maintaining 'good health' are two sides of the 
same 
coin.  Our forefathers laid great emphasis on 'ahAra Niyamam', temperance in 
food, YogAbhyAsam, taking a walk ('nidham bhuktvA shatam gatvA'), taking 
oil-bath on saturdays, periodically drinking castor oil with kadukkAy, 
keeping upvAsam on Ekadasi etc., etc.  These were best known practices for 
good health and it was greatly emphasized"

Judging by the standards of downplaying the "appearance" part of it, I do not 
know if there are any Pramanams for "self-shave' which we religiously resort 
to daily (?). How many of us would be prepared to forego this morning ritual? 
People who are prepared to forego Sandhyavandanam would not like to give up 
this. Because, appearance "maketh the man"in a society!

There is another dimension to this issue. If the body is to be so despised, 
the very institution of "Grihastasramam" for the purpose of begetting progeny 
will be taboo because this involves the most intimate "Sambandam of 
Sareeras." But, our Sastras lay down this Asrama as a "Dharma" - 
"Grihastasrama Dharma"

This needs a reconciliation.

Also. there have also been references as to how Bhagavan lives at the very 
center of the heart of individuals as Antharyami in the form of a lotus 
flower (Hridaya kamalam) and we are asked to meditate on this form. If this 
were to be accepted, does not the body become, ipso facto, a temple of the 
Lord, whether we realize it or not. If it were to be a temple, does it not 
become necessary for us to keep it clean? As in the words of Rabindra Nath 
Tagore-
"Life of my Life! I shall keep my body pure 
Knowing that thy living touch is upon all my limbs"

If we develop this consciously, may be even when we take our shower, we would 
do so not so much as doing it for ourselves but as a kind of "Tirumanjanam" 
for the indwelling Lord. When we do "Parishechanam" do we not meditate on the 
Lord and presume to offer the food to the vital airs representing the very 
same Lord?

There have been references that without this body we have acquired by Poorva 
Punyam, we cannot do any Bhakti or Prapatti or observe any other chores laid 
down in the Sastras.

Keeping "healthy" for the sake of enabling us to our duty to the Lord may 
involve cleanliness of the body. That is why, when one is not able to take 
bath with water (e.g. when one is too sick), the Sastras have prescribed 
several other types of Snanam like "Manseeka Snanam"

If a conscious effort is made to tune our attitude in the right direction of 
"Satvika Thyagam", everything will fall in place.

May be the other erudite members of the forum will be able to throw better 
light on these issues.

Dasoham
Anbil Ramaswamy