Monday, January 23, 2012

You are NOT the Body

"In reality, there is no death because you are not the body. Let the body be there or not be there, your existence is always there; it is eternal."  -  Nisargadatta Maharaja

The other day I was reading somewhere that some Christians actually believe that you ARE the body.   This is part of the reason behind burial - you need your body in the resurrection.


Now to me, this is about as absurd as you can get. There is a common saying these days that 'we are not a physical person having a spiritual experience, but rather spiritual entities having a material experience.'  We HAVE bodies. They are there. We ride around in them like riding in an automobile.  Now, if you knew someone who thought that they were their car, you'd probably want to put them in a looney bin.  It's like thinking you're Napoleon Bonaparte or something.  "Hi!  Like my shiny body and my ragtop convertible? Wanna see my moonroof?"  Of course, some people are so attached to their cars that they almost fall into this category. But in most cases you can convince them that the car is, at best, a possession, not what they are. 



Similarly, the idea that we ARE the body is patently absurd.  I mean, how often do we say, "I body?"  We say "my body".  Very simple.  We are AWARE of our body, when it feels good, when it feels bad, and so on.  We are aware of when our car is running well or running bad, and we take care of it.  (Honestly, I have not been all that good in maintaining my personal "Aja" vehicle, but in large part, that has been as Nisargadatta (and nearly all Eastern scriptures) point out - Let the body be there or not be there!  However, in order to live like this, you actually have to RECOGNIZE this reality. 


The first part of this is hearing it.  When I lived in the temples as a student, we heard it consistently, again and again, every day.... "You are NOT the body, you are Spirit."  After awhile you begin to have an understanding of this. It works its way into your consciousness and, somehow, you know this to be true. This is the actual beginning of spiritual life. 


After you have heard it sufficiently, and you understand it, then it must become a living reality. How is this done? By consistently inquiring, "Am I this body?  What is this 'I AM'?"   Normally we are totally aware OF our body, our senses, our mind, but we have to turn this awareness around to that which IS Awareness. In other words, we have to be Aware of Awareness Itself.  This is what Nisargadatta spoke of as abiding in the "I AM" or Ramana Maharshi referred to as abiding in the Self.  However, this takes effort.  Most people involved in Advaitic (non-dual) types of philosophies have a tendency (particularly in this age of radical entitlement) to think it will just come instantly, easily and spontaneously.  Ramana Maharshi, however, says this:


"Effortless & choiceless awareness is our real nature. If we can attain that state and abide in it, that is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age old vasanas (inherent tendencies) turn the mind outward to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inwards and that, for most people, requires effort."


Here he refers to age old tendencies, in other words, habits.  Nearly everything we do is a matter of habits, and the most continuous habit is the habit of looking outward. We do it virtually 24 hours a day. Some people take 5 minutes, 30 minutes, even an hour or two a day to go inward.  But imagine the old two dish balancing scale.  If 95% of the time you are weighing down one side and 5% of the day you are weighing down the other. Which do you think will win. 


Nisargadatta said it took him 3 years of constantly resting as the "I AM."  Others have said it also took them 2 or 3 years or more, inquiring within, resting as the Self, abiding as Consciousness, for 10, 12 or more hours every day. 


Why do people, who are truly serious about their spiritual growth, so often go to the forest, mountains, caves, etc. to spend years in solitary spiritual endeavors?  Even hundreds and thousands of years ago when simple village life was even a distraction.  How hard to you think it is today when virtually all of the society, media, government, and even the vast majority of your friends and family are trying to persuade you to enjoy your body and senses. 


When I was a teenager (oh so many years ago), my mother always wanted to know why I did that "Contemplating your navel thing."  (That was the common expression back in the 60's for someone who meditated or did spiritual things.)  Of course, by the time she passed away, they found Course in Miracles books and tapes around her. I have the one book, "Love is letting go of Fear" within which she had been underlining various passages and scribbling her own notes in the margins.


So, don't let the environment dissuade you.  What do you want?  Benjamin Franklin said, "Who is rich? He who is content. Who is content? NOBODY."  As long as you identify as being your body, you can never be content.  How can you? Like the car, it will eventually break down, get a flat, a scrape, blow out the engine.  The body is temporary. Only a fool would think that the body is permanent.  Even in the Vedic literature where it speaks of 'Immortals", there is only a handful of them: Vyasadeva, Parasurama, Ashvattama, and a few more.  So, the reality is that this body is dust, sooner or later. 


There is a story of a sage who lived beside the ocean. He simply stood on the shore day after day. The sage was extremely hairy.  One day, an individual came and said, "I see you sitting here day after day, in the scorching sun and the pouring rain.  Why don't you build a shelter or hut."  The sage explained, "You see my hairy body?  Each day of Brahma (4.32 billion years!) I lose one of my hair.  When every one of my hairs has fallen out, this body will pass.  So you see, it is very temporary. Why should I bother with building a shelter when in a short time, there will be no need?"  


That is the attitude of one who seriously understands that they are not the body.  Our time here is extremely limited, and even a half a moment can not be bought back for millions (billions or trillions) of dollars. Why waste our time in simply trying to satisfy the senses which even the most common animal can do (without any kind of societal restrictions).  Why not, instead, do that which only the human being (homo sapiens sapiens - man who knows he know), can do - inquire into the True Nature of the Self. 


Remember... We are human BEings, not human DOings. 

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