Is this body, Me?

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Biology says the human body "nearly" regenerates itself (i.e. all cells in the body, excepting a few like neurons in the brain, die and give way to new cells) over a period of 7-10 years. So effectively, a person gets to be "re-born" every decade. To add to this, our bodies are changing constantly - growing in size and shape. There is metabolism happening all the time, and so is repair and rebuilding of damaged tissues. With every passing moment, the body absorbs nutrients, from food and air, which get processed into living tissue. Is it this factory of constant constuction and destruction, me?

In my childhood I had pondered if I should call the body as just mine or if it was altogether, me.

Now, if I consign the body as 'mine' then I should be able to treat it just like anything else that I call mine. My dress, my laptop, my bike - they are all mine; I can lend them to my friends and when I am at it, I can choose to trade/dispose them off and procure new ones. I can't do the same with my body (though I dare say that a few parts like teeth, hairs, etc., can still be replaced per my wish) so there is something about the body which is more than just 'mine'.

Now, if its more than 'mine', can I call it 'me'? Is this body, which was so very different 2 decades back, not matching in shape, size, color, and ability, to what it is today, and may be in an entirely different shape 20 years later, me? How do I identify myself with something so transitory and continually changing, when deep in my conscience I know I have not changed a bit. Whatever state of mind I was in 20 years back, I am still the same today. I have the same reservations, the same confusion, the same core. My identity of myself does not regenerate itself every decade. So, I strongly feel, there is something about the body which does not make it as much of 'me' as I feel I am.

There are various philosophies regarding the nature of our body and its connection with our consciousness and I have not read enough to comment on them, so I shall remain at a speculative level here. The body is one compound whole, a miniature universe, with every part complementing another and playing its role to fulfil the mission of the organism as a whole. This multitude of parts that I carry around, flesh, bones and bodily fluids wrapped in a tight package of skin, is supposed to be me? In that case, if I wrap myself with a few layers of cloth, then load a backpack full of books, does that became a bigger me now? If not, then how is it that the food I ate, which was actually lying on a plate on the table, a part of me now? If in an accident a part of my body is severed away, then do I look at that dead part and say its not me anymore? If not, then do I watch the faeces excreated in the toilet and endearingly call it as me?

Maybe the body is not really me but still needed to 'identify me' in this concrete world? Just like a rubber stamp identifies the owner behind it. A body is needed just so that whenever someone is looking for me, they know where to find me.. bodily?

To add to this confusion of identities, Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of ISKCON, narrates a beautiful story, which I summarize here: A strong and powerful, but loose charactered, man falls in love with a beautiful girl. Lured by her beauty, he appoaches her with a proposal of marriage. The girl is helpless, doesn't want to accept the offer but can't reject him due to his clout. She asks a week's time to prepare for the marriage and sends him away. Over the course of next 7 days, she gorges on laxatives, induces excessive vomiting and excreting and stores both the vomit and the faeces in beautiful pots. A week later when the man comes to claim his bride, he is shocked to see her lean and sickly, and asks her where is the beauty gone. She hands him the pots, saying she has stored all her beauty in the pots exclusively for him. The divine acharya  may have used this story as a fable to underline the need to differentiate real truth from fake, to look beyond the sense, but in it I see again a highlighting of the fact that our bodies are not to be identified with our selves. The falling in love with the body, either with another or with our own bodies, can be so distracting and fruitless.

There are days when the body makes you proud, when its strong, healthy and well built, and then days when you feel burdened by it, when its sick or handicapped. We use and abuse our bodies as vehicles of pleasure, when in pain we pray for quick exit from that condition, and when things are going just usual, without any sensation of pleasure or pain, we just take our bodies for granted.

The time when we realize the body is neither me nor mine, it may bring a sense of detachment which is needed for the human soul to ascend to a level where it can contemplate and reach God, it may take our existence beyond mere sensual experience to a realm of transcendence, it may take us beyond the necessities of daily life, beyond the vicissitudes of a perishable life into a world of eternal bliss. Doesn't transcendental meditation achieve this exactly?


Anonymous said...

Hey, I really like this comment as viewing our bodies as mere vehicles of pleasure we decide to just reck. It really is the ultimate tool, yet we can never detach ourselves from it. Consider this, I can find others in their words, their thoughts, their writing, their ideas that are completely unique and detached from their bodies. We are so much more than just our bodies; the cruel reality is that we can't will our consciousness out of our own bodies so, take care of it !

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