Body is Eternal 7
@ M C Raj
‘The word was god’ stands in direct contrast to ‘the word became flesh’. What was completely in the spiritual realm in one school of thought was brought to the realm of matter, that is, flesh in another school of thought. In the latter school of thought, it becomes possible for the spiritual to enter easily the material world. In other words, what the Greek philosophers thought as an irreconcilable dichotomy between spirit and matter was easily made possible by the Aramaic School of thought. It had no problem in asserting that the word, belonging to the realm of the abstract, the spirit became flesh. The word became matter. There is a sublime truth hidden in this assertion. We should take it up for discourse at some point of time later.
The dichotic worldview of body and soul runs through the entire New Testament. Three very glaring examples are taken from the life of Jesus as narrated in the Gospels. The first one is taken from the scene of the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples. Therein he shared the bread and wine at the dining table and told them that the bread was his body and the wine was his blood. Apparently, the disciples could not eat his body and drink his blood but the philosophical moorings belong to the cosmos. One does not go away from the world completely after his/her death. He/she assumes a new form of existence as symbolized in the bread and wine. What is taken from the philosophy of time is that when we eat one body, it gets integrated into another body and the eater gains new energy. We must understand that this is taken from the indigenous schools of thought. Such philosophy exists even now among many indigenous peoples of the world. The flesh of the animal that one eats gets integrated into the cells of the body of the living beings in multiple ways. The living being then assumes the energy level of the flesh and blood of the animal that he/she eats. That is one of the reasons that the indigenous peoples have animals as their ancestors, precisely because the flesh and blood of the animals give them sustenance. It will be impossible for people in the Samiland (Sapmi) of Norway to survive in extreme cold. In some years, the temperature goes below 50 degrees C. The meat of the reindeer keeps their body warm and gives them the strength to be active in cold winter. They feed the reindeer and in return they give their flesh to the people. Therefore, reindeer becomes the ancestor of the Sami people. Likewise, in other indigenous communities, it is fish, buffalo or other animals. This same philosophy can be easily applied to vegetarians. All plants have their cell systems and they give life when they are eaten. There are also other organic beings that eat human flesh and drink human blood for their survival. When so much of importance is given to eating the flesh and drinking the blood, we must realize that there was an ancient school of thought that believed in the essentiality of the organic body as against the spirit or soul. Those who upheld the primacy of the soul also simultaneously condemned the body as sinful and evil. One does not see such a disdain on the soul in those who esteemed the primacy of the body. Condemnation serves a body blow to any dialectics.
The Body School of Though further asserted the primacy of the body when it made Jesus rise from the dead with his body. It might have been an exaggerated enthusiasm in the light of the success of the Soul School of Thought. They did believe and assert that human body could rise from the dead with life. The ultimate manifestation of the belief of this school of thought came when they made Jesus ascend to heaven on the fortieth day with his body. A pertinent question that may border on cynicism is where lives this ascended body of Jesus now? Let us leave such questions aside. The point of importance for us is the existence of the Body School of Thought that developed a strong dialectics on the organic existence of the body. If this history of the schools of thought and the way dialectics developed in ancient times are understood dispassionately, it will be possible also to understand why the Soul School of Thought lifted the focus on the body to the realm of faith.
Before I go to some examples in Ramayana, let us also see how this dynamic of faith and reason transgressed the rules of dialectics. Paul who was Saul earlier, firmly belonged to the Greek dichotic worldview. But the Body School of Thought was stronger in the Aramaic region. He had to do some damage control in order to establish his authority and control over the early Christian community that worshiped the body of Jesus. First he said that Jesus would come back before anyone died. But that did not work. Many started dying and Paul began to lose his credibility. Then he said that Jesus would come back soon and will raise the dead from their graves. Even that did not work in his favor. Then he said that Jesus might not come back in their lifetime but would definitely come at the end of the world and would raise all the dead. His discourses on faith bordered on making good use of the naivete of the early Christians who were neither Hellenistic nor Aramaic. They were just blind followers of whatever was propagated as ‘truth’ by those who had more authority. Those who refused to believe had to undergo persecution even from Paul. Such was the ferocity with which the Soul School of Thought throttled those who believed in the primacy of the body. This school did not allow any meaningful dialectics of philosophy. On the one hand, it raised the dialectics to a blind level of faith and on the other hand, it took recourse to persecution and mindless violence on those who refused to accept its thesis of the primacy of the soul. Thus, faith became the bane of human development already from time immemorial.
Ramayana that belonged to the same era of writing more or less has an interesting story on the line of the ascension of Jesus to heaven with his body. It is the story of king Trishanku on which I have already written in my previous books. I shall repeat the story here once again for the sake of the new readers of my writings. Trishanku was a noble king in the Aryan world. It is disputed if he belonged to the Aryan caste system or if he was an indigenous king. Our interest does not go into this area. We shall only restrict ourselves to the story in Ramayana. King Trishanku wanted to go to heaven with his body. He did not have the power to do so. Such a power existed in two groups of people of Brahmins and Kshatiryas. These were on the top rung of the caste ladder. Both the castes had their own brands of Rshis who performed a lot of penitential rites and gained ‘divine’ power. King Trishanku first went to a Brahmin Rshi as they were considered to be superior to the Kshatirya Rshis. The name of the Brahmin Rshi was Vashishta. He was known as the most powerful Rshi. Unfortunately, when Trishanku went to meet him, he was gone elsewhere and his sons met King Trishanku. When they learned that he wanted to go to heaven with his human body they abused him and cursed him to become black, ugly and untouchable. This curse with the three epithets bears witness to the type of hatred that the Soul School of Thought had for the indigenous Body School of Thought. The progression of thesis and antithesis was suppressed already at its origin. The three sons of Vashishta could not bear the thought that someone could even think of going to heaven with his organic body.
There was a strong Body School of Thought led by another great Rshi of the Kshatriya caste that was one step lower to the Brahmins. His name was Vishwamitra. I do not want to go into the political rivalry between Brahmins and Kshatriyas. Trishanku did play a politics. He went to Vishwamitra and told him the story. Vishwamitra got furious and readily agreed to send Trishanku to heaven with his body making the best use of the divine power that he had acquired. Two conflicting schools of thought! Vishwamitra uploaded Trishanku into heaven with his power. However, at the entrance to heaven, there was Indra, one of the supreme deities of Hinduism. Seeing Trishanku with his body at the gates of heaven he became angre and pushed him with his feet back into the world. While falling down, Trishanku shouted aloud to Vishwamitra for help. Now Vishwamitra upheld him as he did not want to hurt his own ego. Thus, Trishanku could go neither to heaven nor to the earth because of the rivalry between these two schools of thought.
What is important for dialectical thinking is the existence of the two schools of thought not only in ancient times but also in our own times. I shall narrate this with one of my experiences. A few years ago I had a meeting with some of our village spiritualists. They lived in the villages and wore a special saffron dress and marked themselves as spiritual beings. I asked one of them in which god he believed. He readily agreed that Shiva was their god. Then I asked him as to why they worshiped Shiva. Pat came the reply: “Our body is Shiva. We worship our body. We live in our body and Shiva is in our body. We do not believe that there is a Shiva in the heavens.” It was a big education for me that day. The inner meaning of the body being Shiva and its interpretation can be endless. I shall not go into it now. We shall also not go into the right and wrong of the dialectics. We must, however, recognize the existence of the Body School of Thought even in the contemporary period among many communities of people. Such recognition will lead to a healthy understanding of life in the cosmos as well as to a healthier dialectics.
We shall now come back to the question of how the organic body can be eternal. Is that possible at all? Let’s explore further.