Thursday, June 24, 2010
You are not your body
There are many situations when you want to do something but your body doesn’t obey your wishes. Like for example, you would like to read or learn all night but the body is too tired and wishes to sleep. Or you have a very important task to finish, but the body suddenly feels hunger and needs to eat. Also, you have to go to the toilet every day, even many times a day.
Sleep, hunger, thirst, the need to urinate comes automatically, no matter whether you want them to happen or not. So, it seems that your body has its own needs and its own mechanism.
Even now when you read these lines, inside your body the stomach is digesting food, the heart is beating, the blood is running through the veins: in short, many organs do their daily routine without your awareness.
And in the exact moment you enjoy your reading, it might happen that you need to go to the toilet. There are many moments when you really don’t want to go to the toilet because you are watching a good movie, spending your time in good company or listening to an inspiring Dharma talk. But no matter whether you like it or not, you will be forced by the body to interrupt any enjoyable activity and go to urinate. Urine forms itself inside your body without your notice, and from time to time you have to go to the toilet, no matter if you like it or not.
What do these simple situations show us and how should we interpret them? To me all these are clear proofs that I am not my body. It is as simple as that.
How can I be one and the same with my body if, when I want to do something, it doesn’t obey my commands? If I am to be my body then when I want to do this or that, I should do it without any impediments.
But it is very clear that the body has its own mechanism. It grows from childhood to maturity and old age by itself, it develops by itself, transforms by itself and I (this mind stream I call “I”) can’t do anything about it. I may have my own plans and wishes but the body just follows its own course. No matter if I want it to last for eternity, this will never happen.
The simple truth is that my mind stream is just covered by the body, carried by the body, influenced by the body, but surely I am not the body. This is very logical. The body is just a machine which works automaticaly if it is given fuel consisting of food, water, air, etc. This machine has needs like any other machine that must be sheltered against rain or other physical elements.
The consciousness or flux of consciousness (mind stream) is “impregnated” in the body, this is why I feel the pain of the body or its pleasures. Also the consciousness is limited by the body. So, for example, as long as “I” am in the body my vision will be limited by the eyes, ears, nose, etc. After the death of the body, the mind stream (which always changes due to various karmic impulses and desires) goes into another vehicle or body and continues its journey into the various realms of existence. Only if you have faith in Amida Buddha can your unenlightened mind stream naturally and spontaneously be transformed into a Buddha, a truly free one.
Fear of death appears because of attachment to the body and identification with it. Life, in the general acceptance of the world, is the duration of the body from its birth to its death. But this period when you have this form and are carried by this vehicle is only a small part of an endless change. So, try to relax and don’t let yourself get driven into fear due to the materialistic views and philosophies that are now prevalent in the world.
Just observe your body and you will naturally realize that you are different from it. Of course, the fear of death might remain inside your mind even after accepting the difference between you and the body, because attachments are hard or impossible to be cleared away due to many past lives spent in ignorance. But at least you have made an important change at the intellectual level.
And this small step is very important on any religious path. When your vision is no longer that of a prisoner of materialistic ideas, you are ready to understand further Buddhist teachings on rebirth and karma and awaken the aspiration to Buddhahood, i.e. liberation from birth and death.